Boomerang - 1

Noelle August


To Lisa, my first literary agent, my constant reader,

and my best friend. Love you, Blister.

And to Brenda, for all you do,

and for your big, gorgeous heart.


To Lolo, who wrote half of this, but still.

You are wonderful.


 Chapter 1


Q: Have you ever had a one-night stand?

On the single most important day of my life, I wake with the thought: Oh crap, where are my panties?

I think this because I also happen to wake in the bed of a stranger, with a wicked shaft of lemon-hued LA light bisecting my bare thigh and not a shred of underwear or any other garment in sight.

This is so not me, and yet here I am, tangled in warm sheets that are most definitely not my own.

Vague snippets of the night before push through my hangover-muddled brain. I remember sitting at Duke’s after my interview with Adam Blackwood, wired with anticipation and the feeling that, finally, I was set to launch. I’d be able to finish my film about Nana, turn it in, and say sayonara to college. And I’d turn this internship with one of the biggest media companies in the country into a real film career where I could find myself, find my style, not just the styles I’d been parroting during my years in school.

I almost remember the guy too. Broad shoulders, an easy manner, and that feeling of heat and possibility. But that’s about it. No face. No name. No idea how this—this minor miracle of actual real-life sex—came to pass.

Sadly, this mystery may remain unsolved. I’ve got to get going.

I struggle up, gingerly tugging strands of my curly hair from beneath the shoulder—the toned and nicely tanned shoulder—of my new friend. My head feels like the inside of a blender set to frappé, and the taste in my mouth suggests something crawled in there and died.

Swinging my bare feet onto the cool concrete floor, I rise, willing away the queasiness that threatens to grab hold.

Thanks a bunch, Patron Silver.

I creep around the bed to see if I’ll have better luck finding my underwear—or really, any item of clothing—on that side of the world. And, I’ll confess, I’m dying to take a look.

My curiosity is most definitely rewarded. Even though the guy’s face is mashed against his pillow, and his short caramel-brown hair lies matted against his head, he is about twelve kinds of hot. He has a strong, beautifully sculpted jaw with just a hint of a cleft, full lips, and the kind of dark sweeping eyelashes that girls need to gob on mascara to achieve.

Stretched out with just the barest corner of sheet covering him—my bad for hogging the blankets—his feet almost dangle off the bed. Which means he’s tall. And even in sleep, his face holds an interesting furrow-browed intensity, like he’s dreaming about saving the world. I know he has to have a stellar personality or there is zero chance I’d have woken up in his bed.

I don’t see any condom wrappers, which makes me wonder what, exactly, did happen last night. It’s definitely not like me to be reckless. So maybe nothing happened? But again: no panties.

While I puzzle over this, my glance drifts over to his bedside clock. The numbers 8:02 a.m. carve their way through the haze, and adrenaline floods my every molecule.

My internship at Boomerang—the answer to becoming more than the daughter of a famous photographer, to stepping into my real life and preserving the life of the dearest person in the world—kicks off in exactly fifty-eight minutes. And I have no idea where I am or where my frickin’ underwear went.

“Crap, crap, crap.” I push my hands through my hair, do a quick inventory of the room, and decide the clothes must have landed elsewhere.

This should be fun.

Hurrying down a narrow hall, I catch glimpses of sports photographs and motivational posters with soaring eagles and mountaintop sunrises. One says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” which means my life is definitely beginning. Right. Now.

I find myself in a living room with the expected lumpy bachelor sofa, smudged glass coffee table, and giant-screen TV that blots out the sunlight attempting to pour in through two tall Pendleton-blanket-covered windows. It’s also got the requisite single-guy funk: booze, sweat, and a kind of dead-possum tang for the kicker. Books and magazines lie scattered over most surfaces, along with a host of remote controls that suggest an underground lair somewhere; a laptop that looks old enough to belong to Fred Flintstone, and various articles of clothing—a sweatshirt, gym shorts, and—score!—my dress from last night.

I snatch it off the floor and inspect it. It’s so wrinkled it looks like a dump truck backed over it, and it’s stiff in spots, with a V-shaped stain spreading over the top.

Trying to shake out the creases, I wish I had chosen something a little less slinky for my meeting with Adam Blackwood. But I went with this, and he’ll get to see it again today. Only this time it’ll look like I wrestled it off a hobo.

I hear a creak of bedsprings and then a door opening and closing, followed by the rush of water from a shower. So, the guy’s awake. Great. Maybe he can give me a hand with Mission Impossible: Underwear Edition. There’s no way that will be awkward, right?

After searching around the entire living room, picking up clothing, pizza boxes, video game cases, and various pieces of sporting equipment, I manage to find my shoes, purse, and—draped over the kitchen pass-through—my bra. But no underwear.

Did they just disappear? Dissolve right off my body? In that case, kudos to the guy. Evan? No, that’s not it. And all the more reason to wish I could remember, oh, even a couple of minutes of last night.

The microwave clock says 8:09. I gather up my shoes, bra, and dress and race back into the bedroom. Dumping everything onto the bed, I knock on the bathroom door and push it open at the same time. Niceties went out the window sometime between my meeting with Adam Blackwood and my clothing being fired around this apartment like t-shirts at a Lakers game.

“Uh, hey—(What the hell is his name?)—there,” I say lamely. “Um—not to be weird or pushy, but I’m in a ridiculous hurry. New job. Do you mind if I come in and . . .”

He draws back the shower curtain and pokes his head out, giving me an eyeful of chiseled torso in the process. Add in his soulful blue eyes and the water pooling in the deep grooves of his collarbone, and, well, it’s a lot to take in this early in the day.

Clearly, he feels some of that as well. His eyes make a quick circuit up and down, and then he stammers something.

“What?” I say and lift a hand to my lips. “Do I have something in my teeth?”

He laughs. “You’re so naked.”

I give him a smile. “Sorry, yeah. Is that okay?”

Between modeling for my mother, spending eight shows a week nude in a summer stock production of Hair, and being the go-to “drop trou” girl for my fellow film students, I feel like I spend half my life naked. Am I going to spend half my life blushing and apologizing for myself? No, I am not.

His gaze sweeps over me, and his lips quirk into a smile, though he makes an excellent effort to look into my eyes when he speaks. “Definitely. Definitely okay. Do whatever you need to do.”

“Great.” I turn away and leave him to his shower. Palming the condensation off the mirror, I get a look at myself, especially at my hair, which always constitutes a situation. It frizzes out in a million directions, but it has definitely been worse. Which means, I realize with a pang of regret, that we definitely didn’t have sex after all.

Sex—good sex, anyway—makes my hair go insane. Like giant mushroom cloud insane. Right now, it’s at about Defcon Three, which suggests some vigorous making out but not much more.

Looks like the dry spell continues.

I find a brush and tug it through my hair then dab a line of toothpaste onto my finger and apply it to my teeth. After that, I gargle about a half-gallon of his mouthwash and gulp down a few handfuls of water from the tap.

“Dumb question, but do you have any idea where my underwear went?”

He turns the water off and reaches an arm out for his towel, which I hand around the curtain to him. He pushes aside the striped fabric, the towel draped around his waist to accentuate an impressive contoured abdomen.

“Not sure,” he says, grinning. “Let me just put on some clothes, and I’ll help you find them.”

Back in his bedroom after a quick shower of my own, I slip on my bra and dress, feeling weirdly asymmetrical without my underwear.

“Where’s work for you?” he asks as he buttons a crisp white dress shirt.

I have a flash of him wearing a suit the night before and of snaking my arms beneath the jacket to run my hands over his strong back. He looks used to good clothes, so probably something professional. But he has a ton of sporting equipment. Maybe he’s a basketball coach. They wear suits, right?

“Where did you say you need to be?” he asks again, and I realize I’ve totally zoned.

Flushing, I say, “Century City, and I’m going to be so late.”

His hands still on the buttons. “Me too,” he mutters, more to himself than to me. “But it’s twenty minutes in good traffic. You can make it.”

That means I have to leave now.

He helps me search around the apartment, turning over chair cushions, checking behind curtains. “Are you sure you had them on when we got here?”

“You think I came here without my panties?”

Did I come here without my panties?

He yanks a tie from the ceiling fan over a small kitchen table, smiling as he holds it up for me. “Seems possible. I’m a little fuzzy on the details myself, but the evidence suggests we had a hell of a time.”

Maybe not quite as good as you think, I want to say, but why get into it? I find a rubber band on the kitchen counter and fashion my hair into a low bun.

I give my dress another inspection and realize there’s just no way I can show up looking like this.

“Hey, would you mind loaning me a shirt?” I say. “Like a dress shirt. I’ll . . . um, get it back to you.” While I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a weird stalker girl, my need to not look like I just pulled my clothes off a tavern floor overrules my concern with first—or second—impressions.

“Yeah, sure,” he says, and heads off to his room. He returns with a blue button-down shirt and hands it to me. “Might be a little big.”

“I’m sure it will be,” I say, but I put it on and cinch it tight around my waist, covering the worst of the problem. Now I just look like a rumpled weirdo. Though if my new boss spends any time with film people, I definitely won’t be the only rumpled weirdo in his life.

The guy picks up a pair of black-checked boxer briefs from a kitchen chair. “I was wearing these last night, so we’re getting warm.”

I grow more and more anxious as he locates items of his own clothing.

“Sorry, Mia,” he says after he’s opened every cabinet and looked in every nook and cranny of the modest apartment.

I feel a little flush of pleasure that he knows my name, quickly supplanted by embarrassment at the fact that I’m the jerk who doesn’t remember his.

In the kitchen, he pours himself a glass of juice from the fridge, sliding one across the pass-through for me too. “I don’t see them anywhere.”

Where the hell can they be? And is it better to be late for work on my very first day or to flash all my new co-workers? Decisions, decisions.

I fish out my cell phone—8:29—and sigh. “All right,” I decide. “I guess I’ll do without.”

“Commando.” He grins. “I like that in a girl.”

“Why, thanks. If you find them, feel free to keep them as a souvenir.”

“I’ll treasure them. Unless they’re granny panties. But then those might have been easier to find.”

“They are most certainly not granny panties. They’re—”

He laughs, his back to me. “Hot pink? With white butterflies?”

“Yes! How did you—”