The Ex Talk Page 2

Dominic gives me a tighter, more restrained version of that staff photo smile. “It was eleven oh five, and no one was in it. And I might have a big story to break later. Waiting on confirmation from one more source.”

“Cool. I have to mix Paloma’s intros, so—” I make a move to enter the booth, but he doesn’t budge, his impossibly tall frame blocking me. I am a cub trying to get the attention of a grizzly.

That parenthesis pulls at his mouth a little more. “You’re not going to ask what my story is?”

“I’m sure I’ll read all about it in the Seattle Times tomorrow.”

“Aw, where’s your team spirit? Public radio can break news,” he insists. We’ve had this argument a dozen times, dating back to his first week at the station, when he asked why none of our reporters regularly attended city council meetings. “Wouldn’t it be great to get ahead of a story for once, instead of playing catch-up?”

Dominic can’t seem to grasp that breaking news isn’t our forte. When I told him during training that sometimes our reporters simply rewrite news briefs from the Times, he looked at me like I’d said we wouldn’t be giving out tote bags during our next pledge drive. Our reporters do great work—important work—but I’ve always believed public radio is best when it focuses on longer features, deep dives, human-interest pieces. That’s what my show, Puget Sounds, does, and we’re good at it. Paloma came up with the name, a play on Puget Sound, the body of water along Washington’s northwestern coast.

“People don’t turn to us for breaking news,” I say, trying to keep my voice down. “We’ve done studies. And it doesn’t matter where local breaking news comes from. Tomorrow it’ll be on every station, blog, and Twitter account with twenty-seven followers, and no one will care where they saw it first.”

He crosses his arms over his chest, which draws more attention to his bare forearms and the pattern of dark hair that disappears into his sleeves. I’ve always been a forearm girl—a man rolling his shirt to the elbows is basically foreplay for me—and it’s a crime that such nice ones are wasted on him.

“Right, right,” he says. “I have to remember that real radio focuses on—what’s your segment today?”

“Ask a Trainer,” I say with a thrust of my chin that I hope projects confidence. I refuse to be embarrassed by it. It’s one of our most popular segments, a live call-in show where renowned animal behaviorist Mary Beth Barkley—98 percent chance that’s not her real name—answers listener questions. She always brings her corgi, and it’s a fact that dogs make everything better.

“You’re providing a real public service, analyzing cat vomit on air.” He pushes away from the booth, and the door closes behind him with a thud. “I must have been sick that day in grad school. Not a lot of other people can capture that nuance the way your show can.”

Before I can answer, Kent strides down the hall in his trademark suspenders and novelty tie. Today it’s tiny slices of pepperoni pizza. Kent O’Grady: the station’s program director, and owner of a radio voice that made him a Seattle legend decades ago.

He claps a hand on Dominic’s shoulder, but since Kent’s only a few inches taller than I am, it lands on his bicep. “Just the people I was looking for. Dom, how’s that story coming along? Do we have a scandal on our hands?”

Dom. In ten years, I’ve never seen Kent bust out a nickname so quickly.

“Scandal?” I ask, interest piqued.

“We just might,” Dominic says. “I’m waiting on one more call to confirm.”

“Excellent.” Kent runs a hand through his graying beard. “Shay, does Paloma have time at the top of the show for a live interview with Dom?”

“Live?” Dominic says. “As in . . . not prerecorded?”

“Of course,” Kent says. “We want to be the first to break this story.”

“Gotta get on that breaking news,” I say as Dominic pales. While I don’t love the idea of ceding time to Dominic, if he’s uncomfortable, I am definitely on board. “I guess we can give you a few minutes of Ask a Trainer.”

Kent snaps his fingers. “Remind me to catch Mary Beth before she leaves. The only way Meatball eats her food these days is if she transfers every single nugget from the dish to the floor.”

“Only a few minutes, right?” Dominic’s voice wobbles.

“Five, tops. You’ll be great.” Kent flashes us a grin and turns back to his office.

“Please don’t mess up my show,” I say to Dominic before I slip into Booth C.

* * *

Dominic Yun is in my studio.

Technically, it’s three adjoining studios: the one I’m in with the announcer and mixing console—aka “the board”—the small call-in studio, and Studio A, where Paloma’s sitting right now with her show notes, a bottle of kombucha, and an empty glass of water. Dominic is next to her, wringing his hands after spilling said water on Paloma’s notes. Ruthie had to race to print off another copy.

“Mary Beth’s here,” Ruthie says, coming into the studio behind me after mopping up Dominic’s mess. “And yes, she has water, and her dog has water.”

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