Keeping up with this woman makes me feel like a massive joke. She's got ten years and sixty pounds on me, but I am drenched in sweat as we move behind the bar, grabbing tickets and filling frosty glasses, and how the fuck does she make pouring just the right amount of head on these beers look so effortless? She's not even sweating. I'd hate her, but I am taking her job, and she's off to have a real life as a bank teller and be home when her kids are off the bus or some shit. Plus, she's trying really hard to be patient with me. I can see it clearly because I am five inches taller than her, and all day, all damned day, she has been looking up at me like I am a sad little thing to be pitied but so far she hasn't given up.
"Hey, Lauren!" Jesus. That construction worker with the crew cut, what's his name? Taylor? Tyson? Tyler? He's yelling at her but I'm supposed to be covering him, and I bet I've fucked something up again. My hands are freezing, and they are the only part of me that is, as I stick my hands back into the coolers again and come out with the wrong fucking bottle of beer. No, no, no. Bandana Guy drinks Coors Light. And this is? What the fuck is this? Rolling Rock? No. I take two big steps, and yank open another section of the cooler, managing to break my nail on the aluminum sliding top, but I catch myself before I curse out loud because there's an old guy with a shot of Wild Turkey in front of me, and he is already looking way too fucking amused with me.
"Lauren!" I watch her shift over to him as she fills another giant pitcher with beer from the taps behind us, but she makes him wait till she's handed it off to a server and stabbed another white ticket from that never ending ticker tape of orders that keep generating at the end of the bar. "Pour me a beer," Tyler says, real loud, so that everybody sitting along the glossy black bar and all up section B 1-13 looks up. "New Girl doesn't know shit about head. Look at all this foam. What's she trying to do? Choke me?"
My cheeks are burning as the entire section, which is mostly filled with construction workers on lunch break and annoying students, bursts into good-natured guffaws. Squeezing my eyes shut, I stick my head nearly inside the horizontal cooler, pretending to be searching for just the right long neck of Coors Light from the rows of shiny silver tops winking at me. Breathe. Oh, you fucker. I wish you would choke on the foam. I hate this. I want to do a good job, and I don't want Lauren to tell the Cullens I can't cut it here. I need this job. Four fucking years of college, and I've got bills to pay, and I don't know anybody here, and I need this job, I do. I just need some time, damn it. I've never done this before. Waited tables or served people, or got my tennis shoes all black on holey rubber walking mats. Lauren keeps telling me I'll be glad these things are here by the end of my shift, but I don't believe her. I feel like a gladiator, trying to stay on top that stupid rubber pedestal.
When I come up for air, Wild Turkey smiles at me. "Can I get another?" he says, quiet, from behind big, dark sunglasses and a shaggy dog beard.
"Oh! Yeah, okay. Sure."
I ring it up, and actually manage to find the right buttons on this register, but when I turn to the daunting array of plugged liquor bottles behind me, I'm lost.
"Third one from the left, about middle ways up the back," he says, and oh, relief. I like this guy. I pour it without managing to spill, and he swallows it in one gulp without looking like a greedy, creepy old bastard somehow. He slaps a five on the bar, smiles at me, and bobs his head in that way that old men have that could mean hello, goodbye, or fuck off. "Keep the change." He's out the door.
I grab the cash and make change, throwing the tips in a big clear pickle jar behind me, because since Lauren is training me, they aren't mine to keep. She'll give me a cut at the end of this shift, which is kind of crap because even though I'm not very good, I am running my ass off, and I wish I could keep what little I am getting from the ones that feel sorry for me.
It goes on like this for a while, till Tyler is yelling again, and I can't avoid him anymore because Lauren is in the back changing a keg, and she doesn't think I'm ready to learn that yet.
"New girl!" I take the bar towel from the back pocket of my jean shorts and put it between us, wiping up his water rings, and trying to deflect. "Where you from, New Girl?"
This little foot of the bar is going to shine.
Tyler smirks. "Where's that?"
"Washington. It's in Washington."
He won't stop smirking. I hate smirkers. James is a smirker.
"You work tomorrow, bumpkin?"
"I…yeah. I work tomorrow."
"All right. Tomorrow you pour me a decent beer." He lays the money for his meal on the table, and I scoop it up, managing to drop one of the quarters in the ice well as I do. He laughs, and he just won't stop laughing, and what an asshole anyway. He's what, five years older than me? Eight? Not enough to act this high and mighty. I'm working here, damn it. I'm not the one sucking down pissbeer on my lunch break. Fucking awesome success story, he is.
Lauren comes back from the keg room and blows out a breath at smartass with the wide smile and three-day scruff. "Pack it in, Tyler. You're gonna fall off your beams if you drink as much as you want."
He smirks. "Maybe I need me something to break my fall." His big dark eyes creep over me. "You lose this job, come find me."
Lauren snaps her towel at him. "Get."
She steps back toward this end's register and smooths out a wad of cash from her pocket. She faces the money quickly, puts some in the register, drops some in another pickle jar, and sweeps her hands toward the wreckage of lunch hour. Bottles, plates, pitchers, glasses, squeezed up and soppy rinds of lemons and limes litter the great expanse of black polished wood.
She sighs, and her second chin quivers. "Listen, we'll get this in a minute. I'm gonna give you a tip way more important than anything to do with Tyler, okay?"
I twist my white towel with the blue stripes in my hands and try not to think about how sticky my thighs are and how sweaty I am.
"The Cullens drink Diet Coke."
I look up in amazement, but no, she's not jerking my chain. "What?"
"Just what I said. All of them drink Diet Coke. Never regular. Never anything else. Always Diet. One of them comes up here, you pour them a Diet, and you stick one of these little black straws in it," she gestures to a plastic cup of stir sticks. "Every Diet gets a black straw, and every Cullen gets a Diet. Don't mess that up, and you're golden."
"Oh…kay. How, how many of them are there?"
She arches a brow at me. "A lot. All boys. Except Esme, but you'll meet her later. And they all drink Diet. You got it?"
"Yes. Diet Coke. Black straw."
She looks up into my face like trying to make sure I comprehend this simple bit of wisdom that belongs inside a fortune cookie. When she seems satisfied that I do, she takes my arm and leads me around the bar where she presses a five-gallon bucket into my hand.
"First, we get ice. Then we'll get the mess." She hoists a bucket just like mine, and I follow her around a super tight hallway, past the locked door of the office, to a mammoth ice maker that sounds like Darth Vader just before Luke takes off his helmet in Return of the Jedi.
She spends a couple minutes showing me how to hold this giant metal shovel-scoop thing and how to dig way down into the ice compartment at the back to bust up the ice that gets stuck and make room for fresh to fall and then she stands back to watch me. I suck at this, too. I'm getting maybe a quarter of the ice she is with each scoop, and a lot of it is ending up on the floor.
About the time I get so frustrated that an exasperated "Fuck!" slips past my lips, I catch a glimpse of something decidedly male through the straggles of matted, stinky hair escaping my long braid. I look up from the ice, and he breezes right along the hallway.
He's wearing a black Cullen's Roadhouse t-shirt, a pair of Levi's, and a fucking apron. Really. He's got a white apron looped low around his hips, just folded and tied around his waist like a dirty towel. His hair, a riot of gold and red and brown, but mostly red, flops into his eyes, which are – maybe brown? Green? I'm not sure, he's flashing me a smile, and he's gone. I watch him take the two steps down into the kitchen, his ass perfectly framed by the apron at his hips. His long fingers are curled around a Styrofoam cup in one hand, and a clipboard in the other.
If my thighs weren't already soaked with beer and ice, I might have a problem right now. He had dimples. At least one anyway, and a smile that just lit me up and blew me out in front of God and country and Lauren.
I become aware that I'm clutching her arm when she says, "Ow. Bella?"
"Who was that?"
She rubs her arm and glances back toward the kitchen, into the din of noise where Adonis just descended. "Who, Edward? He works here, manages back of house."
"Edward. Oh. Edward Cullen?"
"Yeah. Remember what I said –"
My mouth is dry but my pussy is really, really wet. I don't care how gross it sounds. It's true. I think I may be working on a contact orgasm, but without the contact. I rasp at her, testing out if my voice still works. "Diet Coke."
The shovel/ice spade in my hand is so cold, but it feels good because it's so much hotter in here than it was before, and God knows it was hot then.
"Does he have a girlfriend?" I don't care how forward I am. I want to know.
Lauren's nose snurls. It's universal chick body language for this shit is complicated. "Yeah. They just moved in together a few months back, I think. We don't see her much in here. But they're still together."
"Not for long."
I don't realize I've said it out loud till Lauren starts laughing but I am serious as a fucking heart attack. I know, I know I said I was through. I swore off men. I moved here, even though it was James's fucking hometown, and I swore him and Jacob and all of them off, but fuck.
Edward Cullen looks sexy as sin in an apron.
I have to have him.