Authors: Barbie Bohrman
ALSO BY BARBIE BOHRMAN
Playing It Safe
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2016 Barbie Bohrman
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Eileen Carey
To anyone who finds true love and a best friend all rolled into one . . . consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
And to Bryan Ferry, for writing such a beautiful song, which has stayed with me all these years later.
t thirteen, a very close friendship blossomed into love, although unrequited.
It seems impossible to be
at that age. That the mind of a thirteen-year-old could not come close to comprehending the intense, almost blinding emotions that arrest your heart and stutter your breathing until somehow, rational thought is nothing but a temporary reprieve from the constant buzzing in your head.
But for me, it was true.
And it was also true that he would go on to break my heart into a million pieces a few years later.
I can look back now and cherish the friendship we had, but the nagging question remains . . . what if?
Years later I would be faced with this same question, but this time the tables would be turned and the blurred lines of friendship would make it impossible to see what was right in front of me all along.
what was missing. Now it’s perfect.
I read over the article for what seems like the millionth time before e-mailing it to my editor with six minutes to spare. Phew! That one was close. Not that I haven’t grazed a deadline before. Sometimes I’ve come within a minute or two, which always gets me a stern talking to or a look that’s supposed to terrify me into submission by said editor. But coming from Dylan Sterling, editor in chief of the
and my boss, the lectures and looks don’t terrify me at all.
That’s probably because Dylan couldn’t scare me even if he was dressed as the grim reaper, hiding in one of the closets in my apartment waiting to jump out at me. That megawatt smile of his will always give him away. We’ve known each other since we met at our college newspaper. After he had skimmed through a handful of my clippings from my high school newspaper by way of an interview, he immediately said to me, “Katy, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
And it definitely has been.
He was a senior and took this newbie freshman under his experienced wing and became my mentor. Dylan taught me all I needed to know to survive this business and then some. And when I was fresh out of college, he took a gamble on me yet again and gave me my very first job as a journalist at my hometown newspaper.
It’s a midsized daily newspaper based in Fort Lauderdale that has a circulation of just over seventy thousand subscribers. I cover the local high school sports beat, focusing on high school football, which is a pretty big deal around here. Especially since one of the teams went to the state championship last season. Unfortunately, they lost. But this season I think they have a much better shot at winning the whole enchilada.
I’ve been at the
for the last four years, and at least once a week I’m precariously close to missing my deadline. It’s not from a lack of trying. It’s more that I’m a bit of a perfectionist.
Actually, I’m a
But that’s what makes me good at my job. Actually, that’s what makes me great at my job. It also helps that I love what I do with every fiber of my being.
My older brothers, Jonathan and Simon, instilled in me a lot of love, respect, and admiration for the game of football. Unfortunately, being a girl—well, now a woman—I can’t play the actual game anymore without it being ridiculously painful. But instead of fighting the good fight that some girls do—and it is a damn good fight—I decided to take my love of the game and turn it into a career in sports journalism. Eventually, I hope to make it to the big time: covering the NFL for the larger newspaper in circulation in South Florida and then accomplishing my goal of working in any way, shape, or form at
So here I am at twenty-five years old, doing what I love to do on a daily basis and enjoying every minute of it. The bustling of the newsroom around me never ceases to pump the blood in my veins. It reminds me why I have to work harder than most people here.
It takes thick skin to be a woman sports reporter. There are folks who assume that there is no possible way I could know what I’m writing or talking about, so I get a curious amount of hate mail every week. And I do read it . . . can’t really help myself. But those letters fuel the fire to prove the naysayers wrong and show them that a woman can do this job just as well as any man could, if not better.
I’d like to think that I do.
My phone starts to vibrate then, looking like it’s trying its hardest to skip across my desk and escape. I don’t even have to look to see who it is before I swipe the screen and start talking.
“You’re losing your touch,” I say. “You usually call me within a minute after I send you my final copy. What’s it been? Like, two or three minutes?”
“What can I say? I was in awe of your prose for a minute more than usual,” Dylan says.
I grin at his praise. “So you liked it?”
“It’s great, Katy.”
He draws in a breath, then says, “You’re welcome. And thank
for making the deadline.”
“Katy,” he cuts in with that tone that I know means business. “Do you mind adhering to it a little more thoughtfully? I mean, I don’t want to put you out or anything, but it is there for a reason.”
My eyes dart around the newsroom and I feel as if everyone is staring at me as I’m being dressed down. When I’m sure they are all going about their business, I say, “I know and I will. Thanks, Dylan.”
“No problem, that’s what I’m here for, right?”
“Okay, Miss Know-It-All, are you ready?” He clears his throat, then asks, “Who has the distinction of being the only player of Hispanic heritage to be drafted with the first overall pick in the NFL draft?”
I hear him rip the page off of his sports-themed desk calendar as I’m thinking of the answer. Every day he’ll call or text me the question from his NFL calendar, and I usually get it right, much to his surprise. He’s been quizzing me ever since I waltzed into his office one day and snatched that year’s calendar off his desk and started answering question after question in quick succession. Since then, I’ve been buying him one as a gag gift for Christmas every year. The first year, he was convinced that I read every single question before I gave it to him. So I made him come with me to buy the next year’s calendar just so he would know without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t cheating.
“Did I stump you finally? I did, didn’t I?” he asks.
“Amazing,” he mutters under his breath. “Marry me? Please?”
“But I’m not your type.”
“I don’t have a type.”
“Well, since you put it that way,” I say with a laugh. “Meet me at the altar this Saturday at around one o’clock in the afternoon. I’ll be the one wearing white.”
Dylan sighs dramatically. I can picture him removing his black Ray-Ban eyeglasses and rubbing his temple as if he has the world’s worst headache. If I didn’t know him well enough, I would think he wore glasses as a fashion statement. The truth is he’s blind as a bat but refuses to get the LASIK surgery done because he’s terrified of the procedure. Actually, he’s terrified of sharp objects near his eyeballs. Can’t say that I blame him.
“I can’t make it this weekend,” he says suddenly.
“To what? Our make-believe wedding?”
“Yes . . . I mean no.” He pauses and clears his throat. “No, I mean I can’t make the game with you on Friday night. Will you be okay going by yourself?”
This Friday night is the first game of the season for the returning regional champs, Southeast High School Barracudas, and I’ll be there to cover it for the
. And then, of course, I need to write an article on the game and turn it in before we go to press that night for the Sunday morning edition.
“Sure, I’ll be fine. Big date?”
His laugh is quick, chopping, and then he says, “Nah, it’s a work thing.”
Leaning my chair back as far as it will allow, I crane my head to the left slightly to look across the newsroom and straight into Dylan’s office. His broad back is currently facing me and he’s pacing. Which isn’t unusual. In fact, Dylan is a pro at pacing. When we were in college, he left tread marks on what used to be a pretty decent carpet in the newspaper’s conference room.
He pivots to walk toward his office door, running a hand through his dark brown hair in what looks like frustration. When he lifts his head finally, his eyes zero in on me from across the room like a beacon. I smile and wave. Dylan waves back with a semi-friendly grin before heading back to his desk and out of my line of vision completely.
“Oh, okay,” I say, momentarily confused at his demeanor. “I hope you have fun at your work thing.”
“I’ll try my hardest,” he deadpans, then says a quick good-bye before hanging up.
I stare at the phone in my hand for a moment, as if it sprouted wings, before putting it down on my desk and getting back to work. A short time later, while I’m trolling the usual websites, like Twitter, Facebook, and local high school blogs, my thoughts veer back to my conversation with Dylan. At first I’m concerned I pushed my luck with the whole deadline thing. But no, that’s not it. I mean, I’m sure it’s a small part of it. But whenever we’ve had disagreements, we’ve always bounced back to the easy back-and-forth that has become our trademark. This was . . . I don’t know, just different somehow.
I quickly type up my notes and then transfer them to my iPad before stuffing it into my messenger bag. Slinging it over my shoulder, I make a beeline out of the newsroom, trying to ignore the unsettling feeling that has wormed its way into my head. When I reach the glass double doors that lead to the lobby, I turn back around and head straight to Dylan’s office instead. His door is closed now and the blinds are drawn. But as I get closer, I can hear him typing away, so I know he’s in there.
“He’s busy, Ms. Lewis.” This comes from Dylan’s assistant, Phoebe, who I completely ignore. She’s a very play-by-the-rules kind of person who seems like she would cut your throat if she could only find the right opportunity . . . and probably enjoy it too. She worked for the last editor in chief before he retired. And by the looks of her, she’s not too far off from retiring herself.
I give her the most humble-as-pie smile I can muster in an effort to placate her. It doesn’t work. She peers at me over the eyeglasses she has down the bridge of her nose with a look of disgust. I don’t know why the woman hates me so much. I’ve never done a thing to her. Well, not counting the times I’ve done exactly what I’m about to do now, because there is no way I can leave without clearing the air with Dylan.
“I’ll only take a minute, thanks, Phoebe.”
With that, I knock twice on Dylan’s door and open it as Phoebe says loudly, in an irritated voice, “I told her you were busy, Mr. Sterling.”
Dylan doesn’t break the steady stream of typing on his keyboard when he says, “It’s okay, Phoebe.”
I close the door behind me, then tuck some loose tendrils of hair that have fallen out of the hair clip behind my ears. It’s a knee-jerk reaction when I’m nervous, which I happen to be right now. I know I shouldn’t be. I mean, Dylan is one of my best friends even though he is my boss. We’ve managed to not let our friendship interfere with out working relationship, albeit with minor bumps along the way. One of which is that some of our colleagues think that Dylan shows favoritism toward me. Unfortunately, there is not much I can do to dispel that rumor. Wait, that’s not true. I’m sure pushing the deadlines doesn’t help. But it’s not like I’m the only one who does it. I swear, sometimes I wish people would just mind their business and do their jobs instead of assuming I’m getting a free ride. Rest assured, I work my butt off, and Dylan knows it.
“What can I do for you, Katy?”
He still hasn’t even so much as glanced in my direction. I walk as if facing a firing squad until I reach the edge of his desk and take a moment to study him in silence.
Dylan has always been more than handsome. His strong jaw and chiseled, rugged features have always made him stand out in a crowd. And with age, he’s only grown more into the kind of man that most women would pine for on a daily basis. He’s probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. As editors go, he’s brilliant and always knows what works and what doesn’t in an article. He has a way of looking at every single story objectively, no matter how he feels about the topic. Personally, I find that a man who has looks with intelligence to back them up is irresistible. And Dylan has all of this; the whole package. From the first day we started working together at the college newspaper, it was clear that we would be great friends and get on like two peas in a pod . . . Padawan to Jedi Master. His crisp white dress shirt sleeves are rolled up just past his elbows, because he hates to get even the slightest bit of dirt or grime on them while he’s working. The black-and-white-striped tie he started the day with has been loosened, as has the top button of his shirt, which reveals his tan. His usually vibrant green eyes look tired, and the beginnings of a five o’clock shadow are starting to surface.
“I just wanted to apologize if I said anything wrong before. You know, while we were on the phone.” I adjust the strap of my messenger bag just to distract myself, waiting for him to acknowledge me with his eyes and feeling like a jerk for barging in.
Finally he stops typing, while I try not to fidget under his withering gaze. I’ve never been good under scrutiny. And that’s exactly what this feels like since he doesn’t so much as flinch, blink, or breathe as he looks up at me.
“Dylan?” I ask cautiously.
He seems to snap out of whatever had him in its spell and smiles. It’s the kind of smile that I recognize from our many years of friendship, one that says everything is okay between us, and the tight coil of nervous knots in my stomach is undone.
“Everything’s fine,” he says. “I just have a bunch of stuff going on around here and you know the higher-ups are breathing down my neck again, and then there is that deadline.”
He says that last word a little sarcastically. To be honest, I do sometimes forget that Dylan has to answer to a couple of bosses. And their complaints are usually about the newspaper’s circulation. We’re locally based and have to go against the more well-known paper that covers state and national news too. As a result, every couple of months Dylan is hit with the task of trying to invent new and exciting ways to market our paper and gain readers in addition to all of his day-to-day work. It would stress me out too, and it makes me feel even guiltier for interrupting him today. “So basically just another day at the office.”
“Basically.” He pulls his hands away from the keyboard and methodically cracks his knuckles one at a time. “Are you heading out already?”
“Yeah. Gonna go to the practice tonight since it’s the last one before the game on Friday.” I hesitate for a second. “Do you want to come?”
“I wish I could say yes, but . . .”