“Yeah, just trying to think of what I’ll wear,” I lie.
“It doesn’t matter what you wear. You look beautiful in anything you put on.”
“Mmm-hmm,” I half agree, wondering if there’s a way to get out of tonight.
“Where’s he taking you again?”
“The Wheelhouse, I think.” I pick up my phone and scroll through my texts until I find the message he sent me last week.
“That’s a nice place. I say a dress. Maybe that black one you have with the lace long sleeves and mock turtleneck.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I agree, reading the message from him—the one and only text he sent, telling me where we were going to dinner and what time he would pick me up at my house.
“Why are you frowning?” Grams questions, and I toss my phone to the top of my station.
“You seem annoyed,” she points out as the bell over the door rings, saving me from further questions.
Maria rushes in with the hair over her eyes cut at an odd angle. “Help!” she cries as soon as she spots Grams.
“Oh, honey, what were you thinking?” Grams asks, taking Maria’s hand and leading her over to her chair.
Maria plops down with a huff and tosses her bag on the top of Grams’s station. “I wasn’t thinking. I was sucked into the vortex of YouTube, where some girl convinced me that I could give myself bangs,” she says, and I giggle. She’s not the first to come into the salon having taken scissors to her hair, then regretted it afterward.
“No one can cut their own bangs,” Grams informs her while tossing a cape around her shoulders. “Everyone messes them up when they try to do it themselves.”
“I know that now, but can you fix it?” Maria asks, looking worriedly at her reflection.
“Thankfully, you didn’t cut too much, so I should be able to.”
“Thank God,” Maria sighs in relief.
I spin my chair around so I can watch Grams go to work doing what she does best, and twenty minutes later, Maria leaves with even bangs and a smile on her face. Five minutes after she’s gone, my first client of the day shows up, and the rest of the day is filled with client after client, giving me no time to think about my impending date with Charles.
I check out my reflection in the mirror while turning from side to side. My black mock turtleneck dress hits me just above the knees and fits me like a second skin. The long lace sleeves make the simple dress sexy, but the black leather high-heeled booties slouched around my ankles give the outfit a somewhat casual look. My long brown hair is pulled back away from my face with a clip, and my makeup is light, just some mascara, blush, bronzer, and lip gloss.
After getting home from working on my feet all day, I’m not in the mood to go out, but Charles sent a text this afternoon confirming he would be at my house tonight to pick me up, and I stupidly didn’t take that opportunity to back out of the date. When the bell rings, I take one last look at myself and grab my clutch off the bed. I make my way across the living room, and as soon as I open the door, I start to tell Charles I’ll just be a minute after I change out my bag, but it’s not Charles. It’s Tyler—Tyler wearing a pair of workman boots, dark jeans, and a long-sleeve black shirt that’s plastered over every ridge and valley of his torso.
His eyes roam over me from my hair to my heels, and his look feels like a physical caress. When his blue eyes meet mine from under the brim of his black baseball cap, I shift uncomfortably from his gaze.
“Is everything okay?” I prompt when he says nothing.
“Are you going out?”
I want to tell him no for some reason, but then Charles pulls into my driveway in his BMW. “Yes. Did you need something?”
His attention comes back to me at my question.
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.” His statement whips out like an accusation, and my hand tightens on the door.
“I don’t,” I say; then my eyes move to where Bruce is standing on my porch near the steps, growling at Charles, who is now coming up my walk.
“Leah,” Charles calls with fear in his voice, his eyes locked on Bruce.
“Hey, Charles, he’s not going to hurt you,” I tell him; then I look at Tyler. “Call Bruce off.”
His jaw jumps as he orders, “Bruce, heel,” without taking his eyes off mine.
“I think I’ll wait in my car. Just come down when you’re ready, and we can go,” Charles says, backing away from Bruce, who sits down in the middle of the porch.
“I’ll be right there,” I agree, giving him a reassuring smile.