Sneak preview of: Cleaning Up Finn, by Sarah M. Chen — Coming May 15!!

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Cleaning Up Finn

Chapter 1

For the third time that day, Finn Roose regretted hiring Emily as his hostess. Sure she had big tits, but man, she seemed to have an irritating knack for interrupting him just when he was about to score a number.

Like now, for instance. The smoking hot redhead in the center booth, the one he had been working the entire lunch rush—shit, for the past month actually—was just about to give him her digits when Emily swooped in and ruined everything.

“Mr. Roose?” Emily tried her best to wedge herself in between Finn and the redhead’s table. “Some guy is on the phone for you. He’s kinda hard to understand.”

Finn felt his face tighten, trying desperately to ignore her childish voice. He remained focused on the redhead, her cleavage specifically, and stretched his smile further until his face hurt.

“We can go out on the boat tonight, darling,” Finn purred, angling his body away from Emily. He touched the woman’s pale bare arm. Just enough to give her a taste of what would be in store for her later that night. God, she had soft skin. “If you would just give me your—”

“Do you want to take it?” Emily continued, undaunted.

The redhead was now looking at Emily, uncertainty clouding her face, and Finn knew he’d lost her. He dropped his business card on the table, the special ones with his cell phone number on the back, and said, “Call me.” The redhead barely acknowledged him with a slight nod. Christ.

“Take a message, hon,” Finn ordered Emily. The restaurant was emptying, signaling the lunch rush was over, and he would need to start cashing out the servers.

“But he seems really anxious to talk to you,” she said.

“Then he’ll leave a message.” Finn headed to the host stand at the front of the restaurant with Emily trailing behind him. He smiled at the guests who were leaving; this was supposed to be Emily’s job for god’s sake. “Good-bye, thanks for coming.” Finn nodded to the business suits pushing through the glass doors that led outside to the parking lot and the marina beyond.

He noticed the redhead and her lunch buddy were heading to the back of the restaurant, probably for the restrooms. Maybe he could have another crack at her before she left.

But after taking off a pizza that wasn’t to table twenty-one’s liking and comping a sundae for a birthday girl on table fifty-nine, there was no sign of the redhead. He’d missed her. Hopefully she’d be back for her weekly lunch next Tuesday with her co-worker or preferably, alone. Finn didn’t even know her name yet.

He noticed Tomas, his bartender from the Ukraine or Hungary or whatever fucked-up shit country he was from, unceremoniously drop the bill off at a posh-looking couple without so much as a smile or ‘thank you.’ Finn gritted his teeth. He’d just had a talk with the kid the other day about customer complaints of his surliness and bad attitude. “All you have to do is smile,” Finn had instructed for the hundredth time. “Is that so hard? To fucking smile?” He wasn’t even sure if Tomas knew how. He was a hard worker, but shit, even Finn was nervous around him with that blank stare, monotone voice, and imposing six-foot-four frame. He’d even heard rumors Tomas had been in a Turkish prison.

Frustrated with everything, he settled himself into his cramped office and Jason, his takeout server, appeared in the doorway, holding his receipts and cash in one outstretched hand.

“Ready for me?” Jason asked.

“Sure,” Finn responded with a tired ‘come on in’ wave.

After Jason, two more servers appeared, hovering in his doorway. The next hour zoomed by as Finn cashed out server after server. Marisa was the closing lunch server and when she showed up with her receipts, he knew it was about four o’clock. He was ready to go home. Maybe call his buddy Porter to see if he was up for watching the Laker game at Sports Cove.

Marisa was chattering away as usual, and Finn tried his best to ignore her while he counted her money.

“And can you believe that poor girl is missing?” Marisa asked, shaking her head.

Finn froze mid-count and looked up at her. “What girl?”

Marisa’s eyes widened. “The missing girl? It’s been on the news all day.”

Finn felt like his heart was beating inside his head.

“Uh, okay this is good. I gotta make a call. You can go.” Finn practically shoved Marisa out the door.

“But you didn’t even finish counting my money. I have to—”

“Just go, it’ll be fine, sweetheart,” Finn insisted. He slammed the door after her and swiveled to the small television in his office. He flipped quickly through the channels until he found a local news station.

A smiling anchor appeared, thanking Laura for her weather report. His jovial demeanor shifted to a serious look. Finn turned up the volume, leaning in closely.

“—what authorities are now treating as a missing persons case. If you’ve seen this young woman, please contact Redondo Beach police. We have Susie Chin right now in Phoenix. Susie?”

Finn stared with horror at the picture of the familiar young girl, and then it cut to a perky Asian woman with a microphone. She was standing next to a middle-aged mousy woman and a hulking man with beady eyes whom Finn assumed were the parents. The man’s meaty hands gripped his wife’s shoulders.

“Thanks, Bob. I’m here at the home of the young woman’s parents in Phoenix, Arizona. Mrs. Havemeyer, when did you discover your daughter was missing?”

Susie thrust the microphone into the grieving woman’s face. Mrs. Havemeyer sucked in her breath and peered into the camera with her husband glaring right behind her.

“I—I waited for Rhonda to call me. But then three days went by and I didn’t hear from her so—so I got worried.” Mrs. Havemeyer sniffled. “I called her cell phone but she wasn’t answering. I called her hotel, but they said she never checked out and—and all her stuff was still there. And now—now it’s been five days and—”

“I want to know what the hell happened to her,” the husband interrupted. “If I find out something happened or someone…” He clenched his teeth.

Susie waited and then when she realized the man wasn’t going to finish, turned back to the camera. “Rhonda Havemeyer is supposed to be headed to Arizona State University next week. We pray she’ll be found and reunited with her family. Bob, back to you.”

Finn sank back into his chair as Bob launched into the next story about the Los Angeles County Fair. He turned the television off and felt his whole body trembling. He needed some air.

Finn hurried outside, telling Emily he’d be right back, and headed towards the U-shaped Redondo Beach pier walkway that bordered his restaurant, the Waterfront Grill, and the adjoining Waterfront Hotel. He walked along the pier until he reached the busy arcade on the other side, the bark of nearby sea lions echoing in his head. He fumbled with his suit jacket, yanking it off. Shit. He was having trouble breathing.

 

 

 

Sarah M. Chen

 

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