Take a Chance on MeBy: Jane Porter
It wasn’t often that she had a stranger in her chair at The Wright Salon, much less a thirty-something-year-old male, that also happened to be ruggedly handsome, as in the handsome of the inscrutable romance cover hero.
Amanda Wright knew her romance cover heroes, too, as she and her sister Charity had lived off them growing up, surviving their harsh reality by living on fantasies and fairy tales. Jenny, their oldest sister, had been appalled, and would confiscate their paperbacks, tossing them out if she found them. Which was why Amanda and Charity learned to hide their romances between their mattresses, or stuff them inside the sleeves of their ugly, thrift store rainbow-hued winter coats.
Romance cover heroes were usually darkly handsome as well as brooding and enigmatic, traits found perhaps in the Highlands or Mediterranean principalities, but not in most small Montana towns. No, in small Montana towns like Marietta, men tended to be polite, practical, and dependable, and there was nothing wrong with practical and dependable men, but it just wasn’t exciting, and Amanda was holding out for a true romance hero, one that wasn’t just handsome, but a man that was powerful, successful, complex. Enigmatic.
And her client, Ty James, could easily pass for the enigmatic romance hero with his thick brown hair, light eyes the color of the sea, chiseled jaw, and firm chin. Never mind his lips which were pretty much perfect, especially when he smiled, which he didn’t do a lot. But when he did, it was the smile of movie stars—confident, easy, sexy—which made it almost impossible to focus, which wasn’t a good thing as she was wielding very sharp scissors, very close to his strong, tanned nape. True, he had what romance novels called a Roman nose, which meant it wasn’t small and straight, but a little bit prominent, but that just made his features all the more interesting. Amanda liked a good nose on a man, it kept him from being too pretty, and a nose with a hook or bump at the bridge implied he’d had it broken, maybe in a fistfight, maybe through sports. Either way, it was manly. Masculine.
“You’ve been a stylist for a long time?” he asked, as she gently pressed his head forward a bit, trying to give her a better view of his hairline while also trying to hide his gorgeous reflection from her line of sight. His masculine good looks were distracting. He was distracting, and she didn’t normally fall for just every handsome face. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time a man made her heart pitter-pat, and it wasn’t just doing a pitter-pat right now, but a full-on, racing horse gallop.
“Nine years,” she answered, “six full-time. The first three I was in college.”
“You did both?”
“I needed a job and it turned out I was good at it.”
“Where did you go to college?”
“I stayed local. Montana State, in Bozeman.”
“And what did you study?”
“Psychology.” She paused, ran her comb through the back of his hair, checking the length, making sure lines were straight. She glanced up into the mirror, caught his eye, and noted his surprise. She shrugged, lips curving. “I like people.”
“You must get to know your customers quite well.”
“I do. I’m very attached to my customers.” She paused, smiled again, a little more ruefully. “Well, most of them. There are a couple that drive me slightly bonkers, but they just make me appreciate the rest all the more.”
“What do the frustrating ones do to drive you bonkers?”
“Arrive thirty minutes late for a forty-five minute appointment, or forget to show at all.”
She smiled again, and shrugged. “I have really good customers.”
His green gaze held hers in the mirror and for a moment she completely lost focus.
“I noticed you had more starred reviews on Yelp than any other stylist in town,” he said, snapping her attention back.
“I do encourage them to leave a review if they’re happy,” she answered.
“Clearly, they’re happy.”
“It’s a win-win, then.” Amanda felt herself growing warmer by the moment.
What on earth was wrong with her? Hand shaking, she reached for her colorful bottle on her station shelf and took a quick drink of water, trying to cool herself off. It had obviously been far too long since she’d spent time with an attractive man because this was ridiculous. She was genuinely flustered.