“Ladies, it’s time,” said Chris Harrison, his voice satin (much like his designer suit).
The twenty-five women in the room nodded.
“It was nice meeting you,” Christie said to Rebecca, wrapping her arms around her new friend.
Across the room, Kristine and Hannah similarly embraced.
“I’ll let your parents know,” Maddie whispered to Charlotte, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “If, you know, it happens.”
“I’ll do the same, of course,” said Charlotte.
After much hugging and squeezing of hands, the twenty-five women followed the producers into the next room.
A makeup artist grabbed Chandra to brush on another layer of foundation.
A hair stylist sprayed more hairspray over Victoria’s long curls.
An hour later, when the women had been shuffled and pushed and jostled into the right positions, Chris Harrison stepped to the front of the Rose Ceremony room.
A gaffer fixed an angle of a light.
The camera lights blinked red.
“As you know, it’s the Rose Ceremony,” said Chris Harrison in a voice smoother than spiced rum. “Fifteen of you will be moving on, and ten of you will...not.”
The women sniffed.
“And now, Chad.” He gestured to the door at the back of the room.
The twenty-five women sighed as Chad Chaddington ambled in, dressed in a crisp gray suit. His blue eyes pierced every woman with a depth that caused their hearts to flutter and, in some cases, stop altogether.
Andi fainted, and it took half an hour to start filming again.
“Chad,” said Chris Harrison, pointing at the small table of roses sitting to Chad’s left. “It’s time.”
Chad picked up a rose and stared at the women in front of him with those ocean eyes. He cocked an eyebrow at a producer, who hurried over.
“Cut!” called the director.
“Who’s that?” Chad whispered to the producer, pointing at the women.
The producer squinted. “Who?”
“The tall one, with the long legs.”
The producer jogged back to the director’s side.
“Action!” barked the director.
“Hannah,” said Chad in a low voice.
Hannah gasped and stumbled toward the front, clutching her red dress.
“Will you accept this rose?”
Chad shoved the flower into Hannah’s hands.
“Anything for you, Chad!” she said breathlessly, ignoring the thorn that had stabbed her thumb.
“Good,” he said, before pushing her back toward the women. Hannah’s breath caught in her throat at his touch.
Silence settled over the room once more as Chad snatched a second rose from the table.
“Margot,” said Chad.
Margot swallowed back a joyful sob and drifted over to Chad, locking eyes with his.
“Will you accept this rose?”
“Of course.” She pressed her nose into the petals and inhaled deeply.
“Smell good?” asked Chad in a bored voice.
“It could never smell as good as you.” She fluttered her eyelids.
“I know,” said Chad, rolling his eyes. He pointed to the rest of the women. “You can go back now.”
Margot rejoined her friends, still sniffing her flower.
Twelve roses later, Chad stood clutching the last. The silence was so loud, the women heard ringing in their ears.
The room exploded in cries and sobs.
“Chad, pick me!”
“Chad, please! I love you!”
Chad held up his hands and the women immediately quieted as Kendra floated over to him.
“Kendra, will you accept this rose?”
“Without a doubt,” she said dreamily. She took the rose and returned to her spot in the lineup, ignoring the sniffling around her.
Chris Harrison walked forward and stood next to the Bachelor.
“Ladies, you know what that means. Please take a moment to say your goodbyes.”
The women lacking in roses embraced like they had at the beginning of the night, crying in each other’s arms.
“I can’t believe he didn’t pick me!”
“He was the one, I know it!”
Chad cleared his throat and the women all turned toward him.
“Can we get on with it?” he said, yawning.
“Charlotte,” said Chris Harrison. “You have not received a rose. Please step forward to say goodbye to Chad.”
Charlotte squeezed Maddie’s arm and walked up to Chad, her chin held high.
“I’ll always love you,” she whispered.
“Uh huh,” said Chad. He stared into her eyes before pulling a long knife from within his jacket and stabbing her in the chest.
Blood spurted from the wound, staining his white shirt red, before she fell to the floor with a loud THUMP. Her body twitched and jerked until it stilled entirely, blood pooling below her.
“Now that makes for good television!” said one producer to another, raising his voice to be heard over Maddie’s screams.
“Get in there!” the director whispered furiously to the production assistants. They ran into the set and lugged Maddie’s body out of the room, careful not to touch Chad. They’d probably be fired on the spot if they made contact with the Bachelor.
Nine more women met their ends at the hands of Chad Chaddington. The women with roses smiled at each other, shoving their noses into the flowers. The production assistants piled the bodies in a corner of the Bachelor Mansion, to be discarded the next day.
When the last woman's body had been hauled out of the room, Chris Harrison spoke again.
“Welcome to the next round, ladies!”
The fifteen remaining women cheered as a producer handed Chad a champagne bottle. He popped the cork (which flew and hit Andi in the head, causing her to pass out a second time, which no one noticed in the commotion) and sprayed the exploding champagne over his fifteen chosen women.
“Right, I need to go take a shower,” said Chad, nodding at his blood-soaked clothes.
“Take me with me you!”
“Don’t leave, Chad, don’t leave us!”
Chad waved away the chorus of desperation and coughed before walking out of the room.
“We need you!”
“Ladies, ladies!” called Chris Harrison, flashing his dazzling teeth. “You’ll get your chance!”
The producers escorted the sobbing women from the Rose Ceremony as the production assistants began mopping the blood off the floor.