“Hi Jace, so you’ve just met Nina Caliente… how did you feel? It seemed like you two really hit it off.” Eliza said back in full interview mode.
“She was really nice, I don’t know. I think there could be something there, eventually. It’s too soon to know.” Jace replied looking directly into the camera for the first time, he was starting to feel at ease with the whole process- which definitely weirded him out. Also, he actually felt excited to meet and talk to the other girls.
“Great, yes is it definitely too soon to tell- you haven’t even met the other candidates yet.” Eliza said and once again patted him stiffly on the back. Jace wished she would just stop… it was awkward for him and probably everyone else watching. He wondered how she of all people got the job- she really wasn’t very charismatic. “I’ll let you go socialize now. Just wanted to check in.” she said and the cameras cut away from them. Eliza smiled sheepishly at Jace and mouthed “sorry”, he shrugged and walked over to the other girls.
“Well if it isn’t America’s Sweetheart.” Luna said as Jace approached the group where the three women were talking- though Elsa could hardly be called a “woman”, she was more of a “girl” or a “teenager”.
Jace laughed uncomfortably, he could practically feel the hostility radiating off of Luna. He really wasn’t sure why or what he had done to illicit that reaction from her.
“Luna, would you mind chatting with me?” Jace said kindly and Luna eyed him skeptically.
“Surely.” she replied icily and glared at him- this was turning out to be even more awkward than Jace thought it would be and he almost regretted asking her to talk.
The both walked silently over to the bench that Jace had called his bed for his first few nights and sat down.
They were quiet for a few, long, minutes and Jace nervously picked at his fingernails- a bad habit he had picked up from his childhood.
“So, America’s Sweetheart… what is your intention in all of this?” Luna said and eyed Jace skeptically. It was the first time either of them had spoken since they left the group.
“My intention?” Jace replied shocked. What did she think his intentions were? To sleep with four different women? He would never do something like that.
“Yeah, you’re pitting all of us against each other.” Luna said plainly “Also, Elsa and Cassandra have been my friends since I was practically born, so it’s also pretty fucked up.”
“It wasn’t my choice.” Jace replied and looked at Luna for the first time since they sat down.
She was beautiful in an exotic way, and there was a sort of pain behind her eyes. The same pain Jace sometimes saw in his eyes when he really looked at himself in the mirror.
“Hah, not your choice? I don’t see anyone forcing you to do this.” Luna said sarcastically and laughed.
“You’re right- I did sign up to Build Newcrest… but I wasn’t- informed of this when I agreed. I could quit, but this is something I am passionate about- so I am playing along with the council’s rules.”
“Hmph…” she replied and Jace looked away from her again- there was something mysterious about her that he couldn’t quiet place his finger on. He also wasn’t quiet sure if he even did want to… she seemed complicated to say the least.
“What brings you here Luna?” Jace retorted challenging her.
“I just came for the free food…” Luna laughed lightly, rolled her eyes and stood up.
“It was… nice… talking with you, Jace.” Jace watched her walk away, and cursed himself for not asking her anything else about herself- because deep down inside, he really did want to know more about the mysterious and beautiful Luna Villareal.
“Hi.” a soft, high female voice said interrupting Jace’s internal monologue. “Can I sit?”
Jace looked up and saw Cassandra awkwardly standing next to him over the bench. “Yeah, of course.” he said and patted the spot next to him.
“So, how was she?” Cassandra laughed.
“How was who?” Jace asked confused.
“Luna… she’s tough on the outside but.” Cassandra hesitated “Nevermind- it isn’t my place to say anything.” she laughed nervously and brushed a strand of stray hair out of her face.
“No, tell me… please?” Jace said unleashing the full force of his charm on her. She stammered, it was awkward- but strangely endearing.
Cassandra looked at Jace thoughtfully and something she saw in his face must have changed her mind… “Well, her parents died a few years ago, when she was 16- car accident. She hasn’t really been the same ever since.” Cassandra said sadly.
“My parents died too…” Jace said quietly without realizing it.
“Oh… I’m so sorry.” Cassandra replied clearly caught off guard by Jace’s admission.
“Well, my Mom died… I haven’t had my Dad around… well- ever.” he said- he wasn’t sure why he was telling this complete stranger everything about himself but for some weird reason he was, and he felt totally comfortable doing so.
“Wow, Jace… I am so… sorry. I don’t even know if that’s the right word to say.” Cassandra replied quietly.
“Don’t be sorry, it’s fine.” Jace laughed trying to hide the pain he really felt whenever he spoke of his Mother. “What a mood killer, I should be the sorry one.” he laughed nervously.
“Don’t be.” Cassandra replied kindly and placed her hand lightly on his leg and patted it twice. She was surprised by how muscular it was- she knew Jace was obviously gorgeous- but she didn’t expect him to be so kind and transparent. It was a nice change from the spoiled boys back in Willow Creek.
“Hey, do you want to take a walk with me?” Jace asked cautiously, as if he expected the answer to be no.
“What about Elsa?” Cassandra asked, Jace immediately realized that she had a kind heart… she was concerned about someone else getting time to talk with him over herself, that or she didn’t really like him.
“Er… she’s too young for me, and she’s related to Clara – my warden.” he laughed nervously, and once again he was surprised by how easy it was to talk openly to Cassandra.
Cassandra laughed and stood up “Let’s go then.” she smiled at him and Jace stood up to lead the way. They walked for what seemed like only minutes, but it had obviously been over an hour- the sun had already set below the horizon and it was practically pitch black out.
“I had fun with you tonight.” Jace said as they came to a stop in the clearing near his house.
“Thanks, I had fun with you too.” Cassandra smiled coyly. Something in the corner of Jace’s eye caught his attention. He walked over to the blooming rose bush and plucked one off to give to Cassandra.
“For you.” he smiled and handed her the freshly picked rose.
Cassandra inhaled deeply, the fresh sent of rose tickled her nose. She’d always been a sucker for roses- not that any of the boys back home ever had given her one. Jace felt a sudden impulse rush over him as he watched Cassandra close her eyes and smell the rose he had given her and without thinking he leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips.
“That was… unexpected.” Cassandra laughed when Jace pulled back from the kiss.
“Unexpected bad or unexpected good?” Jace asked and his lifetime of insecurities flushed over him.
“Unexpected good.” she smiled “I better let you go now, though…” she said quietly, almost shy. Jace immediately wanted to kiss her again, but he held back… there was something about Cassandra that was so endearing, and sweet and amazing.
The street lamps kicked on abruptly, and even though Jace didn’t want to say goodbye- he knew he had to. He wrapped Cassandra into a tight hug and begrudgingly said goodnight.