Mastered

By: Maya Banks

Evangeline stared in the mirror, barely recognizing the wide-eyed woman staring back at her. She didn’t react as her friends Lana, Nikki and Steph hovered around her, putting the finishing touches on her makeup and hair, ensuring everything was perfect.

“I can’t do this,” Evangeline muttered. “This is insane and I can’t believe I let you guys talk me into this.”

Nikki fixed her with a hard stare in the mirror. “You’re going. No backing out now, girlfriend. I’d pay money to see the look on that jackass’s face when he sees exactly what he’s missing out on.”

The jackass in question being Evangeline’s ex-boyfriend, Eddie.

“I’d say he didn’t miss anything at all,” Evangeline said quietly, embarrassment washing over her all over again.

Lana’s eyes were fierce and Steph’s scowl was intimidating. Any other time, Evangeline would be heartened by their display of loyalty and friendship. But she regretted confiding in them the humiliating details of her breakup with Eddie. She should have just told them they’d decided to go separate ways. Except that Evangeline had already told her friends that she was a virgin and that her last date with Eddie was the night. She was going to give him her virginity, confident that he was the one.

What a hopeless, flaming idiot that made her. His words still rang in her ears. Every single one had been like a knife to the heart, only he hadn’t been content to simply plunge the blade. He’d twisted it, drawing out her pain as much as possible.

“Eddie is an asshole,” Steph hissed. “Hon, we all knew it. Don’t you remember us trying to talk you out of giving it up for him that night—or any night for that matter? You have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing. He’s a dick.”

“Amen,” Nikki said fervently. “Which is why you’re going to march into Impulse like you fucking own the place. You look hot. And I don’t say that as your best friend trying to make you feel better about yourself. I say that as another female who is aware that a much hotter female is in her territory and I’d like to scratch her eyes out because I know I don’t have a chance in hell of looking as good as she does.”

Evangeline’s head reared in surprise and her startled gaze found Nikki’s in the mirror.

Lana shook her head and sighed. “You don’t get it, Vangie. And hell, I think that’s half the turn-on for guys. You have no clue how beautiful you are. You’re all big eyes, gorgeous hair, a figure to die for and you’re good and sweet to your soul. If you had any hint of interest, you’d have men tripping over themselves to get next to you. They’d treat you like the queen you deserve to be treated as, but you honestly have no idea and that just makes them want you even more.”

Evangeline shook her head, utterly baffled. “You guys are crazy. I’m a twenty-three-year-old recently ex-virgin who’s as gauche as they come. I’m barely off the farm and have a southern drawl that makes New Yorkers roll their eyes and want to pat me on the head and say, ‘Well, bless your heart.’ I’m a fish out of water here and you all know it. I should have never come here. If it weren’t for Mama and Papa, I’d go home and find work there.”

Lana threw up her hands. “One day someone is going to make you see you the way everyone else sees you. Eddie is a smug bastard and saw you as a conquest. He knows he’s not good enough to lick your shoes and he sucks in bed, but he’d never admit that so he tears you down instead.”

Evangeline lifted her head. “Please. Can we not talk about Eddie tonight? It’s bad enough I might see him even though he may have changed his mind about going tonight. He could have lied about wanting to take me like he’s lied about everything else. I’m not prepared for this. I’m scared to death and I have no wish to be humiliated all over again.”

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