First chapter of Dominated but not Subdued #2

(La Trattoria Di Amore)

Prologue

Carl glanced around his restaurant. The beautiful room filled him with a sense of pride. The tableware gleamed under the lighting. The vibrant, bold Italian prints used for the tablecloths, chairs, and curtains stood out against the stark white walls and dark wooden tables. Subdued tiny pink lights embedded in the ceiling took away from the harsh white and gave the room a dreamy quality.

It was perfection…if only he didn’t have interviews today. He sighed. Why did he do this to himself?

Interviewing for staff was one of his least favourite things to do.

He fidgeted in his seat next to Sebastian, who sat sipping his espresso, giving him a hard stare.

“I hear your mind whirring all the way over here. That guy was a total loser. Who turns up dressed like that? He burnt the lenses right out of my eyes with that bloody day-glow top.” Carl shivered and rubbed at his eyes for effect. “Whoever told him orange was back in fashion needs shooting.”

He glanced at the next application form, doing his best to keep the laughter inside. Ever since they’d become partners in the restaurant, Carl had worked hard to loosen Seb up a little.

His gaze skimmed down the CV and the accompanying letter Adam Grainger had submitted. It was well written, and on paper, the guy looked like he was worth an interview. But still, he was a baby. Knowing he could use this to get a rise out of Seb, Carl schooled his features.

“Dear God, why have you printed this one off? He’s a fucking baby, for Christ’s sake. How does a nineteen-year-old know how to manage shit all? I bet he woke up one morning, saw the advert, and thought, ‘oh I can do that.’ Every applicant we’ve had has been clueless.”

“Carl, everyone is too young as far as you’re concerned. Since you hit forty, it’s like you think you’re over the hill and everyone else is an infant. What were you like when we interviewed for the wait staff? I’ll tell you. You acted like you were older than God,” Seb huffed.

Carl looked up, pointing at Seb. “You wait till you hit forty. Then tell me you aren’t looking at all these young whippersnappers and feeling every one of your years.”

Carl bowed his head, finished reading, and then placed the application down. He glanced at the wall clock. “He’s late, so that’s a strike…”

“Hello. Is there anyone back there?”

A head popped around the partition separating the main restaurant from the reception. The man stepped forward, continuing, “There’s no one manning the desk, and I’ve been waiting for ten minutes.”

His enquiry was directed at Carl, who slouched in the booth, well aware the man was letting them know he’d heard their conversation.

Adam Grainger—because who else could it be—walked towards the booth, without waiting for an invitation, and stood looking down at Carl and Seb.

Seb stood. Carl paid him no mind, feeling a little flustered at having been caught unawares.

Seb held out his hand. “Hello, I’m Sebastian Smythe, owner of La Trattoria Di Amore, and this is part owner and head chef Carl Bentley.”

Carl, who remained sitting, ignored the raised brow Seb aimed in his direction, and the “get up off your backside” glare.

Seb’s clenched jaw, Carl’s surmised, was because of his lack of acknowledgement and apparent display of rudeness. But Adam Grainger had poleaxed him, and Carl wasn’t convinced his legs would hold him up, so he remained sitting.

“Sorry, I should have sent someone to check you’d arrived. We’re running a little behind because we are prepping for the evening dinner service.”

Seb offered Adam a seat. Doing his best not to show how ruffled he was, Carl shuffled the papers with the interview questions laid out in front of him. He tried to get his mouth to work, but fuck, he’d all but swallowed his tongue. Adam Grainger was a total wet dream. The fitted dove-grey suit and pale pink shirt open at the collar highlighted a lean body. Cropped dark hair streaked with blond highlights framed his stunning, golden face. Pale green, luminescent eyes reminded him of the sea in the Caribbean, while his full pouty lips made him consider if Adam would be as sweet and juicy as a ripe peach. Those full lips hid a perfect set of pearl-white teeth. Were they veneers?

The thought fled under the full impact of the flirty smile, which showed two little indents in Adam’s cheeks. Carl all but groaned out loud at how his body reacted to the idea of licking those two little dimples.

I’m far too old, so forget it. Besides, my likes would scare this little boy.

Would it, really?

Carl ignored his internal questioning and sat forward, offering his hand. “Hey. Shall we get on with this?”

Adam’s soft hand took hold of his in a firm grip, squeezing. His pale eyes challenged as they held Carl captive before releasing his hand. Carl sat back, distancing himself when his common sense flew out the window. His dominant side surfaced, wanting to show this man who exactly was in charge. His hands twitched. He almost felt the weight of his beloved paddle in his palm with the thought of bringing Adam to heel and making his arse glow red from the swats.

Seb, unaware of Carl’s battle, picked up his pen and asked, “Shall we start?”

Adam nodded, and Seb launched into the pre-prepared questions.

Seb made several notes on his pad. Pulling himself together, Carl finally managed to find his tongue and join in, asking the questions he’d been given.

Adam liked to talk, and Carl liked the flirty tone a little too much. His fears Adam’s young age meant he wouldn’t know jack shit faded after about ten minutes. The guy seemed to have his act together. The list of questions he’d compiled for them, wanting to know about their business model, showed insight and understanding about managing a restaurant. He’d even pointed out a gap in their service when they were full. His question about whether they directed their patrons to their sister restaurants had Seb scribbling on his pad.

Carl fiddled with the papers in front of him, though his brooding gaze never left Adam.

An hour later, Carl was desperate for a moment alone. Adam’s herby-scented aftershave was doing a number on him, and he was finding it harder and harder to concentrate as the minutes ticked by. He willed Seb to wrap things up.

“I think that answers all our questions,” Seb stated, flicking a glance at Carl for confirmation.

Carl nodded.

Seb carried on, “Once we’ve reviewed all the applicants, we’ll give you a ring. It should be later today, and if not, it will be tomorrow. Unless you have anything else you want to add, you’re free to go.”

Adam shook his head. “No, I think you answered all my questions.” He stood, giving a toothy smile. “Thank you for your time and your consideration for this post.”

Carl felt the weight of his sea-green eyes.

“I’d just like to say I know I’m young, but you won’t find anyone more dedicated or committed. When I put my mind to something, I always make it work.” He paused, looking at both men. “I’d work my backside off to make sure your business runs smoothly and efficiently.”

Carl imagined said backside doing more than running the restaurant. Instead he’d be bent over Carl’s spanking bench, which would be a more apt place for the gorgeous man. The vivid thoughts ran wild in Carl’s head, and he was reluctant to touch the offered hand as Adam leant over the table towards him and Seb.

He let out a relieved breath when Adam thanked them again for their time. He felt Adam’s final flirty grin all the way down to his toes. Adam spun around, hips swaying, as he walked with confidence across the room and out of sight, not once looking back.

The moment his pert backside disappeared around the partition wall, Carl slumped against the booth and rubbed his sweaty palms down his baggy black chef’s trousers.

Then Seb spoke. “I liked him, but I think you were right. He might be just a tad young for our clientele, though I’m not sure how much longer I can carry on doing the manager’s job and my own. Maybe I should ask Ellie if he’d be willing to step in while we advertise again. What do you think?” Seb asked.

Carl almost saw Seb’s mind working overtime, already trying to figure out the logistics of whether their office assistant could take on the additional role.

At the very idea of giving the job to someone else, Carl’s pulse skipped a beat. “Oh, come on, he’s perfect, and you know it. Those were some great ideas he offered. Streamlining our processes and generating business. The reward scheme for valued patrons was a stroke of genius,” Carl said before he could stop himself.

A voice in his head told him that being in close contact with Adam would be like putting kryptonite around Superman’s neck, but he couldn’t seem to stop. A part of him was desperate to have Adam in his vicinity, even if it was only to be able to see him daily, and nothing more.

Who am I kidding?

Seb stopped what he was doing, eyeing Carl. “Are you serious? You were dead set against the idea before you met him.”

“Yeah, maybe. But he is the only one who seemed to have what we need.” He shrugged, doing his best not to fidget under Seb’s appraising stare. “His age seemed irrelevant once he got talking. You kinda forgot he was a kid.”

Seb held his hands up as Carl continued to heap on the praise. “Okay. Okay. If you’re sure. There was no one else close to him anyway. We’ll offer him the job. But mark my words. I bet he won’t last longer than five minutes. And on that note, we’ll start him off on a temporary, six-month contract. If he fails miserably, we have an out.”

With the pile of papers clenched in his hands, Seb stood, and Carl ignored the considering look he was giving him.

“You can ring him to tell him. Oh, and make sure you tell him it’s on a temporary basis till he’s proved himself,” Seb said.

Seb strolled through the door leading to the kitchen. Carl’s gut clenched. Have I just made a big mistake?

He stood and ambled around the tables, his mind fixed on how Adam might look sitting at his feet in submission.

Stop, so not going there. Seb’s written rule, remember?

In every restaurant contract—no exceptions—was a strict rule: no staff fraternisation. It was a big no-no, and he needed to remember that. Never mind that Adam was far too young for him.

Carl went into the kitchen. He needed some busy work to take his mind off a certain little cheeky imp and give him time to figure out why Adam’s show of dominance towards him had rubbed him the wrong way.

Carl was a Dom through and through. That might be why.

He huffed and rolled his eyes. Yeah, like I don’t know.