On The Air

by T. D. Jones

On The Air by T. D. Jones

Ten years ago, Radio Personality Samantha Summers had her heart broken. Now, her former co-host and heartbreaker, Joe Conrad, has returned to Morgan, Texas and Samantha is forced to work with him once more. As the radio station manager points out, Samantha doesn’t have a choice in the matter. KPXJ needs the change. It’s either go along with the decision or she could possibly be looking for another job.

Single father Joe Conrad wants to raise his daughter in a small town. He has enough to deal with concerning five-year-old Charlie and her diabetes, but now he’s faced with the fact that Samantha is not happy about him returning.

Can Samantha and Joe set aside their past and make peace?

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Release Date: October 11, 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

~ A Pink Satin Romance ~


“I’m not working with Joe again!” Samantha Summers insisted, as she took a seat in front of the vintage desk. “I can’t believe you’re even considering this.” She rested back in the chair and let her shoulders drop. The day had already been a long one, with her already having done her morning shift and some extra research on news projects coming up when George asked to meet with her.

“This is for the best,” the owner and manager of KPXJ said.

“How long have you been talking to him about this?” Samantha couldn’t think of any other time in her career that she had been left out on any decisions concerning her show. And yet, her boss had somehow forgot to mention this important fact.

“Around three weeks,” said George.

“Why would you ask him back? What’s going on that you’re not telling me?” Samantha tugged at the scarf around her neck. She stood and walked closer to the slightly opened window. George liked crisp air blowing through his office and this first day of February made that possible. “I don’t think this is a wise choice.”

“He signed the paperwork. The deal is done.”

Samantha paced the room. “I’ve had the morning show for over ten years. Joe couldn’t wait to get away from here. What makes you think he’s going to stay?” She wouldn’t fight the co-host plan, but no way was her co-host going to be Joe. “I’m sure he’s using this station as a stopover to something better and bigger, like he did before.”

“Don’t let your personal issues get in the way of the bigger picture. A person can change, and I...we need him on our team.” 

“I got over him a long time ago, so I don’t have any personal issues. My issues with Joe are related to his work ethics.” She watched as George came around and rested against the desk as he faced her. At some point, the universe decided her life needed to become more confusing. “Joe isn’t—”

“I’m not discussing this anymore.” George reached behind his desk and took a slim folder off his desk. “Your personal life is none of my business, but this station is, and Joe comes with great recommendations.” George opened up the folder. “The information in here is proof that Joe knows how to make a hit show. The data doesn’t lie. His show was a hit in Austin and I’d be a fool not to hire him back.” He loosened his tie. “You can’t fault someone for wanting to better themselves, Samantha. He left for good reasons, and I’ll never think otherwise.”

Samantha knew George was right. Everyone should be able to move up in their career, but Joe did it while dragging her heart along with him. “George, I really wish you’d reconsider this.”

“The listeners of Morgan want something different. You’ll work with him, and you two will be professional. You know your ratings are down. We’ve had this conversation many times about bringing in someone to help bring some life to the show. The town of Morgan loves you, but they want a change.” George moved back behind his desk. “I’m not saying this is a permanent solution.”

Samantha scanned the large room. The shelves were full of radio awards. “I helped you win these. Joe wasn’t here for all the achievements we received as a station.” The thought of moving to another station had never crossed her mind until now. Morgan, Texas, was her home. She had family and friends here and had recently purchased her first home. Could…would she let all that go and move to a bigger city to run away from Joe?

“Samantha, you’re not being replaced. I’m trying to help you.”

She clenched her jaw. “Help me? I’m not sure why you think I need help.” This morning she had woke thinking how her life was coming together. A career she loved, and even though she had recently broken things off with a local police officer, her love life wasn’t a total disaster. At least not in her eyes. However, if anyone asked her mother, she should be married by now and chasing kids.

George raised his hands. “That’s the wrong word choice. I meant help the station. Times are different nowadays. We have to grow with the changes.”

She turned and took a few steps toward the office door but stopped and looked back. “I can’t promise I’ll stay at the station.” Would she really consider a career change because of an old relationship? Samantha needed time to think. So, what if Joe was coming back…ten years had passed. She’d had plenty of relationships since her days with him. Why would it matter if an old boyfriend she had in her early twenties was coming back to work at the station? She couldn’t answer that question, but at the moment, it mattered a lot.

“Don’t do anything drastic. I’m not willing to lose you,” said George. “I promise if I see things aren’t going to work out, we’ll sit down and talk.”

“I need to go.” She grabbed her dress coat off the chair and, as she slipped it on, she glanced at George. They were past the point of reasoning, so Samantha turned and grabbed the door handle.

“Don’t forget to be in the conference room at three o’clock on Friday,” said George. “I know you don’t see it right now, but I get the feeling everything will be okay.”

“You’re right, I don’t.” After giving a slight nod, she exited the office and headed toward the parking lot. She slid into the car, letting her head rest against the seat. Maybe George was right, and people did change. She had—that young girl struggling to make a name for herself in the community was long gone and pretty much called the shots on her show. Samantha jumped when her phone rang. “Hi, Clara.”

“Samantha, you didn’t forget about our appointment, did you?”

Crap. The dress. Another friend, another wedding. “I’ll be there in a few.” Before Clara could scold her for being late, she ended the call. As Samantha pulled out of the parking lot, her mind wondered what was going to happen when she comes into work and Joe’s sitting across from her. Her heart did a little quiver. “Oh, no you don’t. You’re the reason we fell hard the first time,” she said. She pressed on the gas pedal and let the hum of the car’s engine relax her thoughts.

* * *

“I’m sorry for the mess. I haven’t had a chance to empty some of the moving boxes.” Joe Conrad was grateful the agency had sent someone, especially one with medical knowledge. “So, how long did you work at the hospital?”

“Twenty years in the Labor and Delivery unit. After that, I worked at Dr. Johnson’s office until he retired. He specialized in pediatrics,” said Peggy Smart.

“Your references highly recommended you.” Joe took a sip of his coffee. “We have Charlie’s diabetes under control with insulin, so you’ll give her morning shot and test her blood sugar before lunch.” With the open floor plan, he could see his daughter sitting on the couch watching the television. More than likely, she wasn’t listening to the conversation. “She can be a hand full, but she knows the rules. She does try and push them sometimes.”

“As any child does.”

Joe nodded. “I’d like to offer you the job if you’re interested.” He didn’t want to spend a lot of time interviewing several applicants. He had a good feeling about this one and didn’t want her to walk out without an offer. “The agency gave me the rate that is required and I’m willing to pay that.” Truth be told, he would even pay extra if requested. Being a single parent, he needed all the help he could get.

“Oh, that’d be wonderful.” 

“Would you prefer to be called Mrs. Smart or Mrs. Peggy?”

“Oh, Mrs. Peggy is fine. I’m not that formal.” Peggy took her employment folder in her hand. “I know you said you don’t need me to start until Monday, but I’d like to come on Saturday to give Charlie and I a chance to get to know each other.”

“I think that’s a good idea. Charlie can be shy around strangers, which makes her seem standoffish.” He looked down at the notes he jotted down. “She’ll start kindergarten in August. Your schedule might change some, but we still have plenty of time to discuss that later.”

“I’m flexible since Walter passed away.” Peggy rested her empty coffee cup on the table.

Joe stood. “I think we’ve got everything figured out.” Things were fairly simple involving the move. The hardest part was yet to come...facing Samantha.

Peggy stood and picked up her purse off the table. “You know, I used to listen to KPXJ all the time. Will you be working with Samantha...I can’t recall her last name? I haven’t listened in a few years, but I assume she’s still there.”

“Summers, and yes, I’ll be co-hosting. Can I ask why you quit listening?” Part of his job was to find out why listeners and sponsors were dropping off. He might as well start with the nanny. There was no question whether he could help KPXJ. He had made a small, unknown station blossom into a mega hit, of course that involved having a great team at the station. He wasn’t sure what or who he was walking into with this new job. According to George, Samantha had been at the station the longest, and there had been a huge turn over recently. Why was the station having a big turnover and he wondered what made Samantha stay. Morgan was a small town and not many offers came to a local radio personality, so why didn’t she chase that shiny new adventure like he did? If he survived after seeing her again, maybe he would eventually ask that question.

“It got too newsy for me. Walter was more into that kind of stuff. He loved all that national stuff.”

“Well, give us a bit, and you might want to tune in again. Some changes are coming.” According to George, he wanted to see the ratings go up, even if that meant changing up every show, including the morning show. “Let me walk you out.” Joe walked by the couch and tapped Charlie on the head. “Mrs. Peggy’s leaving.”

“Bye,” said Charlie, as she popped her head up over the couch.

“I’ll see you on Saturday.” 

After saying goodbye, Joe shut the front door. “I like her, don’t you?” He sat down in the recliner cater-cornered to the couch.

“She’s nice.” Charlie hung off the couch while staring at the television. “Hey, you’re upside down.”

Joe tickled her belly as he stood. “I’m going to work on emptying some living room boxes.” He didn’t wait for a response as he made his way over to the packing boxes resting in the corner of the room. As he emptied the boxes one by one, Joe tried to imagine the conversation that could be happening between George and Samantha right now. The thought made him nervous, so he let it go.

* * *

Less than ten minutes later, Samantha pulled around to the back of the house. The workshop sat in between two huge pecan trees, which held bolts of materials and sewing machines. After being recently painted, the older building stood in all its pink glory. The sign over the doorway read ‘Clara’s Creations’. The door swung open and Clara stood with her hands on her round hips. Samantha gave a slight tilt to her head. “The meeting with George ran late.”

“I swear between you and this baby. I’m not sure which one of you will drive me crazy first.”

Samantha bent down and rubbed the protruding belly. “Don’t listen to your mommy. She loves us both.” She raised up and kissed her sister on her cheek. “I’m sorry.” Considering her condition, Samantha understood her sister’s need for urgency. She stepped into the large, open room and glanced around at all the clear bags holding dresses. “Wow, business looks busy for you.” She was proud of Clara for taking a chance on her dream. Unlike herself, who questioned everything before taking that next step. If Samantha could change one thing about herself it would be to not let fear hold her back.

“Things have picked up a lot. Most of them are alterations, but it still brings in good money. I even found a college girl that’ll help me three days a week. Her sewing skills are amazing.”

“That’s good news. I know you’ve been looking for a while.” She watched as Clara picked up the dress on her worktable. “Is that mine?” Samantha recognized the pale peach color and the cut of the design.

“Yes, I still need to do all the beading. I want to make sure the length is right before I go any further.”

Samantha pulled at her bottom lip with her teeth. She was becoming the cliché ‘always a bridesmaid and never a bride’.

“Okay, what’s wrong?” Clara laid the dress back down on the table.

“Nothing.” She flopped down in a worn-out chair. “You’ve got to get better chairs.” Samantha twisted her weight as the wicker moaned.

“Don’t change the subject,” Clara pointed at her, “I know something’s wrong. You’re chewing on your lip.”

Samantha instantly released her teeth from her lip. She picked at the corner of a piece of scrap material that was hanging off the edge of the cutting board. “George hired a new co-host to do the show with me.” Not saying his name didn’t make it less real. Come Monday morning, she’d be sitting across from him.

“Well, you did mention he was pushing toward changes. You don’t like the idea of a co-host?”

Samantha slipped out of her dress jacket and placed it on the back of the chair. Some spools of thread rested on the workstation. She picked one up and rolled it in her hand. “I’m not sure this co-host is going to work out?”

“Why?” Clara took the spool from her. “You’re fidgety. Something must be up.”

“He hired Joe.” Sweat built around her brow. The last time she saw him, she was telling him she never wanted to see him again. She thought back to the first day he came to the station. He reminded her of a young Robert Redford: that slight tilt of a grin and he had a sway about his walk. She was hired a few months earlier and George had mentioned he wanted to try a co-host with her. After meeting Joe, she was more than happy to partner up with him. It wasn’t long before they were settled into the show and even getting together during their off time.

Clara took a seat across from her sister and then said, “Joe? Wait, you’re not telling me Joe Conrad’s back in town?”

“Yes!” She was having a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that the man she loved and thought she would eventually marry was coming back to KPXJ.

“Holy smokes!”

Samantha stood and moved around the large sewing table. “Those are my exact thoughts. How am I going to handle all my emotions when I see him?” She never once thought Joe would give up on them as a couple.

“You haven’t seen him yet?”

“No, George told me a little while ago. All the staff will get together Friday, welcoming him back to the station.” 

“What’re you going to do?”

Samantha shrugged and sat back down in the chair. “George is so stubborn and won’t listen to my thoughts on the subject.” She wasn’t familiar with not having control over what happened within the morning show. She’d be the first to admit she’s somewhat spoiled.

“Wow, Joe’s back in town. I wonder if he’s still as cute as ever.”

“Thanks! Your main concern is his looks.” Samantha pulled her lips tighter as her stomach flipped. “I think I might throw up.”

Clara pushed a small trash can toward her sister. “I know how sad you were when he left. I mean, he gets up and lea…”

“I was there, Clara. I don’t need my past repeated to me.” Samantha rubbed the back of her neck. “I need to calm down and get my bearings.” She leaned in and touched Clara. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. I have no right to take my anger out on you.”

“That’s okay. I mean, between your breakup with Frank and now this, you have a right to be full of emotions.”

“Mom asked me about Frank the other day. I didn’t even bother telling her that we decided to take a break.” Samantha didn’t feel like getting into the reason she had broken up with her boyfriend of one year. She pointed to the dress. “How about I try this on, and we forget all about Joe or Frank?” As she slipped out of her clothes and into the dress, her nerves started to relax. Her breathing steadied as the satin material hugged her body.

“I think the length is right.” Clara stepped back and gave the hem a long stare.

“You did an amazing job.” Samantha turned from side to side as she studied herself in the mirror. Her body hadn’t changed much over the years, thanks to running.

“Well, wait till the beads are on.”

“I love the simplicity of the dress.” Samantha was thankful she might be able to wear this dress again to an event, unlike the other five frilly nightmares she had stashed away in the attic.

“I can leave the beading off if you want? You’re lucky the bride’s letting you pick the style, as long as the color works with hers.” Clara put a few straight pins in the waist area. “I think this needs to come in a little more.” She sighed. “I’m so jealous of anyone who has a waist.”

“Pfff...oh, please. You have a miracle going on within your body.” Samantha glanced in the full-length mirror. “I’m giving up on weddings after this one. No more being involved. If I can’t just be a guest, then I’m not going.”

Clara pulled the straight pins from her clenched teeth. “Wow, that seems like a strong statement. You okay?”

“I’m really struggling with having Joe as a co-host.” The past and the present were running together in her head.

“You’ll work it out,” said Clara.

“You’re so much like mom. Always seeing the brighter side of things.” She envied that way of thinking. Stressing about things was second nature to Samantha, no matter how hard she tried not to. “Speaking of mom, I was thinking about seeing if she wanted to go for a day out on Saturday. Dad’s been with her constantly since the heart attack. We should intervene this weekend. She mentioned wanting to get a haircut last week.”

“That sounds fun,” said Clara. “I’ve been wanting to go to the fabric store downtown right by the hairdresser.”

Samantha studied herself in the mirror one more time before carefully slipping out of the dress. All the while successfully avoiding the straight pins from pricking her skin. “Are we done here?” She wanted to get home and take a hot bath. There was nothing like a bath full of her favorite smells to calm her rattled nerves.

“We are with the dress, but not on the topic of Joe,” said Clara, as she took the piece of clothing and placed it in a clear dress bag. “I should have this ready within the next couple of weeks.”

“I don’t have anything else to say about him. He’s coming back and, according to George, if I don’t agree to the arrangement then I might be looking for another job.” Samantha preceded to put back on her work clothes.

“I know George wouldn’t say that to you.”

Samantha shrugged. “Maybe not in those words, but he gave me the impression he won’t go back on his decision.” Over the years, she had had serious conversations with her boss, but nothing ever too serious that questioned their professional or personal relationship. George was a longtime family friend, and she trusted him to always have her back. Something serious had to be going on for him to even consider Joe as a co-host. Why wasn’t he telling her more about the situation? What was he holding back?

“Maybe Joe’s back to reclaim his love for you.”

“Don’t, Clara.” Samantha slipped on her shoes and glanced in the mirror one last time.

“Samantha, the man left ten years ago. It might be time to forgive him.”

She headed toward the door as she said, “Forgive him. We worked together and dated seriously for over two years, then one day he decided he’s moving to better himself. Oh, and by the way, he thinks his girlfriend is an anchor. He made his choices, and I wasn’t one of them.” No matter the relationship, there is always something that’s said during a fight that sticks with a person. It’s chewed on over and over, even as the years pass by, whatever was said is not forgotten. Hers was that Joe thought she was an anchor...someone holding him in place and not letting him venture into unknown territories.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how this was still hurting you.” Clara leaned in. “I’m here for you, you know that. If you want to sew Joe up in one of these bags and bury his body, I’ll help...after the baby of course. I can’t even tie my shoes right now.”

“I can always count on my big sister. I know I’m being overly dramatic, but you know when it comes to Joe, things always were over the top with me for some reason.”

“Cause it was true love.”

“Unfortunately, that true love was one sided, and I got left with a broken heart.” Samantha made her way outside as Clara followed behind.

“Hey, you know I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, and I believe Joe’s back for a reason.”

“Yes, to make my life miserable,” said Samantha as she opened the car door. 

“Call and let me know if Joe’s still as cute as ever.”

Samantha shook her head and wished she was more like Clara. Instead, she had to dwell and analyze everything. “Love you.” She blew a kiss her sister’s way. Thank heavens for Clara. She was her safe place to vent and knew that whatever they talked about wouldn’t be discussed with anyone, especially their mother.

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