Authors: Aspen Drake
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Published by Surrendered Press
Copyright 2014 Aspen Drake
Nine forty-five. If I
park at the post office down the street, I should get to my station before Ming flips the open sign at ten. The meter maids have threatened to tow my rolling trash heap on several occasions but they know as well as I do that if they tried to attach anything to the frame, the whole car would break in half.
But, I have to take the risk because
I can’t afford to get fired, or more likely, lose the one or two clients that might actually walk in today.
I’ve been working for Ming at Fabulous Hair s
ince dropping out of college after my sophomore year. She was the only person willing to train me as an apprentice and pay me at the same time. That was almost three years ago. It wasn’t entirely legal for me to be working on hair without a license but she taught me well and it was the only way I could do beauty school and pay rent at the same time.
When I finally got
my cosmetology license six months ago, I hoped it would increase my income. Unfortunately, Ming had a falling out with her business partner and Nancy took all the good clients with her, leaving very few for Ming…or me.
My five minute alarm sounds on my phone as I sprint down Oak Grove Avenue and
reach for the back door of the salon. Gripping the handle and yanking with all my weight, I almost tear my arm off when it doesn’t budge. It’s locked. In three years, this door has never been locked during business hours.
t’s possible Ming decided to come in late but it’s very unusual. Still, my optimistic mind assumes she just accidentally locked the door behind her as I jog around to the front of the building.
The handwritten sign taped to the inside of the glass door makes my stomach drop. I actually count out the months to make sure it’s not April first or some six month anniversary of April
Fool’s Day. Nope August 9
isn’t a special prank day that I’m aware of.
I stand there on the street like an idiot for a good ten minutes before the shock wears off. When I shield my hands around my face and peer inside
the glass door, the scene confirms the words written in sharpie that will change my life.
Fabulous Hair is out of business.
I’m almost worried that something may have happened to Ming and this is really an incident of foul play. But all the things she cared about are gone. All that remains are the fake plants and worn furniture that Nancy didn’t want either.
Ming had all day Saturday to mention something
while we sat around waiting for clients to walk in. But she didn’t even hint that she was shutting down. The sting in my eyes and lump in my throat is more from the betrayal I feel over her abandonment than from the loss of my job. Although, that harsh reality quickly sets in when I mentally add up all my worldly assets.
I’ve got about $47 in my checking, almost $2000 in my savings and a cosmetology license which is probably still taped to the mirror at my station.
Trudging to the back of the building, I climb the staircase that leads to the bu
ilding owner’s office. Carl is usually around during business hours. After knocking once, I open the door and peek in.
, are you in here?” The cramped room is dusty and my nose immediately begins to itch.
“I’m here. Come in.”
“Hi, Carl. Remember me? Amy from Ming’s salon downstairs.”
He looks at me and grunts. “Yeah, I remember you. I also remember having a renter for that salon until about twenty-four hours ago.”
“Do you know what happened? Why Ming closed up?” Business had been bad for a while but Ming never let on it was to the point of needing to lock the doors.
“Said she couldn’t afford to stay.
Something about moving to Phoenix.”
“I had no idea.” I can feel my eyes w
atering again but I hold back the tears and look to the older man with as much control in my voice as I can manage. “Is it possible for you to let me in so I can grab my things? I didn’t get a chance to clean out my station.”
He looks at me like I’ve asked to borrow his Mercedes but after a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he sighs and stands up. “Make it fast. I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes.”
He pulls a key from a file cabinet and tosses it to me. “And be sure to lock up when you leave. I’m gonna need to sell whatever I can to make up the back rent she owed.”
I grab the key from the air and nod, promi
sing to be back quickly.
Even though it’s only been two days since I was last there, it already feels different.
Vacant in every sense of the word. The spirit of the place is gone, replaced by ghosts that seem to lurk in every dark corner.
I head straight to my
chair and grab the few items that were actually mine. My license, a picture of my two-year-old niece from Christmas, and my case. Shane, my boyfriend, gave me a beautiful set of shears and razors for my birthday in February and he’d kill me if they were left behind. Those things cost a fortune.
With my meager possessions
tucked under my arm, I walk out of Fabulous Hair for the last time. I don’t know how easy it’ll be to get a job without a lot of experience. As far as the world will know, I’ve only hand hands-on hair experience for six months. That’s probably not enough to land anything decent.
I’ve been saving up to buy a car that i
sn’t held together with duct tape but that plan needs to be revised. Good thing Shane has a steady job or I would also be a few weeks away from living on a park bench.
Feeling the need for comfort food, I walk back toward Santa Cruz Ave and straight into the loving embrace of my favorite bakery.
Creamy’s always makes me happy because the logo is an extremely phallic éclair with cream poking out the tip. It shouldn’t make me giggle like a twelve-year-old…but it does. Every. Single. Time.
In my heightened emotional state, what is
normally a subtle chuckle that’s silent to anyone but myself, turns into a slightly hysterical guffaw. I can feel the stares of other patrons but I can’t stop. I try to catch my breath, but then I snort and start laughing all over again.
m not sure when the tears of amusement turned into tears of fear but I have to rush to the restroom to wash my face and get under control.
People lose jobs every day and I am a good stylist. I have a lot to learn but I work hard and will find something even better
. I will survive this.
Every bad hand life has dealt me has ended up being good for me in some way. This won’t be an exception.
Please, let this not be an exception.
After a few minutes of patting my eyes with a wet paper towel, I finally venture
back out into the land of creamy bliss.
There isn’t a line so I walk right up and order two cream sticks. Yup, they’re actually called cream sticks. It’s a wonder there isn’t an NC-17 sticker on the door. Maybe there is and I’ve just never noticed it.
“Anything else?” The guy taking my order looks at me with sympathy as he is no doubt waiting for another breakdown. “A cup of coffee maybe? On the house.”
I see him every time I come in and he’s always polite, but this is the first time I can feel him inspecting me.
Probably looking for remnants of the strait jacket I just escaped from.
“I’d love a chai latte
and I’ll pay for it.” I smile back and check his name tag. “But, thanks for the offer, Mason.”
“If you insist.”
He rings up my order then takes my debit card. $41 in my checking account.
When he hands me the small box of sugar and butter, I can’t help the
excited moan that sneaks out. Mason chuckles under his breath and busts out a full, face-splitting smile.
“I have to say
, you are one of the most enthusiastic customers I’ve had in a long time.”
I look up in time to catch him checking me out. Of course, I’m a hot mess after my moment of
cray cray but it’s not like I’m interested. I’ve got Shane waiting for me at home.
“Well, what can I say?” I lift the corner of the box and inhale deeply. “
Mmmm, I just love the cream.”
Only after he barks out a laugh do I realize what I just said.
“Well, you know, sucking out the cream sticks.” Fuck. I need to stop talking.
“Oh, I know what you mean.” He winks and gives me a knowing smirk. “And I’m happy to hear you enjoy them so much.”
I want to die. I can feel my face burning as I take my drink from him and silently walk out the door.
Hey….sweetheart.” What the fuck was her name? “I need to get going.”
I hate to
bring chicks back to my place because they never want to leave the next day. I should have trusted my gut and walked away when she refused to do it at the club last night.
admit it’s trashy but it sets the stage for a
one and done
. There are no expectations of wine and roses from a dude that backs you into a dark corner, unzips his pants without unbuttoning them, then bangs you quickly while people pretend not to notice.
Wham, bam, thank you…whatever the fuck your name is.
Now I’ve got to be civil and get her the hell out before she gets too cozy. “Babe, you need to get up.” I kiss her neck and rub my palm over her tit. “I need to go to work.”
The lazy smile
she gives me confirms she’s awake but she hasn’t moved her ass out of my bed yet and I’m losing patience.
“Nate, baby.” She grasps my arm and pulls me toward her. “Lay with me for a few more
minutes. I promise to make it worth the time.”
“You know I would if I could.” I pull the sheet off her naked body. I can’t help but take a quick second to admire it before grabbing both ankles and twisting her body so her feet land with a thud on the floor. “Up and at ‘em.”
She sits up and reaches for her phone. “It’s only ten.”
“I’m late for an appointment so we need to run.” I start gathering up the articles of her clothing that I tore off her last night but she’s not putting them on.
“I can just stay here and wait for you to get back.” She lays back down on my pillow and closes her eyes. “Then we can go for round three. Or is it round four?”
gonna be round one of me dumping your naked ass on the street if you don’t get the fuck out of my guest house.
After taking three deep breaths, I get serious. I grab her pant
ies and slip them past both feet and start tugging them up her legs. Her eyes pop open as soon as she realizes what I’m doing.
“Are you fucking serious, Nate?” She’s looking at me as if I just asked her to perform brain surgery. When I don’t back down, she stands in a huff and stomps into her clothes.
I know she’s waiting for me to give in and let her stay but it ain’t gonna happen. She overstayed her welcome when my alarm went off at seven and her ass didn’t even budge.
Once her clothes are mostly in place, she tosses her phone in her purse and stomps to the front door. “Do
n’t you want my numb—” She puts her hand on the knob but doesn’t turn it. “Never mind. If you did, you would have asked.”
Well, shit. Now I feel
kinda bad. “I had a nice time. Drive safely.”
This gives her the strength to yank open the door and disappear on the other side of it. I have to laugh out loud at the wa
y she’s storming down the driveway to her car with four inch stilettos.
I quickly tidy up the mess we made then lock up and head over to my
main house. The colonial at the front of the property.
I don’t like chicks to think I h
ave money so on the rare occasions I do bring someone home, we go straight to the guest house out back and I tell them I’m renting it from a friend.
Just makes it that muc
h easier to get rid of them after we’ve done the deed. Based on the scene this morning, I think I’m good for a few months. I’ve officially been a bachelor for three years and I plan to remain one for the rest of my life.
witnessed the best and the worst in people from all over the world and I’ve never been so horny that I was willing to let some woman trample over my heart and my mind just to get a piece of ass.
The closest I came was when I was modeling full time for Nautica. I spent more time naked on beaches than I did in hotel rooms and Janelle was beside me the
entire time. We fell in love quickly, or so I thought, then she got messed up with heroin and I was out.
I’ve seen too many people lose everything to drugs so as soon as she was fired for showing up with track marks, I let her go
When my contract ended two months later,
I retired. I couldn’t do it anymore. Some of the most wealthy and beautiful people I’ve ever known were the ugliest humans you could imagine.
In my own little effort to beautify the world, I opened up Fierce
Salon and have never looked back.
After a quick shower and two hard boiled eggs, I decide to head to the salon.
I’m still trying to hire someone for the back station after having to boot Marisa for constantly getting drunk with the clients.
The rest of us have been back to
back for the three weeks she’s been gone and I just haven’t had time to look for her replacement. Since I don’t have clients until the afternoon, I can place an ad and start setting up interviews. Hiring is always an arduous process. My stylists represent my brand so my standards are very high.
I stop by Draeger’s for a case each of wine and champagne then head into work. It’s eleven thirty when I slip in the back door and set up my station. I’m not ready to take clients yet but if a VIP walks in and no one else is available, I’m certainly not going to let them wait.
is the first to spot me. “Nate, thank god.” She waves me over to the front desk then goes back to frantically typing into the computer.
She swings a hand out to pat my arm, tugging to get my attention focused on what she’s saying.
“I’m so sorry
, Ms. Parker. I’m sure we can get this sorted out for you.” Julia shoots me an ‘
glance then returns to her telephone call. “Nate just arrived so come back to the salon and we’ll figure it out.”
Whatever crisis she’s dealing with just became my problem and I haven’t even been in for five minutes.
Jules disconnects the phone and swings her chair around to face me. “Okay, don’t get mad.”
“What was that all about?”
“Bryn Parker just had her car towed so she’s stranded.” Julia’s eyes beg me not to jump down her throat. “
We have to help her get it back.”
That’s the kind of
directed completely toward
“Where was she parked?” Not that it’s any of my concern. At least, it shouldn’t be.
“She said she might have
parked in a handicap space in front of the groomers.”
“Accidentally my ass.”
These fucking rich trophy wives think they’re so damn entitled they make it their stylists’ fault when their car gets towed.
Blowing out a slow breath,
I lean on the edge of the desk. “Tell me how you expect me to help.”
s searching for a solution when Bryn walks through the door.
Nate, oh thank god.” She clasps my bicep with both of her generously adorned hands. “I’m so grateful that you’ll fix this for me. I just didn’t know what to do.”
“Um, no problem.”
I give her a polite smile and pat her fingers, almost cutting myself on the large diamonds. “It could happen to anybody.”
Anybody who works out four hours a day but
refuses to walk the extra fifty feet required to park in a legal space.
Before I realize it, she’s on her tiptoes and kissing my cheek. “Wonderful. So, what shall we do while we wait?”
One. Two. Three. I try to count down my breaths like Dr. Michaels suggests but…fuck it. This is happening so I might as well go with it. “Jules, can you please call Roman and ask him to get Bryn’s car back here asap? He can leave it in the reserved space.”
“Roman?” Jules looks confused
and a little nervous. “Um, sure, but don’t you think he might be busy?”
brother owes me a favor or two. He’ll do it.” Just because he’s now a detective, doesn’t mean he’s too good to help a friend out of a traffic ticket and reverse an impound.
I turn to Bryn and offer her my elbow. “This
gorgeous lady and I are going to lunch. Call if you need anything.”
Bryn’s beaming as if she just won the lottery. She probably thinks she has. I’ve seen her ex-husband and all I can say is he must have been very rich and very well hung.
Bryn and I are only a few feet from the salon when Roman calls.
I turn to my forced date. “It’s my brother. Probably calling about your car.”
She nods an
d continues her gentle caressing of my bicep. “Um hmm.”
I answer the call.
“Tell me Julia isn’t serious.” I can hear his annoyance but I don’t have time for his drama. In a town as small as Menlo Park, the cops don’t do much but wait for suspicious vehicles to enter gated neighborhoods or deal
with missing UPS packages.
“You should be thanking me for giving you something to do this morning.” I keep my voice light so Bryn doesn’t hear how pissed I am at having my day hijacked. “When can I tell Ms. Parker her car will be ready?”
Roman laughs. “She’s with you, isn’t she?”
I shift the phone to the ear away from Bryn so she doesn’t overhear his side of the conversation. “Is an hour long enough?”
“I hate you.” Roman says that a lot but he loves me as much as I love him.
“And it’ll take me at least two.”
“I know you’ll come through for us
, little brother.”
I hang up t
he phone and see Bryn looking up at me through her artificially long lashes. “Everything okay?”
I nod and pull toward a little restaurant called Pico. “Do you like tapas?”
“I do,” she purrs into my neck. “I also like to be topless.”
I give her a half smile
and lean into her neck, tracing her jawline with my nose. “Maybe we can arrange that after lunch.”
I so don’t want to do this but she’s an attractive woman and a loyal client so it could be worse.