She patted me on the back. “When you are done with these, you'll be a true south Alabama girl.”
I studied the gross creatures in front of me and decided right then and there that if this is what it took to be a true south Alabama girl, I'd much rather stay a true Tennessee mountain chick.
Four hours later, after some help from Marcus, and even a little help from Mr. Greg, there were twenty pounds of clean shrimp. Now, I will never put one in my mouth, but I sure can peel and devein one “like nobody’s business”...or at least Mr. Greg said I could. Ms. Mary walked over and handed me a bowl of lemon juice and water.
“Here, girl, soak those hands in this. The smell will be gone in about ten minutes.”
I stared in horror at my hands and realized the smell I managed to get use to after hours of working with the nasty little things, now clung to my hands. I sank them down into the cleansing concoction as quickly as I could. My face must have expressed my thoughts because Ms. Mary threw back her head and laughed one of her deep belly laughs that always made me smile.
“Girl, you sure keep this place interesting. I don’t know what I did before you came here to make me smile.”
I grinned and shrugged sheepishly. Marcus walked into the kitchen and saw my hands in the lemon juice mixture, and then sat down beside me and slipped his in it too.
“I just got a whiff of these fingers outside and realized I needed some help.”
I slid my hands over and gave him plenty of room. “What I don’t understand is why people eat these things willingly. I would think their appearance is all it would take to turn them off. And if the nasty look of them isn’t enough, they should sit and try to peel and devein the little things.”
Marcus grinned and shrugged. “I happen to like them.”
I rolled my eyes. “It is because all you beach people think they are the food of the gods, when they are really just nasty old ocean floor feeders.”
Marcus wiggled his eyebrows. “Maybe so, but they sure taste good.”
I made a gagging noise, and he laughed.
“Okay, you two, I need you cleaned up and dressed within the hour.” Ms. Mary stood with her hands on her hips. She said to Marcus, “When will William and the others get here?”
Marcus glanced over at the digital clock on the large stainless steel industrial size refrigerator, and then back at Ms. Mary. “In 23.4 minutes, ma’am.”
She rolled her eyes and turned back toward the stove. “Once they get here, I expect you and William to give them their orders. Sadie, just do as Marcus directs you. He has done this thing before for Master Jax, and he knows the ropes.”
Marcus slipped his hands out and dried them on the towel beside me. I considered taking mine out, too, and decided I'd touched more shrimp than the rest of them and needed more soaking, so I stayed put.
“It’s not like when you’re feeding the family. You will be expected to smile and mingle among the guests with food on a tray, and not bump into anyone, or drop it.”
His gaze darted to Ms. Mary, whose back was still turned, and then back at me. “One thing I want to warn you about is the fact there will be guys here tonight. They are not going to find you invisible.” He reached up and tugged at one of the curls falling down out of my ponytail. “This hair and those eyes are hard to miss, and although I have to give it to Jax, he is a nice guy and not like most guys in his position, some of the guys here tonight will not be so nice.”
I nodded not sure what he meant by this. “Okay,” I said, hoping he would elaborate.
He leaned down toward my ear. “They will flirt with you heavily and some may touch you in areas they have no business touching. Tell me if they do. I don’t care who they are or how much money they have, it isn’t all right for them to do those things.”
“Okay,” I said again for fear my voice would betray my nervousness if I said more.
Marcus stood. “You won’t be alone, so don’t worry. Preston and Rock are coming. Which is another reason you should tell me if someone messes with you. If Preston were to see, I think he might get us all fired.” With a wink, he left the room.
I sat there with my hands in the lemon juice and thought of what flirting heavy may entail, and how I might get out of tonight’s event.
“Girl, the smell left your hands an hour ago. Now you’re just turnin' them into lemon-scented prunes.”
I took them out of the lemon mixture and dried them off on the same hand towel Marcus used. I sniffed them to ensure their fresh scent and smiled at their lemon aroma. “Ah, much better.”
Ms. Mary laughed and shook her head. I stood, took the bowl to the sink poured it out, and placed the bowl in the dishwasher. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get changed before the party started, so I forced myself to get focused and not dwell on what might happen. Besides, I’m pretty tough. Heck, I’d just peeled and deveined twenty pounds of shrimp. I could do this. I couldn’t expect Marcus to sacrifice his job to stand up for my honor. It wouldn’t be the first time a guy made unwanted advances at me. Preston might be a concern, but I wasn’t convinced Marcus was right about Preston’s interest in me. How long could this last anyway? I could handle anything for a few hours...right?
The outfit the girl servers had to wear reminded me of a French maid’s costume with a little more fabric. Marcus seemed so worried about making me comfortable about tonight, I couldn’t let anyone know how nervous I really was. First off, I knew I would see Jax tonight. The fact that he’d made no effort to see or speak to me after our trip to the grocery store stung, but honestly I shouldn’t have expected more. He was famous, rich, and beautiful, and I worked in his kitchen. It irritated me when I thought of all the things I told him. Something about his eyes made me want to spill my soul. I was too mature to stoop to mooning over a teenage rock star. I pulled my hair up into a loose bun on top of my head, which I always thought made me appear older. Right then, I needed all the confidence I could muster. If I dwelt on my actual age, I tended to freak out in stressful moments. I would be serving the oysters, nasty little things, and the shrimp cocktail, which I seemed to have formed a weird bond with, so I didn’t mind those as much. Marcus stood in the kitchen talking to Preston and Rock. Trisha and a girl I remembered from the pool were standing over to the side giggling.