Tracy groaned. “Why do women believe they need an occasion to dress up? Dress up for life, goddammit!” Finished with her dramatics, Tracy eyeballed Georgie in the mirror. “Any dates coming up, maybe?”
“Yes, actually.” It felt good being able to say that, even if she wasn’t totally sold on Pete.
“Well. There you go.” She circled around Georgie, tucking and smoothing. “And paired with a blazer, you could wear it for job interviews, business meetings . . . or just to make a certain someone jealous.”
Tracy’s nonchalant sniff wasn’t convincing. “You helped the man fake an imaginary doctor’s appointment. I just thought there might be something there.”
“Oh no.” Georgie rushed to correct her, the tips of her ears heating. “No. He’s just my brother’s friend. The date is with someone else.”
A slow, devious smile lit up Tracy’s face. “Oh, really?”
Why did everyone seem to be in on a big secret except for Georgie? “Yeah.” Georgie turned to the side, a little alarmed over the tight material presenting her butt like baked goods in a display case, but she could go with it. “I guess I haven’t treated myself to nice clothes in . . . ever. I’ve never done this.” She fashioned a dramatic wrist to her forehead. “Tell me the damage and let’s get it over with.”
“Not just yet.” Tracy unzipped Georgie’s skirt. “We have a lot more to try on.”
By the time Georgie walked out of Glitter Threads, her credit card was playing taps. A bag full of luxurious, very un-Georgie-like clothes weighed down each arm as she walked out onto Main Street in her original pencil skirt outfit. Was it just her or were people staring? No. Definitely just her. Right? Granted, she knew almost everyone in town and they’d never seen her in anything but oversized sweaters and discount jeans. But when a repeat client of Georgie’s walked right past her on the sidewalk without saying hello, she was forced to wonder if she’d become unrecognizable. If so, wasn’t that just a little exciting?
Not that people had to spruce themselves up with expensive clothing and frilly panties to be important. Or even to feel good. But she’d spent her whole life buried under clown makeup and garage sale treasures, so presenting a new, more exposed version of herself made the pulse in her wrists beat faster, made tingles race up and down her back. For the first time in maybe forever . . . Georgie felt pretty. On the heels of standing up for herself to Travis, she couldn’t help but feel as if a new phase had begun.
Starting with today’s lunch date.
As she turned toward the municipal parking lot, though, her excitement dimmed a little. Pete seemed like a nice guy. A man dedicated enough to his child to hire a clown for her birthday party and record the whole three-hour affair on his GoPro. But every time she imagined sitting down across from someone in her new outfit, a cocky, blue-eyed womanizer stared back at her. Dammit.
With Travis’s likeness floating around in Georgie’s head, it took her a minute to realize the man in question was actually coming toward her from fifty yards away, flanked by two women. Cell phone pressed to his ear, he was at a seven out of ten on the annoyance meter, but they continued talking to him anyway. Or at him, rather. She’d witnessed this scene many times in her youth. Travis being fawned over sent a swift kick to her stomach, sharper and uglier than it used to. And yeah. Holy crap. She must be unrecognizable, because as she drew even with Travis beside her parked car, he caught sight of her and glanced away, before his gaze came zipping back.
The hand holding his phone dropped to his side. “Georgie?”
Feeling like an impostor in her new clothes, while the women surrounding Travis made their fashion choices seem so effortless, she moved to unlock her car. She didn’t want to watch him get fawned over. She just wanted to get the hell out of there. “Hey.”
Travis blocked her path to the trunk and tipped her chin up with a finger, narrowing her universe down to that single touch. The stubble on his cheeks and crispy aftershave. Damn him.
“Who are you and what did you do with Georgie Castle?”
“She’s in here somewhere.” Georgie backed away with a gulp, but the warmth of his finger remained imprinted on her skin. With Travis standing in front of her, it was impossible to pretend she was excited for her date with Pete. “I decided to send my overalls back to the nineties.”
Behind him, the women sort of milled around for a moment, then scooted off in a jumble of harried whispers. He didn’t seem to notice or care, sounding kind of dazed. “Why are you dressed like . . . like . . .”
The straps of the heavy bags were starting to leave indentations on her arms, so she set them down on the pavement. “Like what?”
“So pretty,” he rasped.
Oh. This was why women carried travel vibrators. One smoky word out of Travis’s mouth and her thighs went shaky. Moisture gathered on her brand-spanking-new panties—Jesus, don’t think about spanking. Shoot. Too late. Travis’s hands were so big. They would definitely leave a mark. Jumping the gun much? She hadn’t so much as gotten naked with a man, let alone had one spank her. She might not even like it. But she was certainly thinking about it. Was it possible the fancy clothes were making her hornier than usual? Not the point. The point was Travis Ford had just referred to her as pretty and he’d sounded like he’d been holding back more. Was this real life?
“Thank you. It turns out they make clothes that actually fit a person’s body. You learn something new every day.” Why was she talking to Travis about her body? He was going to think she was purposefully calling his attention to it. As in flirting. She had no business flirting with a man who’d probably witnessed and participated in the finest flirting on God’s green earth. “I have to go.” She pressed a button on her key ring and popped the trunk, but Travis beat her to scooping up the shopping bags. “Can you just throw them in . . .”
Whatever he saw in the bag made his brow furrow. Georgie would put a hundred dollars on it being the panties with the golden rose pattern, because such was life. Honestly, he already knew about Dale, though, so what was a little more humiliation at this point? Instead of panties, he pulled out a copy of Cosmopolitan magazine instead, which she did not remember agreeing to buy. Boutique Tracy strikes again. Travis turned the glossy magazine around, the words “Have Sex Like a Porn Star” emblazoned across the top in bright neon pink.
“Doing a little studying?” He didn’t give her a chance to answer, an unwelcome awareness seeming to creep over him. “Why are you dressed up? What’s the occasion?”
“Why can’t life be the occasion?” She quickly waved a hand. “Sorry. I’ve been in a potpourri-scented girl palace for an hour. I’m high on pheromones.”
Travis, silent and frowning at her legs, was clearly still waiting for an answer. She most certainly did not owe him one, but it wouldn’t hurt to walk away on friendly terms. “I went into Glitter Threads to apologize to Boutique Tracy, and she dressed me up in exchange for a sea salt caramel mocha, okay? And . . . I like it. She told me my legs aren’t actually short, which I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been kind of obsessing about.”
“Didn’t I tell you your legs were—”
“Normal. You said they were normal.” She turned away from his deepening scowl and closed the trunk on her purchases. “I’m late for a date. See you around, Travis.”
When she moved to open her driver’s-side door, Travis’s hand appeared above her head and smacked down to keep it closed. “Hold on there, baby girl. We’re not done.”
Georgie spun on Travis, surprised to find him so close. “Um. Wh-why is that?”
“Look. About the other night at your place. I acted like a dick.” The sincerity in his eyes held her still. Still and trying not to swoon into the gutter, where she would eventually be carried away to the ocean. “I’m sorry, okay? You can stop punishing me for it now.”
Confusion slipped in. “How am I punishing you?”
Travis pushed off the car and crossed his arms. “For a while there I couldn’t walk two feet without tripping over you. Now nothing.” A vein stood out on his temple. “What’s this about a date?”
Georgie didn’t know where to lend her focus. The fact that Travis actually apologized to her, or him noticing her absence and appearing to dislike it. Or his growly bear attitude. Him caring enough to question her at all seemed surreal. “You didn’t seem to want me around.”
“Is that how it seemed?” His cheek twitched. Twice. “Huh.”
The alarm on her cell phone started to chime in her bag, signaling that she had only fifteen minutes before her lunch date with Pete. Truthfully, she was grateful for the escape. Life was not making sense right now. She had to be reading into Travis’s apology the wrong way. He didn’t miss her. Stop dreaming, Georgie. There was a perfectly nice gentleman waiting for her. One who’d never treated her like a rebellious child or disappointed her. Yes, she needed to douse the growing flame of excitement over Travis finally seeming to give a rat’s behind about her and vamoose. Before she got any ideas about fanning it.