Sometimes, Hayley could be so dense. Living rent-free in her mother’s beach house, she had no idea how other people juggled their finances for big-ticket items like cars or daycare centers. “What choice do I have?” Gianna demanded.
“Well, there has to be another option.”
“Yeah, sure. I could marry a wealthy man, and have him buy the school for me.”
Hayley rolled her eyes with all the impatience of a teenager. “Can the sarcasm, okay, Gi? I’m only trying to help.”
“If you really wanna help, drop the subject.”
“Fine.” She lifted the napkins to check the spreading stain and frowned at the results. “How’d the shopping trip go?”
Gianna sighed. “Honest to God, you’d think he’d never seen the inside of a mall before.”
“Well, maybe he hasn’t.” Her index finger bobbed toward Gianna’s nose. “You said yourself Kyle’s probably never really worked a day in his life. And trust me. A man who has enough money to afford a place on Central Park West does not buy his clothes off the rack.”
Again, Gianna sought answers in the coffee cup. She found none. Instead, she noticed the brew ate away the waxy interior and left translucent curls atop the black surface. Her stomach flip-flopped. “I guess you’re right.”
“What about you? Did you find something to wear to the wedding?”
Her head jerked up, nearly snapping her neck. “Who had time? Appeasing Kyle and his, ‘these cuffs are too wide,’ ‘this stitching is deplorable,’ ‘where on earth did you get such shoddy fabric?’ mentality ate up two hours of good shopping time. And in the end, do you know what he bought?”
Hayley’s grin grew wider than the shoreline at low tide. “A pair of socks?”
Oh my God. “How did you know?” Had she followed them?
“What?” Hayley shrugged. “You think your Kyle’s different than any other man?”
“He’s not my Kyle—”
“Yeah, yeah. Listen, kiddo. When the topic is shopping, there are two kinds of men.” Leaning back, she studied her French manicure as if reading answers in the pink polish. “The first kind hates to shop and will buy anything in order to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Those are the ones you see at restaurants wearing plaid pants, floral shirts, and striped ties.” With a hiss of inhaled breath, she shivered.
Shaking her head, Gianna grinned. No doubt Hayley referred to her coworker at the real estate office. Ryan McKnight, a nice enough guy who always looked like he dressed in the dark.
“Now, the second kind claims he hates to shop,” Hayley continued, “then spends hours looking for the right garment. If the buttons on a dress shirt are spaced an eighth of an inch too far apart, he’ll complain to the salesman. The salesman will convince him to try the shirt on anyway. He’ll walk around the store in it for three-quarters of an hour, asking you every five minutes what you think. And regardless of what you say, he won’t buy the damned shirt because of the abominable spacing of the buttons. Your Kyle sounds like the second kind of male shopper.”
Theories aired, Hayley relaxed and folded her arms over her chest. Your Honor, I rest my case.
“Did I hear my name?”
Gianna whirled to see Kyle standing in the doorway. Fire consumed her neck and cheeks. How long had he been there? Had he overheard their conversation? No, a ridiculous thought. Hayley would have said something earlier.
She whipped around again to take note of any guilt in her best friend’s face. Judging by the sparkle in Hayley’s eyes, he’d only appeared in the doorway a moment ago.
“Good morning,” Hayley purred in a smoky, come-hither voice Gianna didn’t recognize.
Great. A good-looking man walks into the restaurant and suddenly I’m sitting with Scarlett Johansson.
“You must be Kyle.” The new voice floated through the air, wafting like heavy perfume on a spring breeze. In one fluid motion, Hayley rose and extended a hand. “I’m Hayley. Hayley Jeffords.”
“Kyle Hayden,” he replied, shaking her hand.
Still burning with humiliation, Gianna felt a new emotion tighten her face. Envy. With her peaches and cream complexion, thick honey blond hair, baby blue eyes, and luscious curves—all packaged in a five-foot-three-inch frame—Hayley had a way with men. Everything about her suggested she was a helpless female in dire need of a big, strong, handsome man to carry her off to a faraway kingdom and make love to her for hours on end. Hayley was a human candy box, for God’s sake.
When near her, Gianna always felt like a clumsy stork. Too tall for most men, long-legged and gangly, hair usually unkempt, blotchy skin with a smattering of freckles over her nose.
Hayley flashed a wink. “This one’s perfect for the wedding, Gi. You couldn’t have obtained a better specimen if you’d sent a detailed description to Santa Claus.”
Ears buzzing with the full impact of Hayley’s remark, Gianna dropped her head to the table to hide her face in the crook of her arm. If only she could bury herself deep in the earth, far from Hayley’s smirk and Kyle’s curious stare.