PETAL, GEORGIA: ONCE AND AGAIN by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2011, Lauren Dane
All rights reserved, Samhain Publishing
Releasing August 30
She escaped quickly, almost feeling bad for leaving their mother with Nancy. But not that bad. Anyway, she had an appointment at Tate’s salon to have Anne cut her hair, and she wasn’t going to miss that to hang out and trade insults with her sister.
“Hey, ladies. And you too, Beth,” Lily called out as she entered the salon.
Beth hooted a laugh and tossed a curler at her, which she caught handily. “Nancy’s in my mother’s living room. I need some prettifying to take my mind off that.”
Anne waved her to the shampoo station. “Come on then. I’ll massage your scalp with the pretty-smelling stuff and cut your hair. I’ve been telling Tate we should serve wine, I think this is one of those perfect examples why.”
She let her muscles relax, breathing out slowly. “I’m dumb to let her get to me.”
“Girl, Nancy wouldn’t be happy if Jesus hisself came down and handed her a five-dollar bill.” Beth sniffed and Lily laughed.
Anne draped her clothing to protect her from the water and excess hair and had Lily lean back. “Close your eyes and tell us about it.”
The shop was empty at the moment so Beth and Tate were standing nearby, listening.
The water was the perfect temperature. The scent of the shampoo was sort of tropical and lifted her spirits. “I think I love you, Anne Murphy.”
She filled them in on that day’s business with her sister.
“Why is she that way? I don’t get it. You’re not, and you had the same parents and the same upbringing.” Anne helped her up and to the chair where she towel dried Lily’s hair and began to section it off to cut.
“I don’t know. She’s always been this way. Closest to our father, so that probably explains most of it. But she’s never happy. Given the opportunity to smile or frown, she’ll frown. She will always choose to be casually vicious because I think it’s the only way she knows how to be.”
“You had a good stylist in Macon.” Anne met Lily’s eyes in the mirror. “Not as good as me, though.” She winked. “What are you looking for?”
“What do you suggest?”
“She’s got that vintage thing going and it works for her.” Tate cocked her head and looked Lily over carefully.
“Are you looking to keep it or do something totally new? I agree with Tate that the vintage thing works for you. I can take it shorter, like a chin-length bob. Keep it longer so you can do pin curls and that sort of thing.”
“I want it easy on most days with the ability to do something more when I have the time. It’s got a natural wave so it takes me forever to straighten when it’s very short.”
“Okay then. I’ve got it.” Anne began to work, and Beth perched next to them as Tate went to deal with a client.
“We’re on for Saturday night, right? I’m still pouting you didn’t come to the cookout last weekend. How was Macon?”
“Yes we’re on. I haven’t bowled in a million years so that will be my excuse for sucking. Just telling you that in advance. As for Macon? Looks like my condo is going to sell. Big relief there. Oh! I found out two of my prints sold so that’ll cover some bills. Spoke with my boss and he’s going to send some freelancing work my way again. I told him this move was permanent, and he’ll probably have to let me go to get a local. But he’s open to my doing contract work and that’s a plus.”
“Have you given any serious thought about doing portraits for people?” Beth shifted and put a mug of tea into Lily’s hands. “Not wine, but chamomile. It’ll help some.”
“I used to do it on the side for extra money. I may again. Right now, especially until the end of the school year, my focus is Chris. But then I’ll have to re-evaluate my long-term job stuff.”
She did feel better after the tea. Mainly it was being surrounded by her friends and being able to vent about Nancy. But the new haircut was good too. She felt younger and lighter.
“What do you think?” Anne stood back, holding the mirror up so Lily could see the back. She’d styled it into big, lush waves. “I know you know how to do this one. I’ve seen you in it. But even when you don’t want to do the waves, you can still do a quick style and go.”
“I like it.”
He could not be there.
But he was. Her heart skipped a few beats as she took Nathan in from the tips of his boots up to that face of his. Lordamighty he was a good-looking man.
A good-looking man who seemed to show up everywhere she was in town.
“I’d say, fancy seeing you here. But I get the distinct feeling it’s not a coincidence at all.” She cut her gaze to Beth, who busied herself tidying up.
“Don’t have any idea what you mean.” He grinned, and her panties tried to jump from her rear end at the sight. “I was just stopping in after school to say hello to all my sisters. Your being here is a bonus.”
She paid and ignored Anne’s squawking about the tip being too much. “Thank you, Murphy ladies, for the tea, the sympathy and the hairdo. Yes, Beth, I’ll see you Saturday.” She tried to rush past but he followed her out.
“Have dinner with me.”
“Nathan, we can’t have dinner. I’m due home for dinner. I’ve got to run to the school to pick Chris up, and then we’re getting a pizza to bring back home.” She should probably order extra since Nancy was around.
She wanted to say no, punch him in the stones and walk away. But she wouldn’t, because the part of her that wanted to say yes was far greater.
“Look, we’ve said all we need to say.”
“No we haven’t. And it’s not about that anyway. Not entirely. I want to catch up. Talk about Chris. It’s just a dinner. The Sands? Five? It’ll still be broad daylight. Full of seniors getting the early bird special, but the pie will be fresh. I haven’t forgotten how much you like peach pie.”
She sighed. He made her weak. Made her wish for things she tried to convince herself not to want.
“It’s not a date.”
He grinned, triumphant, reminding himself to send a huge bouquet of flowers to his sisters the following day.
“Of course not. Just dinner between old friends.” He’d work on the date stuff later. But when he’d fallen for her originally, it had been after he’d gotten to know her as a friend. It had a certain lovely rhythm that he’d get to know her again and hopefully get that second chance.
“I’ll see you at five.” She walked down the steps and toward her car. “Not. A. Date.”