“Don’t let them fool you,” Jess said darkly. “Bad shit happens at the Reapers clubhouse. Doesn’t matter if they saved my ass or not, the Reapers are dangerous and I’d be a lot happier if you’d just stay home and work on homework with me.”
I turned to look at her, marveling yet again at how much my best friend had changed over the past year. Back in high school she’d been obsessed with her looks, with partying, and with boys. Now it was a Friday night and she was leaning against my doorframe wearing ragged, cutoff sweats and a stained tank top, hair up in a messy bun. Not one of those cute, sexy messy buns, either. This one looked like a hairy mutant growth on her head.
Turning back, I studied my reflection in the mirror.
“Well I’m going anyway,” I told her, reaching over to grab my jelly glass of sangria. “So do your duty as a friend and help me get ready. Does this make me look fat?”
Jessica licked the Fudgsicle she held thoughtfully.
“No, but it makes you look about forty. And not a hot forty—sort of like a homeless woman going on a job interview, I think.”
I stared at her. “I can’t decide how to take that.”
“Take it as a sign that you should wear something else,” she said, shaking her head. “Now, don’t interpret this as my blessing to go to that party tonight, because I’m still one hundred percent against it. But seriously, Mel. You’re beautiful. All that dark chocolate hair and permanent tan of yours? Fuck, if I had that to work with I’d be . . . Well, I wouldn’t be sitting here watching you get ready to go out when I’m going to be stuck at home studying all night. I see no reason to disguise all that pretty as a bag lady.”
“First up, those are some big words from a woman whose hair is so messy it’s got white-girl dreads,” I replied, frowning. “And second, you’re the one who’s refusing to go out, remember? I want you to come with me.”
“Whatever. Change your clothes.”
Rolling my eyes, I studied my reflection. She was right. Totally right. These were job interview clothes, not party clothes. “I’ve got no idea what to wear—can I borrow something?”
Jessica pondered, walking slowly around me, eyes sharp and critical.
“I can help,” she said. “But I require complete obedience, grasshopper.”
“Silence!” she snapped, holding up a hand, palm facing me. “Don’t distract me. I’ve got an image . . . We need something very special. Something to make him regret blowing you off—just don’t be a fucking idiot and go crawling back to him.”
“I was never with him in the first place.”
“All the more reason to do this right,” she said. “If you’re going out there, you’re going to look hot. Really hot. He’ll blow his wad when he sees you, I swear. Then you can make him grovel and come back home.”
“I don’t want him blowing his wad.”
She cocked her head at me, smirking.
“Now who’s living in denial?”
I sighed, because the bitch was right.
• • •
Jessica worked fast, and fifteen minutes later I found myself looking in the mirror again, but this time I’d definitely left job interview territory behind. I looked good, I had to admit. Jess had me in a black push-up bra and a loose, off-the-shoulder black summer top with silver bangles around my wrists and big hoop earrings. She’d paired it with a short plaid skirt, sort of a cross between a kilt and one of those little skirts girls wear at Catholic schools. She’d finished it off with combat boots.
“You can use those to kick Painter in the nuts if he says something stupid,” she said, smirking at me.
“But shouldn’t I be wearing something more . . . I don’t know. More. Heels or something?”
“Trust me, you don’t need the fuck-me pumps. You have fuck-me lips and a fantastic rack. Not only that, Painter”—she sneered as she said his name—“is an idiot, so I can almost guarantee he’ll need a nut punch and you don’t want to break a nail or something. Any shoe with a real heel would get stuck in the grass anyway, and flats are simply not an option. That leaves us with wedges or sandals, and those would totally ruin the feel of the outfit. This is what you need to wear.”
I studied my reflection again. It wasn’t me at all, but I had to admit, the clothes totally worked with my dark hair and smoky eyes. Half sexy skater girl, half . . . hell if I knew. Something not Melanie, something almost reckless.
“I guess so. It just feels weird.”
Jessica came to stand next to me, wrapping her arm around my shoulders.
“When you helped me write my first English lit paper, I listened to you,” she said, her voice serious. “I listened because you understand that stuff better than I do. It’s what you’re good at. Here’s the thing—I may have taken a temporary vow of celibacy, but I know guys and sex. This works on you. You’re gorgeous. I wish you could see yourself the way I do.”
I blinked rapidly, unexpectedly emotional. Then Jess leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “If you were a hooker, I’d pay full price for you, baby. And you know I don’t pay full price for anything.”
I pulled back and she burst out laughing.
“You’re crazy, you know that?”
“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m the crazy one, you’re the one who’s good at school and shit. So tonight we’ll switch it up. You go out and have fun—just stick close to London, okay? I’ll stay home and do my homework. That should fuck with all their heads.”