Here's another picture - this is how I imagined Chloe.
Chloe’s heart leaped in her chest and a surge of adrenaline propelled her out of her chair and down the stairs.
“Is he okay?” She fought to maintain her usual calm composure. “What happened?”
“He’s bleeding all over the freakin’ kitchen but he won’t go to the goddamn hospital,” Alejandro cried.
She hastened into the kitchen to find Tyler yelling at everyone to get back to their stations.
“Dinner’s in less than an hour!” he shouted. “I’m fine, for Christ’s sake.”
A blood-soaked towel wrapped around his left hand.
Chloe approached him, taking deep breaths.
“Tyler, let me see,” she said calmly.
“Shit, Chloe, I’m fine.” But he let her open the towel and look.
The sight of the deep cut to his flesh made her knees go weak and her stomach roll. But she couldn’t show Tyler that. She took another towel from the sous-chef’s outstretched hand and wrapped it tightly over the blood-soaked one. “Thanks Carlos. Come on, Tyler. I'll take you for stitches. You’ll be back before dinner.”
She prayed the ER wasn’t too busy - but even if was, the restaurant could survive without him for a few hours.
“I don’t need stitches,” Tyler snapped. “I’m fine.” “Carlos, can you get my purse?”
The surge of relief in the kitchen was palpable as she led Tyler out the back door.
“Sorry, Chloe,” Carlos said in her ear, handing her her purse. “You’re the only one who can make him listen to reason.”
She nodded and smiled reassuringly at him. “We’ll be back.”
She drove as fast as she could without appearing to panic. Her heart was pounding and she knew she wasn’t breathing in enough oxygen because she was starting to feel just a tad lightheaded. Damn.
“What happened, Tyler?”
“I was trying to get some frozen demi-glace out of a can. I was stabbing it with my knife and it slipped. Shit, shit, shit.”
He rubbed his pale face, then glared at his wrapped hand.
“Does it hurt?” She slanted him a sideways glance.
She smiled. “Tough guy.”
His lips quirked too. “Bet your ass.”
Luckily the ER wasn’t busy and when they recognized Tyler from his recent television appearances, he was seen quickly. While he was stitched and bandaged up, Chloe stayed with him.
“Such a fucking stupid thing to do,” Tyler muttered, his face tight with pain.
“It was an accident.”
He shook his head, closed his eyes. “I’m just so stressed lately. Sometimes...it’s all too much.”
She stared at him. “But, Tyler...I thought you wanted all this.”
He opened his eyes and met her gaze. “I thought I did too.” He rubbed his forehead with his uninjured had. “I mean, I do. But sometimes...I just want to cook.”
Oh lord. Maybe that explained his volatility lately. He’d always been moody, but he did seem to go off more easily the last few months.
The nurse gave Tyler painkillers to take with them and they were back at the restaurant an hour and a half later.
“You don’t need to go back on the line,” Chloe said.
He tossed the painkillers into his mouth and ignored her, striding back to his mise.
“Who cleaned up the blood?” he asked with a grin, now cheerfully relishing the gruesomeness of the incident.
“I did,” Carlos said. “Good, job, chef.”
“What orders do we having hanging?” Tyler barked.
“You’ve got two steaks on order for the deuce on five, three soles are fired.”
And he was back into focused, intense movement.
Chloe wobbled up the stairs to her office and collapsed into her chair in a heap of stretched-out nerves and spongy muscles. Her body trembled and her heart thudded, the reaction to Tyler’s injury delayed by having to deal calmly with him.
She pushed her hair off her face with a shaky hand and sucked air into her lungs. Thank God he was okay. There’d been so much blood...she’d been afraid he’d severed an artery or cut off a finger.
She allowed herself the luxury of wallowing in emotion for exactly two minutes, then pulled herself together. She hated feeling like this. Emotion exhausted her, scared her. Nothing good ever came of it. Damn Tyler for scaring the shit out of her.
She took a deep breath. Okay, time to go home. Michael was picking her up at seven to go to a new play at Center Stage Theatre and she had to get ready.
She and Michael had been dating for a few months and he was a nice man – easy going, intelligent, a good companion for the rare times she wasn’t working. She cared about him. Okay, it wasn’t an exciting relationship, but excitement wasn’t for her, and he seemed all right with that; maybe he was hoping things would develop over time.
At home, as she changed into a dress, her mind remained back at the restaurant. But she had to have a life outside the restaurant, so she touched up her make-up and forced a smile at her reflection in the mirror.
Michael arrived at her door exactly on time.
“Hi, Chloe.” He kissed her cheek. His conservative suit fit his tall, slim body with custom-tailored perfection - expensive and classy and entirely appropriate to his work as partner with a prominent accounting practice. His hair receded slightly from a high, intelligent forehead. “You look lovely.”
“Thank you.” She smoothed down the skirt of her black sheath dress, also conservative and appropriate. Her concession, her fashion weakness, were her sharp-toed, spiky-heeled black pumps. She picked up a wrap and a small evening bag and locked the door behind her.
“This should be a nice evening,” Michael said as they drove to the theatre in Paseo Nuevo.
“Mmmm.” Chloe gazed out the window of Michael’s BMW.
“You’re so quiet, Chloe,” he remarked a few minutes later. “Everything okay? Chloe turned and smiled at him. “Sorry! We had a little accident in the kitchen just before I left. I guess it’s distracting me.” “What happened?”
Chloe hesitated to mention Tyler. Any time she talked about him to Michael, the atmosphere seemed to chill by several degrees.
“Tyler cut his hand. I had to take him to the hospital for stitches.”
Michael frowned. “Is he okay?”
“Yes, he’s fine now. Did you read the review in the paper today about the play?” She was totally changing the subject.
Chloe laughed through the hilarious play along with the rest of the audience and after, when she and Michael went out for drinks with some of his associates, she forced her mind away from Tyler’s face, pale and tight with pain, and his jaw-dropping admission that he wasn’t entirely thrilled with the way his life was going.
Later, Michael walked her to her door. “Can I come in?” he asked, voice low and pressing.
“I’m really tired. I’m sorry, Michael...”
Disappointment and annoyance flickered on his face. But he leaned down and gently kissed her lips.
“Okay. I’ll call you next week.”
She walked into her small house, shut the door behind her and leaned back against it, eyes closed. He wanted more, and he was starting to push harder. How long would he be prepared to take her out, escort her around town, before he got tired of their shag-free relationship?
She sighed and pushed away from the door. She should just sleep with him. She did care about him. They got along well...so why not? Maybe Saturday...they were going to a party hosted by one of Michael’s clients. Yes, Saturday. When he brought her home, she would invite him in...and screw his brains out.