The final story in the Tarnished Souls series, this was originally published by Loose Id in 2013. On 9/13 I'm re-releasing it with a shiny new, gorgeous cover by Jordan Castillo Price. It's available for pre-order at Amazon now.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt.
The band was too loud, the bride looked like a skeleton, and I had a raging headache. What a way to spend Friday night. I kept trying to remember why working for a prestigious LA restaurant had seemed like a better deal than my comfortable line job at a respectable place in New York. Especially since this particular gig had required supervising the creation of hundreds of puffy cheese minisoufflés, artichoke and bacon rolls, and duck liver wraps, all of which had to be carted from the L’Ouest kitchens to this golf-course-sized Beverley Hills backyard, where a chubby record company executive was marrying Madam Skeletor in lavish style.
It wasn’t the menu I would have suggested for this fat-conscious crowd, but until I could convince my boss to offer less pretentious and difficult-to-serve food, I’d be stuck with whatever he arranged. And unpretentious wasn’t of particular value to Stephan—that’s pronounced “Stefaaan”—Becker.
Any sane chef would design a separate menu for catering, featuring finger food, fresh fruits, and meals that could be plated with grace. I looked at the tiny bites of rich food starting to congeal in the warming trays and considered whether it was time to bring a new batch from the van.
A silver platter appeared at my left elbow, and a voice suggested, “I can start offering those to the guests so you can freshen up this station.”
I turned, and there he was. A few inches shorter than me, with spiky blond hair and a big smile, he wore the standard waiter’s uniform of black pants and a black button-down shirt. He managed to look like he’d just stepped off the runway during New York’s fashion week.
He held out the tray. “You’re Mr. Zajac, the new catering chef, right? I’m Kenny Marks, waiter extraordinaire.” He had an exuberant lilt to his voice. “And I’d love to help you get rid of that food.”
I could use a friend on staff. “Call me George. You seem to know your way around. Have you worked for L’Ouest long?”
He held the platter while I arranged the food. “I was with the company for the first event, a horrid little birthday party.” He shuddered dramatically. “The wife had decorated the whole house in black for the poor man’s fortieth. It was brutal.”
“This is my first job catering.” I nodded toward the crowd. “Any advice you have for me would be appreciated.”
Kenny looked out at the gathering. “You see that guy in the maroon bow tie? He’s the groom’s financial manager. Make sure he’s happy. That’s where your check and your tip are coming from. And over there’s the bride’s mother. Rumor is that back home in Dallas she hosts soirees on a regular basis. She and the daughter are supposed to be close. You might give the mama some personal attention—people like to meet the chef, makes them feel special. The new couple is bound to entertain, and I doubt our blushing bride cooks. She’ll ask mummy for advice on catering. Tips are always bigger from repeat customers.”
I stared at him. “How do you know all this?”
He hefted the now full platter to his shoulder. “I keep my eyes and ears open. Here comes Libby Spencer. She’s the most sought-after wedding planner in the city. Be very, very nice to her.”
With that he strolled off, walking with shoulders back and a slight sway to his hips, his pants pleasingly tight across a very nice ass. What would it be like to feel that comfortable with one’s sexuality? The question made me break into a sweat.