The Insiders

Page 81

She was a gift.

“Know anything about hair?”

She laughed. “I don’t, but my roommate’s a hair stylist. Want me to sneak her in?”

I hesitated, but decided. “Yes. Give me her name first, though.”

Tamara Harris.

She was roommates with Torie—

“What’s your last name?”

Torie chuckled. “Hanson.”


After I did a quick search for her on my own, sending Kash the details of what was happening, she was flagged through, and an hour later I was looking back and forth between the two. Tamara had platinum blond hair that framed her face so it looked like a heart. She had plump lips, heavy red lipstick, smoky eye shadow, and thick eyeliner. She was wearing a plaid cropped skirt and a white button-down shirt, tied at the waist. Black hooker boots that ended at her calves.

Next to her, with her brown hair slicked down, looking like it was wet, but that was how it was styled, was Torie. She was wearing a black leather skirt. The same white button-down shirt, but it wasn’t tied at the waist. It was left out, the ends hanging over her skirt. And she had cream white heels with diamonds on the straps.

They were fashionably edgy.

They were aliens.

I felt two feet tall in front of them and had only the latte Torie had brought from the house as my shield. I gripped it tight.

Torie’s mouth dipped up. “You’re freaking, aren’t you?”

Tamara nodded with her, eyes never leaving me. “Freaking. Totally freaking.”

Oh. Gah. I was.

My lip quivered. “I am not.”

They both snorted. “You are a shit liar right now.”

Tamara added her two cents, still nodding. “Bad liar when freaking.”

“Totally.” Torie grunted.

Neither ever looked at the other. They remained fixed on me.

That was freaky.

I gulped, and Torie saw the motion, her eyes narrowing. “Right. Okay.” She was taking charge.

Thank God.

“Show us the goods. Tamara will do your hair, and I’ll do your nails.”

My nails? I held them up.

As if reading my mind, she laughed. “No way you’re heading out there to that group without a proper mani and pedi. Get in the shower. We’ll pick your outfit.”

I was out of my league. I recognized it now. And after showering, I gave up any control I might have been trying to cling to.

Torie and Tamara could have their own reality or beauty show. They both moved around the other like they’d been working together for years. One-word statements were apparently questions for the other, and somehow the word Now meant for Torie to switch up an entire outfit for me. Both looked, nodded, and approved, and they bent over to keep working.

That was just one example.

They were cool, and if I could be friends with them, I might have reached friendship paradise.

I was just getting done when Chrissy popped in. Her eyebrows shot through her forehead, and her mouth fell open. I rarely saw my mother speechless, but I was doing the same, looking at her.

“Mom.” I was choked up. “You look amazing.”

She wore a gold, glittering dress, her hair curled around her face. More glitter was in her hair, matching her diamond earrings and necklace.

“Where’d you get the jewelry?” I asked.

She was busy taking me in, but her hand went to her necklace. “Oh.” A small line formed in her forehead. “This was an old gift. I just haven’t worn it in forever.”

A gift? “From who?”

She shook her head, coming forward. “You look beautiful, Bailey.” She was awed, still looking at me from top to toe.

I was beginning to get uncomfortable—I mean, more than I already had been. I was at a good solid eight, and her compliment, mixed with the surprise, was putting me at a good cemented ten. A bit more and I was going to blow a gasket.

Nervous breakdown. Hospital room. I could only wish.

She began blinking rapidly, her hand wiping at the corner of an eye. “Oh, honey. You look just … just so beautiful.” Her throat was moving up and down, and she sniffled.

We were moving into the red zone of expressing feelings.

“Thanks, Mom.”

Torie and Tamara had been watching our exchange. I introduced them.

Chrissy nodded, giving both a smile. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m glad that Bailey had friends to call on for help with this stuff. We don’t…” She was blushing. Slightly. “We don’t do this that often in our other life.”

“Mom!” That came out louder than necessary.

“Have you eaten?”

Relief. “No.”

She was nodding, smiling. “I’ll get you something. Just something small?” She headed for the door. “Maybe something to drink as well?”

I was pretty sure the drink was for her.

I smoothed a hand down my dress. We were nearing five o’clock now, but I hadn’t looked at myself in the mirror. I was scared. What if I didn’t recognize her? What if this was the new person I was supposed to be from now on? What if—what if I didn’t measure up?

A new person came to the doorway, and I had no words.

All my thoughts about myself vanished. They upped and flew out of my head like a bird fluttering away.

I had no thoughts now.

I had no jokes even.

“Kash.” I could only murmur, moving toward him. “You look…”

A tuxedo that his shoulders filled out, cut in over his slim waist and hips, and I knew what was underneath that tux. My mouth was watering.

Kash was stunning on a daily basis, but him in a tuxedo? He was a goddamn weapon.

His eyes were locked on me, and the air sizzled. No joke. I felt steam in the air.

Might’ve been from my coffee.

He looked me up and down, and as his eyes darkened, I knew he liked what he was seeing, too. That had my blood on a good simmer, fast heading toward a boil, but I tried to settle down. I wouldn’t be able to get through this night if I just wanted to jump him every time he looked at me.

Snap out of it, Hayes!

Why my inner voice sounded like my seventh-grade gym teacher was something I’d never figure out, but I smiled. “You look hot.”

Someone snorted, but not me, and not Kash.

His eyes warmed and he took my hand. Bending down to my ear, his hand going to press lightly on my back, he pulled me against him, saying, “I want to strip this off and spend the rest of the night deep inside of you.”

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