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I was wrong!

Chad didn’t get better with time. If anything he only got worse. He was constantly nit-picking every single thing. He complained about the presentation of the food, which was impeccable, but he just had to find some kind of flaw with it just so he could throw around an insult.

One time he totally yelled at Houda for no good reason telling her she wasn’t friendly enough towards the customer. I was there, I saw her greet the guy and there was nothing rude or cold about her approach towards the customer who didn’t even complain in the first place. Perhaps Chad should learn to take his own advice.

Whenever he would berate them like that I would feel so bad. I would do my best to check in and cheer them up after he was gone because I didn’t want their bad moods to get in the way of the work. If he could fly off the handle over nothing then it was best to not give him a real excuse to act like a tyrant. Not like he needed one anyway.

The worst part about it was that he would take me out of the kitchen and order me to the dining room to greet the customers. That wasn’t my job! My job was to cook! And yeah, occasionally Darren and I would come out to the dining area to meet a customer if they had a problem with their meal or they wanted to compliment us but Chad expected me to do this every day. He’s the new owner and the manager, this kind of thing was supposed to be his job!

I sucked it up and did as he asked every time because I seriously didn’t want to give him an excuse to fire me. I refuse to give him the satisfaction!

But then he fired Michael.

He wanted Michael to work a double shift but Michael already had plans to meet with an art dealer to discuss his paintings so he couldn’t do it. When he went to tell Chad that he couldn’t work the extra shift, it didn’t go well.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Chad sneered. “I would think you would jump at the chance to earn a little extra cash.”

Michael’s jaw clenched. It wasn’t the first time Chad made a comment like that to him and I knew Michael was trying his hardest to not curse him out. “I have an appointment.”

“So what? Postpone it.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? What kind of appointment is at 8 o’clock in the night?”

“That’s none of your business,” Michael stated firmly.

“You’re right. It isn’t my business but this place is and I need you to work Sam’s shift since he’s not coming in today.”

“Then you should call him in. I worked my shift. I shouldn’t have to work his if I don’t want to, especially since you won’t be paying me any overtime.”

“You do if you want to keep your job.”

Michael paused and for a second I thought he was going to relent but then he said, “Here’s what, you can take your job and shove it right up your…!”

“Watch it, Rios!”

“No, you watch it! Watch my butt walk right out those doors! I quit!”

Chad stood there dumbfounded. He probably didn’t think anyone would stand up to him like that. I was proud of Michael for taking a stand but I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t get to see him every day like before. I briefly considered walking out too and not just in a show of support for him, but for myself. Working under Chad was stressful. I had to hold my tongue so often it felt like I was suffocating. I used to enjoy coming to work every day. Even bad days got better once I stepped into the kitchen but now I would get a migraine from just walking through the front doors.

Finally, my breaking point came one afternoon when I arrived to start my shift and realised there was someone else working at my station.

That son of a llama replaced me! I couldn’t believe it. I should have suspected he would eventually do something like this since he was such an arrogant control freak and I was already on his hit list to begin with, but I didn’t think he would handle it the way he did. He should at least have the decency to let me know he fired me to my face.

“Munch! What the hell?!” I yelled at him once I found him standing outside by the outdoor dining area.

 “Sloane, is there a problem?”

“Uh, yeah! You replaced me? Without any notice?!”

He shook his head. “I didn’t replace you. Not per se. I hired an extra hand in the kitchen.”

“She’s cooking from my station. She’s learning the recipes. Darren said you ordered him to train her like he trained me and you have the audacity to stand there and pretend that you haven’t replaced me?!”

“I know how it looks but I have the best of intentions, trust me.”

I figured I ought to give him a chance to explain himself since he was acting like I was under the wrong impression. “Go on.”

“Look, I’ve seen the way you are with the customers plus those ideas you gave me about the social media and the specials were really good. You have a good business mind and I need someone like you working by my side, not stuck in the kitchen.”

“Cooking is my passion.” I said firmly.

“But you can do more than just that. I’ll let you create your own menu. Spice things up around here. I want you to become my assistant manager. I think you can fully explore your potential if you get out of the kitchen and learn to explore all aspects of managing the restaurant.”

“So you’re giving me a promotion I never asked for,” I said dismissively.

“Look I know it’s completely different but I know you’re all for doing what’s best for the restaurant. I even noticed how you go right after me and encourage the rest of the staff to do better. You’re a team player.”

“I don’t do that for you. I do it for them. So they can get to keep their jobs because I know just how vindictive you can be.”

“That’s why I need you, Maia.” For the first time since I’ve known him, he actually called me by my first name. “I know I can be a bit of a hothead.”

Pssht!

“Heh, alright, a lot of a hothead. But I want this restaurant to succeed and I need you to help me do it.”

“What you’re proposing is like a partnership?” I asked.

“It can be. For now, you’ll just work for me but I’m hoping that within time, we can turn this into a partnership in more ways than one.” He raised his eyebrows and smirked at me playfully.

“Wait a minute…are you saying what I think you’re saying?” I asked.

“I’m not stupid, I know you and Rios got something going on. He’s got that rugged bad boy thing going on so I can see why you like him but a smart and ambitious woman like you needs more than that. You need someone who can give you opportunities. Someone who can push you towards success, not hold you back.”

“And you think you can do that for me?” I raised an eyebrow.

“I know I can.” He said confidently. “I mean, what can he give you that I can’t?”

I knew there had to be a catch. Michael was right, Chad was interested in me. In his own warped way, this was a romantic gesture on his part, offering me a chance to have more influence in the running of the restaurant I loved.

“You don’t even act like you like me. You’ve been criticizing me, and belittling me, and threatening my job, and…”

“I just like pushing your buttons, Sloane.” He bit his lip. “You’re real sexy when you’re ticked off. I like your determination, it’s why I try to get under your skin so you can prove me wrong.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Chad was basically propositioning me both personally and professionally. The guy who acted like a big ole jerk every single day is suddenly telling me he did it all because he wanted me. I didn’t know if to feel insulted but I was very confused.

“Just think about.” He said. “You’ll see that I’m right.”

I had no interest in Chad romantically as I was deeply in love with Michael but his offer to be the assistant manager was tempting. I had never considered running the restaurant before now but it sounded like a good idea.

I did have a lot of ideas. I could customize the menu and bring back some of the dishes Chad had cut and maybe revamp them a little. This was a good opportunity even if he was only offering me this because he wanted me and not my ideas or expertise. The points he brought up made a lot of sense. I did have a lot of unfulfilled potential. Maybe I needed to explore that.

“You know, you’re right Chad. I can do more than just limit myself to the kitchen. Management might actually be right for me.”

He smiled brightly. “Great! I’m glad you’ve accepted my offer.”

“Oh, I’m not accepting your offer.”

He frowned. “You’re not?”

“No, I’m gonna go out on my own. You were right about my unexplored potential so I’m going to fix that. I’m going to start my own restaurant and put all of my ideas and skills into something I can call my own where the only person I have to answer to is myself…no strings attached either.”

“But…”

“Well you have someone new in the kitchen so I guess you don’t really need me anymore. I’ll see you around Chad!” I said cheerfully as I strutted away.

He remained outside with this dumbfounded expression on his face but he really should not have been surprised that I turned him down. I knew I would miss working at this restaurant, it was like a second home to me, but I refuse to let someone like Chad Munch think that my success was owed to him.

I would forge my own path without his help.

“Hey handsome, mind if I take this seat?” I said coyly as I sat down next to Michael. I knew he would be at the Solar Flare lounge when I stopped by his house and he wasn’t there. It was his favourite lounge, and the only place in town he could get pita and hummus tapas.

He nearly choked on his beer when he saw it was me. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“I mean, aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“I quit this afternoon.”

He smiled, “Well, it’s about time. What finally pushed you over the edge?”

“You were right. Chad was interested in me.”

He paused and then looked at me intently, “Did he try anything?”

“No, he just wants me to run the restaurant with him, and he said if I accepted we could be partners in more ways than one.”

Michael raised his eyebrows and smirked in a ‘I told you so’ kind of way but allowed me to continue.

“He talked about how I had all this potential and it really got me to thinking that he was right about me being capable of managing the restaurant. That’s why I decided I’m gonna start my own.”

“Babe, I think that’s a great idea.”

“Yeah, the only credit I’ll give Chad is that he gave me the idea but as much as I love Villa Bovine, I can’t trust him so it won’t make sense to get involved with him in any way. I’m gonna do this on my own.”

“Well I also have some good news. Roland, the art dealer I went to meet, commissioned me to paint an abstract painting for one of his clients. The pay is really good too. If I get more opportunities like this, I won’t need to get another bartending job and I’ll have more time to continue painting.”

“That’s awesome! Congratulations sweetie!”

“Looks like the both of us are getting our stuff in order. I say we need to order a round of drinks to celebrate!” He said with a gulp of his beer.

I was so happy that Michael’s art was finally getting noticed and that he received this job. Being an artist was what he always wanted to do just like cooking has always been my dream. With my own restaurant, I can take my dream a step further by designing the menu to my liking and managing the kitchen the way I want to. I guess it was a good thing Chad took over the restaurant otherwise we’d both still be working there, still stuck in the routine. Without him forcing us to leave we wouldn’t have the push we needed to do better things with our careers. I was on a high and I definitely felt like celebrating but having drinks wasn’t what I had in mind.

“I’m going to go to the ladies’ room,” I said in my most seductive tone. “You can join me if you like.”

“Hmm…you have something naughty in mind?”

“Let’s just say…I’m not wearing anything under this dress.”

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