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Authors: Carina Wilder

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BOOK: Winning the Alpha
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, I’m wondering if you’d like to be one of the women on this show, one of the candidates,” Tristan said, holding onto my hand longer than he needed to. His voice had changed a little and I thought I detected a hint of a conspiratorial intimacy in it. “That is, if you’re single, of course.”

I am single. But just to be clear, you’re talking to me, right? Not my friend.” I asked. I hated showing insecurity but I felt like something was amiss here. What kind of reality show recruits a big girl to be among a group of hot women with fake breasts? This was setting off alarm bells.

“Yes, you.” He turned to Kate. “This is in no way a reflection on you, by the way
, um…”

“Kate,” she said, grinning.
She was loving this. “I’m not offended in the least.”

Excuse me, Tristan, but what kind of show is this really? I’m not exactly your typical bikini babe, as you may have noticed.”

He looked at me, an expression of reproach on his face. “
I’ve told you the basic structure. Look, I stopped to talk to you because I saw you from about a hundred feet away and knew immediately that you were perfect.”

“Perfect for what?”


I was blushing all over again and Kate was try
ing to stifle a giggle. Our newfound position as two teenage girls was now solidified.

from perfect.”

“You’re beautiful.”

I looked at him, trying to detect a note of irony in his face or voice. Was this a trick? Was there a hidden camera around? Was I going to be humiliated?

“Okay, so let me get this straight: you want
to be on a show, battling with other women to compete for the affections of some handsome man who may find me completely unattractive, repulsive even?”

“You could put it that way, yes. But so could any woman on the show. That’s what it’s all about, after all.”

“Don’t you think that might be a little embarrassing?”

“For the man if he rejects you, yes. He’d be an idiot.”

“Well, you’re a charmer, aren’t you? I’ve rarely met a man who’s so good at saying all the right things. Must be a TV producer skill.”

Nikki, stop being such an idiot,” said Kate, her smile never fading. “I tell you all the time that you’re beautiful and you never believe me. Now maybe you’ll start.”

I allowed myself to be silent for a second. I was never able to accept compliments about my looks and I had no confidence to absorb them, but this man seemed genuine.

“Let me ask you this one question, Tristan,” I said. “Is it your job to recruit for this show? It’s not normally a producer who does this sort of thing, is it?”

“No. But
as the senior producer, I have the final say in the selection process, and we need one more girl. Like I said, you’re perfect.”

Nikki, you have to do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Kate. She was right, I knew. Even if it ended up being horrible at least it would be something to remember.

“I suppose…”

“Don’t suppose. Just do it. You were just saying that you didn’t know what to do with yourself. And like she said, she is single,” she added, turning to the handsome producer.

I lo
oked at Tristan, searching for my own answer in his eyes.

He pulled a business card out of his wallet and handed it to me. “I don’t want to pressure you.
That is, I totally want to pressure you. I want you. On the show, I mean.” I expected him to blush now, to be embarrassed, but this man’s confidence seemed unshakeable. “Here’s my card. Email, text, call me as soon as you have an answer. But I hope it’s yes. And don’t worry---I’ll look after you and make sure no harm comes to you, Nikki. And in case it’s a selling point, I should tell you: this show isn’t quite like the ones you may have seen. There are a few, shall we say, major twists.”

I smiled at him finally. “Okay, you’ve intrigued me,
Tristan. I’ll take your card and I’ll give you an answer in the next twenty-four hours.”

His face broke out in an enormous smile. I could tell that he thought I’d say yes.
Yes, he seemed like a genuinely confident man, but of course he was. It was hard to imagine a man who looked like this being anything but.

“You’re pretty sure you already know my answer, aren’t you?”
I asked him.

“I’m pretty sure you’re about to embark on an interesting adventure,” he said, putting a hand
on my shoulder. It was a perfectly innocent gesture and should have felt friendly and reassuring, but instead it made me tremble, goosebumps rising on my skin. Under his hand I felt my body give in, relaxing and tensing at once. To my surprise, I felt a delicious tingling between my legs. This was what they talked about when they referred to pure animal magnetism. This was a woman’s body wanting a man’s. Had he kissed me then and there I wouldn’t have resisted for a second.

It’s not that no one ever touched me; I’d had a love life until recently. But I wasn’t used to being touched so casually by such a gorgeous specimen of man.
And I certainly wasn’t used to being so immediately drawn to a person.

I let myself smile at
him again, though I felt a surge of shyness, and said, “I’ll be in touch.”

“I know you will,” he replied,
and turned away.

“Oh my God,” said Kate as soon as
Tristan was out of earshot. “That was so crazy.”

“Wasn’t it though? That was the most surreal experience of my life.”

“He was so into you.”

“No he wasn’t. Anyhow, he’s not supposed to be. He’s the producer. This is meant to be about the other guy, the one I haven’t met yet.”

“I guess so. It’s going to be hilarious, competing with a whole bunch of women for one guy.”

“It’s the sort of thing I hate. I think it breeds insecurity and pits women against each other in a really shitty way.”

“But think about it, Nikki. You can change the face of reality TV. You’re intelligent and witty, and you don’t have to stoop to the usual levels of bitchiness. Flaunt what you have.”

“I haven’t said I’m going to do it yet, Kate.”

“But you are. I know you are.”

I tried to imagine how I’d feel if I never saw
Tristan again.

“Of course
I am,” I said.

Meeting the Big Guns


“I’m so happy to hear you’ll be joining us,” said Tristan’s response when I emailed him that night. I hadn’t expected to hear from him right away, but there he was. It seemed almost like he was waiting for me to be in touch.

“You won’t regret it. And I’m really looking forwa
rd to getting to know you,” he wrote. The last sentence sent a shiver down my spine in the best possible way but I reminded myself that he probably said this to all the girls.

The information
that he sent contained a long list of things to prepare and do as well as rules and regulations of conduct on the show, and told me that I was to meet with him and some other behind-the-scenes producer types on Monday at an office in town. So I had one day to prepare mentally for the encounter, where I would be scrutinized as a potential candidate.


After I showered on Monday morning, I found myself looking in the mirror, studying my physical appearance as I’d tried to do in the shoe store’s window. My large bath towel wrapped around my body, I tried hard to uncover what Tristan had seen in me; why he would choose me of all the women in the mall. My less than confident intuition still told me to think he was nuts or, worse, pulling my leg.

But I decided to
try and take him seriously. I was an adult now, and it was time for me to build some confidence and start believing it when people gave me a nice compliment. If only it were an easy task.

I sat on the edge of
my bathtub and looked in the mirror, beginning the scrutiny with my face. My blond hair was a good start; it had always been naturally curly and fine, and framed my features nicely. It was the one physical trait that got me noticed from across the room, and I’d received compliments about it all my life. Those I believed without a problem; I was quite proud of my hair, really. I almost saw it as a separate entity for which I couldn’t take credit.

My eyes were large and blue. My nose was fine, and my lips full. I even had high cheekbones. Adding all these qualities up in my mind I realized that yes, I could understand how someone would define me as beautiful. But then came the painful part.

I moved my eyes down slowly. My neck was all right, I supposed. Nothing special, but not horrible. I arrived at my shoulders and my chest. I stood up and eyed myself. What would I think if I saw myself from across a crowded room? Well, my breasts were round and full; that’s not a bad thing, and if I wore the right bra they were quite spectacular, even. My shoulders were a little round and soft, but I’d always thought that was better than bony joints.

So far, I thought, I was doing all right at seeing the positives.

But my waistline was what bothered me the most. I supposed that every woman wanted an hourglass figure, and mine wasn’t quite there, to put it mildly. There was simply too much of me around the middle, and I didn’t like that. It’s when I looked at my mid-section that I began to freak out, not because it was any different from what it had always been, but because I knew that on these shows they tended to throw the women into tiny bikinis, and no way was I doing that. I made a mental note to talk to the producers about this tomorrow and to add to my contract:
No fucking way am I wearing a bikini, you crazy assholes. Signed, Nikki.

I didn’t mind my lower half too much; my hips were round and my legs, though big, were shapely. My last boyfriend had
been really into my ass. A lot of women never realize how much men love a round bum, and we’re always trying to hide what we have. But we shouldn’t, any more than we should hide a pair of nice breasts.


My final assessment was that I was indeed attractive, albeit bigger than a lot of girls.


In a strange way I was grateful to have been forced into a situation where I had to look at myself a little objectively. I was so used to passing by mirrors without stopping, denying my reflection and therefore my own existence, and just assuming that I was equally invisible to everyone else. It was rare for me to sit and conclude that there was anything positive about me, let alone that I was distinctive or special in any way, and so this was a giant step forward.

But I was still awfully nervous about the idea of sitting in front of a bunch of judgmental people whose job it was to size me up (no pu
n intended), let alone appear on TV in front of millions of people.

Well, it would be a challenge, anyhow.
And that was as positive as I could be about the ordeal.


On Monday morning I made my way to the production office and was told by a receptionist to take a seat in a waiting room. The space was sterile; white walls, green chairs and the requisite industry magazines sitting on a coffee table, untouched but for the nervous hands of people in my position who waited to be checked out by strangers. There was a faint scent in the air of cleaning products. It felt like I was at the doctor’s office about to have the least pleasant, most invasive exam I could imagine, and I began to wonder what I’d been thinking when I’d accepted this offer. I could only hope that latex gloves wouldn’t be involved.

I sat, nervously fidgeting with my fingers and staring at the floor in front of me. I told myself that it was all right, that I looked good
. They wouldn’t laugh and point; they would accept me with open arms.

After the morning’s shower
I’d put on a black dress which accentuated my cleavage (but not too much) and had reviewed my skills with makeup. I wasn’t sure if all the women on these shows had professional makeup artists looking after them daily or if I was expected to make myself look presentable on camera. Either way, I was determined to look as good as possible and to behave in a dignified way. I figured that Kate was right; I could try and change the face of reality TV and to raise the level. It wouldn’t be too hard, after all.

“Remember,” she’d said, “Don’t say anything that could get you into trouble
when you’re in front of the cameras. We forget that they edit the crap out of everything just to make women look stupid or bitchy. Don’t give them anything to work with.”

“It would be hilarious if I were the villain, though. You have to admit that,” I’d said. “They’d be so confused: do we keep her around
because the audience loves to hate her, or drop her because she’s too damned fat?”

“They’ll keep you around for being awesome and wonderful,” she’d said.

“We’ll see.”


The receptionist finally told me that I could go in and signaled to an intimidatingly large, closed door. I rose and walked over to it, breathing deeply in an attempt to slow my pounding heart. I wondered if anyone would be able to tell how nervous I was.

As I opened the door into a long, dark room,
another woman was walking towards me on her way out. She was tall and thin, perfect in that plastic way that women can be. I was used to the female students at the university who were young and fit and pretty, but who hung out in yoga pants and hoodies on days when they were relaxing. This woman was perfectly made-up, her blond hair styled professionally and her lips plumped with collagen. Her breasts probably didn’t need the constraints of a bra since they were likely full of silicone, defiant of gravity and all other external forces. They probably wouldn’t move even if you threw her onto a trampoline and ordered her to bounce.

It was her face that struck me
most though. She looked me up and down, her eyes no doubt being the only feature that was really mobile because of whatever gallons of Botox had been injected into her young flesh, and her look of disdain and disgust hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as though she’d shot me with a bazooka full of judgment, and I immediately felt the impact.

initial reaction was to look at the ground. I wanted to retreat and avoid her gaze, to disappear into the floor and never reappear. But I told myself that no, this wasn’t how I was going to behave from now on. If I couldn’t stand up to this woman’s glare I’d be eaten alive on the show. I brought my eyes up again to meet hers and, pulling my chin up, walked past her confidently. I saw her face shift immediately to a look of near-surprise. It wasn’t able to demonstrate proper emotion as she seemed unable to raise her eyebrows, the poor frozen thing.

I walked by her and
felt my confidence rise even more when I finally saw Tristan sitting at the table ahead of me. Three other people were there with him, but other than registering their number I really wasn’t aware of them, nor did I care that they were in the room. Something about the gorgeous man I’d met a couple of days before reassured me and made me feel safe, and the smile on his face only reinforced the feeling of warmth that surged through my body when I looked at him.

He stood up as I came near and pulled a chair out for me.

“Nikki, have a seat,” he said. “It’s great to see you.”

“You too,” I said, nervous as I smiled at
him and the others. Two men in business suits and one woman sat around the table.

“So,” said
Tristan, “You’ve decided to come to the dark side. We’re so glad.”

I looked at his colleagues
to see if they were as glad as he claimed. I didn’t doubt that
was happy to see me, but I still had that nagging fear of judgment from the other three. They didn’t seem to have much expression on their faces at all so it was impossible to tell. The one thing that I noticed is that they each had eyes almost as piercingly blue as Daniel’s. It struck me immediately as odd but I chalked it up to some sort of genetic propensity for light-eyed people to get into the television business, spending hours on end indoors.

if I’ve come to the dark side it’s because you’re a very convincing man,” I said. “This isn’t exactly the sort of thing I normally sign up for.”

“This is Susan, Mark and David, by the way,” said
Tristan. “They work in production on the show with me. Susan will explain why you’re here.”

After I’d shaken hands with each of them, Susan started speaking
, her light eyes locked on me.

“We just want to give you an idea what you’re in for,” she said. “It can be an intense process and you need to know that we’re here for you if things get overwhelming.

I wondered if she said this to everyone, or if she was specifically concerned about me
because of the abuse I might have to take for not being rake-thin.

She continued to talk me through the process, telling me about the daily routine. We’d meet in the mornings
with producers as a group and be briefed, and we’d have private interviews. There was a room which was apparently soundproof where we’d be able to go to pour our hearts out. Basically, what they wanted was for us to open up and shamelessly talk about our feelings, whether or not we were falling for the mystery man we’d be meeting. Nothing about talking to strangers about your innermost thoughts or emoting for a television audience seemed particularly sincere to me but I could see that it wouldn’t make great TV to have a bunch of women saying things like, “Meh, he’s all right, I suppose. I’d fuck him, but I won’t marry him.”

“The point,” said
Tristan, “is to make the audience root for individual girls. You want people to want you there and to want you to win. It’ll improve your chances in the end. Girls who are good for ratings tend to stick around.”

Improve m
y chances? My chances to get my claws into some man I’d never met who might be as vapid as a sack of rocks? I mean, what kind of a man engages in this sort of thing, anyhow? Of course, I wasn’t one to talk; I was planning to compete against a whole pile of other women, as if we were a herd of wild horses hoping for a chance to hump the stallion.


Oh my God. It’s possible that I’ve gone insane, I realized.


“But in the end we wouldn’t want you to feel like you’re compromising your ethics or being dishonest, Nikki,” Tristan continued. “You want to appear sincere if you can do that, but not to come out and say, ‘God, I hate this fucking guy and wish he’d die in a fire’ on television.”

I laughed, surprised at his language. “I’m a little disappointed
if you’re saying that I’m not supposed to swear like a goddamned sailor,” I said. “But I’ll do my fucking best.”

“Good girl,” said
Tristan. The others continued to look overly serious, unamused by my less than ladylike language. And here I would have thought they’d encourage that sort of thing, based on the classless women I was used to seeing on their kind of show. I supposed I should aim to do my mother proud though and be on my best behaviour as Kate had suggested.

It wouldn’t be easy.

“What about things like clothes?” I asked. “Do they provide wardrobe?”

“Yes, you’ll be well looked after that way,” said Susan. “You’ll be measured and have a fitting for the dresses and all of that.
You should pack warm clothes and practical ones, as you’ll all be located in the mountains.”

This was
news. The show was becoming more interesting by the minute.

There’s also a workout room which is never shown on television, but you’ll have the opportunity to exercise on a daily basis.”

BOOK: Winning the Alpha
13.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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