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Open Season(5)
Author: Linda Howard

She, however, was a thinking woman. She definitely didn’t want a man who spent more time in bars and honky-tonks than he did on the job or at home. She didn’t want a man who slept with any road whore who came along.

But a man with experience . . . well, that was different. There was just something about an experienced man, a look in his eyes, a confidence in his walk, that gave her goose bumps at the thought of having a man like that all to herself. He might be an ordinary guy with an ordinary life, but he could still have that slightly wicked twinkle in his eyes, couldn’t he?

Yes, of course he could. And that was just the kind of man she wanted, and she refused to believe there wasn’t one somewhere out there for her.

Daisy sat up once more to stare at the woman in the mirror. If she was ever going to have what she wanted, then she had to act. She had to do something. Time was slipping away fast.

Okay, being a bad girl was out.

But what if she gave the appearance of being a bad girl? Or at least a party girl? Yeah, that sounded better: party girl. Someone who laughed and had fun, someone who flirted and danced and wore short skirts—she could handle that. Maybe.

Big maybe.

“Daisy!” her mother yodeled once more, the sound echoing up the stairs. This time her voice was arch with the tone that said she knew something Daisy didn’t, as if there were any way on earth Daisy could have forgotten her own birthday. “You’re going to be late!”

Daisy had never been late to work a day in her life. She sighed. A normal person with a normal life would be late at least once a year, right? Her unblemished record at the library was just one more indicator of how hopeless she was.

“I’m up!” she yelled back, which wasn’t quite a lie. She was at least sitting up, even if she wasn’t out of bed.

The lump in the mirror caught her eye, and she glared at it. “I’m never going to wear seersucker again,” she vowed. Okay, so it wasn’t quite as dramatic as Scarlett O’Hara’s vow never to be hungry again, but she meant it just the same.

How did one go about being a bad girl—no, a party girl, the distinction was important—she wondered as she stripped off the hated seersucker pajamas and wadded them up, then defiantly stuffed them into the wastebasket. She hesitated a moment—what would she wear to bed tonight?—but forced herself to leave the pajamas in the trash. Thinking of her other sleepwear—seersucker for summer and flannel for winter—she had the wild thought of sleeping naked tonight. A little thrill ran through her. That was something a party girl would do, wasn’t it? And there was nothing wrong with sleeping naked. She had never heard Reverend Bridges say anything at all about what one wore, or didn’t wear, to bed.

She didn’t have to shower, because she was one of those people who bathed at night. The world, she thought, was divided into two groups: those who showered at night, and those who showered in the morning. The latter group probably prided themselves on starting the day fresh and sparkling clean. She, on the other hand, didn’t like the idea of crawling between sheets already dirtied by the previous day’s accumulation of dust, germs, and dead skin cells. The only solution to that was to change the sheets every day, and while she was sure there were some people obsessive enough to do just that, she wasn’t one of them. Changing the sheets once a week was good enough for her, which meant she had to be clean when she went to bed. Besides, showering at night saved time in the morning.

Like she was ever rushed for time anyway, she thought gloomily.

She stared in the bathroom mirror, which confirmed what she had seen in the dresser mirror. Her hair was dull and shapeless, without style. It was healthy but limp, without any body at all. She pulled a long brown strand in front of her eyes to study it. The color wasn’t golden brown, or red brown, or even a rich chocolate brown. It was just brown, as in mud. Maybe there was something she could put on it to give it a little bounce, a little oomph. God knows there were zillions of bottles and tubes and sprays in the health-and-beauty section of the Wal-Mart over on the highway, but that was fifteen miles away and she usually just picked up a bottle of shampoo at the grocery store. She had no idea what the products in those zillions of bottles and tubes did, anyway.

But she could learn, couldn’t she? She was a librarian, for heaven’s sake. She was a champion researcher. The secrets of the earth were open books to those who knew where and how to dig. How difficult could hair products be?

Okay. Hair was number one on her list of improvements. Daisy went back into her bedroom and got a pad and pen from her purse. She wrote the number one at the top of a page, and beside it wrote: HAIR. Below that she quickly scrawled MAKEUP, and below that CLOTHES.

There, she thought with satisfaction. What she had was the blueprint for the making of a party girl.

Returning to the bathroom, she quickly washed her face, then did something she almost never did. Opening the jar of Oil of Olay Aunt Joella had given her for her birthday last year, she moisturized her face. Maybe it didn’t do any good, but it felt good, she decided. When she was finished, she thought that her face did look smoother, and a little brighter. Of course, anything that had been greased looked smoother, and all that rubbing was bound to have reddened her complexion, but one had to start somewhere.

Now what?

Nothing, that was what. She had nothing else to do, no other ointments, none of the mysterious and sexy little squares of color or dark-colored pencils with which other women lined their eyes and darkened their lids. She could put on her lipstick, but why bother? It was virtually the same shade as her lips; the only way she could tell she had it on was by licking her lips and tasting. It had a slight bubble-gum flavor, just as it had when she was in junior high—“Oh, God!” she moaned aloud. She hadn’t changed her shade of lipstick since junior high!

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