GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
LENGTH: 7,542 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men
BLURB: James sees the "Help Wanted" sign in a deli near his apartment and stops in on a whim. It's summer, classes are out, and none of his friends will see him wearing an apron while he makes a few bucks.
Then he meets Deon and falls hard for the sexy night cook. Too bad the guy has a girlfriend, Bree, whose call dashes any hope James might have of a summer romance.
But if she's Deon's girl, why does their coworker Joe seem bent on hooking James up with him?
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Joe’s already leaning on the counter, pen in hand and reaching for a tablet to write on. “What’ll it be, dude?”
I shake my head again. “I was wondering about the job.” I point at the sign in the window. “It says help wanted?” As if he can’t read it.
For a moment he frowns like he hasn’t noticed the sign before, then he turns and looks down behind the counter. “We hiring, Deon?” I didn’t realize anyone else was here.
From below the counter a deep voice responds, hidden from sight. “Your dad put that up this morning, Joe. We’re looking for someone else at night.”
Two strong, dark hands appear on the counter by Joe’s elbow, and Deon hoists himself up from behind the register. As he stands, I see tight black curls shaved back off a smooth brow, the sides faded in lines over the ears. Dark eyes like shadows glance my way. A wide nose above full, sensuous lips ... damn, but he’s a sexy man. I have a thing for black guys, I admit, and this one has skin like rich caramel. I stare at his waist, where his apron is cinched tight, then my gaze travels up, my imagination erasing his clothes to expose a taut belly and firm chest. His arms are thin but muscular -- what I wouldn’t give to feel them wrapped around me. Then I meet his eyes again, those eyes, and I can’t remember what I’m here for. Did someone say order up?
With a hint of a smile, he asks, “You looking for a job?”
Is he talking to me? Before I can stop myself, I ask, “What do you need me to do?”
My voice cracks at the faint innuendo that runs like an electric current beneath my words. Joe laughs and looks at me critically, and my hand strays to the do-rag I tied over my hair this morning instead of washing it. I know he’s thinking I’m a thug, with this bandanna and these diamond stud earrings and this torn T-shirt, these baggy pants. I can see it in his eyes -- wigger.
I feel so childish all of a sudden, so out of place in this cozy daddy-owned deli, just a college kid from out of town looking for a place to work, and you know what? I don’t want the job anymore. I just want to walk out and go back to my tiny little two-room flat, stare at the walls and remember those melted chocolate eyes, his eyes ... I’ll never be able to forget them, or the way he smacks Joe and smiles at me when he says, “You ever worked in a deli before?”
I shake my head. “I can learn.” Damn, that sounds just a little too eager. My cheeks heat up and I pick at the cracked countertop with one bitten nail. “I mean, I’m sure it’s not too hard.”
Joe laughs again. “Hard compared to what?” he asks, winking at me.
I know my face is flushed now, I can feel my cheeks blaze. I don’t need to stay here and take this. I don’t need this job that badly -- I can find something at the mall, maybe somewhere on campus, on the bus route ...
“Don’t mind him,” Deon says, pushing Joe’s arm off the counter. “You want to order or are you just inquiring about the position?”
Inquiring about the position. It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask what position he prefers ...