Served Best Cold
Nesta receives many unexpected customers while working at the restaurant. When the evening takes a surprising turn Nesta must maneuver her way out of a situation that can cost her too much than she can afford. By the end of the night she’ll lose more than she ever thought possible.
I do want to place a warning for people that have been in abusive relationships. This chapter isn’t graphic by any means, but there are some violent parts that might be slightly upsetting. I know people have varying reactions to this type of situation and I just want to make sure you understand the journey ahead and for future chapters.
P.S. Also if work place harassment upsets you this is another warning. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve had to deal with varying degrees of this when I worked as a waitress, front desk staff worker in college and at another place known as the “Most Magical Place on Earth”. Trust me guys. It happens.
The dinner crowd at the restaurant was one of the busiest so far. Around the holidays a swarm of people flocked to the location by couples or large groups.
Nesta had lost track of how many tables she had waited on since she started at noon. Tonight was a long shift, but within two hours she would be done for the night.
“Nesta,” Mrs. Laurent addressed her near the kitchen doors. Her voice was stern and seeped with rigidity.
It was a well-known fact that around the holidays Mrs. Laurent would dismiss any of her workers if they made multiple mistakes during a peak business season. So far two had been cut from the staff.
“What is it,” Nesta asked. She knew full well that she had not been making any errors in orders. Why would the manager be calling her for a talk?
“I need you to serve an important table,” Mrs. Laurent said. “These business people come from an extremely well-known company in Prythian and I want you to handle them.”
“Shouldn’t Marlene or Jane be getting the next tables? Currently I’m already working on-”
“They would be if they weren’t already fawning over the customers,” Mrs. Laurent said. “Many of them are quite handsome and I know I can trust you not to make a fool of yourself by making advances on them.”
“Oh.” Nesta blinked. “Well then I suppose I can take the table since my last few are finishing up their meals.”
“Excellent. The party is waiting for you to seat them,” Mrs. Laurent left Nesta standing there a bit bemused by what had occurred.
Are these people that good-looking?
Nesta shook her head and strode to the host podium in her small black heels. When she rounded the corner to the restaurant’s entrance she almost tripped at the sight that greeted her.
Rhysand, Cassian, Amren and a few other men stood at the podium.
Nesta could see why the other waitresses wanted this group. Each of them was dressed in business casual. Cassian’s form captured Nesta’s attention the most though since his hair was loose in soft waves reaching his shoulders and the grey button down shirt looked far too good hugging the contours of his muscles. Nesta wondered how easy it would be to take off that shirt and have her hands touching the skin beneath.
She dashed the thought away before she ended up making a fool of herself. Taking a deep breath she prepared herself.
“Good evening and welcome,” Nesta greeted with a smile she always used for customers. Instinct took over as she put on her waitress role with forced smiles and an enthusiastic voice that made Nesta want to rip out her voice box. Sadly her true personality never made customers happy so she resorted to the façade that would please others and thus make her earn better tips.
Cassian turned around with a shit-eating grin. Nesta knew he was up to something.
“Are you our waitress for the night lovely lady,” Cassian asked with mirth.
“I am and if you would follow me I’ll be taking you to your table,” Nesta said brightly. She made sure to give Cassian a pointed questioning look. Why of all places was he here?
As Nesta led the way past other tables full of eating customers Rhysand spoke up.
“Cassian told us about this place and requested that he and his security team dine here for the evening as part of their reward bonus this quarter.”
“Did he?” Nesta had told Cassian once where she worked and he always kept telling her that he wanted to see her in action at work. Of course Nesta kept making excuses as to why he shouldn’t go. She merely didn’t want him to see her working at a place that tested her strength each day as she acted extremely perky and enthused when in reality she couldn’t care less if a customer was pissed that they only got three slices of tomato instead of four.
Nesta placed the group next to the window overlooking the city. The table seated eight, which was perfect for their group. As all of them took a seat Rhysand leaned slightly closer to Nesta, but his voice carried across the table where Cassian sat.
“Although if we’re being honest I think he came to see a particular person that has been in his head lately,” Rhysand said with a smile.
“Both his little heads,” Amren added and made a vague gesture around her head and lower half of her body.
Nesta chuckled, but Cassian shot a dark look at Amren.
“Or maybe he was hungry for something else other than his home-cooking,” Nesta said and brought out her pen and small pad of paper to write drink orders.
“You could say I am hungry for something else indeed,” Cassian winked at Nesta who rolled her eyes yet the hint of smile tugged at her lips. Cassian saw the movement and his eyes shone with laughter.
He was going to make her smile for real tonight. Not one of those fake smiles reserved for other customers, but a true one. Cassian knew she was just playing a role reserved for what her job entailed. The urge to let the true Nesta seep out was rising with each passing second. He wanted Nesta bantering with him and shooting him playful looks when no one was watching like she usually did.
“What will you all be having to drink?” Nesta poised her pen and started jotting down each beverage that was requested. “They will be out in a moment so take your time looking over the menu.”
Nesta left her party to grab the drinks. When she made it back to the kitchen Clare stopped her on the way inside.
“Nesta I have a huge favor to ask,” Clare said and fidgeted her fingers nervously.
“What is it?” Nesta asked with true concern. Clare never usually acted this way. She was hired not too long after Nesta and was a seasoned pro at her job.
“This party of five men just came in and I’ve already got their drinks, but they keep trying to touch me and they say such rude things.”
“Did you tell Mrs. Laurent?” The manager did not take kindly to the harassment of her staff. Surely she could come out here and deal with this.
“I would, but I’ve already got two strikes and I don’t want her to fire me considering the mood she’s been in lately.”
“She won’t fire you over this,” Nesta said.
“Yes she will. These men – they’re from Hybern,” Clare cringed at the business name.
“Shit,” Nesta swore. Hybern always got away with this each year when the group came for their meals. Mrs. Laurent always claimed they could do no wrong since she personally knows many of the workers.
Two years ago one waitress came forward about the harassment and was scolded for it. There was no evidence and the men had made quite a complaint with Mrs. Laurent when the accusations were brought forth.
That girl ended up quitting, but Nesta always had the feeling that she was going to be fired regardless from that event.
“I would ask one of the other waiters, but none of the male waiters are here tonight and honestly I think you’re the only one that can handle this group. Please Nesta can you swap me tables, I’ll do all your tables for the rest of the night if that’s what it takes,” Clare pleadingly glanced back at the table she wanted to avoid.
“Mrs. Laurent personally assigned me to a table so I don’t think –” Nesta was about to explain why she couldn’t, but the dimming hope in Clare’s eyes made her stop.
Nesta closed her eyes and counted backwards from five. She hoped she wouldn’t regret this later on.
“Ok let’s swap my recent table for the bastards table you got,” Nesta said. “You need to make sure though that Mrs. Laurent doesn’t see you serving my table though or else we both are in for it.”
“Thank you Nesta!” Clare hugged Nesta and the two swapped the current orders they had.
Nesta went to the kitchen and grabbed the first set of dishes full of food. There were so many plates for just five men and Nesta could already imagine how much food was going to be wasted.
She placed most of the plates onto a tray and hefted it onto her shoulder before striding back into the dining area. On her way she passed by Cassian’s table as Clare gave them all their drinks.
Nesta caught the confused expression on Cassian’s face at the new waitress. His eyes searched for Nesta until he spotted her walking by with the large tray heading for a table a few spaces down. He continued to watch her until he noticed where she was heading. His fists clenched tightly under the table. He knew exactly who the pricks at the table were.
The Hybern men immediately questioned Nesta upon arriving at the table.
“Where’s that cute little server from awhile ago?” One of them asked.
“Was she scared that we would bite? Not that I’m saying I wasn’t tempted.” Another chuckled and showed off his teeth to show that his little joke had underlying truth to it.
“Well at least this lovely lady wouldn’t mind I bet. Would you doll?” The third leaned closer, but Nesta simply stared him down with disinterest.
She took a deep breath and began serving plates. “I’ll be your waitress for the remainder of the evening.”
“Oh?” A man with brown eyes and matching hair raised a brow. “Is that so?”
“Might as well cut to the chase and ask her when she gets off work. We all know that’s what you really want to know Jurian.” Knowing looks were shared around the table by the men.
The corner of Jurian’s lips raised in a slight smile. “You know I always have dinner before the fun,” Jurian glanced up at Nesta. “Why don’t you be a good girl and get me the rest of my food.”
Nesta left without a word before her temper got the better of her. Upon her return with the last batch of dishes the men stopped talking.
Jurian looked toward her chest and Nesta crossed her arms making it clear that she didn’t want him staring.
“She does have nice ones right Jurian?” A man nodded to Nesta noticing how long Jurian had been looking at her breasts. “I prefer big ones myself, but not to big that you can suffocate,” The man whispered. Of course his wheezy voice was loud enough that Nesta could still catch the words.
“Archeron,” Jurian said a bit puzzled at the nametag on Nesta’s shirt. “Are you related to Feyre Archeron by any chance?” The men hushed at Jurian’s words.
Nesta kept a neutral face. Feyre would never associate with men like those from Hybern. If they knew Feyre then it could only mean trouble for Nesta.
“Is she a friend of yours?” Nesta parried with another question. Anything to buy time so she could set down the last plates.
“I asked you first,” Jurian tapped his fingers on the table impatiently waiting for a response.
Before Nesta could answer a hand gripped her waist. The unexpected touch made Nesta stiffen. Fingers pressed tighter and a voice from her nightmares spoke just above her ear.
“It’s been a long time Nesta.”
Slowly Nesta turned her head and was greeted by the sight of Tomas. A boy who should be hundreds of miles away. A boy who shouldn’t know where she was. A monster that now had her in his sights.
“Should have guessed you would be working in a place like this,” Tomas said with a glance around the restaurant.
“What?” Nesta was completely confused. Tomas being here had warped all thoughts except the one that was screaming at her to get as far away as possible.
Tomas gestured to her clothes. “You serving people. That’s pretty much one of the only things your good at.” His hand glided down further and the veiled meaning behind the words was clear.
Nesta pulled away from Tomas and felt the urge to scrub away the contact. “You can’t be here.” You should be far away and gone from my life forever.
“Why not?” Tomas smiled as if he had won some sort of sick game.
“Only customers are allowed to be seated and this restaurant does not accept walk-ins for dinner. You need to have a reservation.” Nesta looked forward to having this bastard kicked out.
“Perhaps you should watch that tone of yours,” Jurian interrupted. “Mr. Mandray is my guest who is joining us tonight. You best treat him with the utmost respect or I will call the manager to fix any issues that arise.”
“You hear that Nesta,” Tomas continued to smile. He knew he had the advantage. “Be respectful. If you can handle it with that venomous mouth of yours.”
Nesta clenched the tray in her hands. Her knuckles turned white as she frowned darkly at Tomas.
“Did you hear him,” Jurian questioned. “If so then answer.”
The men at the table snickered at the silent battle waging between Nesta and Tomas. She wanted to do nothing more than bash his head with the tray. Or toss him out the glass windows.
“I heard,” Nesta clipped out. She made to turn away, but Tomas gave a loud cough catching her attention along with a couple of nearby tables.
Cassian, who had been closely watching the situation unfold, was now glaring daggers at the newcomer at Hybern’s table. It seemed as if they knew each other, but the look of shock and a flash of fear in Nesta’s eyes set Cassian on edge. Clearly she did not want to be around the man. He couldn’t hear the conversation at the beginning, but once the man coughed Cassian caught the next words with ease.
“Say that a little more nicely,” Tomas said. “I want to make sure I’m not just imagining things and that Nesta Archeron actually has a soul in that cold heart of hers.”
An angry flush crawled up Nesta’s neck. People began whispering and the risk of Mrs. Laurent coming out to investigate would mean trouble.
“I said,” Nesta spoke up a bit louder and slower as if Tomas were a child. “I heard you.”
Tomas exaggeratedly pondered her words. His index finger tapped his chapped bottom lip. “I suppose that’s good enough for now. Next time though be sure to say ‘sir’ or maybe something a bit sweeter. I’ll also have water to drink.”
“Your water will be out later,” Nesta began to turn away, but Tomas coughed again. The loudness made Nesta cringe.
“I think you’re missing something on the end of that sentence,” Tomas said thoroughly enjoying watching Nesta struggle with restraint to give into the fury.
“Your water will be out later sir,” Nesta added icily as customers next to her shivered at the coldness in which she delivered the statement.
“That’s better,” Tomas said before taking his seat. He watched Nesta leave and attentively focused on her backside where her curves were.
From Cassian’s table Rhysand was now watching the action unfolding as well.
“Rhys,” Cassian’s voice resembled a growl. After seeing Nesta try to be humiliated by Tomas it was becoming difficult for Cassian to remain calm. “We can’t let them do this. I won’t let them do that to her.”
“I know what you’re thinking, but you can’t storm over there and create a warzone,” Rhysand said calmly. “First I’ll talk with the manager and –”
“You can’t!” Clare squeaked out as she finished taking their meal orders. Realizing her abrupt comment was uncalled for she covered her mouth wishing to take back the words.
“Why the hell not?” Amren took a sip of blood red wine from her glass. Her short glossy black hair shimmered in the light as she pushed strands out of her narrow cat-like eyes.
“Well…we’ve tried to talk with the manager before about Hybern since they are known for…well what you just saw and worse,” Clare said softly not wanting to be heard by other tables. “She knows most of the people from Hybern and refuses to believe the complaints made toward them. The last person that tried to call them out ended up getting fired. Well she technically ‘quit’, but we all know that she was going to get fired if she didn’t.”
“You’re joking,” Cassian looked back at Hybern’s table. “I mean I don’t doubt the complaints, but your manager makes you put up with that shit?”
“If the manager finds out then Nesta and I will get in trouble since we swapped tables,” Clare fidgeted with her pen. “Hopefully they eat quickly and then we don’t have to deal with them for awhile.”
“This needs to be addressed now,” Rhysand reasoned. “If not it will keep happening.”
“Mrs. Laurent won’t believe us though,” Clare then saw Mrs. Laurent making her way through table rounds. “I have to go. If she sees me here she will be upset since she’ll know Nesta and I swapped tables.” Clare quickly left to give the chefs the latest orders.
As Clare went into the kitchen Nesta came out with a glass of water.
Just get this over with and you’ll be home free soon.
Nesta wove around crowded tables until she reached the one place in the world she didn’t want to be.
“Took you long enough,” one of the men said as she set down the glass of water in front of Tomas. She didn’t look at any of the table’s occupants.
“Have you decided on an order?” Nesta poised her pen to write on the paper. Too bad she couldn’t plant the pen into Tomas’s smirking face.
“I can think of one that involves you, me and this table,” Tomas smiled as if this was a normal conversation and not vulgar harassment.
“Does it involve me bashing your face into a fork if you don’t pick out some food?” Nesta said without thinking.
“Now that wasn’t polite,” Tomas leaned forward and it took all of Nesta’s willpower not to startle backwards from the motion. “I believe an apology is in order if you are so keen on demanding orders.”
If he thought that wasn’t polite he had another thing coming. Nesta ignored him and waited for him to choose what he wanted to eat.
“You heard him,” Jurian’s voice raised the hair on Nesta’s neck. “Apologize.” It was given as an order.
Nesta shot Jurian a narrow glance. His brown eyes were enjoying the sight of her inner struggle. Feeding off of how uncomfortable this situation was for her.
“Sorry,” Nesta’s words a smooth poisoned blade ready for attack. “Perhaps if you can’t handle the way I treat improper behavior of customers then you should act with more respect.”
Jurian’s hand twitched into a fist. “I think it’s you who needs to be taught respect.”
A silent standoff between Jurian and Nesta began to unfold.
“Get me the steak dinner with a baked potato and soup,” Tomas interrupted. He was not pleased that Jurian stole Nesta’s attention away. “And you know how I like my meat handled Nesta. Don’t mess it up.” A suggestive grin from Tomas earned him a few laughs from the men at the table.
“You heard the man. Go handle his meat how he wants it,” one rudely guffawed and Nesta was mortified by the stares people were sending her.
Nesta walked away and didn’t dare stray away from her path to the kitchen. She didn’t want to see the looks people were giving her. Nesta could only imagine what Cassian was thinking right now. Of all the days he had to be here it was when she was facing her worst day on the job.
After handing in the latest order to the kitchen staff a small tap on Nesta’s shoulder caught her attention.
“The man with the long dark hair at the table wants you to refill their drinks,” Clare pointed to the Velaris table. Cassian sat with furrowed brows staring at Tomas. It appeared as if Cassian was sizing him up.
Nesta’s eyes widened in shock. What if found out that was Tomas was the man that almost raped her? Cassian had a perceptive mind. He was sure to put the pieces together if he went searching for more answers.
Nesta had to make sure to prevent that. If Cassian started a fight over her then he would get in trouble. And he didn’t deserve that. Tomas wasn’t worth it no matter how bad he hurt her. Cassian should never face punishment for defending her. Nesta could only imagine the damage that would be done if Cassian held to his promise during their first boxing session
“I’d make them wish they never hurt you. They would see what would happen when all their bones are broken.”
“Nesta?” Clare broke her concentration.
“I’m a bit busy dealing with the bastards at my table,” Nesta tiredly rubbed her eyes.
“But he really wants to see you,” Clare said. “Besides you have to wait for your latest food order to get done anyway. Why don’t you help me carry out these plates?”
“Fine,” Nesta sighed before proceeding to carry a few plates on her arm while Clare grabbed the rest. They stepped back out of the kitchen and made their way to the Velaris table. Nesta’s waitress persona was in full effect. She couldn’t let Cassian know how rattled she was with her latest table of moronic assholes.
Rhys and the others smiled when they saw their food. Clare quickly began placing dishes in front of each respective customer who ordered it.
“Who ordered the herb-roasted chicken?” Nesta’s upbeat tone masked the worry she was currently feeling.
“That would be me,” Cassian said. His eyes never leaving hers.
“Here you go,” Nesta reached in front of him to set the plate down. His hand rose to help her lower the plate, even though she had it under control. Unlike the emotions that were beating inside her walls.
His large hand cupped hers and together they eased the plate onto the table. His fingers lingered and gently encased her in warmth.
“I’m tempted to steal you away,” Cassian smiled. “Considering how my time with you was taken away by people who don’t see what they’re up against.”
“I’m on the job,” Nesta stated and slowly eased her hand out of his even though she wanted to stay there the whole evening with him. “You can’t expect me to sit down and chat with you anyway,”
“But you know you want to,” Cassian said as if he could see right through her words. “Besides how could anyone resist this?” He gestured to himself with a grin. Amren scoffed across the table and the men at the table chuckled at Cassian’s antics.
“That’s easy. The moment you open your mouth people go running to the hills,” Nesta’s mouth shifted into a true smile.
Amren laughed. “Casanova Cassian’s charm is no match for the Ice Queen.”
Nesta coughed to cover up the laugh that escaped her lips. She could always rely on Amren to back her up in baiting Cassian.
“I would say my mouth is my best quality,” Cassian crooned until Nesta gently tapped the back of his chair with a menu.
“Behave yourself. You’re in a fine establishment,” Nesta quirked a brow and her eyes brightened with a teasing glint.
“What happens to customers who don’t behave?” Cassian flirted.
“They don’t get dessert,” Nesta implied with a faint smile. The double meaning was not lost to Cassian whose eyes darkened in lust.
“Not at the table,” Rhys interrupted before reaching for his drink.
“Funny you should mention that Rhys,” Amren coolly added. “I remember something about you, Feyre and a table if I’m not mistaken.”
Rhysand almost choked on his drink.
“I better get back to work,” Nesta did not want to hear the story behind her sister and Rhysand involving a table.
“Wait,” Cassian turned and Nesta stopped at the change in his demeanor. Cassian’s eyes were full of concern. “If those men at that table don’t stop harassing you-”
“I can handle myself,” Nesta didn’t need to ask which people he was talking about. “It’s not like I’ve had to handle people like them before.” Nesta didn’t risk a glance at Tomas, but Cassian did. He was trying to connect how he and Nesta knew each other from their previous interaction.
“Nesta-” Cassian tried again.
“Please Cassian stay out of this. It will only provoke them if another person gets involved.” In truth Nesta knew if Cassian went over there it was going to turn into a battleground. She gave Cassian a small smile hoping to ease his worry.
Cassian was silent. Eyes weighing the honesty and hidden thoughts that Nesta was trying to keep from him. With a sigh he conceded. For now.
“Just come back soon,” Cassian said with a returning smile. “Don’t want you to miss me.”
Nesta bit her bottom of her lip to prevent another sentence from being released. As much as she loved this battle and dance with words Nesta needed to get back to work.
Cassian could see it though. She still wanted to play. We’ll continue this later.
Nesta nodded and it was almost as if she had heard his thought.
Across the room Jurian was watching the exchange with interest. He recognized Rhysand, Cassian and Amren from Velaris, Hybern’s competitor that almost completely destroyed their company. The waitress, Nesta Archeron, knew the trio.
This left a perfect opportunity to taunt Rhysand for making Hybern suffer heavy losses from a business deal gone bad. Although the lawsuit ended up bringing quite a few more illegal activities that Hybern was involved in. It was only a stroke of luck that the once dominating company was still barely even keeping afloat today.
Tomas however was confused by how familiar Nesta acted with the group from the other table. She was never friendly back in their hometown. Yet here she was smiling and what appeared to be laughing with those customers.
And then there was the matter of that man and Nesta flirting with each other. Tomas could tell what was going on. Nesta and this other man were looking at each other as if the rest of the restaurant didn’t even exist.
Tomas glared at Nesta as she walked away from the man with an easy smile on both their lips. Tomas flexed his hand underneath the table as the couple was oblivious to being watched.
She’ll learn soon enough what happens when you try to leave me for someone else. Maybe a lesson like Dad always mentions when Mom threatens to take off.
Nesta was unaware of the two increasing dangers that were sitting at the Hybern table when she returned with Tomas’s food. Her experienced hand at serving dishes allowed her to give Tomas his meal in record time.
Now all she had to do was check up on them on brief and rare occasions now that all the food was served. At this point she usually told customers to enjoy the food, but Nesta figured she might accidentally tell Tomas to choke on his food instead.
Just walk away Nesta. Don’t waste more time with them.
“Hold on,” Jurian said. “You’re not going to even speak with us before you go running off?”
“I don’t want to disturb your meal,” Nesta stonily replied holding down Jurian’s stare. She would not cower from this man.
“But you were talking with that other table so much,” Jurian vaguely motioned his hand to where Rhys and the others were. “You’re making us feel neglected when you give them all your attention.”
“Sorry you feel that way,” Nesta’s tone didn’t sound apologetic in the least. “You keep similar friends,” Nesta sneaked a glance at Tomas, “around your table so I assumed you would be fine to talk among yourselves.” And not bother me or anyone else.
“Is that so? And does that mean those people over there are your friends?” Jurian asked. It may have been a friendly question, but coming from Jurian it was anything but that.
“Why are you so concerned about who I keep in my company when you should be focused on your own,” Nesta was tired of keeping this conversation. “Excuse me while I go check on my other tables.”
“You’re not excused,” Tomas said with his shoulders tensed. He was ready to pounce and Nesta’s stomach began to churn at his tone.
“What was that?” Nesta kept up her composure.
“You think you can go back to that table and be with him?” Tomas said under his breath, but Nesta, Jurian and the other men heard him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Let me guess. Are you fucking him? I don’t see why he would considering you’re nothing, but a little pathetic girl who doesn’t know when to shut her mouth.” Tomas’s voice was rising and two couples at different tables turned to look at them in shock.
Nesta tried to defuse the situation while keeping a lid on her own rage that was starting to boil. “My personal life is not your business,” Nesta said keeping her voice down so other tables didn’t notice what was going on.
“It is considering you’re my girlfriend,” Tomas clenched his fists. The action caught Nesta’s eyes. She had to put a stop to this nonsense.
“I am not your girlfriend. And I will never be your girlfriend,” Nesta stated clearly. “We are not compatible in the slightest and if you don’t settle down I will have you escorted out of here immediately.”
Tomas seethed in his seat and the Hybern businessmen watched the event unfolding in front of them in shock. Jurian had the audacity to look amused by the whole thing.
Nesta began to step away seeing as the conversation was finished. Suddenly Tomas snatched her hand and roughly tugged her back. The unexpected action pulled Nesta’s hip into the table and caused the plates to rattle at the force.
The noise drew more customer attention. Cassian, who had been watching since the beginning, had seen Nesta being forcibly pulled. He quickly rose from his table with Rhysand swiftly grabbing his elbow.
“You can’t charge over there,” Rhysand reasoned. “Let me get her away before you start throwing punches.”
“She needs me,” Cassian tried to pull his arm out of Rhysand’s firm hold.
“And you’ll be needing bail money when you get taken away for beating someone up.”
“It may be a murder charge if he doesn’t let her go,” Cassian ground out with eyes never straying from Nesta as she tried to pull her hand away from the bastard’s vise grip.
At the Hybern table Tomas refused to relinquish his painful restraint.
“Let. Me. Go.” Nesta’s mouth was set in an angry expression. If Tomas didn’t release her then he was going to regret ever laying his hands on her.
“Maybe I should go visit your little sister Elain,” Tomas laughed darkly. “If you’re so set on that piece of trash over there then I can take your sister out instead. Maybe she can finish what we only started.”
Memories of Tomas forcing himself onto Nesta flashed across her mind. “You will never go near her,” Nesta fiercely said. “If you so much as even try I swear you’ll regret it.”
“Is that so? Why should it matter if you’re fucking that idiot?” Tomas squeezed his hand tighter and Nesta winced in pain. At this point she could hear Cassian’s voice getting closer.
“You’re such a whoring bitch like your sister Feyre,” Tomas spat out.
That insult was the final crack that broke the wall containing her rage. Nesta’s fist came up and punched Tomas in the face. She heard the crunch of it and the noise spurred her on. So many years of pent of fear and anger was finally being released.
“Don’t you ever say that about my sister!” Her words were a battle cry as she gave Tomas another hit to his jaw that sent him falling out of his chair. His grip didn’t release and Nesta tumbled forward clipping the table and sending a wine glass shattering onto her shoulder.
Dimly she heard shards of broken glass fall to the floor and people crying out in surprise.
Tomas struggled with Nesta until he rolled her onto the ground. She saw him raise his fist.
“This is what I should have done years ago,” Tomas’s mad eyes flared as he swung down.
Shouts rang out and Nesta brought her arms up to block the punch.
For seconds she waited for the blow to strike her, but it never came. The weight of Tomas was wrenched off her body and tossed to the side.
Strong arms grasped her shoulders and pulled her forward into a broad chest. His scent filled Nesta’s senses as one of his hands held the back of her head tenderly.
“Are you alright?” Cassian’s breath ghosted the top of Nesta’s hair.
Nesta didn’t trust her voice to waver and instead nodded. Her cheek rubbed against his chest at the movement. She shakily placed her hands on his forearms to anchor down from the storm that had been brewing inside her.
“You fucking bastard. This is between Nesta and me.” Tomas groaned feet away. Cassian had thrown him off Nesta with so much force the wind was knocked out of Tomas.
“Keep talking and next time I’ll throw you out the window,” Cassian growled out. Nesta could feel the rumble of his voice. She risked a glance up and saw that Cassian’s usual easy-going and smiling expression had transformed into lethal rage.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Mrs. Laurent approached. She looked beyond pissed as she took in the mess before her.
Nesta hurried to stand and took a small step back from Cassian. One of his arms remained on her back to steady her.
“Mrs. Laurent-” Nesta tried to begin explaining.
“She attacked me!” Tomas interrupted.
“Not without reason,” Cassian shot Tomas a death glare. “He provoked her.”
“Cassian stop,” Nesta whispered. “I can explain myself.”
“Then you better have a good reason why this is happening Archeron,” Mrs. Laurent crossed her arms and customers watch in morbid awe of the show before.
“This man,” Nesta motioned to Tomas, “and those at the Hybern table were harassing me. Tomas got physical and that is when I tried to free myself.”
“And why were you even at this table? I specifically assigned you elsewhere,” Mrs. Laurent scanned the area. “Where is Miss Beddor? She has explaining to do as well.”
“I’m here ma’am,” Clare stepped forward nervously.
“Why is Nesta serving at your table?” Mrs. Laurent asked stonily.
“We swapped tables, because the men I was originally serving were saying insulting things to me.”
“And can either of you prove these allegations?” Mrs. Laurent asked with a raised brow.
Nesta heard Clare suck in a breath. This is what they had wanted to avoid. There was no way in hell Mrs. Laurent would side with them if there was no way to prove their innocence.
“We could hear some of the comments from our table,” Rhysand spoke with authority. He must have followed Cassian over in case he needed to stop him from beating Tomas to a bloody mess.
Mrs. Laurent looked shocked to see Rhysand. “Oh. And did anyone else hear anything?”
A few nearby table raised their hands and told Mrs. Laurent that they heard Tomas and most of his words, but in terms of the other men at the table they couldn’t hear them well enough to catch what was said.
“So it seems as though you were the main cause of this fiasco,” Mrs. Laurent turned to Tomas who was now standing on shaken legs.
“Only because Nesta was treating me with the same courtesy,” Tomas said with hate directed at Nesta. Cassian leaned forward to block her from his sight.
“He’s telling the truth,” Jurian spoke for the first time during the questioning. His eyes glinted and his smile was directed at Cassian and Rhysand. Revenge was in his grasp.
“You’re not serious,” Nesta incredulously turned to Jurian. “I said nothing to deserve what Tomas did.”
“Are you sure about that?” Jurian turned his cunning smile on her. “I remember how rude you acted toward all of us at this table. Tomas especially.” Jurian shrugged as if this was expected. “Although I’m not sure why you two were acting so violently considering you’re a couple.”
“He’s not my boyfriend!” Nesta clenched her teeth. “He’s a mistake I regret ever having met.”
“Do not raise your voice Archeron,” Mrs. Laurent sternly said. “And I expect you to apologize to these men right now for you behavior.”
“Excuse me?” Nesta incredulously turned to her boss.
“Why should she apologize for something that is not her fault?” Cassian questioned fiercely.
“She has to pay for her actions,” Mrs. Laurent solely watched Nesta. “I do not tolerate such conduct from my staff.”
This was it. Mrs. Laurent drew the line in the sand. If Nesta didn’t apologize then she was risking her job. But if she did her pride would be crushed all because of filth like Tomas and Jurian.
Nesta bit her lip. If she lost this job then there was no way to help pay for her schooling and apartment rent. Sure she had money saved up, but it wouldn’t last more than three months.
“Nesta?” Mrs. Laurent impatiently tapped a finger on her arm. “We are waiting.”
Nesta had to take care of Elain. Even if that meant tossing her pride and dignity aside for the sake of her little sister. She couldn’t fail her like she failed Feyre.
“I…I’m sorry,” Nesta choked out as if the words caused her pain. “I shouldn’t have let my emotions get the better of me.”
“No,” Cassian suddenly turned on Nesta and held her shoulders. “This is not your fault. Do you hear me Nesta?”
“I can’t risk it,” Nesta breathed. “If I lose my job over something like this…then…” Nesta didn’t want to voice her fears, but Cassian understood. His jaw clenched at seeing Nesta backed into a corner.
“Now that we have that settled,” Mrs. Laurent nodded to security that arrived. She pointed to Tomas and two of the men began to lead him out.
Nesta sighed in relief at seeing Tomas ushered toward the exit. Hopefully that was the last time she would ever see him again.
As she watched him leave Nesta failed to see that Mrs. Laurent also directed security to her as well.
“You will also be escorted out Archeron,” Mrs. Laurent said.
“What?” Nesta’s eyes widened in shock as one guard walked toward her. Cassian’s put himself between her and the approaching man.
“I can’t allow employees that cause such a disruption to remain here,” Mrs. Laurent face showed slight sadness at the prospect of losing Nesta who was one of her best workers. “There can be no exceptions.”
“But I thought that if I apologized…” Nesta trailed off.
Mrs. Laurent shook her head. “It was for your benefit so you wouldn’t feel guilty later on for your actions toward our guests. Having the opportunity to apologize will be better for your conscience.”
This couldn’t be happening. She was still getting fired. There was no point in apologizing to those undeserving bastards in the first place.
“Mrs. Laurent please reconsider,” Nesta pleaded. She hated it. This complete and utter display of weakness, but she had to do something. This job was the main source of income for Nesta to provide for her and Elain.
“I’m sorry Nesta, but you must leave,” Mrs. Laurent said. “I’ll deliver your last check in the mail. Don’t forget to grab your personal belongings on the way out.”
“That’s bullshit,” Cassian ground out. Rhysand grabbed his arm to prevent him from doing something drastic.
“Cassian you need to back off,” Rhys steadily commanded. “You’re only going to make things more hard for Nesta.”
Cassian’s head swiveled back to look at Nesta who was frozen in shock. Still trying to comprehend how her life had taken such a turn.
The security guard made to grab her elbow, but she jerkily pulled away before he made contact.
“I can walk myself out,” Nesta fixated a stern look at the guard who looked a bit unnerved. He followed her to the exit as she strode passed him. Nesta kept her head held high even though whispers followed her out the doors.
“I apologize for the inconvenience ladies and gentlemen,” Mrs. Laurent said to the customers. “Please enjoy the rest of your evening meal.”
Cassian eyed the door where Nesta left.
“Is there anything wrong sir?” Mrs. Laurent broke his concentration.
“Yes there is,” Cassian frowned at the manager. “You’re wrong. And so are these Hybern customers who harassed not only Nesta, but your staff for the past few years.”
“You have no idea-”
“Don’t,” Cassian fumed and set a determined look toward Mrs. Laurent. Hazel eyes still simmering in anger. “Don’t you dare say that we don’t know what’s going on. You’re the only one here that is blind to see what’s been happening.”
Mrs. Laurent looked ready to argue, but Rhysand stepped forward immediately drawing attention to his form.
“I think some dessert is in order to take the bitterness out of this situation don’t you think?” Rhysand smiled innocently at the manager who instantly became placated by the smoothness of Rhysand’s words.
“Let me personally have some dessert menus delivered to your table,” Mrs. Laurent walked off leaving a fuming Cassian and relaxed Rhysand.
Casually Rhysand began to make his way back to his table, but he placed a hand on Cassian’s shoulder. Grounding him to not make any rash decisions with Jurian smirking at them in triumphant at what had transpired before him.
“Go to her,” Rhysand didn’t have to say whom he meant. His next words were a quiet warning for Cassian’s ears only. “Do not go after that man.”
Cassian clenched his fists. That man, Tomas, was a monster. The urge – no the need to punish him for what he did to Nesta was impossible to defy.
“We need more background on him before we can pursue any legal action,” Rhysand finished softly. They would make Tomas pay. Not now, but in due time when the evidence was stacked in their favor. Rhysand and the others would make sure of it. Cassian just had to be patient until they could take the bastard down.
“Fine,” Cassian understood, but that didn’t mean he liked waiting. “I won’t touch him.”
“Or talk to him,” Rhysand knew his friend who was more like a brother to him. Cassian was known for brute strength, but his words were also a force to be reckoned with. Especially when those he loved were involved. And Nesta had become increasingly precious to Cassian over the past few months.
“We can’t let them get away with this,” Cassian said.
“And they won’t,” Rhysand agreed. He patted Cassian’s shoulder once before returning to his table.
Cassian then left the restaurant to find Nesta. He had to ask around before another server told him that she had already grabbed her belongings and was heading to the exit that led outside.
After doubling back Cassian made his way through the waiting area where people stood in-line to walk in for their reservations. It didn’t take him long to see over the people’s heads and spot Nesta already walking out the doors into the already darkened Prythian streets.
He quickened his pace and rushed out the doors. Nesta continued walking down the sidewalk with her arms curled around her body. The dark grey pea coat she wore billowed against a rough gust of wind.
“Nesta! Wait!” Cassian called. His voice caused her to stop, but she didn’t turn. Her shoulders stiffened in preparation of whatever he was about to say.
He approached and moved to stand at her side. “Nesta let me take you home.”
She turned to him then. Her face hard set in a neutral expression. Wall after wall was fortified against the onslaught of emotions in order to keep them inside to where no one could see them.
But Cassian knew. He could tell she was furious and upset. Most of all he understood that deep down she was suffering. From losing her job and what it meant combined with what she thought was a loss of dignity after apologizing to Jurian and the others.
It made him want to make Tomas and those other bastards beg for her forgiveness. He wanted to tuck her into his chest and let her release the emotions she was bottling up.
“Cassian I’m fine,” Nesta’s posture solid against the winter wind. “No need to worry about it.”
“Stop saying you’re fine when we both know it’s not,” Cassian rubbed a hand up her forearm. It was then that he noticed he had walked outside without grabbing his jacket and other items.
“Well there’s nothing that will change the past,” Nesta looked away from Cassian. She stared down the sidewalk with contempt. “I’ll just have to adjust and move forward.”
“I should have intervened earlier,” Cassian admitted. He could tell they were riling her up each time she had gone to their table.
“No,” Nesta shook her head and looked back at Cassian. “If you had gotten there any earlier I imagine it would have ended a lot messier than what it did.”
“Your shoulder,” Cassian glanced at where the glass had shattered on her. Beneath the jacket though he couldn’t tell if she was injured.
“I don’t have any battle scars if that’s what you’re trying to get at,” Nesta rolled her shoulder with ease. Not the slightest bit of pain showed on her face. Then again she was known for masking her feelings.
“I’d feel a lot better if you would let me drive you back to your apartment,” Cassian repeated. “Then I will check that shoulder myself to make sure you’re not lying.”
Nesta huffed in agitation. “Go back inside and enjoy that meal I gave you. It better not go to waste with you taking me home when I can easily take the subway.”
“He still might be out here,” Cassian looked around as if daring Tomas to show his face.
The implication made Nesta pause in fear. Finally she shook her head as she realized that Tomas wasn’t around. “He already left. I saw him take a cab earlier from the window before I walked outside.” Still she couldn’t avoid the dread and aggravation rolling around inside of her knowing that Tomas was in Prythian. She had thought leaving her hometown would be an escape, but now her nightmare was finally on her heels.
Ever so slowly Cassian reached one hand to cup Nesta’s face. She blinked in shock at the warmth of his palm cradling her cheek. The last hour of events were finally taking a toll on Nesta. It was at that moment that a tear slid down her face and Cassian’s thumb brushed it away.
“I promise that I’ll protect you Nesta,” Cassian roughly spoke. “You and your sisters don’t need to worry about Tomas, Jurian or any other person who thinks they can try to hurt you.”
Nesta remained still at the words. His promise affected Nesta in a way nothing else had. Cassian vowed to protect her sisters, the two most important people in her life.
She swallowed and at last turned away from Cassian. The promise felt too good to be true. That anyone would even go to such lengths for Nesta to protect her family made her heart clench.
Cassian stared at Nesta as she wrangled with what he had just told her. Torn between wanting to show appreciation and claiming that she was strong enough to deal with this on her own.
“I wish you would just rely on me instead of trying to act all tough,” Cassian rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. “It’s ok to admit that you need help Nesta. Why not just accept it when someone offers to give you hand?”
“Because I don’t need it,” Nesta’s voice raised a fraction. She wanted it, but she felt that she didn’t deserve the right to have such a moving promise made by someone who would lay down everything for anyone who needed it.
“I can handle myself,” Nesta continued. She had to handle it, because if not who would take care of Elain, the rent and college funds?
“Like how you handled it inside? When Jurian and his fucking lackeys were treating you like shit the whole night?” Cassian’s voice lowered with each passing word from his lips. He was upset by the evening’s turnout and now Nesta wouldn’t even let him help. “Or maybe when Tomas grabbed you and was about to hit you? Was it handled then?”
Nesta’s face looked stricken before she swiftly hid her emotions. Cassian caught it though. He quickly realized his mistake.
“Nesta…I didn’t mean –”
“Fuck off Cassian,” Nesta shouldered by him roughly and set a quick pace for the subway station.
Cassian wasn’t going to let this go. They weren’t leaving each other like this. His longer legs immediately caught up to Nesta. Easily he wove into her path.
“Would you stop running from me?” Cassian remained firmly in front of Nesta as she tried to cut him down with her icy stare.
“I’m not running, especially not from some jerk who thinks he knows everything!”
“Maybe if you would talk to me then I would understand,” Cassian gritted out. He wouldn’t be surprised if steam was rolling off from him in this cold air.
“I can’t,” Nesta tried to find the words as she looked away. A car passed by and Nesta still had yet to form any sort of explanation.
“You can’t?” Cassian crossed his arms. Not because he was cold, but that he waiting for her answer. The posture was that akin to a commander waiting for a response. Or perhaps a petulant child who wasn’t going to give up until they got what they wanted.
Nesta blinked. And soon enough she was trying to blink back tears.
“You’re such an idiot,” Nesta whispered.
“What was that?” Cassian questioned. “I’m the idiot. Because the person I care for doesn’t even trust me enough to talk about this?”
“No that’s not the reason,” Nesta still looked toward the street.
“Then look at me and tell me why,” Cassian huffed out bitterly.
“Because it hurts!” Nesta whipped her head around and Cassian saw two tear tracks that left wet trails on her cheeks. “I can’t talk about what happened, because it hurts to remember.”
Cassian stood frozen in shock. He shook himself out of his stupor to finally respond as Nesta wiped her tears away.
“I’m sorry…Nesta I –” Cassian reached for her again.
“Just stop!” Nesta dodged his hand. “I don’t need this. I don’t need Tomas, my dad or anyone else that has made everything worse. And I don’t need your damn apology or help!” Her voice cracked at she cried out her last statement. This time when she brushed by Cassian he didn’t stop her.
In the winter night he stood still with his hand dropping down to his side. Finally he returned back to the restuarent with peculiar looks by everyone in the building that noticed him from before.
He sat down and stared at the herb-roasted chicken that Nesta had given him earlier. The memory of the slight warmth in her hands had faded from the cold air outside.
“Cassian?” Amren’s cat like eyes were faintly concerned.
He shook his head not wanting to talk about what had transpired outside.
Amren shared a look with Rhysand. They knew something had happened, but they would wait to question him later on in privacy.
Slowly Cassian began to eat his food. It was tasteless in his mouth.
Dessert was then served with Rhysand paying for it. Cassian watched as Clare also delivered a couple bowls of ice cream to the Hybern table.
Jurian’s confused look prompted Clare to point out that the dishes were sent by Rhysand.
Cassian raised a subtle brow at Rhysand as he watched Jurian glance at their table.
Clare said something else that made Jurian’s face tighten.
“What did she say?” Cassian asked Rhysand who merely turned and smirked at Jurian.
“I requested that she serve him ice-cream and to deliver a message that some of the best dishes are served cold.”
“Like revenge,” Amren agreed sweetly. Her eyes glinting at what the future may hold in store for Hybern.
Cassian nodded before finishing the rest of his meal. Slowly the bitterness of the evening began to taste better knowing that Hybern would soon be getting a dose of revenge.