Caden's California Ch. 01byDeeperDown©
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The angle of the sun reached the perfect height to invade my bedroom through the blinds. I groaned and rolled over onto my back, my arm snaked out in search of Nicole's sleeping body.
The space beside me was empty, but still warm. I opened my eyes; the room was bare except for the modest furniture and my clothes strewn across the floor. I sat up and yawned, then swung my feet over the side of the bed to rest on the cool hardwood floor.
Her clothes were still where she'd left them in a pile at the bottom of the bed. She couldn't have gotten far. My one-bedroom apartment is pretty small, so there weren't a lot of places to hide.
I could hear the shower once I entered the hallway. The bathroom door was locked. Nicole only locked the door if she was in a hurry and didn't have time to be interrupted by my morning libido.
I was disappointed but made my way to the large kitchen. I loved this kitchen, it was the reason I had settled for this small one bedroom apartment after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu.
I set to work creating an omelet, with all of Nicole's favourite ingredients. It was almost ready when I heard the hairdryer turn off and the bathroom door open.
"Hey can you take over here for a second?" I called out over my shoulder.
I could smell her shampoo as she drew near. She'd brought over a bottle of her own from home. Nicole and I had been dating for over a year and a half now. The first four months of our relationship had been pretty slow; we were both very busy people.
Since then Nicole had been spending more and more time with me and she slept over almost three times a week now. Nicole was a writer for a national mens magazine. When I first met her she was an intern but she'd secured a full-time gig six months ago.
I liked to tease that I couldn't understand why she bothered to write for the magazine when she could be posing in it. Nicole had large perfectly shaped breasts supported by a very tight 5'7" frame. Long blond hair framed a beautifully shaped face with deep blue eyes and soft creamy skin. She was absolutely stunning and often complained that she wasn't taken as seriously by her editors as her less attractive co-workers were.
The photographers on the other hand loved her and never hesitated to remind her how much they would love to photograph her. Nicole didn't take her body for granted. She worked out religiously and dressed impeccably in stylish clothes.
We'd originally met at a food and wine expo. She had attended in order to write a freelance piece for a local newspaper and I'd been there checking out the exhibitors. We'd met at a booth promoting wood fired pizza ovens and gotten into a bit of an argument about Pizza. I grew up in New York and Nicole has grown up in Chicago. Pizza is pretty damn important to us. We both had moved out to L.A. for school and ended up addicted to the California weather and lifestyle. We'd found we had enough in common to exchange phone numbers even though she was four years younger, and to be honest probably out of my league.
A year and a half later and she was standing behind me naked except for a fluffy white towel.
"Is that for me?" She asked noticing her favourite toppings.
"Yep, now take the handle and put it on a plate, I've been waiting for you to finish in the bathroom."
I passed her the pan and darted to the bathroom. I emerged a few minutes later and found her sitting at the kitchen table dressed in a skirt that fell just above her knees and a white blouse that clung perfectly to her sensual shape. Her blazer jacket hung from the back of her chair. She was busy reading the paper and eating her omelet.
She raised her eyes to meet mine as I entered and gave me a smile.
"You look happy to see me."
I stood naked in the doorway, my cock was hard.
"Well," I smiled. "I didn't expect you to get dressed so soon."
"Sorry baby," she cooed playfully. "I've got a big editorial meeting this morning, I can't be late."
"Really? I just made you an omelet and everything!" I couldn't hide my disappointment.
"An omelet? That's what you think I cost?" She laughed.
"Well no, but it was prepared by one of L.A.'s top chefs, I thought it might be worth something!" I smiled.
She grinned and checked her watch.
"Well I may be able to do something," she purred.
I knew that tone of voice. My mouth exploded into a big dumb grin as I moved quickly towards her.
Nicole abandoned the omelet and slid out of the chair to her knees on the cool tile floor. She reached out and gently wrapped her tiny hand around my dick and pumped it back and forth slowly.
"Is this what you had in mind?" She gave me a playful grin.
"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been hoping."
Nicole opened her lips just far enough to allow her tongue to escape and gently lick the underside of my dick. I groaned in response and felt her wrap her hands around my knees drawing me closer.
I brushed the hair from her face giving myself a better view as she worshiped my shaft with her tongue.
"That feels pretty fucking amazing," I groaned.
"Yeah?" Her voice dropped an octave. "Do you want me to suck your cock?"
"Yes," I panted. I loved when she was in the mood for talking dirty.
She realigned the angle of my cock to point towards her hot mouth. Lining it up she pushed gently against her full lips, slowly parting them to allow me deeper access to her mouth.
Once the head of my cock finally pushed past her lips she opened wider taking me deep inside. Her tongue caressed the underside of my shaft and guided me closer to orgasm. Nicole's head began to rise and fall.
She quickened her pace and moaned enthusiastically. The vibrations in my cock felt fantastic and combined with the efforts from her talented mouth and the sight of her gorgeous blond body kneeling in front of me -- it sent me over the edge.
"I'm going to cum soon..." I panted.
Nicole redoubled her efforts.
I moaned as my cum rushed from my balls. She felt my cock expand and sealed her lips around my shaft. She licked her lips, careful that nothing escaped.
"That was fantastic," I panted as I tried to regain my breath.
She smiled at me from her position on the floor. I offered my hand and lifted her gently to her feet before placing my hands on her hips and drawing her close.
Nicole wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek.
"I really do have to go; I'm going to be late."
"Ok," I released her hesitantly. "I'll see you tonight?"
She picked up her purse from the table and began to slide on her pumps.
"Yeah, probably. I'll give you a call after my editorial meeting and I know what's on my plate for this month."
She gave me a quick kiss and then headed for the door. Her heels clicked noisily on the ceramic tile.
"Bye," she grinned as she opened the door. "See you after work baby."
I waved goodbye and then felt like an idiot standing naked in the middle of my kitchen, my freshly emptied cock hanging limply between my legs.
I glanced at the clock and then sprinted to the shower. I had a busy day planned for myself too. Today was the day that I was going to sign the loan documents to buy a restaurant on the beach. Not bad for a guy who just turned twenty-eight years old three months ago.
The new property on the beach was actually going to be my second restaurant. I opened my first restaurant, named 'Cravings', five years ago with my father's help. Since then it has become one of L.A.'s most popular dining destinations for locals and well-informed tourists. I'd long ago paid back my dad's initial investment. I was on my own for the new spot on the beach, and I'd leveraged Cravings to be able to afford it.
I dressed quickly in a casual suit. I took the elevator down to the underground garage to find the only toy I really owned. I've been pretty good about saving my money over the past several years, but I'd spent quite a bit on my motorcycle, a BMW K1300R. The $20,000 price wasn't extravagant by Hollywood standards, but it hadn't seemed cheap when I bought the bike a few years ago.
Having grown up in New York the bike felt like the perfect way to enjoy California's fantastic weather. Of course it didn't hurt that it looked pretty awesome.
The motor purred as I deftly maneuvered my bike through the mid-morning traffic. Los Angeles traffic is terrible. I hated spending my mornings measuring feet in minutes. I found it depressing to creep along the freeway surrounded by people who consider you nothing more than an obstacle slowing them down.
I always found the freeway to be a strange social contract. The roads were full of people who we wouldn't trust to make a proper cup of coffee, hurtling towards us at 40 mph in steel cages who could end our lives with one split-second of distraction.
The traffic was so bad that it had actually persuaded me to give up my apartment with the terrific kitchen. I decided that it was time to buy instead of rent and to find something closer to Cravings and the new restaurant by the beach.
I've been so busy lately I haven't had any time to look. Nicole had promised to come with me this weekend and check out a few places. She didn't seem flustered when I'd asked her, maybe it was a sign we were ready to take our relationship to the next level.
I weaved the K1300 through a side street and down a back alley. This particular alley only serviced Cravings and a dry cleaners so I felt safe parking here.
I opened the back door and let myself into the kitchen. The morning rush was over and the kitchen team was busy finishing prep for the lunch crowd. There were smiles and waves from the staff as they noticed me entering.
I waved and said my hellos back. I loved these people. They were the secret to my success, if you could call it a secret. It may seem like a stroke of genius to people who've been in the restaurant business for a long time, but it seemed pretty simple to me when I started as a twenty-three year old entrepreneur.
Treat people with respect and reward them for hard work.
When we hire new staff members I call them into the office after their first week on the job and I offer them $1,000 to walk away. In the five years the restaurant has been open I've only had one person take me up on the offer. The way I see it, that $1,000 cost me a lot less money than I would have lost because of a bad employee who only cared about a pay check.
All of my staff, from busboys to chefs, receive free health insurance and are entitled to paid vacation after they've been with us for three months. I also pay higher hourly wages than any other restaurant in the city. Every staff member is allowed a free meal before their shift and on weekends after we close, the kitchen and dining room staff normally sit down together and have a drink on the house.
Every month twenty-five percent of our net profit is paid out to the staff as a bonus. Everyone gets a cut based on how many hours they worked that month. Usually that means a bonus of somewhere between $200 and $1,000 per person.
This has all been great, except for one problem. There isn't as much left over for me after the rent, interest payments on the line of credit and all the other expenses. I'm not poor by any means but I don't have a house in the hills or a reality television show.
On the plus size, I also avoid the boom and bust. Cravings receives top reviews consistently and our dining room is always busy and revenue is pretty predictable. We're full to capacity almost every day of the week.
I made my way through the well cleaned kitchen to the staff lounge where I knew I'd find Ben.
A big reason for the restaurant's success is Ben Soliz. Without Ben it would be impossible for me to spend my mornings with Nicole. Ben was in his early sixties and managed the entire operation.
He started working for me three years ago, originally applying for a position as a waiter. I remembered looking over his resume before the interview and expecting to meet a man in his late twenties. When the older Latino man arrived in a freshly pressed suit I was more than a little confused.
"Ben, your resume looks great but I only see about eight years of experience here. What did you do before you started waiting tables?"
He had shifted uneasily.
"I used to work as a plant manager for an auto company before it was closed."
I was surprised.
"You used to manage an auto plant and you've spent the last eight years waiting tables?"
He wrung his hands and raised his eyes to meet my own.
"Mr. Quinn, there aren't a lot of businesses that want to hire a man in his sixties, especially offering healthcare. Our pension fund was shorted by the bankruptcy; my wife and I are just trying to get by. I promise you that you won't find anyone willing to work harder."
I paused for a moment to think. I'd just met Ben but I felt like I'd already learned volumes about his character. I thought he would fit right in, but not as a waiter.
"Ben, I can't imagine you waiting tables here."
His hope waned and he straightened in his chair. He looked dejected.
"I'd like you to come on board here as general manager."
He gave me a puzzled look.
"I'm not sure I understand..."
I gave him a reassuring smile.
"Ben I would hate to see a man with your skills clearing tables. If you'll come aboard, I could really use a seasoned manager to keep an eye on things and help steer me in the right direction."
Ben had been surprised but eventually he agreed to take me up on my offer. We worked side by side for three months while Ben learned everything he needed to know about running the restaurant on a day to day basis. He had a meticulous eye for detail.
Hiring Ben was probably the smartest decision I've ever made. He was a warm-hearted, soft spoken man who the staff adored -- a rare thing to find in a manager. They respected him. Ben was overjoyed to be back in a role that challenged him and made him feel useful.
It took me a year but I finally convinced Ben to call me Caden and not Mr. Quinn. We've been an odd pair of best friends every since. Ben and his wife Selena, who also works for the restaurant now as a bookkeeper, have become my west coast family.
I found Ben and Selena sitting at the lunch table in the staff lounge. The staff lounge used to be a large office before I purchased the restaurant. One of the first things I did when I bought the space was to tear down some of the closets and turn the room into a room everyone on staff could use.
The room had a couch, a lunch table, several chairs and a television set mounted on the wall. Ben often used the table as a desk. He didn't mind sharing the space with staff that dropped in before or after their shifts.
Selena was spread out on the other side of the table doing payroll. Much to the chagrin of my accountant Selena was old school. She had no interest in using the laptop I'd purchased for her. Still, she was incredibly accurate. She tracked every cent and dealt with the day to day problems of cash floats, inventory reconciliation and our taxes. In short she was irreplaceable.
There was no way that I would have been able to expand to a second building without Ben and Selena taking care of things here.
"Good morning Caden," Selena opened her arms and I leaned down to give her a warm hug. "You're in late today."
"Sorry, I got distracted," I grinned. Selena laughed knowingly and waved me away with her hands. "I don't want to hear about it!"
I took a seat on the other side of the table across from Ben. He was focusing intently on a contract. A club sandwich sat untouched on a plate beside his pile of paperwork.
"How does it look?" I was a little nervous.
Ben looked at me above the rims of his reading glasses.
"I've looked it over pretty thoroughly. All the details and conditions we worked out through negotiations are there. It looks good to me. The lawyer did a good job, but you already knew that."
I breathed a sigh of relief. Ben fixed me with a concerned stare.
"You're sure you want to take this on?"
I leaned back in the chair, a little confused. Selena had also turned to look at me apprehensively.
"Don't get me wrong," Ben continued. "We believe in you, we know what you're capable of we just want you to be happy. This is quite a lot for you to take on by yourself."
I smiled. "Well then it's a good thing I'm not doing this by myself. I've got you two with me."
Selena smiled and Ben chuckled.
"Yes you've got us, but we're not going to be around forever."
"Oh hush," I grinned. "I don't think I could get rid of you two if I tried. You practically live here."
"Ok, ok. You'd better hurry up and get down to the beach or you're going to be late," Ben shooed me away from the table.
I stood up. Ben offered his hand.
I shook his hand warmly. Then without a word I stole half his sandwich and headed back to the alley. I climbed on the bike and nudged my way into traffic, pointed towards the beach.
Six months ago I started looking around for a great location to open a second restaurant nearby. I figured expanding to a second location was the easiest way to grow without having to sacrifice the culture we'd built at Cravings.
I got incredibly lucky and came across a fantastic location right on the beach available because of a bankruptcy. I had to take out quite a bit of financing but I managed to get it at auction.
We were going to close the sale today and spend the next few weeks renovating. I had already been working on a menu that included a few variations on Cravings favorites with a new fusion focus on seafood including fresh fish, lobster and shrimp. The beachfront patio would also make it an attractive spot for drinks. Combined with our great service, I knew it would be a hit.
My plan was for Ben and Selena to hold down the fort at Cravings while I focused on the beach location. Nobody understood and respected the culture we had built at like Ben and Selena so I knew Cravings would be in great hands.
I was a little bit more worried about the beach location. Just jitters really. There's a lot that can go wrong when you're opening a new restaurant. One thing I wasn't worried about though, was staff. For the past two months we'd hired extra staff with the goal of having them up to speed by the time the new restaurant opened. I had also planned to bring over some of my veterans.
I was excited and could barely contain my excitement as I navigated the bike into the parking lot. It was empty except for a black Audi sedan and a Lincoln Navigator. I recognized the Audi, it belonged to my lawyer. The Lincoln Navigator must belong to the bankruptcy trustee. With all of the "All Vehicles Will be Towed" signs the trustees put up before the auction, I doubted I'd see anyone else parking in the small lot.
I parked the bike beside the Audi and climbed the steps to the wide deck that surrounded the building. I turned the corner and found the lawyers relaxing in a pair of chairs facing the ocean.
"Caden," my lawyer stood up and warmly extended his hand.
"Steven, thanks for coming down." I shook his hand. Then I turned to the trustee who dutifully stuck out his hand as well.
"Mr. Quinn," he smiled.
"Hello, Mr. Lopez," I replied. It was hard to keep the excitement from my voice.
"I've got the paperwork here, including the inspectors report. Steven has reviewed it again. Now that you're here I'll open up the building. Once you're satisfied everything is in order, we'll sign the papers and I'll turn the keys over to you."
This was all new to me so I just glanced to Steven who nodded his approval.