Home > Off the Record (Record #1)(13)

Off the Record (Record #1)(13)
K.A. Linde

“No,” she said, blushing furiously.

“Oh really?”

“I’m not!” she told him.

“Fine.” He planted a kiss on her red cheeks. “But you didn’t answer my question. I already knew that. I want to know something no one else knows.”

“That’s all. That’s the only thing no one else knows about me,” she told him, biting her lip.

“You don’t have any secrets?”

“You’re my only secret.”

“I’ll keep that one,” he told her.

Chapter 9


Life after Brady was like watching a film in black and white. It was really quite beautiful, but it felt like something was missing.

Liz went about her daily life—class, newspaper, sleep. It was all important, but it suddenly felt entirely too dull without him. She wasn’t the type to get easily attached, and she found that she didn’t understand her feelings toward him. They had spoken only twice, and for rather brief periods of time. She hardly knew him at all. Yet she had gone back to his hotel room with him. It made no sense. She wasn’t that girl. When it came down to it, she couldn’t decide whether she actually liked Brady or it was simply infatuation.

Either way, she didn’t care. She just wanted more of him.

Instead she was stuck in her journalism class for the summer. The class was interesting, and she absolutely loved the professor. She’d had her the previous semester, and it was one of the main reasons she was taking the class. Professor Mires was particularly flexible around the summer session. She was allowing Liz to use her experience on the paper as her project for the semester, taking a huge weight off of her shoulders. It gave Liz a lot more time to focus on the local elections than she had been expecting, and she had taken to obsessing over campaign schedules.

Normally it would have been a light election season, picking up ferocity right around the time school started again in the fall. But since Senator Abbot and Representative Huntington had announced their retirement in the spring, contenders had started popping up like wildflowers. She was concentrating her efforts on the House campaign, and then would move on to the Senate. Three main candidates appeared on each side of the aisle for the House race, and Liz had opened her column with a daily focus on each of them.

Liz was on day six now, saving the best for last.

She stared down at the picture she had chosen of Brady out of the shots Hayden had taken at the Raleigh press conference. Brady’s charismatic smile was missing from his face, and he actually managed to look serious. Liz wondered when this picture had been taken. He looked as if he were staring straight through her. She squirmed under his scrutiny and stood, stretching her aching muscles.

The paper was dead quiet, and all the lights had been shut off except for Hayden’s office, which she had confiscated for the summer. She yawned, rolling a kink out of her neck. It was midnight, an hour past building close. She was glad she had the all-access key.

Liz shut down her laptop and stuffed it into her backpack. She had been working too hard, trying to drown out the inexplicable feeling of longing that had taken residence in her body. With Victoria gone for the summer, Liz was practically living at the office to escape the quiet.

She took one last glance around the office to make sure she had everything before shouldering her bag and leaving. She fumbled around for the light switch on the wall to illuminate the open office space. Just when she found it, she heard the phone ring in Hayden’s office.

No one ever rang the paper this late. Turning back into the office, she grabbed the phone and answered, “Hello?”

“Hello, I’m trying to reach Liz Dougherty, please,” a woman’s voice said through the line.

Liz’s eyebrows scrunched together in confusion. That was even stranger. People asked for a specific reporter only under rare circumstances. Hayden was asked for frequently, because everyone on campus knew who he was. Usually it was in relation to an article the reporter had written or requesting a follow up or, as with most of them, a friend who couldn’t reach the person on their cell phone. But Liz had never been asked for by name.

“Um…yes, this is Liz. Who is calling? It is after hours,” she reminded the woman. Though how she couldn’t know that it was midnight was beyond her.

“This is Heather Ferrington, chief press secretary with State Senator Brady Maxwell.”

Liz’s mouth dropped open. Was she serious? When she had left Brady’s hotel room last weekend, she had been certain it was the last she would hear from him. He got what he wanted from her, and though he said he would reach out to her again, she hadn’t really believed him.

“Miss Dougherty, are you still there?” Heather asked.

Liz snapped out of her daydream. “Yes, I’m still here. How can I help you, Ms. Ferrington?”

“I’ve been informed that you are the contact for the campaign division of the paper; is that correct?” she asked in the most condescending fashion she could muster.

“I am.”

“We’ve spoken with the university and set up a time for the Senator to speak publicly about his leap into federal politics. We have very few trips planned for the summer, but Senator Maxwell is making it a priority to speak at his alma mater,” Heather told her.

Liz’s mind was working overtime. Brady was coming here. To her school. Well, their school. Whatever! He was going to be in Chapel Hill to give a speech. This certainly wasn’t a planned venue. The student body wasn’t a target audience for the local elections, even though Liz was desperately trying to get them more invested.

During the presidential election her freshman year, the campus had been a madhouse, but students simply hadn’t put in as much effort for the local politicians. Whether it was because they had a local representative at home (even though they lived at the school for at least nine months out of the year) or they were too busy with their social lives, it just wasn’t a priority. She could count on the two party organizations, the Campus Y, and a few other politically active groups on campus to spread the word on their own, but sometimes it felt as if she were hitting her head against a brick wall.

But if Brady was coming to campus and it wasn’t a planned venue for him, then he had to be doing it for a reason. And she couldn’t think that that reason was…her.

“The university has approved space and even encouraged us to consider doing a series about the upcoming election. We’re still considering that option, but as you are our contact at the campus paper, we wanted to let you know that this is an open press event. We won’t be taking questions until after the event closes, at Senator Maxwell’s request. We hope that you will be in attendance for this special occasion,” Heather said in the same condescending tone.

It hardly felt like a press request, more like a demand. Liz’s insides were squirming at the thought of seeing Brady again, but she wasn’t comfortable with this conversation. Who called after hours like this? If this was about Brady, then he could damn well call her himself.

“Thank you, Ms. Ferrington. We’ll take it under consideration. If you need to reach us again, please do call during office hours. We typically aren’t working this late,” Liz answered diplomatically.

“Look, Miss Dougherty…” Heather said impatiently. Liz was waiting for her to humph on the other end of the line. “Senator Maxwell’s time is limited, and he’s coming to the university. If your paper isn’t interested in covering a prominent local official, I’d be happy to reach out to Chapel Hill News.”

Liz held back the immediate bitchy retort that was hanging on the tip of her tongue. Did this woman think it was appropriate to bully a newspaper?

She took a deep breath before replying. “We would be happy to have Chapel Hill News on campus, of course. Please send over the details for the event, and a reporter will be in attendance. Thank you for informing us of this great opportunity,” she said as cheerfully as possible.

“Wonderful, Miss Dougherty. Glad we’re on the same terms. I’ll shoot an email over to you with the details. Look forward to meeting you then.”

“You too, Ms. Ferrington,” Liz said as she hung up the phone. She had already met Heather once before, two weeks earlier. She wondered whether Heather would remember her, whether she knew that Liz had slept with Brady—if Heather herself had slept with Brady. No. She didn’t want to think about that. She had spent too much time thinking about Brady Maxwell already. Most of it wondering whether she was ever going to see him in person again, or if she would be left with his shots on her computer screen.

Now that she knew she would be seeing him again, she was even more concerned with how the event would play out. Did no questions until after mean he wanted to see her afterward? What was his motivation for coming here anyway?

She had so many questions, and she realized that she was now very much awake. Sighing in frustration, Liz pulled her computer back out and booted it up. She wasn’t going to bed anytime soon.

Liz woke the next morning with her head buried in the keys of her laptop. Grumbling to herself, she yawned widely and closed the monitor. She hadn’t even known it was possible to actually fall asleep on her computer.

Running a hand back through her hair, she grabbed her bag and walked out into the main office. She hoped she didn’t look as shitty as she felt.

“Morning, Liz,” Meagan called cheerfully as Liz walked by. Liz waved at her halfheartedly, ready to get out of the office and back to her house. “Long night?”

“Yeah,” she grumbled, trying her best to get away as quickly as possible. Meagan was a known big mouth. Once you got her talking, it was impossible to get away. She ran an opinions column that was relatively popular among the student body, but the column had no background in even basic journalism.

“I got some bagels from Alpine. Do you want one?” Meagan asked.

“Nah, that’s all right. I’m about to go get some food.”

“I’ll come with you,” she said, packing up her things.

“Really, Meagan, I’ve had a long night, and I’m sure you have a lot of work to do. I’ll catch up with you later,” Liz said, darting out of the office.

She made it down to her car, happy that it didn’t have a ticket on the windshield. They started at forty dollars regardless of the offense. While she probably deserved it for staying in the service vehicle lot overnight, she was glad that fate had looked on her with good fortune. Returning to her house off campus, she took a quick shower to wash away the grime of the office. She scarfed down a bowl of Frosted Flakes and then hightailed it back to campus. At this rate she was going to be late for her class.

Liz was running too far behind to walk to campus or take the bus, so she would have to pay for parking in one of the few decks on campus. There were a ton of spots thanks to the summer session, but it was still an uphill hike to her class. Sweat beaded on her temples as she climbed the hill, reached the journalism building, and rushed into the over-air-conditioned room.

Professor Mires was Liz’s favorite instructor, and she hated being late to her class. She slipped into the room right before the professor closed the door.

“Good to see you, Miss Dougherty,” Professor Mires said.

“Morning, Professor,” Liz said with a sheepish smile.

Professor Mires was a younger professor as far as they went, probably in her early thirties. She dressed like a fashionable hippie, with librarian glasses and her hair always pulled back into a messy bun. She was married to a guy a couple years younger than her who hung around her office all the time. All the girls swooned over him, because he was always bringing her flowers and leaving her love notes on her whiteboard.

Liz took a seat at the back of the room and pulled her computer out. She still needed to check to see whether she had received an email from Heather with the details of Brady’s campus visit.

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