Authors: Michelle Roth
Evernight Publishing ®
Copyright© 2015 Michelle Roth
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: JS Cook
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To my Aunt Stasia. They always say that we don't get to pick our family, but if I got to pick, I'd still choose you. Your constant encouragement and unwavering support mean the world to me. Thank you.
The Transfigured Ones, 2
Copyright © 2015
West Bromwich, England, 1953
Office of Dr. Raymond Fellowes
“I'm sorry Mrs. Corbett. There's been no mistake. Young Magnus
Transfigured. Please accept my deepest sympathies,” the doctor explained, his expression grave. “There's nothing further that can be done, I'm afraid.”
“But, what do you mean, nothing can be done? How can that even be? I don't understand,” his mother said, teary. “His father and I aren't Transfigured. No one in our family is.”
Magnus listened on as the doctor explained about jeans, but he wasn't sure what his trousers had to do with anything, though. And what did Transfigured mean? By the time the doctor started to drone on about blue eyes and recessive jeans, he just wanted to go color. His mother had her arm wrapped tightly around him though. He wasn't going anywhere. So instead he swung his feet back and forth wildly, wishing he could be anywhere else.
He caught small snatches of the conversation, but they didn't really make a whole lot of sense. Something about blood, sunlight and being a grown up. It was tough to follow because they were using big words, though. Magnus really hated when they did that. It seemed as though hours had passed but eventually, the doctor left. When they were finally able to leave, he tugged on her hand and said, “Mum. Mum.”
His mother looked down at him, her eyes rimmed with red and sniffled. “What, Magnus?”
“If my jeans are wrong, I can just take them off. You don't have to cry, Mum.”
She blinked at him in confusion, then dropped to her knees in the car park. Tears streaming down her face, she pulled him to her breast and didn't let go. “My boy,” she sobbed against his shirt. “Oh, my dear sweet boy!”
Magnus still had no idea what was going on, but for the first time in his young life, he was truly frightened.
Magnus Corbett set the boning knife down and turned to face his boss, Lilly. For such a tiny woman, she was incredibly good at making her presence known. Truth be told, she actually intimidated him a little bit. Not that he'd ever admit that aloud. That wouldn't do much for his “kitchen bad ass” reputation.
She was frighteningly tenacious when it came to getting her way, too. He remembered when she had initially reached out with the offer to install him as head chef of her new restaurant. He'd dismissed it out of hand. New restaurant, in a casino? Not for him.
He had assumed that it was more of the same French designer crap that he'd been used to doing. He could have just as easily continued doing that at The Park. There would be no need for him to take a risk, or sell out.
She had badgered him repeatedly, though, until he finally agreed to a meeting. He'd done it just to get her to go away, but when Lilly had explained her concept, he'd really liked the idea. Both she and her husband were whiskey aficionados. They wanted a warm, comfortable atmosphere that served great whiskey and equally great food. They were looking for warm, humble comfort food dishes with flair. It was the sort of food that he had always wanted to cook but had never found the right arena for. He'd agreed to take the job on the spot. He hadn't known which one of them was more surprised by that. Lilly or himself.
The name of the place was Usquebaugh, which was the Gaelic word for whiskey. He'd thought it was a clever idea. The more that he got to know her, the more he realized that she was incredibly calculated. Not in a bad way. She just knew what she wanted and would accept no less. He could respect that.
“Are you going to just stand there and watch me, Lilly, or was there something you wanted?” he asked, slanting a look in her direction.
“I was waiting patiently until you were done,” she explained, giving him a sour look.
“Well then you'll be waiting a while. Talk while I work, otherwise this rabbit stew isn't getting done,” he ordered, picking the boning knife back up and slicing into the thigh meat.
“You're lucky your accent is charming, Magnus. It sounds polite even when you're basically telling me to fuck off. Let me make it quick. I'd like you to sit down with the bar manager Caroline at some point this week and discuss a pairing menu. We're going to start serving a small line of gin-based cocktails and I'd like some small bites and meals to pair with them.”
“Christ,” he moaned as he tossed the large chunks of rabbit that he'd just de-boned into the large pot. “I've got my hands full in the kitchen. I don't have the time to play bartender, too.”
Another slightly annoyed voice piped up. “You wouldn't be playing bartender. That's my job. You'd be tasting them and then finding something that pairs well with what I've created.”
He snorted, grabbed the next rabbit from the hotel pan next to him and said, “There are already two dishes include some kind of juniper. What else do you really need?”
“For one, I'd like you to taste the damn drinks before you write the whole idea off. I'm not exactly mixing up gin and tonics. I thought a special pairing for each of the six cocktails. Maybe four appetizers and four meals that could be interchangeable. Or a nice Prix Fixe menu for each.”
Magnus dropped the knife on the counter and spun around. “Oh. Just that,” he asked, his voice heavily laced with sarcasm. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to work eight new items onto a menu?”
“I don't care how you guys do it, but get it done, Magnus,” Lilly interrupted. “Set some time up this weekend or after your shift is over and figure it out.” Then with one last pointed look, she left.
Magnus made it a point not to socialize with the front of the house. They were means to an end. A way to deliver what he created. He sighed and said, “I really don't wanna do this.”
“Look, I get it. You don't give a shit about the bar. Honestly, I don't give a shit about the kitchen. I just wanted a few items that would pair well with the drinks. I know the whole menu is designed to pair well with scotch. I thought maybe you could work your magic for some gin-based stuff. It would be a good way to tie in the bar and the restaurant. I thought with a Prix Fixe menu you might be able to get away with doing less. I don't really know. I'm asking for your help. Cut me a break, would you?” she finished on a long sigh.
Despite the fact that he completely saw her point, there was something about her attitude that made him want to be difficult. He could tell that what came out of her mouth wasn't even close to what she had been thinking. “Perhaps you should give a shit about the kitchen. It's what keeps Usquebaugh afloat, love. I know the restaurant isn't exactly raking in the dough at four dollars profit on each drink.”
“And so do I. That's why I'm trying to breathe a little life into the bar menu. I love the idea of a whiskey bar but it's a very niche thing. I'm eventually looking to add some vodka and rum based drinks too. I was planning to do that in stages so as not to overwhelm, Your Royal Majesty,” she shot back, gesturing to him with a flourish of her hand that ended with a middle finger.
Lips twitching, he said, “Your Highness will do.” A moment later he added, “and, don't you realize that you should be nicer to someone when you're asking for their help?”
She rolled her eyes and said, “You dismissed my idea out of hand before we even spoke. What I do takes skill. It isn't something that you can just play behind the bar and figure out. You're the one that started out with an insult. At no point did I ever suggest that I could come into your kitchen and throw together the pairings myself.”
“I didn't realize you were there when I said it,” he admitted, feeling a little awkward for the first time. “You're right, though. What are you doing after work? We can go over the drinks tonight. I'll take notes and put some things together.”
She let out a small sigh of relief and said, “Thank you. Tonight works fine. I'll be ready a few minutes after the doors close.”
“That should give me time to work on tomorrow's prep. Come find me when you're ready.”
“Thank you, Magnus,” she said, as she walked toward the door.
“Don't thank me yet,” he answered. “I may just recommend the venison that we already have on the menu.”
He heard her mutter something that sounded suspiciously like the word ‘asshole’ as she walked away. He had to agree. He'd been a little bit of an asshole. He wasn't exactly sure why, either. Maybe it was her attitude. Something about her smart mouth just rubbed at him the wrong way.
Or maybe the right way. He wasn't ashamed to admit it but he had watched until she disappeared through the swinging doors. She was tall and curvy. Her honey blonde hair had been pulled up in a bun, but it just added to that whole naughty librarian thing she had going on with the dark rimmed glasses.
Magnus turned back to the rabbit and quickly continued the deboning. A glance at the wall clock indicated that he was behind now. The stew needed to start simmering soon in order for the flavors to marry well. The rabbit would be tough. He called for his sous chef, Veronica.
“Yes, chef,” she said, scurrying over from where she was directing someone on the grill.
“Can you help me finish the rabbit? I had to deal with something and got sidetracked.”
“Absolutely,” she said as she pulled another cutting board off the shelf. She peeked into the pot and said, “Just deboning but leaving it whole.”
“Yeah. It needs to start simmering or it's going to be tough.”
“Got it,” she said as she grabbed a whole rabbit from the hotel pan and started to work.
Magnus truly thanked his lucky stars every day. Veronica, straight out of culinary school had come to apply to work in his kitchen at The Park. She'd worked the line, mostly salads which was a total waste of her talent. She was efficient and knew how to take orders.
Once upon a time he'd even tried to date her. It had only taken one night for them to realize that they were better suited as friends rather than lovers. As much as he intellectually thought that he needed a sweet, biddable woman, he knew that wasn't the case. He was into sassy, self-assured women who took absolutely no bullshit. Women like Caroline. Seeing as how he was one of the Transfigured, it was unlikely that Caroline would be attracted to him. He found that most human women tended to be turned off by it. Not that he could really blame them. Humans were the only producers of the thing that the Transfigured truly needed to live. Blood.
Sure, the Transfigured still ate food. That was more out of habit than any physical need, though. That always sparked a question from every reporter he'd ever spoken to. Since he didn't technically need to eat, why food? Why cooking?
From a young age, he'd known what he wanted to do. Even after he'd been tested and it was discovered that he was Transfigured, that hadn't stopped him. A man had to do something with his life. Especially if he was going to be living it indefinitely.
He heard that some of the Transfigured stopped eating after the change happened. He couldn't imagine a world without food, though. It was his passion, and the best way that he knew how to communicate with the world at large. God knew, he didn't want to talk to them directly.
With the rabbit finally simmering in the combination of Madeira and stock, he moved on to the next entree. He cursed the seasonal, ever changing menu even though it was his own. He'd put a fresh mushroom ravioli dish on there, which meant that he got to make them from scratch every night.
By the end of his shift, he was exhausted. Though he wanted nothing more than to go home and relax, there was prep to do and apparently some gin drinks he was supposed to be trying.
He had just finished wrapping the last of the leftovers from dinner service. Tomorrow they'd be donated to one of the local homeless shelters by one of the day staff. He didn't want to serve day old food to the customers but he thought it was wasteful to throw it away, too. When he'd approached Lilly with the idea, she'd agreed, and coordinated with the rest of the restaurants in the hotel to set it up.
He glanced up at the wall clock impatiently. Christ, how long did it take to mix a drink?
Seconds later she popped through the door and said, “Sorry about that. We had someone who got a little drunk and wouldn't take the hint to leave.”
“Must be a pain in the ass,” he commiserated. “Like those bastards that come in and sit down twenty minutes before closing.”
“The worst,” she agreed. “Anyway. Drinks are ready.”
“Be right in. I need paper and pen.”
She nodded and said, “’Kay. See you in a minute then.”
He watched her walk away, noticing that this time she wore what looked like fuzzy slippers on her feet. With a smirk, he went into the small office. He snagged a notebook and pen off the desk and then went in search of Caroline.
He found her on one of the stools in front of the bar. Her eyes were closed as she stretched her arms above her head. Her moan of pleasure bordered on obscene.
Desperate to tamp down his x-rated thoughts, he cleared his throat and said, “Caroline?”
Her chocolate brown eyes opened and she said, “Sorry, sorry. Haven't had a chance to sit all night. But, here you go.”
“Me either,” he griped, grabbing the stool next to her. “What have we got here?”
“This one,” she said, pointing at a murky purple concoction, “is lavender infused gin, Earl Grey tea, and simple syrup.”
He blinked at her, confused when she picked up an orange peel and a lighter. Mystified, he watched as she warmed it and then rubbed the skin against the rim of the glass. When she waved her hand, he said, “Smart. The essential oils add flavor and scent without messing with the color of the drink.”
Tentatively, he took a sip. He wasn't certain how infused the gin was. Lavender could be incredibly overpowering. He could only taste the faintest hint, though. The flavor was complex and layered. It was pretty damn good. As the he pulled the glass back, the citrus scent hit him again.
“Wow. That's really good,” he said, setting the glass down. He began writing notes. A lavender smoked duck breast. Pink in the middle. Carrots, zucchini and squash with tarragon.
“You don't have to sound shocked,” she responded, dryly. “You're not the only professional that works here, ya know?”
Magnus held up his hands and said, “Truce, truce. I was a dick earlier. It's a bad habit of mine. I was only paying you a compliment, Caroline.”
“Thank you,” she said, stiffly. “This one is a play on a martini. It's got gin, lychee and cranberry.”
He studied the light pink beverage and chuckled. “I feel so manly drinking all these pastel drinks.”
“Most of the patrons in the bar are men. I'm hoping some of the fruitier drinks will draw more female clientele. I'm sure your manhood will be fine.”
He grinned at her and then murmured, “Pleased to know you're concerned about my manhood, love.”
“Just drink,” she ordered, rolling her eyes.
It was the right combination of tart and sweet. Despite the off-putting color, he found himself finishing it. “Another good one,” he said as he scribbled notes. Maybe pork medallions with a raspberry coulis.
And so it continued on down the line. When they'd gotten to the last drink, he sipped and then said, “This needs citrus. Maybe a squeeze of orange?”