He was tired, so tired, of being called Chef. He wondered occasionally if anyone remembered his real name. His parents were gone, and he had no brothers or sisters. All he had was the Serenity Café and the many people who worked for him. And, unfortunately, he was responsible for every one of them.
And at the Serenity, he was known as Chef. He had to be Chef.
Customers called him Chef. Suppliers and drivers and vintners and farmers and fishers. Everyone he knew—including his bankers, his accountants, and his tailor—called him Chef.
He needed someone to call him by his real name. Needed, desperately, to step outside the jail in which he’d locked himself. He wanted—just for one night—to be the boy who’d run wild across the fields, the teenager who’d skied the black diamond runs, the young man who’d traveled across Europe, Asia, and Africa with only a backpack and his skills in the kitchen.
The trouble, of course, was that he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave, couldn’t give it all up and start again, not without losing everything he’d created. He could start again but the people who worked for him, the people he’d saved from the streets and helped to rebuild their lives, those people had nowhere else to go. His freedom wasn’t worth their lives.
So he could only think of one way to achieve that freedom, even for a single night, without risking everything.
He was going to call his old friend Calliope and ask her to set him up with The Pleasure Club. She’d emailed him a couple of years earlier to tell him she’d finally got together with her professor—and she’d done it through that organization.
He didn’t need a long term relationship. He simply needed the occasional night to be himself again. And he knew, because she’d told him, that The Pleasure Club could guarantee just that.