Home > The Last Rule of Makeups

The Last Rule of Makeups
Author: Nina Crespo

Prologue


   Corinne Ross removed the turquoise stiletto-heeled pumps from the box on the floor next to her chair in the shoe store. She slipped them on, and after fastening the straps around her ankles, she rose to her feet and sank into alluring, red-soled, four-inch-high perfection.

   Fashion Therapy Friday.

   It had the ability to turn nightmares into fairytales, tears into smiles, and shit into glitter-filled, sparkly rainbows. At least temporarily, and after her crazy work week, she needed a huge dose of happy.

   Her position as a chief advisor for a group of angel investors who funded small business entrepreneurs usually brought more smiles than headaches to her day. But a week ago, a massive glitch had taken out the computer software used to process the candidates’ applications, wreaking havoc in her office. She and her staff had worked overtime processing applications they would have to enter into the system manually now that the tech gurus had finally fixed the problem. But she’d worry about that paperwork tsunami on Monday.

   The important thing was that they’d still managed to create individual files on the applicants. She’d personally emailed them to the investors that morning so they could make their first-round selections for interviews. But after the accomplishment, strangely elation or relief hadn’t followed—just an I’m-so-done exhaustion she couldn’t shake. She’d handled crises before at the Carver Fund, but this time, it was as if she’d given her last, and what remained in reserves, she didn’t want to give away.

   You’re being selfish. People are relying on you. You’re supposed to make sure everyone has what they need. That’s your job.

   The inner admonishment hovered, but Cori nudged it aside. The investors were satisfied, and a lucky pool of applicants were one step closer to funding their dreams. More importantly, she hadn’t let anyone down. Not even by leaving the office a tad early for a shopping escape.

   “So, what’s the verdict?” The brunette sales associate’s question brought Cori back to the important decision of the moment—whether or not to buy the shoes.

   “They are beautiful.” Cori took in back and side views of herself in the mirror.

   The sales associate nodded and gave her a reassuring smile. “And they look really good on you. Don’t forget, they’re 30 percent off.”

   Designer and on sale. The foundation of good fashion sense. She couldn’t ignore that. Even if she didn’t have an immediate reason to wear them.

   She and her live-in boyfriend of two years, Kevin, rarely went out anymore. Lately, their schedules didn’t match up. “Bye,” “hi,” and “don’t forget to take out the garbage” summed up many of their conversations as she left early for work and he returned late from the corporate law firm in Bethesda where he was an associate.

   There was one place she could show them off—her cousin Dana’s engagement party that was happening in a few months—only they weren’t attending. Kevin didn’t enjoy her family’s get-togethers that were filled with food, laughter, and friendly debates. Months ago, he’d stopped going with her, and she’d quit bugging him about it. Eventually, she’d stopped showing up, too. The parties weren’t as much fun with everyone questioning his absence and her having to make excuses for him.

   But maybe there was a special occasion for her to wear them. Kevin had been at a legal conference in Denver all week and was flying home that night. Welcoming him home wearing just the stilettos would definitely shake up the “unpack his bag then sort through his dirty laundry” routine that normally happened when he returned from a business trip.

   He was so predictable and didn’t like impulsiveness, and most of the time, she appreciated that about him. But experiencing something different, at least for one night, could put the spark back into their relationship.

   A smile broke out on Cori’s face. “Thank you. I’ll take them.” She put the shoes back in the box and handed it to the associate.

   Did she have time to tint her coiled hair blue? That, plus just wearing the shoes when he came home would be even more hot and sexy. No. That was overkill. She’d stopped tinting her hair a year ago because Kevin preferred her natural hair color over something “flashy” or too unconventional. Admittedly, in her younger days, changing her hair color had been her personal “fuck you” to convention, but now, it was simply about having fun with fashion. But tonight wasn’t about her hair. Bonding and getting back in sync as a couple was her priority.

   When she and Kevin had first moved in together, they’d made time for each other, for socializing with friends…and for having sex. Their sex life had also become a casualty to their busy schedules. Whenever they did manage to squeeze in time for intimacy, it was just as rushed as everything else in their lives.

   But that would change, starting tonight.

   A half hour later, her debit card practically in flames, she hurried out of the dress boutique she’d popped into after leaving the shoe store and merged with the late evening crowd in the outdoor mall. The sexy lemon-colored dress she’d bought had cost a fortune, but like the shoes, it had been too cute to pass up.

   As she reached the edge of the parking lot, her phone rang. Juggling boutique bags and her purse, she fished it out and answered. “Hello.”

   “Hi…”

   Kevin. Excitement zinged through her. “Hey, baby, where are you?”

   “I’m in Cincinnati.”

   Cincinnati? Wasn’t his stopover in Atlanta? He must have taken a different flight home. “You need to hurry up and get here. I miss you.” During his silence, her enthusiasm dimmed. “Let me guess. Your flight’s been delayed.”

   “No. Actually, I’m not flying to Baltimore tonight.”

   The weight of disappointment slowed her steps. Had his bosses scheduled another last-minute trip to meet with a client? They were notorious for doing that. And with Kevin on the partner track, he wouldn’t refuse them. Not even to spend time with her.

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