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The lunch rush at Darryl Hansen’s restaurant, Café Belgie, is getting to be too much for one man to handle, and Billy Weaver is a young man in search of a job—any job—to support his family. Billy gains Darryl's respect with his earnest nature and willingness to work hard, but Billy's admiring looks resurrect pain and shame from Darryl’s past.
Until Darryl stumbles across Billy's secret, Billy is suffering in silence: his father died a few months earlier, leaving him struggling to raise his twin five-year-old brothers. Darryl takes Billy and the boys to the restaurant, where they’ll stand together to face the smorgasbord of troubles in their future… while Davey, Donnie, and Billy all worm their way into Darryl’s heart.
The kitchen door opened, and Darryl looked up from behind the line and saw Billy peeking over the shelf. “Someone wants their steak frites with regular butter instead of the herb butter, is that okay?”
“Of course.” Darryl felt his mouth go dry as Billy smiled at him and handed him the note to go with the ticket. “You can just enter it on the computer. You don’t have to come back to tell me whenever you have a special request.” The smile faded just a little bit, and Darryl found himself wanting to put that smile back. It just brightened everything. “You’re doing fine. Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it.”
Billy nodded a little and turned around, leaving the kitchen, and Darryl found himself watching the door until a steak flared on the grill and he returned his attention to where it should be. He heard Kelly snicker a little, and she turned away from him, but he glared at her nonetheless. She must have seen him anyway. “Come on, boss, it’s funny.”
“What is?” He turned the steak, thankful it wasn’t burned. “I need two frites and a Niçoise salad,” he said, looking ahead to the next ticket.
“Okay, chef,” Kelly replied with a knowing smile, dropping the frites into the fryer and starting on the salad with practiced ease.
“You have something to say?” Darryl glanced up from his work, adding another steak to the grill and setting up two orders of mussels to steam.
“Nothing. It’s just that every time Billy comes in here, you forget what you’re doing. It’s funny.” Kelly placed the salad on the pickup station and pulled out the frites, letting them drain before transferring them to the paper cones. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sweet on him.”
Darryl saw her bat her eyes at him teasingly, and he swatted her with his towel. “I am not. I just want to make sure he’s doing well. It’s his first week, after all.” He hoped Kelly bought the explanation, because while what he said was true—he did want him to do well—fuck, the kid could scramble his concentration with just a simple smile. It had been a long time since anyone had that kind of effect on him. He liked it, sort of, but there was no way he was going to act on it. He just had to deal with it.
Finishing the orders, he wiped the edges of the plates and pressed the button to tell the server that their order was ready. Billy bustled into the kitchen, picking up the plates and hurrying out again, taking a second to flash him another smile. Darryl closed his eyes and pushed away the images that flooded his brain. Billy was grateful for the job and happy to be working, that was all. Kelly’s chuckles cut through his thoughts, and he gave her a final glare before returning his attention to where it should be, on his food. “Keep it up and I won’t put your dish on special tonight.” He tried to sound menacing, but Kelly just smiled, seeing right through him.
“Come on, Darryl,” he heard Maureen interject from the pastry station. “Billy’s been working here three days and he’s already got you wrapped around his little finger,” Maureen said with a hint of laughter in her voice. “If you ask me, it’s about time someone caught your attention. I was beginning to think the pipes were clogged or something.” Both Maureen and Kelly laughed, and Darryl scowled at them.
“My pipes are just fine.” Damn it, he’d said that way too loud, and he looked up, thankful the door to the dining room was closed. Both women returned to their stations, heads down, shoulders bouncing, and he knew they were laughing. He was never so thankful for anything in his life as when the printer started spitting out orders. “Need two more frites and a Caesar.” Darryl ripped off the ticket, and another came right behind. “Seems your mousse is a hit, I need three of them,” he said to Maureen as he began preparing the main dishes.
“Billy sells more dessert than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Maureen commented as she went to the refrigerator, pulling out three decorative glasses filled with a creamy chocolate and garnishing them with whipped cream and strawberries.
“It’s those eyes,” Kelly replied, the words passing around Darryl as he tried to concentrate on his work. “Can you imagine saying no to him?” Kelly stopped what she was doing, looking at Maureen. “Would you like some chocolate mousse?” Darryl glanced up from his pointed effort to ignore the two of them, sighed in frustration while shaking his head, and forced his attention back on his work, to no avail. “Every woman out there says yes, thinking about what she’d like to do with that mousse.”
An image of Billy flashed in his mind, smooth skin, big eyes, chocolate mousse streaking his…. A clang as his spoon hit the floor pulled him back to the present, and both women howled. “You’re way too easy.” Maureen thumped him on the back before doubling over with laughter. Darryl growled and picked up the spoon, tossing it into the sink. Yanking open the stainless steel drawer, he grabbed another and went back to work, growling as the other two turned back to their stations, still snickering.