By: J. B. Salsbury

Trevor growls in my ear. “Shya—”

“I can’t.” The words come out with the force brought on by years of suppression.

“You can’t? We’re live! Talk!”

Leaf’s free hand rolls frantically through the air, his camera lens zeroing in like a weapon ready to cause mass destruction.

My head moves on my shoulders, conveying the one word that won’t leave my lips. No.

“Fuck it, she’s done!” Trevor’s voice shakes with fury. “Leaf, get in there now!”

Leaf moves before Trevor’s even done talking and shoves the camera lens into the girl’s face.

“No!” An impulse to shield her compels me forward. “Leave her alone.” I stumble over loose rocks, but it’s not enough to stop me. “Cut the feed!”

“Back off, Shyann! You’re—”

I tear out my earpiece and throw my body between the girl and the camera lens.

Leaf gasps, “What the fu—”

“Leave her alone!” I grab the camera and slam it into Leaf’s face so hard it sends him to his ass.

The firm clunk of the news camera rings in my ears and blood spills from just under Leaf’s eyebrow, signaling me to a single truth.

My short career in broadcast news has come to an end.

Five years fit into a few boxes now packed in the bed of my Ford Ranger. I never thought much about my lack of belongings. Makes sense I guess. If it wasn’t something I could wear or something I was studying, I had no use for it. The last five years of my life have consisted of meeting my basic needs—shelter, sleep, sustenance—and chasing after my career goals. Anything to keep from being forced back to the town I was raised in.

I had big plans when I left home. College, work, and get as far away from Payson as I could. Now here I am, a few months past graduation, and I made it ninety-four miles.

Not impressive.

I was looking forward to bouncing around from small market to small market, going from one furnished studio apartment to the other, ready to pack up and go when a job opportunity called. If it called. Which after last week’s incident it probably never will.

“You sure you’re okay to drive home alone?” Trevor’s leaning against my truck, a coffee in one hand and wearing his stupid fucking aviator glasses that make him look nothing like Maverick. His styled dirty-blond hair doesn’t budge in the wind and his pale skin screams of a man who spends most of his days inside and behind a desk.

Maybe it’s growing up in a small town, or the closest men in my life being the build-it-yourself, hunt, and drink beer type, but his pleated golf shorts and lavender collared shirt tucked in like a good little preppy doesn’t make me weak in the knees. He’s handsome, gets plenty of attention from women, but all he’s ever been for me is comfortable. He doesn’t bring out my inner sex goddess, nor does he completely repulse me.

“You sure you care?” I slam the tailgate shut a little harder than I need to.

He sighs. Loud. “Honey . . .”

I cringe inwardly at that ridiculous pet name.

“I do care, but you knew this would happen.”

Not even an ounce of sympathy, not that he’d understand why I did what I did. Trevor’s one of those robotic guys, prides himself in having zero emotions and preaches the importance of keeping all relationships, business or otherwise, feelings-free. It’s one of the things I dig about him—I mean, until now.

“This was your chance, Shyann. You blew it.” He laughs, but it’s more of a shocked I-can’t-believe-how-stupid-you-are chuckle. “You gave Leaf an orbital fracture. You fucked this up for all of us.”

“Thanks for the recap, Trevor.” I split my ponytail and pull it tight.

“You can’t expect to keep your job after that. You know better.”

“Just like a bad little puppy, you’re gonna rub my nose in it. I appreciate that.” As if I don’t already feel like shit. It’s not like I did it on purpose; it just happened.

Truth is, I’ve always had a horrible temper. I’ve managed to keep it under control; being away from my childhood home and the small town I grew up in made it easy. I distanced myself from everything that made me feel, until the newscast heard ’round the world. For me, there was no holding back.

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