|Fridays at Noon
Author: troublefollows1017 PM
Edward Masen's life intersects with Bella's at the restaurant he dines at for lunch every Friday. He's handsome, arrogant, and is used to avoiding love. She isn't impressed by the things that usually have women falling at his feet. AH/AU.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 32 - Words: 254,403 - Reviews: 17,073 - Favs: 11,680 - Follows: 6,324 - Updated: 05-20-11 - Published: 11-05-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6453369
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Friday, June 18th at Noon
I finished refilling all of the salt shakers, placed fresh flowers in all the vases on the tables in the main dining area, helped cut up the fruit for the bar, took orders for two tables, and now wanted two minutes in the back room without my damn heels on while I waited for my tables' food. I never wore heels but they were a required part of the uniform. How I hadn't sprained an ankle yet was beyond me.
"Bella! There you are!" Rosalie snapped as she came through the door and spotted me. "Jessica's not coming in, and I need someone to cover the private dining room."
"And you want that person to be me?" I said, sounding a little too shocked for her liking.
She narrowed her hazel eyes at me. Rosalie didn't have to say anything, she invoked fear deep within me with only a look.
I shook my head and tried to come off more confident. "I mean, absolutely. Whatever, you need, Rosalie."
Waiting tables was not my chosen profession. It was more like my needed profession, needed if I was going to have money to live somewhere and occasionally eat. I was an English teacher by trade, but due to recent cutbacks and the fact that I was on the bottom of the totem pole, I was let go at the end of the school year. The entire economic downturn was making it hard to find a job anywhere. Lucky for me, my roommate, Jasper, talked his sister, Rosalie, into giving me a job at the restaurant she managed in the heart of downtown Seattle.
I had never worked at a restaurant before, but I was good at cooking dinner for my dad when I was in high school. I figured it couldn't be that hard to take some orders and schlep out food. I didn't have to cook anything, just deliver it to the customer. Things at Eclipse were a little bit more complicated than that, unfortunately. My week-long training session was a huge eye opener. I needed to have the menu memorized, as well as have general knowledge of the wine list. I needed to know what wine went with what menu item and be able to describe how each dish was prepared. It was completely mind-boggling. Then there were the rules of serving. I had no idea there were rules about what side you should serve a person from or about allowing someone to taste the wine before they were poured an entire glass. I felt extremely out of my league but was determined to be a fast learner. It was the overachiever in me. I did not like failing at anything.
Eclipse was also not the kind of restaurant I would ever eat at for two reasons. One, I couldn't even afford an a la carte dessert on my budget. Two, they served things I had never even heard of, things like foie gras and something called ricotta and corn agnolotti in summer truffle consummé. I was more the veggie burger and fries kind of girl. Lately, store brand mac-n-cheese was keeping me alive. The people who frequented Eclipse were wealthy, very wealthy. We had Seattle's who's who dining with us all the time. Sometimes it was some big name athlete or some swanky politician. Powerful business people in fancy suits filled the restaurant daily.
"Mr. Masen reserves the upstairs dining room every Friday at noon," Rosalie explained as she led me to the stairs leading to the private dining room. "Jessica is his server of choice but obviously she thinks I didn't know she planned to go away this weekend with her boyfriend. For some reason, she thinks I am not the eyes and the ears of this place! For some reason, she thought she could screw me over last minute! Well, her little fake sick call just cost her this job. I hope you don't need reminding that I know everything that happens in this establishment, and anyone who doesn't understand that will pay dearly. Do I need to remind you, Bella?"
I shook my head. Message received loud and clear – do not mess with Rosalie Hale. Rosalie was so different from her brother. Rosalie was a high strung Type A personality. It was the kind of personality needed to run a restaurant, I supposed. Jasper, on the other hand, was one of the most easy-going people I had ever met. We met in college and had been friends for a couple years. Besides helping me with the job situation, he took me in when I couldn't afford to live on my own any longer. Jasper had saved me from the shame of having to move back home to live with my dad. For this, I would be eternally grateful. He and I were great friends – completely platonic, of course. He had a girlfriend named Maria, who I thought kind of treated him like crap, but it wasn't my place to judge.
I started up the stairs to the private dining area and tripped on the first step, landing painfully on my left knee.
"Bella," Rosalie spat like it was a curse word. "Try not to embarrass you or, more importantly, me. Mr. Masen's business is a big deal. He's here with his assistant today. You should be able to handle a table of two. I would send Emmett in there but Mr. Masen prefers female servers, and you are all I have unfortunately. So don't mess this up."
Don't mess it up. That would be my mantra.
The wait staff at Eclipse was mostly male, which surprised me at first. Then I added up my first day tips. The clientele did tip extraordinarily well. Men could support their families working as servers at Eclipse. I really had no idea what Jasper was getting me into when he offered to help me out. This was not Forks Diner. Hell, this wasn't even Red Lobster, and I used to think that was fancy.
I made my way up the stairs, careful to put one foot firmly on each step, so I didn't fall again. I opened the door and found two men sitting at the long rectangular table. They were both dressed in expensive-looking suits, and one was noticeably older than the other. The older man had short, thinning grey hair and a closely cropped beard. He was a good looking older gentleman, but it was his younger counterpart who took my breath away.
The man had a wild mess of bronze hair on his head. There were strands of reddish-brown hair sticking up in all different directions that somehow looked purposeful. He couldn't have been over thirty, probably wasn't much older than me, actually. His eyes were so green, you couldn't help but take notice of them even from across the room. Then there was the jaw porn. Oh my, did the man have a jawline that made me want to touch it, preferably with my tongue.
The two men were engaged in a serious conversation and paid no attention to me. I stood patiently to the side, waiting for them to acknowledge me, so I could welcome them and explain our specials for the day.
"I swear Alec, if I had a fucking nickel for every time someone has told me they're sorry today," the younger man ranted. I couldn't help but think he should be a little bit more careful about talking to his boss like that.
"I know, Edward. I know."
"It's ridiculous," he huffed, running his hand through that mess of hair on his head. He turned his head just enough to catch sight of me. "What?"
Oh shit. He was talking to me.
"Where's Jessica? We've been here for five minutes, and no Jessica."
I stepped further into the room and tried to smile even though I was so nervous, I could feel the sweat beads forming on my forehead.
"Sorry, Jessica is out today. My name is Isabella, I'll be your server this afternoon." I hated using my full name, but Rosalie insisted that Isabella sounded more formal and should be the name I used with customers.
"See!" The young man pounded his fist on the table, making the silverware and glasses rattle. "What did I tell you? Sorry. It's all I've heard today!" he shouted.
This guy might've been hot, but maybe hot-headed was a more accurate description.
"Relax, it's not her fault Jessica's not here. Right, Isabella?" The man I assumed to be Mr. Masen looked up at me with a reassuring smile.
"Right, sir," I replied nervously, trying to focus on the much more polite Mr. Masen. His assistant could really take some lessons on how to treat people who handle his food. I handed them a menu and began explaining our daily specials. "Today we have two specials-"
"I don't need to hear the specials," the snippy assistant said, never even opening his menu. "We'd like a bottle of your Romanée-Conti, 2000 preferably, but 2004 will do as well. I'll have the heirloom lettuce to start and then the lamb."
I blinked a few times, not sure I heard him correct. I did not have our significantly long wine list memorized, but I knew that was one of the most expensive kinds of wine we offered. Bottles of that stuff didn't cost hundreds of dollars, they cost thousands - a few thousand. I looked at his boss for some sign that maybe he shouldn't be ordering such an expensive bottle. Mr. Masen was busy looking at the menu.
"I'll start out with the soup and then the beef short ribs," he smiled warmly, handing me the menu back. I picked up the other, unused menu that sat beside Mr. Hot-headed Assistant because it was obviously too much work to hand it to me.
"You're ok with the Romanée-Conti?" I asked, wanting to make sure he heard what his assistant had ordered.
"Excuse me?" Edward the Assistant asked through a clenched jaw. His green eyes were alight with a fierceness I was not accustomed to seeing.
"Sorry, j-j-just making sure that was ok," I stuttered.
He threw his hands up. "Did you hear that Alec? I'd be ten cents richer!"
"Edward, relax," Mr. Masen said with great concern. "You're going to give yourself a heart attack before you're thirty."
"I'm sure they taught you in waitress school that you should do what the customer asks without question," Edward the Assistant spat condescendingly.
Part of me wanted to congratulate him on obviously graduating at the top of his class from asshole school, but I mustered up enough restraint to stay quiet.
The only gentleman at the table turned to me with another kind smile. "Whatever Mr. Masen ordered is fine with me. I would never question his taste, even if I didn't work for him."
Time froze. My jaw must have hit the floor, and I wasn't sure how I didn't pass out. Mr. Hot-headed Assistant was actually Mr. Masen/Hot-headed Boss while the older, gentler Mr. Masen was not Mr. Masen at all but Mr. Alec the Not Hot-headed Assistant.
"Of course, sorry," I apologized.
"Fifteen!" the real Mr. Masen roared.
"Sorry," I muttered again because my brain and mouth were no longer connected.
"Twenty! Can we make it a quarter?" he asked, glaring at me with his hard, jade colored eyes.
I shook my head and exited the room as quickly as my feet would move me. I zipped down the steps and managed to slip just before reaching the bottom. My butt hit the second to last step with a painful thud. I jumped up and winced as I made my way to get their bottle of wine and place their food order.
Emmett noticed my fall and followed me.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. My butt's going to hurt tomorrow, and I probably will not be earning anything close to a fifteen percent tip today, but I'll be fine."
"How's it going up there? Jessica says Masen can be a real ass sometimes. You'd think a guy who's got billions of dollars could buy some manners."
My eyes went wide. "Billions?"
Emmett laughed, "Bells, do you seriously have no idea who that guy is up there? Edward Masen, CEO of Masen Corporation. He's a software developer, created the most popular software security program in the world right now. Came from money, but in the last couple years, he's made more than everyone in his family combined. I heard he's worth close to twenty-eight billion. He's like twenty-eight years old with twenty-eight billion dollars. Can you imagine?"
Twenty-eight. Billion. Dollars. That kind of money just did not compute.
"Great. Well, that explains his choice of wine. It also explains why he looked like he wanted me dead when I mistook his assistant for him. Great. Just great." I was such an idiot. I questioned a multi-billionaire about a bottle of wine that cost a fraction of what he probably makes in an hour.
Emmett laughed at me again. "Oh man. Don't mess this thing we got going with him, Bella. He reserves that room every Friday at noon. Rosalie will have your head if he stops coming in because you offended him."
"Got it," I replied, needing to find our sommelier, and suddenly wishing Jessica and her boyfriend had waited one more day to make that stupid trip to San Francisco.
Eric, our wine expert extraordinaire, handed me the ridiculously expensive bottle of wine and reminded me for the millionth time to let it breathe for a few minutes before handing it to the customer. I carried the forty-five hundred dollar bottle of wine up the stairs like it was my own child. Something told me that if I fell and it broke, I would be broke because Rosalie, in addition to firing me, would confiscate my next paycheck and then sue me for the remainder, which would still be a lot.
Amazingly, I made it upstairs without falling or breaking anything. I poured the extremely expensive wine into his glass and gave it a few minutes to breathe. I served their appetizers and then handed him his glass so he could taste the wine and approve.
Edward Masen stared into the glass before swirling the deep red wine around. He raised it to his nose, sniffing before he lifted the glass to his lips. I found myself mesmerized. He had pretty lips, even for an asshole. He took a sip but I could tell he didn't swallow. He let the wine sit on his tongue. I watched him swallow eventually and then take one more sip. My eyes were focused on his mouth. I wanted to look away but there was something about him that made it impossible. His tongue poked out and licked his bottom lip. I strongly disliked him and his twenty-eight billion dollar attitude but his mouth was kind of perfect. He set the glass down and then nodded his approval. I filled his glass and then his assistant's.
I managed to not make another major faux pas the rest of lunch. I served their entrees without causing the nickel-counting Mr. Masen any other reason to shout at me. I was feeling confident that I had redeemed myself and might actually see a nice sized tip in the end. At this point, ten percent was over five hundred dollars. For about one hour of work, I was not going to complain. Suddenly it wasn't so bad that Jessica went on her vacation early.
Everything was going so well, I guess I should have expected something to go wrong. It was just my luck that when I brought up their desserts and went to refill their water glasses, Mr. Masen was barking orders at someone on his Blackberry. He took a sip of his wine and then set the glass precariously near the edge of the table.
Just as I reached for his water glass he shouted loudly, "No!"
I was startled, unsure if he was talking to me or the person on the phone. I jerked my hand away and in the process hit his wine glass over and the very expensive, very red wine spilled onto his very light grey and, most likely, very expensive pant leg.
"Oh God! I am so sorry!" I grabbed a napkin as he leapt back in his seat.
"What the fuck!" he exclaimed.
So much for things going so well.
"I'm sorry. You startled me. I wasn't sure if you were talking to me. I'm sorry."
"I have to let you go, Peter. The incompetent staff here at Eclipse has now stained my eight thousand dollar Caraceni suit with a glass of wine from a forty-five hundred dollar bottle of wine. Have what I need when I get back to the office or else."
He set his phone down and snatched the napkin out of my hand.
"I'm so sorry," I said with a trembling voice. Either he was going to kill me or Rosalie was, my death was a given. "I can get you some club soda."
"Don't!" he bellowed. "Don't get me anything except the check. We're done!"
I nodded and headed downstairs to get him his bill. It took every ounce of self control I possessed not to cry. He was so angry. Angry people made me nervous. I did not like to ruffle feathers. I liked to fly under the radar as much as possible in most situations.
Mr. Masen was sitting in another seat when I returned, dabbing at the stain on his pants with our white cloth napkins. It almost looked like he was nursing a wound. I was not a fan of blood so I was thankful I knew it was only wine.
"Sorry again. I'd be happy to pay for the dry cleaning," I offered to be polite. It seemed like the right thing to do, so he could see I was serious about feeling bad.
"Damn right you'll pay!" he spat.
"Edward," his assistant admonished him.
I could feel the tears pricking at the corners of my eyes. "I'm so sorry."
He grabbed the leather bill folder and shoved his Platinum Corporate American Express card in it. When I returned with it, he quickly scrawled his name on the receipt and left. He didn't even look at me. He just stood up and bolted out the door.
"Thank you for a wonderful lunch, Isabella," Alec the Assistant said with his sweet smile. What was such a nice man doing working for such a jerk?
I took the signed credit card receipt and immediately noticed he had not tipped me at all. Well, that figured. I'm sure that covered his dry cleaning bill and then some. Of course, I had no idea what it would cost to dry clean an eight thousand dollar suit. Who bought suits that cost that much anyway? I didn't even own a car that cost that much.
Billionaires. Scratch that. Multi-billionaires. That was who bought eight thousand dollar suits and had five thousand dollar lunches.
I tried to push Edward Masen and his horrid temper and his perfect mouth and his sexy jawline and his wicked glares and his desire to collect nickels from everyone who says they're sorry out of my mind the rest of my shift. I was doing a great job, until about two hours later when I was summoned to the host table.
"Isabella?" a man I didn't recognize asked as I approached.
"Yes," I answered cautiously.
"Mr. Masen asked that I give this to you," he said with a smile much like Alec the Assistant gave me when he left. They both looked like they felt sorry for me. I should feel sorry for them. They had to work for Mr. Masen every day. I only had to do it for one hour, and that was more than enough. He handed me an envelope with my name written in a lovely script on the front.
Curious as to what the almighty Mr. Masen would possibly send me a couple hours after our disastrous encounter, I slipped my finger in the corner and ripped the envelope open. Maybe he felt guilty for not tipping me. That would be nice. I pulled out the slip of paper and gasped at what I saw.
"What is it?" Angela, one of the hostesses, asked.
"A one hour dry cleaning bill for fifty-seven dollars!"
"Why is someone giving you a dry cleaning bill?" Angela looked as confused as I felt.
He withheld a humongous tip and now was giving me the bill to clean his pants? The man had more money than I will ever see in my lifetime, and he was asking me to reimburse him? I had never been so mad in my entire life. Part of me wanted to throw the damn thing in the garbage. Let him send all the assistants he wanted to come get his flipping fifty-seven dollars. I wouldn't pay it.
I only worked until four on Fridays. The more experienced wait staff got the Friday night tables. There was big money to be had on Friday evenings. Money I could really use after getting screwed over by Edward Masen today.
The more I thought about him, the angrier I grew. Who paid fifty-seven dollars to get their pants dry cleaned? That was highway robbery! I looked at the bill that was paid for with the same American Express card he used here. Fast one hour cleaning - that was extra. The pants were picked up and returned by the dry cleaner - that was another charge. Extra special care for extra expensive pants- another up charge.
Insanity. If this guy thought I was going to pay him back when he went out of his way to jack up the bill, he was kidding himself. I noticed he attached his business card so I would know where to send the money.
Edward A. Masen, CEO
1201 Third Avenue, Suite 5400
Seattle, WA 98101
I slipped the card and the bill in my pocket and changed out of my heels. I slung my messenger bag around my body and cashed in my tips for the day, which were sorely lacking. It was a cloudy day, but the temperature was quite pleasant. As I made my way to the bus stop, I passed a bank, and inspiration hit. I was going to pay Edward Masen for his dry cleaning, but I was going to make him feel like the ass he was for asking me to do it.
Being allowed on the 54th floor wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. Nevermind the strange contents of my bag when I got checked in at security or the fact that I was wearing a white dress shirt with a red silk tie, a black skirt, black nylons, and black Converse sneakers - I was a stranger in a strange land. Everyone in the lobby seemed to have a security badge and a fancy briefcase. I had to sign my life away and show my driver's license to be allowed on the damn elevator. Once I made it to the floor that housed Masen Corporation, I was met with more obstacles. I should have thought about how difficult it would be to get to the head of a big organization.
"But do you have an appointment?" the man at the desk asked one more time.
"Not exactly, but Mr. Masen requested that I bring him something," I replied, knowing I didn't look like the type of person that usually brought Mr. Masen anything but maybe his coffee.
"Let me get his assistant," the man said, obviously annoyed by me.
I sat down in the reception area, careful not to touch anything that the evil Mr. Masen could charge me for breaking. There were pretty vases and interesting art pieces. I wondered if they cost millions of dollars or if someone just picked up a bunch of things at an IKEA or something.
"Can I help you?" a nice woman asked a few minutes later. How many assistants did it take to assist an asshole? At least two, it appeared.
I stood up with some effort. My bag was so damn heavy and the contents clinked and clattered because of the movement, causing Assistant Lady to look at it like I might have a bomb in there.
"Um, I'm here to see Mr. Masen. My name is Bel- I mean, Isabella. Isabella Swan. I work at Eclipse where Mr. Masen dined today. I'm here to reimburse him for the cost of his dry cleaning bill. I accidentally spilled some wine on his pants, and I offered to pay. I wanted to come by and give him my tips for the day."
The look on her face was priceless. It was nice to know that everyone else thought it was a little nuts that a billionaire would ask a waitress to pay for his dry cleaning.
She gave me one of those sweet motherly smiles, like I was a clueless child. "Dear, I'm sure Mr. Masen can cover the cost of his own dry cleaning. That really won't be necessary."
"Oh, but, Mr. Masen sent me the bill. He's asking for it."
Oh, he was asking for it that was for sure.
"Mr. Masen asked you to pay for his dry cleaning? He sent you the bill?" Nice Assisant Lady asked, looking completely dumbfounded.
"I have the bill right here," I said, pulling it out of my pocket and handing it to her. There was his credit card info right there on the receipt.
She looked at it and then handed it back to me with her mouth slightly agape in confusion.
"Um, why don't you give it to me dear, and I'll see that he gets it." She put out her hand like I was going to place fifty-seven dollars in it.
"Oh, I'd really like to give it to Mr. Masen personally. I'd like to apologize one more time," I requested as sweetly as I could manage.
She deliberated for a moment and then motioned for me to follow her. She used a special keycard to get us through a door, and then we walked down a hallway into another office area. My nerves started to get the best of me, and I began chewing on my bottom lip until it hurt.
We turned down another hall, and then she pressed a button for an elevator. We got in, and she stuck her card in some slot and the doors closed. A moment later, they opened, and we were on the move again. On this floor, everything was very open and airy. The floors were marble and the walls were a deep blue color. There was a lot of intricate woodwork and moulding that I couldn't help but notice. The art on the walls up here definitely did not come from IKEA.
"Wait right here," nice Assistant Lady said to me before she slipped her card in another reader and went through a set of large, wooden double doors.
This place was incredible. I could see he was putting his billions of dollars to good use in the interior design department. I tried to slip my hand under the strap of my bag where it was digging into my shoulder painfully, hoping to provide some relief.
Assistant Lady did not come back out, but Alec the Assistant did.
He greeted me warmly. "Isabella, nice to see you again." He offered his hand, and I shook it awkwardly.
"I wanted to repay Mr. Masen for his dry cleaning and apologize one more time," I explained even though I knew he knew why I was here by the apologetic look he was once again giving me.
"You really shouldn't have. Mr. Masen is having a bad day of sorts, and I know that when cooler heads prevail, he will feel terrible about taking your money."
"It's fine. Really. My parents taught me to pay my debts."
"I can give it to him, if you'd like," Alec said, extending his hand like Assistant Lady did.
"I'd really like to give to him personally."
Alec sighed in defeat. He put his key card thing in the reader and opened the doors, holding it open for me to enter first. Assistant Lady was seated at a desk in this area and looked a tad bit nervous.
"Right this way," Alec said, leading me to yet another door.
He knocked, and a voice shouted out, "Come in!"
Alec opened the door and announced me like I was being presented to royalty. Maiden Isabella Swan of Forks here to see King Edward Masen of Asshole.
"Miss Isabella Swan to see you, sir."
Edward Masen looked up from the papers on his desk and sent my heart aflutter. All the confidence I had coming up here seemed to melt away at the very sight of him. A look of surprise took over his face for a moment, and then it shifted into one of perhaps amusement. His lips formed a somewhat crooked grin.
"Thank you, Alec," he replied almost kindly.
With that, Alec the Assistant left me alone with him. I tried to focus on my breathing, so I didn't pass out in front of him from the sheer anxiety of this confrontation. I thought I was big and brave, but I was suddenly feeling very small and stupid.
"I was not expecting you, Isabella. You surprise me, which does not happen very often." He was still smiling lopsidedly. He really was a beautiful creature on the outside. It was hard to not be taken in by his good looks. There were not many people who looked like him. Models and movie stars, maybe. I had come here for a purpose however, and it was not to drool over his pretty face. I was here to remind him of his ugly insides.
"Well, I just wanted to apologize one more time." I reached into my messenger bag and immediately his smile disappeared. Perhaps he didn't trust that security had checked my bag thoroughly enough. Maybe he thought I was going to shoot him.
I pulled out a shiny nickel and placed it on his desk. "Sorry for spilling on your pants." I reached in and pulled out another nickel. "Sorry for not meeting your standards today. Waitress school was a real bitch." And another. "Sorry you are a pretentious ass, who for some reason thinks that he can yell at people and make them a jittery mess when all they're trying to do is make a living because not everyone in this world can afford to buy eight thousand dollar suits or drink four thousand dollar bottles of wine. Some of us scrape by, having to watch every penny and nickel."
I opened the flap on my bag and dumped the contents onto his desk. One thousand, one hundred and forty nickels to be exact. They spilled over the side of his desk and covered all the papers and folders that were sitting in front of him.
"Fifty-seven dollars. I believe that was what it cost you to clean your pants today. Consider us even."
As I headed out his office door, I couldn't help but smile. The look on his face was worth every nickel.
A/N: I don't own Twilight.
Huge thanks to my pre-reader momof4luvntwisaga for catching my little mistakes here and there.
Ok, here's the super easy way to remember when to check your email for an alert that this story updated - I am going to update every Friday. I can't say at noon but maybe it'll be noon somewhere in the world when I post it!
My goal is for this story to blow all my other stories away - so hit review and tell me what you think or feel free share your sweetest payback story. I've never had the nerve to do anything as memorable as the nickels but now that I thought of it, I wish there was someone to do it to!