Judy held up a ten-dollar bill. “Totally unrelated, but I need you to pick up my dinner from the Sub Shop next door.”
“Ugh, really?” Andrea groaned. “Why me?”
“Because I’m busy and hungry.”
“And,” Andrea said with a smirk, “because you don’t want to have to talk to the jerk manager, Stanley.”
“Bingo.” Judy laughed and laid the money on the counter.
“I can’t believe you went on a date with him. He’s so gross.”
“Temporary insanity.” Judy laughed and pushed the money toward her. “How about this? You can keep the change.”
“Fine, but I’m buying a cookie with it.” She picked up the bill and headed toward the door.
“Ask for extra mayo, please!” Judy called out.
Andrea held up her thumb and walked out into the crowded mall thoroughfare. She really didn’t mind helping Judy out. After her mom bailed, Judy stepped in and helped Andrea out—gave her advice, beefed up her hours so she could save more money, and even gave her some extra bonus pay for little extra things Andrea did around the salon.
But it was a trade-off. The manager at the sandwich place was a total ass. She didn’t want to have to deal with his condescending, chauvinistic attitude.
Andrea weaved through the shoppers and entered the brightly lit sandwich store. The smell of warm bread made her mouth water. Her stomach rumbled, too. Half a bowl of mac-n-cheese and part of a hot dog just didn’t cut it for dinner, but a chocolate chip cookie would hit the spot.
She stepped up to the empty metal counter and glanced toward the door leading to the back room.
“Hello?” Waiting, she tapped her fingers with the beat of the Pet Shop Boys song coming from the overhead speakers. After another moment, she called out again. “Hell-o!”
Sneakers squeaked as a guy bolted around the doorframe from the back.
Mr. Menudo. Her pulse jumped from resting to full-on sprint pace.
His black t-shirt still hugged his biceps, but the front had been covered by a white apron. The black spikes on his head were hidden under a hairnet. Eyes wide, he removed it with a swipe of his hand.
She glanced at the nametag pinned to the chest of his apron—Crew Member Gio. Hot name.
“Holá.” Gio walked to the counter, dimples on full display. “I mean, hi.”
“Hi.” She raised an eyebrow. “Is that the Sub Shop official greeting now?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m new.” He leaned his elbows onto the counter, lacing his fingers together. “And looking at you, I really can’t remember what I’m supposed to say.”
He was tall, but his slouch brought his dark eyes level with hers. A sweet heat filled her chest and bled into her face. Wow, confident much?
Gio drew in a breath through his nose. “What can I get for you?”
Andrea blinked. “Uh, my boss called in an order. Her name’s Judy.”
“Sí, sí. Got it.” Gio turned and reached for the paper bag sitting under a warming light. He touched the empty napkin dispenser and shook his head. He bent to retrieve more from the cabinet below.
Andrea smiled at the view.
“Here you go.” Gio set the bag on the counter in front of her.
“Uh… aren’t you forgetting something?” She held out the money.
Pink filled his cheeks and he gave her a mock salute. “An honest girl. I like that.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to get you fired.” Andrea watched his long fingers as he punched the sale into the register. Goosebumps raced across the back of her neck.
“Thanks. I don’t want to get fired either.” The drawer popped open and he counted out her change. “Mamá would kill me.”
Slamming the drawer shut, he placed the money into her hand. His warm fingertips brushed her palm and she shivered.
What the hell? He’s just a dude. A hot dude, but still.
“Oh, I forgot.” Andrea pocketed the money in her jeans. “Judy wants extra mayo.”
“Sure.” Gio grabbed a small, clear plastic cup and held it under the pump spout for the mayo. He pressed down, but nothing came out. He shook the large container a little and tried again. Still no go.
“Sorry, one sec.” He met her eyes and winked. “I promise, I do know what I’m doing.”
He balled up his fist and gave the spout a gentle pound. A clump of dried mayonnaise dislodged from the end of the spout, allowing the rest to flow freely. Mayo spurted everywhere. On the counter, on Gio’s apron—and all over Andrea.
She gasped and jumped back slightly, biting her bottom lip to keep from laughing.
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry!” He grabbed another wad of napkins as his cheeks went from pink to red. “I mean… dammit.”
Andrea had to laugh at the horrified look on his face. He avoided her eyes as he wiped the mess from her arm.
“It’s okay, really. I hear mayo is good for hair.”
“Diós, I got it in your hair, too?” He finally met her eyes. “Lo siento.”
He took her hand in one of his and used the other to gently wipe her skin. Andrea let him, giving in to the ridiculous urge to have him touch her.
“Accidents happen. Don’t worry about it.” She giggled. “I work at a hair salon. I’m sure I can wash it out.”
“Yeah, I uh saw you there.” Gio sighed. “This wasn’t exactly how I thought I’d meet you, though.”
His mumbled, el estúpido made her laugh again.
He looked up from the napkin he held to her arm. “Tu hablás Espanol?”
“Only what I learned when I paid attention in class.” She smiled. “And you aren’t an idiot.”
“Thanks. I sure feel like one.” Gio grinned and a new dimple imploded in his cheek. “I get a chance to meet a beautiful girl and I cover her with mayo. Smooth as Ex-Lax.”
Andrea laughed again, but it was her turn to avoid his eyes. Beautiful. Right. Not her.
“Sorry,” Gio said. “You probably have a boyfriend who’s going to kick my ass for spraying you with condiments.”
She shook her head. “No, and my big brother is away at boot camp, so you’re safe there, too.”
He raised his thick eyebrows. “Oh. Then can I ask you a personal question?”
“Uh, depends.” Andrea frowned. It was all fun and games until the secrets started to fly.
“Cómo te llama?” He grinned. “Or is that too personal?”
“No. Me llama Andrea?” She scrunched her forehead. “Did I get it right?”
“I don’t know. If your name is Andrea, then you did.” They laughed and he reached for her other hand to clean the mayo from that arm. “I’m, Gio.”
“I know.” She nodded to his nametag. “Is that short for something else?”
“Italian?” Andrea sucked on her bottom lip as Gio turned her arm back and forth to check for mayo. Damn, he has really soft hands.
“My grandfather was part Italian. I’m named after him. But most of my family is from Mexico. My last name is Ruiz.” He tossed the napkins into the trash. “All done.”
Darn it. “Thanks. I’ll take care of the hair.” She picked up the bag containing Judy’s sandwich.
He handed her a filled container of mayo. “Be careful. That stuff is dangerous.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” She stood there for a moment, pretending to check the bag.
He opened his mouth then closed it then sighed. “Hey, would you mind if… oh, wait. I missed a little.”
Gio reached for her and wiped a drop of mayo from her cheek with his thumb. Her heart spluttered inside her chest.
“What in the hell are you doing, Gio?”
They both jumped at the voice. Andrea met Stanley’s glare then he turned to Gio.
“I asked you a question. Whey are you touching that customer?”
Stanley pushed him back with a nudge of his elbow and looked at Andrea. “I’m so sorry, miss. That was uncalled for.”
Andrea frowned, glancing between Stanley and Gio.
“Sir,” Gio said. “I was just—”
“Shut up. I don’t want to hear any excuses.” Stanley glared at Gio. “You can touch your own kind of girls but leave her alone. And especially when you’re working.”
A muscle twitched in Gio’s cheek and he clenched his fists.
Andrea narrowed her eyes. Oh no, he did NOT just go there. She put her hands on her hips.
“Excuse me, Stanley.”
He lifted his chin and looked down his nose at her.
“First of all, Gio was just helping me. He accidentally got mayo on my face and was wiping it off. Second,” she pointed a finger at the manager’s shocked face, “you’re an asshole. What do you mean his kind of girl? Do you mean I’m not good enough for him or are you implying he shouldn’t touch me because I’m white and he’s not? Because if it’s the first reason, go to Hell. And if it’s the second, I’ll turn your ass in to your corporate office for being a racist jerk. And tell Judy.”
Gio covered his smile with his hand as Stanley did a goldfish impression with his mouth. With red blotches rising on his neck, he finally managed to mutter a few words.
“What are you… I didn’t say… I meant that he…”
Andrea met Gio’s eyes for a second then turned and rushed out of the store. She’d probably gotten him fired for sure. She stomped through the crowd and returned to the salon.
Dammit. Now he probably thinks I’m a psycho.
Judy sat at the reception desk, the phone cradled between her head and shoulder. Her smile faded to a frown as she met Andrea’s gaze. She held up a finger and Andrea
“Thank you. We’ll see you Thursday at four o’clock.” She hung up the phone and looked at Andrea. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Damn her temper, the only trait she got from her stupid father.
Judy took the bag from Andrea and grinned. “Did Stanley try to tell you about his collection of back scratchers?”
“I— what? Eew.”
“Yeah.” Judy pulled the sandwich from the bag and rolled her eyes. “He asked me if I wanted to come back and see them after our date. To try them out.”
Andrea made a gagging noise. “That’s so gross. Please tell me you didn’t.”
“No. I told him I had to get home to feed my cat.”
“But you don’t have a cat.”
“I’m not above lying to protect my health.” She pulled off the top piece of bread and grabbed the cup of mayo. “Who know what he’s done with those things. I didn’t want to get anywhere near them.”
Judy shook the mayo onto her sandwich and Andrea laughed. Looking at the mayo though, she sighed.
“I probably got this guy at the Sub Shop fired and I looked like a total dweeb.” Telling Judy what happened made Andrea’s heart pound again. Her family could get a group rate on anger management classes.
Judy chewed a bite of her food and nodded. “Sounds like Stanley.”
“I probably shouldn’t have said anything.”
“You did the right thing.” The paper wrapper crinkled as Judy set her sandwich down and laid a hand on Andrea’s arm. “Stanley was being a jerk. Don’t feel bad for calling him out on it.”
“Thanks.” Andrea shook her head. “But now Gio has to take the heat for my big mouth.”
Smiling, Judy picked up the phone. “I’ll take care of that.” She punched in a number and held the receiver to her ear.
Andrea raised an eyebrow. “Who are you calling?”
“Stanley.” Judy gave her a wink. “I got this. Don’t worry. Now go and make sure Leslie isn’t sitting in the back room reading the magazines again. Tell her I said she needs to stock the hair color at the stations before she clocks out.”
“You got it. And thank you, Judy.” Andrea blew out a breath and headed for the back room. She might not get a chance to talk to Gio again, but at least he wouldn’t get fired because of her. If anyone could talk Stanley down from his high horse, it was Judy.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish