Isn't She Lovely Page 24

It takes a second to register, and I look at Stephanie’s hair in surprise.

“That’s your real hair color?”

Stephanie gives me a flat look. “I can tell you think it’s pretty.”

“No. Yes. I mean, sure, but it’s so dark.”

Stephanie glances at Maddie. “Do you have my purse handy? I’m going to see if I have a gold star in there I can give Mr. Observant here.”

“Oh, calm down. I guess I just thought, given your penchant for all things dark and dreary, that you’d dyed it.”

“A man without stereotypes. Refreshing.” Stephanie’s tone is light, but she looks pissed.

Shit. Somehow I expected this to be easier. That Maddie would work her magic, turning this dark gremlin into a soft, blond sweetheart.

“So, what are our options, Mad?” I ask, trying to ignore Stephanie.

The hairdresser studies her client for a moment, picking up stray pieces of hair and letting them fall to the shoulders. “We should keep it long. It suits her. But some layers would do a world of good. Maybe add some long bangs to emphasize her eyes?”

As if Stephanie’s eyes need emphasizing. They’re big and bright and blue.

And not at all f**king relevant right now.

“Okay, whatever you think,” I say, suddenly desperate for some space. “Sweetie, you good if I go grab us some coffees while Maddie does her thing?”

“I’m good, love bug dumpling.”

Her words are all sugar, but I know even after turning away that she’s shooting daggers at my back.

I smile at the receptionist on the way out, and she gives me a smile that clearly invites conversation. I almost bite at the offer. She’s tall and slim, with wavy sex-kitten hair. Exactly the type of girl my parents would expect me to bring home. I need Stephanie to look like that, and it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than a few face-framing layers. More like a personality transplant.

This was your idea, dude.

I still don’t know what planted the seed, or what compelled me to show up at her ex-boyfriend’s door like the perviest kind of stalker. I was changing my mind even as I knocked on the door. But she was looking all miserable and fifth-wheel, and I found myself wanting to stick around.

Then I went and f**king kissed her, which mostly was meant to be a way of shutting her up for, like, five seconds, but instead it was kind of … hot. Not exactly what either of us needs.

I take my sweet time getting the coffees, even pretending to window-shop on Fifth Avenue because it’s a lot less terrifying than the estrogen-filled monstrosity that is the hair salon. I have no idea how long these appointments take, so I duck into a bookstore for some air-conditioning, finishing off my coffee before I start drinking Stephanie’s just because it’s there.

Forty-five minutes later I make my way back to the salon. Stephanie is sitting in the waiting area, clearly pissed that I’m late.

“Check your texts much?” she asks.

I pull out my phone, and sure enough, I have about fifty texts from her, all with increasingly violent threats if I don’t get my “preppy ass” back to the salon. But I’m having a hard time concentrating on the fact that Stephanie wants to kill me, because she looks … pretty.

I didn’t understand crap about whatever Maddie had been mumbling, but the woman knows her stuff. Stephanie’s hair is still the shiny dark brown I’ve gotten used to, but instead of hanging like a shield around her face, it falls in tousled waves around her shoulders and is pretty much begging to be spread out on someone’s pillow.

Not mine. But someone’s.

And it’s pretty hard to tell with the glare and the raccoon eyes, but I think there might be a babe under all that angst.

“No coffee?” she asks.

I give a wan smile, and to my surprise she doesn’t throw a fit.

“Whatever,” she says. “You always get my order wrong anyway.”


I pull out a credit card and approach the curious receptionist. I didn’t have to do much coaxing to get Stephanie to let me pay. Not only does she not have the money, but if we are really going to turn our little adventure into a shitty screenplay, I have to be the one driving the makeover, Pygmalion style.

Which isn’t a problem. I’m evolved. I can tolerate a makeup counter and a women’s dressing room.

But I didn’t anticipate the extra hurdle of keeping my motivations focused. I’m here to create a version of Stephanie that will fool my parents. Not a version of Stephanie that appeals to me.

I glance over at her as she’s punching something on my phone and give her a thumbs-up at the haircut. She narrows her eyes and gives this little head wiggle as if to say, What? before shooting me the bird.

So … never mind. Guess I don’t need to worry about falling for this delicate little flower.

“So what now, a couple’s mani/pedi?” she purrs after we head back into the late morning sunshine.

“That’s nails, right?”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Yeah, well … getting rid of the tar you’ve smudged on your fingers is a given. But not yet.”

“Can we get a snack?” she whines as I drag her toward Bergdorf Goodman. A few Internet searches indicated that it’s the best bet for one-stop cosmetics shopping. And I’m all for one-stop shopping, not only for my own masculinity but also because Stephanie’s makeover stamina is proving to be dismal.

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