A Flighty Fake Boyfriend (Men of St. Nachos #2) - Z.A. Maxfield

Chapter One

Today, the server’s name badge read Muse. I’d been to Bistro a total of four times this trip, and he’d been Bob, Jeremy, and Jackson.

That wasn’t the only reason he interested me, although I love a mystery. The kid was college aged, bright, and funny. Plus, he had a winning, affable personality.

He always remembered the last thing I’d eaten and asked how I’d enjoyed it. He was also remarkably bossy. Like on the first morning the hostess had seated me at one of his tables, he decided I needed avocado on my omelet due to the fact I looked…well, like me.

Driving to Luis’s wedding in Santa Barbara had seemed like a pretty good way to unwind, but I hadn’t been taking care of myself. The route was long with lots of lonely stretches.

I didn’t expect the thing that drove me—the restlessness that made me burn the candle at both ends at work—to sit on my shoulder the whole time.

I seriously needed this vacation. Too much work and stress resulted in a badly misused body—namely, mine.

Muse, Bob, Jeremy, whatever his name was, noticed things like that. He treated every customer to his particular brand of mother-henning. He made suggestions and even overrode the unhealthy choices of those he knew best in a gently teasing way that probably doubled, even tripled his tips. I’d been unusually generous, and I had a reputation for tipping well.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him when he was in the room.

As I scrolled through the many urgent messages on my phone, “Muse” brought water.

“Good morning. Did you want coffee today?”

Oh, I did. I wanted coffee so badly my eyes would probably bleed. But with the hangover I had after partying with Dan and Cam at Nacho’s Bar the night before, coffee might be a bad idea. Going easy today might save me.

“Herbal tea if you have it.”

“Certainly. Have you decided on breakfast yet, or do you need another minute?”

I didn’t bother looking at the menu a second time. "Oatmeal, please. And dry toast.”

His eyebrow rose. “Would you like the usual accompaniments?”

“I’m sorry?”

“We serve steel cut oatmeal with brown sugar, dried fruit mix, and half-and-half.”

“That’s fine.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure?”

“Is there something wrong with that?”

“Not a thing. I just wondered—because of the oatmeal and dry toast—if you’d rather have soy milk.”

“Half-and-half is fine.”

“Okay. Sure. That was really weird, wasn’t it? I’m sorry.” He took the menu from me and walked away, shoulders tight.

I went back to the messages on my phone until he slid a pot of water onto the table before me and said, “Teabag?”

I opened my mouth to offer an off-color reply, then closed it. “Sure.”

“We have several herbal teas.” He opened a chest and let me look at the variety within. I picked one at random. Usually, I had no choice. I didn’t know what the difference between the teas he offered could be.

“Thank you.” I removed the teabag from its packaging and placed it in the hot water pot.

Oatmeal and toast arrived shortly after that. My server stood next to the table until I looked up again.

“Is there anything else?” he asked.

“No, thank you.”

He didn’t leave. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.” I glanced around. No one else seemed to think he was acting weird. Weirder. More weird than normal.

“Okay. Thank you.” He walked away again, his shoulders as tense as before.

I tried a bit of my oatmeal. It seemed okay—at least my stomach didn’t rebel. I added some dried fruit and half-and-half and had another few spoonfuls.

Nausea fluttered, making me swallow several times. Herbal tea usually helped with the sensation, so I took a long swallow. This was the hangover talking, right? There was no reason to invent a connection between the wedding and any digestive issues I might be having.

I felt eyes on me. To my left, my server peeked over the half wall that hid the point-of-sale machine. When he saw me, he ducked. I briefly wondered if I’d missed a news report about spree killers who matched my description.

The tea was good. I ate my breakfast slowly. At home, the entire purpose of food was fuel, and I managed as much as I could before pushing the bowl away. Beads of sweat itched at my hairline.

When the waiter came back, he dropped the check and whispered something in my ear.

“Excuse me?”

“Meet me out back.” He jerked his head. “By the dumpster.”

My need for a cigarette caused me to linger in the parking lot, so I thought why not?

“Muse” slipped