Quincy Down Under
A bounty hunter following a lead is trapped in an underground-bunker-turned-beauty-salon with a pretty beautician.
Read an Excerpt
“Looks like a damn hickey,” the elderly beauty operator said in her raspy voice as she set the straightening wand in its metal stand.
Tamara Adams rose from the seat at Miss Gracie’s station and leaned closer toward the marquee lights. Yup, the tender mark on her neck did indeed look like a love bite. She touched her finger to the burn and hissed.
“A little aloe vera will fix you right up,” Miss Gracie said and rummaged through a drawer to pick up a tube that looked to be twenty years old and squeezed of all its precious cream.
Tamara bit back a grimace and waved the woman away. “Thank you so much for straightening the back of my hair, but I’ll take care of the burn. You have a dinner at the senior center. Don’t want to be late,” she sang.
Miss Gracie’s eyebrows shot halfway up her forehead. “Thanks for reminding me.” She quickly retrieved her purse from her bottom drawer and headed toward the door leading out of the beauty shop.
The older woman glanced down at the cinder block holding the door open then gave Tamara a pointed stare. Tamara waved her hand in acknowledgement of the issue she still hadn’t addressed, and then held her breath as the woman slowly climbed the steep steps. Miss Gracie disappeared into the sunlight that filtered down the metal staircase—the only natural lighting in Tamara’s tiny shop.
When she was alone, Tamara moved toward her own station, her Sketchers sticking to the misting of hairspray that always surrounded Miss Gracie’s chair, making a sound reminiscent of Squidward’s tentacles.
She opened her own drawer, pulled out a tube of concealer, then did her best to mask the nasty red burn. So, maybe she should have treated it with antibiotic cream first, but she planned to hit Slim ’n’ Shorty’s for a drink as soon as she finished cleaning up and counting her earnings for the day.
Tamara snorted. Wouldn’t take a minute to empty her cash drawer. Miss Gracie’s elderly clients, the ones who could make it down the steep steps, had been the only customers that day.
Staring into her well-lit mirror, Tamara didn’t get it. She was a walking advertisement for her skills. Her messy-wavy, chin-length bob was all the rage in Hollywood. The platinum color with the lone rose-pink streak was flawless.
But she knew the problem was the location of her shop, and the fact she needed more noticeable signage for customers to even find it. Again, she snorted.
Hell, a billboard wouldn’t be enough to convince women to make the trek down into her doomsday-bunker-turned-hair-salon.
Footsteps sounded on the metal staircase, and she whirled, excited that she’d have at least one paying customer this day. However, the huge man descending the steps wiped her smile away. There was something about him that told her he was trouble. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled. She’d have to remember to take a razor to them later.
She pasted on a polite expression. “Hello, sir. Can I help you?”
The man’s dark beady eyes glanced around her small shop. Sure, it was economy-sized, with just two stations and a very small sitting area.
His aroma hit her before she could clearly see his face. He smelled musty, like he’d worn the same clothes for at least a week, and she wondered if he understood the concept of deodorant.
She gave him a tight smile as he drew closer, reminding herself she had a lighter and a can of hairspray close by. “Would you like a shave or a haircut?” He was sorely in need of both. His long beard looked matted like a dog’s after a week in the woods, and his stringy hair nearly met his shoulders.
He walked toward her chair and eyed it.
“It’s old, but it won’t collapse,” she murmured then held up her hands. “Not that I’m saying you’re fat or anything.” Her face suffused with heat. “It’s sturdier than it looks.”
He sat, which brought him down to eyelevel with her. The pockmarks on his cheeks and the dark, deep-set eyes made him look even more sinister.
“Shave the beard, and I need a cut,” he said, “and I need to change the color.”
She blinked. Maybe he’d realized he’d never get a date unless he made an effort with his appearance. Bathing regularly would also greatly increase his odds. “I can help with that. Do you have anything in particular in mind?”
His mouth curved, but the smile didn’t lessen her nervousness, so she began to set out the implements of her trade and bent to pull a fresh cape from the stack on the shelf beside her station.
She started with his beard, telling herself not to rush, because the last thing she wanted to do was nick him. She trimmed away the excess hair then slathered on shaving cream. When she picked up her straight razor, he reached out and gripped her wrist. Alarmed, she shot him wide-eyed glance. “It gives the closest shave,” she said, and gave him another inane smile. “I’m going to lean your chair back so I can reach you.” When he let go of her wrist, she lowered his chair and leaned it backward.
His gaze drilled into her, and she read the silent warning in his narrowed eyes.
After taking a deep breath to still the tremor in her hands, she shaved him then patted his pink cheeks with an aftershave. The scent helped to mask his odor, and she felt a little more confident as she returned him to an upright position and turned the chair to face her mirror. She met his gaze in the glass. “Now for the cut. Do you want it short?”
“And you mentioned color,” she said, eyeing his dirty brown hair. “Would you like the tips highlighted?”
“Bleach it all.”
“Oh.” Her eyebrows rose, because she couldn’t imagine blond hair against his swarthy complexion. “Are you sure?”
“Just do it.”