Please welcome Ava Hayden with
Table For One
Nick DiGiaccomo waits tables at Fortissimo, an exclusive restaurant in Oilton, Alberta. He loathes drama, particularly the kind that makes its appearance on Valentine’s Day.
This Valentine’s Day is especially bitter. Eight months ago Nick’s heart was broken when his lover walked away without a word over a misunderstanding. Too proud to call, Nick’s heard nothing from him since. But on this, the most romantic day of the year, he keeps his feelings well-hidden and his professional smile firmly in place.
That is, until he sees his ex-lover, Mark Mishimoto, at a table for two in his section—and his Valentine’s Day goes from bad to downright horrible.
To make matters worse, a winter storm descends, hours earlier than forecast. When the restaurant closes, Nick finds himself stuck downtown in the middle of a blizzard with no way to get home and nowhere to go. Mark lives conveniently close by, and he’s offering up his couch. Nick could use a place to lay his head—but is it worth risking his heart?
Nick glanced over his shoulder at a loud cry. A twentysomething woman held her hands to her cheeks, mouth open in astonishment, staring at her plate.
The smug man next to her had arranged for Fortissimo’s pastry chef, Annabel, to incorporate one of her signature chocolate boxes into the woman’s dessert. When his date removed the lid, she’d found something wonderful—probably an engagement ring, based on her reaction. Now she was wrapped around the man, and he was grinning like a lottery winner as Marcel, the sommelier, arrived with a prearranged bottle of Asti Spumanti and glasses that weren’t part of the restaurant’s bar stock. Christ, the guy had brought commemorative flutes? Nick turned back to the bar before anyone spotted his eye roll. What a cliché. Didn’t anyone have an imagination anymore?
Laurent, their Quebecois bartender, smiled as he slid the gin and tonic onto the tray.
“Wishing it was your table?”
Nick snorted. Hardly. He hated that sort of drama, the kind of public gesture that
demanded everyone’s attention. Romantic? More like coercive. Manipulative. Aggressive. Why couldn’t people just show up, eat a nice meal, and go home to do their proposing—after leaving a good tip, of course. Mattias and Marcel were going to score hella tips off lover boy.
Mark smiled and murmured polite thanks when Nick placed his drink before him. Nick tucked the tray under his arm and stepped back.
“Are you still playing soccer?” Mark asked.
Don’t flush. Don’t flush. Don’t flush. “I hadn’t signed up to play the winter season, but I got asked to fill in when Brandy’s Snifters lost a couple of players.” After Mark left, Nick hadn’t had the heart to stay on with the Gastros. Brandy was bar manager at a downtown brewpub, and she captained one of the few teams that usually needed more guys. The coed teams Nick had played on before were always looking for women.
“Okay, that’s an... interesting team name.”
“Beats the Deep-Fried Koozies.”
Mark laughed. “What does that even mean?” His laugh was infectious. Hearing Mark always used to make Nick laugh too.
“No idea. I was afraid to ask.”
Nick had gotten into an adult coed indoor soccer league three years earlier, when he’d moved to Oilton, Alberta, for university. When his coworker Laurent found out Nick had played soccer in high school and all through his enlistment, he brought him along to a Gastros practice. Instant social life and a good way to get his adrenaline fix.
“What about you? Still playing?”
The warmth in Mark’s eyes dimmed, though his smile stayed in place. “Yes. Different league, though. I live downtown now. I wanted to stay closer to home.”
Nick nodded. “Nice.” He stepped back. “I’ll check back soon.”
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About the author:
Ava Hayden lives and writes in western Canada but grew up in the southern United States. She comes from a family of storytellers and began creating her own at an early age. She’s still telling stories, but now she writes them down.
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