I landed on my butt with a thud, still holding the tray of food high above my head. Somehow, I managed to balance the plates which were overflowing with burgers and onion petals. The ramekin, however, hit the ground before I did, and splashed my bare legs, covering me in the sticky mayonnaise-based special sauce.
“Good save, Becca!” Amelia grabbed my tray and set it back on the counter, then held her hands out to help me up. She’s a good friend. The rest of the kitchen staff just clapped at my little display, which was most likely a slow-motion river dance style of a fall. I took a brief bow, straightened up and grabbed the tray.
“Did I just hear Jameson is back?” I leaned into Amelia and whispered the words—not everyone needed to know the reason I’d taken a swan dive across the cold tile of the kitchen floor.
“Yes, and what is it about him that makes you turn into a completely awkward”—she paused, searching for the right word—“whatever this is?” Her fingers pulled at the special sauce which was apparently caking layers of my hair together.
Mortification struck me instantaneously. “Like, tonight?!”
Not tonight, please, not tonight!
“Tonight,” she deadpanned. “You may want to think about doing something about…all this.” She motioned toward my sticky, disheveled appearance. “And, if you’ve got enough time in the bathroom, I don’t know, maybe stop acting like a crazy person.”
Despite the hard time she was currently giving me, Amelia had easily been the best part about working at Maggie’s for the past two years. At twenty-four, she was a few years older than me, and instantly became the older sister I always wanted. At five foot two and maybe a hundred pounds, she was the sweetest, wildest person I’d ever met. Half Greek and half Armenian, she was stunning on her worst day. If she was supposed to be at work at five, they told her to be there at four. She was an hour late wherever she went, but the life of the party everywhere. When I needed a good shopping partner, and had a good ten hours to spare, she was my girl.
“Ha!” I laughed bitterly as I shoved the tray of burgers at her. “Table twelve, please?”
Smiling, she accepted the tray while I hightailed it to the bathroom. She had a small point. Something about Jameson did seem to bring out every ounce of awkwardness that resided in each individual strand of my DNA.
Frantically, I pulled paper towels from the dispenser and wet them, then scrubbed them up and down my legs. Once satisfied, I looked at my reflection and was horrified to see the sauce hadn’t just managed to ricochet across my legs; I also had specks of it decorating my “Maggie’s” T-shirt.
Of course, they just had to order extra sauce!
What was my deal with Jameson anyway? Yes, he was gorgeous—strong tattooed arms, wavy, dark, wild hair, and a devilish grin. I just wanted to stare at him. Unfortunately, talking to him was much more of a challenge. As much as I didn’t want my mind to go there, it immediately flashed to the first time I’d met him—my first day at Maggie’s.
My attraction to Jameson was instantaneous. So instantaneous, in fact, that I’d felt him before I saw him. While I’d heard of that type of attraction before, I never would have believed it until I experienced it myself. I was busy straightening and re-straightening the menus at the hostess stand when something caught my attention—a dropping feeling in my stomach, and an almost anxious curiosity at who was coming around the corner. When our eyes met I thought the dropping in my stomach must have made an actual sound because he was watching me just as intently. I fidgeted nervously with my short jean shorts and the Maggie’s T-shirt, which was just a bit too tight across my chest. At least, since I wasn’t serving, I was able to keep my sandy blonde hair down, where it fell just below my shoulders, instead of having to keep it up in a sloppy ponytail.
“You new?” He gave me a sideways, disinterested glance.
“Um, yeah. I mean, I’ve worked for restaurants before…just not this one?”
Why did that last part come out like a question?
A smile etched across his face as he passed me, heading toward the front door, where he remained for the rest of the night. As a bouncer, he arrived later in the evening and checked IDs. Maggie’s was a restaurant, but after nine p.m. it was much more about the bar. There were always a few fights, and people needing to be unceremoniously taken outside. Maybe it was the way he looked, or maybe he just had a way about him, but people usually calmed down when Jameson got involved. A lot of the bouncers at Maggie’s were on the eager side when it came it getting in the middle of an altercation, but Jameson handled it differently, usually walking the offending parties outside without needing to get nasty.
Maybe I’d done a terrible job of hiding it, but Amelia picked up on the fact that I had a thing for him pretty quickly. On one particular day, she winked at him when we caught him eyeing us from his post, and I immediately complained that I wished I had as much courage as her. She never had a hard time being bold, and it was something I’d always admired about her. When she didn’t understand what I meant, I explained that the ability to wink was not something I’d been granted. When pressed, I attempted to show her what I meant. Suffice it to say, my attempt at winking at someone resulted in the nearly involuntary movement of the entire left side of my face. With my nostrils flaring and one side of my lips puckered up—it was not a pretty picture. So naturally, that would be the moment Jameson walked up to us to say something.
Whatever it was he’d planned on saying would never be known, since as soon as he saw me he laughed and headed back to his spot up front. And that is how my time with Jameson went. Often, I’d feel his eyes on me, and whenever I looked his way he’d simply wink at me and go back to work. Never once did the butterflies stop putting on a show in my belly when he was near, and despite the fact that it seemed like he felt it too, our interactions never went past a few words here and there.
By the time I worked up enough courage to have an actual conversation with him, he was gone. In an attempt to act complacent, I didn’t ask a lot of questions, but from what I heard he was busy with a rock band he was putting together.
Over the past year, the what-ifs had bothered me. Never had I felt a connection with anyone like I did with Jameson. But now, as I stood in the bathroom of Maggie’s, covered in special sauce, he was back. Would we still have that same connection? More importantly, had I gotten over whatever spell he seemed to cast over me?
Somewhere in the galaxy a divine miracle or some one-hundred-and-fifty-year eclipse took place, and I managed to get cut before running into Jameson. As excited as I was to see him, I’d much prefer it to be on my own terms, with my clothing and hair free of the debris and smells of Maggie’s. Leaving early meant I had time to run home and shower before meeting Amelia at her house.
“Why exactly did I agree to get ready at your place?” I asked as I scanned her bedroom.
I’d only made it to her bedroom door before being completely overwhelmed with the mess that was Amelia preparing to go anywhere. Technically, she lived with her aunt and uncle, but they had given her the entire main floor of the house and renovated the basement to be their apartment. It even had a separate entrance, although I’m not sure why because every time I was there they were all upstairs.
Since her bedroom was the master it was impressive in size. Taking up the middle of the room was a four-poster king size bed that at that moment held more clothes than the walk-in closet.
“Hey!” She popped her head out of her en-suite bathroom.“I’ll be ready in ten minutes.” She winked slyly and disappeared back inside.
That comment was laughable considering she still had her long thick hair up in a sloppy bun on the top of her head. I was pretty sure she’d never walked to her mailbox without straightening her hair, let alone actually go out for the evening.
We spent the next twenty minutes searching for the perfect black bra to wear under her other black bra. Apparently, for the less endowed, there is an art to wearing two bras to maximize cleavage. This isn’t the type of thing I’ve ever had to worry about being that I was a big C—okay, D—by my freshman year in high school.
“Why don’t you pick out something of mine to wear?” She looked me up and down with disapproval.
“Milly!” I only called her that when she was really getting on my nerves. Mostly because one of our previous managers at Maggie’s was named Milly, and she’d been a flaming bitch, but also because four syllables is too many when you’re trying to yell at someone in exasperation. “Seriously?” I looked down at the outfit I’d spent twenty minutes picking out. “It’s midnight, and I have two feet and twenty pounds on your skinny behind. Let’s go!”
Thirty minutes later I looked at my reflection in her full-length mirror and conceded that I seriously needed to listen to her more often. If there’s one thing I can pull off it’s a mini-skirt, and I felt good in this gold sparkly one, teamed with a white low-cut top with spaghetti straps. The real winner was the shoes. Aren’t they always? Three inches taller is a lot of fun—before you start drinking, of course.
“So… did Jameson show tonight?” I looked away from her as soon as the words left my mouth. I didn’t have to see her to know she’d been waiting this entire time for me to bring him up.
“Yeah, just after you left, you big freaking chicken!” She laughed while nudging me with her elbow. “He was looking all over for you, too.”
“Shut up! He wasn’t!” As much as I’d have liked to believe that was the case, I wasn’t falling for her teasing.
“Mmm hmm… I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”
What was that supposed to mean?