"There she is!" Denny grinned at me when I rushed in through the patio gate, shrugging off my jacket.
"Sorry! The monorail was running late today." I apologized, balling my jacket up and stuffing it into the cubby underneath the bar. I didn't bother to add that I'd also almost missed the train because I'd been too busy staring at myself in the mirror deciding if I should wear my hair down or not. Then I realized I was an idiot, something that was happening a lot lately and I attributed solely to Owen Grady's existence. I ended up throwing my hair into a bun before racing out the door and just barely making it to the platform in time.
Denny glanced at the watch on his wrist. "Five minutes late, not exactly a crime."
I gave him a smile. "Yeah, well I've had plenty of other bosses who thought otherwise."
"Lucky for you I'm not one of them. Anyways, I have about five pounds of paperwork that need done. I'll be in the office, just holler if you need anything." He squeezed my shoulder as he sidled past, heading through the swinging door that led through the kitchen to his office in the back.
I let out a soft sigh, putting my hands on my hips as I surveyed the bar and wrote up a list in my head of what needed to be done before the dinner rush hit. Like clockwork, the restaurant was packed every single night right around six. I'd never worked in a bar before where things were so consistent and steady. Violet hadn't been wrong when she told me I'd make out tip wise. Most nights I left with at least two hundred bucks in my pocket. I was developing quite a healthy savings, considering there wasn't much on the island to spend it on unless I wanted to pay for overpriced food and merchandise.
I disappeared back into the muggy kitchen, waving at the cooks on duty before grabbing some lemons and limes from the cooler to cut up for drinks. When I emerged back into the bar, Owen Grady was sitting comfortably at my bar like he'd been there for hours. He grinned when he saw me.
"What up, new girl!"
I playfully rolled my eyes. "When are gonna stop calling me that?" I set the container of fruits down on the bar, wiping my hands on the back of my jeans.
He shrugged. "When you stop being one."
"Okay, and how much longer will that be?" I asked, arching an eyebrow.
He shrugged again, this time giving me one of his signature smirks. "Whenever I decide you aren't."
"Wow, so that could potentially be anywhere from tomorrow to five years from now?" I asked and was pleased when he let out a loud laugh. "You need something? Food? A drink?"
"Some food. They ran out of taco shells for Taco Tuesday in the cafeteria, so this is my second option." He grabbed one of the plastic toothpicks I used to spear olives from the cup in front of me and started bending it.
"Taco Tuesday, huh?" I asked, pulling out the cutting board and knife from behind the bar's doubled sided sink. "I didn't even know that existed here."
"Technically it doesn't today because they're out of shells, remember?" He gave me a cheeky grin and I shook my head.
"Anyways, you gonna order or not?" I asked. He slid a piece of paper over the counter to me with about five different orders on it. I turned to the computer behind the bar and quickly punched it in before sending it off to the kitchen. "You wanna coke or something while you wait?"
"Yeah, that's fine." He flicked the plastic toothpick in the direction of the garbage and missed by a mile. I gave him a look and he shrugged, leaning forward to rest his arms on the bar. I poured him a coke from the soda gun and set the glass in front of him before getting to work cutting lemons into neat, thin wedges. I could feel his eyes on me, but tried to pretend I didn't notice.
"So." He finally said, breaking the silence. "We covered that you're from Colorado, that somehow you and the ice queen have been BFFs since the third grade, and that you like tequila. That last one is enough for me to just accept you as a human being, but anyways." He shrugged and I lifted my eyes only to be met by his blue ones, eyeing me curiously. "What else?"
I averted my gaze back to my lemon wedges, brushing them into a pile on the edge of the cutting board. "What else do you wanna know?"
"Let's start with why you're here." He suggested. "And none of that smart ass 'do you mean what's my purpose on earth, or why did I come to this island' crap." He added, in a high pitched voice that I could only assume was supposed to me.
"First of all, I don't sound like that and second of all, you just sucked all of the fun out of that question." I smirked.
"So what's the not fun answer?" He asked. "Why did Rylan come to Jurassic World to be a bartender at a Margaritaville?"
He asked the same questione I'd gotten at least a dozen times since moving. When my parents asked, it'd been in disappointment. When Claire asked, it was curiosity. The way Owen asked it, though, made it sound like so much more. Like this was the question that held all the answers to anything he could possibly ever want to know about me. I set down the knife and leaned forward against the bar.
"I don't know. I guess I just needed a change. I was tired of doing the same thing day after day and not feeling satisfied." I answered, shaking my head. I met his eyes and he raised his eyebrows just slightly, a signal for me to continue. Like I'd thought, he was looking for more than any answer I'd given anyone else. "I just didn't feel like what I was doing before was enough, I guess. Going to college for a degree I wasn't even sure I wanted. Spending all my free time studying and doing homework when I could've been doing other things." I paused before continuing and he was silent, waiting. "I guess the easiest way for me to put it is that...while I'm here, and while I'm alive, I want to actually live. I wanna have a life that's so exciting and so full of adventure that one day, when I'm eighty years old sitting in my rocking chair, I can tell everybody about this awesome life I lived. And I feel like this place is gonna help me do that."
It was the first time I'd ever tried explaining the way I'd been feeling out loud. No one else had ever asked, and I'd never felt the need to tell them about how antsy and unsatisfied I'd felt with what I'd been doing before. As I looked at Owen, blue eyes assessing me in a thoughtful manner, I didn't feel embarrassed or like I'd said too much. I just felt relieved, like getting it off my chest and into the open had made me a thousand pounds lighter.
"Well, you haven't even seen the best part yet." He finally said, eyes glinting mischievously, matching the smile on his lips.
I looked at him in surprise. "What the hell does that mean?"
He took a sip of his coke before settling back in his chair. "I mean that you've seen all the attractions the park has to offer, but that's it. You haven't even seen what else there is."
I felt my interest spark, igniting my curiosity and making me eager to know what exactly he meant. I was leaning forward, towards him, without even realizing it at first. "Like what?"
Just then, the door to the kitchen swung open, making me jump. One of the cooks set two plastic bags filled with steaming styrofoam contained on the bar in front of me. I blinked up at him in surprise. I'd almost completely forgotten what Owen had been doing sitting at my bar in the first place.
Owen went into his wallet and set a small stack of cash on the counter in front of me. "See you later?" He asked.
"Yeah, but wait...you can't just tell me that there's stuff here I haven't even seen yet, not explain what and then disappear out the door like this is some sort of god damn mystery novel!" I exclaimed, realizing how flustered I sounded.
Owen laughed, grabbing the bags off the counter and sliding off his stool. "Don't worry about it, newbie. I'm gonna take care of it. The exclusive, all-access Owen Grady Jurassic World tour....coming to a Margaritaville near you sometime soon." He grinned, taking a few steps back towards the door before turning on his heel and stepping out into the patio.
"You're killing me right now, I hope you know that!" I called after him. He waved at me with the bag swinging in his hand and the last thing I saw before he turned away was his crooked grin. I let out a sigh, shoulders slumping. The spark of curiosity was still burning, though.
I wondered what the hell I was supposed to expect, if anything. It seemed that with Owen Grady, it was always a surprise.
I pushed back a hanger, running my fingers along the sleeve of a deep, navy blue colored blouse. I picked up the hanger and turned to Claire, holding the shirt close to my chest.
"Would I look weird in this?" I asked, scrunching my nose up as I looked from her back to the shirt again. I walked across the room to the full length mirror on the wall and studied my reflection.
"No, for the thousandth time. Do you plan on asking that about everything in my closet?" She asked from where she was sitting on the bed, legs tucked underneath her and stacks of papers spread out over the comforter.
I grinned at her in the mirror. "Maybe."
Claire sighed and shook her head. "You're not even going to end up borrowing anything anyways."
I shrugged my shoulders and laid the blouse down on the back of her desk chair. "Probably not, but since there's not a mall here, this is the next best option." I plopped down next to her on the bed and glanced at the papers spread around her. None of them made any sense to me. "What are you doing?"
She gave me a weary look before shuffling all the papers into one big pile. "Work."
I raised my eyebrows at her. "Obviously. Is it top secret? Is that why you don't wanna tell me?"
I watched as she chewed her lip for a moment before she let out a defeated sigh. "No, but we're not unveiling it for at least another month or so." She paused a moment before continuing. "We have a new attraction."
"Oh! What is it? Is it something cool?" I asked excitedly.
"I'm not sure, only the people in the lab have seen it so far." She shrugged. "It doesn't even have a name yet."
I furrowed my eyebrows at her. "Whatdya mean it doesn't have a name? Don't all the dinosaurs you make already come with names?"
Claire leaned back against the bed's headboard. "It's not exactly a dinosaur...we didn't breed it. We created it. It's a genetically modified hybrid."
There was a long, drawn out pause as I allowed this to sink in. "Still not understanding." I shook my head. "What you're saying is you created a brand new dinosaur by playing mad scientist in the labs?"
Claire scowled at me and rolled off the bed. She paced to the other side of the room, gently setting her pile of papers down on the desk. "Yes, kind of. It's perfectly safe, though."
"I dunno...sounds kinda sketchy. How are you supposed to know anything about it if it's never existed before?" I asked her.
Her cheeks tinged red, just barely, but I knew I had my answer. She had no idea. "Rylan, you have to try to understand that the only way this park is going to continue to grow is if we keep wowing people. In order to do that, we have to come up with new things constantly. Even if it's never been seen or done before."
I rolled over onto my stomach and propped my chin in my hands, looking at her. "I guess...just hope this doesn't come back to bite you in the ass." I grinned at her. "See what I did there? I made a joke." And just like that, the tension in the room vanished. Claire rolled her eyes again and crossed the room, sitting back down on the bed.
"Ha, you're hilarious. You know that?"
"Yup." I grinned. I flipped over onto my back and stared up at her cream white ceiling. "Claire, are there any like...secret attractions you don't tell the guests about?"
"What?" She made a face at me. "No, why would you think that?"
"I dunno!" I said defensively. "Just something Owen kinda said."
Claire scoffed. "Well that explains it. Never listen to anything Owen says."
"He's not that bad, Claire. You act like he's the anti-christ or something." I argued, letting out a sigh. I turned my head to glance at my friend. "Maybe you just didn't give him enough of a chance."
"Or maybe I just didn't see the point in trying to start a relationship with someone who is 1. incredibly full of themselves, 2. thinks an acceptable first date is tequila shots on the helicopter pad, and 3. cares more about his raptors than he does actual people." She rattled off, not even missing a beat.
"Still don't think you know him that well to make all those assumptions." I shot back, in a teasing sing-song voice. I didn't want to actually start a serious argument with her, although it seemed she was more than happy to do so. "Look, we don't have to talk about him as long as you accept the fact that maybe, like this is a slight maybe, Owen and I could be friends in the future."
"I don't care who you're friends with, as long as I'm still your favorite friend." She gave me a tiny smile that I knew was meant as a truce.
"Agreed." I smiled back at her. "But seriously can I borrow that blue shirt?"
"Yeah, of course! Where are you gonna wear it?" She asked curiously, eyeing the blouse that was still lying on her desk chair.
"At home, around the house. Nowhere probably." I laughed. "Maybe I wanna impress Owen's raptors."
Claire let out a rare snort before laughing loudly, which immediately caused me to start laughing right along with her. It was the kind of laughter where we would finally stop and the other would start snickering which lead to laughing all over again. By the end of the night, when I was boarding the monorail for the last trip of the night, my stomach hurt from laughing so much and my cheeks hurt from smiling. Once again, I couldn't help but wish that more people knew Claire the way that I did.