RUSH (City Lights_ New York City Book 3)(7)

By: Emma Scott


I wondered how much time I had before I buckled under that pressure and just shattered completely.

* * *

“Eight-fifteen, Charlotte,” Maxine said, tapping her watch with a blood-red acrylic. Her steel-colored hair was pulled so tight in its bun I pitied her scalp.

“I know, I’m sorry,” I told my manager as I threw open my locker and grabbed my waist apron. “You know how the subway is…” I tied the apron over my white button down blouse and pinned on my nametag, poking my thumb in the process.

Maxine crossed her arms over her black turtleneck. “The subway runs on time. You, on the other hand…”

I tied my hair up in a ponytail. “I promise it won’t happen again.”

“Mmmhmmm.”

My manager slipped out and Anthony Washington—a graphic artist, and my work BFF—peeked his head in.

“Getting busy,” he said. “Four-top in your section. Want me to take their drinks?”

“You’re too good to me,” I said, stuffing my order pad into my pocket. “Thanks for covering, but I got it.”

“You sure about that?” Anthony stood over me, towered really, but then everyone did; I was barely five-three. He adjusted my pale yellow tie we all had to wear. “Bad day to be late, sweetness,” he said. His eyes were the friendliest things I’d seen all day; as brown as his skin, and warm with kindness. “I heard from Skeletor that some shit’s going down today.”

Icy dread filled my veins. “It is?”

But there was no time to talk. The restaurant was filling up.

Annabelle’s was a breakfast/lunch bistro that catered to the leisurely diner—it didn’t even open until eight a.m. But the diners now were more impatient than leisurely, and I spent the entire shift playing catch-up while trying my hardest to keep the smile plastered onto my face. Maxine—Skeletor, to Anthony—watched me like a hawk. All it would take was one complaint about cold spinach Florentine or a too-slow coffee refill and I’d be toast.

I made it through the rush without a complaint though my tips were evidence enough I was off today. We wouldn’t get cashed out until the end of the shift but I could already do the math: today wasn’t going to be a good day. It had been a slow March already and I bit my lip, as the calculations added up in my head. I’d have to have two killer nights—and I mean killer—at my second job bartending this weekend if I had a prayer of making rent.

I smoothed my hair and took a breath, determined to have a better lunch than breakfast…and then my morning was saved. The bussers were moving tables together in my station.

“Ten-top,” Anthony crowed, as we watched the group of well-dressed people come in. He clutched my arm. “Girl, that’s Neil Patrick Harris.”

“What? No…” I looked and sure enough, at the center of the group was the handsome actor, talking and laughing easily with his friends.

Anthony nudged my elbow and flashed me his own brilliant smile. “Your knight in shining armor.”

“You got that right,” I said. Neil Patrick Harris’ ten-top was going to save my month.

I heaved a steadying breath, determined to not make a fool of myself in front of the celebrity and his friends, and readied my notepad.

“Screw this fucking guy!”

Behind me, at the register, a young man in a backwards baseball cap was jabbing an angry text into his phone. The entire restaurant stopped to look—Annabelle’s wasn’t the sort of place for outbursts. But this was also New York City; the customers went back to their conversations a moment later, unperturbed, as the young man threw up his hands.

“Tell that bastard he can get his own damn food,” he said to Maxine and stormed out.

Commotion over, I turned my focus to my table when Maxine’s cold, clipped voice called me back.

“Charlotte, if you please?”

I hurried to the register. “Yes?” I said tightly.

Maxine pushed a short stack of to-go boxes wrapped up in a plastic bag toward me. “I need you to make this delivery.”

My heart dropped. “But…I just got sat…”

“Anthony can take it. This is important.” She jerked her pointy chin at Anthony.