Sympathetic eyes met hers in the mirror. “Let me guess. Your boss told you to notify the paparazzi and then when it backfired, you took the heat.”

Lily’s throat caught at the simple validation that this shit happened, all the time, and really she hadn’t done anything wrong. She was so stunned she couldn’t speak.

“Lord, I so don’t miss SoCal,” the woman said. “Not even a little bit. The land of blonde extensions, orange tans, bleached teeth, fake boobs … you’re probably ecstatic to be out of there.”

Lily laughed softly. She hadn’t thought of it like that, not once. “Yes, actually,” she said, surprised. “I am.”

Her ten o’clock appointment was Lenny. She remembered him vaguely from high school, but she didn’t really know him. Still, this was Cedar Ridge, so even though they weren’t well acquainted, they could carry on a conversation like they were old friends.

Small-town living at its finest.

“Look at you,” he said with a smile. “You got all hot. Like I want to have you for dinner hot.”

She laughed. “Stop.”

“Come on,” he said, smiling. “I got hot, too, right?” His eyes were warm and frankly appraising, and she laughed again. Lenny had always been drop-dead handsome and he knew it.

“What have you been doing with yourself over the past ten years?” she asked, changing the subject.

He shrugged. “I run the equipment at the resort.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“It is. You ever go out with a big-equipment operator?”

In San Diego, Lily had been a master of dodging such questions. She never dated the clientele, period. It made for bad business. “I’m on a dating hiatus,” she said.

“Hmm,” he said, all relaxed and easygoing. “Maybe I could change your mind.”

“I don’t think so, sorry.”

He smiled. “No reason to say no so fast. Just think about it.”

She didn’t need to think about it, but she didn’t want to argue with him. “Sure,” she said. “So, do you like working at the resort?”

Something crossed his face but was gone too fast to identify. “Usually,” he said. “I’ll stick around, at least until the place goes under.”

She met his gaze in the mirror. “What?”

“Yeah,” he said and shrugged. “Hopefully not. It is the Kincaids, after all, so anything could happen. But don’t worry, they’re good at landing on their feet. Real good.”

When she’d finished his hair he tipped generously, joked that she was making him work harder for a first date than he was used to, and left.

At her noon appointment she was asked if she’d ever seen any of the Real Housewives of Orange County stars and if their hair was real.

At her one o’clock, Lily decided to head off the questions from the get-go and steered all conversation toward her client. For her trouble she learned from an ex of Aidan’s that he had been voted most likely to never settle down, which was the one thing he’d apparently gotten from his “no-good” father.

At her two o’clock she met Evan, their hair products rep, and learned he had a huge crush on Jonathan, who refused to date him.

When Evan left, Lily told Jonathan he was nuts. “He’s great-looking, employed, and likes you,” she said. “What’s the problem?”

“He’s great-looking, employed, and likes me.”

Lily blinked. “Huh?”

“Listen,” Jonathan said. “I only go for the head cases. It’s my thing.”

“Yeah? And how’s that working out for you?”

He grinned. “Forget it, Lily Pad. You can’t reform me. Head cases bang head cases. It’s what we do.” He tugged a strand of her hair. “We also hang out together in clusters. Welcome to the cluster.”

She sighed. “So we’re all crazy? The whole salon?”

“Yes,” he said. “And while we’re in between clients, I just remembered—I need you to do something for me.”

“What?”

“Take over all the product ordering.”

Lily blinked. “When you hired me, you said you didn’t want me to do anything but handle the clients.”

“Well, I was wrong.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You also said you’re never wrong.”

He blew out a sigh. “Just do this, okay? Take over the ordering for me? I totally trust you to handle it.”

“That’s nice,” she said. “But you’re not usually nice. What’s going on here?”

“You know how you said I should give Evan a shot?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Well, the truth is that I already did. And let’s just say it wasn’t a smooth morning after.”

She gave him a bland look. “Didn’t we already have this conversation about Terika?”

Jonathan tried to look repentant and failed.

Lily sighed. “How not smooth?”

“We had a great night but he’s just so …” He searched for a word. “Sweet.”

“That bastard,” Lily said.

Jonathan gave a little smile. “He’s too good for me, and I’m not going to change my mind. I’m not one to settle down, you know that. I’d just hurt him.”

“So you’re going to cut off your friendship with him,” she said with a shake of her head. “Cuz that’s not going to hurt at all, Jonathan.”

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