I had a major hangover when I woke up the day after my parents’ party. I hauled myself out of bed at noon and shuffled to the bathroom and the medicine cabinet. I took two Advil before lumbering downstairs to the kitchen and then rummaged through my fridge as quietly as I possibly could but every little sound was like a jackhammer to my aching head. I managed to get myself some cinnamon toast then went to lay on the couch in the living room while I ate my simple breakfast. I made myself cozy, wrapping a blanket around my shoulders and trying desperately to get comfortable.
I was watching Project Runway with the volume low and drinking my own personal recipe for an anti-hangover smoothie when someone started pounding on the door. “Come in,” I shouted just to stop the annoying banging.
The door opened and Michael Page walked in. I groaned and threw my blanket over my head like an immature kid. “What do you want?”
He pulled the blanket away so that it wasn’t covering my face any more. His grey eyes were full of concern. “Lyra-Rose, are you sick?”
“Worse. I’m totally hung-over. I had to go to a stupid party last night and had just a little bit too much to drink. I’m just glad that my mother didn’t catch me vomiting in the bathroom.” My face turned bright pink when I realized how much I was sharing with a complete stranger.
“So you will be okay?” he asked worriedly.
I nodded. “I’ll be totally fine as long as that chick Vega doesn’t tell my mom how hammered I was. She’d totally kill me.”
He froze suddenly, his grey eyes wide and his dark complexion paler than normal. “Vega?”
“Mm-hmm. I don’t really know who she is but she looked kinda like me so I’m pretty sure that she’s related somehow.”
“Have you seen her other than at the party?”
I shook my head but the movement hurt too much so I stopped quickly. “No. She found me puking in the bathroom and said that my mom would be glad that she found me. She was spouting a bunch of other crap but I was too wasted to actually make any sense of it. If she tells my mother then I am so dead.”
He frowned deeply. “Listen, Lyra-Rose, Vega is not a good person. If you see her again, please let me know.”
I glowered at him. “I can take care of myself, thank you. How do you even know Vega?”
“I used to work for her mother,” he answered vaguely. “We did not exactly see eye-to-eye so I left.”
“Small world,” I mumbled.
He smiled dryly. “Please, just call me if Vega ever returns. I know that you believe you can handle yourself, but Vega is not exactly normal.”
I arched one perfectly waxed brow. “What is she on steroids or something?”
He laughed. “Something like that. Vega is completely insane.”
He got up and headed to the door. “Hey, wait,” I called. He paused to look over at me. “Why did you come over here?”
Michael shrugged. “I just wanted to see you. I like you, Lyra-Rose. I hope that your hangover goes away soon,” he added with a slight smirk.
I narrowed my eyes in the direction of the door he’d just gone through. He’d been such an ass at the coffee shop that first day and now he had the audacity to tell me he’d only come to my house because he wanted to see me. This guy had major stalker-status in my book. I’d only seen him a few times and already he was saying he liked me even while still teasing me about my hangover.
My eyes widened. My head, which had been throbbing incessantly, was completely fine. I didn’t feel nauseous and my limbs weren’t stiff anymore. I was completely free of any of my hangover symptoms from the instant Michael left. “WTF?” I muttered to myself. “That’s just a little too freaky.”
I tried to think about Michael and the weirdness that I felt whenever I was around him. He was so different from anyone I’d ever met and I wasn’t sure how exactly I felt about him. One thing was for sure though; I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
Randall came over later for dinner but I know it was also so that he could make sure I wasn’t dying from my hangover. When he was sure that I was totally fine he abandoned me while I got things set for our meal. He plopped on the couch while I finished setting up the table. “I’m glad to see you’re hangover free. I was worried that I’d come and there’d be nothing but barf all over the floor.”
“That’s disgusting, Randall. But I know what you mean. I’m just glad that I’m not hung over anymore. I was feeling like crap this morning.”
We ate together and talked about trivial things, like cute actors, what we had to do this week, work, random things like that. Then I had to go and ruin the fun. “Hey, did you see a girl at my parents’ party named Vega? She was small and curvy with red-blonde hair and blue-ish eyes.”
He shrugged but I noticed the slight tightening of his jaw. “There were a lot of people there, Ly, but you’re definitely the only ginger I saw.”
“I’m not even really that much of a ginger,” I pouted. It was a little strange that he hadn’t seen Vega; she was pretty noticeable. I shouldn’t have cared but something about the way that Michael had described her and the fact that she’d gone unseen at the party made me nervous. Someone had to have seen her.
“Why are you asking about this girl?”
“Um, she saw me puking in the bathroom and I’m kind of afraid she’ll tell my mom.” It was true enough but not exactly the real reason that I wanted to know about her. I guess that my imagination was just starting to run wild but there was no reason to tell him what was going through my head and make myself seem crazier than I was already getting. I stored the mystery of Vega in the recesses of my mind as Randall and I resumed talk of more inconsequential topics.
As hard as I tried, Vega and Michael kept creeping to the front of my mind, demanding my attention. I was determined to figure out what was going on with them and how it concerned me if it was the last thing I ever did.
“Dawson! Get in here!” Mr. Maddison shouted from his office early Monday morning. My eyes widened a little. During my short time in the journalist post I’d done a couple of inconsequential pieces but Todd had gotten back from his vacation and I’d turned in my last article- the only one worth anything in my opinion- earlier that morning to the editor, Delia Burke. I figured that there was something wrong with it since Mr. Maddison was shouting at me.
“Yes?” I said as I ran into his office.
“Please have a seat.”
I sat awkwardly and shifted under his gaze. “Is there a problem, Mr. Maddison?”
He shook his head and set down the paper that he was reading. “What made you think that the ‘U’ on the college campus successfully staying blue and not getting painted was a good story?”
I blushed and looked down at my hands. “USU was playing their rival team. The Utes have gotten the Aggies’ ‘U’ every year for the last six years. A lot of people here in Logan went to USU so I thought that because this was the first time in so long that it stayed blue, it was worth reporting.”
He stared at me for several long seconds. “You know, Logan is a pretty small college town and a lot of people support the Aggies. It’s a good public interest story. You’re writing isn’t too bad either. It’s going to be in the local section tomorrow. Keep this up, Dawson, and I might have to give you your own section.”
My eyes grew in disbelief. “Does that mean that I got the journalism position? I’m a staff writer?”
“If you keep getting me stories like this, I’ll keep sending you out to write.”
I squealed in delight. “Thank you so much, Mr. Maddison! I promise that I won’t let you down!”
“Yeah, you’d better not. Not many newspapers take in writers as inexperienced as you. Don’t make me regret this.”
I was literally bouncing up and down in my seat when I got back to my desk. Randall was there and he shot me a look that said he thought I’d completely lost it but I didn’t care. I sat there for a while grinning like a fool before he finally cracked. “Okay, I give. Why the hell are you so smiley?”
“Mr. Maddison gave me the writing job in the local section. I’m done just taking pictures to highlight other peoples’ stories. It’s my turn now, Randall. I get to write. Dude, you have no idea how freaking excited I am.”
My best friend smiled and pulled me into a hug. “Well it’s about damn time. I’m really excited for you. Do you know what your first story is going to be on?”
“Delia caught me on my way back over here. There’s going to be a charity fashion show at the community center tonight and she didn’t have anyone on it. I’m going and I’m going to do my first official article for Know Now on that. Do you want to come with me?”
He sighed dramatically. “I don’t know, Lyra.”
I punched him playfully. “Are you seriously going to make me beg? Please, oh great Randall, will you go to the fashion show with me tonight? It’ll be fun,” I added in a singsong voice as an extra incentive.
He grinned. “Of course I’ll go, Lyra. You had me at ‘fashion’. There was no need to even ask.”
My blue eyes narrowed and I stuck my tongue out at him. “Okay, it’s a date. The show starts at seven so I’ll go pick you up at six.”
He put his hands up in a surrender gesture. “Hey, Lyra, you know I don’t roll that way.”
I rolled my eyes and let out a laugh. “I’ll see you later,” I said as I grabbed my bag and started heading out of the office. I had my own assignment so there was no reason for me to stay stuck in an office where everyone else would usually yell at me for no good reason. I threw my zebra-print tote over my shoulder and started out the door. I had the biggest smile on my face but it only lasted until my hand grasped my car door handle.
I’d barely grabbed the handle when a large hand fell on my shoulder. My eyes grew to the size of saucers and I let out a scream. I spun around so quickly that my white skirt fluttered frantically against my knees. Michael’s grey eyes stared back and his full lips were pulled up into a smirk. My hand flew up over my heart and I gripped the green cloth of my blouse tightly.
“Holy shit, you scared the crap out of me,” I accused harshly. I had to take several deep breaths before my heart was finally steady again.
“Sorry, Lyra, I thought that you would still be at work. I had to catch you before you drove away.”
I pushed my hair roughly over my shoulder and let out one last breath. “Why? What do you want?”
He rubbed the back of his neck and ripped his gaze from mine. “Well, I wanted to know if you would have dinner with me tonight.”
I hitched my bag higher on my shoulder and shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. “I can’t, sorry.” Okay, I wasn’t exactly sorry. Sure, Michael was hot, but he did kind of still annoy me.
“You cannot or you will not?”
See? Annoying. “A little bit of both but mostly can’t.”
I let out a huff and brushed my hair back again. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I have plans with my friend Randall. We’re going to a fashion show so I can write an article on it for the paper.” Um, why did I just tell him that?
He nodded once. “Okay, well how about tomorrow?” I opened my mouth to protest but he put a hand up to silence me. “Hear me out, Lyra-Rose. It does not have to be a date. How about instead of dinner, we just go get some dessert? Or drinks?”
I gnawed at my bottom lip for a minute. “I can do drinks on Wednesday. That okay with you?”
He smiled his dazzling smile at me. “Perfect.”