Welcome to the show, and your new home for the next summer!
Your home lies on a spacious lot, about a five minute walk to the beach and the boardwalk. You'll find rides, shops, and so much more there.
Whether you arrive to the house by plane, taxi, uber, or whatever, you should know that you're already being filmed. Cameras are set up all over the house, inside and out (except for the bathrooms, of course). If you need to go anywhere, you'll have to call a cab, as your own personal vehicles are to be parked elsewhere (if brought) and your keys to be given up, as spoken of in your contract. This is simply to ensure that you remain on the show, and don't get the urge to just get up and leave us.
What do you want from this show? Love? Revenge? Closure? Whatever it is, I hope you're ready to meet...
"Well Penelope, I'm going to be gone for a while," Corryn Russell said, stepping through the doorway of her walk-in closet. The calico Scottish Fold cat trotted into the room, rubbing up against her legs as if to ask for attention. Cory smiled, setting her bag on her dresser before crouching down to scratch the kitty behind her ears. "It's been a long week, Penny," she said, an exhausted tone to her voice. She took a few steps into the bedroom and fell back on the bed, closing her eyes and letting her mind wander. Her career as a marketing executive was anything but glamorous, with hours of meetings and late nights attempting to create the perfect mood board. But Corryn couldn't help but love it. It was the same environment she grew up in, and she wouldn't change a thing about it.
The day before, Corryn had only stayed long enough to finish up the plans for the next few weeks while she was gone. Unfortunately, she had to spend her evening packing, getting everything ready for her trip to that reality TV show house. To be completely honest, Cory wasn't sure why she had agreed to go to begin with, or why the show even wanted her. She was the heir to a large marketing firm, yes. But that was where her celebrity status ended. Somehow she had let Grayson coerce her into it, her stupid competitiveness getting the best of her. The location of the house wasn't far from her home, but that didn't make her any more excited about the idea of living with complete strangers for an indefinite amount of time. A sharp alarm brought Cory back to the present, causing the brunette to hastily search around for her phone. She found it in her black leather purse that was still on the table by the front door. Much to her dismay, a reminder that day's "big reveal" popped up on the screen. Corryn had forgotten that she was required to attend an opening ceremony of sorts for the show and needed to get a move on as to not be late.
Sighing, Cory traipsed into her room, pulling open the closet door and glancing inside. She knew the reality show was pulling out all the stops in hopes of making bank from views. The resort they sent pictures of to her was incredible, much larger than her modest one-bedroom apartment in the city. They had said that the opening event would be a big reveal, though she already knew who would be on the other side of the curtain for her. After getting dressed, putting on some light make-up, and slipping her feet into a pair of strappy black sandals, Cory took one last look in the mirror, making sure she looked at least somewhat decent. Not that there was anyone she needed to look decent for or anything.
"Alright, Penelope, hold down the fort while I'm gone. Don't break anything. Fight away any intruders. Well, except Toni. She's going to be staying here while I'm gone to take care of you. So be nice," Cory said to the cat who sat on the foyer table alongside her purse with an indifferent look on her furry face. Toni was her second-in-command, best friend, and, to be honest, the only person Corryn trusted to watch over both her marketing team and her fur child. Scratching the cat one more time behind the ears, Corryn grabbed her suitcases and descended the stairs to where her driver was waiting. She was mildly surprised that the show had sent a driver, but still didn't complain.
"Thanks for the ride," Corryn said to the driver a little later as they pulled up in front of the large beachfront building. There were several people bussing about, some with cameras mounted to their shoulders, others carrying clipboards. Ensured by the driver and show staff that her belongings would end up in her designated room, Cory was ushered through the house to a sectioned-off room that was empty. She wasn't quite sure what was going on but was told to wait there anyway. At least there was a table of food and drinks. "Well, well, well, don't mind if I do," she said to herself with a smile, assessing the available cocktail ingredients. On one end there were bottles of various liquors, at least one of each type, and mixers to go with them. On the other were platters of appetizers and finger foods that smelled absolutely delicious. Deciding on creating a drink of orange liqueur, vanilla vodka, and coconut cream, Corryn spun the liquids in a clear glass, topping it off with a bendy straw and mini paper umbrella for ironic effect. She took a sip, turning to face the rest of the room with a grin. "A girl could get used to this."
"What do you mean we missed the flight? It says right here that the flight departs now! We're on time!" The sound of a man's loud voice echoed across the airport terminal, causing a few to stop and stare with wide eyes. Abel Rothenberg was used to getting stares, but generally, it was because of his intimidating stature or good looks rather than his temper. That being said, he certainly had a temper. And when it went off, there wasn't much he wouldn't do. "I'm sorry sir, but the plane departs now. It boarded about 20 minutes ago," the petite airline hostess stated, obviously uncomfortable even though a tall desk separated them. Abe turned to face his brother, running a hand through his hair in exasperation. "Can you believe this? Such bullshit."
It was then that the mechanic realized that several eyes were on him, including those of the not-so-happy airport security guards that had begun to approach them. On any other occasion, Abel wouldn't mind getting into it with those rent-a-cops. He doubted that they actually knew how to fight and, from the looks of them, they probably couldn't catch up if he ran. Plus, Cain was there to bail him out if needed, like he usually did. But, as fun as all of that sounded, they had more important things to do. When Abel put his application in to be on this reality TV show, it was honestly more of a drunken joke than anything else. But when he saw the money involved, it was impossible for him to say no. His 'settlement' of sorts had run dry, and half of his income was from illegal means. Abe would much rather have a stable, legal income than something shady and dangerous.
"C'mon Cain, let's get out of here," Abel said quietly, grabbing his bag and heading in the opposite direction of airport officers. What were they going to go? They were at a layover in San Diego, so desperately close to their final destination of Los Angeles. It was his first time out of the Midwest, and the sunny weather combined with the ocean breeze was absolutely breathtaking. If he had had the money before, he would have moved out there and never returned to the Windy City. But thankfully, the network paid for their lush plane tickets. And as a black sports car caught his attention, they were about to pay for something else as well. "Hey, bro. Take a look at those," Abel stated, nodding towards the line of rental cars that sat in the parking lot, primed and ready for the taking. One of the few skills he had learned in his time as a not-so-legal mechanic was the proper way to hotwire a car. It might just come in handy. "How much trouble do you think we would get in?"
Before Abel was even given the chance to ponder that question, a man in a perfectly pressed suit appeared in front of the brothers. He held out a set of car keys to them, a stoic look on his face. In a tone that was slightly too condescending for Abe's liking, the man said, "Courtesy of the network." The man dropped the keys into Abel's outstretched palm before disappearing inside once again, not saying another word. The blonde turned to his brother, showing him the keys. "If you think I'm driving the however many hours it takes to get to LA from here, you're crazy. I drive enough for work, and I'm pretty sure I saw you drool-sleeping on the plane while I was awake the whole time. So uh, it's your turn big bro." With a smirk, he tossed the keys to Cain, not waiting to see if he was prepared to catch them. "Maybe if you had woken up to your first alarm instead of the seventh, we wouldn't be in this mess."
Kaya was definitely not the girl to be used to an elevated treatment of any sorts. She came from a shady neighborhood. The kind where you were falling asleep to sounds of police sirens, yelling of the cats and your neighbor trying to kill or maim his wife. And when he didn’t succeed, he at least fucked her nicely so everyone heard that the two made up. And you could get used to it if it happened three or four times a week and you kept listening to all the sounds of the dirty city part for long enough. And Kaya certainly did. She had spent the first eighteen years of her life there which, in comparison with the next four, was quite enough to grow sick of the flea-infested streets and yelling all around her.
And now, here she was, getting out of the plain in sunny Los Angeles. Large sunglasses covering her face, warm breeze weaving in her hair as the petite girl walked down to the tarmac. Kaya would never admit it but her heart was pounding against her ribs like crazy and she was actually experiencing the worst case of…some sort of stage freight or what not. Her thoughts were running a mile a minute as she walked inside and waited for her suitcases to appear. Safe to say, this was her very first time she every traveled by plane and so she had no idea what to do, just followed the crowd and pretended to be doing this for at least the millionth time.
Only when she finally walked out of the airport hall, Kaya let out the breath she never knew she was holding and for the first time, she started to think about how to get to the luxurious house. Maybe she could take a cab. That might have been the easiest way and she had the address somewhere in her bag. To her surprise though, three seconds after she stopped to rummage through her bag, her phone went off. What on earth was calling her now? She took a leave of absence from work and told everyone not bother her. But the name on the phone screen made all color from her face disappear. A few furious taps on the screen made her father’s name go away. She was so not going to talk to that jackass now.
A few seconds of wild throwing things aside in her satchel bag resulted in a victorious “Aha!” and a paper appeared in Kaya’s hand. Her eyes scanned it quickly until she found the piece of information she was looking for. Since this was a pretty frequented airport, cabs were all around so Kaya just walked to the first one she saw and got in. The driver was this middle-aged dad type, the kind that pats your head and gives you a life advice. The glasses in thin frame only highlighted the appearance but to Kaya’s great relief, he only took the address, entered it in the GPS and off they were.
The drive was rather quiet and Kaya preferred it that way actually. She cursed under her breath, realizing her headphones were not in that bottomless bag but that at least let her think about the experience in front of her. She only applied for the reality show to earn more money. She definitely needed to get on her feet more. Keeping the apartment every since Cain left was hard and basically next to impossible with her bartender salary. Earning money here was going to help her to get a smaller place with less heavy rent and maybe she could even save some for the future.
When the cab parked on the set, Kaya’s jaw dropped. She knew the house was going to be impressive but this was exceeding all expectations. Mansion by the sea, beach only a few steps away, her whole place could fit here at least fifteen times. “Fuuuck…” she whispered, opening the door right after she paid for the ride. The cab driver helped her with her suitcases and she was immediately approached by an attendant who directed her to some room. Kaya was getting overwhelmed a lot but they just encouraged her to leave the luggage and go on.
The brunette walked in the said room and her heart started to race again. While her face was sporting a confident expression, her insides were turning into jello. There was a blond already inside, sipping some fancy drink. Yeah. Kaya could definitely use one of those. Nodding to the girl, she walked to the set table with long strides and her hands automatically reached for a few bottles to mix herself a nice glass of blue motorcycle. Was that a good idea? Hardly. But only a strong drink was going to calm her nerves at this point. After all, there was a possibility Dominic was going to walk in any second. Yes, Kaya was absolutely convince that her high school sweetheart was coming, too.
A car was rushing down the highway, music blasting from the speakers and the speed was becoming unreal. Declan’s pressure on the gas pedal of his dark blue Tesla increasing as he was trying to clear his head. As if driving his car way above the speed limit was going to make it happen for him. He was confident enough that he could afford it. Maybe his name was not up there with all those football legends just yet but he had already made a name for himself around California. Back in college, he had become the youngest quarterback for the Trojans and no wonder he was then drafted for the big Cali team. If the police stopped him now, just his name on the ID was enough for them to let him go.
Declan was not exactly this kind of guy. He never really abused his name and only knew about this little perk from a few times he was already pulled over for minor mistakes. This was actually the first time Dec was planning on exploiting it if he was pulled over because his whole being was overwhelmed by anxiety. It was almost ridiculous that a star football player was now afraid of one little show.
His agent was convinced that this was the way to go. That this was the right path to take. Since Declan was still on a process of building his reputation, supposedly he needed a little boost, to make himself more approachable, more relatable to the public. And the reality show where the exes were going to meet was apparently the best his PR team could have come up with. Declan was not exactly a fan of reality TV but hell, he was in. If nothing else, it was at least going to tear him out of the stereotype of trainings and workouts.
However, what Declan knew for sure was who might have been waiting for him at that house. Dec was not dating a lot in the past years and if he did, those relationships were briefer than brief. Therefore, Natalie was the only logical choice. She had been the first girl to really capture his heart, the girl Dec thought was the one. His endgame. They were the perfect couple, the class-president and the school quarterback. Who could ever compete with those two? And yet, come college, the gears became rust and eventually, Nat asked for break. And Declan fucked up. Not that he would ever admit it was solely his fault. As far as he was concerned, they were on a break and he didn’t do anything wrong when he opened his bed to that pretty redheaded cheerleader. Of course, Nat saw it differently and that was just the beginning of their end.
The beginning of them trying to hurt each other as much as they could. There was no way someone else was there instead of his blonde ex. And the memory of her was the force causing Declan’s foot becoming heavier and heavier on the gas pedal.
Being already in California served as an advantage to Declan. He didn’t have to bother himself with planes or anything, just took his car and drove to LA himself without additional and mostly unwanted attention of the media. He could have his favorite music blasting from the car stereo system and it only stopped when he turned the engine off in front of the mansion. One deep breath in, sunshades on and his learned smile ready. Dec got out of the car and handed his car keys to an attendant. “Please, be careful, my man.” he patted the man on the back and after making sure that his luggage was going to make it inside, he walked inside as instructed. To his surprise, he was the first one to arrive to an empty room. There was a table set with snacks and drinks and considering he was not driving today, Dec walked right there and poured himself a nice, not exactly decent glass of Michter’s Sour Mash before plopping down on the couch. It was even refreshing that he was here alone, no one talking, no one addressing him. Don’t get him wrong, Dec was a people person alright. But sometimes, a little quiet moment was worth it all.
The knock on her hotel door came earlier than Natalie expected it, and she scrambled to finish packing up her makeup and hair products. “Coming! One moment!” She called, running out of the bathroom and tossing her cosmetics bag into her suitcase. The roller bag was packed to the brim with clothes, and Natalie had to put all her weight on it to press the top down enough to zip it shut.
All morning Natalie had been battling nerves about agreeing to be on a reality show, but now she was just feeling the pressure of a ticking clock. Whoever was sent to take her to the set knocked on her door again, and Natalie sighed, hoisting her bag off the bed and rolling it over to the door.
“Really sorry, just need a couple more minutes...” The blonde apologized, opening the hotel door and letting an impatient production assistant into her room. The PA looked at Natalie’s suitcase before looking back at its owner as she rushed to put on her shoes.
“I was told to confirm that you followed the suggested packing list...” The PA said, unzipping the bag a little to peek in at its contents.
“Yes, yes, I packed according to the guidelines. Brianne was very thorough about what I should bring.” Natalie replied, a little annoyed at how much production was poking their noses in her business already. “I would have preferred to pack my own choice of clothes though...” She added, sitting on the edge of the bed as she pulled on her white converse and tied the laces.
The PA just shrugged and started wheeling the bag out of the room. “I’ll be downstairs with the car. Try to be out front in five minutes. Traffic’s pretty bad right now and don’t want to be late first day of filming.” And with that, the young man was gone, and Natalie was left alone to get herself together.
Filming hadn’t even started yet, and Natalie was already regretting putting her life in the hands of people who were likely more concerned about ratings than those they’d casted to be on the show. The blonde rose from the bed, and stood in front of the body length mirror, examining her reflection. She looked picture perfect, but felt like a phony. She’d spent twice as long on her hair and makeup as she usually did, and the outfit she was wearing had practically been picked by Brianne, the producer she’d been in contact with during preproduction. All of the controlling and nit picking hadn’t started until after she’d signed her contract, so Natalie had little choice but to go along with it. Still, maybe she would have felt more comfortable if she looked more like herself.
Grabbing her purse, Natalie turned away from the stranger in the mirror and left her hotel room. Once down in the lobby, she found the PA and was ushered into the car. Traffic was as bad as he’d warned, so Natalie was left to simmer in her doubts and insecurities as they crept along the freeway.
When the show’s casting director had reached out to Natalie to be on the show, she thought it was a joke since she hadn’t applied herself. Someone else had submitted her, and Natalie was being offered a once in a life time opportunity at a second chance. Initially, Natalie said no though. She’d spent the last 5 years trying to forget the only serious relationship she’d had, and wasn’t keen to reopen old wounds with Declan. And if Declan wasn’t the one who’d submitted them for the show, then Natalie really wasn’t interested in trying to reconnect with one of the guys she’d only dated for a few months.
However, Natalie’s pride had always been one of her biggest downfalls, and it was ultimately the reason she agreed to be on the show after second thought. If her ex on the show was Declan, and if he had submitted them both to be on the show, then maybe that meant he was ready to apologize and admit he messed up. Even the possibility of Declan finally swallowing his own pride was enough to temp Natalie’s.
The PA finally pulled up to the front of the beautiful beach mansion, and Natalie’s eyes widened a little at her temporary new home. After exiting the car, the blonde was ushered inside by another crew member, while the PA disappeared somewhere with her suitcase. Natalie could feel the frenetic energy of the crew as they scurried around, and she related, feeling flustered herself.
Before she could ask any questions, Natalie was delivered to a room and told to wait. Two other young women were already inside sipping on beverages, and Natalie smiled a little as she stepped further into the room. “I suppose the booze is to help take the edge off?” She nervously laughed, walking over to the selection of alcohols and mixers.
Natalie decided on something simple, fixing herself a strawberry mimosa that was pretty much just champagne with a drop of juice to sweeten it up. Nearly emptying the glass in the first few sips, Natalie prayed that the liquid would settle the butterflies in her stomach. “Have you been here long?” She asked, glancing between the other blonde and the brunette.
Ace whined as he watched his owner carry a suitcase to the door, trotting over and dropping his tennis ball onto the bag. Grayson sighed and knelt down, giving the yellow lab-mix's head a good scratching. "Sorry buddy, can't play fetch right now. We already went to the park this morning." Gray said, picking up the ball and tossing it a few feet away. Ace perked up, scampering after the ball as he slid along the wood floors of the studio apartment.
Gray felt guilty about leaving his furry friend behind during filming, but if he landed the big marketing campaign that his boss promised him in exchange for going on the reality show, then he could finally afford to rent a house with a yard for Ace. In the long run, his absence would be worth it.
Checking his list of things to do before leaving, Grayson realized all that was left was saying goodbye. He'd prepped everything his neighbor Shania needed to take care of Ace. packed all his own stuff, and tied up all loose ends for work. His stomach tightened at the idea of parting ways with Ace though. Grayson had never been away from the dog for more than 24 hours since rescuing him after things ended with Cory.
The thought of Cory made his stomach tighten even more, his competitive nature kicking in at the prospect of seeing her again soon. He had to remind himself though, that on this show he wouldn't be competing with her like he had the past year or so. Instead, as far as he understood, he and Corryn would be on the same team again. At least within the constructs of the show. They had been good together, as business partners, but it was still unclear to Grayson if they were really ever more than that. Even after 3 years of being together, their emotions had never progressed beyond their own needs and wants to include what was best for the other person.
Shaking away the thoughts that were best saved for during the show, Grayson whistled for Ace. The lab walked back over to his owner, tail wagging as he looked up at Gray with big brown eyes. "You're not gonna make this easy, are you?" Grayson chuckled, leaning his head down against Ace's and rubbing the back of his ears. "Be a good boy for Shania, she'll be by this afternoon. I promise I'll be back for you buddy." He whispered, before standing up and grabbing his bag. With a last look at his apartment, and then down at Ace, Grayson took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he left his place.
As he made his way down to his car, Grayson tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He might have been a steely businessman in his professional life, but at home Ace had made him a softy. This wasn't something he wanted broadcasted all over America though, so during the 40 minute drive to set, Grayson listened to one of his many "how to get ahead in life"-type audiobooks to distract him. Sentimental emotions weren't something that Grayson was comfortable with feeling, showing, or talking about. He had made that very clear to his boss after she submitted him for the show, and with the people who had casted him, but this only seemed to excite the producers more. He would be a challenge, an egg to crack on television for the enjoyment of millions. Just great. If Grayson wasn't so determined to work his way up the corporate ladder at his marketing firm, this show would be the last thing Grayson would be caught doing.
Yet, here he was. As he pulled up to the incredible mansion, Grayson lit up. This house... This was the life Grayson aspired to live someday. Maybe this show would just be a little taste of what he could have in the future if he worked hard enough. Any reservations Gray might have had about the show were soon forgotten as he put his game face on and focussed on the task ahead. He wasn't here to find love, again or for the first time. He was just here to do the bare minimum day-to-day and kick ass in the challenges that the producers had mentioned would be a part of the show. If there was anything for him to win, he planned to do that, and hoped Corryn could at least find it in herself to get on board. For competition's sake.
Grayson was led to the guys’ holding room, and saw that someone had beat him to set. Well, at least arriving second was better than last, he told himself as he walked over to the refreshment table and poured a whisky and coke. There was something familiar about the other guy in the room, but Gray couldn't quite place him. That happened a lot in LA though, he found. Half the time someone that looked familiar was actually a celebrity, and other times it was because they bartended at the club down the street. Best not to assume one way or the other.
"To the first day..." Gray said, raising his glass to Declan. "And to getting paid to spend time with our exes." He added, grinning before taking a sip.
So put your arms around me tonight
Let the music lift you up
Like you've never been so high
Open up your heart to me...
Olivia sang her hit song under her breath as she zipped her suitcase shut, everything inside folded neatly and fit perfectly. Just like my life. She mused, her inner voice sounding just as sarcastic as if she would have said it out loud. With an eye roll that she knew would have her father angered if he saw it, she sighed and turned to face the rest of her room, her eyes drifting over the various areas as she went over her checklist in her head. She already knew she had everything she needed, because she'd actually made a list on paper and checked everything off as she packed it.
Though she wasn't exactly a Type A personality, Livvy was still quite organized, mostly due to the way she was raised. Her mother and especially her grandmother wouldn't have it any other way, and even though she didn't technically live with them anymore, she could still feel their influence. Once she'd started her music career, she lived in penthouse suites here and fancy condos there. Once the scandal happened with her old manager, though, and she was thrust into the negative limelight of the media, she'd stopped touring and used some of her money to rent a place of her own.
It felt nice, having something that was hers, though she wasn't foolish enough to think that her family had no influence over her life anymore. There was another reason Liv was going over her checklist again, though, even if she didn't want to admit it to herself. She was stalling, plain and simple. Her new manager, Francis, thought that doing the show would be good for her. Get her back into the positive, he'd said, though she wasn't so sure. She didn't know which ex would be showing up, and that terrified her. If there was one thing she hated, it was not knowing.
Heaving a small sigh as she heard a knock on her door, she took one last look at her suitcase before she spoke. "Come in." Sliding her gaze towards the door, she spotted her bodyguard there, slowly opening the door as though he wasn't sure what he was walking in to. She gave him a small smile and gestured to the suitcases she'd packed. "I'm ready, I think." She bit her lip as he nodded, stepping further into the room to gather them and turn. She grabbed her bag that she was taking on the plane with her, and then followed him out of her place, to the waiting car downstairs.
What felt like ages later, she was sitting on the plane next to Arthur, and though she took comfort in his quiet presence she knew he would only be accompanying her to the house. Not inside, and not on the show. She plugged her headphones in, leaning back in her seat as she listened to music the entire ride. She dozed off at some point, waking up to her bodyguard shaking her some. Slightly groggy, she nodded and they got off the plane, where he received her suitcases and they walked outside, where yet another car was waiting, courtesy of the show. Car after car, that was her life now.
The ride to the house was quiet, save for the music still blasting in her ears. It wasn't a long ride, and when the house came into view, her jaw nearly dropped. "Jesus christ." Pulling the headphones from her ears, she stared until the car stopped. Slowly, she glanced over at Arthur, who looked slightly uneasy. "I'll be fine." She assured him, opening the door to climb out of the car. Since she didn't have to carry her luggage inside, she bent back down into the car and grinned at him. "Don't be too bored without me." She smirked when she saw him roll his eyes, then she straightened and headed inside.
Actually, the thought of not having a bodyguard was simultaneously exciting and terrifying, since she'd grown used to his presence. She would still have eyes on her at all times, of course, but still. Getting to stay in a place like this made her earlier fears go away, if only for a little bit. Someone directed her to go to a room, and when she stepped in, she saw that there were three girls already there. "Am I last?" She knew they were each missing their ex, though thinking that made the butterflies return. She saw that each girl had a drink in hand, and she could definitely use one of those. "Don't gotta tell me twice." She headed for the drink table herself, making a drink before turning to the others. "Hi. I'm Olivia."
"You've got to be fucking kidding me." Cain leaned forward, dropping his head into his hands as he rubbed his temples, listening to his brother's asinine words. They were definitely late, and as the nice lady behind the counter had told Abel already, the plane had boarded already and the doors were shut. The plane was in the process of getting ready to take off, and Cain and his brother were not going to be on it, no matter how much his brother bitched. He was already drawing attention to them, too. When Cain lifted his head, he didn't miss the people staring at them as Abel turned to look at him, running a hand through his hair.
"I told you we were going to be fucking late, asshat." Snatching his bag off the ground, Cain threw it over his shoulder and glanced at the pretty brunette. "Thank you." He told her, even though he was feeling very not grateful at this point in time. He turned around and spotted the security officers at the same time that Abel did, and he shot his brother a look. Thankfully, Abel backed off and grabbed his own shit, starting away from the counter and the plane they'd missed. He gave the security guards a small wave as he and Abel passed them, and thankfully, they backed down since the crisis was averted.
The brothers headed out of the airport, and Cain breathed in the fresh air as they did. "God, I need a fucking smoke." He muttered, starting to reach for his pack before Abel spoke, drawing his attention to the many cars parked out front. "We are not hotwiring a car at the fucking airport, you idiot. I fucking swear." Cain located the crushed pack of smokes in his pocket, pulling one out and lighting it, not caring that they were still by the doors. "We'll find a way there. The drive is only a couple hours, I think." He blew out a steady stream of smoke, right into the face of a lady walking out of the sliding doors. "Oops. Sorry."
"Smoke your cancer stick elsewhere, jackass."
Cain narrowed his eyes in her direction, having half a mind to follow her and blow smoke at her again. "I didn't have to apologize, lady." He called after her instead, looking over at Abel just as someone tossed a set of keys at him. He froze, looking from the keys to the man, and then to Abel. "Are you...?" The man left without another word, and next thing he knew, Abel was tossing the keys at him. "You-" He made a grab for the keys, dropping his smoke in the process. "Abel, fuck, watch what you're doing!" He leaned down to grab the still burning cigarette, picking it up and then finally moving away from the door.
Clicking the alarm button on the key fob, Cain located the car easily, shutting the alarm off as they approached. "This is not my fault, little brother." He tossed his shit in the trunk after popping it, not waiting for Abel to do the same before he moved to slide into the drivers seat. Starting the car with the remote start, he immediately started looking around, feeling like a kid at christmas with all the shiny buttons. Fiddling with the radio for a minute, he settled on a rock station, looking at Abel when his brother got into the passenger seat. He'd been grumpy before, but now Cain was kind of excited to drive this expensive ass car.
Still smoking, he shut the drivers side door and rolled down the window. When Abel was settled and the address was set in the GPS, he started off, heading for the highway where he really pushed down on the accelerator. The car handled like a dream, and he was sad he'd have to give it up. "You don't know what you're missing, Abel." He grinned as the wind whipping in the windows really helped his mood. They reached the house within about an hour and a half, maybe two, and Cain parked in front of it, looking from Abel back to the house. "Are we sure this is it?"
No sooner had he asked that question, people started approaching the car. He saw they had ear pieces in, and he realized they were part of production. "Shit, guess so." He got out and tossed someone the keys, as he and Abel were instructed to go inside. "This place is nice as fuck." He muttered as he stepped foot into the house, being instructed yet again to go to a separate room. When he entered, he saw two gus already there, making a toast. "Couldn't wait?" He grinned as he headed right for the drink table, making his own. "What's up? I'm Cain. That fuckface over there is Abel."
One of the few things from her childhood that Corryn labeled as a happy memory was the summers she spent with her nanny, walking down the boardwalk with an orange creamsicle in hand. She normally despised sweet desserts. But that memory was one that stuck in her mind, a moment in time where she felt entirely free from all the burdens and pressures that were put on her. And so, as she drank the cocktail reminiscent of that dessert, she couldn't help the nostalgic feeling that washed over her. Maybe someday she would be able to take a break, to return to that part of her life. But for now, Cory's life was entirely about work. Her career meant everything to her, coming second only to her kitten, Penelope. Competition, ambition, success, those were the characteristics that had been instilled in her from a young age, the ideals she tried to live by.
If she was being entirely honest with herself, Corryn knew there was more to life than just work. And some part of her, fairly deep down, wanted more. Her best friend was a cat and her family consisted of an absent father and her nanny that had become more of an aunt. None of her relationships ever really panned out, and she had recently realized that she wasn't exactly happy. Satisfied, maybe. But not necessarily fulfilled. That could have been the reason she had accepted Gray's challenge, to add more excitement to her life, to take a break from work, and just to live for herself. When had been the last time she had truly taken a vacation? Cory couldn't quite remember.
But at the end of the day, if work were to call her while she was on the show, she would most definitely drop everything that she was doing just to answer that call. Regardless of what she wanted from life, the blonde wouldn't be able to give up her instincts quite that easily. Taking another sip from her cup, Corryn glanced up when she heard the door open again, a gorgeous brunette joining her in the room. She quickly walked to the table, assembling a drink of her own with only a nod. Well, alright. Maybe the brunette wasn't that friendly, or maybe she was nervous. By the amount of alcohol she put in her cup, Cory could only assume it was the latter. Before she could attempt to introduce herself, another blonde entered the room, just as beautiful as the brunette. Well, the show certainly had a type of pretty women.
"Hey," Corryn greeted the other blonde, raising her glass a bit, "Probably so. That and drunk, uninhibited girls probably aren't terrible for ratings." She couldn't help but add the last part in a teasing tone, unsure of where the cameras were hidden in the room, but knowing that someone was always watching. Despite her joke, the marketing executive took another large drink from her cup. She wasn't necessarily nervous about seeing Gray or meeting the other men. More so she was nervous about being on public TV for the world to see and criticize. Cory was a perfectionist, competitive in nature, and wanted to do everything in her power to win. Even if that meant being cordial and working on a team with Gray. After all, they had been quite the power couple once. Another brunette joined the room shortly thereafter, making her own drink and greeting them. "Nice to meet you, I'm Corryn," she answered with a smile of her own. "You guys ready for this?"
If he had been given the option to drive such a fancy car a few years ago, Abel would have been all of that. Something about the purr of the engine, the feeling of tires against asphalt, the sound of wind rushing past as the vehicle speeds down the road, all of it put together was absolute heaven for him. He had always been rather fascinated by the inner-workings of an engine and how cars were put together. Maybe that was why he was so damn good at taking them apart. After he had lost his job as a maintenance man for the Kennedy family, Abe needed to make money. Bills were piling up, and he couldn't just sit by and let his brother cover everything when he had problems of his own to deal with. So, the younger Rothenberg brother had taken a position as a mechanic at a low-end shop in the not-so-great part of Chicago. Little did he know what was hidden between the lines of his job description.
Hidden behind the label of an autobody center was something far more sinister: one of the city's largest chop shops. Stolen vehicles were brought in from all over the country, disassembled in a matter of hours, and pieced out to the highest bidder. Though it was highly illegal and, if caught, would no doubt land him in jail, Abel worked the job anyway. It was exciting, impulsive, and fun. He couldn't help but be addicted to the rush of hotwiring an engine, the adrenaline high of racing down the freeway in a car he would never be able to afford. It was a thrill, and Abe was slowly working his way to the top of the food chain. He hadn't quite told Cain yet, just brought home the money and hoped he wouldn't ask where it came from. And so far, he hadn't. But the secret court bills and fees he had been accumulating for various misdemeanors were beginning to add up to more than he could afford.
Pulled from his thoughts by Cain's angry tone, the blonde man turned back to his brother just in time to see him bend down to pick up the filter end of a lit cigarette. He rolled his eyes, letting out a low chuckle. "I think you'll be fine, bro. You've had enough cigarettes in your life to give us both cancer." As he approached the car, sliding his hand across the glossy paint job. It was definitely a nice car, something that would fetch high dollar at the shop were it to be pieced out. Following Cain's lead, Abe tossed his bag into the open trunk before pushing it closed and sliding into the passenger seat. "Not your fault, not my fault. Let's just say that airport is to blame," he replied with a grin, shrugging at his brother. They took off from the parking garage, sliding in and out of traffic with ease down the freeway. The car seemed to handle well, and Cain perked up a bit behind the wheel. At least the day hadn't gone to complete shit.
At his brother's words, Abel rolled his eyes and glanced out the passenger window, watching the world fly by, "I'll just have to take your word for it." At some point on the drive, he had fallen asleep, his head resting against the window. But he was soon awoken by Cain's voice, taking in a deep breath as he looked up at the massive house they had just pulled up in front of. "Damn, I hope they aren't the FBI coming for us," Abe stated, eyeing the earpieces and microphones several of the approaching people wore. Stepping from the car, he let the staff members corral them into the house, practically shoving the brothers into a side room with two other guys already inside. "I get that we're late, but fuck," he muttered under his breath, glaring slightly at the door that had been shut behind them. Letting it go, Abel followed his brother to the beverage table, pouring a tall shot of whiskey into a highball glass. He was unable to refrain from rolling his eyes at his brother's introduction, taking a sip from the glass. "You can just call me Abel. Or Abe."
Kaya knew she probably came off a little unfriendly upon her arrival but once she set foot on the premises, her stress level rose so high it was almost unreal. She would not admit it for the world, not ever because she was Kaya Montgomery, born and raised in the Chicago’s darkest parts, she woke up to sounds of people puking on the corners and went to sleep accompanied by gunshots. What was there to be afraid of? She already convinced herself that it was Dominic coming to the show and though he was not exactly thrilled when they broke up, there was no bad blood. At least Kaya thought so. So yeah, she should not be afraid of Dominic, should she?
Her first steps led to a drink station and she shamelessly mixed herself the strongest drink she knew, the good bartender she was. Only once she had her poison in glass, she went to sit on the couch and took a long gulp. The amount of booze in it was unreal and stung her throat more than enough and she held back the grimace before she could speak to the blonde already in the room. Kaya could be an exquisite bitch but she also knew that this was a reality TV and she would need allies. And it couldn’t hurt to make some among the other ladies on the show.
Another blonde entered the room and as expected, also went for the drink immediately. She took it lightly though, only getting a strawberry mimosa and turned her face to the rest of them. “Just arrived.” Kaya spoke for the first time and a charming smile graced her lips. She could be quite pleasant if she wanted to and the first impressions were allegedly important. At least someone said so. “I’m sorry if I made the wrong impression, I just really felt like I needed a drink.” she added and looked at the first blonde with an apology shining in her eyes.
The last person walked in and Kaya narrowed her eyes. She reminded her of someone, someone she probably used to know. Only when she came closer and introduced herself as Olivia, it all clicked to Kaya. Olivia used to date Abel Rothenberg. Rothenberg as in Cain Rothenberg and the thought of her ex made Kaya’s blood boil. The two girls were never particularly fond of each other and they both knew it. “Hey, Livvy. Long time no see, isn’t it?” Kaya chirped and gripped her glass so hard her knuckles went white. But her face was the perfect representation of friendliness. “You know what?” her gaze fell back on Cory. “I am ready. Whichever of my exes came, I totally ready to kick his ass in front of the whole nation. Whether it’s metaphorical or literal.” she laughed and raised her glass for the girls to toast.
Declan was honestly happy that he arrived first. It allowed him to get him a drink that was everything but not as it should be. They say you are supposed to cover the bottom of the glass and add a bit extra but Dec poured more than a half of the tumbler and had no problem with it. Etiquette and manners go to hell. His nerves were strung and his stomach was turning around in nervousness, knowing he was going to see Natalie again. It had to be her. No one else fit the real status of Declan’s ex-girlfriend. Plus, he was more than sure that it was her who put his name in this. Had to be.
But his solitude didn’t last long as another guy came it, Declan saw a little bit of himself in his appearance, tall, ripped, pretty chilled. And when he approached him, grabbing a drink, Dec turned his gaze on him with a welcoming smile and stood up. The other man toasted and Declan accepted, clinking their glasses together. He was more than happy and even relieved that he didn’t mention anything about who Declan was. Yeah, okay, he was not like his teammates, flashing his fame and glory around. “Oh, I’ll certainly drink to that.” he laughed. “I’m Declan.”
In the middle of their toast, the door opened and the rest of their boy crew apparently arrived. Two more guys, similar features, the same glint in their eyes, that smirk. Declan assumed those two had to be brothers, there was no way two guys who were not related resembled this much. One of the introduced them both as Cain and Abel and Dec’s eyebrows jumped for a second before returning back down. He was not a big fan of organized religion but this was literally biblical.
“Nice to meet you both.” Dec said and relaxed, tucking his free hand in the pocket of his pants. “We were just toasting to being paid for spending time with our exes. Wanna join us?” he snickered and offered his glass again. This bunch looked quite relaxed and Dec thought that if these were his buds for the show, he was kind of lucky. Sure, he didn’t know them but the first impressions, which were quite important to him, were good, he didn’t have any creepy crawlies, goosebumps or didn’t feel awkward. This might just be good. Maybe even better than good. Yep, Declan was working way too hard to convince himself.
The other blonde's words may have been said in a teasing tone, but she wasn't wrong about the show using alcohol to loosen inhibitions. Natalie reflexively glanced at her glass of champagne, mentally noting that she should pace herself. The last thing she wanted was to end up three sheets to the wind on television, or worse, in front of Declan.
Though Natalie had been avoiding officially admitting to herself that the ex waiting for her was her high school sweetheart, everytime she imagined what was going to happen on the show, it was his face that she pictured. Natalie took another sizable drink of her champagne at the thought of Declan, already breaking her rule to drink slowly. Damn.
"Nice to meet you ladies, I'm Natalie." She greeted, pushing her worries aside, as the quartet of females was completed upon Olivia's arrival. The two brunettes seemed to know each other, and Natalie tilted her head curiously, her gaze shifting between the women. It would be nice to already have a friend on the show as a built in support system, though time would tell whether Oliva and Kaya were actually friends or not. "Oh, small world..." Nat observed, before glancing at Corryn when she asked if they were all ready for this.
Natalie had been waiting for an apology from Declan for four years, though she'd given up hope long ago that one would ever come. Now that she was here though, the blonde wasn't so sure she was ready. If Declan did apologize- I mean why else would he submit them both if he wasn't planning to- Natalie didn't know what that would mean for them. Closure? A new beginning? Natalie wasn't really ready for either. And if Declan wasn't planning on apologizing... well, that would be par for the course, and the pair's conflict would continue. Unfortunately, now it would be continuing in front of millions of people. Why did she agree to come on this show again?
"Maybe after another glass of champagne I will be..." Natalie joked in response to Corryn's question, unable to even fake being prepared. Kaya's response made her relax a little though, and Natalie laughed raising her glass to join the toast. "I'd feel sorry for him, but I'm sure he deserves it." Natalie added, with a small grin.
"What about you Corryn?" She asked, glancing over to her blonde counterpart. "Is your ex in for it as well?"
Grayson grinned a little when Declan raised his glass to join the toast, and nodded a greeting. "Grayson." He replied, introducing himself simply. The new knowledge of Declan's name was enough to jog Gray's memory, and it finally clicked why the tall, well built man looked so familiar. He played for the Rams- Declan Bennet- of course! Gray wasn't an avid football fan, but he'd followed the Rams since they came to Los Angeles and had watched enough of the sport at least to recognize Declan now. While the pro football player's identity didn't really change how Grayson viewed his fellow cast member, it was nice to have solved the mystery. "Good to meet you." Gray added before taking a drink of his jack and coke.
Just then two more men joined them, immediately making an amusing first impression as they were pushed into the room by production. "Cain and Abel, huh?" Grayson echoed, trying to suppress the smirk at their names. "Let me guess, brothers?" He joked, since it was very apparent that the two were related. It was hard to not make any other comments about their names, but Gray imagined that they often elicited unwanted responses when people heard the Bible reference, and he didn't want to be one of those people.
"You guys the last ones? Or you think more are supposed to show up?" Gray asked, glancing between Cain and Abel. The brothers looked to be very close in age, which made it impossible to determine who was older, or if they were actually fraternal twins. Having siblings would definitely make everyone's time on the show interesting, and Grayson was actually looking forward to hanging out with the group of guys that had been casted. He raised his glass again, mirroring Declan's action, so that they could include the brothers in their toast.
Already knowing that Corryn would be joining the show as his ex allowed Grayson to relax rather than worry about who would be showing up during the reveal. Actually, it was almost comforting that it was Corryn that he'd be on the show with. Sure, things had ended between them and they were now actively competing in their day-to-day life... but here they could forget their professional lives for a little bit and go back to being on the same team. And no one could say that they hadn't made a great team. Grayson missed Cory, not enough to give up his job or put her career above his own, but he still missed her. Or, at least missed not being enemies.
So, instead of working to constantly suppress any worries about what was going to happen, Grayson was going to embrace the spirit of this experience. As long as he didn't do anything stupid to make himself look like a total jerk or idiot, then all he had to do was enjoy the time in the mansion and try to forget that cameras would be watching his every move. Heck, he might even make a few friends. "To Ex on the Beach." He joked, nicknaming the show.
Olivia was used to attention, used to the limelight. The positive and the negative, she'd been through it all. Even before her music career, her family was well known, especially in her hometown and surrounding areas. Wherever she went, she was recognized as so and so's daughter, or someone's something. That was one reason her music career was so important to her. She wanted to be recognized for her own talent, not because her family was known. Of course, she also loved music and enjoyed the attention that came along with being recognized from it.
Still, walking into this room, her nerves were getting the best of her. She'd glanced at the other three girls in the room upon entering, but it was just a quick glance before she made her way to the drink table. Her intention wasn't to get sloshed, but just to take the edge off. Turning around after taking a big sip, her eyes were drawn to the first blonde who introduced herself. Liv smiled at her, sliding her gaze from her to the other blonde, and then finally-- oh, no. Why hadn't Liv recognized her from the jump? Kaya Montgomery. Liv nearly dropped her drink right then and there, especially when Kaya spoke.
"Long time indeed." The air in the room had suddenly grown tenser, or at least, it felt that way to Liv. She and Kaya had never quite gotten along, but beyond that, seeing her brought back memories of Cain and Abel that she really didn't want. Feeling suddenly nauseous, she was thankful when Kaya looked elsewhere. A nervous laugh tumbled out of Liv's lips at her comment, though she tuned out slightly as Natalie started speaking again. When the door to the room opened a few minutes later, she realized that she hadn't moved at all from her position by the drink table.
"Alright, ladies. It's almost time for the reveal. You have twenty minutes to change into your evening attire, and then you'll be escorted to the backyard." The woman with the clipboard looked all business, her words taking forever to register in Liv's mind. Glancing down at her cup, Olivia brought it back to her lips and downed the rest of its contents. Before she could ask about her things, a set of crew members came in with all of their bags, setting them down by the wall for the girls to go through. Tossing her empty cup in a nearby trash can, Liv headed for her bags to grab the dress she'd packed.
Standing, she turned to look at the others, clutching the dress to her chest like it was her lifeline. The woman with the clipboard gestured for the girls to step into a side room to get dressed, which Liv did as quickly as she could. She exited the room a moment later, deciding to touch up her makeup before hunting for her shoes. Twenty minutes wasn't really long at all, so once she had her heels on, she found her brush and ran it through her hair. Tying it up again in a neater bun than before, she found her little bag of jewelry and found the earrings she wanted, sliding them in her ears. "I guess it's time." She couldn't hide the nervous shake from her voice, her eyes drawn again to Kaya. "Are you guys ready?"
Although Cain had been in a shit mood at the airport, driving that car fast as hell on the highway had really helped his mood turn around. Still, he wouldn't be Cain if he didn't give his younger brother shit. Introducing him as fuckface was nothing new for the brothers, and he smirked at his brothers response. Taking a sip from the drink he'd made, he glanced at the other two guys as Abel introduced himself, and Cain saw the flicker of recognition in their eyes at the names. Of course, both brothers had heard it all before, and Cain had considered changing his name more than once. Thankfully, though, neither of the other guys said anything.
Cain nodded in response to Declan's question, lifting his cup in the proposed toast. "To the exes." He grinned before taking a big gulp of the liquor inside, lowering it with a considerably less amount in it than before. He could feel some anxiety rising in his chest, but whoever was here for him, he was determined to have a good time. Of course, he was sure they'd have to work together at least a little bit so they could win or whatever, but that was fine. He could do that, no problem. He just hoped that she was down, too, or else they'd both be up shits creek.
Cain had just downed the rest of his drink when the door opened, and a man with a clipboard and all the same tech shit as the guys outside stepped in. "Good afternoon, gentleman. Please take the next twenty minutes to get cleaned up and changed into your evening wear. It's almost time for the show to begin." He grinned, lowering his clipboard and stepping aside to let some other crew members in. Same as with the girls, they were bringing in the guys luggage so they could change, and then they could take it to their rooms later, once the show hit the road.
Cain wasn't sure he liked the grin on the guys face, but he shrugged as he threw his cup away and nudged Abel. "You ready, little bro?" Smirking, he grabbed his suit from one of his bags and headed into the side room to change, glancing in the mirror after he did so to run his fingers through his short hair. Exiting back into the main room, he headed for the liquor table to pour himself a doubleshot of whiskey, downing it quickly. Once the guys were all ready, they were led through the house towards the backyard, where they were told to stand behind a curtain.
As Cain stood there, staring at the red curtain in front of him, he couldn't help but wonder what he'd gotten himself into. It was definitely too late to turn back now, but he'd be lying if he said that his anxiety level hadn't risen. He wasn't really the type of person to seek out drama in his life, and yet that's exactly what he'd signed up for. Oh, god. Lifting his gaze skyward, he closed his eyes for a second, breathing in the fresh air. When he lowered his head again, he glanced at the other guys, trying to gauge their reaction to what was about to happen.
Needless to say, there were two sides to Corryn's social skills. She spent years perfecting her abilities to talk to people, preparing herself and selling her ideas to clients. Her creativity combined with her ability to read people and understand what they wanted without them explicitly telling her was what made her good at her job. And even though she absolutely despised public speaking, she was surprisingly very good at it. Cory was the type of person that exuded confidence. She knew she was good at what she did, that she was pretty, that she was intelligent. It allowed her to command a room and made her a valid competitor for someone like Grayson Moore. He too was clever and driven, incredibly good at what he did. All of these were reasons that Corryn was attracted to him to begin with. That, and his good looks.
The blonde offered Kaya a grin, lifting her own drink in a cheers motion. "No worries, I don't blame you. This isn't the most calming situation to be thrown into," she answered, taking a sip of her own drink. Wanting a bit more of a kick, Cory reached behind her to tip a bit more vanilla vodka into the glass. She couldn't help but chuckle at Kaya's notion, actually interesting in seeing how that would work out. Would there be actual fistfights on this show? Would that be encouraged by drunken inhibition and the thirst for ratings? She wasn't entirely sure about that, but she was confident that she wouldn't be the one to throw a punch. Corryn looked at the other blonde that introduced herself as Natalie and smiled in greeting. Before she could say anything though, Olivia and Kaya seemed to recognize one another, and she briefly wondered what the beef was between them.
Deciding she wasn't about to get mixed up in drama on her first day there, Cory threw back the rest of her cocktail, setting the glass on the table behind her. Her stormy blue eyes met those of Natalie as she said her name, considering her question carefully. In a way, she had a bit of an advantage in that she already knew who her counterpart on the show would be. And she also knew that they would work well together. "I wouldn't say he's in for a physical beating. Maybe a few words, but we'll have to see," Corryn responded, a playful smirk playing on her lips. To be honest, she was never mad about their break-up, not really. It was fairly mutual, both parties wanting to focus more on their careers than their relationship. In the end, it had been their downfall and, while Cory didn't regret the choice she had made, she couldn't deny that she missed the days when Grayson was around.
A production assistant entered shortly after their mild introductions, clipboard in hand that she barely looked up from. The idea that they would be changing into such formal wear just to see their ex again seemed trivial to Corryn. But she understood how editing would probably make it seem: each ex trying to show the other how much they had missed since breaking up. Their bags were set in front of them by other staff, disappearing without a word. "Twenty minutes? That hardly seems like enough time to go full glam," the blonde commented but nevertheless dug the necessary items out of her bag. She disappeared into the side changing room, only reappearing once she was dressed in a deep rouge gown with nude heels. Her blonde hair fell in easy waves around her shoulders, framing a face of natural makeup that she had touched up but not really bothered to change. A set of silver bangles on her wrist matched the studs in her ears. Smiling at a seemingly nervous Olivia, Corryn stated, "As ready as I'll ever be." With that, she let the production assistant lead them outside, standing on the opposite side of a curtain.
It was no surprise to the brothers that their names were strange. Throughout their lives, they had heard it all, from the poorly timed jokes, to really bad puns, to religious concern, and more. Cain was the older of the two, named after the first human murder according to the bible. Abel was the younger, after the slain brother. Despite their bickering and minor sibling rivalry, they had always been fairly close. Throughout a rocky childhood, Cain had been the only person Abel could count on. Truth be told, they weren't entirely biological siblings. Instead, they shared a mother but had separate fathers. Neither one, however, stuck around long enough to help raise their sons. Hell, Abe wasn't even sure that his dad knew he existed. Their mother made sure not to talk about their fathers often, if at all.
Abel didn't have many positive memories of his mother. She did her best to take care of her sons. But her best often involved getting high and reading the same passages out of the bible over and over again. For a long time, he didn't understand why his mom was the way she was. But as he grew older, Abe realized it wasn't just the drugs, but rather mental illness as well. She was a paranoid schizophrenic with religious ideologies and, without meds to help, focused entirely on those ideologies. Hence, the Rothenberg brothers' outwardly biblical names. As Cain introduced them, he wasn't surprised to see a slight change in the expressions on the other two men's faces. Nevertheless, they didn't comment on it, and Abe was appreciative of that. It may have been funny when he was a kid. But now that he was older, it was just annoying.
"I'll drink to that," the blonde man responded to the one who introduced himself as Declan. He seemed familiar, but Abel couldn't quite put a finger on where he recognized him from. He raised his glass before he took a large sip, savoring the burning, oaky flavor as the amber liquid traveled down his throat. Grayson asked if they were brothers, and he easily nodded, glancing over at Cain with a teasing smirk. "Unfortunately. Though, sometimes I think he might be adopted," he answered, turning back to Grayson, "I think we're the last ones. I didn't see anyone else on our way in. But who knows, honestly." Finishing off his double pour, Abe turned around when he heard the door open once again, thinking he might have been proven wrong. Instead, a man who most likely worked for the show entered, followed by a few others that dragged their suitcases into the room. Looks like things were about to get interesting.
Abel wasn't the type to dress up, let alone wear a suit. But, it was listed in the list of things they were required to bring. And so he shouldn't have been surprised when they were told to get into his evening wear. The blonde let out an audible groan, reaching into his bag to pull out his suit. "Ready isn't quite the word I would use," he answered sarcastically. Nevertheless, he slid into the side room without much more of a complaint, putting on his suit. It was strange to look at himself in the mirror, seeing himself dressed up. Normally, he was wearing ruined clothes and covered in motor grease. Abel didn't have the chance to truly get comfortable with the outfit before being told to follow a PA out into the back yard. He stood alongside his brother, a bit of anxiety finally settling into his system. Since he had found out about the show, Abe had told himself that it was some girl he had dated for a few weeks, one he didn't care about all that much. It may be a bit annoying, but at least it would be easy. But what if... what if it was her?
The fact that the pretty famous awesome Olivia was going to be on the show too did not cheer Kaya up at all. She and Liv were not really the best at getting along and never did. Maybe when their ways parted, it was for the best. And now she was here. Now the two were supposed to spend this whole time inside of this gorgeous house. Kaya’s mind started to run a mile a minute and she finished her strong drink in a short time. Her head became a but woozy, no wonder, Blue Motorcycle was not an easy drink.
Liv dated Abel Rothenberg and something was telling her that the guy was here. But her mint vigorously ignored the fact that there was also a possibility of Cain standing there as well. Kaya had convinced herself that Dominic was going to be there because he was her longest relationship and she was wondering how he changed in the course of years. Well, she was going to find out soon. For the time being, she toasted with the girls and was glad that at least the two others looked nice. Maybe Kaya could find herself an ally on the show. No matter how much she was supposed to cooperate with her ex.
When the PA appeared in the room, her stomach somersaulted a few times in a row. It was time. Her suitcases were brought to the room and Kaya unzipped one of them where she carefully folded her gown. If she had to be honest, it was her prom queen gown. Not that she could afford to get a new one for the show. But she only wore it that one time and the dress was gorgeous so…maybe she and Dom could get another moment as back at high school. Wouldn’t it be cute?
Once the brunette was changed, she walked out of the room and looked around the room, seeing the other girls all dressed as well. “Y’all look beautiful, gals.” she grinned and grabbed her cosmetic bag to touch up her make up. Her short-cut hair did not need a lot of work, she just fluffed them a little to add volume and with a few swift moves, she added the cat eyes eye-liner effect on her eyelids. One more layer of a matte lipstick matching her dress and a pair of black strappy sandals and Kaya was ready. “I have a lipstick that would look gorgeous with that dress.” she turned to Corryn and fished the piece out, setting it on the table. “Feel free to use it if you want to.”
It was a while later that the girls were brought to the stage, the red curtain was covering everything from them. Kaya’s heart was pounding against her ribcage as crazy and she tried to keep her cool. This was it. The moment of truth. Closing her eyes for a second, she tried to filter all negativity and then the music hit her ears. The time has come. The curtain was about to get lifted. Kaya opened her eyes and focused at one point in front of her where she expected Dominic to appear.
After the toast, Declan became a but calmer. This show screamed drama, it reeked it from every corner, every opening, every pore. Something Declan was trying to avoid in his life as much as possible. He knew that being a sport star was not going to grant him quiet and laid back life so the football player just hoped her could have as much drama-free time as possible. Going on the TV show with his ex was definitely not fitting that idea. But well, who was he to oppose his PR team? They had to know what was best for his career, right?
After downing his glass, Dec felt like he could handle one more but hesitated for a moment. There were probably cameras already in the room and he did not want to look desperate or as an alcoholic. Refraining from one more shot, he set his glass on the table just in time for when the guy holding a clipboard came in to announce them to get ready. Interesting choice of words. Was Declan ready? Was he ready to stand there and face Natalie again? The reason why she would submit their names in a show like that was beyond him but well, he was here. There was no going back now.
Taking his tux out of the suitcase, Declan walked to the other room and put it on, adjusting every piece just right. As most of the things, he did not choose this attire, it was given to him by his wardrobe girl who always took care of these things. Sometimes it sure seemed that Declan just couldn’t take care of himself. The truth was, he was not really allowed to. The only place he could be himself was at home. The empty place, the penthouse suite, cold and impersonal. Maybe he should have gotten a dog at least. Or a cat. Or a fucking guinea pig. Just something to make that place look livelier. Or maybe he should have redecorated.
Since these were ideas he couldn’t figure out or change at this point, Dec just sighed and tied his bowtie around his neck. Flawlessly. Just as always. Not one thing wrong about his appearance, nothing the media could pick on, not one hair out of its way. This was how Declan stepped on the stage, hidden behind the thick red curtain. Theatrical much? He simply adjusted the lapels of his jacket, brushed the invisible dust away and bit back his doubts.
The music started to play and Declan knew it was time. The curtain started to lift and though he knew who to expect on the other side…or at least he thought so, he was still anxious. Thank god for his training and ability to hide his true feelings behind the mask of his charming poker face. The lights hit his eyes, making him squint a little before he adjusted and took a deep breath before looking at the “girl” stage. There she was. More gorgeous than before, blonde locks shining in the stage lights, dressed to kill and his heart stopped for a moment. Dec needed to remind himself the reason why he ever broke up with such a woman. Because at first, his heart stopped and the fact that this was a show about exes was ignored for a moment when his eyes found Natalie’s and Declan kept looking at her for what seemed like an eternity.
The woman with a clipboard appeared and put a stop to the ladies' smalltalk in their holding room. Twenty minutes? That was all that stood between Natalie and the official start of possibly the second biggest mistake of her life- this show with her ex. The blonde tipped her champagne glass back, emptying the remainder of its contents, before tossing the plastic flute glass away. Her bag had been brought into the room with the rest of the women's, and Natalie quickly grabbed the required items before disappearing into the dressing room to change.
When she emerged a few minutes later, Natalie was dressed in a light blue dress with gold floral overlay, accentuated by her strappy gold heels and a few simple pieces of jewelry. She'd already spent quite a bit of time getting dolled up before arriving at the mansion, longer than her usual routine, so she just needed a few touch ups here and there. Another layer of mascara was added to her lashes and her lips were painted with a soft pink lipstick. Her hair was already up in a low, loose bun and she just pulled a few extra tendrils of hair out to frame her face. And that was it. Appearance-wise, she was ready. Emotionally... not so much.
The woman returned to the room exactly 20 minutes later and the girls were ushered to the stage area by the production team. The other women were stunning, and the blonde couldn’t help but feel like they were pageant girls going to find out who would be crowned Miss America. Natalie's stomach was filled with butterflies, and she was starting to feel a little nauseous with stage fright. It was the same feeling of dread that she got while going up the first hill on a roller coaster. As she stood on the stage, staring ahead at the curtain that separated her from Declan, most likely, the roller coaster got closer and closer to the apex of the hill. Natalie took slow breaths in and out to calm her shaking hands, and she tucked them in front of her, holding them together.
The music suddenly started to play, and as the curtain rose, Natalie was prepared for the dropping sensation of her stomach as the coaster slid down the first hill... But it never came. Instead, Natalie felt suspended- in time and in place- when the curtain disappeared, revealing Declan standing on the men's stage. The bright lights made it hard to see him at first, but Natalie would recognize the tall man anywhere, and as her eyes adjusted to the stage lights, they met Declan's. Natalie's lips parted a little as her breath caught, all the memories she'd made with the handsome man across from her flooding her senses. For so long he'd just been a ghost of her past. Someone she remembered, but someone who would never again return to her life. Yet here he was now. The ghost of boyfriends past.
Declan had surely matured since the last time Natalie saw him, but when she looked at him, she still saw her high school sweetheart. Just more polished and better dressed now. She knew he played for the Rams, all of her friends had texted her the news when he was drafted, but she had actively avoided watching football since then, afraid that seeing him on TV would bring back the sting of their break up. And now, seeing him for the first time in years, Natalie waited for that wave of pain... but it didn’t come, yet. The blonde finally managed to take a deep breath and let it out, restarting time, which had seemed to stop for a moment.
Coming back to reality, Natalie became aware of the other men on the stage across from the women. Her eyes traveled to them for a moment, before falling back on Declan. It was surreal that he was there. She’d pretty much known he was coming, but now that it was confirmed that she’d be spending the next few weeks with him, Natalie realized just how unprepared she was to walk back down memory lane.
One minute the men were toasting to their exes, the next someone from production was telling them to get ready for the big reveal, and twenty minutes later Grayson found himself behind a curtain on the outdoor stage. As Grayson stood on the stage, he looked around at the other men and at the production crew scrambling to put the finishing touches on the set. When the crew took their leave of the stage, and the four men were left alone under the lights, Gray found himself a little anxious.
He was used to wearing a suit, so his wardrobe wasn’t the problem. He was even used to seeing Corryn at events since their break up, and while it was a little strained, that wasn’t the source of his anxiety either. If anything, knowing that Corryn was probably standing on a similar stage right now made Gray more determined to not lose his cool. She was probably cool as a cucumber right now, so he should be too.
No, Grayson's nerves were likely just from the foreign feeling of being filmed. Were cameras watching them right now in hope of catching everyone's nerves? Excitement? Dread? Gray craned his neck to see if he could spot anyone filming, but it was too dark beyond the scope of the stage lights to see the cameramen and women now. All he could see were his fellow male cast members, and he offered Cain a simple nod when he saw him looking over. It was hard for Gray to imagine how the men who didn't know which ex was showing up felt right now. He had that advantage and peace of mind at least.
Music started playing, forced out of a speaker from somewhere overhead, and Gray's attention returned to the curtain hanging in front of him. This must be it. Grayson straightened out his suit and stood tall, lifting his chin confidently. Look confident, feel confident, he told himself in a quick pep talk as the curtain was raised. Grayson set his jaw firmly, but as Corryn entered his line of sight, a grin crept onto his features.
As usual, Corryn was dressed to kill, and Grayson wouldn't expect anything less from his ex. Her jewel-tone dress clung to her curves perfectly, and he gave her a quick once over as his grin grew. Sure, Cory wasn't his girlfriend anymore, but there was still a sense of pride within Gray that she'd once been his, and that she was now here because he'd asked, or rather challenged, her to be. Even if his objective coming on the show wasn't to rekindle his relationship with the stunning blonde across from him, he was still looking forward to the temporary cease fire they could enjoy while in the mansion and away from their respective jobs.
Gray gave Corryn a silent nod in greeting, unsure if they were allowed to say anything or leave the stage yet. Was there a host that was supposed to tell them what to do? Gray felt a little underprepared on what production expected from this scene, and hoped that someone would direct them what they should or shouldn't do from here. Perhaps Corryn had been given more direction than him, and Gray watched her, ready to follow her lead if no host arrived to produce them. Typically Grayson hated following others, preferring to be the leader himself, but in this case he was completely out of his comfort zone and willing to do anything not to look like a clueless idiot.
Looking around at the other girls, Olivia couldn't help but feel like she was the most nervous of the four of them. At least, looking at outward appearances. Her palms were a little sweaty, and god, she hoped she didn't show that for the cameras. Dressed to impress, she and the other three girls followed the production team through the house to the backyard, where they were instructed to stand behind a curtain. She had a quick mental image of the curtain rising and a crowd being on the other side, though she knew that wasn't the case this time. She did miss performing, but that wasn't what this curtain hid.
Feeling her heartbeat increase, she waited for a voice, or for a host, or even someone from the production team to announce them. But instead, the curtain just started to life, and she felt her heart jump up into her throat as she froze. In life, most people had a fight or flight reflex, but Liv had never had either. She had a freeze reflex, and it was taking effect now as the curtain lifted in an excruciatingly slow fashion. Her hands balled into fists at her side, and she had to focus on them to get them to open back up. Drawing in a few shaky breaths, she glanced down, trying to see under the curtain on the other side.
And then she did. Both curtains lifted completely, and there he stood. Abel Rothenberg. Her lips parted in surprise, though maybe she shouldn't have been surprised after all. He was the ex who meant the most to her, but how...? How did they know that? How did they even find him? Liv had tried, after he left her alone in her parents garage. She'd cried then, and she could feel those tears returning as she stared at him, almost afraid her mind was playing tricks on her. But even as she thought that, a voice from their right-- the guys left-- caught her attention. Wearing an expensive looking three piece suit, the host of the show stepped out from behind the podium.
Positive that he hadn't been there before, Olivia stared at him as he stepped towards the fire pit, holding his hands out towards both the guys and the girls. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Somebody I Used To Know! I'm your host, Mitch Markle, and these are your four lovely couples. Welcome to the show, guys. If you'll take a look behind the guys, here, you'll see four tables set up. Four candlelit dinners for our four lovely couples. Go on, guys, pick a table, any table." He grinned, gesturing to the tables set up behind the men.
Realizing that she had to move, Olivia returned her attention to Abel. She should have known. And sure enough, Cain was here as well, along with two other men that Olivia couldn't even place her focus on. Glancing at the other girls again, Liv's feet moved before her brain caught up with what she was doing. Drawn to him like she had been all that time ago, Liv inhaled slowly again as she walked around the firepit, towards her ex. Towards the man who'd shattered her heart. "I didn't peg you for the reality TV type." She told him as she stood in front of him, her eyes watery as she fought the urge to cry. She didn't want to be the first.
As the production team member led the guys towards the backyard, Cain looked around the house, trying to see any hint or clue as to what was going to happen. Or even as to who might be here as his ex. He could feel some nervousness rising up within him, and he hated the feeling because he wasn't normally the type of guy to get this nervous. But being thrown onto national TV and having his life and secrets and history exposed? It wasn't up his alley in the slightest, but whoever was here as his ex, he could find a way to work with them and make the money. And then, most likely, split.
Because who, out of all his exes, would he want to stay with? None of them. Well, okay, that was a lie. There was one ex he missed, but he refused to even think of her name, because their relationship had ended in such a shitty way. It was perfect reality TV material, actually, but there was no possible way it was her. He refused to think it. Yet still, standing there behind the curtain, the what-if's kept growing and growing in his mind. Reaching up, he loosened his collar some, just as the curtains started to rise. Fuck, it was too late to run. Look calm, you idiot, you're probably already on live TV.
The curtain lifted, and his dumb ass looked up at the rod for a moment before he realized he was supposed to be looking at the other side, seeing who was here. Lowering his gaze, he studied each girl, though he only had to do it for a couple of seconds each before he recognized her. Fuck. It is her. Should he have known? Despite his own nervousness, now that he knew, he felt significantly less anxious now that he knew exactly who was here. He could handle this, no problem. She may not ever want Cain back, but they could surely work together to win some money, right?
The host appeared then, and Cain listened to the man but never took his intense gaze off of Kaya. His lips had curled into a grin over the fire pit separating them, his head cocked slightly to the side. He hadn't even recognized Olivia, or else he might have glanced at Abel to see how he was reacting. As they were given the go ahead to move, one of the girls stepped out from behind their side first, approaching his brother. He glanced at her then, recognizing Olivia. "Damn, Liv. You look good." He clasped a hand on Abel's shoulder as he heard her comment. "Good luck, Abe." Stepping away from him, he approached Kaya, hands held up in a mock defensive gesture. "Truce, KayKay?" He used his old nickname for her, the one he knew she loved and hated so much. "You look amazing."