Magic Hands, page 1
Grove Creek Publishing
Grove Creek Publishing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Grove Creek Publishing Book/ published by arrangement with the author
Grove Creek Publishing edition Sept 2006p>
Grove Creek Publishing edition Feb 2009p>
Grove Creek Publishing edition Feb 2011p>
Al rights reserved.
Copyright © 2006 by Katherine Mardesich This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. For further information: Grove Creek Publishing, LLC
1404 West State St., Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
Cover artwork by: Jennifer Johnson of Sapphire Designs http://designs.sapphiredreams.org/
Book Design by Julia Lloyd of Nature Walk Design ISBN 1933963972
Printed in the United States of America For Rachel
Senior hal was a river of students shouting, laughing, and shoving. Rachel stood at her locker, turning the knob, casual y scanning the busy hal for one person.
He was at his locker. To her shock, his beautiful face turned and those bottomless brown eyes were fastened on hers. Her heart stammered.
Should she smile back? Ignore him? Flip her hair? Walk away? Walk his way?
Cort Davies was looking at her. Even a glance from the guy was enough to send most girls into a head spin. Though he was completely hot, he broke the number-one rule in Rachel’s book of must and must-nots for guys – he was a superficial jock.
Too bad, she thought and decided it was time to walk the other way for that very reason. She couldn’t stand jocks, even though a few like Alex had hung in her circle. Most thought they were it-boys—that the world and everything in it revolved merely to serve whatever whim they possessed.
Not her type.
But she could admire the physical specimen of a jock
– no problem. Yeah, they didn’t get much better than those manly-built guys like Cort when they were in their footbal uniforms. It was cool to watch the boys play hard—al that sweat and pumped testosterone. She could admit she went to games to watch the players.
Rachel hadn’t thought of a code name for Cort yet, but she would. What to coin a guy with wild, dark hair surrounding the face of an angel? The only thing she could think of to describe the rich coffee color of his eyes was espresso. Xpresso?
Rachel and her friends had been code-naming hot guys at Pleasant View High ever since they decided they didn’t want to stop talking about those same guys just because they were in the same classroom or someone might overhear.
Today Cort’s khaki pants were just baggie enough. His deep chocolate sweater just snug enough that his sculpted chest and taut arms caused her stomach to flutter. She was a face girl, and his was, wel , beautiful. He had a cute ski-jump nose over lips ful and wide, set in the frame of an angled jaw.
She wanted to sneak another peek but didn’t.
Cort was in al of her honors classes, which meant he might not be the typical back-row, thumb-sucking jock like the others. She’d heard him make some pretty intel igent comments.
Don’t fool yourself, she thought, and fought the urge to glance back, see if he was somewhere behind her. He was so cute, wouldn’t it just be stoking if he real y was intel igent? If he lived for something more than girls, weekends and sports?
She had to look.
He was right behind her, so close if she stopped, she’d be in his lap. His bevy of guy friends surrounded him: Carmel, Brownie and Sunshine – al named by her, Ticia, and Jennifer for various personality or physical attributes.
Cort’s magnetic brown eyes were on her, as if he’d been watching her the whole time. Suddenly she felt naked. She heard the conversation he was having with his friends, smel ed the mixed scents they wore.
“So, not today?” Sunshine asked him. They’d named Eric that because of his sunny blonde hair and surfer stride.
Rachel slowed so they could file around her. Cort smiled as he passed, brushing his arm into hers.
She had to smile back.
“Yeah,” he answered Eric. “Not today. I gotta go job hunting. I’m broke, dude. Hey.” The ‘hey’ was for her, and his espresso eyes sparkled with sugar when he nodded.
He left his scent in the air—something citrus and spice.
It wound her blood up tight. Cort Davies, she thought as she fol owed him into class, now it’s my turn to watch you.
Cort needed a job—bad. The Purple Turtle, the greasy burger joint with the bright purple roof and stone wal s was already crawling with students.
Subway, Quiznos, Walmart—
nobody was hiring. Cort had even secretly cal ed the Daily Herald to see if any paper routes were available. At seventeen, it’d be pretty embarrassing for a high school senior with only four months left before graduation to be out throwing papers before dawn but he’d have done it. He got the same answer there he’d gotten at every other establishment – No.
Which left him the newest business in town: Chachi’s Nails on Main Street with its Here Job Open sign propped in the window.
He went in, choking on the waft of strong fumes that hit him. Then he stood, staring into the faces of five little Asian women. The place was narrow and deep, its wal s covered in crimson wal paper with gold designs al over it. Posters of colorful women showcasing their equal y colorful nails hung on the wal s. Smal tables lined the sides like a school room.
Each had a hot lamp, smal pots with brushes, and other stuff he didn’t recognize. The women were dressed in shiny satin dresses with high col ars.
Fancy buttons ran down the sides of their dresses.
A woman stood from behind the desk nearest to the door and tapped over to him in flat, black shoes. Her eyes smiled like setting suns on her round face.
“Welcome, welcome.” Her accent was thick as chop suey.
She looked him up and down and gestured to the empty salon where the four other Asian women immediately scattered to their tables.
“You need manicure?” she asked, tugging out one of his hands he’d tucked safely in his front pockets.
“Uh, no.” He pul ed it back. He was beginning to sweat in his leather letterman’s jacket.
“I Miss Chachi and welcome to my salon. You want massage?”
He bristled. “No. I—” He jerked his shoulder toward the sign in the front window. “I want a job.”
Miss Chachi’s eyes squinted even more as her smile grew.
Cort noticed the women in the back gather, huddling and whispering as they watched.
“You do nails?” Miss Chachi asked.
He shrugged. He’d do just about anything. The smel was overpowering and again he coughed, looked around to see where it was coming from.
“Sure, I can do nails.” How hard could it be? He glanced down at her long fangs. Jeez.
With their red slashes and sparkling diamonds they looked like a pair of his mother’s earrings. But he could paste those pups on.
Miss Chachi hooked her arm in his and led him into the salon where the other women quickly surrounded him with gleaming smiles. They chatted in a language he couldn’t understand, openly checking him out.
Maybe I should run now, he thought, shifting anxious feet. But Miss Chachi’s grip was firm and she was rattling off to the women.
“You live here in Pleasant View?” Miss Chachi asked him.
Cort shrugged, trying to stay cool. “Yeah.” He’d lived in Pleasant View al of his life. His mom was a lawyer for the city. They knew people. And he was quarterback for the Pleasant View High School footbal team. That qualified him for a yes. “I know tons of people, yeah.”
Miss Chachi looked at the women, chattered something then beamed up at him. “You know lots of females, yes?”
Cort’s face heated. He’d been voted Mr. Viking, been homecoming king, had a date every weekend. That qualified him to say, “Yeah.”
Miss Chachi squeezed his arm. “You hired.”
That was it? The sweat that had glazed Cort started to cool him. He had a job.
Miss Chachi sat him at one of the tables, then sat opposite him as the other women, Misu, Tiaki, Jasmine and Abby, introduced themselves. Al spoke with the same, clipped-chime accent as Miss Chachi.
The women huddled over his shoulder. Mixed with the nose-scorching smel already fil ing his head was something candy-cane sweet, like incense, one of them was wearing.
Miss Chachi grabbed his hands with a tug Cort hadn’t felt since footbal season when the coach had yanked his jersey because he’d been out of order. She placed them palms down, on a paper towel that lay on the table between them. The light was white hot.
“Now,” Miss Chachi began, stil smiling. “Nail is very easy to learn. Lady like pretty nail and that’s what we do, we make nail pretty for lady. You can do that?”
He thought of the glue-on nails he’d seen his little sister try. “Yeah, easy.”
This seemed to please Miss Chachi who nodded, massaging his fingers absently. “Very good. I show you how.”
She kept hold of his right hand efficiently opening three pots, one with pink dust, one with white, one with a clear liquid so strong, Cort gagged and instinctively jerked back in his chair.
With a tight squeeze to his, Miss Chachi kept his hand in hers. Her smile dropped. She shook her head, wagging her finger under his nose. “No gagging.”
“But it stinks.” He gagged again. The women laughed.
She pul ed his hand hard and he went stil . “That stink is the scent of money. I told you, lady like pretty nail. This stink make nail pretty. Pretty nail make money. Now,” she smiled big again, happy to have finished with the reprimand, “if nail is natural, like this, you buff with sander.”
She reached for an electrical appliance that looked like a stainless steel toothbrush. The buzz reminded him of the dentist. When her fingers held his pinkie finger prisoner over the white paper towel, his eyes grew wide.
What the? Her eyes honed in on his pinkie as she brought the buzzing thing with the spinning sander toward his nail.
He jerked his hand free and stood, causing the hovering women to step back and whisper. “What are you doing?” he squeaked.
“I do your nail. Show you how nail is done.”
“My nail? No way.” He shook his head, shoved his hands in his pockets, slowly backing away from the table. That’s al he’d need, one red, glittery fang hanging off his pinkie. The guys would kil him.
Miss Chachi was around the table and under his nose in a blink. She reached for his hand but he kept them both anchored in his pockets. “You need to know how to do it,”
she said and pul ed.
He shoved his hands deeper. “No way. I—”
“You cannot work at Chachi’s and not know how to do nail. It easy, I show you.”
“Show me on somebody else,” he said.
She nodded, then she coiled her arm around his. So did Misu. He glanced frantical y at the two of them as they guided him back to the table.
Misu sat, nodding at him with a smile. “You watch,” she said.
“Yes, it easy.” Miss Chachi sat across from Misu, signaling to the other girls to surround him in case he tried to run.
Miss Chachi took Misu’s hand. Misu had medium-length nails with white tips and diamonds. In a blink, Miss Chachi had Misu’s pinkie nail and ripped it off. Misu let out a little yelp. Cort froze. Her face showed shock for only a moment before she took a deep breath and the shock was gone.
“You start with bare nail,” Miss Chachi began, revving up the sander again. She sanded the nail bed. “Sand smooth.”
Cort watched Misu careful y to see if she was in any pain but the girl didn’t flinch. That rip had to have hurt. Inside his pockets his fingertips absently ran over his own nails.
He looked at the dainty black-haired woman holding Misu’s nail captive. She appeared too cutesy to be deliberately mean. This was just business, right? Miss Chachi then painted a foul smel ing liquid over Misu’s nail bed and blew. “This primer. It make acrylic stay. You must use primer.”
Dipping her brush in the pot of clear liquid Miss Chachi said, “This the pink.” The thick mixture clung like a bulb at the tip of the bristles. “Watch careful y now, beauty-man.”
Beauty man? Cort’s face grew hot. What had he gotten himself into? Smoothly, Miss Chachi brushed the pink onto the nail and as she brushed, the powdery bal turned into something thick. And made a nail.
“Wow,” he muttered.
Miss Chachi smiled as she shaped the nail into a square with the end of the brush. “Yes. Pretty nail. We no use white today. For you, no use white.
We keep it simple.”
Cort nodded, glad to have any al owances he could in this foreign feminine subculture.
“After nail made, let dry. You move onto next nail. After dry, sand again.” Miss Chachi grabbed the sander and it buzzed. Cort grimaced, checking Misu’s calm face for any signs of discomfort but the girl sat like a statue.
“Feel.” Extending Misu’s hand toward him, Miss Chachi indicated he was to touch the nail for himself. He did. The texture was smooth as plastic.
Miss Chachi then lifted a four inch buffer. “Then buff.
Sure enough, the surface of Misu’s nail was like silk and Cort nodded. Easy. He could do this. No problem.
Miss Chachi squeezed gold oil onto Misu’s cuticle and massaged it in. “Last step, oil cuticle. Massage in, like this.”
After the treatment was finished, Misu rose from the chair. Miss Chachi spoke, “Client wash oil away. If oil not washed away, it make polish bubble and look bad. Lady not like that. They complain, come back, demand new nail. It cost money.” She chirped out something in another language and the women nodded, muttering replies.
Misu came back, sat and placed her hand out for Miss Chachi who took her finger again. “Most lady want color.
They pick color, you paint. You know how to paint?”
He nodded. He’d painted plenty; the garage door after the pep squad had spray painted Hottie across it in bril iant blue. The living room wal after he’d kicked a hole in it when he’d been chasing his sister who had stolen his journal and read some of it. He knew painting.
“Misu have white tip. We air brush. Watch. It easy, you see.”
Miss Chachi held a smal , gun-like contraption in her fingers and arranged a paper shaped crescent over Misu’s nail as she sprayed white. When she removed the crescent, there was a white tip. Misu held her finger up with a smile.
“Cool,” Cort said.
Laughter broke out around him and he smiled at the little women who began chatting.
Miss Chachi stood next to him and Misu was replaced by Abby. “Your turn.”
Cort looked at Miss Chachi through tentative, wide eyes.
The women laughed again. Miss Chachi nudged him around the table and into the warm seat. “You. Do it.”
Cort’s heart pounded. He looked at Abby’s hands splayed on the paper towel before him, at her bare nails. Paint, pink, nails. Women. Could he real y do this?
Four faces peering over Abby’s shoulder with smiles told him that he could.
Cort walked down the hal a new ma
Wel , would be doing nails. He’d been working at Miss Chachi’s for one week now and had yet to do nails on anybody but Misu, Tiaki, Jasmine and Abby, al of whom had kindly al owed him to do multiple practice sets, until Miss Chachi gave her nod of approval.
The tiny little woman was a tyrant when it came to nails, he decided. One week into employment and she was cursing in her native tongue, which he’d learned was Vietnamese, every time he screwed up.
Al of the girls who worked for Miss Chachi— as she wanted them to cal her— were Vietnamese. They were a close-knit group, but he could tel they were al trying to make him feel part of it.
It was kind of cool being the only guy working at the nail salon. The girls al liked him and because they were older, they treated him like a little brother al gushy the second he walked in the door from school.
He laughed, and pushed open the door to Miss Tingey’s classroom. Yeah, he’d had enough experience with girls to qualify himself as a stud. Girls had always liked him and, he’d always liked girls—except his sister, who he loathed most of the time. She seemed to exist only to torment him.
But girls in general were pretty fascinating.
He sat at his desk, nodded a greeting at some girls staring at him before he looked at Miss Tingey, writing the journal entry of the day on the blackboard: How ego affects our actions.
Miss Tingey was hot. Cort tried not to be obvious with his glances. She had great legs; al the guys knew that, even talked about it. He liked her because she was one of them, not condescending like some of the teachers or administrators at the school.
Cort slapped palms with the only guy in class he talked to, Kevin Mackerel. Being smarter than most of his friends had its drawbacks, leaving him in honors classes without anybody to hang with but second choice friends like Kevin.
Kevin plunked into the seat next to him, his shaggy blonde hair looking like he’d just rol ed out of bed.
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