Posted on May 28, 2012 - by


Chapter One



“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Manuel Rouvelas


My new boss Wally slid his glasses down his nose and squinted over the top of the black frames. “Don’t even think about coming back with a piece telling us offal is the next big foodie trend,” he said. “I don’t care what’s in style in New York and LA. We eat grouper and key lime pie in Key West, not entrails.” He leaned back in his weathered wicker chair, fronds of faux tropical foliage tickling his hair. “Clear?”

“Aye, aye, Captain.” I snapped my heels together and saluted; it wasn’t easy to be serious with a man wearing a yellow silk shirt dotted with palm trees. Our company uniform. Which made my complexion look a little sallow, but I would have worn the houseplant and the straw lampshade that matched the other furniture were those required for the job.

Right before Thanksgiving, I was astonished and grateful to be hired as the food critic for Key Zest, the new Key West style magazine. They sure hadn’t planned on shelling out big bucks so I could attend the “Key West Loves Literature” seminar barely two months later. But after I explained how most of the top food writers and food critics in the country would be there and we’d look like foodie fools if we missed it, Wally finally caved. With the caveat that I keep up my schedule of local restaurant reviews and write a couple of snappy, stylish feature articles about the seminar as well.

At the time, that had all sounded doable. But right now, I had big-time nervous jitters about meeting my writing idols and trying to sound smart. And I wished that my Christmas present brainstorm for my mother had been something other than tuition to this seminar. She was completely thrilled to be visiting here from New Jersey, and who wouldn’t feel good about making her mother happy? But for one of my first major (and paid!) journalistic assignments, having my mom tethered to my side felt a little like looking through the oven door at a falling soufflé.

Wally fidgeted with his glasses, opened his mouth once, then closed it again. “Listen. I don’t mean to up the ante on this weekend, but I figure you’re a grown woman and you should know.”

My heart thunked to my gullet and despite the warm, dry air in the office, I felt cold. “Know what?”

“Ava Faulkner has been pressuring me—she’s trolling for a reason to let you go.”

My eyes bulged. Ava was Kristen Faulkner’s sister—the sister of the woman who’d stolen my boyfriend last fall and then gotten herself murdered. “But why? She can’t still think I killed Kristen. That’s all been settled.”

Wally smoothed a hand across his desk blotter. “She’s not a rational woman, Hayley. But since she owns more than fifty percent of the magazine, I have to listen to her. It’s just—I need your very best work this weekend.” He looked up and met my gaze. “If you can come up with something exclusive, like an interview with the keynote, all the better.”

“Thanks for the heads up. Gotta go pick up Mom.” I saluted again but my limbs felt boneless and my smile wouldn’t work. I’d emailed the main speaker at least four times to request a meeting, with less than stellar results.

I sucked in a big breath and ran downstairs to catch the waiting cab, determined to push Wally’s warning out of my brain before it reduced me to gelatin. My mother’s parental radar would pick up on the tiniest nick in my façade and her worries would start seeping into my mind like water into cement sidewalk cracks. And then she’d spend the weekend working on me to move back home. Not going to happen.

Since I didn’t own a car, I’d considered picking Mom up on my scooter. But her terror of motorcycles dissuaded me, and besides, she didn’t travel light. I’d seen a lot bulkier loads carried on a scooter in this town than two women with an oversized suitcase—like the guy who passed me on White Street with two golden retrievers strapped to the back of his bike and one draped across his lap. But I could still picture my bungee cords snapping and the suitcase bursting, spreading Mom’s private essentials through the city streets for the homeless to pick over. Instead I slid into the back seat of a bright pink station wagon that smelled a little funky, even for a taxi. Then I noticed the oversized green parrot riding shotgun in the front, the Key West Citizen spread out to contain his droppings.

“Where ya headed?” the bird squawked.

“To the airport,” I said after a few seconds of stunned silence.

“Got visitors coming?” asked the cabbie as he gunned his engine, swerving around a golf cart full of whooping kids. The parrot lost his footing and tumbled, cursing, into the passenger seat.

“My mother,” I said, watching the bird edge sideways across the newspaper on the seat and climb back onto his perch. He pecked at a few feathers that had been dislodged in the fall, then swiveled his neck around to glare at me.

The cabbie’s eyes, brimming with sympathy, met mine in the rearview mirror. “Mom came to visit the first year I moved down,” he said. “Once she saw my apartment door off its hinges leaning against the wall in the hallway next to all the empty beer bottles, she turned around and went back home.”

**ps, there’s no one named Patrick in the book, but that’s exactly the shirt I was imagining as the company uniform for Key Zest–courtesy of smallfry designs…


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  1. Leann Sweeney said:

    This sounds WONDERFUL! Cannot wait, Lucy!

  2. Liz Calafiore said:

    Sounds intriguing! Can’t wait!

  3. Amy Gill said:

    I am not a patient person. This book can’t arrive to quickly for me. I’v been waiting and waiting since I read the close of Appetite…
    Hurry up, December!!!!!

  4. Amy Gill said:

    December? I certainly meant to type September!!

  5. Dru said:

    Thanks for letting us get a sneak peek. I can’t wait to read it.

  6. Cathy said:

    Did Hayley REALLY see a guy with THREE goldens on his bike on White Street?? Wow! I’d love to have seen that! And can’t wait to meet Mom and read the rest.

    • Lucy said:

      To be completely truthful, I’m not sure Hayley saw the 3 goldens, but I sure did! Better behaved than my Tonka….


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