Isn't She Lovely Page 23

I almost groan. Bubble baths are kind of my weakness. Or at least they were before I moved to Manhattan, where there are entire apartments smaller than a bathtub.

“No funny business,” I say, jabbing a finger at him.

He puts a hand over his chest, looking very Boy Scout. “No funny business in private. Only when there’s an audience. Then we perform.”

I fan myself. “Whew! Can’t handle all the romance in here.”

“You in or out, Kendrick?”

God help me—I think I’m in.

Chapter Eight


Sometimes I pride myself on not being a chauvinistic jerk.

I don’t clip my toenails in bed. I don’t grunt when I eat steak. I don’t wear my pants down around my ass because it’s “cool.”

But at the end of the day I’m a guy, and spending Saturday in a beauty parlor is up there on my no-way-in-hell list. I’d rather be on the boat. Or at the gym. Or just about anywhere else.

However, there’s no way I can leave Stephanie to get through this makeover unescorted. I had a hard enough time convincing her that the makeover was necessary in the first place. In the end, I had to whip out my phone and show her pictures of my mom, in pearls. My dad, in a suit. My family home: marble, granite, a winding staircase, and a professional chef.

She got it. One doesn’t mingle with the Price family in combat boots.

And damn, in the light of day, I don’t know why she’s mingling with the Price family at all. As far as ideas go, this is pretty much the worst one since someone decided to skimp on the Titanic’s lifeboats.

The real kicker is that it’s my own fault. Her snotty implications about me not pulling my weight on the project got under my skin, and I watched all those stupid movies, half out of boredom, half to prove her wrong.

And those damn movies caught me at a desperate time. A couple of weeks ago my mom caught me off guard by inviting Olivia to brunch. Surprise! A few days after that Olivia happened to be playing tennis when my dad invited me to play doubles. It didn’t take a genius to see that my parents were playing matchmaker.

I’d been all set to tell them that Olivia and I were done. But then they went and arranged for me to take Olivia out on the boat—alone, like it was some special treat. There was no f**king way.

But neither could I bring myself to tell my parents the truth. It was too humiliating. So I did what any pathetic chicken would do: I told them I had other plans. With a new girlfriend.

Like I said, not my best idea. And I wasn’t joking when I told Stephanie that there were surprisingly few females in my social circle who would work. This is the kind of messed-up shit that happens when you grow up in New York. I don’t care how many people live in this city.

When it comes to the rich—when it comes to the Prices and the St. Claires and the Middletons—the social circles are tight, and the sexual circles tighter.

Which brings me to … I look up from the luxe leather chair where I’ve been staring unseeingly at some trashy magazine.

Stephanie Kendrick.

The hairdresser has already put the black cape around Stephanie’s shoulders, emphasizing the black shit around her eyes and the dark attitude.

“So what am I doing here?” the hairdresser asks, scooping up the length of Stephanie’s hair before letting it drop around her shoulders.

My throat goes slightly dry at the memory of what that hair felt like against my fingers the other night. So damned soft for a girl with rough edges.

And then there was that kiss …

“Yeah, babe, Maddie here wants to know what we’re doing,” Stephanie says, meeting my eyes in the mirror.

“Ethan, does your mom know you’re here?” Maddie asks, turning to give me a look.

“Nope, and I’d sure appreciate it if you didn’t tell her.”

Maddie shrugs. “I didn’t tell her that it was you who messed with my dye trays back when you were six and turned her hair copper, did I? Not gonna tell her that you’re bringin’ a girl around now.”

I give her my best smile, ignoring Stephanie’s look of disgust. I haven’t seen Maddie in years, probably since that time she mentioned when I accidentally-on-purpose messed with the color tray. I seem to remember being irritated that my mom was having a “root crisis” on the same day as my basketball game and dragged me to the damned hair salon while the rest of my friends were headed to get pizza and soda.

More than a decade later, my mom is still coming to Maddie for root crises. Too bad she hasn’t shown my dad the same loyalty she shows her stylist.

I push the thought away. I’ve gotta stop dwelling on this shit, or I’m going to turn out all bitter and mean like Stephanie.

“So, Maddie,” I say, “Stephanie here’s a low-maintenance kind of girl, but she said she wanted to spruce herself up. I think she’s trying to impress me,” I say with a little wink for Maddie.

“Spruce myself up?”

“So what are we thinking?” Maddie asks, taking a sip of her coffee.

“Well, to start, I was thinking we could get rid of the dark. Take her back to her natural color,” I say, hoping I’m using the right terminology. I’m pretty sure I am. Olivia had talked about her hair. A lot.

But both Stephanie and Maddie are staring at me, so clearly I’ve said something wrong.

“You know … lighter?” I say, feeling a little less confident

“Well, if I’m not mistaken,” Maddie says, setting her mug aside, “we’re dealing with the real thing right here.”

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