“What do you do?” Jaime took his first bite of filet and nearly had his eyes roll into the back of his head.
“I’m an investigative journalist. Sort of. Trying to be. I work for an online publication focused on the paranormal and unsolved mysteries right now. That’s why I’m here.”
“Here? For what?”
“There’s local rumors about this place being cursed or something and having a run of unexplained disappearances. When it’s not the Tea House, people call it…” Rick glanced around and leaned closer as if sharing a great secret. “Hollow House.”
Jaime would have laughed, but he couldn’t help the chill that trickled down his spine. “Hollow? Why that?”
Rick shrugged. “Like a hollow in a tree, I guess. You know, a bottomless pit that sucks you in and you never leave. Well, some people leave. But there are stories!”
Jaime relaxed. Stories was probably all it was, and it wasn’t hard to imagine where they’d come from with an old building like this and all the mystery around a benefactor. “I’ll let you know if any of the roses start wilting.”
Rick barked a laugh. “Eh, it pays.”
Logan was finishing up serving the family, after taking a few custom orders for milk and some extra bread. At least the family genuinely seemed nice, all thanking Logan affably, even the little girl, who couldn’t have been older than four.
As Logan wheeled the food cart back across the room, Sheila and Gary stopped him to order wine. There must be a limit on glasses the guests could have because Gary tried slipping a twenty into Logan’s pocket with a request for a couple bottles, but Logan politely refused and set the bill on the table.
Rick stopped him to ask for a glass of wine too. “You, Jaime?”
“Oh, um… I like wine, and my mom used to let me have a glass or two on occasion, but I’m not old enough.” He felt like a preteen having to say that even though he was almost twenty and hardly a kid.
“Guess you won’t make an exception in this case either, huh, Mr. Concierge?” Rick grinned Logan’s way.
Logan looked honestly apologetic. “I’m sorry, Jaime, but—”
“It’s fine,” Jaime broke in. A glass of wine would have been nice after the day he’d had, but he didn’t want to get Logan in trouble. “Thanks anyway. Dinner is amazing.”
Logan preened again, and then proceeded to move the cart into the corner of the room near the door before departing, which still had several covered plates on it, as if waiting for other patrons.
“Jaime, huh? He’s never used my first name before,” Rick said with a teasing smirk, and Jaime felt the heat rise in his cheeks. “Don’t worry. I won’t ask you to try schmoozing for my benefit just coz he likes you. Not that I’m not tempted. I don’t think I’m ever gonna crack him. I keep trying to catch some of the other help instead, but they are seriously ghosts. I’ve never seen a single one.”
“Maybe because they’re all really good at their jobs and like it here,” Jaime offered. It wasn’t hard to tell Logan took great pride in his work. “They don’t want some reporter getting them fired.”
“Fair.” Rick chuckled. “But a haunting or monster story exposé could be good for business. People love that stuff! Why do you think I have a job? Anyway, there’s always at least one unhappy worker. I just need to find them. I was thinking of staying up as late as I can tonight, maybe take a midnight stroll through the halls. Feel like joining me?”
Jaime coughed around his next heavenly bite of filet. He liked Rick. This wasn’t some creep trying to hit on him or get him into trouble, but Rick was definitely a thrill-seeker and maybe a bit of a bad influence. “I don’t think Logan would be too happy about that.”
“You like him too, don’t you?” Rick’s grin turned fond older brother more than pure teasing. “I’m not much of an authority on the subject, but he sure is pretty. You’re, what? Nineteen, twenty? And he can’t be more than twenty-two. Sounds like an even match to me.”
“I’m just passing through,” Jaime said with a bashful chuckle.
Rick caught Jaime’s eye and winked. “Never stopped me. But I guess that means I can’t convince you to potentially piss pretty boy off, huh?”
“Sorry, I’ll pass.”
“Had to try.”
They enjoyed their meal with Rick telling Jaime about some of the stories he’d covered in the past. Mostly potential hauntings, and while he had a few tales of the unexplained happen to him, nothing he’d experienced was concrete evidence of the paranormal.
Logan brought out the drinks and tended to additional needs of the guests, including seconds for the family upon request, which Logan provided from the cart. No matter what Logan was doing, he always passed Jaime a soft smile or flutter of his long pale lashes whenever their eyes met.