Authors: Nancy J. Cohen
Copyright © 2006 by Nancy J. Cohen
Published by E-Reads. All rights reserved.
Dr. Richard S. Greene, Skin and Cancer Associates Dermatology Center, Plantation, FL, Diplomate, American Board of Dermatology:
Thank you for providing information on moles and the warning signs of skin cancer. Melanoma is a concern to all Floridians, who need to be vigilant about this disease. While education is the key to prevention, your expertise helps to save lives.
Nina Hallick, salon director, The Elite Group, Fort Lauderdale, FL:
With many thanks for sharing your experiences from beauty-trade shows, without which I wouldn’t have been able to write this book. I appreciate the information you generously shared. As an active salon owner and stylist, you could serve as a role model for Marla.
Joanne Sinchuk, Murder on the Beach, Mystery Bookstore, Delray Beach, FL:
I’m glad we shared exhibit space at the hair show that inspired this story. We had a blast, and I probably wouldn’t have gone without your participation. Let’s plan on doing it again.
With special thanks to my agent, Evan Marshall, and to my editor, Karen Thomas:
I am grateful for your continued support and encouragement that allow me to continue Marla’s adventures. Your suggestions always make the book stronger, and it’s a pleasure working with you.
I’ve probably made the biggest mistake in my life, hairstylist Marla Shore confided to her friend and colleague, Georgia Rogers. Driving onto the 1-595 ramp exiting from the Fort Lauderdale Airport, she was headed east. “I mean, how stupid am I, to agree to let Dalton’s former in-laws stay with me? It’ll be a zoo at my house.”
Georgia’s sparkling dark eyes regarded her with amusement. “Don’t worry about me getting in the way as another houseguest, hon. I’m, like, totally cool with the idea. You can’t blame your fiancé for the foul-up, either. Weren’t Pam’s parents originally supposed to come for Christmas? It’s not Dalton’s fault that they changed their plans at the last minute and decided to pop in on you in January instead.”
Keeping her eyes on the road, Marla plowed a hand through her chestnut hair. “If I had realized they’d be coming the same weekend as the hair show, I would’ve told Dalton to put them up at his house. He and Brianna are packing away Pam’s things before we move into our new place, and he didn’t want Pam’s parents to see the boxes.”
“That’s more his problem than yours, hon.”
Marla heard the rebuke in her friend’s tone and inwardly agreed. But it wasn’t as though her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, had given her much choice. His distress at the idea of his in-laws seeing Pam’s prized possessions packed away had forced Marla’s hand, and she’d reluctantly acquiesced to his request to house them.
After returning from her family reunion in November, she’d insisted they look at housing developments before setting a wedding date. Although she was quite willing to move from her town house, she refused to live in the same home where Vail had resided with his late wife, Pam. Too many memories haunted the place. Detective Vail had finally acknowledged it was time to move on.
She’d liked the models right away in the Royal Oaks community, located in southwest Palm Haven. Leaving nothing to chance, they had plunked down a deposit on a four-bedroom home with a two-car garage, formal dining room, living room with a vaulted ceiling, and a separate family room. One of the decisive factors had been the bright, airy kitchen that faced a screened pool in the back. Another had been the citrus trees in the yard. Vail missed the orange trees he’d lost to the citrus canker eradication program, and this area hadn’t been affected by the disease. It would be a joint investment. She’d inherited enough money from Aunt Polly to pay back a loan she owed and to contribute to the new home. Renting out her town house would help with the payments.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stop by my place first to leave your luggage?” she asked Georgia, who’d sagged in her seat. “You look tired. I’d think you would want to freshen up after a five-hour flight”
“That’s okay, I can rest later. I’d rather go to the convention hotel and check in with the boss. Christine should have our schedule ready for the next few days.”
Marla’s passenger flashed her a quick smile, her face showing few wrinkles from the interceding years since they’d been college roommates. Hints of silver showed in her black curly hair, giving Marla a twinge of anxiety. At thirty-five, she was only a couple of months younger. Should she be worried about gray at her roots?
“Tell me what to expect,” Marla said, heading north along Federal Highway. This wasn’t the best part of town to show her guest. Rundown shop fronts bordered the road with nary a palm tree in sight. A truck zoomed past, spewing diesel fumes, while Marla got stuck behind a slow driver. Forced to slam on the brakes, she muttered a curse. Even for a Friday, traffic was heavy, thanks to the thousands of snowbirds who descended on Florida during the winter. Merchants loved the seasonal residents, while the natives barely tolerated them.
Georgia straightened her rose-colored cashmere sweater, careful not to snag the fabric on her chunky bracelet. She wore dangling earrings with rose quartz stones, a funky necklace, and carried a pink Coach purse. “I’m so excited,” she said, glancing at Marla. ‘This is the first time Supreme Shows has come to Fort Lauderdale. Did you go to the one in Vegas last year? Luxor Products did a really good volume in sales at that show.”
“The last one I went to was in Orlando. That always gets a good crowd,” Marla said. “I attended most of the seminars on business management.”
“Oh yeah? Our focus is on hair care and styling. Luxor will be introducing our new sunscreen products during the demos. You’ll have to learn about them, so you can answer customer questions.”
As sales rep for Luxor Products, Georgia had recommended Marla for a fill-in position as assistant hairdresser for this exhibition. It would be her first such experience and possibly the start of many more if she had a good time.
“When can we get inside to set up the exhibit?” Spotting the 17th Street causeway up ahead, Marla put on her right turn signal.
“Tomorrow morning, unless they plan to bring in the heavy equipment tonight. Christine Parks will tell us. She’s the company director who’s in charge of the whole shebang.”
As Marla pulled into the parking lot by the convention center hotel, she wondered if she should reserve a room for herself. Once Vail picked up his former in-laws at the airport that evening, things could get hectic. It really annoyed her how he’d been more concerned about Justine and Larry’s feelings than hers. But she was madder at herself for falling for his excuse, that the faster he packed, the faster they could move into the new place. She had her own packing to do, and now, with a house full of guests, she’d get nothing done.
“Don’t be nervous,” Georgia said, misinterpreting her friend’s scrunching eyes as a sign of anxiety instead of anger. “I’ll introduce you to everyone, and you’ll find out when they’re coming to do the photo shoot at your salon. I can’t wait to see the Cut ‘N Dye.”
Thinking about the fact that each day away from her salon kept her from tending to clients, Marla frowned as she shut off the ignition, threw her car keys in her purse, and emerged into the chilly winter air. Not wishing to be burdened with a jacket, she’d dressed in a skirt-and-sweater set. Today was informal, but Sunday, when the trade show started, business attire would be
Fresh sea air blew off the harbor from Port Everglades, adjacent to the convention center. The wind whipped her skirt about her knees and tossed grit into her eyes. Blinking, she hurried across the asphalt toward the grand entrance. An interior concourse connected the hotel to the exhibit halls. It was a shorter walk, not to mention less costly, than the convention parking offered next door for a ten-dollar fee.
Inside the lobby Marla paused to survey the reception desk on the left, a bank of elevators, and a lounge situated just past a corridor on the right. Men in suits chatted at a nearby seating arrangement while a waiter pushed a catering cart full of rattling trays toward a wing that must have held the ballrooms.
“Where do we go?” Marla asked, watching a smartly dressed couple emerge from the elevator and stride purposefully down the hallway.
Georgia walked with a swinging gait, punching her arms in and out as though she carried weights. “I’ll call Chris to see where she wants to meet us. Everyone may not have arrived yet.” She pulled a cell phone from her bag and jabbed in a code. “Chris? It’s Georgia. I’m here in the hotel lobby along with Marla. Okay. You got it” Clicking off, she stuffed the phone back inside her purse.
“So what’s the score?” Marla asked, eager to meet everyone. She wasn’t sure what an assistant hairdresser did at a show. She would need to learn her job here as well as the product line.
“She said they’ll come downstairs. We should put some tables together at the cafe for about ten people.” Grinning, Georgia grabbed her stomach. “I’m starving. Can I get you anything?”
“Just a cup of coffee, thanks.” They approached the deli, where sandwiches and fresh salads were made to order. Self-service items were available down aisles and in refrigerated cases along the walls. While Georgia went to the counter, Marla explored a few paces down the corridor. Next to the cafe was a large, airy restaurant serving daily buffets, and beyond was an elegant, reservations-only dining room. The hallway stretched into the far distance, where Marla surmised it connected to the concourse leading to the convention center.
By the time Georgia returned with a take-out Caesar salad and apple juice for herself, and a Styrofoam cup of coffee for Marla, Marla had pulled two tables together and scattered several chairs around to accommodate later arrivals.
She had just burnt her tongue on her first sip of coffee when a woman with a confident smile and a cute turned-up pixie haircut reached them. Her hair was a color that matched her medium brown eyes, with gold highlights that gave a hint of contrast. “Hey, Georgia,” she said in a sexy contralto voice.
“Christine Parks, this is Marla Shore,” Georgia replied, standing to introduce them.
Marla rose, considering it proper to do so, and extended her hand. Christine gave a firm handshake. Her eyes, almond-shaped, were enhanced with mascara and a touch of peach eye shadow. With her high-cheekbone structure, she’d make a good model, Marla thought, admiring the other woman’s haircut again and wishing she could wear her own hair short like that. On her, the style would lie flat because her hair was too straight.
“I’m so pleased to be part of your team,” she said.
“We’re glad to have you, Marla. Please call me Chris. We don’t stand on formality.” The other woman pursed her glossed lips. “Here comes Tyler. He’s our area supervisor.”
The man’s mouth stretched in a wide grin as he sauntered closer. Deep creases on his face showed that he smiled often. Marla liked his outfit, a checkered camel vest over a white shirt, tan trousers, and a Union blue jacket with suede trim. It gave him a rakish look, especially with his caramel-colored hair tumbling across his forehead.
“Hey, Georgia, good to see you again,” he said, giving the sales rep a two-fingered salute.
“Tyler Edgewater, this is Marla Shore, one of our assistant stylists,” Chris told him. “Marla has been kind enough to offer her salon for our photo shoot next week.”
“Awesome.” His acorn brown eyes regarded her with interest “I guess that means you live here?” he said, extending his hand. He squeezed hers a moment more than propriety dictated. “Maybe you can show us some sites in our off time. Like, we could use a local guide, especially to point out the hot spots.”
“Sure, you can come along with Georgia and me. I’ll ask my fiancé to accompany us, too,” Marla replied in a smooth tone, folding her hands in such a way that he couldn’t help but notice her diamond engagement ring.
“I doubt we’ll have much free time,” Chris said with a hint of disapproval. “Our schedule is pretty full.”
“You’re the bomb, boss.” Tyler turned to Georgia. “Let’s hope we rack in the orders like we did in Birmingham.”
Georgia beamed at him. “Yeah, that was cool. Who else is here that I might know?”
“The usual gang. Here comes Jan.” He turned toward Marla to add, “She’s our regional manager.” Janice Davidson had chili red hair in a smart angled cut that dipped in at chin level and keen hazel eyes. She wore a New York look—black scoop-neck sweater and slacks, diamonds glittering in her ears.
“Welcome to the team,” she told Mark in a pleasant voice. “I’m so thirsty. Did anyone notice if they sell carrot juice in the cafe?”
“Yuck.” Tyler grimaced. “How can you drink that stuff?”
“You should try it sometime. Then you wouldn’t be adding to your beer belly each time I see you.” Smirking, Jan strode toward the counter to peruse the menu.
At least Jan’s interplay with Tyler had seemed affectionate, Marla thought, unlike Chris’s attitude toward him. The managing director’s svelte looks had an icy edge—not in her clothing, a boldly colored patchwork jacket over an amethyst pant set, but in her facial expression. Chris narrowed her eyes whenever she glanced at Tyler, indicating that undercurrents rippled their relationship.
An African-American woman arrived, chewing gum as she greeted everyone with a welcoming wave. The gesture brought attention to her blue-painted fingernails with angel appliqués.
“Amy Jeanne Wiggs is our salon coordinator,” Chris said to Marla, introducing them.
“I’d shake your hand, but I’ve just touched up my nails,” Amy Jeanne said, blowing on her thumb for emphasis.
“That’s okay. I love your hair,” Marla responded, admiring Amy’s glossy black ringlets.
“Marla, over here.” Chris drew her away before she could blink. “This is Ron Cassidy, our master stylist, and Liesl Wurner, our other assistant hairdresser.”
The pair strolled arm-in-arm into the cafe, the woman a sultry blonde wearing a pout on her pink lips, and the guy sporting a cocky grin. His light, frosted hair stuck up in a short, spiky style like a rooster’s comb.
Marla had just said her hellos to the trendy couple when a bald guy rushed up, spewing Spanish phrases. “Sorry I’m late,” he finished in English. A gold hoop glittered in his left ear. “Hi, I’m Miguel Santiago,” he addressed Marla after greeting the others. “And you are?”
“Marla Shore, assistant stylist.”
“I’m one of the sales reps. Glad to have you join the gang.” He pulled out a headset from his pocket and began twiddling with his iPod.
As the tenth person stormed onto the scene, Marla hoped no one would quiz her on their names. She felt dazed by meeting so many people at once. How would she ever fit in? They all knew each other from past shows.
The last man wore a navy turtleneck sweater and gray cargo pants. His ash-colored hair was swept back in a bold style that suited his serious demeanor and piercing dark eyes.
“Why did you call me down here?” he spat at Chris. “I don’t have to attend your administrative meetings.”
Chris arched an eyebrow. “You may be our artistic director, but you’re part of the team, like everyone else. Need I remind you of your obligations? Her sharp glare tamed his temper. He stepped back, clamping his lips shut. “Sampson York, this is Marla Shore. We’ll be doing our photo shoot at her salon next week.”
The master trainer pumped Marla’s hand. “We have to prep our models for the stage demos,” he told her in a lofty tone. “I was hoping we might use the facilities at your place.”