“One gin and tonic, coming right up,” I said cheerily as I took an order from a young Goldman Sachs type who had been separated from the rest of his bachelor party. The second I turned my back, I allowed my face to fall into a resting position. I had been working for so long, my cheeks were starting to hurt from flashing toothy grins at everyone I served.
I swore under my breath as I caught my fishnet stockings on the corner of the ice machine, creating a larger hole on my outer thigh. This bar gave the illusion of class, and I was expected to dress in a way that kept that façade. I wiggled my tight black skirt down an inch to cover the blunder until the end of my shift. Which, if another server called in sick, would never come. I had already been there since the early hours of the morning, and I just wanted to go back to my small apartment and sleep.
I hastily mixed the drink and returned it to the guy at the table, subtly bending my torso toward him as I set the glass on the cocktail napkin. He looked like he had money, and I had a student loan payment to make in a week.
“Thank you, Sweetie,” he said, sliding me his credit card. I took it and returned to the cash register, still smiling as I mumbled to one of my coworkers.
“That’s five ‘Sweeties’ today.”
“That doesn’t seem so bad,” she whispered back. “Some guy called me ‘Sugar Tits’ last night, then tipped me in pocket change. It took everything I had not to throw it back at him.”
I smiled. Things could always be worse. “I’m going to the back to work on some inventory stuff,” I said. “Let me know if you need me.”
After running the guy’s credit card back to him, I hid in the back room for a few moments to rest. I organized a few bottles in the store room and unboxed a few more, absentmindedly milling around the space. My heart just wasn’t in it today, not like it ever really was. The pay was decent, but I didn’t go to college so I could wait tables and mix drinks for people who had more money than they knew what to do with. But, I could hardly complain. The work paid the bills, after all. I couldn’t afford to blow all of my money on over-priced craft cocktails, but I could pay my rent and bills on time. That was enough for me.
When I felt as though I had given myself adequate rest, I walked back to the bar to see one of the hotel managers sipping a drink.
“Hair of the dog,” he explained. “But if anyone asks, it’s just ginger ale.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” I promised. “How’s it going out there?” I asked, looking out to the hotel lobby where the bar was housed.
“I can’t complain,” he responded. “Business is booming. I’ve only been here for six months, but I’m already on my way to getting a pretty nice promotion.”
“That’s great,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t notice that my voice had gone hollow. I couldn’t help but notice how young he was and how well he had been doing. He didn’t seem any smarter or more talented than me, yet he was making bank while I couldn’t even secure an internship in hotel operations. I felt like I had only landed this bartending job because the hotel’s hiring manager thought I would fit their look and they had an opening they needed to fill immediately. Should I have told the hiring people to screw themselves and looked for another relevant job? Probably. Yet, I had set my sights on the Millennium and hoped that if I stuck around and paid my dues, I could work my way to a nice salaried position in the hotel.
“I should probably get back to work,” he said, sliding a few dollar bills across the bar toward the register. “Thanks for the drink, ladies.”
“It’s on the house,” my coworker said. “We don’t charge for soft drinks.”
“Then that’s your tip,” the hotel manager replied.
“Big spender!” she teased. “Don’t forget us when you’re super-rich.”
“I won’t.” He laughed. “Oh, by the way, I ran into Maximo on my way down here. He wanted to talk to you, Mia. He told me that if I saw you to send you up to his office.”
“Me?” I squeaked. I had no idea what the owner of the bar would want with me. As far as I could remember, I hadn’t done anything wrong in recent weeks. In fact, my customers seemed to like me well enough.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he said. “Though if I were you, I’d maybe put on a jacket before heading up there. I’ve heard the guy is a sleaze.”
“I’ve heard the same thing,” I groaned. “Thanks.”
“Go ahead,” my coworker told me. “You’re at the end of your shift. I can cover for you for the last few minutes.”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said before grabbing a sweater and my purse from the back room. I pulled the front of my top up a few inches and made my way to my boss’s office.
I had spoken with Maximo Donatello a handful of times since I started working at The Little Black Dress. For an owner of a bar, he wasn’t really involved in the day to day operations. He had various managers who kept things running smoothly as he sat in his office in the hotel and raked in cash.
The man’s reputation preceded him. Personally, I had never had an issue with the guy. He gave off a creepy vibe, but he had always been cordial when speaking to me. However, I had heard stories of coworkers going to his office for a meeting, only to find him having sex with dancers from another establishment down the road. Some thought that he liked his waitresses to catch him in the act. I shuddered at the thought of catching the squat, portly man with his pants down. Though I had also heard that he paid exorbitant fees for his women. When the girls and I would have a few drinks, we played a game in which we named a price where we would allow Maximo to have sex with us. We laughed as we quoted amounts in the millions, but always with the look of disgust on our faces.
Another rumor was that he was heavily involved with the mob and that the bar was a front for other illegal activity. I figured that was only because he looked like he was straight out of a gangster movie. Otherwise, he didn’t seem particularly threatening. I didn’t doubt that he was taking part in illegal schemes in that office, but I didn’t buy that it was anything sinister. The guy was just a little creepy.
I knocked on the door of his office and heard his gruff voice tell me to come in. When the electronic lock opened, I entered his office, hoping that he was going to offer me a promotion or tell me that I had been offered a job in the hotel.
“It’s nice to see you again, Mia,” he said. “Have a seat. What do you want to drink?”
“Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” I said courteously as I took a seat on the strange geometric chair. My thighs stuck to the plastic, and I tried to adjust myself so my legs were as covered as possible. Showing a little skin helped me rake in good tips, but it wasn’t ideal for business meetings.
“Is everything okay?” I asked nervously as he poured himself a glass of bourbon from his bar.
“Sure, sure,” he muttered. “I like to check in on my girls every now and again, you know? I want them to tell me about any concerns or problems with the job. In return, I like to offer advice as to how we can make our business better. We’re a team, after all.”
“Okay,” I said, surprised at the tone this meeting was taking. I had noticed a few things that could improve the business, but I had never been in a position to bring them up before. But if Maximo was generally interested in what I had to say, he might be impressed with some of my ideas. The guy owned multiple bars and nightclubs around Las Vegas, but I had recently graduated from college, and a lot of things I learned from my business classes applied to his bar. He had street smarts, but I had book smarts.
“You’re a very pretty girl,” he said. “I have no doubt that my customers like you. Leggy blondes never go out of style.”
“Thanks,” I said awkwardly, hoping he’d get back to our discussion about the business aspect of his bar.
“I have a very special role for you, if you’re interested,” he said. “You see, I’ve been very busy with my other venues and I don’t have a lot of time to spend at the LBD. I’m only here a few days out of the week. This job gets to be very stressful, you know. Some of the girls at my other bars also work as personal secretaries to me. I was wondering if you would like to accept my offer to take on that role in this office.”
“Secretary?” I asked. “I’m not sure. I have a degree in Hospitality and a minor in Business Administration. I’m not sure I’m cut out for administrative duties, but I’d love to talk business with you.”
“See . . .” He smiled. “That’s not really what I’m looking for. I want a pretty girl to spend a few hours of the day with me. I’d find some more money for you if you take on this role.”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to turn down your offer.”
He grunted. “I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m trying to tell you,” he said.
We heard a knock at the door. I wondered if it was one of his ‘personal assistants’ coming to tug him off. There was no way in hell I was going to do that.
“Just a minute,” he shouted back. “So, what’s it going to be?”
“I decline,” I said politely. “I’m happy in my current role.”
He frowned. “I don’t think you understand. If you don’t accept your promotion, then I don’t think we have a job here for you. I don’t like when girls aren’t team players.”
I couldn’t believe it. If I didn’t become his personal eye candy, then I would lose my job. I didn’t love being a bartender, but I really needed the money. Plus, I was only feet from the job I really wanted. I told myself that I would stay close until a role opened up for me at the hotel. Now, I could either walk away from it all or put up with my creepy boss’s advances.
Another knock, this time louder, came from the door. Exasperated, Maximo waddled over and answered it.
“I hope what I just heard was a big misunderstanding,” the man in the hallway said as he entered the office.
“Who the hell are you?” Maximo asked.
The man smiled. He was tall and trim, very handsome in his tailored suit.
“Didn’t your people tell you I was coming today?” he asked, looking at his watch. “I’m Alexander Davis,” he said, extending his hand to Maximo, then to me.
“Huh?” Maximo grunted. “I think you’re in the wrong place, buddy.”
Alexander opened a leather-bound notebook and pointed to the page in his agenda. “No, I’m supposed to be here to discuss The Little Black Dress.”
Alexander looked to me and then back at Maximo. “You need a better secretary. I’m the investor who bought half of the bar.”
I raised an eyebrow. I hoped this guy was better at management than Maximo. Perhaps my job was saved.
“You?” Maximo asked, pointing a thick finger up at Alexander’s face.
“I know I look young, but I assure you, I’ve been quite successful in my other ventures. Now, in my contract, it states that I have equal share in equity and responsibility. It’s nice to finally meet my business partner. Now, I already have some concerns I want to address.”
“I assume this woman is one of your waitresses, correct?”
“Yeah, so what?”
“I believe I heard you ask her to perform services that are not typically required of wait staff. Now, unless you want to be liable for a lawsuit, I suggest you allow your employee to return to her usual position, yes? We will also award her an extra vacation day for her troubles. Now, would you like to show me around your establishment? I mean, our establishment.”
Maximo was not pleased. I wanted to stand up and cheer, but that would have been wholly inappropriate. Instead, I said a silent word of gratitude toward my new boss.
“I don’t have the time for this,” he grumbled. “Mia will show you around.”
“Sounds great.” Alexander smiled. “Mia, I’m ready when you are.”
I nodded and walked out of the office, back toward the bar. Once the office door closed, I sighed with relief.
“Thanks for that,” I said quickly. I couldn’t even look Alexander in the face. Not only was he young and handsome, but he’d saved my ass. I felt uncomfortable that he’d even heard any of that conversation.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Things are likely going to change around here. I don’t want any of my staff to feel like they have to do something they don’t want to do.”
“Thanks,” I said again.
“Like I said, it’s nothing. Now, can you show me around the bar and give me a rundown about the staff and general business practices? My business partner seems a little busy at the moment.”
I suppressed a grin. “I can do that.”