Taste of Love - By Stephanie Nicole

Chapter One

Madison looked in the mirror as she brushed her long brown hair, gathering it all in one hand. She put the brush down, and after a series of twists and turns, her hair was in the ever present sloppy bun that she always wore to work.

Madison's thoughts were running through what needed to get done. All the meat had been ordered the previous day, but the produce order had yet to be placed. She mentally listed off the specials that they would be having over the next week. She would have to compile a list of fruits and vegetables tonight at work.

What else? The new bartender. She was going to have to sit down and have a little chat with him about his attitude toward the male patrons. He was great with the women, even though his flirting tended to get a little out of hand, but he was distant with the men that sat at the bar. He treated them as though they were an inconvenience to him, even though it was likely costing him tips.

Yup, he definitely needed an attitude adjustment, and if he didn't like it, there were plenty of others lining up for his job.

Madison took one last look in the mirror. Satisfied with her appearance, she returned to her bedroom to finish getting dressed. She wore the same thing, day after day. Black pants, black shirt. Her black chef coat was waiting at the restaurant for her. There was no need to bring it home, for each day all of the laundry was sent out to be cleaned.

Finally Madison was ready to head out the door. She walked the twelve blocks to her restaurant, taking the same comfortable route that she took every day. Along the way, she waved to the people she knew; the corner florist outside watering her stock, the older gentleman that worked the newsstand outside of her favorite coffee shop, the guy that sold the knock-off purses the block over from her restaurant. In a city as big as New York, it was nice that there were some constants, people that you could count on seeing every day.

As she rounded the corner, Madison noticed a small crowd milling around the entrance to her restaurant. She quickly checked her watch and noted that she was three minutes late. She quickened her pace a little, digging through her shoulder bag to find her keys.

"Hey guys, sorry I'm late. I must have been daydreaming on the way here." Madison apologized as she unlocked the door to The TigerLily, the restaurant that she had owned for the past year.

"Three minutes late boss, you're slipping! What kind of example are you setting for the rest of us?" the head waiter asked.

Madison looked at Austin. He was a foot taller than her, and worked out every morning before he came into work. Next to him, she looked like a tiny bird who should be intimidated. Instead, she stood straighter and looked him right in the eye. "I'm quite certain I slip up less than you. And don't forget who signs your paychecks."

A collective "oooh" rose from the employees standing in the street.

Austin nodded in agreement. The rest of the employees headed inside to get started on their opening duties. They were used to the playful banter between the two friends.

Austin held the door open for Madison, smiling as she passed under his arm. "You win. You always win."

"And don't you forget it," she smiled. "Now get to work."

She tried to sound like she was giving harsh orders, but Austin was the one person that she didn't need to tell what to do. He had been her friend since high school and her head waiter since she opened the doors to the restaurant. He was truly one of the hardest workers she had ever met, and the only one that Madison entrusted the restaurant to in her rare times of absence.

While the rest of the employees busied themselves preparing to open for the day, Madison went to her office to get a few things done. She placed her produce and liquor orders, then printed out all of the employee checks. Knowing that they would not need her in the kitchen for a few hours, she busied herself paying bills. As constant as the movement seemed in the kitchen and floor of the restaurant, it was just as busy in the back office, where the piles of paperwork seemed to multiply like rabbits the moment she turned her back.