“Help.” Kendra squeaked from beneath a pile of yellow nylon and netting. She was halfway free of the Belle costume but her arms were now stuck over her head.
“What’s wrong?” a deep voice asked from the other side of the black curtain separating her embarrassment from the costume store that was busy with last-minute Halloween shoppers.
She sighed. Of course the only one nearby would be a man. With any luck, she wouldn’t know him. Fat chance in this small, Boston suburb with only one shopping center. “I’m stuck. Can you get a clerk for me?”
He disappeared for a couple minutes. “There’s only one guy here, and he’s busy at checkout. Can I help?”
If he gave off scary vibes, she’d scream and run toward the cashier. “Yes, please.”
The curtains swung apart and Devon—the smart, gorgeous friend-of-a-friend with a fabulous smile and killer arms—stood framed in the opening.
She might have preferred the serial killer.
“Hey.” She blew her bangs out of her eyes, all nonchalant despite her arms being stuck in the dress from hell. Her cheeks flamed, but she managed a weak smile. “Happy Halloween.”
He laughed and reached for her, tugging a sleeve. “What happened?”
“It went on fine. Getting it off, not so much.” She tried to shrug. “None of my roommates understood my costume, so I came here hoping there’d be something left I could wear to Alicia’s party.”
“Same,” he said, shutting the curtains behind him as a group of teenagers walked by. “I thought I was on call tonight so I didn’t get anything sooner. Wearing scrubs seemed like cheating.” He pulled on the other sleeve and grimaced as a rip echoed through the cubical. “Uh oh.”
At least her elbow was now free and she could move her arm. “No worries. It was only five bucks on the sale rack. Now I know why.”
“In that case…” He stepped in, fisting both hands in the material beneath her chin, and ripped the dress right down the middle.
She might have been able to breathe properly again with her arms free, except this was like something out of one of her many Devon fantasies. Well, not the stuck-in-a-too-tight-dress part, but the up-close-and-personal-ripping-off-her-clothes part? Totally.
Their gazes met. He glanced at her mouth.
Her stomach took a dive. Kiss me.
His gaze dropped lower and his brown eyes widened. “Oh. Sorry.” He released the ruined dress and jumped back, disappearing through the curtains as if she were on fire. “I didn’t realize…”
She looked down at her matching green bra and panties. At least she’d worn her good lingerie. With a nervous laugh, she said, “Not the response I usually get.”
“So that shouldn’t be my backup costume?”
He made a strangled noise.
“Joke.” She pulled on her jeans and thick sweater and opened the curtains. “It’s safe now.”
He faced her and laughed. “Social media.”
I love you. “Yes! You’re the first one to figure it out.”
“It’s clever.” He waved his long fingers at the images pinned to her clothes.
Animated books, TVs, e-readers, video games, and movie cases stood in clusters with thought bubbles that said, “hi,” above their heads.
“Thanks. I guess I’m stuck with it now.”
“Hey.” He leaned in and raised his eyebrows. “You’ll be a conversation piece.”
“Ha, ha.” She grabbed her purse and followed him down the aisle toward the front of the store. “Thanks for saving me.”
“Sure thing.” He winked. “It’s what I do.”
And he wasn’t kidding. The guy was a freaking heart surgeon.
“Do you need help picking out a costume?” she asked, not ready to leave him.
He grimaced. “What if I go as Wonder Woman’s invisible jet?”
“Coward. No, I’ve got it. All you need is one of those cards they used to put on the inside cover of a book at the library. Where they’d stamp the due date. Put it in your shirt pocket and voila.”
He stared at her for a second and then grinned. “As in”—he held his arms out wide—“check me out?”
She nodded. “Exactly,” she said, her palms turning sweaty. No one got her dorky humor.
“You know,” he said, “there was only one person at the party I really wanted to see.” He cleared his throat and licked his lips. “And you’re here, so…”
She felt dense as a brick. He couldn’t possibly be saying—
“You want to skip the party and get dinner with me?”
She pinched her arm. Ouch.
“Do you like candy corn?” she blurted.
His brow furrowed and he looked at her sideways. “Yeah.”
She had no control over her enormous smile. “I’d love to go to dinner with you.” She stood on her toes and pressed a kiss to Devon’s soft lips before marching away to the cashier to happily pay five dollars.
The dress may have tricked her, but in the end she’d received the best treat ever.