Hey all! ChapterBytes is going on hiatus for a bit. We’ve run through our course of authors for the time being. We’ll resume the story when we have a few more authors sign up and when everyone’s schedules calm down. (Including mine!)

Anyone interested can email me at catnip35 at gmail dot com.

Don’t delete us from your reader – we will be back!


Foodie, Chapter 19

written by Kristen

Malorie caught her breath and held it, laying frozen on the scratchy bedspread, feeling the warmth of Evan beside her. Parts of his body touched hers at various points along her shoulder, her hip and calves, creating pinpoints of static and heat. She could feel the drumming of his heart against her back and felt its pace quicken. She wanted to turn right over, dig herself in against him, bury her head in his neck and cry. But she didn’t. She was afraid to see his face.

They lay there for what felt like forever to Malorie. The room was dark except for the stripes of sun cutting through the old vinyl blinds. Malorie watched dust particles swirl in and out of the streams of light and unconsciously covered her nose and mouth so as not to breathe them in. It wasn’t the worst motel room she’d ever been in but it was a close second. The wallpaper was a dated, dizzying floral with mustard and orange day lilies. It reminded her of some short story she’d read in high school about some woman who went crazy staring at her bedroom’s wallpaper for too long, thinking she’d seen a woman running through its pattern. She shifted her focus out the window, watching cars pass in the lot, wondering if she should say something or wait for him to speak first. Slowly and deliberately, Evan pulled himself away from her. Malorie felt the air slip in and draw away the warmth that had been there a moment before. She didn’t look at him but she could tell by the shifting of his weight on the bed that he was on his back now, probably staring up at the ceiling. He did that sometimes when they hung out at the apartment, talking late into the night. He’d recline in his chair, lace his fingers behind his head, elbows straight out and look upward, smiling as he spoke. She imagined he was not smiling now.

“Okay. So now I’m just waiting.” Evan’s voice was calm and measured. She couldn’t tell at all how he was feeling. Malorie breathed in deeply, quietly.

“For what?” She whispered.

“I’m waiting for some celebrity asshole with a video camera to step out of the closet and announce that I’ve ‘just been hosed’.”

Malorie’s eyes teared up. She wasn’t sure if she was about to laugh or cry. “I think you mean ‘punk’d’.”

“Yeah, well, whatever. Mal…” Her name trailed weakly off his lips. She felt him sit up abruptly then take her by the arms, turning her over on her back. He stared down into her face, now wet with tears. She brushed at her cheeks, trying to cover her eyes, not wanting to look at him. He kept a firm hold on her arms, bracing her there so she couldn’t roll away. She let her head fall against the pillow, turning her face away from Evan’s.

“Mal, look at me, would you? Look, you can’t run away from this now. You want to talk, right? So talk. Tell me all about your marriage. Let me guess who the lucky groom is. Could it be…Jack? Because that would be perfect. That would really make my year.” Evan let go of Malorie and slid off the edge of the bed and slumped to the floor. He sat with one knee bent, the other leg sprawled in front of him and wrapped both his arms over the back of his head.

“You’re mad, I know, and I don’t blame you a bit. I meant to tell you so many times, Evan. There just…there just never seemed a good time and I wanted to that night after you saw me with him, I wanted to tell you everything, but I never got the chance.” She dried her face with her shirt sleeve and slowly slid down off the bed to sit next to him. She looked at him, his forehead against his knee, eyes squeezed tightly shut. His button-down shirt had come untucked all around the waist of his jeans and his usually kempt hair was sticking out over various points on his head. He was the most beautiful mess she had ever seen.

“I’m not mad, Mal. I’m just really tired. This has been the single most insane month of my life and I would just like to go to sleep for a year and start over. I don’t care a bit about Jack or whatever you had with him in the past. Just tell me one thing. No, wait. Two things. I need to know two things, Mal, okay?” He faced her now, his own eyes raw and wet.

“Anything, Evan. What do you want to know?”

He looked down and picked nervously at a bare spot in the carpet. “Do you mean to divorce him? I mean, please tell me that you’ve been meaning to, and that you just haven’t gotten around to it yet.” He laughed nervously and shook his head at his own question. “That sounded stupid. You know what I mean, though.”

Malorie quickly nodded her head. “Of course I do. We were legally separated two years ago and I just…we just never went through with the paperwork because we were living so far away from each other and I just couldn’t deal with him at the time and he had been so angry. It was enough to be apart, away from him. That’s all I wanted then. I know now it’s stupid that I just didn’t get it over with, but it didn’t matter so much. Until now.”

“Okay. That’s good.” He nodded slowly, looking thoughtful, still not meeting her eyes. “I had a feeling about you two. I knew there was still something between you but I didn’t know what. I’m almost relieved to hear this, because I think I get it now.”

“What else?” Malorie prompted. She wanted to hold him now. She resisted the urge to reach out and touch him.

Evan looked up at her and searched her face. He smiled weakly, as though the effort were killing him. “Do you love him at all anymore?” His voice was dry, hoarse.

Malorie stared at him for a moment, then without a word, cupped her hand over the back of his head, pulling his face toward hers. She covered his mouth with her lips, kissing him gently at first, then harder, more intensely as Evan responded in kind. He took her face carefully in his hands, tilted her chin upward then let his lips trail down the slope of her neck to her collarbone where he stopped and asked, “Is that a no, then? I mean, unless I’m reading you wrong…”

“That’s a definite ‘no’. How could I love him?” Malorie smiled at Evan, outlining his lower lip with her finger. She put her mouth to his neck, kissing it, then spoke softly in his ear. “And how in the hell could I not love you?”

Evan pulled back and looked at Malorie, the tension in his face now gone, the light in his eyes returned. He smiled slowly, sweetly and shook his head. “See, that wasn’t so hard now was it?” he teased. “Oh my God, Mal. You don’t know how long I…” He paused, his eyes darting toward the window behind her. His brows furrowed as he squinted. “Now what in the hell is that?”


Foodie, Chapter 18

written by B

A young nurse stood in the second elevator and absentmindedly held her arm out to hold the door for Evan and Mal as they rushed to catch the open elevator. Facing slightly off to one side she was busy looking down and punching keys on her cell phone and paused to hold it up to her ear beneath the hair that half covered her face. The nurse, clothed in a turquoise set of scrubs, reached forward and hit P3, then with a frustrated grunt hit. Evan punched P4 and willed the door to slide shut before anyone realized there was a missing patient. If they were noticed it would be because the staff was getting ready for their nightly rounds. The elevator crawled slowly to its first stop and let off its passenger who never let her attention wander from her phone. The doors closed and the elevator continued its descent.

The bright red door separating the elevators and stairwell from the parked vehicles swung open as Evan and Malorie slipped into the P4 level of the hospital-parking garage. Evan led, holding Malorie’s hand as the slaps of their hurried footsteps on the pavement bounced back at them off the walls and left an eerie feeling echoing deep inside them both. A quick glance was thrown around to survey things, as they got into a navy blue rented compact. The silence that followed the closing of the car doors hid the knowledge that a set of brilliant green eyes watched their every move. Brilliant green eyes highlighted by turquoise scrubs.

Mal allowed her eyes to close and leaned her head back against the seat of the rented car releasing a deep sigh. Her mind instantly flashed back just a few minutes earlier; Evan had definitely unloaded back there in her hospital room. Unloaded wasn’t even the word for it. Her head was spinning as she tried to file through what he had said and digest it before it had the chance to eat her alive. How was it she could actually fall for a guy who was hired to baby-sit her? Not that baby-sit was the word he used, and it certainly didn’t feel that way, it felt more like she was living with someone who was spying on her. What a loser she was to always go deep for the wrong guys? First Jack, and now Evan.

Her eyes flashed open with realization as that thought came to mind. Jack. Their relationship, as messed up as it was, wasn’t exactly over. And yet it was more than over in her heart, and she knew that even with the news Evan dropped in her lap she still had nothing but desire to be with him. She stared at him and watched as his eyes nervously darted from illuminated path of the road to the rearview mirror; watching for someone, something, any hint that they had been spotted and followed. And in that instant she realized she had her own baggage to share.

“Ev…” she started.

He looked over at her with an expression of shock, as if he had forgotten there was a passenger with him. Hands gripping the steering wheel enough to turn his smooth knuckles white he jumped in, “Mal, there is nothing to worry about, I don’t think anyone followed us. I picked the car up when you were sleeping earlier on and I didn’t rent it in my own name. Hopefully it will give us some time to get somewhere and figure out what to do.”

“But I just…” she tried again.

“You just need to relax and let me think for a second Mal. I told you upstairs that I’ll always take care of you. I love you.”

Telling him is going to be harder than I thought. Malorie sat back to mull it all over. Streetlights blurred past as she stared out the window into the night. There was little traffic at this time of night and this section of the city was generally quieter than others. They stopped at a red light and a Mustang pulled up beside them with a group of cheering teenagers with thumping music trying to escape the closed windows and pulled Malorie out of her daze. Smoke from the cigarette getting passed around hit the glass and slid upwards and around the laughing faces. Green. The Mustang peeled out and screeched a farewell as Evan’s foot cautiously found the gas pedal and they moved forward. Malorie wondered if she was ever that young, that young and carefree. The weight of everything loomed before her, leaned over, and placed itself on her chest so that she couldn’t breath properly.

“It’s late.” Evan announced.

Malorie glanced at the numbers on the dashboard and for the first time realized how late it was and how fatigued she felt. Exhaustion kept her from saying anything in response, that and the anxiety of not knowing what would come out of her mouth if she spread her lips to let words tumble from them. One simple slip and she might just blurt out words, which could muddle the waters she was narrowly treading. What was worse telling, or not telling? If only I could think clearly, she thought, I’d know what to say.

“We should stop for a few hours.”

Fear gripped at Malorie’s heart. Stop? “What? Where?” Her voice could hardly be characterized as a whisper.

“A hotel. Don’t worry, I’ve got cash so our credit cards can’t be traced.” Evan slowed the car and turned into the parking lot of a cheap Motel 8. As he did so he took his first good look at Malorie since they had left the hospital. She was terrified and it made her look all the more vulnerable. Her vulnerability made him love her more and made him more determined to protect her, while at the same time made him more furious with himself since he had already failed once. “Just a couple hours Mal. We need some sleep so we can think straight and you’re not exactly in the best of shape.”

The car sat waiting directly in front of their hotel door. They had managed to get a ground floor room and the kid at the desk didn’t seem to mind the lack of credit card to protect against damages. He only worked the one shift a week to get some partying money in his pocket and he saw those couples come in every now and then. The bold guy with cash, the timid girl waiting in the car. They were never more than a few hours, drop the keys in the return slot so not to face anyone in the aftermath, leaving the bed rumpled for him to smooth before for the next guest. It was a few quick bucks in his pocket the boss didn’t know about, and didn’t need to know about. What did he care if they had a credit card?

The clerk was mistaken though. There was no rumpling of the sheets this time. Malorie lay on her side, curled up facing the door eyes wide despite the weariness that threatened to take control and force her heavy lids to rest. Evan lay close behind her and let his breath graze her neck. “It’s going to be alright Mal.” He whispered. “When this is all over we can be together.”

Malorie went rigid. “No, we can’t.” she said.

“Shhhh.” Evan stroked her hair.

“You don’t get it.” She bit her lip in frustration. “I’m married.”


Foodie, Chapter 17

written by Karen

As William Talbot peeked into the hospital room, he saw Evan standing behind the nurse, trying to talk to Malorie as the nurse determinedly pumped the blood pressure cuff. He saw Malorie’s face as she gazed at Evan, her face a mix of shock and outrage at whatever he was telling her. But underneath the shock, he could see how much she cared for Evan, and it warmed William’s heart. From what he’d seen at the culinary institute, Evan cared for Malorie, as well. He was glad, because Malorie was going to need a friend to get through the next few weeks and months. She was going to need someone to watch over her. William couldn’t be everywhere; and where he couldn’t be, Evan could.

Hearing approaching footsteps, he quickly pulled his head out of the doorway and turned around in time to see the detective investigating the case walking toward him.

“Detective Chambers! What can I do for you?” he said.

“Professor. I need to have a word with you.” Underneath the pleasant tone, the detective’s voice was pure steel. “The hospital administrator said we could use this conference room.” He spun on his heel and led the way into a door at the end of the hallway.

Down the hallway from the conference room, a pair of watchful eyes had observed Detective Chambers and Professor Talbot going into the conference room. After the door closed, stealthy footsteps carried the observer down the hallway, pausing at the door to the conference room. The watcher glanced around to ensure no one was observing the furtive surveillance as the watcher pressed an ear to the door.

Once inside the room, the detective closed the door firmly.

“We’ve been in touch with Scotland Yard and Interpol,” the detective said, pinning Professor Talbot with his eyes. “It seems you have something to tell us.” The detective’s tone brooked no argument, and it was more of a statement than a question.

Professor Talbot explained to the detective the details of his undercover work. The detective listened in silence, a slight frown on his lips and his brow drawn into a crease. His brown eyes were thoughtful as he listened to Professor Talbot, a.k.a. Inspector Peele.

“So what you’re telling me is that Malorie’s life is in danger from this Celine woman.”

“Yes! Absolutely! Jack hired her to kill Malorie. Where is Celine, by the way?”

We had to let her go. She and Jack both. We didn’t have enough evidence to hold them.” The detective frowned as he relayed this information. “We also don’t have enough evidence to put a 24-hour guard on Malorie. We need to gather more information before we make an arrest.”

Both men started as a loud thunk was heard outside the door, followed by the sound of running feet. They rushed to the door and upon opening it, saw an overturned metal wastebasket and heard the ding of the elevator just around the corner. Detective Chambers drew his gun as he rushed around the corner to the elevator. He was just a second too late, as the doors were closing as he approached. He jabbed ineffectively at the button, as he yelled for security.

Unfortunately, the elevator had every button pushed on it, and it had stopped on every floor on the way down. There was no way to tell on which floor their eavesdropper had exited. The detective re-holstered his gun as he ran his fingers through his already unruly brown wavy hair, and he sighed heavily.

He turned to Professor Talbot. “We need to come up with a plan,” he stated flatly, jabbing a finger at the professor. “And since you are in the US, and in my jurisdiction, I’m taking the lead on this.”

Professor Talbot shrugged. “I’ll talk to my superiors,” he said, “but they may want to bring in the FBI.”

Detective Chambers rolled his eyes. Interagency jurisdiction is always a sticky wicket. He sighed again. “The FBI can just stay out of my way. This is my case. But that doesn’t matter now,” he said. “We need to tell Malorie her life is in danger.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” said Professor Talbot cautiously.

He found himself talking to the air, as Detective Chambers had already turned on his heel and was walking quickly down to Malorie’s room. Upon reaching her door, he knocked lightly on the door with the knuckles of his right hand as he turned the knob with his left, opening the door. “Miss Shawe?”

As the door swung open, Professor Talbot on his heels, Detective Chambers entered the room. He crept quietly past the roommate with the tubes and machines, and pulled back the curtain at Malorie’s bed. He inhaled sharply at what he saw. Professor Talbot felt a bolt of fear go through him.

Malorie was gone!


Foodie, Chapter 16

written by Mary Beth

“It was never supposed to get this far,” Professor Talbot muttered to himself as he paced the corridors outside Malorie’s room. He wondered how he could have made the same mistake again, and let another person get so close to danger.

He thought back to that time last year when Interpol sent out feelers for an agent to work undercover tracking an assassin that had left a string of bodies across Europe. First there was Chef Pierre Poisson, acclaimed Directeur of Le Cordon Bleu, found dead of an overdose just days before a budget meeting, during which he was preparing to override the plan for large increases in professor salaries; then Signor Giovanni Uccello, up and coming restaurateur who was found drowned right before the grand opening of La Cipolla Rossa, his third restaurant in Milan, and who’s wife was very happily spending his money with her current boy-toy; and finally Heinz Schafe, considered the heavy favorite to win La Citadelle de Chocolat, the international chocolate competition. The European cooking community was up in arms and desperate for Interpol to solve these crimes.

The authorities had one small lead, a physical feature that seemed to be shared by someone connected to all three crimes. In every case, there was a young woman with one blue and one green eye. Whereas the condition is rare and was worth pursuing, it wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute anyone. They needed someone on the inside who could definitively say whether all three women were in fact the same person. And, if so, was she also the killer? The undercover agent would have to have a strong culinary background because of the victims’ connection to food.

Enter William Peele, Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard, whose superiors were anxious to get him away from London for a while. His last case had ended with the murderer getting off on a technicality. And then the witness that he’d sworn to protect had become just another victim of “random violence”. Everyone knew it was retaliation but couldn’t prove anything. Peele’s thoughts were constantly on revenge, which wasn’t helping him solve his current caseload. All that combined with the time he’d spent as chef at a London restaurant, while he was still in University, made him the obvious choice.

And so he had entered the world of undercover work and his new persona, William Talbot, had been born. At first, getting used to the name had been rough. So was letting go of his straight-laced demeanor, which worked well in law enforcement but stuck out like a sore thumb once he left the hallowed halls of Scotland Yard. On the instructions of Interpol, he’d begun hanging out at food conventions and international cooking competitions, watching and listening for anything out of the ordinary. He also watched for young women with two different colored eyes.

Finally, Interpol’s luck turned. An inept bank thief, caught in the middle of the robbery, tried to trade information on a more serious crime for leniency. He had hired an assassin to kill his wealthy uncle, a celebrated Spanish chef, who had originally planned to leave his nephew his fortune. His uncle didn’t approve of his playboy lifestyle and began to talk about changing his will. The thief wanted his uncle out of the way before that happened. Sure of his luck, he had gambled away his payment for the killer, and then robbed the bank to replace the money. The killer caught wind of his capture and disappeared, but not before the local authorities got her description – a young French-woman with one blue and one green eye.

Then another stroke of luck – there were mutterings of a job in America, and the possibility of a meeting in Cannes. Quickly, with the help of a local snitch, introductions were made. Interpol manufactured evidence of an ill-advised liaison with a student in Talbot’s past that Celine could use to blackmail him, and William Talbot became Celine’s unwitting accomplice.

He gained her trust by letting slip some previously unreleased information he had gotten from an “insider” at Scotland Yard headquarters. Thanks to him, she now wore contacts that made both her eyes a brilliant green. His instructions from Interpol were clear – get enough hard evidence of her next murder and protect the victim at all costs. The first part he’d managed well enough. In his position of professor, he’d been able to pass on quite a lot of personal information to Celine, helping her set the time and place of the murder.

But all the planning they had done together had gone flying out the window last night. Talbot wondered what had caused Celine Richelieu to make her move now. The original plan had been to wait until the old man died. Was that what she had been about to tell him in his office last night before they heard someone moving in the outer room? Could Richard Constantine be dead? Or was it something else that had made her act precipitously.

And why had she let herself get caught? She was much too cautious to allow that to happen without an underlying reason. He knew he had never had her complete confidence and now he wondered just how much he didn’t know about the plan. He only knew he felt sorry for Malorie. Poor girl, she had no idea that her life was in danger. All these questions flitted through his head as he turned to knock on her door. Sticking his head in to check her progress, his last thought was to wonder if she’d told Evan yet that she was still married to Jack.


Foodie, Chapter 15

written by Desiree

Evan had no problem agreeing to help Richard Constantine. His mother had worked for Richard for many, many years and he hardly remembered a time without him in their lives. It was always satisfying to help Richard when he was needed, preparing meals for him when his cook was away or whatever other task needed to be done. It was just a small repayment for all the generosity he had bestowed upon Evan & his mother through the years.

It took no time whatsoever for him to consent to the task. Really there had been little difficulty accepting the generous offer; full payment for culinary school, an apartment, and a car. It was a dream come true for Evan, to make his life’s wish a reality.

What he had never counted on, could never have imagined would happen, was that he would fall so completely in love with the daughter he had been paid to watch over. The same girl who was fitfully sleeping in the hospital bed next to him. Oh, she had scared the crap out of him with her whole ‘I’m just gonna walk myself out of this hospital’ stunt. But the crash to the floor ended her escape plan and stripped about 10 years off his life.

What at mess. How was he going to tell her the truth about himself? When could he tell her the truth? At what point would she ever believe that his feelings for her were legitimate, that it wasn’t just about the money. Mal, I love you. I’ve loved you from minute one when I saw you sitting in that first culinary course. But I’ve been paid by your father, your real father to watch over you. Oh, yeah, that sure would go over well. He imagined the resulting banishment from her life.

Yes, he was pretty sure she’d never accept him when she found out the truth. And he didn’t blame her. It seemed a set-up from the start, his appearance in her life timed with her beginning courses at the academy and the relationship he was trying to build with her. She’d probably only see that he had been around to spy on her, tried to use her. Despite the fact that he truly wanted to be a chef and was attending the academy out of the genuine desire to one day open his own restaurant. She had to know that part was real. Their time together cooking was testament to his love for it, his skill. And their time together as friends, the camaraderie they shared, and the attraction they felt as evidence of his attachment to her, his desire for her.

Malorie began to stir, coming to consciousness again. “Evan? Are you still here?” she asked in a groggy voice.

He could hear the whispering of machines coming from the bedside of the patient next to Mal. God, how he hated the hospital. Any hospital. Every hospital. They reeked of sickness, death, and always reminded him of his father struggling to live while the cancer ate at him from the inside like colonies of termites eating away at the timbers of a home. And had it only been a few months since his own hospital visit? It suddenly felt like years to him.

“Yes, Mal, I’m still here. So it seems like our roles have reversed now.” He quietly replied smiling down at her, “what was it you wanted to tell me?”

Slowly Mal shifted in the bed to face Evan. Her long curly hair was a tangled mess around her beautiful face. He wished that he could brush her hair. His desire to gently stroke her lovely saddened face, little by little, to remove all signs of distress that lined her visage was almost overwhelming him. Finally, she settled in a semi-reclining position reaching out to take his hands into her own fragile cold grasp.

“Thank you for being here for me and for staying with me this whole time. I’m not sure I can find the words to tell you how much it means to me not to wake up alone in this hospital.” She shivered slightly as she made that declaration. “Thank you for calling my Mother, too.” She smiled weakly. “I – I wanted to explain why you saw me leaving that restaurant with Jack, he wanted to have time alone with me to clarify or really to at last tell me the truth of what happened with our relationship and his total disappearance; he told me so many things. I was stunned and shocked by his confessions. To say the least.”

She sighed deeply and began again more adamantly, “Evan, I want to be honest with you, none of that matters, not one piece of crap that happened with him in the past matters now, because it fully became clear to me that I don’t love him anymore.” He could see the relief and happiness shining in her eyes. “I ran from you and him outside that restaurant because I needed more time to come to terms with what he had revealed to me. I wasn’t prepared yet to tell you how I felt or to tell him that it was over, so utterly over, with no possibility of us ever being together again. Somewhere inside me I guess I thought that maybe if I ran away and quit the academy that I’d never have to face Jack again and that I’d avoid hurting you with my betrayal. It’s silly thinking about it, telling it to you now, I know. But it’s what I believed in that moment.”

“Oh Mal,” he began, squeezing her hands, feeling them finally warm-up, “thank you for being so open with me about why you were with him and for telling me what your true feelings are for me. I’ve wanted to tell you something for so long. Something that has been tearing me up and I just don’t know the right way to – to…”

Before he could finish his words, the nurse hurried in, “Ms. Shawe, I need a couple minutes to check on your vitals, can you please sit up so that I can take your blood pressure? Thanks Love.”

Evan looked around the nurse to say, “Mal, listen, there is something important that I have to tell you before any more time passes, you need to know that there’s an investigation that’s been started against Celine and Jack.”

“What? Wait, what did you say? What do you mean an investigation? For what?” She stammered. Abruptly the memory of Jack and Celine sitting together in the waiting room, with Jack’s hand covering Celine’s, barged into her consciousness.

“They think it wasn’t an accident that you were hit by Celine’s car, they’re investigating the connection between Celine and Jack, and – Professor Talbot may be involved.” He replied truthfully.


Foodie, Chapter 14

written by Flutter

Richard Constantine was a man of wealth, accomplishment and prestige. He was also lonely.

He was also dying.

He’d promised Delores so many years ago that he would stay out of the picture, let Fred raise Malorie as his daughter. Stay back, stay away, stay alone. With cancer riddling his lungs like black bullets in a blue sky, he lay thinking about life.

About his daughter.

A rattling cough ripped through him as he dreamed of Delores, with her beautiful honey hair and her lush hips. He was just dreaming about running his hands up her shirt when he coughed himself awake. He closed his eyes again, letting the coughing rock his body, but letting his mind take him back to falling asleep with his head resting on Delores’ breast. He wondered if Malorie looked like her, or if she’d gotten his wavy brown hair, or his dark, chocolate eyes. He wondered if she was healthy. If she was happy.

He wondered too, if Delores had ever thought about him. If she’d remembered the sand grit of the beach between them when they had made love. If she thought about how much easier her life would have been if she had let him love her. That one question had tainted every success he’d ever had. That and that he hadn’t exactly kept his promise to Delores. He hadn’t exactly stayed out of the picture.

He met a young man, the son of his executive assistant. Oh how he hated not being able to use the word secretary. This young man cooked for him on days that his chef was out. He was capable, creative and good looking. He wanted to go to culinary school. Richard, through his resources, found that Malorie had just been admitted into a culinary program in her home state.

He brought the young man into his office, turning his head when the coughing railed him. He told the young man he would send him to culinary school, as a gift for his mother’s years of exemplary service. He would pay for an apartment, he would pay for a car, his tuition, his books. He only needed to study. Oh, and one more thing…

“What one thing?” asked the young man, his eyebrow raising.

“Watch after my daughter.” Richard had answered, simply.

Richard explained the story, pausing to cough and to breathe with a heavy rasp. He watched the eyes of the young man sitting before him, and smiled that they held so much compassion. This was a good kid. He could help this kid out, and serve his own purpose, too.

The wheels were set in motion, as the young man agreed to the terms. Richard placed his checkbook on the desk and wrote out a check for a large sum of money. Enough for all of the things he’d promised the kid in front of him. Richard smiled and signed the check. Made payable to Evan Randall.