Imagine you’re a talented management consultant whose lack of self-confidence prompts you to quit your jobs rather than defend your ideas. You’ve been out of work for several months, and the bills are mounting. Desperate, you accept a position beneath your skill set with a fledgling TV production company. To your horror, you discover the reality competition show the company is producing denigrates unattractive people. Your first thought is flight, but with the loss of your car pending, that’s no longer an option. Given that, why not try to change the concept instead?

That’s the dilemma for Jordan Wright. Then add one more complication to the mix: you fall for your boss, executive producer, Bart Underwood.

Don’t Toy With Me

UnderWright Productions Book 1

By Barbara Barrett

(This is from Jordan’s first meeting with Bart, “Facial Hair.” She has just decided that this audition for his reality show “beauty competition” isn’t for her. But before she can leave, he makes an enticing offer.)

Facial Hair propped a foot on one of the chairs and leaned toward her. Be still my heart. Those jeans were tighter than she realized at first glance. The scent of musk wafted across the short distance between them. Nice. Don’t breathe it, don’t breathe it, or you’ll be sorry.

“Why should I believe you?” His mouth widened as if to smile, but she didn’t sense amiability. It was more the spider-to-the-fly variety. Still, her focus stayed there longer than necessary, until she reminded herself she didn’t owe him any further explanation.

This was going nowhere. Even she, doormat to the world, had her limits. “Look, I’m leaving. I haven’t done anything illegal, so you can’t hold me here like a criminal. I won’t hesitate to use the can of pepper spray in my purse if provoked.” She actually did have one with her, though it was a couple years old and probably inoperable.

Jordan threw her bag over her shoulder like a mail carrier preparing for the day’s deliveries and headed for the door. He didn’t try to stop her. Just as her hand reached the door knob, he spoke. “How’d you like to work for me instead?”

Few statements could have stopped her in her tracks. That one did. God, she hated the vulnerability near-poverty forced on a person.


Don’t Toy with Me has gone through more iterations than most of my books. It began as a chick lit written in the first person present with only one point of view. It was totally Jordan’s story. I enjoyed writing in the first person, although it was challenging to reflect the full story when seen from only one person’s perspective.

Years ago, a TV commercial for hair products was based on the slogan, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” That’s how I saw my heroine in those first versions. She couldn’t keep her jobs because she wasn’t taken seriously.

As the focus on chick lit faded, I decided to take the story another direction, more mainline romance. That meant giving Bart a bigger role and switching to two points of view, plus changing from present to past tense. At times, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier to start from scratch.

Along the way, the focus on her “problem” of being too beautiful to be taken seriously disappeared (she’s still quite good looking, of course) and instead, her low self-confidence emerged as the obstacle keeping her from becoming the bright and creative person she was. In addition, Bart now became cognizant early on that her “spy” story was a hoax, but he used it as his reason for hiring her rather than tell her how much he needed her for the kind of creativity she exhibited in coming up with this tall tale on the spot. His inability to ask for help is his obstacle.

Although they become intimate fairly soon in the story, their relationship will grow slowly, because it will serve as the framework for the rest of the series, starting with Change Up, coming this fall. I hope you enjoy this introduction to Jordan and Bart’s story and will continue to follow its evolution in future additions to the series.

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