"He felt warm and familiar. Safe and solid. I wanted to cling to his shirt and bury my face in his neck, and never let go."
"Toni" A masculine voice calls, but I ignore it, reaching for the peaceful abyss called sleep. "Toni!" The voice is persistent, more urgent and I can feel myself getting annoyed. Who the hell freaking wakes up a person in the middle of a good dream anyway? I swear, as soon as I finish this dream, I am going to castrate the guy who-
"Antonia! " My head snaps up, causing my stiff neck to pop loudly. That's when I realize the voice belongs to my boss, who at the moment, looks less then pleased with me. Ugh! I shouldn't have gotten out of bed today. Obviously my body seems to agree with me or I wouldn't have fallen asleep on my break. How long had I been asleep for anyway?
I stifle a yawn and stare at my watch, relaxing just a tad bit then quickly looked at my boss. I swear he is a vulture, just staring at the clock for anyone who was late. "Sorry Jake, I dozed off.." I give him a sheepish smile and stretch my stiff muscles, getting up from the chair located by the cash register.
"You know, I should fire you for sleeping on the job." Jake, a rather heavy set man with permanent circles under his eyes, threatens. I merely roll my eyes and put on my apron. "Yeah yeah, but you won't. Besides I was sleeping on my break not during work hours."
"Your break ended two minutes ago." He huffs as customers walk into the restaurant. He jots down their names on a long list and motions for Stacey, one of our hostesses, to take them to a table. "Ya know Jake, you could try sleeping sometimes. It's really awesome. It's like being dead but without the commitment. "
"It's death with benefits!" Selina appears out of nowhere behind me, startling me as her arm drapes over my shoulder and she loudly pops her gum next to my ear. I half wince, but then relax into my best friend's arm, leaning into her slim frame. Our boss rolls his eyes at our comments, then becomes serious.
"Your late again!" He's back to huffing and puffing like a little pig and it just makes Selina start throwing jokes."Awww is the little piggy upset? I'm so sorry !" She says pouting and I nudge her ribs lightly. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Jake was our boss since he was mainly all threats and no bite. He was such a laid back person, and yet he obsessed over the time like some OCD person. If you were even a minute late, he'd huff and puff a long lecture about being on time.
Right now his face reddened a bit at Selina's comment and I pull her away, tossing Jake an apologetic smile. "No more being late, you girls hear?" He shouts after us.
"I promise to make sure that my dreams are shorter next time." I call back and turn to start working again.
I work at a restaurant called Jake's & Jane's GrillHouse. It's not a very classic name, but the restaurant makes up for its charms. Usually during the week days, it's not very busy, just occupying a few of our regular charming patrons, however, during the weekends it could get pretty busy and especially now with the bar having been opened in another section of the restaurant, adding some boisterous people to our usually calm crowd. It's a good time to earn tips, therefore I'm always scheduled to work weekends.
As I take the order from a family of 5, I walk up to the counter where I see the chefs grilling, cooking and laughing about some joke. I place the paper down on the counter, nodding to one of the chefs and wait as he prepares the food. In the meantime I glance at the interior design of the restaurant. The floor is wooden, the walls a soft brown with yellow lights dimming the place. You can smell the different types of grilled meats in this place and the loud laughter of both customers and my co-workers give me a headache.
To be honest I'm not a sensitive girl, however working two jobs and struggling to pay for my grandmother's hospital bills wasn't easy. It left me drained and tired. Sure this was Vegas, and there were easier ways to get money, such becoming a stripper and so on, however it didn't mean I'd take the easy route. So instead I work two jobs so I can pay for medical expenses and whatever else needs to be covered. I'm just glad that my mom had insurance for that covered all of her expenses, or I'd be drowning in debt myself
The bell next to me rings, making me jump. Jeesh, that was happening a lot lately. I struggle to balance the plates on my platters and make my way across the the crowded resturant, and that's when I feel it. Someone just tapped me on my butt. Glancing behind myself, I arm myself with a glare, but don't see who could've touched me so I shrug it off and bring the food to waiting family. They all smile at me gratefully. A little girl around the age of 6 or 7 with thick, dark hair, drops the little doll she is holding and I bend down to pick it, handing it to her with a smile.
"Grazie ." She beams at me as if I'm her new hero.
"Prego." Is my instant reply and the girl's father looks at me with wide eyes. "You-a speaking Italian?" He questions, in a thick accent and I merely shake my head but smile.
"I don't, I'm sorry. We just get a lot of foreigners in here so I pick up random words." He gives me a skeptical look, but having no time I merely say "Enjoy your meal." And walk away.
My heritage isn't really something like to discuss. It's not that I'm ashamed of it...not really....My family from my mother's side just always made me feel insecure, always staring at me like I was some kind of an insect. I knew they would talk about me, or throw me looks of disgust when they thought I couldn't see or hear them. No, I was proud of being half Italian and half Irish. I just think they treated me badly because my father was in jail, for what, I don't know though.
I peer back at the family, looking at the little girl. I had been her age once. I'd had a mother and father, a beautiful house and a gold fish named Goldie. We were a pretty happy family. Rich too, having a large mansion and I remember my father having owned several cars. Then one day the cops came and took him away and I'd never heard from him since.
After a few months my mother moved us away from Vegas, to California where she struggled to raise me and work. She changed her last name and mine to her maiden name, and I always assumed it was so that she and I could build a relationship with her relatives without the reminder of my father, who was some kind of criminal. For the first 2 years, my family completely shunned me and my mother, my grandmother being the only person who accepted us with love and tenderness.
She was very kind my mother, loving as can be, not only to humans but animals as well. She worked as a nurse for a few years, helping take care of Grandma, never once slowing down. Then when I was 12, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and when I turned 15, she died. After that, I was basically tossed back and forth between relatives who didn't want me or disliked me. Once I turned 18, I chose to stay with my grandmother who had moved to Las Vegas and have been with her ever since. Now, however, her health is getting worse and she needs a nurse to watch to ber, hench the debt. Her insurance covers for the nurse, but not the medical expenses.
So here I was, 21, working two jobs and going nowhere except for one thing. A promise. My father had promised me that no matter how long it took, he would come to find me. I've held onto that promise, which is ridiculous right? But this promise is what kept sane even after my mom died. It was my hope through all the tough times and tears. It was my last memory of my father before he left.
My eyes begin to mist over and I find myself rushing to the lady's room, sniffling. A deep ache settles in my heart and I suddenly feel all alone. I stare at my reflection in the mirror, taking in the pale skin, thick curly black hair and blue eyes. I laugh and sniffle, wiping my nose. If my mom were here she'd tell me I look like a rag doll. With my hair and red nose, I couldn't blame her.
I straighten myself after blowing my nose and washing my hands, and head out of the bathroom, still feeling the ache, but looking composed. If I could make one wish tonight, I'd wish for family. Real family. The kind that loves you no matter what you do. The kind that makes sacrifices for one another. You know, like from TV shows like The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie.
A guy at a table motions for me and I nod, picking up a pad and pen, hurrying over, making sure not to trip over my feet. The guy reeks of beer and I can see that he is drunk as he studies my body with interest. I ignore his eyes, resisting the urge to shudder when he belges loud enough for heads to turn on from, their tables.
'Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, the belge man. Don't expect to speak anything sensible though since he's probably burped his brain out of his ass.'
"What can I get you sir?" Politely I ask, trying hard not to breath. God, someone give this guy a bath in some bleach.
"Get me a serving of you. Ho ho." He says, almost drooling as he speaks and I'm surprised he isn't slurring away.
"I meant food sir. It is a substance that you chew and swallow, then your digestive system digests it." I reply, very irritated. I can't help it. I don't have the same temperament my mother has. Even my grandmother said I have my father's temper and knack for remarks.
The drunk guy grabs my arm, pulling me down and catching me off guard. I try to pull my arm away, but his grip is tight, getting tighter as he feels me resist. "Ooooh I like you. " He breath hits my face and I resist the urge to throw up on his face. "You're a pretty one too. What are you, mexican? Italian?"
"I fifty shades of I'm-about-to-kick-your-ass if you don't let me go." I hiss through gritted teeth and grab the nearby glass of water on his table and throw it in his face. He let's go of my arm and I quick back away, bumping into an empty chair behind me as the guy storms up fro his seat, inches from my face. Yeah, let's just say I shouldn't have pissed off 280 pounds of dumb ass here.
He grabs my upper arm, so tightly I need to grit my teeth to keep from crying out. Where's help when you need it? I hear customers gasping at the commotion and the voice breaks through the chaos.
Would you mind letting the young woman go?" Both Dumbo and I turned our heads to the voice. There is a young man standing there, wearing a long leather black trench coat and sunglasses.
Dumbo tightens his grip even more on my already hurting arm and I flinch, whimpering a bit. Suddenly every happens at once. Customers talk loudly and Dumbo is now before me on his knees moaning in pain, while the guy in the trench coat, bends back his wrist until it starts cracking. I swallow in shock, glancing between my mysterious hero and the guy now crying like a girl.
Customers look with both fear and shock at the man. He seems to notice the stares as he suddenly flashes a smile, pearly white teeth almost shining as he says. "Don't mind me folks, just taking out the trash."
I stil, stare at him in shock and she I try to speak, his directs his smile towards me. "By the way miss, where do you take the trash?" I had no idea if he meant literally or metaphorically, but either way I pointed to the exit doors behind me.
"Alright douche pump, here is what I want you to do. I would like for you to apologize to this nice young woman, before I decide to rip your arm out." He twists the guy's arm and it makes weird cracking noises.
I almost feel sorry for him. Barely though.
"I-I I'm sorry!" He whimpers out. The guy in the trench coat smiles and then speaks in a tone as if awarding a child.
"Good boy. Now see that exit door? That's where the trash goes. Now I want you to along outside and play with the other trash, okay douche pump?" The man nods, face red from pain and as the stranger let's him go he scrambles towards the exit door.
The customers cheer and clap, and out pops Jake, smiling nervously. He shakes the stranger's hand, but still looks intimidated by him. I can't blame him. "Thank you so much for that. Ah, Toni don't just stare at him, get him a table and take his order. Don't forget to say thank you too!"
My eyes widen and I suddenly remember my brain somewhere. "T-t thank you!" I squeak out and turn a slightly red. "Anything you want is on the house. Thank you so much!" He claps the man on his back and nods to me to take care of him.
Feeling intimidated still, I lead him to a corner booth, where he sits down, and takes off his sunglasses. I prepare myself to rid the feelings of butterflies, but the moment his eyes meet mine, all of that flees my mind.
His eyes are silver, so light in their color that it's breath taking and terrifying at the same time. He has a straight Roman nose, strong square jaw, and black hair that has been slicked back. For a second I see him narrow his eyes as he takes me in, and then his eyes darken into a stormy gray. His perfect lips are full, yet not pouty. Everything about his face is well proportioned and it's intimidating.
We study each other for a while, and somewhere between the intense moment, I realize he seems familiar. At least those eyes do. I feel I've see him before or that I know him, but I'm not sure from when or where. All I know is that he's absolutely gorgeous, and I'm about to drool on my note pad.
I shake my head to clear the fog and paste a smile on my face as I stand next to him. "S-s-so, what can I get you? "
His head tilts slightly and I feel his intense eyes study me again, before landing on my arm. His fingers suddenly brush over the forming bruise on my upper arm, causing a zing of electricity to shoot through my entire body. Gasping softly, I stare at him, shocked. He eyes me with confusion and shock but the shakes his head.
"How's your arm?" He asks me in a voice that wraps around me like velvet, and silk. I swallow, not meeting his gaze and reply, "I'll be fine." My arm is still hurting, but it's not like I'd tell him that.
"I'll take a coffee, black, no sugar." I scribble it down and smile nodding. I stare at him briefly and the walk off to get his order. Selina makes her way over to me, her slim body easily slipping through the tables and chairs.
"Oh my god, are you okay? Dude I thought that guy was gonna punch you or something!" She exclaims checking my arm. She tsks at the bruise, acting motherly as always and tugs a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.
"I'm okay, just bruised and pissed off I guess." I frown a bit.
"Hey who's the hot guy who saved you? He was like someone out of a comic book." We both glance at the table where the stranger is sitting at. He glances our way and I feel his intense gaze on me, causing me to avert my eyes.
"No idea, but I'm glad he saved the day. I kinda froze up there." I pick up the coffee but Selina stops me, hugging me tightly. She pulls away, studying me with warm brown eyes. "Are you sure your okay?" I nod my reply and make my way over to my hero.
I set down the coffee and hesitate. He doesn't look from around here. Hell he doesn't look American either, but then again, neither did I.
I study him again and he does the same to me, curiosity in his eyes. His skin is olive, not very dark, but dark enough to make him foreign . Out of nowhere I blurt "Your not from around here, are you?" Blushing I avert my eyes and mumble an apology.
He chuckles softly the sound dark like bitter chocolate. "Is it that obvious? "
"Kind of...but not much." I shrug and he chuckles again. I try very hard to fight shivers, I really do.
"So what brings you here?" I question him furthur. My grandmother always did say I was perceptive but also too curious for my own good.
He smiles, causing my heart to flutter lightly. "I'm looking for someone... a girl."
Disappointed, I try to keep my smile and reply with a cheerful voice, "Well then, welcome to Las Vegas. Where everyone is looking for someone."
"And what you looking for, mia bella?" He asked, and I swear my stomach knotted at the familiar words. I haven't spoken italian since my mother died. I vowed I wouldn't speak it until I found my father.
For the first time, in a really long time, I answer honestly, "My father. " there is a site center after that and I turn away to finish my work day. "I hope you find who your looking for. "
"Oh, but I already have. It's seem that you are that girl."
Those words had much more meaning in them, then I could have ever guessed.