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I went to the Nookstone Cafe to speak with the owner and to hand in my letter of resignation. He begged me to stay on, promising a raise and two days off instead of one. Not sure why he wanted me to stay so badly but I gave him an earful about what I had to deal with from Gary and made it clear that I wasn’t going to stay no matter what. I had already accepted a new job anyway.

Just as I stepped out of the restaurant for the last time, I ran into a familiar face.

“Maia!” He beamed. “Hey, how are you? What are you doing down here?” His eyes looked even dreamier in the sunlight. His tanned skin practically glistened and his short sleeved t-shirt revealed that he had a lot more tattoos on his muscly arm than I originally thought.

Why did the sight of him make me so nervous in an exhilarating sort of way?

Hey Michael, um, I’m good.” I felt a little awkward. After our wonderful non-date where neither one of us made a move I thought we would never see each other again. “I, uh, work here. Well, I used to work here. I just quit.”

“Oh right! I forgot about that completely. I live across the street. Small world huh?”

“Yeah.” I glanced over my shoulder to see a modest looking green house on the other side of the street. It was so weird that he lived right across the street from where I worked. He was practically within my reach the whole time.

“So what’s next? Got another job?” He asked.

“Uh-huh.” I nodded. I could kick myself for giving another one-word answer. I didn’t want him to think I was rude but I just couldn’t shake my nerves.

“Oh…kay. I’m sorry if I’m keeping you back from anything…”

“No, no,” I bit my lip, willing myself to get it together. “I’m just…being weird. Forgive me.”

He chuckled. “I will only if you agree to go out with me.”

I laughed nervously. “What?” I was hoping he’d ask but I guess I didn’t expect him to be so forward about it. Perhaps I was the only one feeling awkward.

“A real date this time.  I should have asked for your number before you left that last time but…I guess you can say I dropped the ball on that one. Blame it on the subpar ramen.”

I giggled. “So it’s the food’s fault?”

“Yeah, it has to be. It gave me a bout of temporary insanity. Otherwise, it would mean I’m just stupid.”

“Then maybe I shouldn’t give you my number. I have a rule about not giving my number out to crazies and dummies.”

Temporary insanity, I promise!” He joked. “I’m clinically sane, I swear!”

“In that case, I guess it’s alright to give it to you.”

He flashed a toothy grin and I instantly felt the blood rushing to my cheeks. I prayed he wouldn’t notice it. I didn’t want him to think I was some school girl with a crush.

After we exchanged numbers I looked up from my phone and realised he was checking me out. His eyes were scanning me from head to toe as his tongue briefly licked his lips. He was so brazen about it and I was flattered…I mean uncomfortable.

“I have to head to work, my shift is about to start. I’m so glad I ran into you again Maia.”

“Me too.”

“I’ll give you call.” He leaned forward and pulled me into a hug which caught me by surprise.

Even more surprising was how I hugged him back without hesitation.

Watcher, he smelled so good.

And his chest felt so hard pressed against mine. And his arms….

I knew I had to reign in my hormones before I did something stupid. He was just a regular guy…who I just so happened to be insanely attracted to…even though he wasn’t my type…but did I even have a type?

Later that evening I went down to the Villa Bovine to check out the place. I went there once on a date with a guy from culinary school and even though the date didn’t go well the food was great. I hoped I wouldn’t have to go through another experience like I did at the Nookstone Café which was why I wanted to speak to the chef myself before I actually started the job.

His name was Darren Jernigan and thankfully he was nothing like Gary.

“Thank Watcher! I was beginning to think Francois was ignoring my pleas for some help around here. Now I expect you to be punctual and prepared to get your hands dirty because now that there’s a second person in the kitchen we’re gonna be working shifts. You’re gonna need to know how to make these recipes for when you’re on your own.”

Francois, the owner, told me that I would eventually be working shifts with Darren but I didn’t think that would happen so soon. This was exciting!

I already couldn’t wait to start.

As I was about to leave I passed by the bar area and noticed someone was there now unlike when I originally entered the restaurant. My eyes lit up once I realised who it was.

“Are you stalking me or something?” Michael asked playfully.

I laughed. “This is where you work?”

“Yeah, it is. Did you come here for the food as well?”

“No actually, this is my new job. I’m the new assistant chef.” I said as I took a seat on a barstool.

He grinned. “So you are stalking me!”

“Quit it. I had no idea you were even working here. And you made your job seem like it sucked but I kinda like it here already.”

“Maybe it will get better now that you’re around.” He winked.

“Ha-ha. I’m sure this business has rules against fraternization amongst employees.”

“Good thing I’ve always been a rule-breaker.” He said with a smirk that gave me tingles.

Don’t blush! Don’t blush!

“So, what’s your favourite drink?” He asked.

“Oh no, I don’t really drink. I just have a glass of wine with dinner every now and then but that’s it.”

“Come on, you gotta live. Lemme make you a dim and gusty. I make a mean dim and gusty.”

I had a dim and gusty once and it made me feel like puking. I wanted to say no but then he already started making it. And showing off while he was at it.

“Are all those tricks really necessary?” I asked.

“It’s part of the job description. Here you go.” He handed me the glass of brown liquid on ice and I think he deliberately handed it to me in such a way so that his finger could gently graze mine.

The drink was actually really good. Way better than the one I had before.

“What’s the verdict?” He asked.

“I’ve had better.” He frowned a little so I started laughing. “I’m kidding. It was very tasty.”

“Good, cause you don’t seem like a lady that’s easy to impress. At least I know I’m doing something right.”

“You’re very heavy-handed with the flirting aren’t you?”

“Is that good or bad?”

“Bad since you and I are going to be co-workers.” Even though I was enjoying the flirtation I knew nothing could truly come from this thing with Michael now that he and I were working in the same place. It would be so unprofessional.

His eyes practically bore into mine as he said, “This is the third time you and I ran into each other by coincidence. I think we ought to see where this goes, don’t you?”

“I need to go now.” I didn’t really have to go anywhere but I felt like I should. Michael was quite tempting but I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to start dating him now. So what if he has chiseled features and a sexy body…

And also charming and funny…

And loves food as much as I do…

I had two minds about this job now. On one hand it’s a great opportunity professionally but on the other hand, working here means I’ll end up seeing Michael every day. Michael is the kind of guy that would be a distraction. Just being in the same room as him is enough to make me lose focus.

But then again, maybe I was worrying about this too much. I’m not some teenager with raging hormones that can’t be contained. I’m a grown woman. I can work with a man I’m attracted to and not have it be anything more than that.

I totally can!