Filthy Liar by Paige North
“I hate my boobs,” I said, turning sideways as I stared at my reflection in the full-length mirror. “And these lights are really unforgiving.”
Annie, my best friend, swatted my arm. “Shut up, Taryn. I’d kill for your boobs. I couldn’t even get that dress over my chest.”
I grinned, giving up at adjusting my new sleeveless dress. The plunging neckline didn’t allow for a bra, and I felt a little weird about it. “I can’t believe you talked me into buying this thing. I regret it already.”
“It’s hot and you’ll never find another Karen Millen for forty bucks again,” Annie said, flopping down on her bed amidst a pile of shopping bags and new clothing. “One of us had to buy it, and it wasn’t my size.”
It was hardly my size. The dress barely covered my backside, and my boobs were trying to make a quick escape. “I’m putting my jeans back on,” I said, crossing the tiny studio apartment she called home.
“No way.“ She barreled across the room, blocking the bathroom door. “We’re going out, Taryn.”
She was only 5’2, but staring me down, her arms crossed, she looked like she could lead an army to war. She was actually a rec leader for the city, and I could easily picture a field full of soccer kids jumping exactly as high as she commanded.
I pursed my lips, trying to meet her steely gaze with the same fierce determination, but I failed and laughed instead. “Come on, Annie. I can go out in jeans.”
“Uh-Uh. No way. I know you,” she said, poking my shoulder. “You’re going to hang up that dress and it’s never going to be seen again. Thirty years from now I’ll be cleaning out your closet because you died of boredom, and there it will be, the tags still attached.”
I snorted. “Maybe you could still return it. At the rate my career’s going, it might be the crowning jewel of my estate.”
I reached around her for the bathroom door, but she slid over. “I’m serious. Let’s go out. I want a drink, and you look too hot to stay home.”
I waffled. Maybe a drink wouldn’t hurt. And then I could bury this dress in the back of my closet, guilt-free because I wore it in public one whole time.
She wiggled her eyebrows at me, grinning like she knew she’d won. “First one is on me.”
I sighed. There was no arguing with Annie once she had her mind set on something. “Fine, but it’s going to take at least two to get comfortable in this thing, and I’m borrowing your silver heels.”
“Is it always this dark in here?” I asked, squinting across the room. We were in a horseshoe shaped leather booth, nursing mojitos that glowed faintly under the dim light of the chandelier.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been in here.” She glanced around, her hand sliding across the buttery leather of the seat. “A girl at work was raving about it. She’s from New York so I figured she knew a good lounge when she found it.”
“I didn’t even know Orting had a place this nice,” I said. “Or people who would frequent a place this nice, for that matter.”
Annie grinned wickedly. “Don’t be such a snob. Two years at UW, and now you’re a city girl, too good for Orting? What will the fighting Cardinals do without your support?”
I faked a laugh at her joke, as if it didn’t needle beneath my skin.
Two years away at UW. Not four. I should’ve been graduating the next spring, but instead I was in a clearance dress in the only fine dining establishment in all of Orting, Washington. A tiny little farming valley, our only claim to fame was that if Mt. Rainier ever blew up we’d all be dead. The town was built over an ancient mudflow. Perfect for farming. The town had basically one road in, and one road out, on either end of the valley.
I was pretty sure it was made to trap people. But not in a volcano sort of way, in a more figurative one. We were just isolated enough that people forgot to dream of taking on the world, of traveling, of accomplishing something outside of this place.
“Ugh, you’re getting that look again,” Annie said, frowning.
I blinked. “What look?”
“The whole ‘woe is me, I should be a nuclear physicist by now,’” she said, twirling the straw in her drink.
I gave her an entirely different sort of look. “Chemist,” I said.
“The only chemistry you need to be worried about is the kind you have with that bartender,” she said, nodding to the guy behind the counter. “He’s been staring directly at your rack. You might as well have a homing beacon in that dress.”
I glanced over my shoulder, taking in the tall blond behind the bar. His white dress shirt and maroon vest did fit nicely across his shoulders. “He’s been staring at you,” I said. “He totally brushed your hand when he brought us our drinks.”
He was a little too lanky and a lot too smiley for my taste. He was like a shiny Disney prince or something. “You should definitely go for it,” I told her. “He’s cute.”
“Nah, I think we should sample the options before committing.”
I raised a brow and gestured around the room. “In case you didn’t notice, this place is dead.”
“Only out here.” She nodded over my head, where a curtain was drawn halfway across a wide entry. Voices hummed, laughter trickling out over our booth. I twisted around to get a better view, but the curtain blocked most of it. Judging by the sliver I could see, at least fifty people were back there.
I turned back to Annie. “You wanna crash?”
“Let’s just check it out,” she said, lighting up. “You’re all dressed up, might as well find somewhere to go. It’ll be like old times. Please?”
“Old times” being our high school habit of crashing parties we were never invited to, because we were too far down the social ladder.
Half the time, they were my brother’s parties. Not that it mattered; I still wasn’t invited.
Annie and I had quickly learned the two-fold key points to successful party crashing: 1) There has to be enough people that you can get lost in a crowd. And 2) You always, always act like you belong.
Maybe it was the drink talking, or the dress, or the delicious aroma of whatever food they had laid out in back, but I was suddenly feeling bold. I sucked down the rest of my drink, warmth unfurling inside. “Fine. Yeah. Let’s do it. But I’m going to need another drink.”