Bridget sauntered into Mane Modifying on Main Street, her regular salon, with a confident hitch in her step. Her life suddenly had purpose and meaning. She, the workaholic, the old maid, the crazy cat lady, had a date that night. It was a blind date, and she hadn’t laid eyes on the guy yet, but from their computer conversations and instant messages over the last month, she felt she could honestly say, “He’s the one.”
As the glass door swung shut behind her, she searched for her usual stylist, Deborah. The short, blonde, perky hair artist was nowhere to be seen. Am I early? Bridget glanced at the gold watch on her slender wrist. Right on time, as usual. Feeling a twinge of impatience, after all, she looked like crap and needed to look her absolute best—not that that was much improvement over the way she looked now—for the upcoming night. Where in the world is she?
Usually Deborah was awaiting her arrival, eager to escort her client to the designated chair. Bridget glanced at the front desk. That hot guy is manning the desk today. Damn. She’d seen him every time she came for her monthly appointment, but had never spoken to him. Gorgeous men, especially men with light brown skin, dark chocolate eyes, wavy black hair stopping at broad shoulders, and slender waists above tight buttocks, intimidated the hell out of her. She could handle men in the board room when money was involved—the business men she dealt with didn’t look particularly good anyway—and did so on a daily basis, but in her personal life…no. Especially not men that looked even better than Richard. Don’t go there, not now…
He’s probably gay. Men that look that good and style hair are definitely gay. The thought gave her a new confidence, and she approached the desk. “I’m here for my appointment with Deborah.”
The man turned smoldering eyes up from the appointment book he had been perusing. His straight, white teeth showed as he smiled, and a dimple appeared in the corner of his cheek. Bridget felt her breath catch. Gay, gay, gay. Then he spoke.
“Miss Langston, Deborah had a family emergency and just called forty-five minutes ago. We tried to reach you to let you know of the appointment change, but you didn’t answer your phone.” His voice was deep and low. A shiver went up Bridget’s spine. She attempted to ignore it and gulped around the knot forming in her throat.
“Oops,” she said, hoping her voice sounded breezy and unconcerned. “I had my phone off while I was in a meeting, and I must have forgotten to turn it back on.” She felt a measure of panic as the implications of the situation dawned on her. “Oh—oh.” My date.
“You can reschedule, or you can see another stylist right now, today, with a discount as our apology for the inconvenience.” His mellifluous voice interrupted her worried thoughts. Yes, there was still hope.
“I’ll use someone else today,” she spoke quickly, not wanting to let this opportunity pass by. “I—I need to look good.” Her hand went to her lanky hair. How hard could be to shampoo, trim, blow-dry, and fluff? A new stylist wouldn’t kill her. She’d been planning on getting highlights that day, a new thing for her, but she could just get the usual. Highlights weren’t going to make her a super-model. Who was she kidding?
The man stood. His chair made a rolling sound on the tiled floor. The scent of a manly cologne drifted up, enticing her nostrils. She wanted to breathe deep, and hold that smell in as long as she could. It made her think of hot kisses searing across her flesh, of hands holding her own above her head… What in the world?
“You already look good, miss, but a cut and some highlights, yes? That will make you look sexy. Sexy is better than good.” The man smiled and arched a dark brow at her, gesturing for her to follow him to the stylist chairs.
Bridget knew she was blushing. Her face felt as though it was on fire. That was nice of him…to tell me I look good, but how ridiculous. Does he expect a tip? She pondered the reason for the man’s compliment as she followed him to a black chair with a mirror in front of it and miscellaneous hair care products on the counter below it. Wait a minute? Is this his chair? Is he going to do my hair?
Flustered, she hesitated, one eye on his black denim clad buttocks and one eye trying to see if there was another available stylist nearby. There wasn’t. Every single stylist had someone sitting in the chair in front of them. Her stomach knotted. “You—you’re going to do my hair?”
“Yes, I am. My name is Javier.” A brown hand reached out to her. The dimples flashed. She hesitantly took it. It felt warm and firm, like a hand she wouldn’t mind feeling on her body… Gay, gay, gay. Keep telling yourself that.
“Is there no one else?” Bridget glanced around, knowing it was futile, but feeling the need to ask anyway. “I—I mean no offense, but I’ve never had a—a man…” Her words trailed off in an embarrassed silence as she realized how they sounded. Oh geez.
Javier laughed at her. He laughed at her. She should be offended, but his laughter was so…so open and friendly and sent tingles through her body. She found herself returning his smile and felt her shoulders relax.
“No worries, miss. I promise not take advantage of you when you succumb to the perm smells.”
Oh, I wish you would. Now where did that thought come from? Bridget shook her head as she sat in the chair. He’s gay. Good grief.
Javier eyed the woman sitting in his chair. She was pretty but obviously didn’t know it. Unlike most attractive women, she didn’t play up her beauty, didn’t enhance it properly. Instead, she smothered it with a plain hairstyle, dull, unimaginative color, and no makeup. With a stylish do and some shadow and mascara around those green eyes, she could bring a man to his knees. And those lips… all they needed were a coat of gloss to enhance their natural fullness, draw the eye. They were lips begging to be kissed.
Stay professional, boy. This chick is as frightened as a mouse. He continued assessing her as he handed her a magazine of hairstyles and a book of hair colors the salon offered. She was younger than she first appeared. Thirty or so. She dressed modestly and business like, but her severe dress suit hadn’t hidden the curve of her hips, the roundness of her rear, or the fullness of her breasts when she’d walked in. She’d look delectable in a short skirt and a cleavage showing top.
Feeling a tightening below his belt, he decided he better get his thoughts on other things. Deborah had told him a lot about this woman. He knew she was timid and a loner. She donated money to animal charities, fostered cats, volunteered at the local soup kitchen, visited nursing homes at Christmas, and had a huge distrust of men… for good reasons, but hitting on her would do him no favors.
She shut the book, fingering some of the hair samples sticking out of it, and shook her head. “Just my usual.”
Javier felt a twinge of disappointment. She had so much potential. He had caught snippets of conversation during her previous visits, and the stylists tended to gossip in between clients. He knew that as well as being a generous person, she had been mistreated by a previous boyfriend, a controlling boyfriend who had belittled her and ridiculed her before slapping her around to the point he was now in jail.
Such a lovely woman should not be beaten down so. No woman deserved to be treated like that. He felt a rise of anger deep inside him. So many women hurt by men. The woman needed to get her confidence back, and he knew just how to start the process—if only she would let him.
“Fifty percent off all services if you let me have my way with you.” He hoped his tone was convincing as he buried all ten of his fingers in her brown hair and began massaging her scalp. Her shampoo, a fruity scent, rose to meet him. He kept his eyes on hers in the mirror in front of him and rotated his fingers, gently and deeply. Let me have my way with you, pretty lady. I will treat you right. Her eyes began to lose their doubt, and her body visibly relaxed as he continued his scalp massage. She was wavering. He could see it. Come on, princess…
“Okay,” she murmured. Then her full lips lifted into a striking and shy smile. “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but okay. You can have your way with me.” She giggled and blushed, and the sound and the sight melted Javier’s heart.