“I’m going to assume you all know the rules of the game.” Brock placed the glass bowl in the center of the low table. “Are there any of you who haven’t binge-watched every season?”
Most of the girls chuckled and smiled at Brock, some batting their eyelashes at him.
“I’m still required to tell you the memorized script,” Brock said then looked up at a man behind one of the many cameras recording from all angles. “You can edit that out, right?”
“Of course,” the guy mumbled and waved for Brock to continue.
“Right.” Brock turned his attention back to the women and leaned forward adjusting the bowl in front of him. “Let’s play a game.”
He looked around the room, eyes not resting on any one girl.
“Since there are twenty of you, I’ve made up twenty questions. When you draw one from the bowl, you answer that question, and then we’ll go around the room and each of us will answer the same question. Then we’ll pick another question.”
“That sounds like fun,” one of the women said. Did she seriously just bat her eyelashes at him? He ignored her, annoyed that she’d messed him up in the middle of his carefully memorized and rehearsed speech.
“For our first question, I want each of you to tell us your name, where you live, and what you do for a living.” He hesitated.
During Michelle’s season, Ashton had already placed himself firmly in Michelle’s sites by this point and he introduced himself first. Brock was afraid to even glance in Cora’s direction for fear he’d place an even larger target on her back.
He purposely turned in the opposite direction and spoke directly to the girl at the far end of the sofa. “Anneka, would you like to go first?”
“Sure,” Anneka said, lifting her chin with confidence. He was reminded how graceful and beautiful he’d found her when they’d first met. If Cora hadn’t been in the room, she probably would have been his first choice. “My name is Anneka and I’m originally from a little town south of Indianapolis, but I now live in New York City where I’m a principal ballerina at the New York City Ballet.”
The other girls murmured. Brock remembered how impressed he’d felt when he’d heard her tell him about her career. She must have a great deal of talent to even dance in NYC much less be a principal dancer.
“How long have you danced?” Was his voice husky? How embarrassing. He cleared his throat.
“My mother jokes that I was born with a pair of ballet slippers on my little feet.” Anneka’s delicate laugh was contagious and others joined her. “I began lessons at the age of three, was moved to the bar by five years old, and advanced to toe shoes when I was nine. I trained in the Cecchetti method.”
“I have no idea what that means.” Brock chuckled. “But maybe you can show me sometime on one of our hangouts.” He was looking forward to seeing her in leotard and tights. He shook his head to clear his mind.
“I’d love to,” Anneka said, lowering her face with a pretty blush across her cheeks.
“Okaaay…” Brock looked away from the beautiful little blonde and swept his gaze around the room. “Who’d like to go next?”
“I’m a principal in New York City as well,” Isabelle piped in.
Brock was glad he’d taken the time to memorize the names of each woman using the photos in the sitting room where he’d been told to write the At-First-Sight love letter. He fought the urge to glance in Cora’s direction, but he continued facing the elegant lady in the black dress.
“I’m principal violinist in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.”
“Violinist? Wow,” Brock said. “I’d love to hear you play sometime.”
“I’d be honored.” When Isabelle lifted her chin, it was condescending and different than Anneka’s humble recognition of talent.
Brock found it fascinating that the same basic gesture could be used so opposite depending on facial expressions and body language. Still there was something about Isabelle that made him want to dig deeper. “Have you always lived in New York City, Isabelle?”
“You remembered my name?” Isabelle placed her hand to her chest like she was flattered. Brock wondered how much of it was an act. Probably all of it. “Yes, my parents are both musicians as well. They felt I could receive the very best education if we lived in the city.”
“Not if you’re training in agricultural consulting.” Cora snorted and all eyes turned to her.
“Ag—” Brock hesitated then cleared his throat. “Agricultural consulting? I thought you said you flew drones for a living.”
“How do you think I use my drones?” Cora asked, shaking her head playfully. “Dropping missiles? That’s Nicole’s job.” Cora hooked a thumb toward her friend.
“I do not drop missiles for a living.” Nicole bumped Cora’s shoulder. “Besides, you’re not getting off that easily. It’s still your turn. Explain your drone-flying-agricultural-consulting thing.”
“Sure, and I’ll hand him a sleeping pill while I’m at it because that’s about how bored he’ll be hearing about my job.” Cora knocked her shoulder against Nicole’s in answer then raised her gaze to Brock.
Brock found himself leaning forward with his elbow resting on his knee to get a better look in Cora’s direction. He wondered if his face showed the sappy expression he felt in his heart when talking to her. He straightened his back and forced a neutral expression. “We’re ready to be bored. Tell us all about your drone flying.”
“Um, okay, well, I’m a crop analyst for an agricultural service provider,” Cora said. “We use drones and remote sensing imagery in real time to help farmers make educated decisions in fertilizer management and crop yield predictions and irrigation calibrations.”
“That’s fascinating,” Brock said, and he meant it. Everything about Cora was fascinating. One of the other women yawned. He fought the need to roll his eyes at her but kept his focus on Cora. “You’ll have to tell me more about that when we have more time.” He winked at her. If he wasn’t careful he’d end up asking every other woman in this room to leave so he could offer Cora his undivided attention. Tomorrow. Brock put on a fake smile and turned to his other side, asking another girl to go next.