RUSH (City Lights_ New York City Book 3)(9)

By: Emma Scott

“Breakfast of champions,” I muttered, guessing the mess must have belonged to the former assistant whose job I was currently losing my rent money to perform.

The kitchen was a little worse for wear: the sink was full of dirty dishes, and the counters arrayed with takeout boxes from neighborhood restaurants—none of them cheap—including Annabelle’s. Despite the minor messes, it was obviously the home of a wealthy person. Uptown and a stone’s throw to Central Park, the owner would have to be. Though the second floor was too large for me to see the rest of it, I knew it was empty.

“Hello?” I called. “Mr. Lake?”

Another pause, and then, from the third and last floor, where I assumed the bedrooms were located, came that same young man’s voice, hard-edged and cold. “Just leave it on the counter.”

If bitter had a sound it was that voice.

I set the stack of boxes on the kitchen counter beside the rest. I knew the bill had already been paid, but did it include gratuity? Normally, I would have just left it to fate or luck, but I needed every dollar I could get.

“Okay,” I called. “Um, is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Yeah, you can get the fuck out.”

I felt the blood rush to my cheeks—a rush of both anger and humiliation. I shouldn’t have let it; I worked in customer service after all, but it still stung a little. Not to mention, it was kind of a shock to hear that sort of talk in such an elegant house.

“Prick,” I muttered under my breath. I thumped heavily down the stairs, threw open the door and let it slam shut on its own.

I hurried back to Annabelle’s. I still had some of the lunch rush left to try to make up the lost money, and maybe the rude bastard had left a tip already.

I was wrong on both counts.

The “shit that was going down” Anthony had spoken of earlier was now going down. Annabelle Pratt—the eponymous owner—had a nephew who had just moved to New York to pursue an acting career, and he needed a job. Harris Pratt had arrived to learn the ropes while I was out on delivery. Maxine pulled me aside to tell me that each of the six waiters and waitresses would lose one shift to give this guy a full boat.

That kind of bald-faced nepotism would have made an instant enemy out of anyone else in the eyes of the current staff—it certainly did me. But Harris was sweet, attractive, and suffered a ridiculous abundance of good-natured charm. I watched, disgusted, as Clara—who was losing a lucrative breakfast shift to him—flirted shamelessly while showing him the computer ordering system. Digging her own grave with a smile on her face.

My own shift was over. The lunch rush wasn’t enough of a rush for me to finish out, and I yanked out my nametag in the back room, willing myself not to cry. Maxine came around to pay out the credit card tips.

“Did that Lake guy leave anything? From my delivery?”

Her arched brow stabbed her severe hairline.

“I only ask because he was rude as hell to me.”

“Not surprising.” Maxine counted out my money. “He goes through assistants like some people go through toilet paper. Treats them about the same too.”

“What’s his story?” I asked. I was having the mother of all bad days. What did I care about some jerk shut-in? But he was young when I expected an old man and said as much to Maxine.

She shrugged. “Young. Old. He’s good business.” She peered at me sternly. “I hope you weren’t rude back.”

I shook my head ‘no.’ Certainly the guy hadn’t heard me call him a prick. Not unless he had supersonic hearing.

“Good.” Maxine laid forty dollars in my hand. “See you Monday.”

I sighed. That forty, plus the thirty-five from cash tips was short of what I needed by half. Half.

Anthony—still working the rest of lunch—hurried into the backroom and tried to press some money into my hand. “NPH is generous and that was your table to begin with.”

Fresh tears welled in my eyes at my friend’s kindness, but I quickly averted my head. If Anthony saw me cry he’d never let me turn him down.

“No way, Anthony. You earned it.” I stood up to shut my locker, in too much of a hurry to even take my apron off. I hugged him, concealing my face against his shoulder. “I love you. Have a great weekend.”