I hit send before I can second-guess myself.
Watching her receive the text, knowing that she’s reading the words I typed only seconds ago is a trip. She pulls her phone out of the back pocket of her jeans and reads the message, her brows furrowing. Then her fingers start flying on the screen.
Who is this?
You know who it is. The prick who lurks in hallways hoping to pick up helpless women who are down to fuck.
A little smile curls her lips when she reads my response and I smile in return, struck yet again by how beautiful she is. That sweater she’s wearing really brings out the blue in her eyes.
I scrub a hand over my face. Did I really just think that?
Yes. I fucking did.
My phone dings and I read her text.
How did you get my number?
I’m magical. I can make anything happen.
I lift my head after I hit send, our gazes meeting across the room. Steven isn’t paying attention to her. From the grimace on his face I’m thinking he’s too worried about the bad hand he was just dealt.
That could be taken two ways, I suppose. Because in this story, that asshole isn’t getting the girl.
“These are gorgeous,” the woman gushes as she pulls yet another formal dress out of one of the many garment bags I brought in. Her warm brown gaze meets mine, her expression a mixture of sincerity and confusion. “Are you sure you want to sell these?”
“I don’t plan on wearing them ever again.” I shrug, mentally pushing aside the hint of panic I feel at losing those dresses once and for all. “Besides, I don’t have the room for them.”
I made my way to that vintage consignment shop downtown, showing up right when it opened. Surprisingly enough it’s pretty quiet. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Most everyone is sleeping in this Saturday morning after partying on a Friday night.
Me? I asked Steven to take me home immediately after he lost his one hundred dollars and he obliged without protest. I needed to get out of there, get away from Tristan, who wouldn’t stop texting me and sending me heated looks from across the room. Thank God he gave up on the texts after I left.
But my brain certainly didn’t give him up. I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. All I could think about was him. When he touched my chin, his fingers warm and slightly rough on my skin. When I touched his perfectly soft, perfectly shaped mouth. How I whispered in his ear, reminding him of what a total douchebag he was.
Weird thing is, I kind of—like his douchebag ways. What does that say about me? That I like douchebags? I thought I was over that particular stage but apparently not…
“These dresses are going to sell like crazy. Some of those sorority/fraternity formals are coming up and I always have girls showing up here in a panic¸ looking for something unique.”
Every one of those dresses was unique. And expensive. God, so expensive. The ball of dread that’s taken up residence in my stomach makes me consider backing out.
But I can’t. I don’t need these dresses. I need the money they can make me way more.
“I’ll want to take photos of them and put them on Instagram right away. I have lots of followers and they watch closely, always ready to pounce. Social media is the best thing that ever happened to my business.” She taps her lips, contemplating the dresses before her gaze slides to me. “Would you be willing to model them for me?”
I gape at her. Uh, no way is my automatic first response. “I don’t know…”
“You’re the original owner so it makes sense for you to model them. I’m sure they fit you perfectly.” She runs her hand down the front of a black velvet strapless cocktail dress. “Some of them look custom made.” Her voice is wistful.
That’s because they were. Mother spared no expense. She spent as fast as Daddy earned it. Turns out he was stealing it. And she knew all along.
“Um, I really don’t think I want my face shown.” I’m trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Posing for photos that’ll appear all over Instagram—I don’t care if this woman only has two followers—isn’t the way to do it.
“Not a problem. I’ll take the photos from the neck down. That’s how I usually do it. That way, the girls can imagine they’re the ones wearing the dress.” The woman holds out her hand for me to shake. “I’m Sandie by the way.”
“Alex,” I tell her as I shake her hand. I like that she’s so eager to sell them. That means I’ll see money quick. “When do you want to take the photos?”
“Can you come back later this afternoon? I need Susana to steam them first and make sure they look perfect.” Her face falls and she presses her hands against the glass counter in front of her. “Oh, wait. She called in sick.” A pause, accompanied by an irritated sigh. “Guess I forgot. Maybe tomorrow? But I really don’t want to wait until tomorrow. I could steam them I guess…”
“I’ll steam them for you,” I volunteer.
Her eyes brighten and she clasps her hands together. “You will? Oh, that would be fantastic. Have you ever worked a professional grade steamer before? It’s not that hard, trust me.”
“I’m sure I can handle it.” Maybe. I’m not that domesticated. When you grow up with a housekeeper who takes care of everything for you, you don’t need to be. “How hard can it be?”
She grows solemn. “You have to watch out for steam burn.”
Steam burn? That sounds scary. “Um…”
“If you’d rather I do it, I understand.” She smiles at me. “You can watch the store for me while I’m steaming.”
And that’s how I found myself with a job—my first job. Susana kept calling in sick and she was tired of it. “You sell one of your own dresses, your commission percentage is bigger,” Sandie informs me and my imagination runs wild at all the things I can bring in here and sell on my own, especially when she lets me know exactly how much my percentage will be.
I worked for four hours and then modeled my dresses as Sandie took endless photos with her iPad for another two. By the time I got home, it was almost dark, I was tired and Conrad and Jeff were playing video games in the living room, the volume turned up so loud I could hear gunfire and screams down the street.
Oh, and Steven was with them.
“Alex.” His face brightens as he smiles at me from his perch on the couch. “Hi.”
“Hey.” I shut the door and lean against it, contemplating this new situation. I’m worn out. I definitely don’t want to go out tonight—and definitely not with Steven. He’s nice, I like him a lot but I came to the realization around two in the morning that he is not the guy for me.
It’s not right to go out on a date with one guy while thinking of another.
Steven says something to Conrad, who pauses the game while Steven stands and heads in my direction. I push away from the door and slip my coat off, draping it over my arm as I wait for him to approach. He somehow looks better today. Maybe it’s because his hair is a bit of a wreck and it looks like he hasn’t shaved. Plus, he’s wearing glasses, which is kind of hot in that Clark Kent/Superman way.
Rough around the edges Steven definitely has appeal.
“You having a good Saturday?” he asks when he stops directly in front of me.