“Give me a chance,” Melissa insisted, closing the space between the door and his desk. “What can it hurt?”
“We’re out of time.”
“A week,” said Melissa. “Give me a week.”
“Is Everett available?” Seth asked into the phone.
Everett was publisher of the Bizz, the head honcho, the guy who approved the lead headlines and the cover copy.
“Can we at least talk about it?” she pressed.
“Nothing to talk about. Ryder ran off to Montana.”
That information took Melissa by surprise. “What’s Jared Ryder doing in Montana?” Surely he wasn’t building a skyscraper in Butte.
“He’s holed up at his ranch.”
Melissa hadn’t known he had a ranch. Sure, there were rumors he was once a cowboy. But there were also rumors he was once a spy.
Seth gauged her confused look and raised his bushy brows. “You didn’t know he had a ranch.”
She couldn’t argue that one.
“It's the foundation of the entire Ryder conglomerate. How’re you going to save my ass when you didn’t even know he had a ranch?”
“Because I will,” said Melissa with determination. Just because she didn’t happen to know Jared was a cowboy didn’t mean she couldn’t get an interview. “I’ll fly to Montana.”
“He hates the press. He really hates the Bizz. He’ll probably run you off his land with-” Seth’s attention went to the telephone. “Everett?”
“I can do it,” Melissa said, feeling her big chance slip away.
“I have a situation,” Seth said to Everett.
“I’ll get on the ranch,” she pressed in an undertone, her mind scrambling. “I’ll go undercover. I will get you the story.”
Seth’s attention never left the telephone. “It’s the Jared Ryder interview.” He paused, face flushing deeper, while Everett obviously voiced his displeasure.
“Have I ever let you down?” Melissa went on. She hadn’t. But then, she’d never tackled anything this big, either.
“Yes. I know I did,” Seth said to Everett.
“Please,” said Melissa, leaning forward. “I’ll buy my own plane ticket.”
Seth shoulders tensed. “Langard was the best I-”
While Everett obviously weighed in again, Melissa searched her mind for fresh arguments.
“I grew up with horses,” she blurted out. Well, one horse, really. It had lived in a field, on the edge of suburbia, across the street from her new house. She’d nicknamed it Midnight. “I’ll-”
Seth’s glare warned her to shut up.
“-get a job on the ranch.”
Seth smacked his palm over the mouthpiece. “Do you know who this is?”
She gave a small nod.
Melissa pursed her lips.
Seth’s gaze glittered dark with warning as he went back to Everett. “The Cooper story can take the cover.”
Melissa debated a split second longer. But bravery was one thing, stupidity quite another. She’d pushed Seth as far as she dared.
She retreated, and Seth’s voice followed her back to the bullpen. “I’ll get a photographer on it right away.”
Like Brandon had done only minutes before, she avoided eye contact as she made her way to her desk.
“Susan,” Seth bellowed from behind her.
With a darting look of pity at Melissa, Susan rolled back her chair, came to her feet and headed for the editor’s office.
Melissa dropped into her own chair and stared at the randomly bouncing colored balls of her screen saver. She could have gotten that interview. She knew she could have gotten that interview.
“It’s Lorne Cooper on the cover,” said Susan as she slipped back into her seat.
Melissa nodded with resignation. “The sports-gear king.” There was a new megastore opening on Murdoch Street, and “Cruisin’ Cooper” was sponsoring a bicycle race to celebrate.
“The article’s written. All it needs is an update and some new art.”
Melissa pulled herself closer to her computer screen and hit the space bar. “It was written by R. J. Holmes,” she pointed out, voice laced with self-pity. R.J. was one of the newest journalists on staff, and he was beating her out for a cover.
“I guess Seth wasn’t feeling charitable toward Brandon.”
“Or toward me.” Melissa’s screen powered up on a search engine.
“What’ve you got ready?”
“Myers Corp. or the Briggs’ merger.”
Susan didn’t answer.
“I know,” Melissa conceded, randomly poking the H key. “They’re even lamer than Cooper.” Not that any old cover story would clinch the promotion. There was only one story that would catapult her into the feature writer’s job.