Great, that bitch is here. [m1] I rushed to the sitting area of the hotel lobby, avoiding eye contact with the blonde front desk troll I often had run-ins with. She had once strolled over to where I sat to inform me that I smelled like fried meat and appeared “unappealing” to the guests we served.
“You should run back to the kitchen where you belong,” [m2] she’d mused. I had offered her my middle finger and told her to quit using bleach in her hair as it was killing what little brain cells she had left. She had stomped away in a huff. I never bothered to learn her name, but Basic Becky worked just fine. Those little interactions helped shape our hate-hate relationship.
The hotel lobby wasn’t my preferred resting place for a break, but it beat the back alley. The chain-smoking hotel employees and homeless men urinating on the dumpsters helped my decision to keep my distance. Lying my feet on the table in front of me, I scanned the rest of the front desk attendants, who—sadly—shared Basic Becky’s view of the chefs in the hotel kitchen. These trolls treated us like we were beneath them. A hierarchy of indentured servants made little sense since we all worked for the one guy who made millions off our backs. We were slaves to the Wilshire Palm Hotel—I never understood the disdain.
I strategically chose a spot on the couch blocked by the array of massive plant life. Everyone, including Becky, remained busy answering phones and running to the back office. Thankfully, no one noticed me. I felt confident I could continue to rest in peace since the lobby had a minimal amount of foot traffic.
I left the rest of my kitchen uniform in my locker, leaving me with a white T-shirt and black pants. I pulled out my phone, and then reversed the camera to make sure I wasn’t a mess. The light circles that had formed under my eyes indicated I desperately needed a vacation. With a heavy sigh, I sat back and continued to scroll through my phone for the day’s news.
My head snapped up when I heard a woman yelling at the top of her lungs in the distance. I peered around the plants in front of me and saw the cause of the commotion. She came from the main entrance, fleeing the paparazzi outside. The high-powered flashes continued through the windows, blinding all of us in the lobby.
“You left me out there!” [m3] she wailed over her shoulder.
She was a stunning, tall, olive-skinned brunette in designer jeans and a crisp, white button-down blouse. I sighed. Her outfit probably cost more than my car. Her extensions draped around her flawless boobs, highlighting her flat stomach. I loathed her already.
“I didn’t leave you. I was trying to get away from the goddamn cameras. Had you not stopped like we were on a red carpet, you could have been with me.”[m4] A man in his early 30s, wearing a simple white T-shirt and jeans, followed behind her. He tried not to yell at her volume but failed, given his obvious irritation. He stopped a few feet from me, looking after her as she continued to move farther away from him.
“Darcy!” he said, exasperated, his hands on his hips.
She barreled towards the elevator doors behind me as they opened, and drove towards the back of the car, ignoring the guests trying to move out of her way. The woman I now knew as Darcy, leaned against the farthest wall and stared daggers at the man by my side.
I put my phone facedown on the couch, fascinated by the spectacle before me. She was pissed at him, while he just looked exhausted. Her high-maintenance, manicured life didn’t fit well with this man. I couldn’t imagine how tiring it must’ve been to live up to a social media persona, let alone have a relationship with one.
The genuine red leather lounge chair beside me was not as comfortable as the presumed high price tag attached would imply, but it became this man’s landing place to catch his breath. He leaned back, exhaling, and shaking his head.
I worked in one of the most famous luxury hotels in Los Angeles. I was used to seeing stars, but I couldn’t place this guy. I stared at his face a little longer than I should have, causing him to look in my direction. I averted my eyes just as he found mine. He continued to stare at me, creating an overwhelming feeling of self-consciousness in the pit of my stomach.
“So, how’s your day going[m5] ?” I said to break the tension, then peeked at him.
He softly laughed while looking around the lobby. “Do you think anyone got any of that with their phones?” His smile faded.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s pretty slow.” My sympathy for him wanted to remove his uneasiness—he had enough to deal with.
He extended his hand and gave a half smile. “Daniel Hutchinson. Obviously, I’m a relationship expert.”
I snorted a laugh and extended my hand in return. “Jordan Riley. I think I’m observing the decline of your career, Daniel.”
A full smile spread across his ridiculously handsome face, triggering my memory. He was that music artist who also dabbled in Hollywood. He made a few movies occasionally, but arenas were his home. I wasn’t a fan, but I’d seen him on a couple of late-night talk shows. I’d also caught one of his unfortunate movie roles while scrolling through channels one night. He wasn’t an awful actor, he just seemed to pick fantastically shitty roles. His humor was dry, but he had a good head for comedy. He had also married another stunning woman who acted in shitty movies too. I only remembered because even the news channels had a blurb about his divorce. Apparently, he was a big deal.
His eyes were the color of the deep part of the ocean, almost sapphire. The five o’clock shadow he wore looked good on him but clean-shaven, he’d be just as impressive. He appeared not too stiff or stuck-up. He was cute in a boy next door kind of way. I understood why millions of women adored him. I’d also caught videos of him dancing. A talented dancer usually equated to being gifted in…other areas. I didn’t know why or how this stereotype started, but I could personally attest to its validity.
Daniel’s warm hand released mine. He set his elbows on his knees, and his hands covered his face.
“Are you okay[m6] ?” I asked.
He nodded with his head still in his hands. My sympathy was turning into full-blown heartbreak for this guy. I wanted to help.
“Listen,” I leaned forward, “I don’t know you or her, but I think you might need a break. I get you’re a ‘relationship expert,’ but you’re not doing too hot with this one.”
He removed his hands and nodded again, staring at the ground. “You’re right. I need to get my head together before I talk to her. God knows she’s probably doing a live feed in tears right now.” He leaned back in the chair. “What the hell am I doing?” he whispered.
I hesitated for a few moments. The control freak within couldn’t let him sit there, stewing in his own torment—someone needed to take the reins. I grabbed my phone and rose.
“Come on[m7] ,” I said, standing over him.
He glanced up at me, confusion washing over his dashing face. “Where are we going?”
I checked my watch. “You need another room[m8] .”
He waited, then nodded and stood. I turned in the other direction and walked towards the front desk. I peered back at him then faced forward, instantly irritated at the sight of the blonde hotel troll standing before me. Her name tag read Magda. Basic Becky was much more acceptable.
Magda gave me a phony smile as her eyes traveled me up and down. “And what can I do for you?”[m9]
Really, bitch? I called on my patience to not take hold of her ponytail and slam her pointy chin into the keyboard. I gave her a fuck-you grin right back. “Mr. Hutchinson here needs another room.”
She looked past me to see Daniel. Her jaw dropped.
“Oh! Um, yes, Mr. Hutchinson. I’m sorry about that. Is your current room… Uh, does it not fit to your liking? I mean, it’s not good for you to be in it?” [m10] She stumbled to get out the right words, and I laughed at her inability to accomplish such a task. She side-eyed me before taking a moment to regulate her breathing. “Is something wrong with the room?”
“There it is,” I whispered, then smirked.
He moved closer to Magda and smiled. “Oh no, everything’s great. I just need a different room for a night or two, if that’s alright[m11] ?”
She gawked at him and stopped breathing for a moment. I reached six inches from her wicked little nose and snapped my fingers. She blinked, and Daniel chuckled.
“Of-Of course!” Magda typed on her computer. “I’m afraid the other penthouses are taken. Would a suite be okay?”
“Yes, that’s fine. I’ll take whatever you have[m12] ,” he said to her as he continued looking at me.
“I’m so sorry about that,” she responded, and glanced at him.
“Don’t worry about it.”
She placed the room cards in front of him. “Suite 532.” I saw a twinkle in her eye as courage emerged from her nervousness. “I’ll throw in complimentary champagne and strawberries for you too.”[m13] She suggestively leaned forward, dawning her cleavage at him.
I snorted loudly. She glared at me, then relaxed her posture. “Think you can fetch that for him?”[m14]
My head snapped in her direction. “You know what—?” [m15]
Daniel dragged me by my arm towards the elevator before I could give Basic Becky the verbal beatdown she deserved.
I turned and looked at his hand around my arm. “Hey!” I tried to get away, but Daniel was too strong.
Once we reached the polished steel doors, he let me go. “You’ve got a bit of a temper[m16] ,” he said with a sideways smirk. “Maybe I should hire you to be my bodyguard.”
I looked at the front desk again. “That would be very expensive for you.”
“She’s not coming after you. You can relax[m17] .” He pressed the UP button.
I shifted back to him and straightened my clothes. “Sorry, something about those red-and-gray jackets gets to me.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, there are several studies on the internet showing how the colors red and gray make people volatile. Triggering hormones that make you wanna punch other individuals in their faces,” he chided.
I smiled. “See, it’s a legitimate threat immersed in our DNA. I wasn’t overreacting at all,” I teased.
He continued to smile at me. I exhaled and turned away. There was too much conversation going on between us. He seemed like a decent guy, not the average overinflated star, but he was a guest who also had a girlfriend, regardless of how immature she was. I was neither a groupie nor a fan. I had a job to do, and I was running late to do it.
I faced him. “Mr. Hutchinson, it’s been interesting, but I have to get back to work.”
“Where do you work?”
“Downstairs in the kitchen. I’m a chef,” I said, looking at my watch again.
He smiled. “Nice.”
I extended my hand. “I truly hope you have a better evening.”
He gingerly took it. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Jordan. And seriously, thank you.[m18] ” His eyes softened. I slowly removed my hand from his, feeling the warmth of his fingers slip away, sending goose bumps up my arm.
“No problem.” I timidly gave him a one-handed wave goodbye, and turned towards the stairwell across the lobby, feeling the weight of his stare as I walked away.