Love Elimination - Sarah Gates

CHAPTER

1

Anna Hobbs dragged herself back to the tiny inner-city apartment she shared with her sister. She worked two jobs—at Stressed, a popular dessert café, and at the worst supermarket in the city—and after two shifts that day, her feet were about to fall off. Both shops had been crowded. She hadn’t even been able to fantasise about the reason she was there: her dream to own a dessert café; a dream that was close to coming true.

Anna was brainstorming names for the café when she walked into the apartment, kicking off her shoes at the door and dropping her keys into the bowl. It was only when she went to flop down on the couch that she noticed something strange. Kate, who never cooked, had set the table with their best wine glasses and a plate of cheeses cut into perfect cubes. Anna approached the table warily.

‘Why is there a cheese platter?’

‘I wanted to celebrate.’ Kate pulled her long blonde hair into a bun. She leaned across the counter and stabbed at the food. ‘I overheard you making that appointment with the bank this week. I’m so proud of you!’

A smile stretched across Anna’s face and her heart swelled at the show of sisterly support. After six years of hard work and even stricter saving, she’d earned enough money for a deposit, so she could finally find a property and start her own business. Not only that, but she had the perfect place: a beautiful old brick building not far from her apartment and close to a busy shopping strip. The building was in desperate need of renovation, which meant it was cheap.

‘Kate … thank you.’ Even now she was twenty-four years old, receiving a compliment from her older sister was like the first taste of an Adriano Zumbo dish.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Kate asked.

‘I didn’t want to get carried away until everything was signed and official. It’s not quite there yet.’

‘Well, that’s stupid. You’re going to get it and you’re allowed to be excited.’

‘Thanks.’ Anna took a seat at the counter. ‘If my loan is approved on Wednesday, the first thing I’m going to do is tell Mr Jhadav that I quit. You would not believe the abuse I got today for not chasing after some hundred-mile-a-minute woman who left without her five cents in change.’ It was pension day, which always brought a mass of elderly customers into the supermarket, and Anna had been rushed off her feet. Stressed wasn’t as bad; at least there were no cockroaches and the customers were usually nicer. But it wasn’t her café—the one she’d dreamed about since she was three years old.

Instead of laughing, Kate started tapping her ring on the counter. Anna took a sip from her wine, waiting for her sister to spit out whatever it was she wanted to say.

‘Do you think you’ll have the loan and lease contracts sorted by next week?’ Kate finally asked.

‘Maybe. If all goes well, the bank said I could be the proud occupier of 12 Marlborough Avenue by Wednesday,’ Anna said. Talking about her dream now that it was so close was tying her stomach into knots. ‘Will you be around to celebrate? Or will you have started filming Love Elimination by then?’ Anna smiled wryly. No matter how many times she said the cheesy title, she couldn’t keep herself from scoffing. Kate was a producer and even she couldn’t keep a straight face when explaining the show to strangers.

Her sister rolled her eyes. ‘We start filming the Monday after. I’ll fly out on the Sunday.’

‘And will it be better than the last dating show?’

‘I’m just hoping our Prince Charming doesn’t get any of the contestants pregnant this time.’

‘He got someone pregnant? That’s so sleazy! But at least he got his happy ending …’

‘Geez. Don’t you read the internet, Anna?’

Anna ignored the dig. ‘Are you sure you want to work on this show? Wouldn’t you prefer a cooking or renovation competition?’

‘Clearly they need me to keep the suitor squeaky clean.’ Kate took another bite, unfazed by her own lack of modesty. ‘Love Elimination is going to be nothing but fun romance and addictive drama. There will be no scandals beyond the life of the season.’

‘I’ll miss you,’ Anna said, thinking of how the highlights of her weeks were their movie nights and early-morning runs. With her saving plan stricter than military regimes the world over, Anna’s social life was non-existent. But Kate deserved to fly to a tropical paradise and oversee the