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Chapter 1: Clocking out

15 years later

"Elle!?" I wake up with a jump. I relax instantly when I see my roommate opening my bedroom door. "You're going to be late for work!" Talia sets down a Starbucks on my dresser before she leaves my room. "Love you!" I holler after her.

I throw myself out of my twin bed and head straight for my Starbucks. The first sip tasting like pure heaven like usual. I run across the hall to the bathroom and take a quick pee before washing up and quickly taking out my long dirty blonde hair from the French braid I slept in. I run my fingers through the thick waves before I head back into my room to get dressed.

I throw on my baby pink polo tee that is 2 sizes too small for me but all the waitresses at my work need to be able to squeeze into a x-small top. It's fucked up but I haven't had any luck at all finding another summer job so I have no other choice but to squeeze my double Ds into my uniform. I pair it with a white tennis skirt- another part of my stupid uniform. I add my own touch to it by pairing it with my white converse.

I lather on my vanilla chapstick before I take one look at myself in the mirror. God I look exhausted... I'm not surprised at all though. I don't even remember the last time I actually had a good sleep.

"Later T! Thanks for waking me" I blow a kiss to my roommate before I head out the door and sprint down the stairs of my 4th story apartment. In downtown Seattle. I see a cab approaching at the perfect time! "Taxi!" I wave my arms as I run to the edge of the sidewalk in front of my outdated apartment complex. The taxi thankfully stops. Maybe I won't be so late for work after all!

Well pull up to Jerry's All Night Diner, the place I've had the privilege (gag noise) of working at for the last 2 months. "Thank you sir" I smile at the cab driver and hand him my $15 cab fair plus a $5 tip. I would love to tip more but I'm dead broke. I hope to god I make some decent tips today! Doubtful though. It's a Wednesday afternoon. Of course like usual I'm stuck with the bogus shifts that make the least amount of money.

"Hey Cathy" I smile at one of the only waitresses that is nice around here. Probably because she's the oldest one here. Bitches that are my age are, well bitches. "Hey doll! Good to see your face in here today" she gives me wide grin showing off her sparkly, well taken care of teeth. "You're late!" A sour voice that I despise welcomes me.

"Yeah sorry Jenna, I spilt coffee on my uniform and had to change into my other one" I lie to the stuck up bitch who has no seniority over me at all. "Take over my section. I'm going on break" she rolls her eyes at me and flips her bleach blonde ponytail in my face as she bumps past me heading outside for a smoke. Cathy and I make eye contact and both mouth the word "bitch" at the same time.

I head into the back and wave at the cook on duty. I'm not sure who this one is, but he gives me a friendly wave back. I toss on my black apron and grab my note pad, and tie up my wavy hair in a pony tail before washing my hands and heading to take over the lunch rush.

I serve five tables by the time Jenna gets back in from her smoke break. As she walks in so does a large group of men behind her. She gives me a little smirk and once I take a took at the guys I see what she's smiling about. It's a group of about 7 guys all well over 6 feet, they are all dressed and sweaty like they are just coming from the gym or a game of some sorts. None of the guys really stands out to me. They are all obviously very attractive but they all just look like basic cocky assholes.

Jenna walks up to me smelling like an ashtray, "you can seat them while I go wash my hands but I am serving them!" She hisses at me. I just shrug my shoulders at her and walk up to the men trying to avoid eye contact with every single one of them.

Once I approach I lift my gaze from the floor, and when I do the door opens again and a man even taller then the 7 standing in front of me comes striding in. I open my mouth to speak but my words get caught in my throat when the tall man looks down and meets my gaze. Holy shit. Those eyes. I am completely paralyzed as piercing metallic grey eyes look me up and down. I hear one of them chuckle which makes me snap out of my ridiculous trance.

"Afternoon gentleman. Right this way" I greet them finally and turn my back as quickly as possible leading them to a large table in the back that I just cleaned off. As they all take their seats I feel eyes on me but I don't dare to look up to see who's eyes they belong to. I slide a stack of menus on to the table, "your waitress will be right with you" I grin politely before turning around to head back to the kitchen to switch out with Jenna.

"I guess you get to serve them after all" Jenna rolls her eyes the second I enter the back. "Oh?" I raise my brow. "Boss called and is making me do books" she whines before stomping off to the office. Fuck... I would've rather she served them. Something about that last man in the group that walked in has me feeling all fuzzy.

I take a deep breath before I open the kitchen door and head back out to the dining room. I top off all the tables waters before I head over to the table full of testosterone. "What can I get y'all to drink?" I pull out my note pad. They all spit out their orders and I only look up a few times just trying not to look as intimidated as I actually am. Just as I'm about to head to the back to grab the drinks one of the younger ones of the group with blonde hair grabs my wrist gently.

"That must hurt", he chuckles at me. I frown with confusion, "pardon me?" "You're basically busting out of that top" he gazes down at chest. My stomach ties into a giant knot. The handsome man with silver eyes smacks the blonde in the back of the head, "Kyle! Shut the fuck up". I turn my back and walk as fast as I can back to the kitchen. God I feel sick... I can't stand the way they were all staring at me. If I had an option I would stay locked in my house with Talia every single day and avoid all men. I have yet to have a good experience with someone that has a penis.

I start to fill up all the drinks but I can't stop my hands from shaking. Breathe Elle, breathe, I try and tell myself but it feels like my body forgets how to breathe completely. Fuck. I fill up a glass of water and start chugging it, I grasp onto the counter trying to hold myself up. "Honey you okay?" Cathy rests her hand on my back. "No. I-I need to go" I manage to gasp out. She takes a step beside me and I look up at her. It's like she can see the pain in my eyes because the second she meets my gaze she nods her head. "Go home doll" she squeezes my arm gently.

I gather my stuff and basically bolt out the back door, desperate to feel the fresh air on my face. I let out a much needed deep breath the second I get outside. God I need to be alone.

I walk around the diner and head towards the bus stop. Since I didn't get any tips at all I can't afford a cab so I'll have to take the city bus, which makes my stomach fucking turn. So many people... so many eyes on me... so many chances for people to touch me...

I could walk home I guess... it would probably take about an hour but the fresh air would feel nice. As I'm about to continue forward a heavy hand comes down on my shoulder making me let out a yelp. I turn around and meet the silver eyes of the tall dark and handsome stranger. Oh fuck. I forget how to breathe again. I feel the ground swaying under my feet and I reach out towards the stranger desperate to find something to balance on. "Woah, easy there" I feel two warm hands grasp onto my waist holding me up right. "Hey! Ellie!" He gently shakes me, wait... he knows my name.

"You-you know my n-name" I stutter as I slowly start to open my eyes again. "It's on your name tag sweetheart" he chuckles lightly. Sweetheart? My legs almost go numb again. "Are you okay?" His voice slowly starts bringing me back from my fuzziness. "Yeah, I'm sorry" I mutter out and try to compose myself. I put my hands on top of his hands that are still grasping my waist. I gently pull his touch away from me. "Don't be sorry, I'm fuckin sorry about my douche bag of a friend" he tucks his hands into his sweatpants pockets. Grey sweatpants might I add...

"I- um it's fine" I stammer. "No it was not fine. He deserves a good ass kicking" he shakes his head in disgust towards his friend. I feel myself starting to slowly relax, also I'm now able to actually see straight so I am in total awareness of how beautiful this man is. "Did he make you leave your shift?" He furrows his dark brows. "Um no I-I just don't feel well", "okay, well I just seen you through the window and I had to come tell you sorry". "Thanks" I give him a genuine smile. "Can I give you a ride home?" He blurts out. A chuckle escapes my throat before I can stop it. He raises his brow at me, "what's funny Ellie?" He studies my face.

"It's not smart to take rides from strangers" I shrug at him. "How did you get to work today?" He asks me. "Taxi" I tell him, "oh ya? You and the taxi driver good buddies? Or was he a stranger too?" He grins at me showing off his pearly whites. Okay. He's got me there. "That's different" I try and argue. "You don't gotta take a ride from me but it's the least I could do". "You don't need to do anything. You weren't the one being a perv, your friend was", "that's true but I'm a nicer guy than my friend" he shrugs, "are you?" It's my turn to study his face now.

"Nah. I'm worse than him in my own ways" his face becomes serious. I don't know what makes me say this... It is the complete opposite of anything I would normally do but my lips are moving faster than my brain. "Okay. I'll take a ride home."
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