“I’m Maxine Miller with Know Now News reporting live. Back to you in the studio.”
“And cut!” the cameraman called.
Maxine dropped her saccharine smile and handed her microphone over to her cameraman. The little girl at my side slipped her tiny hand from mine and ran over to her. “Mommy!” she called. Maxine scooped her up and walked back over to where I was still standing.
Maxine balanced the little girl on her hip, holding her in the crook of her left arm and tucked away a stray brown hair with her free hand. The little girl did the same, trying to be a miniature copy of her mother. “Thanks so much for watching her, Lyra,” she gushed. “Breaking news stories are so rare that I never have time to get a sitter for her.”
I shrugged easily. “Yeah, no problem. It’s not like I was writing or anything,” I replied bitterly.
She shifted her daughter slightly and frowned at me. “C’mon, Lyra, we’ve gone over this. You’re still young and you’re new to the Know Now paper. Mr. Maddison will give you a break soon enough. Just stop crying about it.”
I glared at my older sister. Maxine wasn’t even thirty and already had her dream career- news anchor. To top it off, she had a loving husband and the most adorable three-year-old daughter. I was already 24 and single, living alone in a tiny two story house. I was grateful for my sister getting me a photography job at the only newspaper our small town of Logan had, but I still wanted more from my life. “Max, I don’t want to be a photographer. I want to be a journalist.”
“Auntie write!” my niece Mackenzie added. She started bouncing around in Max’s arms to emphasize her point. Mac was a serious wiggle worm. My arms were still tired from trying to contain her while Maxine was in front of the camera.
“See? Listen to the kid. I’m a writer, sis. I don‘t even like taking pictures.”
Maxine sighed. I could tell that I was getting on her absolute last nerve. “One day your name will be in the bylines. Lyra-Rose Dawson will be the most famous name in journalism that Know Now has ever had. Just give it time. You’re still young and you need to be patient.”
I knew that Max was right, but that didn’t stop me from sulking away from her and to the nearest Starbucks. I waited impatiently in the long line tapping my leather-booted foot. I was blunt in that rude way when it was my turn and I didn’t even wait for the young girl at the register to ask for my order before I said, “Venti caramel macchiato with an extra shot of caramel. Lyra-Rose. Thanks.”
I made my way over to the only free table in the joint and I pulled out my laptop and started it up. Even if no one would give me a chance, that wasn’t going to stop me from attempting to pump out some news stories that I hoped would get my name out there.
While I waited for my computer to boot, I studied myself in the dark screen. I was an oddity in my family. The Dawsons were known for their dark hair and hazel eyes. I, however, had strawberry locks that fell in waves to my shoulders and blue orbs in my heart-shaped face. I was lighter-skinned than anyone else and lacked the family freckles. Even little Mac didn’t stand out as much as I did and her father was the stereotypical All-American blue-eyed blonde-haired boy. I used to think I was adopted- until I accidentally saw the tape of my being born.
I sighed and rested my cheek against my palm, squishing part of my straight nose and adding more fullness to my plump pink lips.
“Lyra-Rose?” the girl called from the counter.
I closed my still-starting laptop, put it in the case, and took all my stuff up to retrieve my caramel macchiato. By the time I grabbed my hot coffee cup and turned around, someone had taken my table. I glared daggers at the guy with dark, curly hair but his stormy grey eyes stayed glued to the paper so my evil eye had no effect on him.
“Excuse me jerk off, but this is my table,” I snarled at him in the middle of the crowded coffee shop.
“Your name is not on it,” he replied with a dreamily deep voice. He didn’t even bother to raise his gaze to meet my icy stare. He was an asshole through and through. I already hated him after all of three seconds.
I stood there tapping my foot and drumming my fingers against the computer bag over my shoulder. He ignored me and it was blatantly obvious that he wasn’t going to move. I was annoyed as hell but even I knew my limits and I wasn’t stubborn enough to keep standing there like an idiot. I sighed and turned back toward the front entrance.
Faster than lightning, he was there blocking my exit. He was tall, nearly a foot larger than my curvy five-foot-five frame and I had to crane my head to look up at him. “What the hell? How’d you do that?” I muttered in awe.
He didn’t answer my question. Instead he held up his hands in surrender and said, “Wait. That was very rude of me. I am sorry.”
I arched one perfectly waxed eyebrow. “Sorry? You didn’t seem too sorry as you were sitting there being an ass.”
He grimaced slightly. “Like I said, I was rude. Why do we not share the table?”
I wrinkled my nose slightly and chewed my bottom lip. “I’m not big on the whole sharing thing. But if it gets me my table back, then sure, whatever.” I was the baby of the family and I was used to getting my way but I’d long ago learned the basics of compromise.
The man smiled widely and I felt my heart flutter frantically in my chest. His muscles were perfectly toned, his shoulders wide-set, and he had the type of face you see on paintings of angels. He held out his hand politely to me. “Michael Page.”
I shook it. His hand was warm in mine, which was weird for me because most peoples’ skin felt cool at my touch. My average body temperature was a flat 100 degrees but I’d never been sick a day in my life. Yeah, I know I’m kinda weird. “Lyra-Rose Dawson.”
I pulled my computer back from its case and set it out in front of me as I sat back on my chair. I opened a word document and then just stared at the blank screen. I was stuck. Even after all my whining to Max, I didn’t even know what to write about. I sipped at my coffee, wracking my brain for an article idea.
“Having writer’s block?” my companion asked, nodding toward my untouched laptop.
I glared up at him over the top of my steaming cup. “That’s really none of your business, now is it?”
He smirked at me. “It is just a simple question, Lyra-Rose. There is no need to get defensive. I apologize again if I have offended you.”
I gave him a funny look. He sounded like a proper Englishman and didn’t use any of the modern colloquialisms like conjunctions. “You know, you look around my age but you’re strangely formal. What’s with that?”
He blinked at me. “Maybe I am older than I look,” he teased.
I glared at the guy. “Don’t be sarcastic, A-hole. I don’t take mocking very well.”
He smiled wryly. “No, I do not suppose that you do. You definitely are not the kind of girl to hold back what you think, are you?”
I rolled my eyes at the annoying man. “Know what? I think I’ve had enough of you, dude.” I started shutting down my computer and gathering all of my stuff.
“Leaving so soon?”
“Yes. You annoy me and I get pissed very easily. Plus I have to get back to work.”
“Good-bye, Lyra-Rose. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Whatever,” I muttered, tossing my computer bag over my shoulder and grabbing my half-full coffee. I wasn’t sure what it was about the guy, but I already didn’t like him. Something about him seemed very familiar and I didn’t want to stick around to find out what that something was.
“Lyra-Rose, do you have my pictures yet?”
“Lyra, where’s the film from last night’s fire?”
“Lyra, do you have that roll for me?”
“Lyra-Rose!” I jumped. Hearing my name yelled throughout the busy office was nothing new so it normally didn’t faze me. But hearing my boss snap at me usually meant that something was up. And it was never good. He motioned me into his office and I quietly closed the door behind me.
“Y-yeah, Mr. Maddison?” I stuttered before I quickly cleared the lump blocking my throat.
Mr. Maddison owned the paper and the news station and was really involved in both. He was a large man in his mid-forties. He always wore a dress shirt and slacks, whose buttons were stretched due to the beer belly that hung over his waistband and he never left home without his tie. He had no neck, a double chin, and a quivering black mustache.
“Lyra-Rose, your sister tells me that you are unhappy with your current job.”
Ugh, stupid Maxine. “That’s not it-”
He held out one meaty hand to stop me. “Let me finish, Miss Dawson. Max says that you would like the opportunity to be a journalist. Todd Johnson is going to be gone for the week so I am going to need another field reporter. Are you up for the job?”
My eyes grew wide in disbelief. “Are you serious? Yes, I would absolutely love it!”
“Righty. Maybe if you do a good job, I’ll keep you as a journalist full time. Go out there and find me a filler story.”
I practically ran back to my tiny office. I was so excited for the chance to write and apparently my enthusiasm was obvious because my best friend followed me from his office into mine. He shot me a curious look and I told about getting the temporary reporting job without even pausing to breathe.
“I can’t believe that you got your first writing assignment,” my best friend Randall gushed. He worked at the paper with me but we’d known each other since like preschool. We’d actually gone out once in junior year of high school to a school dance, but that didn’t work out very well because he was gay. I was the first person that he ever came out to but now he fully flaunted his gayness.
“I know, right? It’s so amazing!”
“What’s big sis got to say about it?”
I shrugged and took a sip of my coke. “I haven’t told her yet. You’re the only one that knows right now.”
Randall clapped his hands over his heart dramatically. “Oh, I feel so special.”
I punched his knee lightly. “You should. If anyone else was sitting on my desk with their legs swinging in my face, I’d have a huge hissy fit.”
He gasped in mock terror. “Oh, no! Not a hissy fit!”
I giggled and punched him again. “You’re such an ass.”
“You know you want some Lyra.”
I waggled my eyebrows at him suggestively. “You know it baby,” I flirted. He crossed his legs tightly as if I would actually try anything with him. We both stared at each other before laughing hysterically. Sometimes it was really easy to forget that we were supposed to act like adults at work.
“Lyra-Rose,” a girl that worked at the front desk interrupted.
I looked up at the sound of my name and tried to stop giggling like a loon. “Yeah Amy?”
“You have a visitor. I’ll send him right over.”
“A ‘him’?” Randall smiled. “You haven’t been holding back on me now have you, Ly? Is he cute? If he is, does he play for my team or does he have a gay twin?”
I slapped his thigh. “I don’t even know who it is. But I hope that he’s cute. Maybe then I’ll have someone to take to Family Dinner this weekend.”
“Hey,” he protested. “I thought that you were taking me.”
I started to laugh at Randall’s pouty face but it was cut short when I saw who my surprise visitor was. “How the hell did you know where I was?” I hissed vehemently.
His lips curled upward in a mocking grin. “You left something at the coffee shop, Lyra-Rose.”
He pulled out a flash drive from his pocket- my white flash drive with pink polka-dots and paper’s logo on it. My eyes went wide and I quickly dove under my desk for my computer bag. I only had to dig through it for a minute to realize that it wasn’t in the bag where it was supposed to be. I groaned. “Then I think I owe you an apology. Too bad I don’t say ‘sorry’ to creepers. Thank you for bringing it back here, Mr. Page.”
“It’s Michael, please.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I usually don’t use first names with people that I’ve just met or don’t like.”
“Which category do I fall into?”
“Both,” I answered vaguely. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to get done.” I nodded toward the door but he wouldn’t take a hint.
“Well, since you will not give me an apology, why not let me apologize for earlier? How does dinner Friday night sound to you?”
“She’d love to!” Randall interrupted before I could object. I shot my best friend a look that said that he was absolutely insane but he wasn’t even looking at me. His gaze was focused on the stranger, his baby blue eyes wide like he was trying to communicate silently with the annoying man.
“Perfect. I look forward to seeing you again, Lyra-Rose. I shall call you later with the details.”
“Ha,” I chuckled when Michael Page left my office. “He doesn’t even have my number.”
Spoke too soon. He poked his head in and opened his mouth to say something. “526-5408,” Randall said before anyone else could get a word in edgewise. Michael smiled and disappeared once again.
I glared at Randall and shook my head. “I hate you.” He just smiled and hopped off my desk and out the door.