An Honest Thief - 1 (UNEDITED DRAFT)
“What is the squirrely badger up to now?”
Ariba held back a laugh when her coworker, Misty, straightened up in the line of serving staff. It’d been a long evening working some grand Gala with almost a thousand wealth who’s who’s of the city. Instead of heading home to her son and all his friends which she liked to think were surrogate son’s, she was standing in a line with her fellow servers for reasons unknown.
Her supervisor was an Englishman. Rumors about some Lord letting him go and he coming to the Bay Area to slum it was one version, the other was that he returned there only to come here to make her and all her comrades lives a living hell.
He superviser entered the room with a tall handsome man with dark hair and smoldering dark eyes. She stood up a little straighter for some reason.
“Damn.” Misty said out the side of her mouth. “The Carson Wolfe. He’s taller in person than he looks in photos.”
The woman glared over at her but said nothing when the conversation their supervisor was having with their client for that evening, Carson Wolfe, came into earshot.
“I personally counted them an hour before your event Mr. Wolfe. There were one thousand lobsters prepared.”
“And Nine hundred eighty-seven guests which would leave thirteen lobsters remaining; yet, I only see eight.”
Her supervisor cleared his throat. “If the guests didn’t take more than one lobster and there were no incidents in the kitchen then someone stole it. if it was someone on my staff, I guarantee I will find them and fire them on the spot.” He turned to face the staff lined up like some strange scene out of a medieval times story.
Her breath caught in her lungs and they started to burn. She and other staff took food leftover at the end of events. She didn’t think it would be a big deal. She took the food to feed her boys. It’d been awhile since they had a proper meal and the lobsters would be a decadent treat. THat aside she couldn’t afford to lose her job.
She sighed. She didn’t think about it as stealing. She didn’t think anyone would notice. The people that attended those types of events were so wealthy, so rich that the thousands of dollars they spend for the evening was like buying a candybar at a convenience store for her.
“I’m a lot of things,” the tall handsome man’s deep voice broke off for a moment. “Thomas, that I am, but stupid is not one of them. You people try to rip guys like me off all the time. Well I’m not standing for it. I--”
“Please,” she couldn’t take the guilt that weighed on her. She slipped from the shadows and made herself seen to the two men. She glanced up from her gaze and her feet. “I-I took the food. I-It was the end of the night and the food usually goes to waste and so I--”
“You’re fired, Ms. Simmons. Theft is not tolerated here at Deep Mountain Catering. Where’s the food?”
She pulled back the urge to cry and held out the bag of food. She refused to look the other man in the eyes. She felt him watching her though, judging her. Shame washed over her. Deep ribbons of guilt wrapped around her neck and she choked on them.
She made such good money at that job it worked well with her school schedule and taking care of her boys. What was she going to do? THings were already tight as it were.
She found the tall intimidating man’s eyes when she felt his heavy hand push hers back down to her side. “She can keep it. I-I--”
“Mr. Wolf, I assure you--”
“No, it’s fine. Let-- ”
“I’m sorry sir but it’s not fine. Theft, thieves,” He looked her head to toe before bringing his attention back to his client. “Are not tolerated. Now that the matter is brought to my attention, I have no choice but to remove her from our staff.”
Ariba covered her mouth, turned and scurried out of the great hall. She headed right for her cubby wiping angry tears while she grabbed her belongings. She left the bag. It wasn’t worth all that to her.
Thief? THIEF? That’s a title she’d never worn before. The man was blowing this all out of proportion she was certain of that, but he was in front of a client so he had to make an example of her. Why did she come forward? The man wouldn’t have really found out who it was there were so many people.
It was the right thing. You know who you are.
“Do I?” She said out loud. “Because right now I--” Her words caught in her throat when knocking caused her to turn toward the door and find the tall handsome, well-dressed man standing in the opening to the workers changing room. Once she looked at him she couldn’t help but take a quick inventory of his roguish good looks. Dark hair almost black clubbed back away from his broad forehead. Hazel eyes set under pronounced eyebrows, a slender nose and a shapely mouth. Tall and sturdy build.
“He cleared his throat. “How many boys do you have?”
She frowned. “Huh?”
He held up the bag of food she was forced to give back. “All this food have to be what two three?”
She nodded and averted her gaze. “Three sometimes five if they all come home.”
He frowned and took a couple steps closer to her holding out the bag. “You look good for a lady who has five children.”
She raised an eyebrow. Was he clockin’ her?
She adjusted her stance and crossed her arms over her chest. “Only one is mine. The rest are his friends.” She exhaled lowering her gaze. “Sometimes I’m all they have.”
Her insides moved when he grabbed her hand and rested it around the handle to the bag. “This is yours. Please take it. Feed your boys.”
She grabbed it chancing a glance at him from under her lashes.
He stuffed his hands in his pocket. “I-I’m sorry that whole display was not-- I didn’t mean to cause you trouble. I’ll call tomorrow and get you your job back--”
“No, it’s not necessary.” She turned to her cubby and grabbed her coat. “I’ll find another job.”
There was a thick silence filled only by the sound of her coat rustling and zipping.
“I’m sure you're probably wondering why I was being such a dick.” His voice rumbled over the words and sent a chill through her.
She frowned at him. “Well, since you mention it, the thought might have crossed my mind.”
He laughed. “Sometimes catering companies think they can get away with shit because I’ve got a lot of money. Usually it’s them providing less than promised not the staff eating at the end of the night.”
She smiled up at him. “I get it. No one wants to be ripped off. I uh--” She swallowed then looked back up at him. “Thank you for this.” She held up the bag.
“It’s no problem really. It’s the least I can d--” His voice trailed off causing her to look at him again. Her chest pulled on her rib cage when his eyes found hers again. She noticed his bow tie was undone and hanging over his shoulder. Silly girl-ish fantasies of returning home with the man and stripping out of finery from a night of--
“Not the best I can do.” He mumbled. “Do you uh have any experience with phones and filing?”
She frowned. “Worked in a law office as an assistant for three years before I went back to school.”
“That’s perfect. My receptionist recently moved to England. If you’re interested, you could do some part time office assistant work at Bluemoon Technology Solutions. The pay is pretty good, but the boss is kind of an ass sometimes, or so I’ve heard.” She caught the mischievous charm that he was putting off and she was intrigued in more ways than she should have been.
“I’m in school full time.”
“We’ll work around your school schedule if you can start right away. Listen, you don’t have to answer right away. Think it over.” He handed her a card. “Call me once you decide.”
Decide? What was there to decide. Besides the fact that the entire thing was kind of strange, she had to admit it could be just what she needed with her increased workload at school. “Sure you want a thief in your midst?”
The corner of his mouth pulled up. “I keep my employees well fed; so, I’m pretty sure you’ll be the least of my concerns”
He shrugged. “What do you want?”
Her eyes grew. That was a thick answer that she wasn’t ready for. “I-I uh--
He held up a hand and laughed. “Sorry, that was totally unfair.” He adjusted his stance and looked at her again. “I’ll probably pay you whatever you ask for because I feel like such a dickhead for what happened tonight.”
“No, I should.” He looked down at his shiny shoes. “Listen, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. Just reach out when you’ve decided.”
“I have. I’d love the job.” Hell, she needed it. “How about seventeen an hour. It’s about what I make here, after tips.”
“How about twenty-five plus we’ll pay for your tuition?”
Her mouth fell open. Yep, wide open and there was nothing she could do but let it hang there. She’d never made that much money in her life. That wasn’t even the average for the job she was planning to get out of school. “Th-that’s--”
“The best I can do.” His smile made her shift on her feet. “Can you start tomorrow?”
She nodded. “I can start now if you need me to.”
He laughed. “I’m not that terrible of a boss. Nine in the morning will work just fine.”
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