Dangerously Dark

Dangerously Dark by Colette London Read Free Book Online

Book: Dangerously Dark by Colette London Read Free Book Online
Authors: Colette London
there, talking about what had happened to Declan Murphy. Searching for meaning in what felt like catastrophe.
    I faced him, momentarily distracted from his dreaminess by my own curiosity—and my (inexplicable) urge to defend Austin.
    â€œAlmost seven million people play World of Warcraft,” I pointed out with a private hat tip to my friend Eduardo in Sao Paulo. He’d used the voice-acted version of the Mists of Pandaria expansion to teach me Portuguese. Let’s just say I had a pretty unusual grasp of the language at this point. ( Obrigado, Eduardo!) “There’s nothing wrong with MMORPGs.”
    Beside me, Austin stood straighter. Good. All the same . . .
    â€œDon’t you want to find out what happened?” I asked.
    â€œYeah, don’t you want to know?” Austin prodded, defensively squaring his shoulders in a way that reminded me how young he seemed, despite his grasp of science. “Plus, I’m a goblin engineer, Berk. I deal with explosives, not leadership.”
    I didn’t think the most important task here was reaching an understanding of Austin’s MMORPG role, but Berk only smiled.
    â€œYou’re right. Sorry, Austin.” He turned to me. “That reminds me that you haven’t met any of the rest of us.”
    He took it upon himself to perform the introductions. I couldn’t help noticing how smoothly and likably he did so—starting with himself. He put his hand on his chest and bowed.
    Yes, it was a little cheesy. But it worked. You had to be there to understand the effect that an Old World/ New World man—especially one with a searching smile—could have on a person.
    â€œI’m Tomasz Berk.” He clasped my hand. “You’re Hayden?”
    â€œHayden Mundy Moore.” I omitted my usual chocolate whisperer label. It wasn’t relevant here. “Didn’t I hear you say something about drinks?”
    â€œYou did.” His smile broadened, but his eyes stayed sad. “I guess you’re one of us now, Hayden. Why don’t you come on over to my place?”
    I followed his head tilt toward a nearby building, right alongside everyone else. And that’s how I became an honorary member of the Cartorama cart pod, melded into the family like a Venezuelan dark chocolate into a bitter soufflé of trauma, confusion, and the vagaries of a technology I didn’t understand.
    I did know one thing for sure, though. After today, it was going to be a very long time before I wanted another ice cream.

    If you’ve worked in the food service industry, then I don’t need to tell you that the staff quickly tend to become a family. If you haven’t slung hash or waited tables, picture the most mismatched, dysfunctional, fiercely loyal crowd of egomaniacs and malcontents you can imagine, then add fire and sharp knives.
    Voilà! That’s a restaurant kitchen, patisserie, or confectioner for you. Tempers flare. Egos run amok. Differences of opinion become bitter rivalries, stoked by day-to-day demands and the need to make money in a low-margin, high-risk business.
    At Cartorama, I learned that afternoon while sampling chocolate porter at Muddle + Spade, things were much the same.
    There were still temperamental head chefs, sulky servers, demanding line cooks, and grumbling cleanup crews at the cart pod—but they all tended to be the same person, filling each of those roles at once. Each food cart was a microcosm of a typical restaurant, usually with a stressed-out entrepreneur at its helm. There was Austin Martin and The Chocolate Bar. Carissa and Churn PDX. Tomasz Berk and his bar adjacent to Cartorama.
    Muddle + Spade was the epitome of a Bridgetown watering hole. Decked out in modern-meets-steampunk style (with a dash of lumberjack thrown in), it occupied a renovated warehouse next door to Cartorama. There were antlers on the walls, antique penny farthings in the rafters, and ironwork on the bar.

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