Two Months Earlier
Tessa wrapped the brown cloth apron around her waist, tied her long, brown hair into a tight ponytail, and followed the manager, Henry Branwell, out of the storage room into the cashier counter. She sighed, not at all eager that it was the first day of her job at Pete's Coffee.
That sigh caught in her throat. Standing in front of one of the two cashiers was the hottest man she'd ever seen. He was tall, with messy hair that framed his angular face, and striking blue eyes that stood out in sharp contrast to his inky black hair. Her throat dried up, and Henry's voice, explaining the properties of the cashier, was muted. The guy, catching Tessa's eye, smirked.
That cleared everything up. Henry, the shop, and everything else came back to focus. Tessa scowled. Why did every hot guy have to be arrogant?
"You'll be working here from three to nine?" Henry asked.
"Yes," Tessa confirmed. "I'll be done with my classes by then."
Henry glanced down at her file which he held in his hands. "Where did you say you went to school again, Tessa?"
"New York State."
"Right. You have a dinner break at eight thirty." Henry turned to go, and then whirled back. "Oh! I almost forgot. Tessa, this is William Herondale – "
"Will," the guy interrupted.
"He's the other cashier," Henry said with an amused look at Will. "Good luck, Tessa."
"When will you be working til again?" Will asked after Henry left.
"Nine," Tessa said, fumbling with the key's on the register. She was flustered for some odd reason, and nervous.
"Good lord," Will sighed. "Six hours with you."
"Excuse me?" Tessa said, narrowing her eyes at him. He was more arrogant and annoying that she'd thought. Not to mention hot, now that she was staring into his eyes.
He didn't break eye contact as he said, with a toss of his head, "You might as well join Jessamine in the back since it looks like you can't, or won't, do any work either."
"Not my fault I'm stuck in this hell hole," a peevish voice mumbled behind them. Tessa turned around to see the most beautiful girl she'd ever seen, sitting silently and sulkily on a stool in the corner. The girl, Jessamine, was so pretty it was comical. Like a real-life Barbie, Tessa thought, which just made her look even stupider in a Pete's Coffee work outfit. Giving Tessa the once-over, Jessamine sneered, "So you're the new girl, aren't you?"
Was everyone a bitch around here? Tessa thought.
"Jessamine," Will said without turning around. "Be nice."
This seriously set Tessa off. "Like you've been nice to me!"
Will whirled around, taking her in with a new light. He smiled, slow and hard, effectively turning Tessa's stomach into mesh of butterflies. "Pardon?"
"C'mere," Will crooked a finger, beckoning her. He swiped his messy black hair out of his eyes. Not wanting to appear intimidated, Tessa moved until she stood right in front of him. It was kinda hard to breathe. "Repeat what you said."
She lifted her chin defiantly. "I said you've got no right telling her to act nice when all you've been is a bastard yourself."
Will laughed. "Hear that Jess?" He called. "She's standing up for you. Something to learn from."
"I don't need her support," Jessamine glowered at Tessa.
"Look here, Tessa," Will grinned, tapping her chin. "You're cute and all, but I'm the real boss around here."
"Whatever, 'Captain'," Tessa said in mock salute. "As long as you teach me how to use this thing." She pointed at the cash register.
"Were you blinded by my looks?" Will teased.
"Hardly. Now, are you going to help me or not?"
Will nodded, stepping dangerously close as he pointed out the functions of each key. But all Tessa could see, smell, and think about was Will, tuning out the explanations once again.
Working at Pete's Coffee was going to be dangerous, Tessa thought, but fun.
Three Weeks Earlier
"Watch this," Will muttered to her under his breath as they were finishing up their last rounds before break. Tessa shot him a bewildered glance, but didn't question him. After just one month of suffering six hours every weekday with him, she'd learned that he was a major player, eyeing every girl who entered, or didn't enter, the café, flirting outrageously with the customers. Which was why Tessa called him the café's Casanova.
Will grabbed the last cup of coffee on the counter, handing it to the girl, who was a regular (she always, always went to Will's cash register), purposely brushing his fingers over hers. "You take care now," he said, focusing his blue eyes solely on her and then winking.
The girl, flustered, managed a shaky smile before stumbling away. Tessa had to give her a little credit for at least not dropping the cup of coffee.
"Showing off your flirting skills, Cass?" Tessa smiled.
Will shook his head and pointed to the counter. "Look."
In front of them was a twenty dollar bill. For Will.
"Paid twenty dollars for a cup of coffee," Will quipped for her. "And gave me the change." Tessa's eyes narrowed, and the smile etched on his face stretched into a full blown grin. "That's how I earn money, Tess."
"You call me Cass. I hafta give you a nickname too."
Tessa punched him, but secretly, she loved the sound of Tess – almost as much as she loved Cass.
Despite his Casanova-ness, Tessa thought as they cleared the counter side by side, it was fun to be around with Will, especially talking together during their dinner break. He made time go faster at Pete's coffee during the afternoon hours that dragged when there were no customers. He was sarcastic, rude, and a pain in the ass, but nevertheless, Tessa loved just being near him.
Oh yeah, she smiled as she poured herself a cup of leftover coffee and sat down at a table, Will definitely put her on the dangerous edge.
"Smiling like a dork again, Tessa?" Will pulled out the chair from across her and sat down. "I bet you were thinking of me."
"Was not," Tessa denied. She scrunched up her nose at Will's food. "What the hell is that?"
Will grinned, taking a big bite out of his sandwich, which was overfilled with a mess of a brown gooey substance, blobs of red, and long, stringy things which looked suspiciously like worms. "A mud-caked-blood-soaked-puss-filled-earthworm sandwich."
"Kidding," Will laughed and reached over to pat her cheek. "It's actually a nutella-strawberry-jam-whipped-cream-and-gummy-worms sandwich."
"Not any better." Tessa pushed her pasta across the small table to him. "I just lost my appetite."
Will grinned, bad boy to perfection, and Tessa's heart flew to her mouth. She lived for that smile. "Thanks," he said, tossing his sandwich in the trash. "My plan worked."
Tessa's mouth threatened to drop. "You asshole!"
Mouth full of pasta, Will peered up at her through his eyelashes. With his hair falling into his eyes, it was such a sorrowful, apologetic, sweet look.
"Stop that," Tessa commanded. "It's not working." Lies.
Another fork full of food disappeared into his mouth just as the door of Pete's Coffee opened. Tessa looked up to see a blond haired beauty walk in, hips swaying. If possible, she was even more beautiful than Jessamine. "I'm sorry, but we're closed," Tessa called.
The woman didn't pay any attention to her, instead, walking straight over and capturing Will's mouth in an open-mouthed kiss. Tessa froze, her heart sinking as Will didn't stop the kiss, but deepen it, placing his hand on the girl's hip. Of course he had a girlfriend. Tessa looked awkwardly and sadly at the table. How could a guy like him not have one?
She didn't know whether the emotions raging through her were of disappointment, anger or hurt. She knew she'd been slowly falling for Will, had thought he'd been falling for her too, with their constant teasing, flirting, and dinner-break talks.
But Tessa now knew he hadn't. Will had a girlfriend. And of course, it was just like him to keep it as a secret.
By the time Will and his girlfriend broke apart, Tessa had all her emotions capped and stored away. She raised an eyebrow at Will. "Well?" She said generously, as if nothing had happened. "Aren't you going to introduce to me this lovely lady?"
Will stared at Tessa. She stared levely back at him, betraying nothing. "Tessa, this is Camille," he said a bit uncomfortably, his cheeks flushed – from kissing, Tessa thought. "Camille, this is my coworker, Tessa."
"His girlfriend," Camille smiled, cold and threatening. "So you're the Tessa he's always been talking about."
Tessa looked at Will. "Talked about?"
He shrugged, not meeting her eye.
"Oh, you know," Camille laughed. "Just the usual complaints about how annoying, stupid, fucked up and useless you are, but don't worry. He says that about everyone. But Will, baby, I think Tessa's so kind!"
Without waiting to hear Will's reply, Tessa stood up, grabbing her purse. "I'm sorry, but I've got a lot of homework tonight," she said stiffly. "I'll leave you two to your business." She gave Camille a tight-lipped smile. "Enjoy."
She made it to the door when Will called, "Tessa, your pasta…"
"Keep it," she said coldly, without turning around. "I don't want anything you've touched."
Camille's laughter echoed as Tessa banged the door shut.
Two Weeks Earlier
"Tessa," Henry said. "Thank you for coming in."
Tessa looked around in Henry's office, littered with various miscellaneous items. Maps of the world were pasted on the walls, along with posters of swords and pictures of another woman, probably his wife.
"I know it's a bit messy," Henry said apologetically.
Tessa smiled. "Oh, it's alright. This is what my dorm looks like."
Henry matched her smile with one of his own. "You've been doing really well, Tessa."
He slid forward a piece of paper. It was her contract. "You and I both know that your contract is coming to an end in a few weeks. I was wondering if you wanted to sign another contract?"
Another contract. Another three months of agonizing silence between her and Will. He'd tried to apologize that Monday when she'd come back to work, and she'd given him the cold shoulder, brushing off his apology as if it was a pesky fly. Tessa knew that an apology coming from a man like Will was like swallowing stones, but she didn't want to forgive him.
Days dragged now, time seeming to have frozen during the afternoon hours before dark. As Jessamine had said when they'd first met, Pete's Coffee was indeed a hell hole. Will tried to talk to her, tried to do anything to get her to talk to him, but nothing budged her. Dinner break was spent eating with Jessamine, listening to the miserable adventures she had with her boyfriend. Will ate out.
So did she want to extend the contract?
"No," Tessa said, sliding the paper back to Henry. "No, thank you."
Henry didn't bother to hide his disappointment. "We all had such great times together, during the afternoon hours the first month you came. It'll be such a shame to have someone like you leave, Tessa."
"I'll let you know if I decide to change my mind, Henry," Tessa said as she exited. Walking straight into Will's chest.
He grabbed her by the shoulders before she could push him away. "You're leaving?"
Tessa raised her chin to look him in the eyes. "Yes. In three weeks." Will's eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to speak. Tessa beat him to it. "Are you happy that soon there won't be an annoying, stupid, and useless girl to get in the way of your work because she's obviously too fucked up? Great, go out and celebrate with your bitchy little girl. And don't bother with your wasted apologies."
She kicked him in the balls. With a shout, Will released her and sank to his knees, bent over. Making a quick escape, Tessa darted around the corner, nearly colliding with Jessamine, who screamed.
"Jesus, Tessa! Why can't you watch where you're goi – "
A huge bang cut off Jessamine's words. She and Tessa ran around the corner, to find Will, on his knees, cradling his hand, head hanging. In the wall in front of him, was a huge, caved-in fist mark.
One Week Earlier
The silence between them was the usual: stony, awkward, and neverending. Tessa leaned awkwardly against the counter, trying her hardest to ignore Will's dark presence. He sat, silent and moody, in the back on a stool, not even bothering to make a move when customers made a rare appearance in the afternoon. He never talked anymore – just glowered. To customers, he remained silent, mutely handing their drinks to them. Even to his regular group of fans and hot girls.
And he was always drunk. His breath reeked of alcohol.
So Tessa wasn't at all surprised when the doorbell to Pete's Coffee chimed notice to a new customer. Seeing Will make no effort, Tessa straightened, opening her mouth to say the classic words Hi, how can I help you?
Instead what came out was a surprised exclamation. "Jem!"
"Hey Tessa," Jem, her best friend since high school, smiled. He ran a hand through his silver hair.
Tessa reached over the counter to pull Jem into a tight hug. "What are you doing here?"
Tessa playfully pushed him. "Seriously."
"So maybe I missed you," Jem relented. "And I wanted to talk to you."
"I missed you too," Tessa said, but she was acutely aware of Will. She could feel the burn of his stare without even looking. "Let's go out."
"Right now?" Jem asked, raising his eyebrows. "While you're still on your shift?"
"I work until nine, so you'd have to wait a long time if not now. We hardly get any people in the afternoons." Tessa glanced at Will, who stared at her with something intense in his blue eyes, which were as dark as the midnight sky. "Besides, I'm sure Will wouldn't mind taking over my shift for an hour, would you, Will?"
"Bullshit," Will slurred, flicking his glare from her to Jem. "I'm not doing nothing for you."
"That's two negatives in a row," Tessa said smartly, even though she knew she shouldn't have taken advantage of him while he was drunk. "See you in a bit."
"Tessa!" Will hollered as she and Jem exited. "I'm not gonna – "
The door slammed shut.
"Wow," Jem said as they walked down the street. "What was that?"
"My coworker," Tessa said. "He's…not normally like that." So why did she feel so guilty?
"Next week's your last week here, isn't it, Tessa?" Jessamine asked as she poured coffee into a cup before handing it to the waiting customer.
"Yes," Tessa said. "It is."
She flinched as Will punched in his customer's order with so much force it was as if he wanted to kill someone.
"Um, Will?" Jessamine said unintelligently, "gently with that. You're good looking enough, but it's like you've been raised in a cave." She tossed her head and those golden curls bounced. "Learn some manners. Anyway," she smiled at Tessa, "do you remember how rude I was to you when we first met? I'm so embarrassed! And I'm so glad we're friends. You'll come and visit, won't you?"
It was weird how Jessamine had become so friendly just after Tessa spent a few dinners with her, almost falling asleep at her monologues.
"Are you going to spend dinner with your friend again?" Jessamine called over the roar of the blender. "The guy with the silver hair. You've been spending every dinner with him. It's lonely with only Will to talk to. You know how his is." She pouted.
Yeah. Sullen, moody, dark with those death glares. Tessa would've just loved to spend dinner with him.
She caught Will's eye before quickly averting her own. And knowing that his hot and icy glare was still pinned on her made her heart beat wildly. "Small or medium?" She managed to choke out to her customer.
"Tessa!" Jessamine's impatient call. "Are you?"
"Yes," Tessa said, sneaking a quick peek at Will. Who was still looking at her. Gazing at her. Glaring at her.
Tessa watched, with a horrible feeling churning in the pit of her stomach, as Will stiffened all over, and without another glance, or word, swerved on his heel and turned his eyes on his customer. It was a middle aged man, staring open mouthed at the menu, contemplating what to do.
Something about Will's posture, his stance, did not seem right. It was as if he was so tight he was about to shatter any moment.
"What would you like today?" Tessa asked her customer, keeping a close eye on Will.
"Black coffee," the redhead said.
"Small or medium?" Tessa asked absentmindedly.
The middle aged man was still choosing even as she started on her next customer and the short, redhead walked away with her drink.
Will was fuming, hands clenched by his sides. This time, his anger seemed to be directed at the man.
"Green tea, please." Tessa's next customer said.
"Green tea it is." She punched in the order – just as an explosion came from the cashier right next to her.
"Will you fucking choose already?"
Tessa jumped at his outburst. The whole shop became deathly silent as time stood still. The man's eyes were wide with surprise. Will's was deadly murder.
It was enough to draw Henry from his office. He ran furiously into the shop. "What the hell?"
Will only glared back.
"Do you know what you just did?" Henry shouted, punctuating each word with his finger, stabbing at Will's chest. "I don't know what the hell is wrong with you, or what the hell happened, but you've been like this to every customer. All dark and moody and mean! What's wrong with you, Herondale? Do you think you're all that? Because lemme tell you this, you aren't. And this is the last straw. You're – "
Will pushed Henry with so much force that Henry stumbled back. He ripped off his apron and snarled, "I quit!"
Then he was gone, the door slamming with a loud bang.
The whole shop stood in shocked silence, staring at the still swinging door that Will had stormed through. Then, without a word, Tessa pushed past Henry and ran out after him.
She didn't know what she was doing, or where she was going. All she knew was that she had to find Will. To see his face, his eyes, to memorized him before she left forever.
Tessa burst through the back door, looked left, then right. And saw him. Sitting against the wall with his knees pulled up, watching the sun set with a scowl etched on his face, lips set in a hard line. Lips that could turn soft when they wanted too.
Like they'd always been when he'd been with her before.
She made a move to move forward, but stopped, unsure. More than anything, even her will to breathe, she wanted to take his face in her hands and make sure he was okay. Because she knew that if she, or he, left without making it right, a part of her would have died then and there.
"What do you want, Tessa?" He said without taking his eyes off the flaming sky.
Holding her breath, she walked until she stood facing him, a mere six feet apart. Slowly, he raised his eyes to look up at her, stopping briefly at her lips before staring directly into her eyes.
"What do you want?" He repeated, annoyance obvious.
Tessa was undaunted. "To know you."
"I want to know what happened in there," Tessa insisted. "I want to know – "
"To know me," Will scoffed.
"I want to know what happened in there," Tessa insisted. "I want to know – "
"I got pissed. I yelled. I quit my job." Will raised an eyebrow. "No comprehend? Alright, how's this? A customer was having a hard time picking his order. I told him to hurry the hell up, because there was a long line – "
He stopped, staring at her in surprise, and Tessa saw his walls break down.
"I lost it," he said quietly in a low voice, avoiding her eyes. "You weren't talking to me and I wasn't going to see you ever again and I just lost it. I couldn't stand that you were going to go, hating me forever, and I'd never see your beautiful face again, and you weren't giving me the chance to apologize! I didn't mean all those things I said before – that was only when we first met because I thought you were another Jessamine because you were too beautiful. I couldn't believe you were working here with me, but then I got to know you and you were so – so everything that I wanted in a girl! Camille was jealous and so she said those cruel things, and I'm so sorry! I broke up right after you left, but you wouldn't hear me out. Then you were leaving, and I couldn't stand having it end like this between us and I was going to make it up to you – do something that'd blow your mind away. But then that guy came and you guys were so close I thought he was your boyfriend, and I just went crazy. I thought over for me. So I decided to just end it here, because you hated me and I couldn't stand the hurting anymore, even though it'll always hurt – "
"Will," Tessa said softly, eyes shining. "You're rambling."
"Oh," he said, embarrassed and subdued. "I'm sorry."
"And maybe," Tessa said in the same tremulous voice, "maybe I don't want it to end like this either." Will looked up at her, and the hope in his eyes were enough to break her heart. "Jem's not my boyfriend. He's only my high school best friend."
He moved so fast she didn't see him until he stood right in front of her, in her personal space. Looking down at her with something dark and dangerous in his eyes, as blue as the ocean's depth.
"I want to do something so badly. Something I've wanted to do ever since I saw you."
Her heart pounded so loudly she was afraid even Jessamine, back in the shop, could hear. "What?"
He made a noise of frustration, and then his mouth was on hers before she could react, kissing her as if he wanted to pour all he didn't say, all that he felt, into her mouth, giving her the kiss of a life-time, hot and honest and true. Leaving her breathless and gasping.
And before she knew it, she was kissing him back with as much force as he was kissing her, twining her arm around his neck to drag him closer. His hands tightened and fisted in her shirt at her hips.
He made to pull away, but she didn't let him, capturing his bottom lip between her teeth, biting it hard. Because if he went, she was afraid he was just a dream, and all this would just fall between her fingers like sand. He made a noise and growled, linking his hands under her thighs, hooking her legs around his waist and walking forward until her back hit something hard and metal, and she knew it was his car.
He pulled back to look her in the eyes, something alive and bright back in his gaze, before kissing her more fervently, pressing her harder against the car when she responded.
It was as if they couldn't get enough of each other. As if they couldn't believe it was true – that he was hers and she was his, finally.
Will pulled back at last and grinned. "So, I guess dinner with Jem is off?"
"Oh yeah, it's definitely off," Tessa agreed, hooking her fingers in his belt loops and earning a quick inhaled breath from Will.
"And a new job?"
"As soon as I finish this one," she promised.
Will smiled, satisfied. "No more Jessamine."
Tessa slapped his arm. "I kinda like Jessamine," she said, wrinkling her nose. "She was one of a kind."
"Yeah," Will said. He opened the car door for Tessa. "But now it's only gonna be you and me." He sent her a pointed look. "And that's a rule."
I love Will.