Sleepless Online - Cyn Balog

CHAPTER 1

Julia

“You can ring my be-e-ell, ring my bell!”

My eyes flicker open. All I see is a pink satin pillow, which I’ve clamped over my face to block out the rest of the world. When I remove it, I recoil in the morning sunlight like the undead and crane my neck to check the clock at my bedside.

9:20 a.m. Oh, hell no.

Before I can theorize who on earth hates me enough to be playing cheesy disco music on the only day of the week I can sleep in, I realize that the noise is coming from under my other pillow. Grinding my teeth, I rip the pillow off the bed, throw it across the room, and see my cell phone vibrating there.

Griffin.

He’d been quiet for all of three minutes during our “study session” the night before, while I was fixing him cookies and milk, which was plenty of time for him to reprogram my phone with music he knew would make me want to hurl. I quickly pick the phone up; the display says “private.” I know only one person who has a private number, all the easier to annoy me with. This is, without a doubt, the last time I’ll ever play Betty Crocker for him.

As I flip the cell open, my eyes trail to the floor, where I’ve thrown the proofs of our picture from prom. I’d been convinced I looked like a princess in that photograph, until he proudly showed me the proofs last night. He’d had his pointer and middle fingers behind me, giving me rabbit ears. Jerk. “What?” I groan.

“Ms. Devine?” The voice is professional, kind of effeminate … but I’m smarter than that. Griffin can disguise his voice better than anyone.

“Yeah?”

“Coby Baker from the Bucks County Courier Times.”

I sigh. This is a good one. Last weekend, I won a major cash award from Publishers Clearinghouse, which was just too obvious, since I’m not that lucky. “And?” I snuggle back under the covers.

“Are you Julia Devine, Griffin Colburn’s girlfriend?”

“Who?” I ask innocently. There’s silence on the other end; I’ve caught him off guard, a small victory for me. “Yeah, I am. What about him?”

“I was hoping I could get a quote from you, as his girlfriend.”

Oh, I can give you a quote, I think, but I doubt any paper would be able to publish it.

I’m silent, choosing the words, when his voice comes through again, more serious. “I’m sorry for your loss, Ms. Devine.”

“Oh,” I say, thinking fast. “I thought this was about him robbing the 7-E again. Did he finally croak?”

“Um … a-are you …,” the voice stammers. “The car accident?”

“Oh, right,” I say. Wow, Griffin is pulling out all the stops today. “It slipped my mind. Okay. Let’s see. He was a really nice guy, except for that weird fungus. And the funny smell. He was always taking chances. Clearly he is responsible for his own undoing.” I pause. “How’s that?”

More silence. This is where I expect Griffin to break in with his usual “What’s up?” Instead, “Coby,” still businesslike, says, “Um … thank you, Ms. Devine.”

“Pug, it’s nine in the morning,” I begin, but then I notice the words “call ended” flashing on the display.

Huh.

I toss the phone aside and slip deeper under my comforter. Ten minutes later, I’m almost asleep when it happens again.

“You can ring my be-e-ell, ring my bell!”

Cursing, I find the phone tangled within my sheets and check the screen. Private, again. My first and only boyfriend is so dead.

I flip the phone open. “Yeah?” I say, grouchier this time.

“Ms. Devine?”

“Who are you now, the Wall Street Journal?”

“Actually, it’s the Intelligencer.”

Okay, now this has gone too far. “Do you want a quote from the victim’s girlfriend, too?” I ask, my voice saccharine.

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

“Actually,” I say, “it’s a lot of trouble. Pug, I’m trying to sleep. This. Is. Not. Funny.”

“Hey. Julia Devine.” The voice on the other end sparkles with recognition. “You’re the Julia Devine. The one who made all those headlines. Right? How long ago was that? Five years ago?”

I bite my lip, suddenly aware of my heart thudding against my camisole. If there’s anything, any topic in my life, that Griffin knows is off-limits, it’s that. Even he wouldn’t touch it. “Nine,” I whisper.

There’s silence on the other end. “Ms. Devine,” the voice finally says, “have you not heard about the accident?”

My voice is a squeak. “Accident?”

“Ms. Devine. There was an accident, on Main Street, last night. Griffin Colburn was killed.”

It seems I