Yes, my date is today, but I’m spending the early morning hours in the bar going through my music for Thursday night. The work calms my nerves. I try to concentrate on the titles in front of me, but my mind wanders to that I will wear, where we’ll go, and—
I growl my frustration. Casanova is not who I want to think about. It’s asinine that I’m acting like this. I’m only going out with him to get him to stop showing up at night.
My nerves are interfering with my enjoyment of the task at hand. The clock shows ten, so I should go up and do whatever it is people do before these things. It won’t take me an hour and a half to get ready, though.
How long has it been?
I can’t actually remember the last guy I went out with. Probably someone in college, but then, do college students really date? I remember going out to parties in groups a lot. Not so much a one-on-one thing.
When I open the door, Gina’s sitting at the breakfast bar. She raises her coffee mug to me in a toast.
“Where’ve you been?” she asks, her voice groggy.
“Downstairs. Did you just wake up?”
“Yeah. Not all of us can be morning people.”
I snort. I’m not a morning person at all. But the bar won’t refill stock itself. Or balance the books. A brief fantasy of a self-accounting bar flashes in my head and I smile at the absurdity. Then I remember her date the day before.
“How’d your night with Bad Boys go?”
She gets a dreamy look on her face. Must have gone well.
“He’s very nice. Nicer than most of the guys I usually go out with.”
I hold my tongue. She’s not exaggerating. I’ve never understood how she can attract so many losers.
“That’s awesome. Maybe he’ll stick.”
“Well, it ended when Warren called.”
Oh, no. Warren was the most recent Loser. The one that led to her meeting Bad Boys. Dread grips my stomach.
“I took the call. Jason got a little upset.”
“Sergeant Mitchell.” She sighs, as if I’m supposed to know everyone’s first name when I’ve never really met them. “Anyway, Jason thinks I still have a thing for Warren, but I don’t. I only answered to tell him I was done.”
“And Jason doesn’t believe you?”
“I don’t know. I thought it was weird that he got so touchy after one date.”
True, but then he’s a cop, I think. And he put your boyfriend in jail.
“So are you gonna see him again?”
“Probably. He really is a nice guy. I just need to convince him Warren is out of the picture.”
Suddenly, my life doesn’t seem so complicated. And with that thought, I realize I need to jump in the shower. Makeup is usually optional, but part of me wants to look my best, even though I’m not trying to impress Casano—Damon.
“Hey,” Gina calls after me. “What are you doing today?”
“I’m just going to grab something to eat before we open.” I cringe at the lie.
“Where? I’ll come with you.”
Damn. I don’t want to tell her about my plans, but there’s no way to get out of this otherwise.
“Actually, I’m going with someone already.”
Every instinct screams at me to tell her it’s John or Ashley or even Aunt Maria, if only for self-preservation. Instead, I remain silent.
“Lu-see-ah,” she says, with the inflection on the last syllable as a warning.
“Hmm?” Maybe I can get away with pretending I didn’t hear her. We’re in different rooms, after all.
Until she walks into the bathroom after me.
“Who are you going with?”
She makes eye contact with me in the mirror, and I’m cornered.
It only takes her a moment to register the name before she starts squealing.
“Really? He asked you out? And you said yes? When did this happen?”
This is why I have few female friends.
“Yes, yes, yes, last night.”
“You’re not wearing that, are you?” So it begins. This was exactly why I didn’t want to tell her.
I look down at my clothes—jeans, a green t-shirt, and sandals.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“You’ve got to have something sexier. The jeans are fine, but the top…” She trails off as she burrows herself in my closet. I wonder if praying for divine intervention is too selfish. What if I just prayed to get this impromptu makeover to end faster? Then we can both get on with our lives.
“Gina, I have to be downstairs in less than an hour.”
She swears. “We’ll have to hurry, then.”
With a triumphant look on her face, she pulls a blood-red wrap shirt out of the back of my closet. The tags are still on it, for good reason. I can’t wear it without falling out.
“Oh, come on! Would it kill you to look sexy every once in a while?”
“Whatever.” She waves her hand to dismiss me. “I won’t leave you alone if you don’t. So put it on and stop being such a baby.”
The shirt sails through the air at me and I have the choice to catch it with my hand or my face.
“Now,” she continues, as if she hasn’t just pelted me with my own clothes, “where’s your makeup?”
I bury my face in my hands.
“You do have makeup, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” My voice reeks of resignation. I don’t have the energy to fight her.
In twenty minutes, I’m dressed and staring at my reflection. I don’t recognize myself. We compromised over the top and she let me safety-pin it so I could feel comfortable. My dark hair is pulled back in a sleek ponytail, trailing down my back. I refused to wear it loose—it’s just too hot outside. She insisted on her sandals, which are heels and more feminine than mine, and I’m convinced I’ll break my ankle in them.
I have to hand it to Gina, though. I worried she would do night-club-slash-hooker makeup, but it’s really understated. Just enough to enhance my features. I may have to take tips from her. Overall, I look…halfway decent.
Gina sees me to the door, singing a pretty crappy rendition of Foxy Lady.
The anticipation of what Damon will say about my new look hurries me down the stairs to the bar. Not that I care. I’m not looking for a relationship. It’s just my vanity needing to be appeased. At least, that’s what I keep saying.
When I turn the corner, I catch my breath. He’s there already, and looking pretty damn foxy himself. I briefly wonder if I’m drooling.