The new standalone romance
“Welcome to the beautiful island of Mahé in Seychelles! I’m your host, Tom Peters, and you,” says the man in front of us, spreading his arms out wide, “are the handpicked contestants for the premiere season of Date, Mate, Fate: Celebrity Edition.” He pauses for inserted applause. No, really—a crewman standing off-camera holds up a sign that says, “Insert Applause.”
When the clapping has met the appropriate meter level, Tom continues. “Several faces here, I’m sure you’ll recognize; celebrities from an array of arenas, including sports, the big screen, and even the Olympics have been generous enough to take time from their grueling schedules to join us. And each of them was asked to invite a plus one—anyone—of their choosing, whom we also thank for being here.”
I already feel cramped in my own skin, the endless barrage of cameras and crew filming our every move and reaction in full, intimidating effect. And to top it all off, I’ve just been declared a second-class citizen. Bonus.
I don’t join in on the clapping and whistling; the others’ enthusiasm is far from what I’m feeling. Instead, I burrow deeper into Oakley’s side, shielding my face behind his burly arm and clamping down tighter on his hand. I’m so far removed from my comfort zone, consisting of community college and a job at an off-the-beaten-path truck stop in a Podunk town. But it appears I’ve also landed in a certain circle of hell I’m having trouble comprehending—despite the generous one-week notice.