I’m terribly nervous.
It’s release day for the DVD set for season two of the TV reality show Dance Blitz.
The show is billed as The Bachelor meets So You Think You Can Dance. The star, Blitz Craven, auditions girls to be his dance partner, and possibly, his wife. He gets to pick the winner.
I wasn’t supposed to be on the show.
But I charged onto the season two live finale, right as Blitz was about to announce which girl he had chosen. Rumors had been swirling that he was going to propose to one of the three finalists. Commercials and promo spots had been airing for days showing him buying a ring, smiling slyly at the camera.
He wanted to make sure the ring was perfect for “the one.”
“The one” was really me.
And I wasn’t even a contestant.
I knew what was really about to happen on the show. Blitz was going to do something terrible, something rash, something bad enough that he got kicked off the show, out of his obligations, and back to me.
I couldn’t let that happen.
So I walked right onto the set in the middle of the live broadcast.
That is why, on this Saturday in February, I’m with Blitz as he heads toward Wild Side Tunes and TV, a music and movie superstore, to sign DVDs. Because of my crazy actions, I’m part of his fame. We’re a package deal.
It’s the weekend before Valentine’s Day, and Blitz’s manager Hannah is positive that our being together on this promotional tour is going to send DVD sales into the stratosphere. Blitz and I don’t care about that. But she does. And the lawyers who drew up Blitz’s contract do.
So here we are in LA.
Blitz takes my hand. We’re in a limo because, of course, we have to be, driving up to a store where apparently over a thousand screaming fans have been standing in line since yesterday to ensure they got a chance to see Blitz.
We have to look the part of Reality TV Royalty, whatever that is. Hannah talks really fast, and I generally only catch every tenth word, the ones she says more emphatically, like they’re in bold uppercase letters.
And REALITY TV ROYALTY is definitely a phrase she emphasizes.
The words make me think of mostly negative things. I missed four years of television due to my father’s iron rule, but in the two months since I left home, I’ve caught up on some of the big shows. Dance Moms. Hoarders. Real Housewives.
If they are royalty, I’m not sure I want the throne.
“Your dress is killing me,” Blitz says. “I’m never going to make it through hours of signing without stealing you away.”
I glance down. The dress isn’t anything I would have picked out, but Hannah and her wardrobe people descended on us in the hotel, fitting me into everything from jeans and slashed leather vests to glittery ball gowns.
Nobody asked my opinion. In the end, they chose a stretchy dance outfit like you might see an ice-skater wear. It isn’t too crazy, the sparkly emerald skirt reaching halfway down my thigh. The fit is more demure than some of the things they’ve put on me.
But it does have diamond-shaped cutouts. One shows a lot of cleavage, and another one reveals my belly button. I was too paranoid to even eat breakfast, afraid any bit of roundness to my middle would lead to screaming tabloid headlines about a baby bump.
I get a little sensitive when people talk about babies.
Blitz looks exactly like they always have him dressed on the show. Sleek black jazz pants. A silk shirt in a pale mint green that complements my dress perfectly.
His black hair is short again, cut a few days ago by the original hairdresser from Dance Blitz. And the sexy stubble on his face is trimmed the way I’ve always known it. I reach up to run my fingers along his jaw. We are in this together.
He kisses my fingers. “Are we almost there?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, check Google,” Hannah says with irritation. She holds a compact mirror up, trying to apply lipstick on the bumpy drive.
I don’t know why she’s annoyed, or why she’s adding lipstick right now. She looks perfectly put together already. She wears a mossy gray-green suit with a pencil skirt, which I realize totally matches me and Blitz.
I’m sure some marketing research has told her that this is what will make her look like she is in charge of us. She wants to ensure that everyone around us asks her what to do, not us.
That’s what she does.
Blitz closes his eyes and holds my hand to his cheek. I know he doesn’t want to do this publicity stop. We’ve put our Dance Blitz days behind us. He’s confident that we can simply buy a house in San Antonio, where real estate is cheap compared to LA, and live comfortably forever on what he’s already earned.
With Dreamcatcher Dance Academy training us, life is perfect. I get to see my birth daughter Gabriella in ballet class. Her adoptive mother still doesn’t know who I am. No one does but Blitz. Our secret has remained safe despite the publicity.
We see no need to change anything. This DVD signing is the end of our public spotlight.
The driver rolls down the window separating the front seat from the back section of the limo. “We’re about to approach,” he says.
Hannah turns to him. “Don’t get out to open the door. We have security waiting who will keep the crowd back as Blitz and Livia enter the building. You’ll drive me around the rear for a quieter entrance.”
The driver nods.
“I miss Ted,” I say. He’s a high school friend of Blitz’s who served as my driver and bodyguard back in San Antonio.
“We can bring him out to LA if you want,” Blitz says.
“That’s okay. We’re only here for a couple more days.”
Hannah snaps her mirror shut. “What happened to Duke? I’m surprised you didn’t want him managing security for this event.”
Blitz shrugs. “I haven’t talked to him since everything went down.”
I squeeze Blitz’s hand. He doesn’t want to make any more than a passing reference to his mega-downfall, where he Tweeted a naked picture of one of the finalists along with a really terrible comment about her. The Tweet went viral and got him kicked off his own show for months. It’s how we met.
Hannah frowns. She picks up her phone and taps a button. “Lisa, check Duke Riordan’s employment status with Blitz’s estate. He’s not doing any duties currently.”
She sets down the phone. “Does he still have access to security?”
Blitz sighs. “I have no idea. I haven’t been to my LA condo since I left town last October.”
Hannah presses her perfectly lined coral lips together. “That was five months ago! And you’ve been paying him, probably to sneak around your place and collect things to sell on eBay. I say bring him back on board or take him off the payroll. It’s high time you got your act together.”
“You think there are still cameras all over your old house?” I ask.
“I’m sure there are,” Blitz says. “I don’t even know how to go about finding them all. Half were hidden behind mirrors or in plants.”
“There are services for that,” Hannah says. “But you’re still obligated to keep them until the end of your contract.”
“You’re still under contract for the show?” I ask.
“That’s why we’re here,” Blitz says.
Hannah looks from me to Blitz and back again. “You two remind everyone what true love looks like, and this will go fine. You’re a team, remember?”
“We’re a team,” I say, and move our clasped hands over to my cheek this time. “This will be fun, right?”
Blitz grunts. I look away from Hannah’s smirk.
We turn the corner and the limo is spotted by the fans lined up around the side of a two-story glass and steel building. The screams begin, so loud and piercing that they penetrate to the interior.
“Whoa,” I say.
“I can tell you right now,” Blitz says to Hannah, his voice low and threatening, “that there is not enough security on that line.”
“You should have called Duke,” Hannah says dryly. “I hired a very established company, but he knows your fans.” She glances out the window. “They are rather ardent.”
Girls are standing all around the block, holding signs, hugging each other, crying, yelling, and jumping up and down as we roll by. One lifts her shirt and tries to run to the car, bare boobs bouncing. A friend pulls her back.
My face flushes hot. Do girls always do that? I glance at Blitz, but he’s not paying any attention to the crowd, staring out the opposite window.
“Well, this is a lark,” Hannah says, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Bad boys bring out the worst in them.”
“He’s not a bad boy anymore,” I say.
“Tell that to them,” Hannah says. “They’re binge-watching all his clips. The media he has built up will never die. They’ll still think he’s a hot, young womanizing heartbreaker when he’s sixty-five.”
Blitz laughs. “That’s fine. They’re never going to see me get old.”
Hannah smooths her skirt. “I’m sure you’ll do more television work.”
“Don’t count on it,” Blitz says. He pulls me close. “I’m going to dance with this girl, teach wheelchair ballerinas, and enjoy my obscurity.”
“Sounds like you’re putting me out of a job,” Hannah says.
Blitz doesn’t answer as we pull up to the front of the store. Waist-high wooden barricades keep the fans back, and two security men with broad shoulders hold out their arms as the girls threaten to spill over the walls.
A third man opens our car door. The screams are deafening.
“Let’s do this,” Blitz says, although I see his lips move more than I actually hear him. The noise is intense.
We duck as we cross the limo to the door. I’m not a drinker, but the sparkling decanter resting in the side bar looks rather inviting as we face this onslaught of fans.
Blitz tucks my hand under his arm and steps out.
I didn’t think it was possible for the noise to get louder, but it does.
He turns and leads me out of the car. I expect everyone to go silent, upset at the evidence that Blitz is taken. But, unbelievably, the screams go up another notch.
At first all the insanity seems to be about Blitz. They wear T-shirts with his face and hold hand-lettered signs, their cell phones all taking video.
Then I spot four girls in pale blue dresses on the opposite side. They are all wearing black wigs. “Blitz!” I yell. “Are they dressed as me?”
“Look at that!” he says. He walks right over to them, and they all start screaming.
Blitz waves at me, still frozen by the limo. “Come here and take a picture!” he yells.
I move toward them with hesitation. I’ve never had anything like this happen. I couldn’t even have imagined it.
Blitz pulls out his own cell phone, and the screaming behind the blue-dress girls reaches a fever pitch.
“Selfie mode!” Blitz says, holding the phone high and pulling me against him next to the girls. Once he’s taken the shot, he tells them, “I’ll post this to my Twitter feed later so you can have it. Love the dresses.”
I think one of them is going to faint. As we head into the door of the DVD shop, two of the girls are crying and shouting, “We love you, Livia!” over and over again.
I want to turn around and take it all in, really look at these fans. They are so passionate about Blitz, and I guess, some of them, about me. I catch sight of one more sign that says “Livia spells C-O-U-R-A-G-E.”
The man who opened the car door stands by the entrance to the store. “This way,” he says.
I follow Blitz in, feeling starstruck in reverse. How is this happening? They can’t be interested in me, a two-year ballet student who can barely hold en pointe.
A small group of employees in red Wild Side shirts, plus a man in a horribly loud cherry suit, wait for us just inside. When the door closes, the quiet is bliss.
“You have quite a lot of fans out there,” the man says. “I’m Lewis, owner of Wild Side Tunes and TV.” He reaches to shake Blitz’s hand. “We are delighted to have you here today.”
Lewis reminds me of the used-car salesmen I used to see on TV ads. But he seems friendly. He introduces four employees who will be helping organize the line and keep things moving. We follow Lewis as we cut through shelves of movies and CDs to a set of stairs.
“We’ll control access to you via the stairs,” Lewis says, pointing up. “Fans will go up these, cross to you at a table up there, and then come down the other side.”
Hannah walks up from the back of the store as he’s finishing. “I assume you have an emergency exit in case of a rush?” she asks. “We need a safety plan.”
“Freight elevator is directly to the right of the signing table,” Lewis says. “We have six security guards. My staff will brief you on the situation. Former presidents have held public events here. We have it covered.”
“There is a private room where you two can wait until we begin,” Lewis says. “About fifteen minutes until we open the doors.”
I turn back to the windows. “Can we see outside from up there?” I ask.
“Yes,” Lewis says. “It’s a nice view of the street. Would you rather wait there?”
“Yes,” I say. “I want to see everything.”
Blitz steps aside and gestures to the stairs. “Lead the way, my lady. I’ll follow you anywhere.”
We head up, Lewis behind us. Hannah and the staff have moved elsewhere.
The front of the store is all glass, so when we reach the second floor and look out, all the fans piled up outside can see us. Most are in an orderly row that snakes around the building, but others are clumped together on the sidewalk outside the doors.
“We’ve given away three hundred wristbands to the ones we think you can get to during your allotted time. We estimate there are about eight hundred more who won’t get in,” Lewis says.
“That’s terrible!” I say. “They wait all night and don’t even get in!” I turn to Blitz. “That isn’t fair!”
“It’s part of the deal,” Blitz says. “We can only sign so fast.”
“We’ll have to be faster!” I say.
Blitz puts his arm around me. As we stand at the rail overlooking the store and the crowd outside, I start to actually feel a little like royalty. I lift my hand to wave at everyone, and the sudden increase in volume is audible even from inside.
A girl in a red shirt approaches. “Ten minutes, sir. We have six media representatives downstairs asking to set up. What should I do with them?”
“I’ll handle it,” Lewis says. He turns to us. “I’ll confer with your manager about the press. Enjoy your last quiet moments. Sharon, can you show them where the private bathroom is and what the plan will be should they need a break?”
Sharon nods. “This way,” she says.
I’m impressed by her laid-back manner around Blitz. She acts like he is any customer. Maybe that’s why she has this particular job. She isn’t impressed by fame.
Sharon shows us the table, the path to the bathroom, and talks about the security that will be at the tables. Then another girl in a red shirt races up the stairs.
“Don’t let them go to the bathroom alone!” she says, huffing from her dash. “His manager says to keep them apart.”
Blitz and I look at each other for a second as Sharon’s face blooms red. Then he laughs, so hard and so long that I can’t help but join him.
“Challenge accepted,” he says, and pulls on my hand to take me to the bathroom.
The other girl panics, trying to block our way. “Your manager says you will destroy her hair and makeup.”
“I like it when he does that,” I say.
She looks horror stricken, as if she will be personally held responsible if I have an eyelash out of place.
Blitz lets her off the hook. “Don’t worry about it. We don’t have any plans to deflower your private bathroom’s innocence.”
“We don’t?” I ask, and both girls’ faces match their shirts.
“Oh, now I’m tempted.” Blitz leans in to kiss me when Hannah’s sharp “Don’t you dare mess up her lipstick!” temporarily stops him.
“Oh, but I will,” he whispers, and lightly brushes his lips against mine. It’s not enough to do any damage.
Then he releases me and says, “Hannah, you spoil all the fun at these things.”
Hannah is indignant. “Blitz Craven, I’ve defended your manhandling of enough dancers to last a lifetime. But you’ll save it for the cameras and at least let us get some proper publicity shots before you muck everything up.” Hannah’s face is set, her posture in the green outfit like that of an angry schoolteacher.
Feet thunder on the stairs. I half expect the fans to be invading, but it’s just an army of photographers, camera crews, and at least two reporters holding microphones. I feel my panic closing in. Nobody said we’d have to talk to the cameras! I thought this was just a signing, fans would come and go and snap pictures, and then we’d be done! I clutch at Blitz’s hand.
“You have five until we open the doors,” Lewis says.
“Nonsense,” Hannah cuts in. “We’ll get what we need before we let them in.”
Lewis gives her a quick nod. “Whatever the lady wants.”
“Blitz?” I whisper. “What is this?” I turn my back to the people setting up lights and camera stands.
“It’ll be fine,” he says. “You don’t have to say anything.”
“Nobody prepped me for interviews! Nobody told me what to say!”
Blitz holds my cheeks with both palms and looks me straight in the eyes. “You are fine. Nobody coaches us. Just speak from your heart.”
“What if my heart wants to set them on fire?”
Blitz gives a throaty laugh and pulls me against him. “You’re too perfect, Princess,” he says. Flashes start to pop.
Hannah walks by us and says in a low singsong voice, “Don’t muss her makeup!”
Blitz twirls a curl of my hair. I want to hide in him, bury my face against his strong chest. But we’re not alone anymore. We’re in front of the people who can make or break us. And they’re probably already recording. For all I know, this is live on some online feed.
“You can do it,” Blitz says.
I take a deep breath. I was brave enough to walk unannounced on live TV, I can smile in front of a few cameras.
One of the women is already recording in front of a giant sign that reads “Dance Blitz.”
She says into the camera, “We’re here with Blitz Craven and his surprise contestant at the signing of the DVDs for Dance Blitz. The intense season ended with the dancing Romeo’s newest lover storming onstage to seize the title from the three finalists who had been working all season to woo the man of their dreams.”
I spot the red light on the camera that is trained on her.
And the panic starts to take over.
I am so not up for this.