Royal Chase(10)

By: Sariah Wilson

“What about Lemon?” Dante had been standing quietly in the corner, observing the chaos.

“What about Lemon?” I repeated shrilly. He wouldn’t, would he?

“Lemon could fill the empty slot,” he said. He didn’t look at me. Which was smart, because if looks could kill, he’d be lying in a white chalk outline.

Taylor jumped to her feet. “That’s perfect. Lemon is the right age, she’s gorgeous, and since Dante’s her client, she’s not going to tell anyone about him being a prince.”

Taylor had been promoted to field producer from director’s assistant when I reached out to her with an actual prince for the show. She got the credit and the glory, which was fine. I was just happy that part of my plan to promote Monterra via its crazily attractive royal family was coming together. Matthew Burdette was thrilled by the idea of having a member of a reigning royal family on the show. He loved the idea of capturing the contestants’ reactions when they eventually found out, and he didn’t want anyone to know beforehand. The audience would know in advance, but the show sequestered the women while they were promoting the twist. They wanted that huge shock, that massive surprise that would make all of America tune in to see what would happen when the show stopped being about landing a husband and started being about becoming a real-life princess.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m engaged,” I reminded her. Sterling would be upset. So would my family.

“So? No one needs to know that. You’re not even wearing a ring,” she said. That made me think of a not-too-long-ago conversation I’d had with Dante about my missing ring, and my eyes flicked to his. I could see that he remembered it too, and I felt humiliated. Which made me get angry.

A man wearing thick glasses cleared his throat and pointed out, “She hasn’t taken any of the tests. Like the psychological ones.”

I’d heard about those. They were like eight hundred questions long to weed out the crazies. I didn’t know why it mattered. Every year some Looney Tunes girl always made her way onto the show. The one you worried might start boiling rabbits and stabbing people through shower curtains. It wasn’t like they were great at screening.

“Or the STD tests.” That felt really invasive. But with some of the activities that had happened on this show in the past, it was probably necessary.

Dante walked over to me and held up a hand, which made the room fall quiet. “Are you crazy?”

“No, but . . .”

“Do you have an STD?”

So inappropriate. “No!”

“There. Her word’s good enough for me.”

Everyone exploded, and I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying.

“I am not going on this show,” I hissed at him, poking his chest. “I’m supposed to be here to make sure they’re not portraying you or Monterra in a negative light. I can’t do my job if I’m on the show.”

Taylor made her way over to us. “Lemon, I need you to do this. I will lose my job if you don’t.”

Guilt trip successful. I knew how hard she had worked to become one of the youngest field producers ever on the show. I also knew how much her job mattered to her. As much as mine meant to me. “You should just find someone else,” I protested weakly.

“There is no one else. There’s no time. All our eggs are in this basket. You’re the only one I can trust, and I know you’ll protect Dante and the show. Please. From one Zeta Beta Gamma to another.”

She’d played the sorority card. I couldn’t say no to a sister.

“Okay, but on one condition. Dante sends me home tonight in the first round.”

The room erupted in cheers, and Taylor hugged me tightly. “Yes, he’ll send you home first. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She ran back to the conference table to strategize.

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