Authors: Kathy Carmichael
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
This book is dedicated in loving memory to my
mother, Charlotte Daniels Lynch Nohr. May she
happily continue nagging me from the Great Beyond.
Published 2009 by Medallion Press, Inc.
The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO
is a registered trademark of Medallion Press, Inc.
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment from this “stripped book.”
Copyright © 2009 by Kathy Carmichael
Cover Illustration by James Tampa
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro
Printed in the United States of America
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had a glamorous beginning. Authors Eve Gaddy, Kathy Garbera and I brainstormed my new idea over Cosmopolitans while seated at the Marriott Marquis s lobby bar in New York City. Thanks, ladies!
Special thanks to Michael Hague for his insight. I’m definitely one of his peeps! I’m indebted to Carrol Stringer, for her unwavering encouragement.
Alfie Thompson, Cheryl Mansfield, Joyce Soule and Danedri Thompson were instrumental in making the writing of this book so much fun. I especially appreciate the support from authors Kimberly Llewellyn, Tara Randal and Debby Mayne.
My gratitude goes out to Phyllis Cherry for her astute comments. And many thanks to Chef Kurt Michael Friese, Chef Jeff Benz, Chef Brad Stabinsky and the other friendly folks on the Professional Chefs Board at
for their willingness to answer my questions. The brilliant book, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, gave me a true glimpse into the kitchen underbelly and provided inspiration. Please note that none of the kitchen staff in my books was modeled after any of these generous chefs! If any errors were made regarding kitchen operations, they were strictly my own.
Table of Contents
Dear Happily Married Woman:
I saw your recent announcement in the newspaper celebrating many years of marriage.
Since my first marriage failed and I’ve been unsuccessful in my attempts to find a partner in life, I want to learn from the experts, women like you who’ve been married for years, about what makes a relationship work.
Would you mind, please, filling out the enclosed survey? I’ve included an SASE.
An Unhappily Single Woman
Birthdays are like a box of Tampax.
When the box is new, you thoughtlessly reach in and grab another but as the box empties you start worrying about running out before you’re ready.
Not only was my Tampax supply getting low, but it was my fortieth flipping birthday, and did I mention I was bloated, too?
I stood in my bathroom, styling my hair and trying to get ready for a night out with the girls, when my phone rang. My stomach sank as I read the caller ID and saw it was from the hotel restaurant where I work as sous chef.
“Jill, you’ve got to get down here, Right now.” Big E, the pastry chef, blurted out.
I put down my blow-dryer. “What’s wrong now?”
“Chef Radkin is what’s wrong. He’s always what’s wrong.”
“It’s my birthday,” I whined, but I knew my protestations were useless. The five-star chef, while incredibly talented, was equally gifted at creating problems—especially when I wasn’t at La Papillon to discourage him from drinking. For some reason, I was the designated problem fixer. “Can’t you handle the disaster du jour?”
“You’re the only one he’ll listen to.”
“I don’t want to be late to my own birthday party. Can you put Radkin on the phone?”
“That’s not possible. I’m sorry, Jill, but if you don’t come, Juan will freeze to death. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?”
I hate it when he appeals to my inner guilt and makes me feel like I’m responsible for what happens there.
Within a short time, I entered the kitchen at La Papillon, only to observe Chef Radkin standing in front of the huge restaurant freezer, swinging a saucepan at one of the dishwashers who looked as if he was trying to open the freezer behind the mad chef.
As I stepped close, sure enough, I could just make out a very blue and probably frostbitten Juan through the tiny freezer window. Surely that wasn’t an icicle dangling from his nose?
“So, Radkin,” I said boldly, counting on his creepy crush on me to keep him from smashing my face in with the shiny pan and hoping that I was far enough out of reach for him to grope me. Did I mention that was one of his favorite pastimes?
“Jill!” He stopped midswing when he saw it was me. “Happy birthday!”
“I left my birthday petit fours in the freezer,” I said as casually as I could, again hoping to preserve my facial features. “Mind letting me through?”
He looked a little mulish over the idea, and I made a mental note to not actually go into said freezer for fear I’d soon join Juan in his frozen hell. “Please?”
“Anything for you, Jilly,” he said, turning and opening the freezer with a gallant flourish, fully intent on feeling me up if I took a step nearer.
However, he’d temporarily forgotten his captive. Juan spilled out and Big E quickly enfolded him in a few crisp white tablecloths while a cook rushed forward with a cup of coffee for the close-to-stiff man.
I turned to Radkin. “Thanks.”
Unfortunately, I’d let my guard down and the chef took full advantage by grabbing my left breast. However, despite his smarmy smile, he must have gone heavy on the sauce celebrating my birthday because he slowly sank to the floor in an unconscious heap.
I’d need to bathe for a week to get the imprint of his hand off my mental body. “Clean up on aisle five.”
After making sure he was safely stowed in his office and that Juan was okay and didn’t plan to sue, I headed out, only a little late for meeting my friends for dinner and contemplating whether there was time for a quick shower first.
The Irish poet, Thomas Moore, said, “What though youth gave love and roses, Age still leaves us friends and wine.” Updated for our current millennium, that means—hit forty and it’s all over except for friends and good saki.
I hope he’s wrong, but with fabulous friends and enough saki, who cares if he’s right?
Celebrating my fortieth flipping birthday finally became tolerable thanks to the aforementioned combination. My dearest friends (we’d all met and bonded at “Baby Swimming” sixteen years earlier) met me at a fabulous Chinese restaurant on the strip and the remains of Moo Shu Pork, Sesame Chicken, and egg rolls congealed on the tabletop in front of us. From our booth, we had a view of some of Las Vegas’s most famous casino hotels; and the fountain in front of the Bellagio twinkled with hundreds of lights and thousands of streams of water.
We were totally snockered—well, except for Susan, who was the designated driver. She couldn’t drink anyway since she was mucho pregnant. We weren’t liquored up enough to spend the evening in front of the porcelain god, but we were unsteady and relaxed. Very relaxed.
I’d reached that stage of relaxation where I was keeling over and Susan’s shoulder was the only thing separating my chin from the tabletop.
Connie held up a saucer containing plastic-wrapped cookies. “Fortune time.”
Thank God they didn’t expect me to blow out candles. Good friends know that a cake set ablaze with a depressing number of candles is not a good thing. I grabbed a cookie. “I hope mine says
Congratulations. Your kid just won a college scholarship
“Are you sure Stephen won’t get a scholarship?”
I shook my head. The room spun like a dervish. I adore my son and know how wonderful he is, but not everyone appreciates him for the creative kid he is. He courageously walks to the beat of his own artistic drummer. “He went to his da—other mother’s without sharing his report card with me. I hope he didn’t flunk.”
“That would give you another year to get college money together,” suggested MaryEllen helpfully.
Like kids who flunk their junior year have admissions departments beating down their doors? “What colleges want kids who struggle with their academic classes?”
Getting college money for Stephen was my first priority. Somehow, I’d find a way to send him to whatever college would take him. Good mothers do that and, dammit, I am a good mother.
Stephen would never have to struggle to find a way to pay rent or buy food—or take care of
kid—like I once had to when his father left us. Stephen wouldn’t have school loans so huge they rivaled the National Debt. That’s an exaggeration, but as a percentage of income, it’s not too far off the mark.
I’d been too proud to ask my folks for help. In retrospect, maybe I’d been wrong. The price of being indebted to my parents makes me cringe even now. My mom intrudes enough in my life without that.
As I tore the wrapping from my fortune cookie, I glanced at Susan. “Did your son, David, hear back on the music scholarship?”
“One of them. NU offered him a full, but he’s holding out for Juilliard. I hate the idea of him being that far from home.”
MaryEllen asked, “What about a school loan?”
Susan mentioned a Web site and told me to visit it. I grimaced. “Do you guys know how hard I had to work to pay off my school loans? It took forever on my salary as a cook. I don’t want Stephen to have to do that.”
“You’re usually such an optimist, Jill. What’s wrong?” Connie looked at me intently.
“The age thing is making me nuts.”
“Deal with it.” Susan patted her stomach. “You could be forty
“Good point. I keep reminding myself that getting older is way better than the alternative, but it’s not working.”
“Think of it as a chance to reexamine your life,” Connie advised. “You need to consider your options for the future.”
“What she needs is more sake.” MaryEllen feathered her fingers in the air. “It’ll bring back Jill’s normal rosy glow.”
“I’ll drink to that,” said Connie. “What’s your fortune cookie say, Jill?”
Connie was the only one of us who didn’t worry about tuition for her kid next year. Her daughter, Rachel, left home two years earlier to head for New York and fame as a fashion model. Now Rachel’s lovely face is featured on the cover of magazines like
. Connie insisted Rachel get her GED, but she was dragging her feet about enrolling in college. Connie tried to act like it was no big deal, but I knew it bothered her.
“What does yours say?” MaryEllen asked Connie.
“It is better to give than receive, but sometimes receiving is more enjoyable.”
Connie wiggled her eyebrows and everyone laughed.
“That’s so you,” said MaryEllen.
Susan read hers aloud.
“Take time to smell the roses but watch out for those thorns
.” She frowned. “Do you think thorns are a metaphor for labor pains?”
“If so, it was written by a man.” Connie doesn’t much like men these days, either. Ever since her divorce when Rachel was three, Connie’s been looking for a man to solve all her problems. The problem is that the men in her life are the problem. She’s drawn to bad boys, has a fierce need to redeem them, and in the end she’s always left holding the bag in the form of credit card bills and late rent penalties when the men disappear.
Lately, however, she’s sworn off men and I have a side bet with Susan over how long that’ll last, because Connie really loves sex.