Home > Press (White House Men #1)

Press (White House Men #1)
Author: Nora Phoenix

Prologue

 

 

“This is Levar Cousins, reporting live from the New York Pride Parade. As you can see, the weather is beautiful on this June day, the sky blue and the temperature a crisp seventy-two degrees with a slight breeze. But the parade itself is burning hot with some of the best participants and the biggest floats yet to come. Here’s a quick recap of last year’s highlights.”

Levar kept smiling until Claire, the assistant producer, told him through his earpiece they were off the air. He quickly dabbed his forehead with a cotton handkerchief, then took a sip of water.

God, he loved New York. The fast pace was in sharp contrast with the California laid-back atmosphere he’d grown up in, but he’d adapted quickly. This city truly never slept, and something was always happening. But nothing brought out the exuberant flamboyance of Greenwich Village like the Pride Parade.

The streets were packed, the crowds ten rows deep alongside the route of the parade. The rainbow was everywhere from flags to shirts, hats, body paint, and more, and Levar basked in the celebration. One day a year, he’d let himself believe that equality was achievable, that someday soon, they’d manage to eradicate homophobia and transphobia.

“You’re doing great,” Robert, his cameraman, said over the sound of the tinny music in the background as he plucked a bit of confetti out of his hair.

“Thanks. At least it’s not in the nineties, like last year.”

They smiled at each other in mutual understanding. They’d both been there last year, though Levar had participated, not reported on it. After covering five parades as a cameraman, Robert was a veteran, and Levar was grateful to be working with him. Robert had given him some good pointers already, a welcome reprieve from the hostility he often got from others at the station.

Was it his ambition and the fact that he’d gotten a lucky break early on in his career and landed this gig? Or was it mixed in with low-key homophobia? He suspected that for all its corporate blah-blah about diversity and inclusivity, the station still had a long way to go before those lofty words would become day-to-day reality.

“Fifteen seconds to live,” Claire warned him, and Levar wiped his mouth, then quickly checked his shirt, as had become his habit. He was wearing a light blue shirt that made his eyes look extra blue, and as a bonus, it also highlighted he was in good shape. Vain? Maybe, but he didn’t care. He was on TV, so damn right he wanted to look good. Besides, every time he’d worn that shirt, he’d scored a hookup, so clearly, it worked. His best friend, Rhett, had called it his get-laid shirt, and he wasn’t wrong. Claire counted off the last three seconds, and Levar’s smile was camera-ready.

“I’m excited to see this year’s outfits, floats, and signs, and we have the perfect spot to view, right across from the Stonewall Inn, where the infamous Stonewall Riots broke out that birthed the pride movement.”

He waited as Robert slowly panned to the right, showing the inn.

“Because for all the fun and extravaganza of the Pride Parade, let’s not forget the battle for equality that started it…and that’s still going on. At the core, Pride is as much a protest as it is a celebration.”

There, he snuck that one right in. One point for the gay agenda. His boss might get on his case about it, but if they hadn’t wanted a personal opinion mixed in, they shouldn’t have sent in a gay reporter. And a gay cameraman, he thought as Robert panned back to him. Too bad Levar had a firm policy on doing coworkers, or he’d hit that hard. Or maybe let Robert hit him hard. The man looked like he knew what he was doing, and it had been a while since Levar had experienced a good dicking. The kind that left him slightly sore the day after.

“This year, the organization has chosen to spread out the most extravagant participants throughout the parade, and we’ve seen some amazing floats already. If you’re just tuning in now, we’re about to see familiar groups that participate every year, including the NYPD, the NYFD, the employees from the city, and many more. It’s—"

BOOM!

The deafening blast stunned him, but then a force coming from behind him knocked him off his feet. He went flying forward, slamming into Robert and crashing down with him. His body smashed into the pavement, and for a second or two, he couldn’t breathe, his lungs refusing to fill. Breathe. His ears were ringing so loud he couldn’t hear anything else.

Breathe, dammit. Breathe!

Finally, he sucked air in with a gasp, his lungs aching as they expanded. He blinked a few times, but his vision remained hazy. Smoke. Something was burning. The sharp smell stung his nose, making his eyes water.

What the fuck had happened? The music had stopped, and instead, keening and crying drifted in the air, muffled through the ringing in his ears that hadn’t subsided yet. People were shouting, screaming, sobbing. He grunted in pain as he moved.

Robert. Was he okay?

“Levar…Levar!” Claire yelled in his earpiece. Had her voice always been that shrill? God, his head hurt.

He groaned in response. “I’m here.”

“What’s happening? We can hear you and see you, but we took you off the air. Are you okay? And Robert?”

Levar pushed himself up onto his knees. White-hot pain lit up his right wrist, and he cried out. “Fucking hell!”

“Are you hurt?” Claire shouted

Why was she shouting? He shook his head, but it didn’t clear his vision, which remained blurry.

Someone moaned. Close by. Robert. Levar crawled toward him on his knees, holding his wrist against his chest. Was it broken? “Robert! Are you okay?”

Finally, his eyes lost the blurriness. The explosion had thrown the cameraman against the iron fence they’d been filming in front of, the one around Christopher Park. He was lying like a raggedy doll amid blackened debris from god knew what, his left arm bent at a weird angle, clearly broken. He must’ve tried to brace himself. His eyes were open, and when Levar reached him, he grunted. “I’m alive. Everything hurts, but I’m alive. What the fuck happened?”

They looked at each other, and their eyes widened at the same time. “A bomb,” Levar said way too loud, his ears still ringing. “That was a bomb.”

A bombing. And he was here, with a camera. A switch flipped in his brain. “Claire, we’re okay. You said you still have our feed? Video and audio?

“Yes. We’ve been rolling B-tape the whole time. Are you good to go?”

Levar didn’t hesitate. “Yes. Robert’s arm is broken, though, so I don’t know if—“

“I can do it,” Robert cut him off. “Gimme a few moments.”

Levar pushed himself up, his legs shaky but holding. With his good arm, he pulled Robert up. Thank fuck it was him and not two-hundred-eighty-pound built-like-a-truck Martin, who he usually worked with. Robert winced, but he quickly lifted the camera, wiped off the lens, and hoisted it onto his shoulder.

“Video check?”

“Levels are good,” Claire said.

“Audio?”

Levar picked up the mic he’d dropped. “Testing one, two, three.”

“Audio isn’t perfect, but good enough. You boys ready?”

“You’re bleeding.” Robert gestured at Levar’s neck.

Levar touched it and came away with bloody fingers. “How bad is it?”

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