I shook my head vigorously when I glanced at my reflection in the full-length mirror.
“There is no effing way I am wearing this.”
I watched the scowl spread over Crystal's face as she stood behind me.
“I can’t believe you won’t even say the real word. Seriously, you need to lighten up.”
I tipped my head back. “I don’t see the need to curse every other word. Anyway, I am not wearing this. My entire backside is out.”
“Oh please! It’s just your back. Don’t you show it when you wear a bathing suit? Even the one piece you insist on wearing all the damn time?”
I pulled at the hemline, which rested dangerously close to my crotch. “That’s different.”
“My ass. This party is not some stuffy crap show. The best of Miami will be there. We might even see some celebrities,” Crystal squealed excitedly.
Suddenly, I felt old and prudish. My best friend was full of life and energy. At just twenty-one, I was already basically a spinster. Sometimes I thought I would do better out on the prairie in North Dakota somewhere—I certainly wasn’t cut for this city life. Crystal had begged me to come down south with her; I had rebelled for all of a week before buckling under the pressure. All year, she had invited me and I had always come up with excuses—I had a final. My head hurt. I was cramping.
Lame. All of it.
“Fine. I’ll get the dress.”
The ginormous smile on my friend's face had even me smiling.
She threw herself at me. “Oh Jody! Thanks so much for doing this with me. You will not regret it. I’m so stoked you’re going.”
“The things I do for you,” I spat.
“Oh come on. You have to admit you look fantastic. I’ve always said your body rocks. I have to basically kill myself at the gym and here you are sitting around reading books with buns of steel.”
I rolled my eyes. “My butt isn’t the most important thing. I do have a brain.”
She smiled and hugged me again. “You are gonna look incredible. Wait until I do your hair and makeup—”
“Whoa there. I am not letting you make me look like a drag queen.”
“Oh please. I know you don’t like the caked on look. I got you. Don’t you worry.”
I did—especially when she insisted on buying the dress and the skimpy underwear to go underneath. Crystal came from big money. Her father was a hotshot attorney and her mother, his trophy wife. Crystal favored her mother with her blonde hair and bright eyes but her calculated moves were definitely her dad’s.
I watched as she whipped out her American Express (with no limit) and spent an outrageous amount on the both of us. Fighting her would only result in an embarrassing moment. I had learned that lesson when I accompanied her to shop for our high school prom.
She signed her name on the receipt and turned to hand me my precious bag. Placing my fingers around the handle gave me a feeling of euphoria. My stomach flipped at the thought of parading around a top floor with tons of rich people who didn’t know me.
Shaking my head, I squashed the feeling of excitement and attributed it to experiencing something new. It couldn’t possibly be real. No way.
I glanced over my shoulder and cringed at the skin on display. The dress wrapped around my body like a glove, covering one shoulder and leaving the other bare. Right along with most of my back. Crystal yelled from the door, hurrying me.
I took one last look at myself and didn’t recognize the sexy woman looking back. My lips were blood red, hair pin-straight and parted to the side. The secret smile spreading across my face scared the shit out of me. I adjusted my smirk and went back to serious. Glancing down, I studied my shoes. I considered them to be weapons if needed.
The heels were going to be my biggest challenge, never mind keeping my snatch covered. I walked slowly into the living area where Crystal waited.
“Fuck me sideways—you look hot!”
Crystal had left me to finish with the dress and shoes. Now the entire ensemble was before her and she was beaming. I had to admit I felt a thrill course through me. But then again, my nerves were making me jittery. On a night like tonight, I would be curled up in my bed with Kit on my lap and a steamy book.
“I don’t know as much about the act, but I think that would be rather uncomfortable.”
She slapped at my shoulder. “Don’t be a smartass. It’s just an expression. Now let's go. I can’t wait to show you off to my friends.”
I watched her prance out of the door and nodded my head. With a quick prayer, I followed.
We cleared the elevator and the valet was out waiting with Crystal’s BMW. I had been told there would be no dorm life for us when her father owned a penthouse in the same vicinity. So once again, Crystal had gotten her way. We moved in our freshman year and had been there ever since. I couldn’t really complain. The place rocked and we each had our own room with a Jacuzzi tub included.
I watched precariously as the doorman opened the door. The distance from my ass to the seat was steep. I crouched down and struggled to get into the car. A sigh of relieve left my lips once I was buckled in and we were on our way. Crystal chatted away on how to walk and hold your drink, blah blah blah…
I heard about 50% of her blather—my stomach was too busy twisting itself into a knot. Too soon, she pulled up to another valet station. The building was absolutely beautiful, all modern lines and very white. The windows in this place went on forever. I looked up and lost count of how many floors it had.
Crystal walked up to the desk and presented her invitation. The one she had tongued our manager for. I didn’t even know how I was going to face him on Monday.
Crystal shoved me forward. Did I stop walking? Seemed like I had.
I scowled at her and started to walk with a sudden fear that made me want to bolt like a frightened animal. Men stared at us and while Crystal thrived with the attention, I grabbed at my sleeve and tried to cover my ass with my handbag. Ridiculous, I know.
The elevators were glass, which made me cringe and seek some kind of privacy. There was none.
“You aren’t afraid are you? I know you despise heights but it’s perfectly safe.
I swallowed. “I’m fine.”
She gave me the “sure” glance and I turned to watch the floors speed by as we went up and up. Finally, the ding we were waiting for came through loud and clear. Like a gong announcing my impending doom.
The doors opened and on the other side was a vision I would never forget.