tagRomanceAs You Wish

As You Wish

byJaneSaysIt©

While there is a sex scene, it is not graphic. I enjoyed writing this so hopefully it is enjoyable.

*

The clouds parted slightly allowing for a slim sliver of moonlight to seep through, reflecting off the inky puddles in the mostly empty parking lot. Just in time for the end of her shift—closing time—at least she wouldn't get soaked on her way to the car, Cassie realized. The clatter in the kitchen drew her gaze back into the 50's style diner; the new cook was rattling pots, placing them back on the metal racks across from the fryers above the prep table. Cassie was nervous of the new cook, intrigued but nervous. He'd been working the evening shift over a month, not so new any more, but he wasn't friendly and aside from the calls for orders up, Cassie hadn't even really heard him speak. He was a good cook though, and when he was working the kitchen, tips were good.

As much as his demeanour was off putting, his appearance was even worse. The close cropped hair, many piercings, the wiry form, his scarred face and arms, the prison type tattoos on his hands, everything about Luke made Cassie skittish, he'd obviously had a checkered past. Even though they were both around the same age, he seemed much older. Still, closing with him at night felt safe. No one in the restaurant would bother her when she told them it was time to go when Luke was working. On nights when Sal worked the kitchen, people might take an extra half hour to finish, lingering over their empty plates, getting free refills on their coffee. Sal would come out and start to tidy with her to help speed them along, but his smiles and idle chatter were more engaging than Luke's menacing grimace, so those nights were longer than they should be. On Sal's nights it was more threatening in the parking lot, too, because it was closer to the time the bars let out, and drunks often wandering home would proposition Cassie. It's unusual that the restaurant wouldn't stay open for the hungry drunks, but after more than a few fights and incidents with unruly patrons, the owners decided an earlier closing time was easier than paying for damages incurred with less than sober customers. Located near the edge of campus meant a steady stream of students anyway, no matter what the hour.

Luke liked to work with Cassie. She respected his space and his need for quiet more than a few of the other servers, and she never shorted him on tips. He appreciated how polite and patient she was with the customers, even those who were not always the most pleasant. She was easy on the eyes, too—not that she realized it. She often missed when male customers flirted with her and she seemed to be pretty without really trying. Cassie didn't wear make-up or any sort of cloying scent, unlike Pippa, the server who wouldn't leave him alone.

Pippa always flirted with everyone, including Luke, to the point Luke was fairly certain she was trying to make him uncomfortable—brushing up against him unnecessarily, calling him pet names, making innuendo. All of it disgusted to him. While he certainly liked the female form, Luke had learned young to avoid romantic entanglements, and Pippa would probably be an entanglement of the worst kind—high maintenance disguised as carefree. In Luke's mind relationships always let you down and the only one you could truly count on was yourself. So the fact that Cassie was oblivious to his admiration suited him just fine. He knew how he looked, it's not like Cassie could ever be attracted to him anyway.

"Ready to go, Cassie?" The kitchen was closed, the patrons gone, and Cassie had restocked napkins and wiped down the tables.

"Yes, thanks Luke. Here's your cut." She handed him the envelope with the required 20% of her tips, and flipped the sign at the door to closed.

She didn't begrudge him the money, he deserved it, even though Pippa and a few of the other waitstaff always shorted him. Cassie liked that he trusted her, putting the envelope in his pocket, rather than counting it out, like Sal did. Cassie knew that Karen and Anna needed all the tips they could get because they were single moms, but Pippa took the job as a joke. Pippa's family was indulging her need to 'slum it' as a student, putting up with her dead end job and bohemian lifestyle while at university as long as she outgrew it after graduation. Everything about Pippa screamed money, even in her thrift store style outfits—it was hard to hide the expensive cosmetics and newer model BMW that Pippa drove with careless ease, she obviously didn't need to concern herself with repair bills. Cassie was a student too, but did, in fact, need the money. Her scholarships only paid a portion of the bills and her family couldn't make up the difference. The shifts at the diner not only provided her with ready money, but also meals on the days she worked.

As she picked her way across the sodden lot to her car—a hand me down from her grandmother who recently surrendered her licence due to poor vision—Cassie hurried to avoid unwanted attention from some stumbling pedestrians, skirting puddles to prevent soiling her work shoes. After one failed attempt, the old town car turned over and roared to life, shimmying as it idled, while Cassie waited for it to warm up. She watched as Luke turned out the lights and locked the door of the Starlight diner.

Cassie contemplated Luke's thin sweater and lack of jacket for a moment before cranking down her window, "Luke, do you need a drive? It looks like the rain might start again."

Luke considered the offer for a moment, tempted to turn it down, just as a fat drop of cold rain landed on his arm. In a few quick strides he was at the passenger side door, Cassie leaned across and pulled open the lock.

"Thanks." Luke folded his lanky form to fit into the bench seat, set for Cassie's much shorter frame.

"No problem. I wouldn't want you to get drenched and catch cold," Cassie said kindly, with a smile.

"Me neither," Luke certainly couldn't afford the medicine nor the time off work. He was a student, too, and his tuition was paid for by the government because he had been a ward of the court, but everything else fell on his shoulders.

The windshield wipers beat a steady pattern across the window while the raindrops relentlessly fell, drumming on the roof, the only noise in the car as a silence fell between the two occupants.

"Where to?" Cassie asked, stopping at the exit of the lot, unsure which way to turn.

"The corner of King and Cameron."

"The boarding house?" Cassie tried to hide how appalled she was. It's not like Cassie's apartment was anything fantastic, but the boarding house was infamously terrible. Drugs, prostitution, and even a few suspicious deaths were rumoured at the location.

Luke shifted uneasily in his seat. He knew where he lived was a shithole, but it was in his price range—$100 week to week for a room with a hot plate, fridge, and a sink, and a shared bathroom down the hall. The meagre furnishings came with the room, too: a twin mattress, a table and a single chair. Luke's few clothes were housed in the box he moved in with. He'd tried to find shared student accommodation before, but no one was interested in a roommate that looked like he did. In the boarding house he didn't really stand out aside from his textbooks.

"Yeah," he answered, trying to keep the edge from his voice. Screw her if she was judging him. She probably had everything. He looked over at her and his anger faded. The look on her face told him she wasn't disgusted, just surprised. And it was obvious from her battered car and worn coat that she wasn't privileged. "It's all I can afford," he offered, trying to ease her discomfort to his own amazement. Luke was not the type to ever offer information about himself—it was easier to keep personal information just that—personal.

Cassie didn't say anything to this, just nodded. She didn't want to embarrass him further, or at least she thought she had embarrassed him, and it made her feel bad. She knew everyone didn't have an easy life, and from looking at Luke she could assume his life has been harder than most, not that she would ask.

The silence in the car wasn't awkward exactly, but Luke felt compelled to say something. "Onions." That probably wasn't it. His cheeks flamed.

"Pardon?" Cassie was very confused.

"You don't like onions," he said as explanation although it came out fast almost like an accusation.

"Oh," Cassie realized he was talking about the fact that she always pulled them off her burger when he made her one for dinner. "No, I do like onions, I just prefer them cooked. Besides raw ones might make my breath smell and I need the tips."

Luke nodded a silent response, noting her preference, then he resumed looking out the window.

Pulling up out front of the sketchy decrepit house, it was obvious that at one point it had been a stately old home, but time and a steadily declining downtown had not been kind to the building, and now it's sagging porch and depressing facade hinted at the dilapidated interior. "Home sweet home," Luke muttered sardonically as he wrenched open his door. Louder and more politely, "Thanks Cassie, I appreciate it." Cassie almost started at the kind words, Luke's normally irritable voice had softened.

"Glad to do it, Luke. Have a good night," she gave him a friendly smile and Luke felt a tug deep inside. Like a spring, he uncoiled himself from the car and darted towards the front door, almost gracefully, trying to distance himself from her. Cassie watched until he was in, then drove off into the early morning rain, ready to finally go to home to bed.

Cassie knew Luke was a student too, according to Pippa's gossip he was studying social work, but she didn't really believe it until later in the week when she saw him occupying a table in the library. Mid terms were coming, and Cassie was hoping to get in some additional studying in the three hours between her classes on Wednesday. The chemistry program Cassie was taking was demanding, and she needed to keep her average up to retain her scholarships; even though she was in her third year, she couldn't let up at all. Study space was at a premium and the majority of the tables were full. Although the library had soaring windows and high ceilings it really wasn't very large in terms of study space. Some students were even camped out on the floor at the end of the stacks, looking for quiet pieces of real estate. Not surprisingly, the table Luke occupied was wholly empty with the exception of the four textbooks and sole binder that Luke possessed, the other chair at the table was vacant. Obviously Cassie wasn't the only person who found Luke's appearance off-putting.

"Excuse me, Luke?" she approached timidly, unsure if her interruption would be bothersome.

He looked up recognizing her short, curvy figure, and a smile crossed his usually stoic face. "Cassie."

"Would it be okay if I sit here?"

Luke looked surprised at the request, then noting the lack of space, nodded and continued on with his reading. Cassie carefully put her work on the table, as well as a water bottle and her lunch. She studied Luke for a moment before opening her books to begin her own exam revision. Underneath all his accoutrements he wasn't so hard looking. Certainly the scar along his cheek down to his neck was something that made him look harder, but really the eyelashes, curved bow of his lips, and relaxed features when he wasn't scowling, all revealed a bit of a baby-face. Before she could get caught staring, Cassie looked down to her pages and commenced studying. After an hour of companionable silence, Cassie reached into her bag and pulled out a second, unopened bottle of water and passed it over to Luke along with half her sandwich and an apple.

He considered turning down the scant offerings, but as he hadn't eaten yet today, and wouldn't be eating until his shift at the diner, he nodded instead and slowly ate the sandwich, taking careful sips of water. Cassie recognized the way Luke was eating, stretching out the food for as long as possible to make it seem like more of a meal. It was a tactic she often used. Between rent, gas, and other school expenses, the diner provided the bulk of her calories because food was often an unnecessary expenditure—she could go without, whereas her landlord could not.

"Are you working tonight?" Cassie asked.

"Yes," Luke nodded. "You?"

"Until close."

Luke looked up, his deep brown eyes locking with hers momentarily, "Nice." He wasn't sure what prompted his reaction, but he could feel colour rising, red, up his neck and to his cheeks. He looked back down quickly, burying himself in his studies.

Cassie reflected on his actions and words. Luke wasn't anywhere near as scary as he looked, but she knew he honed his image for a reason, so she decided two things. One—she was going to be friendly, but without any expectations, and two—she was going to work alongside him in the library more often. No one bothered them because of his appearance and his quiet demeanour meant she actually got a lot done. They were alone, together, and it was...pleasant.

Cassie looked up at the clock on the wall and rose from the table, packing up her bag.

"Done?" Luke looked up at her, leaning back in his chair, long legs splayed, slouching.

"Not really, but I have class now," she offered with a small smile, trying to avoid looking him up and down.

"See you later, Cassie," he smiled back, his front tooth had a chip out of it. It was the first time Cassie had even seen a smile that large from Luke.

"Uh, thanks, you know, for letting me intrude," she responded warmly.

"Anytime." And his head bent back over his books, easy posture gone, closed off again.

The diner was busy, even for a Friday. Pippa was largely ignoring her tables while Cassie redoubled her efforts to pick up the slack. She was suffering a bit from a cold and fever, but only dared cough when she was off the floor, and in the back. It never failed, Cassie often came down with something when stress was high, and midterms was one of those times. Still, she couldn't afford to miss her shifts. Run off her feet, Cassie sat for a few minutes at the table in the corner that staff could use when having a break just to catch her breath. Wordlessly, Luke set a plate of roast chicken and vegetables in front of her and a large orange juice. She gave him a weak smile, unable to keep up her cheerful appearance when not around the customers, then began to eat. Cassie would only be able to take a few mouthfuls of food before she had to go back out to check her tables. Pippa couldn't be counted on to keep Cassie's patrons happy and she needed those tips. Cassie knew Luke needed them, too.

After the first day studying together, Cassie actually joined Luke in the library more than a few times. He was usually at the same table, and the rest of the table remained empty unless Cassie claimed the other seat. Luke didn't mind. He thought he would, but she didn't press him for conversation, content to work in peace. She also brought food. After the first day of sharing her sandwich, on days Cassie intended to study, she always brought extra to make sure that Luke had something more to eat, too. He never mentioned it, but he always ate whatever was offered, and in his quiet way, she knew he was thankful.

Luke had taken to returning the favour by making Cassie food when they were working together. The first time after their strained conversation in the car, he'd made sautéed onions for her burger and she'd eaten them all, happily. He had a knack for picking foods that suited Cassie's moods and he liked doing it. Tonight it was obvious she wasn't feeling well, so he prepared the closest thing to homemade chicken soup he could. It was a kind gesture that Cassie acknowledged by eating his offerings, the same as he did for her. Luke had just put down a second plate—his own, but returned to the fryer to lift the basket and prepare an order of fries.

Cassie's respite was broken by the kitchen door being swung open in a fury. "I can't do everything myself, unless you want me to take all your tips." Pippa's ponytail flicked in annoyance as she cracked her gum.

"Sorry, Pippa. I'm on it." Cassie wearily rose from her seat, plastered a smile on, and went back out front to deal with her tables.

"Really, Luke? Roast chicken? Where's mine?" Pippa's hands rested on her hips, her foot tapping angrily. Luke realized Pippa was mostly upset that Cassie was getting his attention.

"Want some?" Luke offered Pippa his plate stocked with the same meal as Cassie's.

"No, I want a burger. Make me one?" Although she phrased her request like a question, he knew better. Leaving his food, Luke returned to the grill.

Pippa moved swiftly behind Luke, leaning against the prep station, watching him work. "So, one of these days are you going to show me just how much of a man you are?" Luke ignored her taunt and continued to work the flattop. "I know you like what you see. Maybe you'd like to see more?"

Turning to face Pippa, Luke leaned in close, too close really, reached above her and grabbed a plate. If Pippa moved even a fraction, she could have fully pressed up against Luke.

"Ohhh, a tease." Pippa grinned. "Mark my words, Luke, you won't be able to resist me forever."

To be honest, Luke did find Pippa arousing, but not the slightest bit to his taste. He knew she was trouble and he had spent far too much time avoiding those kind of problems than to find it now. Instead he plated her burger and shoved it towards her, then went back to his chicken, sad that Cassie's was getting cold.

Luke knew women intimately. It was hard going through the foster system without learning a thing or two about the female form, and a few males, too, wanted or unwanted. Kids in his situation often sought out inappropriate and tumultuous relationships young, looking for acceptance and love. But sex wasn't love, and Luke learned that the hard way and had the scars to prove it. After an exceptionally difficult experience when he was seventeen, he eschewed romantic relationships entirely—they only caused pain.

An hour later, the tables dwindled and Pippa clocked out. Pippa seldom worked the last shift because she had far more exciting things to do and hated to spend the late evening hours working when she could be at a party. Tossing her apron under the counter at the cash register, she pocketed a wad of bills after peeling off a few.

"Here Lukey, tips." She thrust her hand into the front pocket of Luke's pants, depositing the bills in her hand. "Oh, and this." She took his hand in hers, turned it palm up and dropped a pile of coins on to it.

Luke controlled a growl rising in his throat, he hated that Pippa made him feel cheap, but he needed the cash no matter how it was delivered. Cassie cringed while observing the exchange, just as she had several times before. She had tried confronting Pippa about it a few weeks ago but Pippa just laughed and said Luke expected it, it was their 'thing.' Cassie could see Luke was uncomfortable, and she realized that Luke only put up with Pippa for the same reason she did, he needed the money.

After Pippa left, the diner slowly emptied until there were no customers left a full half hour before closing. Cassie was feeling somewhat better and she was sure it was because of Luke's carefully chosen meal. On a whim, she broke the silence. "Thank you for the chicken and veggies. I think they helped, I'm feeling much better." Her voice sounded funny to her, echoing in the empty room.

"I'm glad. Sorry you didn't get to eat it when it was hot."

"That's okay." She shrugged. "Part of the job."

Cassie looked towards Luke and their eyes locked for a second. He noticed that her eyes had flecks of gold in them that matched her hair. He shook his head to clear it and got back to cleaning the grill; Cassie filled the napkin holders.

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byJaneSaysIt© 10 comments/ 18453 views/ 49 favorites

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