Offering coffee to Natalie was the least Declan could do. Something was telling him that their discussion from last night was going to reemerge at some point and maybe even more than once but for now, it was farewell to arms on both fronts. Natty looked like she could really use the dark bitter life source and Declan, while there was no real hangover, he craved a cup of coffee as well. And maybe leaving the room for a moment, giving her a second to breathe, to change comfortably without him around, to collect her thoughts was for the best. Last night, dinner and even the moment in the room were not ideal and left them both flustered and filled their heads with way too many thoughts. The little stunt he pulled on her, the one when he approached her and held her close, had some impact on her but it also backfired because Dec himself was thrown in the pit of past feelings.
When he thought about it, Natalie Mayfair was the only girl in his life he ever had a real relationship with. Sure, he dated some after they broke up but those relationships were very much shortlived and he then deviated to one-night stands or NSA encounters as those required much less energy than dating. Dec was getting tired of trying hard for someone who didn’t deserve his attention and was with him only because of his reputation, money or possibility of appearing on TV and in tabloids. None of those things were worth it and quite frankly, none of those girls were Natalie.
With a small exhale, Declan finished unpacking and rolled his suitcase in the closet as well, ready to go and get them some coffee and maybe he would even manage to hunt some breakfast down. But before he even managed to turn around, there was a soft knock on the door and Nat opened for server to come in and bring the cart in. “Well…I guess this saves you a trip.” Nat commented, bringing a small smile to his face. He only gave her a small nod and watched her fix her coffee exactly the way he remembered her to do it so many times before. Once again, his brain took him on a trip to the past and for a moment, he saw Natty with the most adorable bed hair, wearing one of his T-shirts, so long it served as some sort of dress for her, standing in his kitchen and making coffee for them both. His eyes were sliding all over her figure and after a while, Dec caught himself gazing.
“Thank you. And no, my tastes haven’t changed. Not one bit.” he smiled and took a cup from her, strangely touched by the fact that the blonde remembered he took honey in his coffee instead of sugar. He had quite a few of those little habits and Natalie always remembered them all. It was simply heart-warming to see that she still did. “If they’re gonna feed us like this all the time, I might be forced to spend my nights at the gym.” he mused, filling his plate with French toasts. When was the last time he actually had a French toast for breakfast? His usual go to was any kind of natural protein, goat cheese, tons of veggies and absolutely no carbs for breakfast. His trainer was going to kill him but at this point, Declan could care less. “Any ideas what they want us to endure today?” he asked, trying to keep the conversation light as he walked outside, setting his plate and cup on a small table there. Warm sea breeze touched his face and the air was filled with this scent you only get from the ocean. They were still the same people he believed. And despite how things ended or even started again, Dec believed they were still able to have a normal conversation.
The evening before had been rather tense and heavy. Not only was it the first night of filming, but it was the first time Natalie had seen Declan since their big breakup. She'd somehow convinced herself that he was here to finally apologize to her, so when he didn't... Well, let's just say Natalie was disappointed and her pride got the best of her once more. The blonde did not come on the show to make drama or be the girl that cried on night one, but somehow the wine and emotions of seeing her ex again had gotten the best of her. She hadn't cried much, in part thanks to Declan's peptalk to not give the cameras what they wanted, but Nat had no intentions of repeating that show of weakness. Besides, she didn't feel like arguing this morning with the hangover she was nursing. So when Declan made the first attempt at a peace offering, Natalie was inclined to accept.
Finding herself in charge of the coffee pot since she answered the door, Natalie ended up being the one to prepare their coffees instead of Declan. He still got points for offering though, and before Nat realized what she was doing she'd made his coffee the way he used to take it. Once his cup was prepared, she glanced up at her ex to hand it to him, but faltered for a moment when she caught the way he was looking at her. For a moment it reminded her of the way he used to look at her when they were together, but then he snapped out of his thoughts and Nat pushed her own aside as well.
Offering him the coffee, she let him know that he could pour it out if he no longer drank it the same way. Dec's smile when he took the coffee and told her his tastes hadn't changed relaxed Natalie a little, and she nodded in return, taking a sip of her own elixir. The blonde grabbed her plate and moved outside to the balcony, and she heard Declan comment on having to spend his nights in the gym. For the briefest moment, Nat was almost disappointed by the comment since that would keep him away from her, but she swallowed that sentiment with her first bite of food. "You mean your metabolism isn't able to keep up with your eating habits anymore?" She asked teasingly, glancing back at the ripped man as he made his way outside. Natalie remembered a time when Declan was a bottomless pit that could eat anything and still look like he'd worked out all week back in high school. Though, perhaps NFL standards for fitness were higher than high school or collegiate football.
Turning her attention back to her breakfast, Natalie stabbed a piece of fruit with her fork and shrugged at his question about the events for the day. "Nope," She said simply, popping the fruit into her mouth and thinking as she chewed. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be more dramatic than necessary..." Nat sighed, watching the waves of the ocean as they crashed on shore. Her headache was starting to dissipate as the medicine and coffee started to work their magic, and even her growling stomach had quieted now that she had food in front of her. The sea-breeze ruffled her already messy hair, and Nat brushed it back out of her face as she took a bite of syrupy french toast.
"I kinda thought we'd have more direction that this... but I feel so in the dark about everything." Natalie admitted, frowning a bit. "Feels like a social experiment... though, I suppose that's the point." She laughed dryly. "Part of me wanted to lie on all those questionnaires they had us answer before the show so they couldn't get in my head. They asked some weird things..." The blonde took another sip, before turning her blue eyes over to Declan, watching him for a moment. It was so strange to be sharing breakfast with him again, and even stranger to be doing it without feeling a deep seeded anger towards him pulsing through her every second. She'd spent so much time being mad at him, that calm moments like these were almost just as unsettling as arguing with him.
So far the hardest part of this show for Grayson wasn't getting along with his ex. Even broken up, he and Corryn could still carry on conversation and banter without ripping each other apart or breaking town into tears. Not that he could even recall a time he'd really seen Cory cry, or had cried in front of her... No, the hardest part was that he still got along with the beautiful blonde too well. And he was realizing that being in the same room with her was becoming increasingly challenging as his temptation to touch her even in the simplest of gestures was becoming harder to resist.
As they both sat on the bed, eating their breakfast in silence, Gray's gaze wandered over to Cory every now and then, drinking her in as she ate peacefully. She was much more clothed this time, even in her workout outfit, but just as beautiful as their last breakfast in bed. Before he realized what he was doing, the words slipped out of his mouth about memories and having dessert the last time. His euphemism had been meant in jest, mostly, but Gray nearly choked on his bite of french toast when Cory cheekily responded that today's breakfast could also come with dessert again if he played his cards right. The blue eyed man coughed a little to save himself from swallowing too quickly, and he cleared his throat, risking a glance at Cory.
The blonde's cheeks were flushed and Gray couldn't help but grin a little at the embarrassed expression on her face. It was one he was very familiar with, since he himself had felt similarly just moments ago when he brought up memories to begin with. For a moment, Grayson considered if Corryn had actually meant what she said, and for a moment he thought she might have... But then her soft voice turned into a light laugh and she shook her head, apologizing for her comment. Gray couldn't help but feel a little crestfallen, realizing he'd gotten his hopes up for something that obviously wasn't going to happen. He needed to stop letting his attraction for Cory get in the way of what they came here to do. Win.
"No worries, I have that effect on women..." Gray replied, joking so as to let Cory off the hook easily. Lingering on the topic any longer would just make it harder to compete today. "I feel like they're just setting us up for failure with such a large breakfast... just watch them make us compete in like a relay race or something." He commented, picking up his plate and sliding off the bed so he could return it to the cart without leaning over Cory again. "These shows love to make people suffer." He half laughed, stretching a little as he stood by the bed. He realized he had misplaced his shirt since getting ready, and glanced around the room to find it. Gray hadn't meant to give Cory a gratuitous show of his muscular figure while he stretched, forgetting that his shirt hadn't made it all the way on earlier, but he couldn't resist teasing her one last time.
"You sure you don't want dessert?" Gray asked, shooting Cory a playful smirk. "Could help you work off all the food..." He winked.
Abel had pretty much called her on her bullshit when it came to smoking, but Olivia's pride wouldn't let her admit she was wrong. At least, not until it was unavoidable. She took one drag from the cigarette before she started to cough, the thick smoke hitting her lungs and definitely not agreeing with them. Holding the still burning cancer stick out towards Abe, she stepped back some as he took it from her still coughing form. I warned you, he said, and when she looked at him that grin on his face nearly made her choke again. She managed to inhale some fresh air, but his grin was still imprinted in her mind and making it hard to breathe.
"There are definitely other ways to cope with stress." She told him, flashing back to when they'd had this conversation before. Multiple times, actually, back when they were together. In fact, this whole situation was giving her deja vu, and she couldn't help but wonder if he felt it, too. "Maybe you should try finding a new, productive hobby." She teased, just before the knock at the door sounded and she went to answer it. It turned out to be breakfast, which she rolled to the center of the room and then went to tell Abel it was there.
He stamped out the cigarette she'd given him and followed her back inside, stopping to remove the covers from the trays. "Only the best for the couples, though I feel we deserve it after the hell they're guaranteed to put us through." She was only half teasing as she moved closer to look down at the spread. When he asked if she wanted to eat on the balcony, she nodded. "I think that's a good idea." She smiled, then moved to push the tray to the balcony, hoisting it over the little lip, praying she didn't spill everything in the process. There was a plate for both of them, but then also side plates with some other food items they could share.
She sat in one of the patio seats, waiting for him to do the same before she moved the tray so that it was between them. She had to move the little table with the ashtray to do so, but it worked out nicely enough. She reached for the wrapped silverware and unrolled it, pulling out the fork to start with her eggs, which were absolutely delicious. "So it looks good and tastes good. Someone knows what they're doing." She leaned back in her seat some, eyeing the bacon. Her agent would have a field day if she gained weight on this show, but what the hell else was she supposed to do? Not eat the bacon? Fuck it, I'm eating the bacon. She snagged a piece of it off the plate. "Well, here goes my diet."
The last time Cain had seen Kaya before this show and she'd walked out on him, he truly thought their relationship was over. Not because she'd walked out, but because he'd gone and packed his shit and left. It was the only time he'd ever done that, because in that moment, he was done. Done with the fighting, done with Kaya throwing shit in his face, done with all of it. He'd regretted it afterwards, of course, but his pride wouldn't let him admit that. The times he'd seen her afterwards at the bar once he returned to town, he'd worn nothing but a sour face. Because of the choice he'd made, but he couldn't tell her the truth. And now look at them, on a fucking TV show together.
Her snarky comments and attitude were nothing new to him, because he saw right through them and her just like she saw through him. They had always been drawn to each other, and their nasty fights and fantastic make up sex only made their insides more visible to each other. They both hated to be vulnerable, but that's exactly what made them so good together. Because they could be vulnerable around each other, but also be each others backup when it came to other people. Cain would defend Kaya in a heartbeat, even if she pissed him off sometimes, because the truth was that he loved her. He'd never not loved her, never not wanted to be with her. He'd just made a stupid decision and left.
She looked amazing this morning, just as she always did. The fire in her response towards him made him grin, even though she only got two words out before the knock sounded at the door. He left to go answer the knock, and when he turned around with breakfast on the cart she was inside. He smirked when she said she could get used to being treated this way, nodding in agreement. "Absolutely." He muttered, watching as she started to make a cup of coffee. She apparently didn't like his next words, either, commenting on how they were sad, taking a jab at him and his stamina. Instead of getting mad he just laughed, shaking his head as he grabbed one of the plates and a fork from the rolled silverware.
Stuffing some eggs into his mouth, he looked over at her again, though he nearly choked at her next question. He could tell there was no snark in her question, nothing hidden, just genuine curiosity. "You pissed me off." He shrugged, answering only after swallowing the food in his mouth. Sinking down onto the edge of the bed, he looked down at the plate for a moment, knowing that answer wasn't going to cut it. With a heavy sigh, he set the plate aside and then turned to face her. "I really thought we were done, and I'm sorry Kaya, but I don't have a better answer. I was stupid. You know me. I made a decision, stuck with it, and regretted it every day since." He picked his plate back up to eat again, his hunger winning out over emotion, for the moment. "I really did miss you, KayKay."
In any other moment, Corryn would have been happy to catch Grayson off guard as she had. He coughed a little and cleared his throat, meeting her gaze. Sure, she was embarrassed about her slip. But he had slipped up too. The tension in the air was growing thicker, and the blonde wondered if it was the tension of them being exes or something more. It reminded her of when they had first met, fighting for the same spotlight in their internship positions. Banter and snarky comments came easy to them, constantly trying to upstage and outshine the other. It wasn't until they learned they could work together that they realized how much of a powerhouse duo they truly could be. They were stronger together than they could ever be apart, at least in the business realm.
Cory couldn't help but roll her icy blue eyes at his comment, a smirk playing on the corners of her lips. "I'm sure," she answered, bumping her shoulder against his playfully. Without the confines of work competition in their way, their conversations seemed much friendlier, easier even. Had it always been that way? She appreciated his acknowledgment of embarrassment, and instead of poking fun at her, letting her comment lie where it may. Some part of her wanted him to fire back, maybe to challenge her even. And so Corryn couldn't help but be a bit disappointed when he didn't. "I would hardly call being fed five-star meals everyday suffering," she answered with a shrug, taking a final bite from her plate. The static that tingled across her skin as Gray leaned across her was distracting, and she found herself freezing for just a moment. Had those always been there when he was near?
All too soon, Grayson had placed his tray and stood from the bed, giving her quite the show as his shirtless form stretched. She found herself appraising him, giving him an appreciative once over. He had always been handsome, both physically and mentally. He had a mind that countered hers, made her better at her job and in everything she did. He made her be and do her absolute best, regardless of the obstacles or the naysayers that may lie in her way. Even at a different company, he pushed her to be better because, if she didn't, he would beat her. But, she didn't often get to see anymore how truly handsome he was underneath his usual suit. A strange fluttering feeling settled in her stomach, one that made her heartbeat begin to pick up speed. What in the hell was that feeling?
Corryn did her best at resisting it. But when her blue eyes met his, finding that playful smirk on his face and hearing his comment, she couldn't anymore. She stood from the bed and crossed to his side, stopping about a foot in front of him. The tension had grown so thick it could practically be cut with a butter knife. But she did care. Instead, she looked up at him and softly said, "I have to try something." It felt like electricity was coursing through her body as she placed one palm on his chest and the other gently against the side of his neck. Cory let her body do as it wanted and, for the first time in a long time, acted on instinct and feeling rather than logic and practicality. Lifting herself on her toes so her face was even with his, the blonde closed her eyes and pressed her soft lips against his.
Stress was something that had always been a constant part of Abel's life. Whether it was growing up under a drug-addicted, religious-fanatic, schizophrenic mother as a child, or getting roped into a chop shop crime syndicate as an adult, Abel was always finding himself in some sort of stressful situation. He began smoking cigarettes at the young age of sixteen. Originally it was to seem cool, maybe get him some credit amongst his friends as the guy not to mess with. But eventually, it became a full-blown addiction. There didn't seem to be a moment in his life where there wasn't some type of impending anxieties, and cigarettes and alcohol were his way of staying sane despite all the trouble he was constantly getting into. Olivia's comments on his lack of healthy coping skills were heard, but not really employed. They had had the same conversation what seemed like a million times before, and it always ended the same way: he continued smoking.
"Some of us don't have time for productive hobbies, Liv. We can't all be heiresses," he responded in the same teasing tone, not intending his words to be negative and therefore not realizing they may be portrayed that way. After all, he hadn't kept up with Olivia's life since their break-up and didn't really know what situations she had gotten herself into. Saved by the bell, or knock in this case, the pair ventured into the room only to return to the balcony with a cart of breakfast items. Abel was practically salivating at the sight and smell of more delicious food, not eating this well since his time at the Kennedy estate. More recently, he had mostly survived on diner burgers and pre-packaged microwave meals. As it turns out, despite being good with his hands, Abel did not have a hand for cooking and burned nearly everything he touched.
The blonde man took a seat opposite Olivia at the patio table, watching as she situated the tray in between them. The food smell absolutely divine, and he wasted no time digging his fork into the stack of buttered pancakes with syrup. They were divine, and Abel quickly went back in for a second bite. "They have to have some sort of professional chef catering this, right? This show certainly pulled out all the stops. They're hoping for some sort of pay-off from all this," he answered with a shrug, reaching for a piece of bacon just as Olivia did. Abel offered her a grin, waiting until she grabbed hers before taking a piece of his own. "Ladies first." At her final statement, his brow furrowed in confusion. "What do you mean, diet?" he found himself asking, eying her curiously, "You're gorgeous just the way you are." Realizing what he said a little late, Abe scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Sorry, didn't mean to overstep there."
When Kaya left back then, she was furious. Until this day the brunette remembered that rage bubbling in her veins, the fury that was taking over her when her gaze fell upon Cain and that smug grin he wore so well. He was exactly the guy who knew how to push her buttons to make her lash out and also how to make her purr and be his KayKay. And Kaya loved and hated him for that at the same time. Because he knew her that well. When their ways parted, when she returned to the empty flat and found the closet cleaned and Cain nowhere to be found, she knew that it was the last time she really stormed out of the small place and had the upper hand. It was the last time she got to lash out on him and call him names.
It was only some weeks later when she saw him back at the bar where she worked. He showed his ass there and Kaya’s first instinct was to run to him and slap him so hard her hand would hurt for a week. And then she would jump around his neck and kiss him and ask him to take her to that small room behind the bar, right next to the broom closet, and fuck her like they always used to. But she contained herself and nothing like that happened, she just ignored him, no matter how hard it really was. She simply got drunk with her regulars on the bar that night. Even brought a dude home and had rather disappointing sex which only had her craving either Cain or alcohol more.
The question left her lips more or less automatically. Kaya was toying with that thought for a while now and wondered whether she should open the can of worms, especially considering how explosive their both were but somehow, the moment seemed to be right and she was dying to know. Why did he leave? Why did he walk away and leave her alone to battle the world? Because even if they were at their worst, it had always been Kaya and Cain against the world. Until it wasn’t. Her eyes scanned his face as if looking for the answer before he uttered it. Her first words just made her scoff. She pissed him off? Well, right back at you, asshole. But then he decided to continue, set his plate down and even looked at her and for one small moment, there was no snark, no smartassy comments and no bitching between them.
His next words made Kaya bite the inside of her cheek so hard she soon felt the coppery taste of blood on her tongue. Focusing on the eggs and bacon on her plate, she ate a few bites until he told her he had missed her. “Yeah. I can see that.” she muttered. “How many times have you come over the bar? You could have said something.” Shaking her head, she set her plate down and reached for her coffee cup. “Well, I guess there’s that. Let’s just win this damn thing. I can promise you not to be a bitch…too much…I’ll help you win it. But I guess that’s it for us. Considering…everything.” Kaya tried to mask her hurt grimace with the cup, drinking a few sips before she wrinkled her nose and added a bit more creamer. The brunette was possibly hurting herself right there but based on Cain’s answer, she didn’t really see another outcome. He wanted her but was too stubborn to admit his mistake and come to her. As always. And if he didn’t want to fight for her, she couldn’t force him.
While Declan was sure the matter of whose fault the breakup was would be appearing again, he decided to focus on the good things. They started going for it immediately last night and the thought that he made Natalie cry in front of cameras was not sitting well with him. Fuck the agent, fuck the team at this point, fuck the ratings. He himself felt like an ass that he got so carried away and caused that tear roll down Nat’s cheek. It was not his intention. Hell, he didn’t even come here to deal with old traumas. As far as the football player was concerned, they should have already moved on and not dwell on old wrongs. Apparently, it was going to stay only a wish as Natalie came with a different plan. But for now, it was the breakfast time and they could definitely enjoy it. Something was telling Dec that the whole affair was going to resurface more than once.
He still remembered the first time he saw Natalie Mayfair. It was like one of those cheesy romantic movies. He was walking out of the class, talking to his classmates when the time suddenly slowed down as the blonde was walking down the hallway and suddenly, Dec only had eyes for her. His lips parted in awe as he watched her and he couldn’t tear his gaze from the doll face he was looking at. It was the very first moment young Dec was determined to make her his and he did. The second the two started dating, the whole school considered them the royalty. She was the best in their class, class president, determined and devoted to her goals and he was the school quarterback, star of the team and the local golden boy. They definitely were the teenage dream.
Sharing breakfast with her now, after all those things happened, after shit piled up around them and was balancing literally on the knife blade before it would fell over and either disappear from their sight or bury them alive. Declan felt they were careful with each other and while he enjoyed it very much, the small talk was still just the small talk. Somewhere deep inside, now that he knew for sure which ex was here, a part of him was hoping they could get past the conflict and emerge victorious from here. And maybe not in a sense of winning the show. Declan was competitive as hell, he came to win for sure but even winning Natty’s appreciation back would count. Her comment on his metabolism had him grinning. “I still can pig out like the best of them. It just requires a bit more sit ups than before. But make no mistake, everything is gonna disappear from those trays by the end to this breakfast.” he laughed and for a moment, it felt like the old times. The two of them sitting on the balcony, enjoying breakfast, not having a worry in this world.
As they continued talking about the show and all, Dec relaxed in his seat and kept munching on the French toast. “I can tell you that I haven’t had this amazing breakfast in forever. NFL gives you these crazy requirements you need to keep and the weight and muscle is one of them. I’ve been on this workout and meal plan for several months now and eating normal food seems unreal.” Declan spoke, forgetting for a moment they were arguing before. He didn’t eat the desert last night but the French toast, he simply couldn’t resist. Carbs or not, he was not saying no. The talk then turned to the show itself and Dec had to agree with his blonde ex. The questionnaire was weird and he felt strangely exposed when filling it out. “Well, I’m sure that all those answers are going to be used to make us look like fools. This is reality TV, after all. One focused on exes. They are either going to turn us against each other or try to make us fu—“ He suddenly bit his tongue, offering her a sheepish look. “I mean…I’d bet at least one of the couples did last night.” he added in mumbles and stuffed his mouth full of toast to shut himself up.
When things were good between Natatalie and Declan, the young woman had been all but certain that they were endgame. In high school, Natalie would practice writing her name as "Natalie Bennet" in cursive in her notebooks during lectures and thought of marriage as a fairytale ending, but something far off in the future. It wasn't until after graduating and starting college that the reality of considering a life with Declan started to sink in. Natalie loved him unconditionally, or so she thought, and couldn't imagine life without him, but at the same time she began to panic at the idea of marrying the first and only man she'd ever kissed, loved or been with. How did she know that Declan was her forever if she'd never even considered anyone else to compare him to? Thoughts like these that began to creep in were ultimately the catalyst for Natalie suggesting they take a break while she studied abroad.
Yes, separating was her idea, and yes, that would imply that she was okay with the idea of seeing other people... but the young girl was still naive and only considered her own desires. She hadn't expected Declan to be so on board with the break or to have feelings of wanting to pursue other girls. Perhaps Natalie had just been blind to Declan feeling just as claustrophobic as her, but part of her imagined that in the few months he was gone he'd go on a few dates, and at most maybe even kiss a girl or two... So to find out that after only two weeks apart that he'd hooked up with someone else was gut wrenching. Especially since it had only taken those same two weeks for Natalie to realize that she hated not being with Declan. Rather than deal with the consequences of her own rash and foolish decision, Natalie turned all her hurt and disappointment squarely on Declan, and in her anger sought to even the score. By the time she returned from Europe, their pride prevented them from repairing their relationship, and all that was left for them was to argue until they officially parted ways. For good. Or so Natalie thought.
Yet now, as Nat sat on the balcony with Declan and he grinned at her joke about his metabolism, it appeared that they weren't out of each other's lives completely. Yeah, they were both tiptoeing through their interaction this morning, neither wanting to say or do anything to tip the balance back into an argument, but it was a start. Though Natalie knew that no true progress could be made, at least not in her book, unless the problems of the past were resolved. Unlike Declan, she still was hurt. And while it wasn't entirely fair to expect him to apologize when he didn't know the complete picture of why she was so mad, it still was something Natalie needed to completely let the past go. Now though, for the sake of her reputation and the cameras watching her, she would cut Declan a little slack.
The blonde eyed all the food that still remained on the tray, and raised an eyebrow at the brunette's declaration that he'd eat it all. "If you manage that, I will be shocked if you don't get sick during the competition." She laughed a little. "The french toast is good, but it better not cost us a win today..." Nat added, smirking a little as she tried to get on board with Dec's comment from the night before of them having this in the bag if they worked as the dream team they were before. "And I can't believe you actually let someone tell you what you can and can't eat now. I tried getting you to switch to smoothies and you refused just out of principle I feel like..." She sighed, turning her gaze from Dec back to the view as she mentioned the questionnaire to change the subject.
Nat laughed dryly, nodding in agreement at his comment about them being made to look like fools. "Yeah, I feel like the show already got a good start on that last night..." Declan then added that the show was either going to make them turn against each other or hook up, though he left the latter idea only half said. Natalie's blue eyes shifted to her ex as he offered a sheepish look and added that one of the couples likely did hook up already. "They didn't waste much time if they did..." The blonde replied, not sure if she was judging the couple for falling for the show's tricks, or envious of them for being able to make up so quickly. "Maybe he apologized to her right off the bat?" Natalie heard herself accidentally say aloud. She immediately kicked herself for the slip, and frantically tried to think of a follow up comment that sounded less bitter, but a second knock at the door was her saving grace.
Turning in her seat, Natalie glanced at the door in time to see a small silver envelope slide under the door into their room. Hoping the distraction would diffuse the sore subject, Natalie hopped out of her chair, nearly spilling what remained of her coffee in the process, and hurried over to the envelope. She tucked her finger beneath the sealed flap, tearing it open as she pulled out the small card with a message written on it. "Can you take your past relationship to new heights? Or will you fall short when it comes to working as one?" Natalie read aloud for Dec to hear as she walked back to the balcony door. "Cryptic."
When Grayson got out of the bed and stretched in front of Corryn, he could feel her gaze on him. A small smirk played at the corner of his mouth, and he started to second think letting the blonde babe on the bed off the hook so easily for her earlier dessert comment. She'd been a bit bashful about it, and he'd spared her the teasing, but Cory certainly wasn't very shy about appraising his shirtless form now. The smirk grew to stretch across his face as Gray couldn't resist asking his ex if she was sure she didn't want dessert. Thinking that Cory would surely shoot him down, he added a playful wink to save him from feeling rejected. The tall man half expected another pillow to be tossed at his head, so when the beautiful blonde rose from the bed and moved over to him, Grayson was caught off guard. But only for a moment.
Both naturally competitive people, Gray and Cory had already been trying to one up each other since arriving at the mansion. Whether it be through quips, or recalling embarrassing memories, or trying to fluster each other with their clothes, or lack thereof... they'd been quietly competing to have the advantage or call each other's bluffs. Cory had suggestively brought up dessert, and (though delayed) Gray now suggested taking her up on it... So as Cory walked over to him with that look on her face, Gray could only assume that she was messing with him even more. Imagining that she'd try to trick him into thinking she was going to kiss him or tumble into bed with him, the tall man just gazed down at his ex with an amused expression in his eyes, determined not to give into her attempt at seduction.
However, when Cory softly said that she had to try something, the tone of her voice was surprisingly sincere and not hiding any sarcasm or teasing notes. One of her hands then pressed against his chest, and Gray instantly forgot all previous notions of resisting his ex's attempts to throw him off. The blue eyed man's pulse quickened as her other hand gently rested against his neck, the warmth from her touch immediately spreading from where her skin met his. Before Cory even was able to start rising up on her toes, Gray's hands were already moving to her hips, like a magnet drawn to her. If this was just a joke, then he was fucked because he'd already lost the game, but to hell with it.
For a brief moment, when Corryn's face was even with Gray's, a part of him wondered why he'd ever let this woman go. At that moment he wanted nothing else than to taste her lips once more, and he questioned their decision to break up. His thoughts were interrupted before they could take root though as Corryn's stormy blue eyes disappeared behind her lashed lids and she leaned in, her lips finding his. Conscious thought was replaced by desire, and one of Gray's hands slid up Cory's side to capture her cheek, cupping it as he pulled her closer to him with the hand that remained on her hip.
Grayson had always been wildly attracted to Corryn- not only was she stunning, but she was driven, talented and could give him a run for his money- but as he kissed her back, something in the back of Gray's mind whispered that this was more than just physical desire. He didn't just want her, he missed her. Missed this. Missed being her partner in crime. Gray reflexively took a couple steps towards the bed, only stopping when the back of Cory's legs stopped against the mattress. He deepened the kiss, teetering on whether or not to just give in and push her back onto the bed...
When a knock on the door reminded the marketing executive that he and Corryn weren't alone, and a silver envelope slid beneath the door and into the room. Gray pulled away from Cory a little bit, glancing from her to the letter on the ground, and then around the room at where several cameras were likely hidden. Finally, his blue eyes found hers once more, and his brow furrowed a bit. "Cory..." He started, though didn't know what to say in this moment. His lips were tingling and he didn't want to let her go, but... he didn't know what to do with how that kiss made him feel. What the hell had they put in their french toast?
Olivia had always been a confident girl, but that didn't mean she didn't have insecurities of her own that she struggled with daily. Being a part of the family she'd been born into, there was a certain image they always had to upkeep. She was always expected to be perfect, even from a young age, and that was a lot of pressure to have thrown on your shoulders. That was one reason she'd always loved being around Abel so much, was because he never expected her to be perfect. He didn't want that. He just wanted her to be Livvy, his Livvy, and she knew that. It was so nice to not have someone lay those expectations on her, to have someone she could just relax around and be herself. She loved the times they spent together, and that was why it cut her so deeply when he left, not even giving her a real reason for why. She'd wanted him to tell her, both back then and even last night, but it was clear she wasn't going to get anything out of him. But she was nothing if not determined.
Sitting there on the patio now with him, things weren't exactly easy or the same as they used to be, but she still wanted to enjoy her time with him. His comment about not everyone being heiresses was said in a teasing tone and she shot him a look, but a smile was present on her lips even as she did so. "You act like I was born wanting to be an heiress. If you remember, Abel, I had no problem helping you out in the garage. I mean, sure, I didn't know what I was doing but that didn't stop me." She smirked as they started to dig in to the breakfast platters that had been brought for them, and she'd just taken her first bite when he mentioned a professional chef. "Oh, I have no doubt." She spoke after she swallowed, gesturing to the food with her fork. "This is definitely the work of a professional. And the pay-off? That's easy. They want the drama that stems from throwing four pairs of exes with each other."
She'd just made her comment about her diet and bit into the delicious bacon when Abe's brows furrowed in confusion. Her eyes met his as she chewed on the bacon, one corner of her lips curled up into a smirk. The look faded some and her chewing slowed when he told her she was gorgeous just the way she was, her expression turning into more of a soft one as her head leaned back on the chair. But then he ruined the moment when he apologized, and she sighed, swallowing the bacon and then reaching for a cup of juice. "You don't need to apologize for calling someone gorgeous, Abel." She told him, her tone slightly matter-of-fact as she brought the cup to her lips to take a sip. "I mean, we're not together anymore, but that doesn't mean that we didn't once find each other attractive, you know?" She tried to sound factual as she spoke, but her voice did break some. "I still think you look good, too." She added softly, twirling the bacon in her hands.
A knock sounded at the door, interrupting their moment. Glancing up and back into the room, she saw a silver envelope being slid under the door. She glanced back at Abe, then set her bacon down, brushing her hands off as she stood. Making her way into the room, she headed straight for the envelope and tore it open, reading it on her way back to the balcony. "What do you think it means?" She asked Abe, handing him the note so that he could read it. "Says we have to be ready soon and meet down in the lobby." She suddenly felt nervous, and she didn't know why. Moving to sit back down, she plucked her bacon from the plate again to finish it off, waiting as he read the note to throw in his two cents. "I don't like how heights is italicized like that."
Cain still felt guilt and regret surrounding his decision to leave back then. He knew he shouldn't have, had even had thoughts about it as he was packing his shit that day. But his pride and anger levels had been so high; that fight that led to her leaving and him packing his shit afterwards had been one of their worst. Now he couldn't even remember what the fuck they'd been fighting about, but what did it matter? He'd left. Disappeared from the town for a few short months, too, not planning on coming back. But he had, and then he'd seen her almost every day at the bar, always biting his tongue and going home with someone else. He knew it made her angry, because it always made him angry to see her flirting with other guys. But neither of them had ever said anything.
He heard her scoff as he gave his first answer to her question, but he pressed on. He even set his plate down to look at her, so that she would know he was serious as he spoke. And when he told her that he'd missed her, and her words back to him were tight and he wondered if she even believed him. And when she went on, asking how many times he'd come to the bar and telling him he could have said something, he knew that she didn't. He picked his plate back up just as she set hers down to reach for her coffee. Suddenly the food didn't taste as good, but he didn't stop chewing, just nodding as she told him she would help him win. But then, after that, that'd be it for them. "Guess so." He shrugged one shoulder, knowing he was being a dick but unable to help himself. "Guess it's not a show about exes if we get back together."
A knock at the door stopped him from continuing, but he glanced her way before he set his plate down, done with it now. He stood, stretching before he made his way to the door. He snatched the envelope off of the floor, tearing it open but not reading it until he was back in his seat, across from Kaya. He then read it out loud, reading it again silently before he handed it to her to read. "New heights, hmm?" He decided to go for another piece of bacon anyway, chewing on it thoughtfully before he looked over at her. "Well, whatever it is, we've definitely got it in the bag. What time did it say to be ready again?" He leaned over, reading the note again to find the time listed below. Glancing down at his phone that he'd set on the table, he checked the time.
"That's not long from now." He told her, popping the rest of the bacon into his mouth. Standing again, he started to head for his suitcase, but paused after he turned. "Listen, Kaya. If you don't want to believe that I've missed you, that's fine. But for what it's worth, it's true." Shrugging, he looked at her, a look of longing in his eyes but only for a moment before he turned away, finding his suitcase and leaning down to search within it. He didn't want to sit here and argue about his feelings for her, especially if she was just going to brush him off. He perched on the edge of the bed to pull on some socks and his sneakers, then settled back some, reaching up to run his fingers through his short hair. "Fuck, man." He breathed, trying to avoid looking at Kaya again. "What do you think we're doing today?"
Since her break-up with Grayson, Corryn had been with other men. Not committed to one, per see. But enough to allow them to take her on a couple of dates then eventually go back to their place to spend the night together. She didn't necessarily consider it ghosting, as she made it very clear that she wasn't looking for anything serious. Nevertheless, some of the men weren't exactly happy when she stopped answering their calls. At the end of the day, Corryn had needs that needed to be met, and they were her way of fulfilling those needs. It wasn't so hard to believe that Gray had probably done the same thing. He was an attractive, hard-working man, and any woman would be crazy to not want him... but she wasn't crazy, was she?
The electricity sparking across her skin where it met his, a pleasurable tingling sensation that drew her in. She wasn't in her own head, didn't think about what she was doing, and instead moved her lips against his. He tasted deliciously of mint, and her hands slid up his bare chest until they were comfortably resting around his neck. She let him pull her body closer to his, her heart beginning to beat rapidly in her chest. In the back of her mind, she couldn't help but wonder if the adrenaline pumping through her veins at that moment was more than just sexual tension. She felt Grayson step forward, leading them to the bed behind her. The backs of her calves brushed against the luxury bedding, and lust tightened her grip on him.
Just as Corryn was about to pull Grayson onto the bed with her so they could get lost beneath the sheets, a loud knock was heard at their bedroom door. The blonde sharply pulled back as he did, blue eyes searching his as practical thought began flooding back in. What was she doing? This was against the entire plan she had built before going on the show. She had told herself that she wouldn't fall into bed with him again, that she would use this trip to her advantage, and hope that some minor flirtation would get him to reveal important intel she could use against his company. Seduction but not lust. Her name fell from his lips, and Cory felt herself wanting to kiss him again. But she resisted. She pushed those wants to the back of her mind, logical Corryn taking over once again.
With a tight smile, the blonde marketing executive stepped around Grayson towards the door, picking up the envelope from the ground. Should they probably talk about what just happened? Yes. Would she rather avoid whatever the feelings swirling in her gut were and instead focus on this letter? Definitely yes. Opening the envelope, she pulled out a piece of fancy cardstock elegantly inked. "Um, it says 'Can you take your past relationship to new heights? Or will you fall short when it comes to working as one?' What do you think that means? Sounds like the first challenge to me," Corryn said evenly, turning to face Grayson once again. "We should finish getting ready and head down to the lobby."
If he were being honest with himself, Abel absolutely missed being with Olivia. She was the only girl he had been with that felt real, despite everything. They were polar opposites in so many ways, her growing up rich and him on the streets. She was an heiress and he was barely getting by. She was good and he was a criminal. Despite all that, being with her had made him want to be a better man because that's what she deserved. And for a while, he was. Working at the Kennedy Estate and being with Olivia had, for the first time in his life, kept him out of trouble. In his time there, he hadn't done anything outwardly illegal, instead focusing his time and attention on his work and the beautiful brunette. But good things always came to an end for Abel, and this end was in the form of her father.
"Oh I certainly remember," Abel responded with a grin, his gaze meeting hers. "You got grease on your face and I thought you were going to freak out. But you didn't even care." They ate for a moment, and he couldn't help but feel a bit awkward after commenting on her appearance. They were exes, he shouldn't be saying those things, right? He needed to keep things at arm's length because he knew himself. And he knew that if he let his guard down, he would happily take Olivia back into his arms. Thankfully, however, her expression turned soft, showing that she wasn't upset with his words. Instead, she returned them, sounding matter-of-fact as she complimented him as well. Nevertheless, something about her words seemed off, as if there was more behind them. Abe couldn't help but wish there was.
Pulling him from his thoughts was a knock at the door, indicating that someone was trying to get their attention. Abel couldn't help but feel a bit annoyed, thinking there had been a moment that was now interrupted. Taking another piece of bacon, he ate it as Olivia made her way into the room. She returned with a note, handing it over to him. Abe wiped his hands on a nearby cloth napkin before taking the piece of paper from her, reading it over intently. "Sounds like they're about to throw us into the first challenge," he answered, reading over the words again. "No doubt something that involves height. You don't think they're going to turn this into some sort of Fear Factor thing, do you? Because that is definitely not what I signed up for." Slipping the note under the edge of his plate, Abel took one more bite of pancakes before standing. "Maybe we should head downstairs?"
Thinking back, Kaya was wrecking her brain trying to remember why she and Cain got in that fight before the greatest blowout but she couldn’t. It was most probably something incredibly minor and unimportant, something she made a big deal of even though she shouldn’t. Kaya was a lot of things and self-conscious was one of them. Though she rarely admitted her own mistakes out loud, she knew that she was loud and very rash when it came to decisions. Maybe it was some dumb bitch circling around Cain or he just looked at her in a way Kaya didn’t appreciate. Jealousy was deeply rooted in her and while she was trying to overcome it and beat the green monster, it made its appearance more often than not. And caused her trouble in relationship.
Their talk at breakfast continued in that grim tense mood and while Kaya wanted to believe him badly. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, the bare truth was she had missed him incredibly. In bed and in her life. Their night together was explosive, dark and strong as it always was. While Kaya hated the fact that she let Cain fuck her again, it was the first time in a long time she felt whole. He was her missing puzzle piece but they broke up and that was it, right? No going back now. Maybe occasional anger sex if they kept bumping into each other but you can’t really make the broken mirror whole again. You can put the pieces together and fix them with band aid but the cracks would remain.
“Yeah, probably.” Kaya commented and stuffed her mouth with more toast. The knock on the door felt like saving grace as when Cain stood up to go and open, Kaya took a deep breath and set her plate down. They were perfect for each other but fighting still the same thing. Their pride and egos. Food turned sour in her mouth as she was chewing thoughtfully and set her plate down, done with breakfast. No matter how amazing it was, somehow, Kaya couldn’t eat anything else. The air became somehow heavy and she yearned to leave the room at this point but Cain returned with an envelope and read the contents out loud. New heights? That was curious. Kaya took the paper from Cain and scanned the text again. “I don’t like the way ‘heights’ and ‘fall’ are written. It’s suspicious.” she mumbled and set the envelope on the table.
Cain went to his suitcase and while Kaya was on her feet and ready to leave, he took her breath away one more time. For a moment, her eyes were tracing the lines of his arm muscles and she was biting her tongue very hard. “I wish I could believe you, Cain. But you also said you’d never leave me. So your promises are worth a horse shit.” she almost spat, keeping her lips pursed right after. She couldn’t succumb to her desire again. Not like this. Not to him. And so she decided to keep him at arm’s length. After all, he didn’t want her back either, did he?
“I don’t know but let’s go and find out. We’ve killed enough time with…breakfast.” Kaya spoke after a moment and marched towards the door, slipping past, trying to contain herself and erase the picture of naked Cain hovering over her, making her feel all those things once again.
The high school version of Declan Bennet never really thought he would end up with anyone else than Natalie. She was his happily ever after and he never had any doubts that it was the case. It was probably because boys and girls perceive things differently but Dec loved her with all his heart and waited for the college graduation as it would finally be time for him to tie the knot. That and he also wanted to be sure he would be drafted before proposing. There was no way in hell he was not going to promise and give Natalie the world. While football players and jocks in general had this reputation of changing girls like fresh socks, it was never Declan. He had his Natty and was more than content.
That was exactly why her proposal came as a shock to him. When he thought about it, she was right, they should maybe try and see other people too to confirm they were truly the endgame though. And so Declan did it, he took the free pass and had his fun. What he did not expect was Natalie actually getting angry with him because of that. When she came after him for sleeping with that girl, Dec almost fainted. He had no idea what he had done wrong because in his book, this was the deal. Apparently not. The blowout was huge and cost them both dearly. Now, after all those years, Declan was practically over it so when he came on the show, saw Natalie, he was hoping they could actually both move on. Boy, was he wrong or what?
It still angered him to hear her words about apology because he knew he did not owe her any. If he was going to be completely fair, it should be Natalie who was supposed to apologize. For her overreactions and giving him shit for something she actually allowed him to do. But after all those years, it was water under the bridge for the football player and he didn’t even want to bring it up. Until she did. Thankfully though, breakfast was very much calm and pleasant and nothing seemed to spoil the mood. They shared coffee and French toasts and ate quietly for a moment, or just exchanged a few lines. She even joked about him eating everything from the cart though Declan could easily do it. “I won’t cost us anything, don’t you worry about that.” he grinned. “Whatever they throw at us, we got this, remember?” Dec winked and stuffed his mouth full of the delicious toast.
“I wouldn’t be doing it but being in the league is honestly harder than I thought. My life has never been more scheduled, I have workouts, trainings, workouts again, meetings with nutritionists and personal trainers, all that shit. I guess they really are not messing around.” he shrugged reaching for his coffee cup. “Plus those smoothies were not the best, admit it at least.” he laughed them, licking a drop or two of the caffeine liquid from his lips as they changed the topic to the show. T was true and Declan was convinced the goal was to make everyone look ridiculous and put them into impossible situations. For a moment, they joked about a thing or two and mentioned another couple when Nat dropped her comment how maybe the guy apologized immediately. Declan’s smile froze and he let out a long sigh. “Wow…” he murmured. “Took you long enough to mention it again.”
Thank god someone knocked because the situation at the table might have turned way too sour for their liking. Natalie stood up and went to see who it was only to return with an envelope. Reading the message aloud put a frown on Declan’s face. “Are we supposed to figure out the first task or what? Because that does not give us anything. Show me.” And he reached for the envelope, reading the words again. “Well, I guess that’s that. Maybe we should go and see it then. After all, it’s almost time.” Standing up, Declan went to get his sneakers, letting Natalie have her time to change. He took his moment to tie the laces and threw his hoodie on the bed, replacing it with a gym tank top. “Let’s see what they have in store for use then, shall we?”
Hearing how scheduled and busy Declan’s life was in the NFL, Natalie wondered for a moment if he would have even had time for her had their relationship not crumbled when it did. Perhaps things worked out the way they were supposed to? Had Nat not asked for the notorious break, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Declan would have eventually become too busy for a relationship and ended things anyways. That would have been an agonizing and slow death to their relationship though, opposed to the big blow out that cut ties all at once. As awful as their breakup had been, the blonde conceded that it would have hurt much worse to slowly be pushed out of Declan’s life- replaced by practices, press conferences and constant travel for his games.
Pushing these thoughts aside, Natalie scoffed a little when he called her smoothies bad. “They weren’t that bad… they were just healthy.” She insisted, smiling a little before the topic shifted to the show. The blonde hadn’t meant to bring up the apology she was still waiting for, and she cursed herself for disrupting the calm morning. Luckily, the knock on the door and subsequent envelope that was slid under, saved Natalie. Declan still let out a long size, accompanied by wow… took you long enough to mention it again. Glancing at her ex for a split second, Natalie bit her lip to stop herself from saying anything else, and simply jumped up to get the envelope instead.
Her brows furrowed as she read the card aloud to Declan, handing the letter over to him when he asked to see it for himself. “If we’re supposed to figure it out, they’re gonna need to be a little less vague…” Natalie sighed, running a hand through her hair, which she realized she still hadn’t brushed since waking up. “Seems like it’s something to do with heights and falling though since those words are italicized.” She added, letting her hand fall back down to her side. Declan suggested they go check the challenge out for themselves since it was almost time, and Natalie just nodded as he stood up to go put his shoes on.
The blonde watched Declan for a moment, feeling like the mood had gotten a little tense again after her slip of tongue. Part of her wanted to say something to fix the mood, but her pride once again stopped her. Instead, Natalie just let out a slow breath and walked back into the bathroom where her stuff was to finish getting ready for the day. After closing the bathroom door behind her, Nat leaned forward against the counter for a moment, staring at her reflection as she made a face at herself in the mirror. What the hell had she signed up for? Why the hell had she signed up for this? Though she had insisted her reason was to get the apology she thought she deserved, a little bit of doubt towards her motives was already starting to seep in. As angry as she had been at Declan for years while they were apart, it was so much harder to forget the way she once felt about him when they were together.
Letting out a soft groan, Natalie shook her head and focussed herself on the task at hand. She quickly changed, brushed her hair and teeth, applied a light layer of makeup so she wouldn’t appear featureless on camera, and emerged from the bathroom apprehensive, but ready for whatever was next. Declan had changed his shirt, hiding a little more skin with the new one, which Nat wasn’t sure if she preferred or not. Let’s see what they have in store for us then, shall we? The blonde nodded in response to her ex, opening the door to their room for the third time that morning, but this time exiting through it. “Might as well… no use in delaying the inevitable embarrassment,” Nat half joked as she started walking down the hallway.
The night before, and route they’d taken through the house was a little blurry, but Natalie did her best to navigate. “You think we’re supposed to meet outside? Or…?” She asked, glancing back at Declan as if he’d have more information than her. Suddenly a production assistant appeared at the end of the hall, and after spotting the pair, radioed something into his headset before pointing the first couple to emerge towards the back patio. “Hope you got a good breakfast, today should be… fun.” The guy smirked before hurrying away to likely check in on the others.
Natalie opened her mouth to ask more, but the guy was quick to escape, leaving her gaping before she pressed her lips into a thin line. “Hmph.” She hummed, turning towards Dec before shrugging. “Guess we’ll have to get used to being constantly kept in the dark…” Nat uttered, annoyed but not about to be caught on camera throwing a temper tantrum over it. Following the PA’s direction, Natalie made her way to the patio, exiting the sliding glass door and glancing around. “Guess we’re the first ones…”
While Grayson and Corryn had largely shared a business relationship, rather than a romantic one, it had been a physical one as well. Their form of intimacy was primarily sexual, the attraction between them never in question despite the eventual breakdown of their working relationship. Once they became rivals, for the most part Gray had been able to ignore said attraction though, relying on his competitive drive to overpower his animalistic one. However, ignoring his desire for Cory was much different than erasing it completely, and as the two kissed in their bedroom, the eyes of multiple production personnel likely watching through cameras, it was evident that the physical nature of their ended relationship lived on.
As Cory’s soft hands slid up to his neck, Gray moved them towards the bed instinctively, the taste of the blonde’s lips and her electric tough consuming all thought. Only when the edge of the bed prevented the pair from moving any further, did any notion of consequences come to mind. The tall man wanted nothing more than to capitalize on the kiss that Cory had initiated and push her back onto the bed… but he hesitated for a moment, and that slight hesitation delayed their descent onto the bed long enough for a knock at the door to bring their intimate moment to a halting end. An envelope was slid under the door, and Gray broke away from Cory, her name escaping his lips. He didn’t know if it was to stop her from moving to get the envelope, or to figure out what just happened between them… but when nothing else followed, the blonde pulled away to retrieve the message.
Grayson let out a slow breath and crossed his hands over his head, his lips already missing Cory’s. He glanced over at her as she read the message on the envelope, trying to decipher the meaning. “Yeah, has to be about the challenge…” Gray replied, keeping his hands on the back of his head for a moment as he thought. “I have a feeling we’re not gonna be competing on the ground… at least neither of us are afraid of heights…” He added, offering a casual smile as he joked, trying to ignore the kiss they’d just shared a few moments ago. At least for now. It was inevitable that he and Cory would have to address things, but she didn’t seem eager for it to be now and neither was he.
“Yeah, no time like the present,” Gray nodded, picking up the shirt he’d set out for himself and pulling it on over his head. He rifled through his suitcase to pull out his gym shoes, and took a moment to put them on. “Ready when you are.” He shrugged, walking towards the door to head out. Pausing as he grabbed the handle, he glanced back at Cory. “Um, we good…?” He asked, a little awkwardly, alluding to the kiss without really bringing it up. “No harm in just trying something, right?” He added with a small grin, referring to what Corryn had said before kissing him.
Sitting there with Abel, eating the amazing breakfast they'd been brought, she could almost fool herself into thinking things were just like they used to be. And maybe for a minute, she pretended. She pictured the two of them not on the balcony of the room they were sharing for the show, but back at her house, sitting on the patio or even the balcony off of her bedroom, or anywhere, really. She let her imagination run wild, picturing him chasing her through the hallways of the mansion she'd called home back then, always catching up to her and pinning her against the wall or the two of them ducking into a random room to avoid getting caught and chastised. She'd never been naive to the fact that her father would not approve of their relationship, but that had never stopped her, nor could it stop her own feelings for Abel.
But when the knock sounded at their door, she was wrenched from all of those thoughts, realizing that they weren't at the Kennedy estate but on the set for Somebody I Used To Know. With a soft sigh, she went to retrieve the mail slid under their door, reading it on the way back to the balcony. Handing off the letter to Abe, she folded her body back into her seat, munching on a piece of bacon as she looked over to him to see what he thought. Yet again she was floored by the mans appearance, simple as it may be. He wasn't dressed fancy, didn't have a shit ton of bling on, but none of that had ever mattered to Liv. She didn't need all of those material things to be happy, despite her upbringing. She'd loved Abe back then for who he was, and that hadn't changed.
She made a face as he threw in his two cents, a slightly annoyed huff escaping her. "God, I hope not. I didn't sign up to be scared to death at every challenge or be thrown into a vat of spiders or snakes or anything of the sort." But they were sort of stuck now, weren't they? Fuck. Growing lost in her own thoughts, she almost missed Abe's words as he stood, mentioning that they should head downstairs. "What?" She looked over at him, realizing she was still holding the piece of bacon. "Oh, right." She stood, debating for a minute whether or not she should put the bacon back on her plate. "Fuck it. Apparently I'm going to need all the courage I can get." She popped the rest of the piece into her mouth and then followed him inside.
As they made their way downstairs, she couldn't help but grow more and more nervous. At one point, she actually reached out and grabbed Abel's hand, but quickly let go, feeling her face grow warm as she avoided his gaze. "Sorry." She mumbled, clasping her elbow with her hand to keep herself from doing it again. They rode the elevator down to the lobby, and she stepped out first, looking around. They were the first ones, or so she thought. An assistant popped up in front of them, directing them both to the back patio, where she spotted one of the other couples standing just outside. Guess they weren't the first. She hadn't seen Natalie since the night before, and her nerves had been bad then. Offering her and the handsome man beside her a small smile, she stepped outside and further out onto the patio. "Morning, you guys. What do you think the note meant?"
Kaya was truly unlike any girl that Cain had ever been with. She was truly the only woman he'd ever loved, and when she'd left that last time, it had destroyed him. Tired of the fighting, tired of the "end" of their relationship, he'd decided to make it final. Once and for all. So he'd packed up his shit and left their shared apartment, having no idea that she would return later that day. Maybe he should have known, because wasn't that their MO? They fought, someone left, that same someone returned, they fucked, and the cycle started all over again. He still wasn't quite sure what made that day different than the rest, but whatever it was, it had certainly cemented the true end of their relationship. Now they were here, on a show about exes, and they'd already started the cycle again.
When the knock sounded at the door, he happily got up to go answer it, not wanting to get that deep in his thoughts again. When he returned with the mail, he had to admit he agreed with Kaya about how she didn't like the words and how they were written. Suspicious indeed. He hummed in agreement before he went back inside to finish getting ready, ultimately wanting to keep the conversation light between them. But he couldn't help but throw in the first comment, wanting her to know that he really had missed her. She was ready with venom in her response though, and he remained quiet as he pulled his shoes on. Nodding when she spoke again, he stood and followed her towards the door. The ride downstairs was silent, but that was fine with him.
A production assistant met them on the first floor, leading them towards the back patio. He let Kaya go ahead of him, partly so he could scowl from behind her but also partly so he could watch her walk. Some things never changed, and that included the way her hips swung as she marched through the hallway towards the patio door. By the time they reached the other couples, his brother and Olivia included, his scowl was gone and replaced by his signature smirk. "Morning, little bro." He clasped Abel on the shoulder, glancing over at Olivia before he looked back at Abe, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Hope your night was as entertaining as mine." Now his gaze slid towards Kaya, though he didn't say anything else on the subject.
Hearing Olivia's question, Cain shrugged, dropping his hand from Abe's shoulder and glancing back inside. "Seems like once the last couple arrives, they'll fill us in. Or at least that's my guess." He looked back at the two he didn't know, remembering the guy from interacting with him the night before. "You two seem bright and chipper this morning." He commented, his smirk still in place. "How was your night?" He moved closer to Kaya as he asked, sliding his arm around her waist, planting a kiss on her cheek quickly. Then he let her go, moving away while whistling under his breath, quickly moving out of arms reach. Not that she wouldn't follow him, but he was feeling playful despite the situation. Maybe there were also some nerves in there, but those he could ignore.
Corryn came from a long line of strong, business-minded Russell men. Her father, his father before him, his father before him, and so on until the very beginning of Russell & Sons. All knew exactly what they wanted, and wouldn't let anything stand in the way of getting it. Each rose to power, advancing the company beyond what the previous President had done, and ultimately showing their worth to the world. It was a legendary legacy, one that Cory fully intended on continuing. At the back of her mind, however, she felt as though she had been a disappointment since birth. Her father so clearly wanted a son, but she was born instead. On top of that, her mother, unfortunately, passed away, and could never give Mr. Russell what he truly wanted: an heir to the marketing throne. That was why Corryn worked so hard.
From birth, it was always instilled in her that she had something to prove, that the only way to get her father's love and approval was to become the best executive Russell & Sons had ever seen, despite being a daughter. That had always been more important to her, more important than friendships and, as Grayson knew all too well, more important than relationships. Sometimes, however, the blonde wondered what life would have been like if her mother were still around. She never met her. But, from the stories she was told, Abigail was the only person in the whole world able to pull her husband, Joseph, away from his work. She was a kind, generous woman, with spunk, charisma, and a smile that could light up a room. Many people who knew her told Cory how much like her mother she was. If she had a maternal figure growing up, would things be different? Would her priorities be different? Unfortunately, she would never know.
"Well, at least we have a chance of winning then, right?" she responded to Grayson's comment with a nonchalant shrug. He seemed pretty set on not talking about their previous kiss either, much to her relief. That was short-lived, however. Cory went to follow the brunette man from the room, only to pause just before the door. Her blue eyes searched his face in a bit of confusion before biting down on the inside of her cheek at his words. Were they good? Based on the swirling feeling in her stomachs moments before, probably not. But she'd be damned if she was to talk about that already. "Yeah, why wouldn't we be?" Corryn responded just as casually, offering him a grin of her own. "It's not like we've never kissed before, Gray. Hell, you and I both know we've done way more than that." A smirk played on her lips as she reached around her ex to pull the door open. "After you."
It wasn't long before she reached the patio where the other couples were already waiting. "Huh, I'm not used to being last. Morning everyone," she said to no one in particular, joining the small group in the area where their dinner tables had been the night before. Now, they were replaced with luxury patio seating. Hearing Olivia's question, she reached up to slick her platinum blonde hair back into a ponytail as she responded, "Gray seems to think we're going to be up high in some way. Maybe a rock climbing or bungee jumping challenge?" Whatever the case, it didn't bother Cory any. As long as she wasn't tasked with giving a speech or swimming in the open ocean, she would be absolutely fine. After a moment, the man she remembered as the host of the show, Mitch stepped out from the double doors to the patio. "Ladies and gentlemen, it's wonderful to see you all again. Glad to see you got our letters. Ready for your first challenge? Feast your eyes over there!" Gesturing his arm to the beach behind the house, Mitch pointed directly at a large ropes course, one Cory was unsure of how she missed before. Well, at least she would get her workout for the day.
There weren't many things that scared Abel Rothenberg. Growing up in the wrong part of Chicago, he had seen some of the worst things that life had to offer. People strung out on street corners, children starving, families broken apart. He was constantly surrounded by an overarching atmosphere of dread like there was no escape. And for a long time, he believed it. Even though he had been beaten and looked down the barrel of a gun, Abe was never really afraid of those things. He could survive those things. Hell, he already had. But there were a few things he knew that he could survive, such as losing the people he cared about, like Cain and, if he was being honest with himself, Olivia. Going to prison for the rest of his life was also near the top of his list, he didn't know what he would do stuck in a cage forever. The blonde was fairly sure he would slowly descend into madness if he was. That all being said, heights didn't really make the list.
"Spiders and snakes? With the budget this show has, I think those are the least of our worries," Abel responded with a teasing grin, forest green eyes finding her brown. Standing from his seat, he dusted a few crumbs from his black sweatpants before heading back into their shared bedroom. He wasn't quite sure how long it would take for him to get used to how much luxury he was currently swimming in, but he was sure it would be a while. High-thread count sheets, a swimming pool AND a hot tub, chef-made food delivered directly to their door, and of course the entire fucking mansion. He was from an entirely different world. But Olivia wasn't, she was probably used to all of this. Just another day in paradise. Together, they made their way out of their bedroom and down the elevator towards the patio they had eaten dinner on the night before. At one point, Liv reached out to grab his hand. Immediately, he felt tinges across the skin of his palm, a warmth spreading up his arm. But all too soon it was gone as she retracted.
"Don't worry about it," Abel answered, offering his ex a soft smile. He wanted to reach out and grab her hand again but thought better of it. Whatever was happening between them was already confusing, he didn't need to make it worse. The elevator doors opened, and they finished their trek and found the other couples there. A strong hand clasped him on the shoulder, and Abe turned to find his older brother standing there. "Hey Cain," he answered with a grin, rolling his eyes at his brother's wiggling eyebrows. "Don't get any ideas. Nothing happened between us. Though I'm sure you can't possibly say the same about you and Kaya. How long did you last before falling back into bed with her?" Abel didn't quite get along with Kaya, she wasn't good for Cain and their relationship was honestly just tiring to be around. Pulling him from his thoughts, the host appeared and gestured to the large wooden course on the beach behind him. Abe eyed it wearily, hoping that he and Olivia could work together long enough to avoid falling. But with the way things had been going between them, who knows what was going to happen.
As much as Kaya was convinced she was over Cain, these moments spent in his company were vehemently trying to convince her otherwise. After their ways parted, after she was sure they were done for good, the brunette took a real long time to get her tall, handsome, toxic ex boyfriend from her had. There were better and worse days, of course and after some time, they just merged into some sort of blur of work, drinking and hookups. As if Kaya was trying to fill that hole in her heart and bed with temporary solutions. Naturally, neither of them worked. However, not for her lack of trying. Her life seemed to become gray and unexcited and could be divided into three parts. Before Cain, with him and after Cain. And for some reason, only the second part made some sense and held more colors than just mundane black, white and gray of ordinary uneventful boring days.
It was only the moment when the curtain fell and her eyes met with his, when she noticed those lips curled in his typical smirk that she realized she might have been deeply fucked. And at that point, she had no idea what kind of pun that was. Their morning talk was dangerously circling around the area Kaya hated to talk about. Feelings. So when the envelope arrived, it was as if she was saved by that proverbial bell. At least that took their attention from the previous topic and forced them to focus on the problem at hand which was the first task. From the way it was written on that piece of paper, Kaya could only say that she did not like those indications the least bit.
She left the room first and to a random observer, it might seem she was running. Which was not exactly wrong. Being around Cain was always a danger zone and after their last night, she needed to tread carefully from now on and not fall back into the trap his body was. A production assistant led them to meet the couples who were already out there. Kaya greeted everyone shortly, offering a smile to the girls since she already knew them from the day before. Her eyes scanned the boys there. Abe she already knew, of course. The other guy was strangely familiar but she couldn’t exactly put her finger on it. Cain walked his rounds as cheerful as ever until he approached Kaya, enveloping her in a hug of his strong arms and his lips blessed the soft skin of her cheek. Her eyes went wide for a moment and she was ready to send her elbow into his stomach but Cain was gone before she could. But her annoyance with his antics was already bubbling, especially after his statements which sprinkled rouge blush on her cheeks.
Hearing Abel’s question though, she narrowed her eyes. “Oh, for christ’s sake, Abe!” she breathed exasperatedly crossing her arms on her chest. The two were not exactly fans of each other and it was obvious. Not just here but also before when Cain and Kaya were still a thing. The last couple joined then and shortly after, the host made his appearance as well, drawing their attention to a large rope course. Kaya’s breath hitched a little and she bit the inside of her cheek to stop her jaw from dropping. Suddenly, the note was all clear. What she didn’t know was how she and Cain were going to get through this without shoving each other down or yelling and arguing. Then again, this was a show, right? Apparently, they were the toxic sensation here. And maybe it was quite possibly time to change that. However, Kaya was not sure if that was possible.
Had Declan known what kind of thoughts were whirling inside, he would have done his best to make her forget that. His life as a professional football player was tough and his schedule was filled with practice, trainings at the gym, interviews and appearances in front of the camera even but sometimes, he filled it to the brim himself simply because what else would he do? Return to his empty place and stare at the same wall again and again and again? Declan knew his life was incredibly empty despite being surrounded with people on every side. It was that feeling of being lonely in the crowded room. Not that he ever shared with someone. It was just a little secret he carried around while faking half of the smiles. But if he had someone waiting for him at home, someone like…maybe Natalie Mayfair…he would definitely make sure his schedule was loose enough to give her as much time and attention as she needed.
Well, since he was no mind reader, he focused on his breakfast instead. Though the mood went south the second Nat took another jab and mentioned the apology. Dec just shook his head, rolled his eyes and commented so maybe the fact that somebody knocked on the door was the perfect timing. Nat brought the envelope back to the table and they both examined the message, unsure what it all was supposed to mean. Dec assumed that the words in italics were some kind of hint or emphasis on what was awaiting them but he had no answer to this riddle for now. Though if it was something athletic, he had pretty high confidence that he was going to ace it. All guys here looked like they were pretty capable in that area but excuse the professional athlete if he was slightly cocky here.
Once Natalie was ready, the couple walked out of their room heading maybe outside or wherever they would see people or members of the crew. Nat asked him where he thought they should go though Declan didn’t have any answer for her. Thankfully, he didn’t even have to because one of the PAs was walking towards them and directed them to the back patio. Dec let Natty go first and walked out right after her. “I guess we’re first here.” he mumbled, looking around, seeing something in the short distance from them. Of course, at that moment, he kind of did not connect the dots. Maybe it was still the fact that he actually joined the reality show, delicious breakfast or too much carbs.
Slowly but surely, all couples arrived and Dec greeted them all with a small wave and nod. There was no need to be hostile though they technically were his opponents, right? At least not outside of the tasks. Dec could easily slide into his competitive mood but he was keeping it turned off for now. The host appeared as well, greeting all the contestants. His hand moved to point at the rope course and Dec mentally slapped himself for not realizing it sooner. His strong arm snaked around Natalie’s shoulders and he grinned. “We got this in bag, you know that, right?”