“How’s your day?” His voice rumbles.
“Column is sent. Marriage announcements and obituaries are done.”
He grins. “Bored out of your head, aren’t you?”
True. I love to write fiction stories, the more fantastical the better, but that isn’t what the Gazette wants. My undergrad degree is in creative writing. Journalism for grad school was the option to ensure I have a paycheck, and I do enjoy talking to people. “Got a call this morning about a lady who turned a hundred and five. It’s rather mundane, but she’s seen a lot of history in Magnolia—”
“Gotta wait on that. I need you on special assignment for the next few weeks. You can hang on to the column, but I’m going to put Traci on anything local. Pass the birthday story to her. What do you know about football at Waylon?”
Oh. Crap. “There’s a kicker and a band at halftime?”
He grimaces. “I see. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Tigers won a national championship this past January and put our town on the map. Some of the guys on the team are pretty interesting, different backgrounds, and you might find an angle there. The starting quarterback is Dillon McQueen, a rich kid who attended Menton Academy, one of the best football prep schools in the South…” He keeps listing players, but my brain has stopped on Dillon’s name.
I hope I never see you again.
Yet, before that, he asked to see me again.
He already has Charlie’s Angels—so why me?
My hands tap the chair. After he left, I looked him up online, scrolling through his Insta. I saw pics of him with girls, and more girls, wearing that dazzling smile, his muscles bulked up like he works out twenty-four seven. The man has half a million followers and countless I <3 Dillon 4EVR comments. Verdict? He’s as shallow as a rain puddle. A jock with rocks for brains.
I interrupt Warren. “Wouldn’t George want this assignment? He’s the sports guy.”
“George and his partner just adopted a baby. He’s got no interest in hanging around a bunch of rowdy football players.” He raises an eyebrow.
In other words, I’m the intern who does whatever…
I wince, recalling Bambi reciting football stats. “I’m the least athletic person I know. Maybe Traci—”
“I asked her and she said no.”
So. I’m the third choice. He must be desperate.
“I spend a lot of time with my sister. She’s young and needs guidance.”
“And the Gazette needs you to say yes.”
I exhale, reminding myself that I’ll need his recommendation when I graduate in May. “Right.”
He leans in. “ESPN is predicting the Tigers won’t be able to live up to last season, and it’s created some heat with the athletic director. You know him, right?”
“We’re good friends, so don’t screw up, be a professional, and write solid.”
I always do.
“I’d like you to go to the home games, give them a homespun, authentic appeal. Get people excited.”
“I’m so excited,” I deadpan.
It isn’t lost on him. He smirks. “Buy some football books. You’re smart, Serena. You’ll figure it out. These are our boys, and we need to light a fire under the fans.” He pauses. “Do an article about McQueen, maybe midseason.”
Anyone but him!
He stares at me, as if reading my expression. His bushy brows lower like he’s daring me to utter another excuse.
“When do I start?”
He smiles. “The first game is this weekend at home. After that, another home game, and then LSU, away. I want you at that one. LSU is ranked high in the polls and we’ve lost at their stadium several times. Should be a tight game. You like Louisiana?”
“Never been,” I say faintly. Who has time or money for vacations with bills I can’t pay…
He hands me an address on a sticky note. “Here’s the location of the stadium.”
I grimace. “I’ve been to a game—although the last time was probably a few years ago.”
He pauses, concern appearing on his face. “Are you doing okay, you know, after everything that happened…”
I know what he’s asking. Not a lot of people know about my short marriage to Vane. We kept it low-key, but Warren knows Nana, and Nana has a big mouth. There’s no doubt he got the sordid details.
My hands pleat the material of my skirt. “I’m great.”
“Good. How’s he doing? Nancy mentioned he…”
I sigh. “Last I heard Four Dragons was opening for One Republic, so I assume he’s awesome.” I push up a smile.
“You’re giving me your fake smile and it’s creepy.”
“Actually, forcing yourself to smile can boost your mood. It tricks your body into releasing chemicals to your brain.”
He nods, waving his hands at me, already done with the personal questions. “Good. There’s someone better out there for you. You’re young.” He hands me a business card. “Here’s the contact for the media person for the Tigers. He can get you situated with a press card and give you an itinerary. Of course, you need to see the team—they have an afternoon practice today if you want to pop in.” He pauses. “Are you excited? Really?” He gives me a hopeful smile.