Following up on the results of that shopping trip ... again, if something is worth page time, it needs to appear more than once. Graham has just asked Colleen to join him for dinner at a restaurant near her home (the one I researched so carefully, only to have it close before the book was published!) And yes, that French braid will come into play in a later scene.
Colleen considered the jeans she was wearing. She ought to change. But into what? She went into the bedroom and stared at all the bags, still scattered on the closet floor where she'd kicked them. Pulling out one garment after another, she realized she had no clue what kind of a place this restaurant was. Or why she gave a damn. What was wrong with jeans? She dug out Tracy's cell phone number. The new Colleen could call a girlfriend when she needed help with girl stuff.
"Hey, Tracy, it's Colleen," she said when she heard her friend's voice come on the line. "I need advice." She heard talking and music in the background. "Got a minute?"
"Sure. We're still getting dressed. First show is at six. What do you need?"
"Do you know anything about a restaurant called Thai Passion?"
"Yeah, it's in the Fountains shopping center down on Sand Lake. Why? You craving Thai? Wait! Don't tell me. Your deputy is taking you to dinner! Cool! You have to wear the green dress. The place isn't formal, but it's got a quiet elegance. Around here, because of all the tourists, anything goes, but you've got to wear the green. Oh, it'll be perfect. Absolutely perfect. What are you going to do with your hair?"
"I don't know. I haven't gotten that far yet. Why?"
"You have to wear it up. Or a braid—you can do a French braid, can't you?"
"Yeah, that was my standard work do. But why not leave it down? I thought guys liked long flowing hair." Why was she thinking about what guys liked? She'd never cared before.
"That's the point. He'll be looking at your hair all night, itching to get it free and loose so he can run his fingers through it."
"Hey, we're going to dinner. I have no intention of letting his fingers run through my hair. Or anywhere else, for that matter."
"All the better. He'll call back and keep hoping. Trust me. Braid it."
Colleen sighed. "Life was easier when I wore a uniform." She heard Tracy's name being shouted. Something about a wig.
"Gotta go," Tracy said. "I'll expect a call tomorrow."
Colleen exhaled. Where had the time gone? She'd better hurry. It had been a while since she'd given a damn about what she looked like. Her breath caught when she realized she did give a damn.
After a quick shower, she brushed her teeth and stared into the mirror. Too pale, and the dark circles under her eyes didn't help. She pulled open the drawer and dug around for her meager stash of makeup. A little foundation helped. A dusting of blush helped a little more. Mascara so her eyelashes were visible and a quick brush of shadow on her lids. That was as good as it would get.
She went into the bedroom and pulled the green dress from the bag.
Relax. No sweat. You're getting dressed. You do this every day. Deep breath.
She took a full thirty seconds to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, centering herself. With only the slightest shaking, she pulled on a pair of thigh-highs. Underwear. What bag had that ended up in? Tossing things on the bed, she dug out the bikini panties and matching bra Tracy had insisted on.
"You're not trying to squeeze them inside a bullet proof vest," Tracy had said. "Quit hiding them." Those people at Maidenform knew what they were doing. She had cleavage on display. Too much? What kind of a signal would she be sending? No time to worry.
She stepped into the dress. The sleek fabric slithered over her hips, stopping an inch above her knees. Tracy had said things about flow and drape. All Colleen had cared about was that it was comfortable and the label said "machine wash, tumble dry." She arranged the loose folds of the cowl neckline and inspected her reflection in the mirror. She smiled. It gave the illusion of being cut much lower than it was. Graham would have to work to get much of a peek and she'd know it. Of course, he was six inches taller than she was and—stop it. Get dressed. She was making this far too complicated.
The new cream-colored pumps had heels that would take three inches off the height difference. She walked around the apartment until she didn't wobble. It had been a long, long time since she'd worn shoes like these.
Fifteen minutes to go. She closed her eyes, took another centering breath and began braiding her hair, trying to let her fingers do what they had done so many times before. After one false start, the muscle memory took over and she was done.
Jewelry? Pearl stud earrings, the silver watch her grandmother had given her as a graduation gift. Purse? She stuffed her wallet and keys in a small knit bag. That was it. No more. Now she was done. The doorbell rang. Fighting the huge grin that kept taking over her face, she went to the door.
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