Ben was in a very large pickle.
He had gotten his young, attractive, and distrusting employee drunk. Off of one beer.
Her cheeks were red, and her words were slurred. She'd gotten a little giggly. And, she was having trouble keeping her eyes open.
They had walked to the restaurant, so he was now walking her home. She was taller than he had realized. She didn't quite fit under his arm. Her shoulders were slender. Her feet were crossing over each other. He was trying to focus on not letting her fall.
He got her into her apartment and laid her down on the bench in the bay window. He looked around and realized that she only had a bag of clothes and toiletries. No blankets. So, he took his jacket off and laid it over her.
How did a girl like her end up living in a cot above a dingy hot pot restaurant in China Town? He ran a hand over his face and sat down on the floor. He leaned his head against the wall and sighed. He turned his head slightly and caught sight of her hand hanging over the edge of the seat. It was rough, her skin was dry and her nails were full and cracked. He felt the urge to give her a manicure.
The fact that anyone would have to be in her situation bothered him, and he would have made the offer to assist anyone who worked as hard as she did if she had been anyone else... Right? Yeah. He would have. He totally would have.
"Why?" Her rough voice woke him up.
He popped awake, then flinched at the crick in his shoulder.
She sat up and pressed her hands to both of her temples.
"S-sorry. I-I-I brought you home and-and then I guess I fell asleep," he was stammering. Why was he stammering?
She put a hand over his mouth.
"You are too loud," she said.
"Not much of a drinker, are you?"
"Alcohol isn't worth the money," she responded.
"Come on," he helped her stand from the bay window. "Let's feed that hangover, then go get you some furniture. You are in desperate need of at least a sofa."
"I'll be fine with just the window seat," she murmured.
"Yeah, but I'm not fine leaning against the wall all night," he responded as they left the apartment in the same clothes they'd had on the night before.
"You planning on crashing here more often?" She asked.
He darted his eyes. That's not what he'd meant to imply.
"Don't they need me at the restaurant?" She'd asked. "I'm their only wait staff."
"Not anymore," he smiled. "We're done with seven day work weeks and ten hour shifts. I hired three waiters last week, and two apprentice chefs. The Chan's need weekends, too."
She was staring at him. Maybe it was the hang over, but she really could not see him as anything but kind anymore. He'd put some sort of a spell on her. She was even thinking he was cute. Especially with that bed head smashed up against his face. She wanted to reach out and comb her fingers through it.
She smacked both of her cheeks to snap out of it. He was her boss.
They pulled up to Ikea.
"I thought we were going to eat first," she grumbled as they got out of the car.
"We are. Swedish breakfast, and it's free if we spend at least one-hundred dollars on furniture," he flashed that smile again.
What was this stupid feeling in her chest?
They ate their food and drank their coffee before diving into the show room.
"This is some kind of furniture hell," she said and rubbed her eyes.
"Are you kidding me? A frugal girl like you? This place should be your furniture dream come true," he laughed.
And then he pulled her headlong into the maze.
They left with a long receipt and a delivery truck on its way.
"I don't feel right," she said in the ride back to her apartment. "Taking all of this from you. I haven't earned it."
"Are you kidding me? Consider it back pay for all of the months you've spent working seventy hour weeks at a third of your salary. As far as I'm concerned, we are far from giving you what you deserve."
No. She really could picture him as anything near deserving of the ire she'd had previously. He was nothing but kind.