Chapter Twenty-Five

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"Good morning to each of our three finalists. It's been a sometimes harrowing journey of challenging confections and dizzying desserts but the best of the best have risen as the cream of the crop. Each of you are so different but should be so happy to be here," Aditya was working the room and he was full on charisma and charm.

Nearly two months ago and I would have been enchanted, but now the obvious falseness of it all just made me feel mildly disgusted. This entire show would be ruined for me forever after this. The challenges were actually challenging, and I'd learned a lot. But at what cost?

The night before I'd called Richard and complained yet again about Mel and he'd essentially told me to get over it because there were a million things he needed to deal with and my petty drama wasn't it.

I'd barely been able to relax for the entirety of the night because I was staving off a panic attack. It was difficult to relax when I felt like everything about the house was hostile in the worst possible way. In the end I'd called Trace and I was embarrassed to have to ask him to sing to me.

He couldn't see me, but I put myself on mute just so I could cry openly. I was so stressed, I felt like I was bursting at the seams and I felt like no one could really understand. My voice was a bit stuffed when I took myself off mute and told him I was going to sleep. I was glad he hadn't asked me what the problem was before we hung up. By now he knew my moods well enough to know prying would make me shut down.

"Darius, are you even paying attention?" Miranda drawled.

I blinked a few times, realizing that I'd been daydreaming instead of paying attention. Miranda was standing between Aditya and Isaac. All of them were dressed formally, her in a snug, blue, high neck, long sleeved dress, Aditya in dark slacks and a crisp white shirt with a few undone buttons and a blazer. But Isaac was by far the most casual. He was wearing jeans and a dress shirt with...sneakers.

He always seemed like bit of an oddball, but over the weeks it became more and more apparent. If the camera wasn't rolling he never talked to Aditya or Miranda though Aditya and Miranda were always chatting and sometimes even flirting. Though I knew both of them were married...

Isaac was the only one to truly talk with any of the contestants. During breaks he typically struck up a conversation with one of us over a dessert item he found interesting. He was always nice and was detailed in his feedback which each of us appreciated.

But, I was still surprised when Isaac fixed a glare on Miranda after she'd asked me if I was paying attention and even more surprised when Isaac rolled his eyes. He raised his arm and gestured to a producer. "Let's take fifteen!"

He walked over to me and put a hand between my shoulder blades, guiding me outside of the main cooking area and towards the hallways that eventually lead to the confessional suites. "Darius, did you sleep? You look exhausted. Do you want a coffee? I can get you a coffee."

I shook my head and shrugged away the feel of Isaac's hand. "I didn't sleep."

Isaac frowned. "Another fight with Mel?" He sounded profoundly disappointed.

I looked down at him in surprise. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Isaac shrugged. "Well. Richard gossips. He said you and Mel are like cats and dogs. He was supposed to be in charge of making sure any personality clashed were dealt with."

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