Surely, she does not trust him. She knows that possibly he will betray her again. She knows that surely he will break her heart again. There is tension between them. Gias job and future are in danger. Her family does not approve.

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My heels clicked across the dark marble of the massive lobby with a tempo that echoed my racing heart. With damp palms, I slid my ID across the security desk. My nervousness only increased after I accepted my visitors badge and headed to the elevator. The man had turned out to be really bad for me; the job could change my life in an amazing way.

Still, despite my inner pep talk, my breath caught when I stepped out onto the tenth floor and saw the smoked-glass entrance to Savor, Inc. Waiting to enter, I studied the number of well-dressed young women sitting around the reception area.

I doubted any of them had held three jobs to help pay for college, either. There was a faint aroma of sugar cookies in the air, a comforting scent from my childhood. Taking a deep breath, I checked in with the receptionist, a pretty African-American girl with an easy smile, then I stepped away to find a bare place against the wall to stand.

Was my scheduled appointment time—for which I was nearly half an hour early—a joke? I soon realized that everyone was set for a brisk five-minute audience, and they were marched in and out precisely on time. My skin flushed with a light mist of nervous perspiration. When my name was called, I pushed away from the wall so quickly that I wobbled on my heels, my clumsiness mirroring my shaky confidence. He showed me in with a smile. I took a moment to really get a good look at her, admiring how the strip of silver hair at her right temple had been artfully arranged into her elaborate updo.

She was slender, with a graceful neck and long arms. And when she looked up from my application to consider me, I felt exposed and vulnerable. She slid her glasses off and sat back. Why the restaurant industry? Sixty percent of new establishments fail within the first five years. That was way too personal. I want to help other people achieve theirs, too.

I appreciate you coming in today. I stood, my mind racing with ways I could turn the interview around. I work hard. You juggled multiple jobs while maintaining your honors GPA. Disappointment pierced through me. I used to be proud of my looks, my family, my roots. I hated that I was constantly second-guessing all of that now.

Impulsively, I decided to reveal why I wanted to work with her so badly. Yeung, please listen. You and I have a lot in common. I had nothing to lose at this point. You proved people wrong. I just want to do the same. As far as Mondays went, that was one of the worst of my life.

He was the youngest. His righteous anger on my behalf made me smile despite myself. The oldest of the Rossi boys—and biggest prankster—bumped Angelo out of the way to set my meal in front of me with a flourish. We had a lot of regulars and often a celebrity or two, incognito, who came here to eat in peace. Angelo bumped Nico back with a scowl. Her lips pressed against my cheek.

It still sucks. She spoke frequently about women in business and had been featured on a number of midmorning talk shows. She had immigrant parents and had worked her way through school, making a success of herself even after being betrayed by her mentor and partner. Working for her would have been a powerful statement for me.

I forked up a bite of pasta dripping with creamy Alfredo sauce as I watched her. A lot of customers did. She was beautiful and flamboyantly sexy.

Her violet-red hair was teased just high enough to give it volume and frame a face that was classical in its symmetry, with full lips and dark sloe eyes. She was statuesque, with generous curves and a taste for gold jewelry. Men and women alike loved her. My mom was comfortable in her skin, confident and seemingly carefree. Very few people realized how much trouble my brothers had given her growing up. She had them well trained now. Taking a deep breath, I absorbed the comfort around me—the beloved sounds of people laughing, the mouthwatering smell of carefully prepared food, the clatter of silverware meeting china and glasses clinking in happy toasts.

I wanted more out of my life, which sometimes made me forget how much I already had. Nico came back, eyeing me. He was a customer favorite at the bar, especially with the women. He was darkly handsome, with unruly hair and a wicked smile.

A consummate flirt, he had his own fan club, ladies who hung out at the bar for both his great drinks and sexy banter. I blinked. She smiled at me, looking much younger than she had during our interview, dressed casually in jeans and a pink silk shell. Her hair was down and her face scrubbed free of makeup. Lei caught the stem of her glass and stroked it with her fingers. Her gaze caught mine. Nico, who was good at knowing when to disappear, moved down the bar. I started to cringe, then straightened up.

Blaming him would give him too much credit. I left the door open and he walked through it. I need fresh eyes. I swiveled toward her. I work all the time. All the Rossi sons had figured out who I was talking to and, as usual, none of them were shy.

Most of the time we bitched about seeing one another too often. Lei thrust out her hand and introduced herself to Nico and Angelo, then to my mom, who had wandered back over to see what the fuss was about. My dad and Vincent gave shout-outs through the service window. A menu was set in front of Lei, along with a basket of fresh bread and olive oil imported from a small farm in Tuscany.


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