by Jill Myles, Jessica Clare
"Why do I want to be on the show? Because the label told me to be here? It’s not like I begged them to slap my face on TV. I’d rather be sitting in the studio." — Liam Brogan, lead guitarist for Finding Threnody, Pre-Game Interview Footage
"Stand in front of the cameras, sweetheart, and tell us your name." The assistant’s voice rang out in the casting booth.
Nervously, I stepped forward into the bright lights, clutching the covered pan in my hands. I resisted the urge to shield my eyes from the light that was glaring right into my face and settled for only squinting a bit. "Hi there. My name’s Katy Short."
“Tell us how old you are, Katy, and what you do.” The voice behind the lights sounded utterly bored.
"I’m twenty-three and I recently received a degree from culinary arts school. I started a business. A cupcake business."
"Cute. And why do you want to be on Endurance Island?"
"Funny story,” I said with a grin, trying to make myself seem as cutely approachable as possible – not something I’m good at, since my nickname is usually ‘Cranky Katy.’ “I’m actually not here for myself. I’m here because my brother, Brodie, really really wants to be on Endurance Island. And I’m here to show him some support. We figured he’d have a better chance if we both auditioned on his behalf." I gave the cameras my best cheerful smile and uncovered the enormous pan I held. “And so I brought a few presents so you wouldn’t forget us, courtesy of Katy’s Short Cakes.”
At the unveiling of my pan, there were a few oohs and ahhs from the crew, which pleased me. It was early and they were probably hungry, so I’d banked on bringing some of my infamous ‘Short Cakes.’ I’d stayed up late into the night crafting them so they’d be fresh and delicious, and I had to admit that they looked delectable. Delicate yellow icing was piped atop perfect Dutch chocolate cupcakes in an ice-cream swirl design, and each one was drizzled with a gleaming chocolate ganache and topped with a cherry. The cupcakes in the center were missing the cherry, and I’d crafted marzipan letters, spelling out Brodie’s name using the same font that Endurance Island used for their logo.
It was all part of our plan to get my brother on Endurance Island. He talked about nothing else, and I figured if my cakes could help him, it was worth spending a Saturday morning down here at the casting call. Brodie had dressed in yellow and dark brown to match the cakes, and I’d worn a matching outfit – brown leggings under an oversized yellow t-shirt that read ‘Pick Brodie.’ My blonde pigtails were decorated with cherries. We were totally ready to sell Brodie to the casting directors.
I held out the pan. "I brought this since I figured you guys might be hungry."
Someone in the crew immediately stepped forward and grabbed the pan, and a half-dozen hands reached into it, plucking out cupcakes. I grinned as a few exclamations of delight hit my ears, and a woman with a clipboard stepped forward, cupcake in hand. She licked a bit of frosting from her fingers, then set the cupcake down and picked up her pen.
"These are amazing. What did you say your name was?"
"Katy Short," I repeated cheerfully. "And I’m here for my brother, Brodie—"
"What do you do for a living, Katy?"
I hid my frown. Jeez. Did they have the attention span of gnats or what? I eyed the cupcake she’d set down, the marzipan "B" listing to the side. Well, hopefully when they did callbacks, they wouldn’t be looking for a ‘Rodie’ instead of a Brodie. "I’m an accountant.”
Yeah. They really hadn’t been paying attention. Figured. “I’m kidding,” I told them. “I run an internet business called Katy’s Short Cakes. I create custom cupcakes and ship them all over the country." I automatically pulled out a business card and offered it to the closest person.
The woman plucked it from my hand and glanced at it, then added it to her clipboard. "You’re adorable, Katy. And sassy. We like that. So why don’t you tell us about yourself?"
"Well," I drawled. "I’m here with my brother, Brodie. I’m pretty sure he’s twice as sassy as me."
As if realizing for the first time that I’d mentioned him, the woman looked up from the notes on her clipboard. "There’s a brother?" A knowing gleam caught in her eye and she reached over and took a bite of cupcake. She then snapped her fingers and circled her hand in the air. "Someone go find the brother."
"There’s a brother," I agreed. "You’re eating his ‘B’. I’m here for him."
"You don’t want to be on TV, Katy?"
I shrugged. "I’m more interested in launching my business. It sounds like it’d be fun enough, though." A sinking feeling began to form in the pit of my stomach. If I got cast and Brodie didn’t, he’d kill me.
"How athletic are you?"
"Um." I thought for a moment. "I can carry three dozen cupcakes without breaking a sweat?"
There were titters around the cupcake box.
The casting director smiled, icing in her teeth. I automatically licked my own, hoping she’d pick up the hint. "Do you have a passport, Katy?"
I thought for a moment, then nodded. "I do. Brodie does, too."
"That’s perfect," the woman said, marking something down on her clipboard. She glanced up again and yelled. "Did someone find the brother yet?"
A long, uncomfortable moment passed and I fidgeted on the stool. No one was asking more questions, but the audition tape was still rolling. Maybe this was a good sign. The fact that they were hunting down Brodie meant that they liked him, right?
Sure enough, my brother appeared a few minutes later, his blond faux-hawk noticeable next to the bald assistant that pushed him forward to stand next to me. Brodie looked excited, and I quietly crossed my fingers.
The assistant maneuvered Brodie to stand next to me.
He immediately gave me a noogie, ripping at my blonde hair with his knuckles.
I screeched and wriggled out of his arms. “You jerk!”
“Katy,” Brodie said in a warning tone, the smile still on his face. “I’m just playing around.”
“Then you don’t mind if I kick you in the nuts when I play around?” I grumped, touching my hair. Noogies were fine and dandy – well, at least less obnoxious – when we were at home but here? In front of cameras? I was going to kill him.
Luckily, everyone laughed. “You guys are cute,” the clipboard-carrier said.
Brodie automatically threw an arm around my shoulders, grinning a mega-watt smile for the cameras and dragging me back against him. "I see you all met my little sis, Katy?"
"Matching outfits," someone whispered. "They look perfect. Casting still needs a brother and sister duo, remember?"
"I know," the woman with the clipboard said smugly. Then louder, "So Brodie, you’re the older brother?"
"Yes, ma’am," he said in a cheerful voice. "Katy came with me this morning to show support. She knows how badly I want to be on Endurance Island. We’re close. Very close."
While Brodie and I were the typical bickering siblings, it was true about Endurance Island. As soon as we’d heard casting was coming to town, Brodie hadn’t been able to shut up about it. This was his chance, he’d told me over and over again. Lots of reality TV stars used the show to get their foot in the door in Hollywood, and if this led him to a career in modeling or TV, he was all for it. I had my own doubts, since most of the people in reality TV shows weren’t exactly killing it in show-business, but Brodie wouldn’t be dissuaded.
"And you guys are local?"
"Yes, ma’am. We’re from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma."
"Ever travel much?"
Brodie glanced down at me. "We had a family trip to Cancun once. Katy got so sunburned she looked like a tomato."
"He’s lying," I chimed in, poking him in the gut. "I wasn’t that red. And he’s also neglecting to tell you about how he spent a week in London last summer, but I guess that doesn’t count as ‘travel’ since he never made it out of the pubs."
There were a few laughs, and Brodie’s arm tightened around my shoulders to an almost painful degree. Automatically, I reached over and pinched his side, like I always did when he tried to be the bossy big brother.
"Katy doesn’t really want to be on Endurance Island," he blurted. "She’s just here for me."
I pinched him again, wishing he would shut up. Where was my brother’s suaveness now that the cameras were rolling? He was coming across like a tool.
"We’re sorry," Clipboard Woman said. "But we’ve already got a couple of blond Southerners for Endurance Island. Casting’s full."
Disappointment swept through me. Poor Brodie. He’d be heartbroken. I felt all the tension leave the arm looped over my shoulder.
"But," the woman said. "We’re looking for teams for The World Races, and the brother-sister duo we had selected fell through at the last minute. We’re currently one team short."
"The World Races?" Brodie asked.
"Teams?" I squeaked.
"Yes," Clipboard Woman said with enthusiasm. "We’d like for you both to come to Hollywood for a second round of casting. If you make it on the show, you’ll be gone for a few weeks as you travel from location to location. It’s a bit of a different dynamic than with Endurance Island, but it gives you a chance to see the world. What do you think?"
"A few weeks?" I echoed, my mind racing. I had orders I was waiting to fill. There was a wedding – my biggest order yet – scheduled two weeks from today and I planned on spending every moment baking and then driving the cupcakes down to Dallas before icing them to ensure that they’d be perfect. I couldn’t leave for several weeks.
Brodie obviously knew where my mind was going, because his arm tightened around my shoulder again. "I’m sure I could get the time off of work."
I bit back a sarcastic remark. Of course he could. Brodie was a waiter.
"If you make it on the show, you’ll automatically be paid a salary of twenty thousand dollars per team. The winning couple wins a quarter of a million dollars."
My brain froze. Wait. We got paid to be on TV? Twenty thousand dollars – my share would be ten grand. Ten grand would let me buy a state of the art website and some key advertising. That would make up for the bank loan I hadn’t been able to get to truly launch my business.
"Shall I mark you down as interested?" Clipboard asked. "We think the two of you would be perfect. You’ve both got that Southern charm, you look adorable in matching outfits, and we love the brother-sister angle."
"We’re in," Brodie said automatically.
"Twenty thousand dollars?" I blurted, unable to help myself.
Clipboard chuckled. "That’s right."
"Sounds good to me," I told her. "When do we go to Hollywood?"
"Next weekend, if you’re free."
"Oh, we’re free," Brodie told her, squeezing my shoulder so tight I was pretty sure I’d have bruises. "We’re definitely free."
"Have to admit, I didn’t see any serious competition in the other teams. Get to know them? No thanks. I’ll let Tesla do that. She’s the people person. I’m just the guitar." — Liam Brogan, Day 1 of The World Races