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By: Megan Hart



I picked up a silky tank top in a pretty shade of lavender and a stretchy black skirt. I held them up to myself in front of my full-length mirror. Then I put them back on the bed.

"No, thanks," I said. "I'll wear what I've got on. It's comfortable."

Kira shook her head. "Oh, ew. Paige, c'mon."

"Ew?" I looked at myself again. The jeans clung to my hips and ass just right, and my T-shirt emphasized how flat my stomach was becoming. I thought I looked pretty damn good. "What's ew?"

"It's just, you know…" Kira trailed off and pushed her way next to me to hog the reflection. "You gotta show off a little bit."

I looked her over. Even in my stack-heeled boots, I stood a few inches shorter. She'd grown her natural red hair into long layers that fell halfway down her back. She never tanned, so her dark eyeliner looked extrablack and the fuck-me red lipstick even redder.

I looked in the mirror again, turning my chin to one side, then the other, to catch my profile. My hair's blond. And it's natural. My eyes are blue, but dark, almost navy. I look a lot like my dad, which is one reason, maybe, why he never bothered denying I was his.

"I think I look fine," I told her, but the faint sound of longing slithered into my voice.

I spent my clothes budget on simple, brand-name pieces I picked up off-season or in discount stores. I'd spent the past few years building my wardrobe. Clothes for work and casual wear that looked expensive enough to pass as classy. I paired them with shoes I couldn't always afford. I wasn't going to be Clarice Starling, giving away my background with my good bag and my cheap shoes.

I looked again at my reflection and thought of the whisper of satin on my skin. Going without a bra, how my nipples would push at the fabric and force a man's eyes straight to my breasts. Every man's eyes.

I picked up the tank top again and held it up. I smoothed the fabric over my stomach. Kira gave me an approving nod and slung an arm around my shoulders and bumped me with her hip. "C'mon. You know you want to."

I did want to. I wanted to go out and get shit-hammered drunk and dance and smoke and rub up on half a dozen boys. I wanted to feel a hot, hard body against mine and look for lust in a pair of eyes I didn't know.

I wanted not to worry about proving anyone right about me.

I pulled my tank top over my head and after a second's hesitation, unhooked my bra. The satin tank top slithered over my head and fell to my hips. My breasts swayed under the smooth fabric. My nipples tightened at once, and I shivered.

"Let me get you some makeup," Kira said.

She lugged her huge purse over to me and pulled out pots and tubes and brushes and glitter. I love glitter. I hadn't worn glitter in forever, either. No place for it here, in my new life.

"I'll do it." I wouldn't dream of sharing makeup that had been on her face. No telling what germs could be passed on that way. I waved her away and went into my bathroom, where I rummaged beneath my sink.

I pulled out my own box of tricks and treats. Lipsticks in berry shades, eye shadows in rainbow hues. Lots and lots of half-used black-eyeliner sticks and a few bottles of liquid eyeliner. I shook one, thinking it must have dried up after all these years, but when I unscrewed the cap with its built-in brush, the makeup inside was still smooth.

I painted a mask. It looked just like me, only brighter. Bolder. More. Once, I'd worn this face every day. Once, it had been the only one I had.

My makeup finished, I squeezed into the tight black skirt. I left my legs bare. I'd be chilly on the walk from the parking garage to the bar, but hot enough inside once I started dancing. From my closet I pulled out a truly fucking fabulous pair of pumps.

Kira had been bent over her phone, fingers stabbing out messages, but her eyes widened and she reached for the shoes. "Oh, wow. Steve Madden!"

"First pair I ever bought." I stroked the smooth black patent leather. Four-inch heels. Most men couldn't have told the difference between a Steve Madden shoe and a Payless pump, but they looked twice when I wore them. Sometimes more than twice.

I slipped into the shoes and stood, adjusting to the way my center of balance shifted. My mother had taught me the art of how to walk in heels this high. I used to raid her closet as a kid and parade around the house in her shoes.

I smoothed the silky shirt over my belly and hips and turned around to look at myself one last time in the mirror. "Ready to go?"

"I guess so," Kira said sullenly. "Except now you look awesome and I look like shit."

"You look hot," I promised. What were friends for?

She was convinced, more because she wanted to believe it than because I'd tried hard. "Okay, let's go get shit-hammered!"

I saw him again, that dark-haired man. This time, he was coming in as I was going out. We passed each other not so much like two ships, as much as one ship passing while the other crashes into an iceberg. I couldn't be offended that his gaze slid over and past me, taking in the short skirt and high heels without a second look. He had his head down and was talking urgently into his cell phone. He didn't have attention to spare me. And it wasn't his fault I was trying so hard to pretend I wasn't looking back at him that I ran into the edge of the door frame hard enough to leave a bruise.

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