Delphine Bouchard is a celebrity chef and owner of a world-renowned restaurant in Brooklyn, NY, where the chic and bespoke crowd mingle with neighborhood denizens. She enjoys fame, money, and women, and lives life by her own rules. She also happens to be a vampire.
Del’s life and the local vampire community are rocked when a vampire hunter begins picking them off, and Del has reason to believe that she might be next. Del is also being watched and criticized by the vampire hive council and persecuted by a coven of witches, who are the enforcers of behavior for the supernatural set. In the midst of all this turmoil, Del meets and unexpectedly falls hard for Jocelyn, who she soon discovers is holding back a disturbing secret. Del must decide whether or not to put aside her feelings of betrayal and pursue the relationship.
Meanwhile, when a food critic with a grudge sets out to ruin her business and reputation, Del has to protect her staff and restaurant. But the situation spirals out of control when a human shows up dead, her restaurant is sabotaged, and Jocelyn is threatened. Del must save her business, protect her loved ones, and find out who the vampire killer is before she is the next victim.
Set against a backdrop of elaborate meals and passionate cooking, Have a Bite is book one in the novella series The Vampires of Brooklyn Chronicles. The world of vampires and hunters meets the world of restaurants, foodies, and celebrity chefs—a recipe for paranormal mystery seasoned with suspense, peppered with romance, and flavored with a dash of humor.
Flames shot up, threatening to set the ceiling ablaze. Metal against metal sounded a rhythm as white-coated women and men dashed around in a mad panic, trying to keep everything to an organized chaos. Papers fluttered as they passed between hands, water splashed as used utensils landed in the sink, and more than a few collisions nearly resulted in people being sent to the hospital with head injuries or stab wounds.
The crew shouted out what they needed as the orders kept coming in at regular clips, and finished plates went out with the kind of speed that comes with experience.
“Lamb rack, fire up!”
“How long on the potatoes Dauphinoise?
“I need more sorrel!”
Delphine expedited, checking the plates before they went out of the kitchen to the patrons. “Pay attention, people. The plates are getting sloppy.”
Nervous glances from the crew went in Delphine’s direction. No one wanted to piss off the boss. Ramona, the sous chef, eyeballed the other cooks on the line, as she as tossed caramelized onions in a pan.
One by one, waitstaff rushed in and out and shouted out customers’ orders, cutting through the kitchen noise.
“I need one gluten-free manicotti, pronto.”
“Two roast chicken, sauce on the side.”
“One pork paillard, no mushrooms! One duck, no garlic!”
“Please, make sure I have that porterhouse black and blue!”
“I need a refire on this wagyu. Customer wants it rare, not mooing!”
“We got an Elaine Benes!”
The Seinfeld reference, the staff’s code for someone requesting a big salad, which was not on the menu, always made Del chuckle.
Tracy, the head server came bustling in and handed Del two more tickets. “Eight salmon, all day!” Del shouted.
“Eight? Shit,” said Ramona. “We’re running low on the salmon.”
“All right, don’t panic.” Delphine ran into the walk-in to check on the inventory. She re-emerged and pressed the button on the intercom that went to the offices. “Ophelia, go out and assess the room. How many people look like they haven’t ordered yet?”
“Okay,” came the crackled response from her restaurant manager.
“Gluten-free manicotti at the pass!” the pasta cook shouted a few moments later.
Ramona reached into an oven and pulled out a sheet pan of thin, ruddy beet chips. “Hot behind!” She quickly walked behind the others with the pan in her hands and set it down on a work table just as Ophelia came into the kitchen.
“Chef, it looks like a few more guests came in. But according to Mariel, most of the people invited are here. Maybe a few more are going to come.”
“Okay, thanks,” Delphine replied. To her kitchen crew she said, “Let’s pump it out, guys. We’re heading into the home stretch.”
Ramona, back at her station, lifted the lid off a pot, pulled what looked like a clean spoon from the arm pocket of her jacket, and dipped it into the pot. From where she stood, Delphine could see that it was the chestnut-celery root bisque, recently added to the menu to accompany the Arctic char in a ramekin. With a satisfied look, she replaced the lid and wiped her hands. “Fire up the char!” she called out.
Del loved the rhythm and energy of a kitchen, especially hers. Every sense was engaged, every single day. The sounds of pots and pans hitting the burners, utensils scraping against stainless steel, oil sizzling, smoke spitting, and voices and music from the dining room filled the kitchen. With minimal banter, the staff performed their duties, chopping, roasting, braising, frying, boiling, steaming, or otherwise preparing what they were responsible for.
It was all magic. The smell of the kitchen—an intoxicating blend of spices, roasting meats, vegetables being transformed into nectarous edible jewels, and sauces stirred into a magical essence. The intense reds of paprika and cayenne, the glitter of sea salt, the gray fog of smoke rising from a hot pan, or the swirling verdant green of cilantro being puréed for salsa verde. The sensation of flour sifting through your fingers, or the ache in your knuckles after shucking dozens of oysters. The slow burn on your skin after chopping chiles. Or the numbness of your fingertips after rinsing lettuce in ice-cold water. She almost missed the last two—they were pleasurable pains.
She thrived on it all and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. She’d fought against the efforts over the years to take her restaurants down by egotistical reviewers, jealous competitors, and others with more personal agendas, and she always came back strong. And she knew that her crew felt the same way, particularly here at Vie Sang. But nights like this were trying.
Sasha Ziegler, the Grammy-winning singer, had booked the entire restaurant for three hundred guests and requested that the menu, in its entirety, remain available throughout the night as guests came and went and ate at their leisure. This was in addition to the hors d’oeuvres and cocktails that the celebrity had ordered. For the amount of money Delphine was charging, she’d agreed. But in exchange, she and her staff had hell to pay. Just managing the extra seating was a nightmare.
Tracy came rushing back in. “Where’s my tofu teriyaki? I needed it yesterday.”
Delphine looked toward Leslie, who was handling the vegetarian and vegan meals. Leslie was new and had to build up her pace. “Leslie, speed it up. Let’s get that tofu up. I want to see it at the pass in three. Please.”
“Yes, Chef!” Leslie swiftly moved around her station and began squirting soy sauce and rice vinegar from squeeze bottles into a bowl.
The roar of flames hit Del’s ears and she looked toward the grill station. The grillardin, the grill cook, jumped back suddenly as another huge burst of flame shot up. A skillet slammed against the wall, sending pan sauce splattering across the floor and wall. The cook fell to the floor screaming, his hand on his face.
Delphine ran to him. “Stu! Are you all right? Let me see your face.” As she kneeled down beside him, Ramona ran to the grill and salted the blazing burner until it was doused.
Stu writhed on the floor while Delphine tried to move his hand from his face. The other cooks looked on with worried expressions, but continued to cook. Stopping for any amount of time would be disastrous.
Ophelia came running in. “Holy shit! What happened?” She dropped to her knees near Stu’s head.
“Get me the first aid kit,” Delphine said, with a hand on Ophelia’s forearm.
Ophelia jumped up and returned in seconds with the kit. Delphine opened it up and pulled out the burn ointment. “Somebody get me a glove.” A latex glove appeared near her face, although who had proffered it, she didn’t know. She grabbed it and smeared some ointment on Stu’s cheek, which seemed to have taken the brunt of the fiery assault.
Stu cringed with the touch. “Ow! Ow!”
“Shit,” she muttered. “I should have had that stove looked at. Do you want to go to the ER?”
Stu stopped squirming and began to sit up. “No. I’m okay. It just hurt for a few minutes. But I’m fine.” His cheek was a mottled, angry crimson, a bit swollen, and already blistering in one spot.
“Are you sure?”
Delphine helped him get up and step back to the stove, where he paused briefly to take a few deep breaths. He lowered his head, seemingly to regroup and calm the beat of his heart, which must have been racing. He checked the food on the other burners and plucked a clean pan from the wall to replace the one he’d dropped.
Ophelia looked stricken and stood frozen. “Ophelia. You okay?” Delphine asked.
“Um, yeah. That was just…God.”
“I know.” Delphine sighed heavily. “Listen, get back out there and see what’s happening, okay?”
“Yeah, okay.” Ophelia made her way toward the door, a lingering gaze on Stu’s back.
Delphine grabbed her apron and tied it on. Things were getting out of control, and she needed to jump into the fray to help. “Ramona, get over here and expedite. I’m going in.”
Ramona stepped up to the front of the kitchen, where the dishes came to rest on the counter—the “pass”—just before being transported out to the dining room by the waitstaff.
“Okay, listen up, everybody,” Delphine said, “We’re in the weeds here, but we’re going to get through this. I just want everyone to take a deep breath and relax. Don’t stop, just relax.”
The pace and intensity remained high as the orders kept coming in. Unlike the usual controllable private party, this was a free-for-all.
To make things more stressful, the Council had also taken this opportunity to spy on her. She spotted a few agents among the partygoers. They were enjoying themselves, but observed everything. Tough job.
By one a.m., the food orders had stopped coming in. Del wiped her hands on her towel and stepped outside of the kitchen for a breather, taking the opportunity to assess the dining room.
The partiers were having a great time, if the cacophony of laughter, chatter, and clinking glasses were any indication. Sasha Ziegler held court at the center table and smiled brightly as people stooped next to her to take selfies with her. Despite the insanity, there was a pleasant hum throughout the restaurant that told Del people were enjoying the food. She could always tell when a crowd of people didn’t like what she’d offered up that night—there would be a pall that would pervade the air. Not that it happened often.
She was enjoying her usual game of spotting the insecure sycophant or the nose-in-the-air celebrity who feigned boredom when something made her stop. On the left side of the room was a gorgeous woman in a black halter cocktail dress, her dark hair slicked back, holding a martini glass. The golden flecks of salt and shards of caramel that adorned the rim of the glass told Del that it was one of her bartender’s signature salted-caramel martinis. The woman’s neckline plunged low and Del found herself staring at the flesh peeking out of the material. She looked up and discovered the woman looking back at her. Too busy to get involved in the art of seduction, she returned to the kitchen.
On her way there, she noticed a man with his back turned toward her. Nothing really stood out about him, but that was precisely why she noticed him. He didn’t seem to fit in with the ultrachic, bespoke celeb crowd. He wore baggy-in-the-butt, faded-looking slacks, a wrinkled half-tucked shirt, and a well-worn denim jacket that looked as if it could use a good washing. He stooped slightly, as if life had beaten him down. It was then that she realized that he actually had a small hump on his back. He stood alone and very still, as if afraid to turn around. The only part of him that moved was his thumb, which rubbed nervously over what Del could see was a lighter, an old-school kind with a flip-top.
Del’s hackles stood up. Although she couldn’t see his face, he seemed familiar somehow. She was about to move into the crowd to try and find out who he was, when Ramona stuck her head out of the kitchen.
“Chef, we’re gonna start breaking down the stations,” Ramona said. “Chantel’s almost ready to roll out dessert.”
Dell nodded and went back into the kitchen, taking one last look at the man. He turned his head slightly, then quickly turned it back, as if surreptitiously checking to see who was behind him.
Del went to the basement kitchen to check on her pastry chef, Chantel, who was calmly slicing her opera cake. With agonizing precision, she positioned a long, sharp knife over the cake and sliced straight down, apparently using some imaginary guides to cut down the length of the twenty-four-inch, seven-layer cake. Delphine waited until Chantel had finished the slice and had pulled the knife out of the sheet, bits of almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and chocolate ganache clinging to the razor-sharp blade.
Chantel looked up and smiled. “Hey. How’s it going up there? I heard you got in the weeds.”
“Yeah, but we got through it. It’s almost over. How’s it going down here?”
Chantel’s face was coated in sweat. “Fine. Everything’s ready. God, I hope we don’t run out of anything.” Finished with cutting, she gazed one more time at her creation, then put her knife into a stainless steel hotel pan filled with water.
“Don’t worry.” Delphine looked at the list hanging on the refrigerator with the desserts and quantities. “I think you made plenty. How did the sugar cage turn out this time?” She referred to one aspect of Chantel’s latest signature dessert that she had been trying to perfect, a complicated affair that also featured chocolate foam, white chocolate-covered rose petals, and caramel-pistachio brittle.
Chantel smiled bashfully. “Really good.”
Del smiled as well and patted Chantel on the back.
Upstairs, the bustling continued but was slowing down. Her garde-manger, who handled appetizers and salads, was standing with her back against her work station, hands perched on the counter. The bussers were coming in with tubs of dirty dishes, as Chantel turned the corner of the staircase with a sheet pan of plated opera cake. The crew oohed and aahed at the plates of perfectly cut slices, a squirt of cappuccino cream atop each and flanked on one side by a rectangular piece of chocolate with a white design on it, along with a pool of vanilla sauce, dotted with raspberry coulis.
After the servers had served all the guests, the crew each got a piece of cake as well—the throwaways—and toasted each other with their forks.
“Thank you for working so hard tonight, guys,” Del said. “I really appreciate it.” They all beamed before taking huge bites of their cake.
When the partiers had left and the kitchen was cleaned up, the crew began filing out, all ready to meet up at one of their favorite post-dinner hangouts. A beer at three in the morning helped take the edge off a crazy dinner service.
“Night, Boss.” Chantel was the last one to leave.
“Thanks, Chantel. Good work tonight.”
Chantel chuckled. “Did you expect anything else?”
“No.” Chantel was an artist, which was why Delphine had hired her, and probably what had enticed her when they’d had their brief fling. That and her smooth, dark skin and startlingly blue eyes, the legacy of her African-Dutch-Curaçaoan heritage. The clincher was her accent, a sensuous combination of Dutch, Spanish, and African languages. Delphine had made her whisper things in her native Papiamento during the night, when the best thing they could think to do was explore each other’s bodies.
“You are perfection,” Delphine said.
Chantel smiled. “You always were bright.” After a moment, she added, “It was a rough night. Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Go on home.”
“All right. Good night, then.” She put a reassuring hand on Del’s shoulder as she walked past her.
When Chantel was out the door, Delphine locked up, went into her office and grabbed her jacket. Everything else could wait until tomorrow. As she shrugged on the jacket, she remembered the strange man at the party. Unfortunately, it was too late to ask anyone about him. Damn. She shut out the lights and walked out the back door to the small parking lot.
It had been a brutally hot day for Brooklyn. But that heat had given way to a cool evening with a breeze coming off the Upper New York Bay and down the East River. When she was human, she would have shivered on a night like this.
Right next to the door was her Kawasaki Cruiser. About to settle herself on the motorcycle’s seat, she stopped.
She smelled it right away. The heady aroma of desire, need, and surrender filled the air, and she knew it was close. But she waited until the source chose to reveal itself. A woman stepped out of the shadows and into the floodlight of the parking lot. She approached the doorway where Del stood.
“Do you desire anything, madam?”
Delphine turned to face the woman. She was young, maybe about twenty-five, slender, with blond hair down to her shoulders and edged with blue. Her skin was pale, and her eyes half open with the promise of seduction. This was nothing new for Delphine. Many pretty young things had waited for her outside the restaurant, ready to offer themselves to her. They were like groupies.
Delphine moved a little closer. “What’s your name?”
“Roxanne,” the young woman responded, taking a deep breath, obviously so that her bosom would rise closer to Delphine’s face. Delphine obliged her with a direct stare down her low-cut blouse, which Delphine was sure had been selected just for the purpose. “Well, Roxanne, I do find myself in need of a little something.”