Home > Meet Me Halfway (West Brothers, #1)

Meet Me Halfway (West Brothers, #1)
Author: Dee Lagasse

Prologue

 

 

Carina

 

 

“Well, spangle my stars!”

The sound of my own voice playing back on the seventy-inch screen is enough to make me want to get up from this cushy leather chair and hightail it out of the room.

The heart-racing panic engulfing me is of my own doing, and it takes every ounce of determination in my body to shut out the little voice in my head telling me to get out of there.

I can do this. I deserve this.

There are only four of us in the boardroom. The vast majority of the office chairs are empty—the open space echoing even the smallest of noises. Something I wasn’t aware of until I let out a groan in reaction to my poorly executed attempt at Fourth of July humor.

“You groan, Ms. Domenico.” The tall redhead with a British accent chuckles before continuing. “But that’s the line that sealed the deal for us. That’s what got you here today.”

Offering him a tight-lipped smile, I do my best to steady my shaking hands. I never in a million years thought I be would here.

In New York City.

At the Food Network’s headquarters.

For any reason, let alone to be in discussion with a producer and an attorney about a contract for my own show.

But a five-minute video submission made under the influence of a few too many glasses of limoncello on the Fourth of July—that’s what got me here.

My hair had been pulled up in a messy bun and my sun-kissed skin hadn’t a single ounce of makeup on it, but the most cringe-worthy moment of the entire video had nothing to do with my appearance.

I had actually used the phrase, “Well, spangle my stars!” when showing off the red, white, and blue trifle cake I made from leftovers in my fridge.

Angel food cake, Cool Whip, blueberries, and strawberries; somehow, that was all it took.

There had to have been hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions from master chefs and bakers with their own shops. And here I was, without even a culinary degree under my belt, let alone a thriving business. But even with my self-doubt, it was my family’s belief in me that gave me the courage to take the leap of faith.

My love for cooking started when I began sending my mom photos of the dinners I had cooked. At the time, I was overcoming my battle with post-partum depression and something as little as making dinner was a big deal for me. Once I was back to feeling more like myself again, I began making Lina’s baby food.

Sharing food pictures on Instagram was all the rage at that point, so I started sharing the combinations I was trying and making connections with other moms going through similar journeys.

Over the years, my nights were taken over by Lina’s soccer practices and homework, and I stopped spending as much time planning meals. Not because I was slipping back into my depression, but as a working mom who spent more time on the soccer field than at home, it was easier to grab dinner on the go.

It wasn’t until I began saving for a mother-daughter trip to Disney World that I realized how much money I’d been passing over to someone in a drive-thru window. Much like I had when Lina was a baby, I started posting pictures on social media again. It began with Crock-Pot dinners, and then casseroles. Casseroles turned into skillet dinners, then no-bake desserts. Anything and everything that could be made quickly and easily.

Somehow, one of the pictures ended up on the search page and overnight, my followers quadrupled. Then, shortly after, that number quadrupled when a bestselling author posted about making one of my recipes.

I eventually created a YouTube channel and began making ten-minute tutorials—which is how I found out about the open casting call for a new Food Network show. One of my followers had left the link in the comment, encouraging me to enter, and a whole thread of support soon followed. I hadn’t thought I stood a chance, but after spending the day at my mom’s pool drinking limoncello, the fizzle of fireworks shooting off in the background, I felt inspired.

I hadn’t even replayed the video once I was done recording. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have submitted it. But less than forty-eight hours later, I received a phone call from Ryan West—a producer from Food Network.

By the end of our twenty-minute conversation, I had a round-trip ticket booked to New York City for a face-to-face meeting.

Due to a scheduling conflict, Ryan hadn’t been able to attend the meeting, but his producing partner and brother—Alfie—picked me up at the airport. Before we met at “HQ” as he called it, he insisted on taking me out to lunch. Just me. No lawyers.

My lawyer had advised against it, but something—whether it be intuition or my naïve desire to see the best in people—had me agreeing to meet him in the hotel restaurant two hours before our scheduled meeting.

“If we’re going to spend the next few years working together, we’d better make sure we get on.”

By the end of our lunch, I felt completely at ease, almost as if we were old friends.

“I’m going to be completely honest with you, Carina,” he said as we waited for the server to bring the check. “We’re going to offer you a spot in the spring lineup. You just have to say yes.”

Knowing that had made walking into this meeting a little less terrifying. Only a little though.

As the petite woman—introduced to me as Eliza Rockingham, an attorney for the network—hands a small stack of paperwork over to my attorney, Alfie winks.

“Carina, on behalf of West Brothers Productions and Food Network, I would like to formally offer you a spot in our spring lineup.”

 

 

1

 

 

Carina

 

 

“You’re late.”

At the sight of the frowning brunette, arms crossed and visibly losing patience, my stomach flips. She’s waiting, standing outside of the restaurant I was supposed to be at ten minutes ago.

“I know.” I nod in acknowledgment before the words begin to spew out. “If your son had shown up like he was supposed to, I would have been on time. Instead, I had to take Lina to my mother’s.” The very second the words leave my mouth, I regret them.

Ana Olson is not the type of woman you want to get into a war of words with.

She’s one of the most sought-after attorneys in the entire state of Massachusetts—and she also happens to be the beloved grandmother of my eight-year-old daughter.

If I’m being fair, she’s a lot nicer to me than she has to be. I don’t think many women in her position would show the amount of kindness and compassion she’s shown me since day one.

We’ve been through a lot since the day Richard first brought me home nine years ago. We had been dating for almost a year at that point, and it took me getting pregnant for him to finally take me to meet his parents. I remember walking into their sitting room, trying to control my shaking hands, absolutely petrified to meet the “overbearing control freak” Richard painted his mother as.

It hadn’t taken me very long to figure out that Richard only thought that because his father, Richard Sr., always gave him everything he wanted—money, a car, and eventually a job at their joint law firm. His mother, however, expected him to actually work for things, just like everyone else. To top things off, as soon as she heard that I planned on cutting back my class load at school so I could work as a paraprofessional to save money for when the baby came, Ana Olsen was on Team Carina—and she has been ever since.

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