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Saving the CEO (49th Floor #1)

By:Jenny Holiday

Saving the CEO (49th Floor #1)
Jenny Holiday

       Chapter One

"Ebenezer is here!"

Cassie's head shot up from the bar, where she'd been methodically slicing lemons. "No way! It's only Tuesday!"

Ebenezer ate dinner at Edward's every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Not on Tuesdays. Never on Tuesdays.

"I know!" squealed Sara, one of the servers, the one who was nicest to  Cassie. The wait staff knew Cassie hadn't earned her job as the  weeknight bartender-she was a friend of the owner-and some of them  resented it. Unlike the rest of them, she did not engage in the  bleaching and dieting and grooming required to earn tips at a high-end  place like Edward's, but the servers had to tip her out just the same.  Cassie got it. In their shoes, she'd probably resent it too.

"And his table isn't free!" Sara whispered, "Because it's Tuesday!"

Cassie didn't bother stifling a dreamy sigh as she watched Edward's most  reliable customer in discussion with Camille, the hostess-the one who  was meanest to her. There was no need to hide her admiration because  they all loved Ebenezer a little bit. Probably not least because he was  the World's Best Tipper. Fifty percent, every single time. Even Cassie,  who as bartender was tipped out only a small percentage of what the  servers took in, saw the difference on an Ebenezer night.

So, a good tipper, yes, but the girls also loved Ebenezer because he was  beautiful. A beautiful enigma. A man of habit, obviously, given his  regular Wednesday through Friday appearances stretching back almost two  years. But beyond that, no one knew anything about him, not really,  other than that he was some sort of real estate tycoon. The servers  reported that he was perfectly polite. But despite his impeccable  manners, or perhaps because of them, he came across as cold. Never said  anything more than was strictly required. He'd answer small-talkish  sorts of questions, but in a way that made the asker feel she'd stepped  out of line, never offering a real glimpse into his life. Sara had been  conducting experiments on him, to see if anything she did-or didn't  do-would affect the seemingly inviolable fifty percent tip. So far, no.  Whether they spoke only about his order-which, unlike most regulars, was  never the same-or whether she shamelessly pried and he doggedly but  politely shut her down, the end result was the same. A sky-high bill,  thanks in no small part to the glass of ridiculously marked-up single  malt scotch he started with, and a fifty percent tip.

"He's entertaining enough on a normal night," Cassie whispered with a  grin. "On a Tuesday night when his table is taken?" She looked to the  sky and made a silly "jazz hands" motion that earned her an answering  grin from Sara.

But the truth was that Ebenezer wasn't inherently that entertaining. Any  given night produced a customer who provided more drama-a steak sent  back three times, a bottle of 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon three-quarters  drunk and then sent back for being corked.

Ebenezer never generated that kind of drama. They all just made it up to  fill in the blanks in his mysterious persona. His name wasn't even  Ebenezer. Of course it wasn't Ebenezer! He had a perfectly normal name  they'd gleaned from his credit card-Cassie just couldn't remember it.

Whatever it was, it was not as exciting as the story they'd made up that  earned him his nickname. He always worked through dinner, spreading out  papers, tapping through documents on his iPad. That, combined with his  expensive, exquisitely tailored suits, and the fact that he was always  alone, inspired Cassie to name him. Last December he'd strolled in  alone, with his spreadsheets and his devices, and she thought, "He's  accumulating his chains." But she didn't say that. She'd just burst out  the moniker Ebenezer Scrooge, and the rest of them, who had probably  never read the book, embraced the alias. It stuck, even though Cassie  protested that the actual Scrooge would never have left a fifty percent  tip.

So here they were almost a year later, everything the same-nothing ever  really changed at Edward's-except Mr. Scrooge had appeared on a Tuesday,  sending them all into a tailspin.

"Oh my God! He's coming over here!" said Sara, grabbing a cloth and  wiping a nonexistent spill on the bar. Cassie had to restrain herself  from snatching the towel out of the server's perfectly manicured  hands-she didn't like people messing with her bar.

Sara was right, though. Ebenezer was indeed on his way over, leaving an  annoyed-looking Camille in his wake. God, he was beautiful, in the way a  frozen waterfall was beautiful. He was all angles-choppy, dirty-blond  hair slightly longer than one would have expected from a … scrooge. His  face was all cheekbones and chin. Pale blue eyes (not that she'd  noticed). Six-four at least. He had a rotation of suits-more than most  men, she assumed, in that there were a good dozen different ones (not  that she'd noticed). Today's was navy pinstriped. He was always  perfectly turned out, bordering on conservative, but there was always  one detail that threw off that interpretation. Today it was a lime green  tie.                       
       
           



       

Without a word, without making eye contact with her or with Sara, he sat  at the bar-at the far corner, tucked against a large wooden pillar.  Just as he always did at his table, he spread out his papers.

"Well, damn," whispered Sara.

Cassie tried not to panic. "He's going to want to hear the specials,  isn't he?" Crap. The sorts of people who sat at her bar weren't usually  the type to care about the specials. They were either killing time  waiting for a table or they were regulars, solo diners who ordered a  salad with chicken and wanted to shoot the breeze.

"Yes!" said Sara. "We have a pan-fried pickerel with capers and  preserved lemon served with maple mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.  Roasted pork loin with cranberries, goat cheese, and fresh dill, served  with wild rice pilaf, and the same asparagus. Pizza of the day is fig,  arugula, and house-cured salumi with a drizzle of buckwheat honey."

Though she had absorbed a negligible amount of that little speech,  Cassie nodded determinedly. Fake it till you make it. That was pretty  much her entire philosophy of life, whether she was facing multivariable  calculus or a night among the model-waitresses at Edward's. And hey, so  far, so good.

He didn't look up from his work until she was practically under his  nose. "Single malt to start tonight, sir? We have a new bottle from-"

"Does Edward still have that 1955 Glenfarclas?" he asked, naming a rare  bottle she couldn't remember ever having touched, except maybe to dust  it. She wasn't even sure it was on the menu, so she'd have to ask Edward  what to charge him. She remembered Edward bragging that there were only  109 other bottles of it in the world.

"Right away." Ack. Surreptitiously fanning herself, she pulled a stool  over to boost herself up to reach the bottle, wishing she could loosen  the regulation men's tie she wore as part of her uniform, or at least  roll up the sleeves of her heavy cotton button-down shirt.

Her feet hadn't hit the ground for a nanosecond before he spoke. "What  are the specials?" Though he was looking at her, those ice blue eyes  seemed almost to look through her, the way ghosts can walk through  people in the movies.

"We have, ah, pork chops. No, pork loin. Pork loin with preserved  lemons, and … something. Pickerel with cranberries and, um, asparagus."

"Pork loin with preserved lemons?" He set down his pencil-he always used  an old-school, non-mechanical pencil, and it was always perfectly  sharp-and raised an eyebrow.

"Um … " Had she got it wrong? That must be wrong.

"I'll have that. Pork with preserved lemon." He picked up his pencil. "There's a first time for everything."

Get a grip. You're coming off like a total ditz. Carefully setting a  tumbler on the bar for his scotch, she asked, "Neat?" though she already  knew the answer.

"Water," he said.

"Good man." It was out before she could think better of it. Just that  most people ruined their scotch with a whack of too-cold ice, or tried  to testosterone their way through by demanding it neat, which was a  shame, because the best way to really taste scotch was to dilute it with  just the right amount of water.

Ebenezer's eyes rose from his work again, but this time, instead of  looking through her, they looked right at her. For a very long time.  They began at her hair, which she suspected was doing its usual poor job  staying slicked back into the requisite bun, slid down her face which,  yes, thank you, heated under his scrutiny. From there he raked his gaze  to her chest, which … well, she had curves that even Edward's  gender-neutral generic wait staff uniform could not constrain. She  cursed them every evening, in fact, when she struggled to button the  work shirt even while its sleeves and shoulders dwarfed her. Sara and  Camille and the rest of them, with their lithe frames and graceful  lines, looked like an army of Kate Mosses in their always-crisp shirts.  The mannish ties made them look hot, whereas the same tie just made  short-waisted Cassie look … strangled.

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