Title: Love Interest
Word count: 75,000
Genre: YA Metafiction
Cade is a Love Interest: a young man who exists solely to romance an important young woman. Each woman is assigned two Love Interests, one boy-next-door Nice and one mysterious, tortured-soul Bad, who must compete for her affection. Winners get the girl. Losers are incinerated.
With transplanted blond hair, enhanced blue eyes and perfectly sculpted abs hidden under his knitted sweater, Cade is a Nice. After proving to his captors he knows how to ask the right questions and how to smile sheepish-yet-flirty smiles, Cade is assigned to Juliet, a pale, clumsy genius whose brilliant inventions will one day change the world. Along with his rival, Cade is transported from his birthplace, an asylum-like training compound, to Juliet's hometown and the contest begins.
But when Cade meets his rival, a leather jacket wearing Bad boy with a (totally scripted) tragic past, he falls for him. Cade knows the cost of winning, so he represses his feelings and devotes himself to his role as a sweet, unthreatening and borderline obsessed Nice guy. For if anyone discovers he's become the protagonist of his own love story, or if he fails to make Juliet fall for him, he'll wind up like all unchosen love interests and vanish from the script.
All four walls of my cell are mirrors.
The red light on the ceiling flashes, sending pinpricks of light bouncing around the room. Red, huh? I grin at the light and my smile is reflected by the endless versions of myself that surround me. The light flashes again.
I drop down into a push-up position. The cement floor is so cold that my palms and fingers go numb then start to burn. Up, down. Up, down. A strand of mousy brown hair falls over my eyes. That colour will be the first thing they change about me.
If I'm chosen, that is.
If I'm good enough, that is.
On flash nine I jump to my feet. Gritting my teeth, I grab my clingy sky blue shirt and pull it up and over my head. The voice of Kaliq, The Compound's 'Events Coordinator', rings through my mind: When you're examined, be proud to display the bodies you've worked so hard to create. You are all incredibly beautiful young men and you should relish the chance to show everyone just how handsome you are.
I scrunch the slippery shirt in my hands for a second, just a second, crushing it beneath my grip. I toss it into the corner of the room. The blood and adrenaline is pumping through my torso and my arms, making them feel electric. I lower my eyes and force myself to look at the boy/man/whatever that's staring back at me.