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My watering eyes blinked under the double assault of his smoke and my clothes. “What?”

“I said no.” Ralph’s bulging orbs and quivering jowls resembled his bulldog, Emerson. At least, Ralph didn’t drool all over my leg when he visited my desk.

My boss could have knocked me over with the test stick. Alton and Poole sold more issues in an hour than any other celebrity could in a week. I glared back. “This guy rescues the highest paid, most popular actress in television history who’s knocked up by the highest paid, most popular movie actor—”

“You got garbage in your ears, Ridgeway? I said no.” Pink crawled up Ralph’s neck and invaded his cheeks. “Now, have you and Agnes discovered what rehab center Sierra Mallory’s holed up—”

I ignored his blatant change of topic. “She’s kidnapped by some doomsday cult and saved—”

Ralph rose to his feet, teeth chewing on the butt of the cigarette.

I ignored the warning. “—by someone Poole hired, and you don’t want a follow-up?”

A growl filled the room. My editor was actually growling at me. I couldn’t ignore that fact. I took a careful step away from the desk.

Twin columns of smoke blew from his flared nostrils. “I said no, and I meant no.”

The gray haze quivered as we matched glares. Then air seemed to whoosh out of him, and he collapsed back into the ancient leather chair. Glancing at his watch, he muttered, “You’ve got one hour and fifty-five minutes if you want the fucking cover for this week.”

He knew how to push my buttons. Sheer pride kicked in.

“Fine, boss.” I pivoted and charged out the door, careful not to slam it on the way. What the hell was going on? Ralph never nixed one of my ideas. Okay, that wasn’t true.

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