I stepped outside and walked the length of the street, keeping a keen eye out for a celebrity sighting, until the grass-lined walking path ended. There I settled on an empty bench and let the sun warm my skin. The day was mild, still too cool for the beach but perfect for being outside comfortably.

I decided to call Alli. I missed her too much already. After several rings she picked up.

“Hello?” she answered, her voice hoarse.

“Are you okay? You sound sick.”

“I’m fine. Long night.”

“Who are these friends you’re staying with?” I asked, suddenly concerned.

“I was with Heath.”


“What can I say? He parties like a rockstar.” She let out a weak laugh.

“On a Thursday night? When do you start work?”

“Monday, and you can stop worrying now. We’re just having fun. Plus I’m meeting some new people here. Making connections for us.”

“Okay.” Though what great connection partied all night on a Thursday?

“So how are things with you?”

“Pretty good. The new apartment is great.”

“Ugh, I’m so jealous. The apartments here are ridiculous. I feel like I’m shopping for closets.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I could end up on one of those hoarder shows in a few months. I invited Sid to come stay with me. The new can collection has begun.”

She laughed. “Oh shit. Okay, I’m not jealous anymore. At least I won’t have to share my closet, if I’m lucky.”

I laughed and agreed.

“What’s new with Blake?”

I told her about the housing situation, which didn’t surprise her as much as I thought it would. Maybe Heath had already clued her in to Blake’s over-controlling tendencies. Thankfully she didn’t grill me on whether I intended to keep our one-nighter just that, because I was still trying to figure it out myself.

“So when are you going to come visit me?” she asked.

“I guess when we both get settled. We’ll see how things go with Max. I should be able to visit after that.”

Alli filled me in on all the fun spots she was discovering in the city that we’d go to eventually. In the middle of our conversation, Blake beeped in. I promised to call her later and answered Blake’s call.

“Hey, the site went offline a few minutes ago.”

My stomach fell. “What? How do you know?” The site had gone down before, which obviously wasn’t good, but I needed everything to be perfect for my meeting with Max tomorrow.

“I set up a program to ping me if the site went down.”


“Erica, can we focus on the issue at hand?” He sounded more irritated than I should have been, considering it was my website we were talking about. “Can you put Sid on?”

I didn’t like being pushed to the side, but this was not my department.

“I’m out right now, but I can be home in a few minutes.”

“Give me his number, I’ll call him.”

“Don’t bother. I’ll call you back in a bit.”

Back at the apartment, I knocked quietly on Sid’s door, then louder. He was never up this early. Eventually I walked in, determined to wake him from his sleep coma. He was fully dressed and passed out face down on a sheetless air mattress.

“Sid!” I yelled, breaking the silence of an otherwise quiet and peaceful morning.

He groaned and rolled over. “What?”

“The site’s down.”

“Oh,” he said, unmoving.

“Blake called. He wants to talk to you.”

“I need caffeine,” he grumbled.

I groaned, in no mood for his pissy morning routine. “I’ll be back with some energy drinks. Get up and figure out what the hell is going on.” I left my phone on his desk with Blake’s number up and walked down the street to the convenience store.

A few minutes later, I returned to find Sid frowning at his computer screen, analyzing what, from past experience, looked like the server logs. These held answers about the site’s activity that I had no idea how to interpret. I heard clicking noises coming out of my phone, which was set on speaker.

“It looks like they’re attacking the log in script and bombarding the server with requests so the host shut us down,” Sid said.

“Sounds like it’s just script kiddies then,” Blake’s voice said.

“What are script kiddies?” I asked almost in a whisper, not wanting to be the ignorant one. Still, I needed to know.

“Amateur hackers with too much free time,” Sid answered.

“Oh.” Compared to skilled hackers on a schedule? A hacker was a hacker, as far as I was concerned. An enemy threatening my business. Hopefully Sid and Blake could craft a defense plan soon.

“Do you have a redundant server?” Blake asked

“Obviously,” Sid replied flatly.

“Get that going, and let’s see how persistent they are. Can you give me access to the server?”

Sid looked at me for the okay, and I nodded.

“I’ll send it over now.”

“I can set up an IP blocker, if you want to work on patching vulnerabilities,” Blake said.

“Sounds good.”

“Do I need to call the host?” I asked Sid quietly.

“No, I’ll reboot the server, and we’ll be back up in a few minutes.”

I took a deep breath. “Do you need anything from me?”

Sid turned his head, fixing on the bag of cans I held. I fished one out for him and put the rest in the fridge, feeling a bit useless.

I pulled out my laptop at the island and refreshed the website repeatedly until the site came back up, while Blake and Sid continued their unintelligible tech speak in the other room.

The fact that we had been hacked concerned me, especially since I hoped to finalize a deal with Max within a matter of weeks. Blake and Sid didn’t seem overly concerned about the nature of the threat, but I had an unsettled feeling. Why we were being targeted all of a sudden? Who hated fashion so much that they needed to take us offline? Once we were on the other side of this minor setback, I hoped to have more answers from Sid.

I spent the rest of day monitoring the site and testing Sid’s patches as he rolled them out. We ate leftovers and went over statistics for me to reference in the morning. As the night rolled on, I didn’t hear from Blake. At the very least, I expected him to come raid the fridge. After all, we’d seen each other every day since I moved in, and he seemed to have a growing dependency on my Italian cooking.

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