The silence stretches on, and though it’s not unpleasant, I’m increasingly aware of how much trouble I’ll be in if we’re caught. Our contract says we’re not to try to spend time with Gage when the cameras aren’t around. And though it occurs to me again that violating the terms of the contract might be the fastest way to get a ticket home, I don’t really want to go home because I got kicked out.
“I understand about LeAnn,” I say, standing and tugging at the zipper of my hoodie. “But you’ll send me home next round, right?”
He stands as well, studying me. “That’s what you want?”
I nod. “I’m not cut out for the camera or this fake falling-in-love thing. I want something real, with a real guy.”
He blinks, and I could have sworn I hurt his feelings. “I’m real, Ellie.”
“You’re Hollywood,” I correct.
“You’re right. Which equates to no brain, no substance, and I just bleed air, right?”
I feel a sting of regret. “That’s not—”
“Forget it,” he says, pushing past without looking at me. “I’ll send you home next round. Guaranteed this time.”
He slips out the door without a backward glance, the sound of his tennis shoes growing fainter and fainter until they disappear altogether.
I take a deep breath and reach up to flick off the light. I wait for the sense of relief. The next invitation ceremony is tomorrow, and I’ll be going home.
I have what I wanted.
But the longer I stand here, the more I have an annoying prickle of a feeling that this isn’t what I want at all.