When James, the manager of the restaurant I worked for, asked me to work the job fair for him, I honestly wanted to say no. Or hell no. Or even fuck to the no. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my Saturday in a huge gymnasium with a thousand other people—alone. But we needed staff and James’ daughter had broken her arm this morning, so he’d asked me to handle it. I was going to be here anyway, at least for a while, which meant taking over wasn’t such a big deal.
I’m just saying that this wasn’t how I would’ve chosen to spend my Saturday. At least if James had been with me, I’d have had someone to cover for me while I grabbed a drink or ran to the restroom. I did pack up a cooler with a bunch of bottles of water and ice. I was going to be there all day, after all. But as assistant manager, I supposed this was part of the job description.
For a brief minute I thought about calling my best friend Beckham and harass him until he came to keep me company but decided against it. This was my job.
Setting up wasn’t bad. The booths were already arranged. I got my assignment and found the right one without a problem.
After hanging the banner—a large rectangle that only had the restaurant name, The Crown Grill, sprawled over it in a silver font with a black background—arranging applications and business cards along with a cup of pens, there wasn’t much else to do but wait for the doors to open. Though I did do a fair amount of people watching.
Other businesses seemed to have a more complicated setup and for once, I was grateful for James’ minimalistic ways.
Not long after the doors opened, all the booths were relatively busy, which left me thankful for the times when there was a lull. At least then I could grab a drink. This huge job fair seemed like a good idea, but damn, it was a lot of work. I had to keep reminding myself that I was getting paid for this.
“It’s nice when there’s a break, huh?” a feminine voice said from the left of me.
I’d just tipped a bottle of water against my lips to wet my mouth and froze as my gaze swung in her direction. All this talking was drying me out.
This woman from the booth beside me, who hadn’t been there before because I would’ve noticed her, also held a bottle of water in her hand as she waited with a small smile on her full lips for a response. Her light blonde hair hung over her shoulders in curls that almost went to her waist and her blue eyes looked like two sapphires watching me.
I pulled the bottle from my lips and swallowed and glanced at the sign they had hanging in the back. Your Day Made Massage Therapy. “Yeah, it is. Probably the only thing getting me through this.”
This woman was wearing, what I think my mom would call a sundress, which hung to just above her knees. Her shoulders were tan and bare due to the thin straps. This dress probably shouldn’t have looked so good but damn she was beautiful and everything about her called out to me.
“Me too.” She dragged a stool over to the side of her booth and climbed on. By the looks of her, she was maybe seven or eight inches shorter than me, which would’ve made her around five feet four inches or so, but on that stool, I couldn’t be sure. “How’d you get roped into this?” she asked, then she glanced at our banner. “Or do you own the restaurant?”
I chuckled and brought my own chair over to the side of the booth closest her. The way the booths were set up, we still had a countertop between us. It was one our booths shared. But damn, the closer I got to her, the more I noticed how beautiful she was.
“The owner’s nine-year-old daughter broke her arm this morning,” I told her. “He had to go.”
“Ouch,” she said as she cringed. “I broke my wrist when I was eleven. Right before school got out. It sucked.”
Summer had just started, so Hannah, James’ daughter, would probably be in a cast for most of it. “Yeah. That wouldn’t be fun. How’d you break it?”
She winced. “It’s not a fun story.”
She shook her head, those long curls bouncing against her skin. “I tripped at school and used my hands to catch my fall. Snap.”
“Damn.” That was something people did all the time. Trying to catch their fall was a natural reaction.
This woman gave me a smile and I was about to ask her name when someone approached my booth.
“Duty calls,” she said, pointing to the person waiting on me at the same time the woman with her said, “Hey could you help me a minute?”
I had to stifle a sigh. I would’ve much rather continued chatting with this beautiful woman than talk to a prospective waiter or busboy or whatever. But that wasn’t why I was here. Summer was just getting going and Lake Shores got a lot of tourists, which meant the restaurant would be extra busy. We needed the people.
The large room had gotten noisier by the minute as more people filed in and past booth after booth, sometimes stopping to apply for jobs and others just to talk. I assumed they wanted more information.
There was a vast array of people stopping to talk to me. Most of them appeared relatively fine. There was one that reeked of marijuana and I knew he’d never pass the drug test James required of his employees. He was funny as hell though and I laughed more with him than I had the rest of the day. His questions were ridiculous. Did he really have to show up every day he was scheduled? Dumbass.
There was a steady stream of people at my booth as well as the one next to me. I could hear her voice as she talked to their own prospective employees, her laugh as she spoke to some of them. She wasn’t alone. There was another brown-haired woman with her, roughly the same size as her and I thought I heard her call out the name Jess.
Jess looked like a coworker, or at least what I’d overheard she had an answer for every question that had been asked. I hadn’t talked to her all. She’d given me a glance here or there when I was talking to her friend but other than that she’d had her eyes on her phone if she wasn’t talking to someone at the booth.
It was really hard to focus on what I was doing sometimes.
It was another hour before we both had a down moment at the same time.
“So are you the manager, then?” she asked, picking up right where we’d left off. As if we hadn’t just spent an hour talking to other people about other things.
“Do you like it?”
I shrugged. It’d be bad form to say I hated the job I was representing, but I also didn’t hate it. Managing a restaurant just wasn’t my passion. “I like it fine.” She gave me a look, like she knew what I was really saying. “Not what I hope to do with the rest of my life, but it’s good. What about you?” I pointed at the banner behind her. It was simple, purple and white, with the company scrolled over it. “Do you like your job?”
“Yes,” she said right away. “I love massage therapy.” She tucked her hair behind one ear and took a deep breath. “It might sound stupid to some, but I help people. Being able to work out all the knots and kinks from someone just to make their day better is awesome, but sometimes I work with people who have cancer and releasing the muscle cramps helps their pain.” She shrugged. “I can’t imagine anything better.”
Fuck. My gut tightened when she said kinks, but also, she made my love of food and wine seem trivial, to be honest.
“I bet it does,” I told her.
Then it was back to talking people into applying for our respective workplaces. This went on for a while. We’d talk for a few minutes then our attention was pulled. But every time she laughed at something someone said, I’d look over at her.
Shit. I hadn’t even asked her name.
“Hey,” the beautiful woman said, suddenly standing in front of my booth. My estimate of her size had to be dead on as I looked down at her. “I’m going to grab a sandwich and notice that you don’t have anyone with you so you can take a lunch break. Would you like me to grab something for you?”
My brows raised as I realized this perfect stranger was asking if she could get me lunch. Meaning she’d thought about me and my situation at least long enough to determine that she wanted to do this for me.
“You know,” I began, “that actually would be great. I can’t really leave.”
She nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. I, at least, have Jessica with me even if she’s spending her time texting her boyfriend. What do you like?”
“I’m not picky. Just get me whatever you’re having.” I reached into my back pocket for my wallet, but she was already backing away.
“Don’t worry about it,” she called out before turning away.
About half an hour later, this beautiful woman brought me a sandwich and a bag of plain chips. After dropping them onto my counter, she went inside her stall and pulled up to our shared space. As if it were a given that we’d share lunch. It was what I wanted, but damn, I needed to ask her name. Her co-worker had already grabbed her own lunch before this and was now manning their booth, so my lunch date didn’t need to worry about prospective employees. I, on the other hand would keep one eye on her and the other on the front. Just in case.
“Thank you,” I told her, then I took my first bite. This fantastic medley of flavors exploded in my mouth. It was just roast beef and swiss, but I was so hungry that it tasted like the finest meal I’d ever eaten. The condiments had been on the side, but I’d already added the mayo and mustard.
“Oh my god,” she said with a moan. “I wouldn’t have thought a regular sandwich could taste this good.”
I chuckled. “Right?” I took another quick bite. “It’s the hunger. If you’re hungry enough, anything will taste like the best meal you’ve ever had.”
She nodded. “That’s so true.”
“By the way,” I began because again I was reminded that I’d never introduced myself and neither had she. “I’m Harrison Flynn.”
She froze as her big, blue eyes widened and a flush crept across her face. “I can’t believe I never told you my name.”
She slapped a hand over her face. “Luna,” she finally said. “Luna Love.”
I cocked my head to the side and raised an eyebrow. “Luna Love?”
“Yeah,” she said, as if this weren’t the first time she’d had to explain it. “I secretly think my parent’s high hopes were for me to be a stripper.”
A piece of bread got stuck in my throat, causing me to cough. Definitely hadn’t expected that to come out of her mouth. I don’t know what I had expected, but it wasn’t that. The coughing kept up.
“Are you OK?” she asked, concern replacing anything else on her face. “Take a drink.”
I snagged my bottle of water and did just that. The cool liquid pushed down the stuck food and I could breathe normally again.
“Sorry,” I said, but my voice didn’t sound right. It had that weird kind of quiet quality that was typical after almost choking to death. I cleared my throat a couple of more times and took another pull of my water bottle before trying to talk again.
“Surprised you, huh?” Humor tugged at the corners of her mouth.
“Absolutely. I wasn’t expecting you to say that.”
She shrugged those slim shoulders. “It’s true, though. Why else would they strap me with a name like Luna Love?”
I shook my head because I didn’t have an answer for her.
“Anyway,” she continued, “is restauranting what you’ve always wanted to do with your life?”
“Not like this,” I told her honestly. “I love food and wine, but managing isn’t really my thing. I don’t hate it, like I said before, but it’s not what I want to be doing in ten years.”
“What do you want to be doing in ten years?”
“Hopefully, I’ll have gone through sommelier school and be working in an upscale restaurant that can appreciate my talents.”
“Hey, Luna,” the other woman who was working their booth butted in. “When you’re finished, I could use some help.”
Luna and I both looked over and saw that a small group of people had just appeared at their stall.
Luna glanced over her shoulder a second time than looked back with a cringe. “Sorry,” she said to me. “Looks like I have to go.” She gave me a smile as she quickly picked up all of her trash from lunch then dropped it in their bin.
Over the rest of the afternoon, I heard words like administrative, office personnel,and janitorial as they worked their way through that first group and everyone else that had stopped by. They must’ve needed support staff at their spa. Or clinic. Or whatever they called it.
Finally, the job fair was over around three and I began to pack everything up, as did Luna and her friend beside me. I worked slowly as I didn’t want to leave before she did. Or because I was working up the nerve to shoot my shot. Not sure which.
“Thanks for hanging out with me during the downtime,” Luna said as she came to stand in front of my stall. She had a bag over her shoulder while her coworker was pulling a case behind her. The co-worker kept walking.
“Yeah. You too. It was nice talking to you.” You’re a dumbass, I screamed inside my head. Just ask her out already. But we hadn’t talked much about ourselves that didn’t involve our jobs. Luna could’ve had a boyfriend. Been married with a gaggle of kids. I didn’t know.
“I wanted to give you this.” She had a card in her small but strong hand. As I took it from her, she said, “Just call if you want to use it to make an appointment.”
I glanced down at the piece of cardstock she’d handed me.
It was a free couple’s massage. My gaze hopped right up to hers. Joke was on her because there was no couple where I was concerned. Hadn’t had a girlfriend in about a year. I’d been dating, but that wasn’t the same thing.
“Thanks,” I told her and meant it then decided to reciprocate. I grabbed one of my cards out of my bag and scribbled on the back. “Same here. Just call for a reservation and I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”
She took my card and after reading it, she smiled. “Thank you. I’ll see you later then.”
As she walked away, I realized she hadn’t commented on the fact that I’d put on there a complimentary dinner for two. Fuck.
Someone like her obviously had a boyfriend. I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I spent the next three days kicking myself for not at least attempting to ask her out.