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Shopping for Love
Author: Renee Carlino

Dear Reader,


Desire is one of the strongest human emotions, and sometimes, even when life is going well, we can’t help but yearn for something more. We all know what it’s like to want something you can’t have, whether it’s a fancy car, a trendy designer purse, or even a person.


Hayden Fox loves her life and her job. She’s a personal stylist, and she takes a lot of joy in helping her clients change their lifestyles and find their self-confidence. Hayden is all about solving other people’s problems—until she’s confronted with one of her own: She’s falling in love with her client’s boyfriend.


Hayden is in a tough spot—she’s been shopping for other people for years and years, and never puts herself first. But this might just be the moment where she learns to fight for what she wants, even when the odds seem impossible. I rooted hard for Hayden to find love, and I hope you do, too.


—James Patterson



Chapter 1


“I’m a stylist.”

“A what?”

Why in the world I let Diana Crompton talk me into speed dating, I’ll never know.

“I pick out clothes for people and help them with their style. What do you do?” I say.

I’m on round six of this stupid organized social torture. The five three-minute dates I’ve had prior to this one all crashed and burned, but this guy’s actually cute, in a Seth Rogen kind of way.

“I’m a commodities broker. But I’m fixated on this stylist thing. So you just buy clothes? That’s your job?” He scoffs.

Oh, no, not another one who thinks I’m shallow because I shop for a living. Never heard that one before. I swallow my sarcasm.

“We only have one minute left—Ryan, was it?”


“Right, Brian. Anyway, so you say you’re a commodities broker…does that mean you actually sell pot out of your mom’s basement or something?”

He stares at me blankly for the final five seconds of the date. Now, I’ve crashed and burned. The bell rings and just before getting up he says, “No, Hayden, I don’t sell pot. I work at Charles Schwab.”

I shrug. “Sorry. It was joke.” God, if only he had Seth Rogen’s sense of humor. Well, another one bites the dust. That’s it, time to leave; I’m over this crap.

I skip out, avoiding my client Diana. No thanks for dragging me to this god-awful science fiction version of matchmaking. I text her from my car letting her know I don’t feel good, but I don’t think she cares at all. Her dates looked to be going wonderfully. Which is not to say that my dates also could not have been going well if I’d tried harder. I just get tired easily of the what do you do for a living conversation. I couldn’t take another minute or three of it.

Few people believed me when I told them I was dropping out of college to become a stylist. It was three years ago. I had one year left at Emory University before I could get my sociology degree. I had received a full academic scholarship, something most would kill for, and I “threw it away” to become a personal shopper and stylist.

Everyone I knew thought it was frivolous, irresponsible, downright crazy. My mother asked if I’d been doing a keg stand the moment I decided to drop out. I didn’t think that was funny. She was concerned that without the degree, I wouldn’t land a high-paying job. So far, she’s been wrong. I’m not exactly rolling in the dough, but at least I can support myself, I love what I do, and I can help my mom out when she needs it. Although, admittedly, my somewhat rash decision to drop out of the prestigious college I worked so hard to get into has created a fear of bottoming out as a stylist, so I’m still putting my all into it.

My boyfriend at the time, who was also attending Emory, said to me, “Hayden, shopping for other people is not a career.” Which made me even more determined to make it one and prove him wrong. It’d be my own personal sociology experiment. Of course, the day after I dropped out, he broke up with me and kicked me out of his apartment.

But dropping out didn’t mean I wasn’t going to apply everything I’d learned about sociology toward my dream career as a stylist. After all, dressing people is about knowing people, and their behaviors.

I was determined. I put my student loan money toward a loft in Decatur, the creation of a handful of advertisements and flyers, and the maintenance of a fancy professional website. In two weeks, I had three clients. In a month I had seven, and in two months, I had twelve.

Just to stick it to my ex, Joshua, I sent him a picture of my client list, as well as an ATM receipt with my new account balance showing the eleven thousand dollars I had made in the sixty-three days since he’d kicked me to the curb. He ignored my texts and then blocked me on Facebook. Good riddance.

Now I’ve settled into my little business and it’s thriving.



One day after the speed-dating catastrophe, I’m with Diana Crompton again.

“What do you think of this?” she asks me in the dressing room area at Bloomingdale’s. She’s a tall, beautiful woman in her forties with a ton of family money.

“I like the green, but I think mauve might be more your color. It’ll bring out the pink in your cheeks. Should I bring in the other option, just to compare the two?”

Diana is the one client I ever dread working with. She rarely entertains my suggestions, and she can be selfish and condescending at times. Also, she calls Bloomingdale’s “Bloomies,” which I absolutely hate. But I get paid to follow her around so she can use me as a human shopping cart, and that’s fine with me.

“I’ll give the mauve blouse a try,” she says, “but I want everything to look perfect for my date on Friday.”

Why is Diana always going on dates? Why can’t I get a date?

I shrug off my dating woes for a moment to direct my attention back to Diana. “It will be perfect for your date,” I say confidently. “But if you don’t like the mauve blouse, you have a strong option with the green one.”

“You’re so good at this. You know who could use your help?”

“Who’s that?” I say.

“My niece, Caroline.”

I keep my expression neutral. Though working with another Crompton sounds challenging, to say the least, I’m still building my client list. The family is ridiculously rich and I’m not in a position to turn away new opportunities.

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