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Save the Best for Last
Author: Jennifer Probst



Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised.

—Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Everything has beauty; but not everyone sees it.




Chapter One

Tessa Harper knew exactly what it took to hook a man. Or a woman.

Unfortunately, most of her hopeful readers didn’t realize the focus of their ardent affections was almost never worth it. Not that they ever listened. She’d learned over the years of makeovers and helping women become their best selves that this rarely aligned with who they insisted on loving.

Tessa tamped down a sigh as she gazed at the woman before her, who was currently frowning as she turned around in the mirror. The dress had a high neckline in a drapey midnight-blue fabric that accented all her curves and swept low to the ground. The deep cut in the back gave a touch of sensuality without being in-your-face sexy.

“I don’t know, Tessa. I don’t think it’s enough. He likes boobs and ass. Don’t you think I should go with the short sequined dress?”

Tessa kept her voice crisp. “Absolutely not. The whole point of this shopping expedition is to find a dress that is innately you, yet a bit out of your comfort zone. You’ve been hiding your body in baggy pants and blazers for a long time. A little skin goes a long way.”

Autumn bit her lip. It had taken weeks to get her comfortable stepping out of her shy exterior. Ramping up her confidence in the body God gave her. Helping her realize her quirky humor and sharp intellect were a gift rather than a nerdy embarrassment she needed to hide. Tessa had agreed to feature her in the successful column Dear Tessa because Autumn deserved to shine.

Not to catch the eye of some marketing director who liked boobs and ass.

But she swallowed her admonishments and concentrated on helping Autumn pick out a dress for her upcoming holiday party at work. “Will it be enough to catch his attention? This is my opportunity. I want to reveal my new self and watch his jaw drop.” Autumn swiveled around with worry. “You think he’ll notice, right?”

Yes. Many men had a fantasy of the butterfly story—the plain, shy coworker who transforms into a sexy siren. Was it wrong Tessa suddenly wanted to encourage Autumn to forget about her crush and go live her best life? Seeking self-worth through some man’s approval of her appearance was taking critical steps backward from all the work they’d done together. Yet, here Tessa was again, finding herself responsible for a woman who wanted to chase the wrong guy.

The emotion welled up and spilled out without her consent. “It shouldn’t matter,” Tessa snapped.

Autumn’s lovely green eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

“Autumn, I’ve worked with a lot of women who finally got their so-called dream man only to find out it was a nightmare. You don’t know him.” She blew out a breath in frustration. “I just want you to pick out a dress that makes you feel good. We did this so you’d be able to speak up in meetings and enjoy happy hour without worrying you’re not enough. Remember?”

For a moment, Tessa believed she’d gotten through. Autumn’s sharp features, now softened with some natural makeup, seemed to lose their foggy shadow. Her blunt bob swung sharply under her chin as she nodded in agreement. It had once reached her waist and covered her face like her favorite oversize gray sweater. Hope sprang inside as Autumn seemed to come alive and realize this journey belonged to her. Tessa waited while she stepped into her power.

“You’re right. I’m going with the sequined dress. It makes me feel hot, and confident I can walk right up to Mark and dazzle him.” Her smile reached megawatt status. “Thank you, Tessa. My life is going to change because I had the guts to reach out to you, and you picked me. I’ll finally find the love I always dreamed of.”

Disappointment crashed over her as a sense of déjà vu hit. Tessa strengthened her voice in conviction. “The real love is of yourself. Remember that.”

But it was too late. Autumn nodded but was obviously dreaming of her moment—the exact time Mark noticed her. Would all the work they had done together hold up the foundation if Mark broke her heart? Or would Autumn fall apart and judge her worth against his approval? Tessa wouldn’t know. The readers she picked to work with for her column sometimes kept in touch, but others disappeared into their lives without a look back.

Tessa helped Autumn grab the wrong dress, gave her a hug, and headed back to the office.

Her four-inch nude Louboutins clicked against the frosty sidewalk as she made her way to the car. She shivered and tightened the sash of her camel-colored wool coat and gave in to her gloomy thoughts. God, she was so tired of her work ending up being about some guy. Or girl. As she had been the past few months, she began to question the value of what she was doing for Quench, the multimillion-dollar media empire that focused on self-care for women. She’d built the company with her three best friends, and it had been her main passion for a decade. But lately, her role as director of beauty and fashion, along with her viral advice column, was becoming less satisfying.

She needed to figure out what to do about it.

Tessa climbed in the car, glanced at the dashboard clock, and hit the accelerator. The shopping expedition had taken a bit more time than she’d anticipated, and she didn’t like being the last one at the weekly founders’ meeting. She hated being late.

Deftly pulling into an open spot on Main Street, she cut the engine and patted the hood of her baby, a bright yellow Alfa Romeo 4C Spider that got her more attention than if she’d walked naked down the block. It was her best asset for meeting men. So much better than online dating.

By the time she walked into Mike’s Place, the lady gang was already assembled. Tessa slid into the booth and smiled at her besties, who both regarded her with affectionate amusement. “What?” she asked.

“Nothing. We already ordered for you since I’ve got to leave early to meet Palmer,” Malia said.

“You live together. Can’t you wait till he comes home?” Tessa teased.

Her friend rolled her eyes. “We’re looking at a reception place,” she said. Her voice was calm, but excitement slithered underneath.

Chiara didn’t bother to hide her reaction. She clapped her hands with glee. “Where is it? I swear, this is going to be the event of the year! With you as the bride and Palmer running a wedding company, I bet it’ll be picked up by all the press.”

Malia groaned. “Exactly what I didn’t want, but at the same time, I’m not gonna lie. I’ve dreamed of a big, romantic wedding, and now that I found the man for me, I don’t want to have regrets.”

“Agreed. Be obnoxious,” Tessa said. “I can give you lessons if you need them.”

They laughed. “We’re looking at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. It’s so beautiful there in the late fall when the leaves change and the air gets crisp. But we still have a few more places to check off our list.”

“Then I apologize for my lateness.”

“Forgiven.” Malia sighed. “It’s so strange the way things happen. Last year, I couldn’t find a date, let alone a husband. I was so terrified I’d never be a mom, freezing my eggs was my main focus. But now, I’m just happy to enjoy exactly where we are.”

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