Okay, here’s my rewrite.
Adam Harper’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of the help-wanted sign in the window. It was for a utility person, a person who could fill in where needed. He pushed the door open and walked into the coffee shop, hoping he didn’t look desperate. The aromas freshly-brewed coffee and bacon and eggs surrounded him. Hunger gnawed and rumbled like a growling rat in the pit of his stomach. At 6:30 in the morning, there were already customers sitting at the counter and and in some of the booths.
“Sit anywhere you like,” the petite, woman behind the counter said. Her thick strawberry-blond hair was pulled back and coiled into a large bun at the back of her head. A fringe of bangs covered her forehead. She’d stuck a pencil through the bun. “Menus are on the tables. I’ll be with you in a few minutes. Sorry, it’s only me here.”
“That must be why the help-wanted sign is in the window,” Adam replied. He surveyed the booths with light-blue Naugahyde-upholstered benches and sat in a vacant one near the door.
The pretty woman rushed over to him. Puffing, she pushed a stray lock of red-gold hair off her cheek with the back of her hand. Her nails were clipped short and unpolished. Adam’s fingers tingled with the urge to reach up and stroke her cheek.
“You wouldn’t know anyone looking for a job, would you?” she asked.
Relief washed over him like a welcome shower. “Yes, I need a job, but it’s been a long time since I worked in the food industry. I waited tables when I was in college. That was 20 years ago.”
“That’s good enough,” she answered with a nod. “I’m Claire Scott.”
“Adam Harper. Don’t you want to check out references?”
He winced. Why did I say that? What references? Out of work newspaper reporter? Writer with writer’s block? Why did I open my mouth?
“Under normal circumstances, I would.” He heard the panic in her rising voice and his pulse quickened with sympathy. “This isn’t normal circumstances. Mr. Harper, I’m desperate. Without help, I’m about ready to lose my thriving business.”
Leaning toward her, his muscles relaxed. “When can I start?”
“As soon as you’ve eaten breakfast.” She heaved a sigh and sounded as relieved as he felt. “Is that your stomach I hear rumbling?”
Prickly heat crept up his face. He lowered his eyes. “Yes.”
“It’s be a while since you’ve eaten, hasn’t it?” Her voice was soft and gentle.
He looked into her green eyes. “Yes. Sorry, the smell of food set me off.”
“This morning’s special is bacon, eggs, and hash browns with all-you-can-eat pancakes. Is that okay or would you like to look at the menu and order something else?”
His stomach rumbled again at the mention of food. “You don’t know how good that sounds. Why are you willing to hire me, just like that? You ought to be more careful.”
“I just told you. I’m desperate. You need a job. Was that your stomach again?”
“Forgive me for asking. When was the last time you ate?”
“Two days ago,” Adam lowered his eyes again and fidgeted with the spoon in the place setting in front of him. Grown man, college graduate, lost his way, can’t even make it on his own. “I need this job.”
“Ahhhh,” she replied. “You know, someone as hungry as you seem to be could have resorted to stealking – at a convenience store or a market. You obviously didn’t or you wouldn’t be in here. I think it speaks well for you that desperation hasn’t turned you into a thief. I’m going to take a chance on you and if it doesn’t work, at least you’ve had something to eat this morning. How do you want your eggs? Scrambled? Sunny-side-up? Over easy?”
“Whatever’s the easiest. It all sounds good to me.”
“Doesn’t make any difference. None of them are difficult.”
“Do you want coffee or tea? It comes with the breakfast.”
“Coffee – black,” he said. “How much will it be?”
She wrote on the order pad. “You get whatever meal is being served during your shift. Since you’re here for the breakfast shift, you get breakfast. If you’re here until closing, you’ll get lunch, too. I’m not open for dinner. If you stay past closing and help with the cleanup while I prep for tomorrow, you can have whatever’s left over for dinner.”
He took a deep breath and exhaled. The painful knot his stomach loosened. “You don’t know how grateful I am.”
“You might not be so grateful when you find out how much work it is. “There are no other employees right now. You’ll be bussing tables and waiting tables. Sweeping and mopping floors, dumping trash. Oh, and cleaning the restroom, too. I’ll teach you how to cashier as well.”
“Anything. I’ll do anything. I’m sorry if I sound so desperate but I am.”
Heat crept into his face at the admission; his forehead dampened with perspiration.
Claire nodded. “It’s okay. I’m desperate, too. I have a lot of customers and won’t be able to keep up with the demand by myself much longer. I’ll get your breakfast.”
“Thank you,” he murmured.