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“Yeah,” she agreed, because she didn’t know what else to say. “He’s doing a lot better. Working for a computer software company or something. I’m not really sure.”

“Well, tell him I said hi. I don’t know if he ever really liked me, but I appreciated the work he did for the paper when he was here.”

Oh, Hayden. How could she ever think that he would be jealous? He was perpetually good-natured and saw the best in everyone. She appreciated that quality in him more than ever in that moment.

“I’ll let him know,” she said softly. She didn’t want to be sentimental right now, but it had a tendency to creep up on her. “I have to help Massey with some stuff at the paper before I can head home. Can I see you later?”

“Of course. Come over when you leave the paper. We can hang out then,” he told her.

“That sounds perfect. Is the day over yet?”

Hayden laughed softly. “I wish.”

“See you soon.”

Liz hung up as she rounded the corner to the Top of the Hill, where she was meeting Justin for lunch. It was one of her favorite restaurants in town, with a large balcony overlooking the main city block downtown.

She took the stairs up to the top floor of the building. It was still too cold to sit out on the balcony, so Liz allowed the waitress to direct her to a table. She sipped her water as she waited.

It had been so long since she had seen Justin. She didn’t really know what to expect. They had been friends since freshman year, but sometimes it was hard to be friends with Justin. Half arrogant brainiac, half douche frat boy made for a hard combination. But he was fiercely loyal and had never blamed her for the incident last summer, even though she carried part of the responsibility. She had been wasted at one of Justin’s frat parties and he had offered to drive her home. Unfortunately he had been drunk himself, and after driving through a red light had been pulled over and given a DUI. It had lost him his scholarship and he’d had to leave school.

When Justin walked into the bar and saw her, she broke into a smile. God, she had missed him being around, and she hadn’t really realized it until then. He had been a fixture in her life at UNC, working for the newspaper and taking classes with her since freshman year. She was glad to be reunited.

“Justin!” she said, barreling into him when he got closer.

He laughed and hugged her to him. “Good to see you, Liz.”

“It’s really good to see you too,” she said, pulling away from him and regaining her seat.

Justin looked professional in a way he never had in college in what looked like a brand-new suit and tie. His hair was cut shorter and brushed off of his face. She couldn’t see Justin wanting to be in a suit all the time. He was more of a khakis, polos, and boat shoes kind of guy.

The waitress appeared immediately, they ordered food and drinks, and then she disappeared just as quickly.

“You look great,” Justin said, a smug look on his face.

Liz managed not to roll her eyes. What did he want? Justin didn’t dole out compliments lightly. “Thanks. How is the new job?”

“A drag, but it pays well.”

“Yeah?” She knew there was a hitch already. She just waited for him to let the other shoe drop. “What is the company exactly?”

“It’s just a software company run by three guys. They wanted to make a program for students and teachers to install on their computers to live-stream from multiple locations on or off campus while still remaining interactive.”

“Well, that sounds cool,” she admitted.

“Yeah. I was selected online to do some testing for the program to make a few easy bucks. I took what they had redesigned and added a few key features of my own . . .”

“Wow. That’s fantastic. I bet professors like it.”

“They love it. Or at least, the three universities that have already purchased the software to try in their classrooms love it,” Justin told her. “And I’m supposed to pitch it to UNC this afternoon. Kind of ironic, right? UNC dropout sells innovative software to university system.” He chuckled to himself. “Anyway, that’s not my endgame.”

Their orders arrived, and Liz waited patiently for the waitress to leave again, digging her fork into her food. “So, what is your endgame?” she asked.

“I want to own my own company.”

“What do you want to do when you work for yourself?”

“I’m working on creating some way to put in place a filtering mechanism on YouTube videos, so I could get past all of the stuff that people watch that isn’t actually good and get straight to the good stuff. I designed the reviewing process myself, primarily to see how easy it was to find my own videos through it. I want to take it a step further and give it a social media component, form a central rating system, and then connect that to people’s YouTube accounts.”

“And you can do all of this? I seriously thought you were just a video expert,” she asked, surprised by his genius.

Justin shook his head. “I was majoring in photojournalism because I was already a programmer. My dad’s a programmer and I grew up on a computer.”

“Well, I think you should go for it.” She smiled back at him encouragingly.

“Will you help me?”

“Wh-what?” she stammered. What could he possibly want her help with? Sounded as if he had it all pretty much covered.

“I want to include a blogging component to the site and I need a writer. You and I both know I’m not that good with writing. I can’t express my ideas like you can. I know how much influence your pieces have in the paper, and I know you get A’s in all of your writing classes. I need someone that I trust to help, to keep people interested, to feed the buzz.”

He wanted her to help him with the start-up company he hadn’t even started? She didn’t know when she would ever find time for that amid her busy schedule.

“I . . . I don’t know,” she said.

“Come on. You’re perfect. And I trust you,” he said earnestly.

“Justin, I appreciate you considering me for this, but I’m swamped at school. There’s no way I could dedicate the amount of time you would need for this kind of project.”

“It wouldn’t be that much to begin with.”

“Next year I’ll be editor.” The words thrilled her when they left her mouth. She hadn’t said that out loud yet, and it felt right. “I’ll have my internship for the Morehead scholarship. It’s too much . . .”