Maid for Advertising - Susie Tate

Chapter 1

Mad Men


“Mad Man! What’ll it be?” I shouted across the bar. It was Friday night happy hour, and the place was heaving. My feet ached from overuse, my hands ached from mixing endless cocktails, my head ached from the relentless music and my cheeks ached from my fake smile. Working at Dragon’s Den was about as far from helping out at the local pub back home as you could get, and not always in a good way. The only music that got played in the Nag’s Head back in Bogner was an occasional bit of Elton John, and even then only when Mandy the landlady was feeling frisky.

Terry, my boss, had had me on the floor for a while serving at tables but there were . . . problems: wandering hands, up-skirting photos and a higher proportion of split drinks versus actual ones served. Now I was kept firmly behind the bar despite my poor cocktail-making skills. Terry said it was safer that way.

Mad Man, aka Jack leaned over the bar and smiled at me. He was a regular. Nearly every week he brought clients here. He and his other designer-suit-wearing friends propped up the bar and flashed their cash most Friday nights. Everything about them screamed loaded, from their Italian leather shoes to their tailored suits complete with tie clips. Tie clips. To me they were the Mad Men, as most of them worked as advertising executives in the same company round the corner. And Jack was my firm favourite - his dark hair, gorgeous five o’clock shadow, and piercing blue eyes. He was just so male and grown up and burly. I don’t think I’d ever described a man as burly before. Probably because the adjective had been left in the 80s where it belonged to describe lumberjacks, bikers and Vikings. But, despite the designer togs and perfect grooming, burly just seemed to suit Jack down to the ground. He was nothing like the boys at the Academy. Jack was tall and well-built and oozed confidence. He was a proper adult and he seemed to have his shit together. As someone with their shit very much all over the place, I found that unbelievably attractive. Plus, he was just a thoroughly decent, funny-as-hell guy.

“Three Corona’s please, Urvi,” he said through his smile, and I felt heat rise to my cheeks. He always pronounced my name the proper way, the way my family said it, with the right intonation and everything. Even my closest friends didn’t say it the correct way, and for some reason it made me feel connected to Jack like he knew me.

Which was ridiculous.

Yes he could charm the spikes off a hedgehog, and yes there had been that time – the time when he hadn’t come in with a client or his mates, but instead sat alone at the end of the bar all night. He’d stayed on until it was just him and a couple of other stragglers at the bar, and I’d asked him if he was ok. You know, like a good barmaid should - be a sounding board for other peoples issues, have some chat, tell bad jokes, make them feel listened to. But keep myself out of it.

“What’s with sad, frowny badger face?” I’d asked him, which had managed to lift the corners of his mouth a tiny fraction.

“Badger?” he asked through his not-quite-there-smile.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re just in the early stages of badgering.” I pointed in the general direction of his beard which had some grey in it and given him a wide smile. “It’s a compliment, just to clarify. Badgers are hot.”

He blinked at me and the smile had started to creep out a little more. “Badgers are hot is not a phrase you hear often.”

“Well, you’ve never met my roommate, you lucky bastard,” I muttered. “Listen it can’t be that bad can it? I bet you’ll sort it all-”

“It’s not really the type of thing I can sort as such,” he said as his smile faded and his grim expression returned.

My eyes went wide. “God, I’m sorry, what if it is that bad? What if someone’s died? What if you’re dying? See, there you are adulting and saying appropriate stuff at all times, and here I am insulting a grieving and or dying man.”

He blinked again and the blood drained out of my face, but just as I started to think I might have really insulted him he finally given me a full