I leant on the cutting counter by the stove. One of my nails had broken when I was serving one of the tables in the back. It was driving me crazy.
"He'll be her anytime from today to Sunday, so until then, I want you to be on your best behavior." Eric, my boss was talking about some critic who would be showing up undercover.
They always wear suits; it wouldn't be that hard to spot him. Right?
Eric clapped his hands and continued talking, "Okay. So, starting now, I want Stargardt on the chopping, Randall on the boiling, and Pruitt, you're in charge." I still couldn't get that nail piece off, maybe tonight I would just clip it, it would look better.
Eric turned to us waiters and waitresses, "Jaden, take the front right tables. Cameron, you've got the bar, Joanna, I want you to be the greeter, and Eliza," My head popped up at the sound of my name, "did you hear a word that I said?"
My eyes widened and I dropped my hands, "Yeah, most definitely!" … no, not really.
I heard Joanna snicker behind me as Eric sighed, "Eliza, I want you to take the back tables, chances are, that's where the food critic will sit. For some twisted reason, people like your personality." He muttered.
Smiling, I put my hand on my hip, "I think it's because of my infectious smile."
"Yeah, sure, get to work." He looked between Joanna and me, "and no dilly dallying around."
I nodded, my head, my long brunette hair spilled a bit over my face; Eric frowned. I was supposed to tie my hair up. Whoops.
Joanna and I turned around on our heels to go to our spots right before the place reopened for the day. Origin, the name of the restaurant, opened from 10am till 11pm. I only had to work the lunch shift till 1:00 on Thursdays, because I also took college classes. On Fridays and Saturdays I took the night shifts from 6pm till closing. It was a lot of time, but I was a poor college student. I needed money to finish.
I was 24 years old with only half a year left to go till graduation, and then I would be out of this suburban college town in Iowa and off to Boston, where I'd already gotten a job offer to work as a lab technician. I took an internship there last year, it was great.
It was January; I would graduate in May, visit home during the summer, and then fly to Boston.
I just needed some more pocket cash to make the cut.
Joanna took her position at the greeting box and I flipped the sign on the front to, 'Origin is NOW OPEN.'
"Hey, Joanna, do you have a hair band so Eric doesn't kill me?"
She snickered, "Yeah, here." She pulled a band off of her wrist and shot it at me. It hit me right in the arm.
"Thanks." I picked up the band from the floor and tied my hair up into a bun.
I felt the front door jingling behind me. Whoops, I was leaning on the door, and some guy was trying to get in. Playing it off, I opened the door for him and smiled widely, "Hi! Welcome to Origin!"
Squinting at my Chemistry review sheets, I racked my brain for the formula. I knew how to do this, but it just wasn't hitting me yet. Stoichiometry had never been my strongest point, but I only had an half an hour before I would have to take my Friday shift and the exam was tomorrow morning. I would definitely be cramming tonight.
This was one of those times where I seriously regretted scheduling a Saturday class.
Transferring volume to moles… come on, I knew this. I read over the problem again. Okay, so I've got a flask that holds 8 liters at standard temperature and pressure. Should I multiply by a mole? I tried that and checked my answer. Wrong.
I groaned when the alarm on my phone sounded, telling me to start on my way to the restaurant. I stuffed my papers into my bag and stomped out of Iowa State's library.
Maybe I could Google the answer. Everything's on Google.
When I got to the restaurant, Joanna motioned me to her, "Hey Eliza. I'm absolutely sure that guy's the critic." She inconspicuously nodded to the tables in the back where a graying African American man was sitting. "He fits the description perfectly. He looks middle aged, he's wearing a suit, and he's by himself."
I nodded, "You're right, this screams 'critic' all over it." I smiled at her, "I'm on it!"
Walking to the back, I tied my hair up with the band Joanna gave me the day before. I took my apron from the hook and tied it around my waist. The girl who had the back tables before my shift waved at me as she walked out of the restaurant, I smiled back.
Eric stopped me right before I could walk out, "Eliza, I've been informed that the critic is sitting out there in your tables right now. I want you to be on your best behavior."
I smiled, "everything will be hunky dory!"
He frowned at my lightheartedness, "Eliza, seriously."
"Eric, seriously, I'll do my best. Do I have any bumps in my hair?" I joked.
"Eliza, I mean it."
"Okay, I'm going." I did a one eighty and turned, notepad in hand to my tables, more specifically, the critic. Giving him my thousand watt smile, I leveled the pen in my hand. "Hi! Welcome to the Origin. Can I get you a drink?"
The guy nodded stiffly, "Yes, I'll just take water with a lemon on the side."
I wrote that down, "Anything else? Perhaps an appetizer to start you off?"
"Can I have chips with the spinach and artichoke dip?"
I smiled and wrote that down too, "Alright, I'll be back in a minute."
"Wait, Ms, do you think you could get a coke, my wife will be joining me here."
Wife? I was told that most critics came alone. This guy played the undercover thing well. "Yes, I most definitely can."
I attacked two other tables and placed the orders. When the drinks came out I went to the critic's table. He was now sitting with a beautiful African American woman. Her hair was up, and a multitude of curls wove down to her neck. I'd always wanted my hair to curl, but it never stayed put.
Carefully, I placed their drinks on the table and then the chips and dip.
"Are you ready to order, or do you need a few minutes?"
The woman smiled at me, "No, we're ready."
I took their orders and placed them at the front. I'd almost forgotten about the other tables I had to take care of because this critic thing was so overwhelming.
I must have been doing well because the critic didn't stay for long and they left me a ten dollar tip, pretty generous.
It was a bit disappointing though when I got a bunch of one dollar tips from the rest of the people I'd been waitressing. Maybe I should've paid them more attention.
My head was reveling in how well I did with the critic when I accidentally ran into a hard chest, spilling the water I'd been carrying all over his shirt… and a bit lower.
The worst part about it all was that this man was gorgeous, like the drop dead kind. He had piercing green eyes, dark brown tussled hair, and an extremely sexy frown. Of course I wished I could see his smile, but at the rate I was going, that wouldn't be happening any time soon.
"Oh my god!" I gasped, ignoring Joanna's amused face. I assume that she had been leading him to one of my back tables. "I am so sorry!"
I put the tray in my hand down and led him to one of the seats. I took one of the red cloth napkins and rubbed it on his chest, absorbing as much water as I could. I could feel his abs beneath his shirt. Oh. My. God. I started tapping lower to get the water up but he grabbed my wrist.
"I got it; it's fine." Sexy voice man said.
Reluctantly, I stood up, "Sorry. Can I get you a drink? Your meal's on the house." … or on me.
"Can I just have a Dr. Pepper?" He said, not looking at me but wiping his shirt.
"Yeah… Yes, I'll be back in a second!" I almost ran away, covering my face with my hand. I messed up big time.
I carefully served my other tables and then eventually came back to his table. His blue shirt looked pretty dry, but he still had a wet splotch on his jeans.
"Can I get you an appetizer?"
He turned his green eyes to mine, "I don't know, can you?"
I frowned, "Do you want an appetizer or not?"
He shrugged, "What appetizers are good?"
"The bread is good, and the clam strips are good, but I like the chips and caso the best."
Mr. sexy man smirked, "Then I think I'll have the chips and caso."
I wrote that down, "I'll be back with it in a couple of minutes."
When I served the other tables, I tried not to look at that guy's face. It was almost perfect except for the little scar he had above his left eyebrow, but that just made him look better.
Eventually, I had to visit his table again with his chips and caso.
"Here you go, are you ready to order?"I placed his appetizer in front of him and smiled.
He stared down at his food, "I didn't realize that this would be so much."
Shrugging I pulled my notepad out of my pocket, "Are you ready to order or not?"
"I don't think I can eat this by myself, so instead of you paying for my meal, would you eat with me to make it up?" He grinned, swirling his straw in his drink.
Yes! I had to bite my lip to keep from saying it out loud; instead, I crossed my arms, "You know I have other tables to serve."
"No not really, the last table that you were serving just left. It's just me now."
I frowned, looking around. He was right. There were only fifteen minutes left until closing, so most of the tables were empty. Ignoring his gorgeous smirk, I sat down.
He smirked again at my stubbornness to not eat or say anything. "You know you can have a chip, I know you like them." He bit a chip. I still didn't say anything. He stuck his hand out, "Graham."
I looked at his hand for a minute before sticking my hand out too, "Eliza."
Satisfied, he pushed his bowl of chips to me, "I assume you go to college at Iowa State, right?"
"Yep, do you go to college here too?" I loaded a chip with caso and took a bite.
"Nah, I graduated a couple of years ago, I'm here visiting my little sister."
Nodding, I took another chip. "So what do you do for a living?"
"I've got a restaurant up in Boston."
I smiled. What a coincidence! "I've got a job up in Boston after I graduate. I'm going to be a lab technician!"
"That's cool, maybe we'll see each other around." Hopefully. He actually seemed happy about it.
"Yeah, so when are you going back?"
He smirked, "I'm actually here on business, I'm scoping out other restaurants for ideas for my own."
"Cool." I heard my name being called, and turned around to see Eric with a frown plastered on his face. Sighing, I got up from the table, "Sorry, Graham, I've got to go. But do you know what you want to order?"
Nodding he handed me his menu, "I'll take the Fettuccine Alfredo."
"Okay," I smiled at him again before meeting Eric at the bar. "Hey, Eric. What's up?"
He ran a hand through his hair, "No socializing with the customers! You know that!"
"Sorry, he insisted, and you know, the customer's always right. Here's his order."
Eric took the sheet from my hands, "We'll make this one last order to go, and then we're closing up."
I nodded and went to the front where Joanna was sitting, waiting for the restaurant to close. I took my hair out of her band and handed it to her, shaking my hair so it laid naturally on my head.
She stuck the band in her pocket, "Who's the hottie?"
"Graham. He's delicious, but he's a bit cocky."
I sat there for a couple minutes, telling her about the short conversation between Graham and me before I was called to the kitchen to get his food.
I came to his table and put it in front of him. "Here, since we're just about to close, I had it put in a To Go box."
He smirked, standing up. "Thanks."
Wow he was tall… and muscular…
I could've sworn he was leaning down because his green eyes were getting closer and closer and his breath was slowly speeding up. My breath hitched too.
When his face was less than an inch from mine, he said, "What I owe you is on the table, keep the cash." Then he smirked, pulling back, "It was nice to meet you Eliza."
Then he walked away.
I looked at the money he had on the table and rung it up.
Fifteen dollars tip. Nice.
The next afternoon when I came in to work, I was ecstatic. My chemistry test had been pretty easy. On the other hand, Eric called me to his office. He had bags underneath his eyes and he didn't look too happy.
"Good Afternoon! You wanted to see me?" I said it is brightly as I could, but it didn't do much to cheering him up.
"Eliza, the review for the restaurant came in this morning. I just wanted to read one part specifically to you."
I nooded, "Shoot."
He cleared his throat and began to read the sheet aloud, "I would say that the Service was perfect, except for the fact that my waitress greeted me by spilling water over my front. She also felt me up in trying to clean her mess. Otherwise, she was great." Eric looked up from the sheet, "There's more about how you didn't want to do everything he asked for."
"He asked me to sit with him! I had a job to finish."
"Well you still felt him up; you don't feel hotshot critics like Graham Dean up."
My throat went dry. Graham was the critic? I thought it was the guy in the suit! "I wasn't trying to feel him up! I swear, that's not what happened."
Eric rubbed his face, "Eliza, it doesn't matter what really happened, it matters how he perceives it, and from his point of view, you were feeling him up. Once again, you don't mess with a guy like Graham Dean; this restaurant may lose everything because you couldn't keep your hands to yourself."
"I did not feel him up." I muttered.
"I'm sorry Eliza, I've put up with you because I knew you needed the money, but you're costing the restaurant." No, no, no. "You're fired."
Damn. I sighed, dejected, and I untied my apron. I'll find another job somewhere. I pulled my hair out of the ponytail and gave the band to Joanna on my way out. She sent me an apologetic smile.
Whoever this Graham Dean thought he was… well he wasn't, or he wouldn't be when I got done with him.
The next day, I sat in the library and I Googled him, as I said before Google has everything. Sure enough, it had his contact information… including his cell phone number.
He answered the first time I called, "Hello?"
I cleared my throat and spoke with my best French accent, "Hi, Mr. Dean. There is a secret food critic's association meeting today at 2:00. Meet at the Iowa State library. Do not be late."
"Who is this?" Curiosity stained his voice.
French names… Hmmm. "Madame le France. Do not be late." I shut my phone closed. Hopefully he'd buy that.
An hour later, I sat on one of the benches in the library. Two minutes until 2:00, I was worried he wouldn't show. But one minute late, he walked in his glorious state into the library, wearily looking around for some clue of the critics meeting.
This was my chance.
I trotted up to Graham who smirked when he spotted me. "Why hello, mister."
"Eliza, I wouldn't have guessed."
I frowned, "You cost me my job."
He furrowed his eyebrows, "Sorry, I didn't think it would do that much damage."
"Why didn't you tell me you were the critic? You just had to go insult me in your little paper thing making the restaurant look bad, and me look bad. I didn't feel you up!"
He smirked, "but you wanted to."
My face got hot, "I did not!" Lie.
"If you want, I can give you a job at my restaurant in Boston."
He took a step forward so that we were only inches away. I shook my head, "I won't need a job by the time I get to Boston."
He nodded, stepping forward again, "That's good, because I don't like to date my employees."
Graham pulled me flush against his body, smiled, and pressed his lips down on mine in a chaste kiss. His tongue rubbed against my bottom lip and we were going at it. I moved my hands up from the bottom of his shirt to behind his neck, and I rubbed my hands in his brown, soft hair. I felt his hands move from my waist to the hem of my shirt, and the other one rested on my bottom.
He pulled back too soon and pressed his head against mine, "Sorry for losing your job, but can I make it up to you." He said huskily.
"It might take a lot of kissing to make up for the job you lost me."
He looked down at my lips, "That's perfectly fine with me."