"Look, Rox. You asked for a shot. I'm giving you one. An incredible one at that. This is a huge deal for The Seattle Tea, so take it or leave it. But I promise you—a chance like this won't arise again. Most writers would be willing to suck their own dick at this opportunity so you should be grateful I'm even trusting you with a piece of this magnitude."

I heave out a frustrated breath. I'm not going to win this one. I could fight this until I'm as bald as Bari, but when it comes down to it, he's earned that raggedy ass desk chair in his corner office at The Seattle Tea. I'm still scrounging for stories, covering local bands and basement-dwelling artists that I'd hope the public would deem noteworthy. But truth is, the Seattle urban music scene hasn't been hot since Macklemore. And that's saying something.

However, beggars can't be choosers and my broke ass has been begging for a shot at a featured piece for the past year.

But why does it have to be him?

Of all people. Of all musicians. Why do I have to cover him? He's not even considered a local artist. Not since he ran off and sold out. But now after a stunt six months ago on one of those trashy reality shows on VH1 that damn near killed him and his career, the prodigal son wants to come home?


"So what am I supposed to do? Interview him?"

Bari chuckles. He's fucking with me. He knows how I feel about this assignment and the subject in question.

"Not quite. I want you to fully immerse yourself in his world. He's moved here to reinvent himself—to reclaim his sound. I want the scoop on his creative process, his goals for this next album, what he does to get inspired. Find out who he's listening to, what he's watching on Netflix, who he's banging. Shit, I want to know what his favorite breakfast cereal is and if he likes it with whole or skim milk."

I bite my tongue. Because I know he loves Captain Crunch but always picks out the green Crunchberries because he claims there is no such thing as a green berry. And he's strictly a 2% kinda dude.

As for who he's banging? I'm not touching that. No way. No how.

Out of habit, I bring my fingers to my chest, imagining the phantom coolness of metal against my skin. I'd worked too damn hard and for too damn long to bury that ghost. I wasn't about to resurrect him. But this was the real world and I had a real job that paid me just enough to pay my very real bills. I had to be an adult about this, haunted memories be damned.

"Anything else?" I ask, cosigning my own demise.

"That should be it for now. First meeting is tomorrow. I'll text you the address."

"Fine," I huff before hitting End. I don't even bother with the social nuances of a goodbye. That's reserved for people who aren't currently planning how to fake their own death just to get out of an assignment.

Car accident? Nah. Too public. And one would actually need a car for that.

Gruesome home invasion-turned-murder? Hazel would kill me if I got blood on the furniture.

Mysterious disappearance? My parents would have my ass on every milk carton in the country if I don't call at least three times a week.

Dammit. Even my fake death can't get its shit together.

I'm still staring at the screen when Hazel comes bustling in, arms overflowing with fabric samples in an array of colors and prints. She chucks her purse and keys onto our tiny kitchen island and tosses the swatches on our already cluttered dining table.

"How do we feel about his and hers matching dresses for spring?" she asks by way of greeting.

I shrug half-heartedly. "If Jaden Smith can wear a dress, I don't think it's too far off. Although I think matching couple 'fits in general are tacky enough, but what do I know?"

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