This was not a request for once! I actually thought of the idea and wanted to do something I thought of. I got the idea from reading a Hunger Games fic post-Mockingjay where Peeta rebuilds his family's bakery beside Katniss. I found it sweet and touching and came up with this idea of my own to draw two worlds together. Hope you enjoy it!
For the sake of the story, the Valois children will be Bash, Francis, Leeza, Claude, Charles and Hercule.
The title of the story translates into 'The way into my heart'. I'm going to make this food-themed a little, haha!
It's early in the morning when Francis turns the lights on in the kitchens and heads to the office. It's his turn to open up and get everything started before the staff arrive in thirty minutes and his brother in an hour. It's a Saturday, one of the days off he gets from his first year at university and he dumps his coursework and textbooks on the office desk along with his backpack and Macbook.
He heads to the front of the restaurant, starting to organise the chairs from the tables back onto the floor to get ready for breakfast service. Finishing with the last seat, he grabs the table cleaner and cloth and starts wiping the tables down and setting them up with sauces, flowers and napkins, neatly presenting the knives and forks and spoons.
Eventually, the chefs arrive and start cooking quickly after they had stayed late on Friday for meal prep and Francis scowls at the clock, wondering when his brother would arrive. Bash had finished university a year back and still unsure of what he wanted to do with his degree, he had decided to manage the Paris restaurant location on their father's and Francis's mother's behalves.
Francis is only working here for the money. He's saving up to move out of the family home and away from his annoying younger siblings. He sometimes gets jealous of Bash who lives with a friend of theirs in central Paris somewhere, courtesy of his mother and his friend's parents who are pretty well-off to afford a place mortgage-free.
As for Francis and his family, they are quite well off after owning five restaurants with the hopes of setting up a sixth location abroad in England but Francis had to choose a university closer to home to save money as his parents needed to push all their funds into running all five restaurants they owned. They're trying for their first Michelin star in the location Francis works in and Bash is hellbent on getting that to happen.
"Hey, have you eaten?" Chef Barnay asks him and Francis pulls a face. "No, come on! Have some crepes on me."
Francis smiles, knowing that Bash would probably tell him off for eating the stock but he wolves the two crepes down in record time before thanking the chef and handing the cleared plate to the teenager who works the sink and dishes.
He heads back to the front and runs the host podium tablet before running the card readers and cash register. He even starts setting up the dessert tables, giving the bartender, Pedro from Spain as he loves them to call him even though he's half-Spanish and half-French, a smile and salute as the man starts running the coffee and tea machines.
After thirty minutes, Bash arrives, fixes his bowtie and slaps Francis on the shoulder before disappearing into the office to quickly run the books and make sure that the safe is still intact.
After another thirty minutes at eight-thirty, Francis opens up and waits at the host station for the first customers of the day to arrive.
He watches the world wake up outside, more cars speeding around to make the morning rush for some reason on a Saturday and just as he turns to check the time, he spots a beautiful woman.
She's got raven hair, plump and pink lips and her smile is beautiful as she speaks with an older man. Her brown eyes meet Francis's blues and she blushes slightly before laughing again at the man and nodding before a van pulls up with 'Guises' Family Bakery' imprinted on it and they both start offloading the van.
Francis can just about hear their conversation as she says, "Uncle, do I really have to bake?"
"You have to learn, girl," the man - her uncle - replies softly. "It was your mother's passion and well, you need to pay for your university dorm somehow."
She scowls a little but smiles, content with his answer before nodding. "Very well."
"And don't forget, you owe me, kiddo," her uncle teases her.
"Uncle Christian!" She whines, rolling her eyes before lifting a box and heading away from Francis's view.
Before Francis can wonder where she's gone, a party of four middle-aged women become their first customers for the day and he plants a bright smile on, welcoming them to, "...La Rose of Italia. Table for four?"
"Oui," the woman closest to him says before Francis collects four menus, his notepad and pen and gestures for them to follow him.
He seats them near the kitchen but away from the noise of the kitchen at the same time for quick service and he hands them their menus with a flair that makes them swoon.
"Shall I get you some drinks as you decide?" He asks, ready to write.
They give him their drink orders and meal orders quickly and he thanks them with a promise to return soon with their drinks. Heading to the bartop first, he slaps the drinks order and table number onto the rotating notice board and Pedro quickly gets to work as Francis heads to the kitchens and slaps the order and table number onto the steel cupboard that hangs from the ceiling.
"Four buttermilk pancakes, two chocolate waffles and two plain scrambled eggs, please!" He calls out before heading back to the host station as three of their regular waiters arrive.
They only work four waiters, including Francis, in the mornings but for lunch, they have eight waiters and for dinner, ten.
They are never that busy on mornings but something tells Francis that they will be today since it's a Saturday.
After seating the fifth table, Francis returns to the podium as a waiter goes to take their order and just before Francis can take a quick moment to release a breath, he looks up when the bell dings and sees her.
She's smiling shyly, waving a little. "Hi, table for one, please?"
He nods shakily, muttering a, "Welcome to La Rose of Italia," retrieving a menu and personally deciding to take her order. He leads her to a table seated for two and hands her the menu as one of the waiters gives him a look and goes to man the podium for a while.
"I'm Francis, I'll be your waiter for today. Shall I get you a drink as you decide what to eat?" He asks politely.
She bites her lip in thought, scanning the drinks list. "Uh, apple juice and a cup of tea, please."
Francis nods, writing it down. "Of course, ma'am," he says cheerfully but not too cheerfully to freak her out. "I will be right back to get your food order."
"Thank you," she says softly.
As he heads towards the bar, Mary can't help but think how gorgeous he looks. She saw him through the window and her heart leapt as their eyes met. She gets to work next door to that attractive guy and he's dressed in such a sharp but casual navy suit. She bites her lip.
Her eyes scan the room and her brows raise when she spots a photo of people on the wall beside her and it's captioned with 'The Valois Family - Proud Founders of La Rose of Italia'. She sees the blonde guy standing beside a just as handsome brunette with green eyes, a couple of young females sitting next to two kid boys. Behind the younger people is a couple, a blonde woman leaning into the side of a brunette man and they look like a really happy and successful family.
"Here are your drinks," the blonde says, placing them onto the table and shifting a few things to accommodate them. "Have you made a choice?"
Mary realises that she hasn't so she just scans the menu and looks into his hypnotising eyes. "I'd l-like s-some pancakes, please. T-The banoffee flavour."
"My favourite," he says lightly before blushing and bowing his head, scrawling her order down. "Anything else?"
"That's it," Mary says before going for it. "Unless you'd like to join me?"
"I'm s-sorry?" He asks, eyes wide as he stares at her.
Mary smiles warmly. "I don't know if you know, but we're neighbours. My mother's family's bakery is next door and well, I'll be working there a lot so we might exchange inventory... That's why I'm here actually and I've seen that photo so you must-"
"You'd fare better talking to my brother," he says, a hint of sadness in his tone. "He runs this place."
"Why can't you just tell him what he needs to know?" She asks, slipping her hair behind her ear. She'll much rather talk to the blonde. Not that the brunette isn't handsome or anything but he seems intimidating and mysterious and she knows who'd be perfect for him. She mentally scoffs, she's really a changed girl if she's mentally setting people up with people neither of them knows. Her friends have changed her a lot.
Francis raises a brow and smirks. "Alright," he says. "But I've eaten so I'll bring your order over and join you."
Mary nods and watches him leave, her lip caught between her teeth as she feels her heart quicken over his mere glance at her. She mentally slaps herself, telling herself to calm down as if she's a girl with a crush.
She's eighteen - nineteen in August - and she can't be crushing on guys when she's got to focus on university. Her new friends are wonderful, three girls from Scotland - her wonderful birth country - who decided to take a leap and study abroad and one of them is her dormmate luckily. She's the one who introduced her to the other two and she found out that they sadly lost a friend to cancer over the summer before university started.
Mary knows how that feels. Her mother passed away from cancer last year during her final year at secondary school and she was sent to live with her maternal family since her brother James couldn't afford to look after her. He promises though, to fetch for her so she can come back to Scotland.
Her phone beeps and she smiles at the encouraging text message from her friend who Mary swears is her first-ever best friend. She's been quite the loner, the bookworm who'd rather be in the library than tearing the school down with disobedience and resistance. Her friends also have part-time jobs and her best friend had accepted a volunteering job at the bakery so Mary didn't feel alone but as they were only preparing the store today, she didn't need to stop by especially as she'd caught a cold over October and November doesn't seem to be getting warmer, unfortunately.
Where her friends are well off, she's quite middle-class when it comes to living with the de Guises. Her father's family weren't well off but her mother didn't care about money, deciding love was a better offer.
"I didn't catch your name," the blonde says, placing a lovely warm plate of banoffee pancakes in front of her and she grabs for the maple syrup to douse it even more in sweet goodness. He chuckles and sits across from her. "What is your name?"
Mary looks up at him. "Mary. Mary Stuart."
Francis grins. "I'm Francis Valois," he replies, holding a hand out for her to shake. "It's lovely to meet you, Mary."
Mary smiles even more. "Likewise, Francis," she says softly before offering a bite of her pancakes to which he rejects. "More for me, then."
He chuckles, a blush settling on his cheeks as he thinks about how beautiful she is. "So, let's talk business."