“Sure thing. Let’s start with a chignon.” Marjorie looked relieved and Mia stifled a groan. It had taken her ten minutes to talk the stylist into giving her a short haircut. Now that Rose had interfered, she’d never manage it again.
“I wanted a big change. Something that people will notice.”
“They’ll notice this,” Marjorie insisted. She manipulated Mia’s hair with deft fingers and in no time flat she’d sleeked it back into the sophisticated style. “What do you think?”
Mia tilted her head to examine herself from different angles. She did look different. Older. More worldly. “Not bad,” she admitted. “But I’m not sure I can do it myself.” Was the change drastic enough? She wasn’t sure. She’d wanted to draw a line in the sand between the old, pushover Mia and the new, confident, competent one.
“Sure you can. It just takes practice,” Rose said. “Marjorie will show you, then you can try. This style makes you look really mature.”
That’s what she was shooting for. Mia relaxed back into the chair and let Marjorie have at it. The hairdresser demonstrated the style step by step, then took it out and let Mia try. After Mia had practiced it several times, Marjorie demonstrated a French braid, several kinds of buns from severe to sexy, and several beautiful twists.
“What about makeup?” Rose asked when they were running out of styles.
Mia wrinkled her nose. “What about it?” She had plenty of makeup. She wore it every day.
“Let’s go buy some new stuff when you’re done here.”
New stuff? “What’s wrong with what I’ve got on?” She caught the look that passed between Marjorie and Rose. “What?”
“Honey, you’re beautiful,” Rose said. “And you put on your makeup like a pro. It’s just you always apply it like you’re about to take to the stage. You said you wanted to change your look. Let’s try lightening it up a little. I bet you’ll like the results. We’ll go look at some clothes, too. Some sophisticated clothes.”
Several hours later, Rose and Mia stumbled out of the freezing wind that had kicked up into the living room of the Cruz guesthouse, laden down with shopping bags, to find Rob, Cab, Jamie and Ethan sitting at the table eating a mid-afternoon snack.
“What’s going on? Where’s Autumn?” Rose said, unwinding her scarf from around her neck. Mia peeled off her coat and stepped out of her boots, still shivering from the cold.
“Sleeping,” Ethan said. “All those two do is sleep. I’ll take her something in a minute.”
“But first we have to settle this once and for all,” Rob said. “It’s cowboys.”
“Man, you’re full of shit. It’s sheriffs,” Cab said, and took a bite of his sandwich. Rose trailed over and kissed him on the head.
“Whatever it is, it’s definitely sheriffs,” she said.
“What’s the question?” Mia asked. “Which one’s sexier? Cowboys, hands down.” She bit her lip. She wasn’t supposed to be interested in her cowboy anymore.
Cab turned around. “The question was who’s more badass, cowboys or sheriffs, but I’ll have you know sheriffs are a helluva lot more sexy than any cowboy.”
Rob snorted. “You wouldn’t know sexy if it bit you on the ass.”
“Cab’s the epitome of sexy,” Rose said, dropping down into the seat beside him. “As for badass, there isn’t a cowboy in the world as badass as you, baby.”
“Ugh,” Rob said. “That’s downright embarrassing. Jamie, tell Cab he’s not sexy and he’s not badass.”
“Hell, I can’t do that,” Jamie drawled. “Cab’s the sexiest, most bad-assed sheriff I know.” He blew a kiss at Cab. Cab pelted him with a piece of his sandwich.
“I’m going to take this stuff upstairs before my IQ level drops to that of the present company,” Mia said.
“I’ll join you in a minute,” Rose said. “I’m pretty smart, so I can lose a few points while I grab a glass of water.”
Mia trailed up the stairs to her room, dropped her bags on the floor and flopped onto her bed. She wondered if people would have taken her more seriously all along if she’d changed her look before now. Maybe Ellis wouldn’t have played with her the way he did. Maybe Luke would think she was capable of running her own business. Rose found her a few minutes later. “Who knew this transformation stuff could be so exhausting,” she said, stretching out beside Mia.
“I’m the one doing the transforming,” Mia pointed out.
“Thank goodness. It’s tiring enough just watching you. I can’t wait to see what people think about the new you, though.”
“I’ve got to get to the restaurant now. I’m supposed to help out. I don’t know if I can even stand up, though. We hit every store in town.”
“Just be grateful we don’t live in a big city. We wouldn’t have made it home for a week. Come on, let’s pick out an outfit for the brand-new Mia Start.”
“What, right now?”
“No time like the present.”
Mia got up slowly. Rose was right. Mia the beauty queen was dead. Time to unleash Mia the businesswoman on the world.
Luke ignored the hand-lettered sign announcing that Fila’s Familia would open in March and barged through the door, letting a swoosh of icy wind blow into the restaurant with him. He was ready to confront Mia and demand she come home. At first he’d taken Jake’s advice to give her whatever she wanted to heart. He’d prepared to come and discuss her business notion and see what he could do to help. But as the day progressed, he grew angry that she found it so easy to turn her back on their engagement. One little hiccup and she was out of there. He figured it was time they both put their cards on the table. He wanted to be with her. He wanted to know if she wanted to be with him. If she did, then to hell with the rest of it—they had to stick together through thick and thin. He’d tell her she couldn’t walk away from him again. If they fought, they’d argue through an issue until they reached a resolution.
The restaurant was empty, however—except for a woman behind the counter with her back turned to him. Small and slight, like Mia, her dark hair was pulled up in a severe chignon—a style Mia never wore. The woman rummaged through some supplies stacked on shelving that ran the length of the back wall. Luke cleared his throat.