The Deleted Scene

Pep Talk á la Frankie

I actually love this scene from the original first chapter of Can’t Stand the Heat, back when I was calling it Cookbook as a shorthand working title. It was intended to showcase Adam and Frankie’s unique friendship, and I think it does a good job of that. However, it slowed down the pacing, so it had to go! I’m happy to have the chance to share it with you here.

“Come in, Frankie,” Adam said, his hands going back to his neck to tug ineffectually at his tie.

“How’d you know it was me?” asked a lazy, British drawl.

“Because Grant is busy actually working the floor, keeping the guests happy, Samara is busy actually pouring drinks, and everyone else is busy actually working the kitchen, getting the food ready and plated. You’re the only who’d drop your actual work to come check on me. Now that I’ve crossed that illustrious chef/owner line, you’re the only one who still tells me you think I’m an idiot, straight to my face. Also, I could smell your illegal cigarette through the door.”

“Don’t be a bitch, boss.”

Frankie’s smirking face appeared in the mirror just above and to the right of Adam’s. The shock of black hair rioting over Frankie’s head made Adam look almost well groomed by comparison, and Adam relaxed enough to grin.

“You could remember that a little more often. That I’m your boss.”

“Partner, technically,” Frankie reminded him, drawing deeply on his cigarette and blowing the smoke into the mirror. “You’re mucking up that tie something awful. Give it here.”

“I don’t even know why I have to wear one,” Adam grumbled, yanking it over his head and handing it over to Frankie, who whipped it around his own neck.

“Search me,” Frankie said, passing his lit cigarette to Adam, who immediately stubbed it out in the sink. Frankie rolled his eyes, his nimble fingers making quick work of the knot. The silk in varying shades of green looked oddly at home against his New York Dolls t-shirt. “Darling Grant seemed to think it important.”

“And he’s southern, so we have to trust him when it comes to etiquette,” Adam parrotted the familiar refrain. “Hey, that looks good.”

“Mate,” Frankie said, looking offended. “Of course it looks good. Now try not to unravel it before I get it round your thick neck.”

Adam took the tie back irritably. “Just because I don’t have that heroin chic thing going on.”

Oi, tosser. I don’t do that shit anymore. I have other ways of maintaining my slender physique.”

“Like what?” Adam snorted.

“Clean living,” Frankie mumbled as he drew another cigarette from a slightly squashed pack of Dunhills. He held the cigarette in his mouth and fumbled in his pocket for a matchbook. When he found it, he struck the match off the wide leather band he wore at his left wrist, and cupped his hands around the end of the cigarette, taking a long ecstatic breath as soon as it was lit.

Adam watched the familiar ritual fondly. “I can’t believe I’m taking fashion advice from a guy wearing black jeans and the t-shirt of a cross-dressing punk band.”

“Now, now,” said Frankie on an aggrieved burst of smoke. “The Dolls are a classic, mate. Let’s not have this again. Just because they understood shock value, and had the stones to agitate the complacent masses from the stage…”

“All right. I give,” Adam laughed. He turned back to the mirror and twitched at the jacket he’d been conned into wearing. “I hate suits. I always look like a felon about to get arraigned.”

“Because you’re uncomfortable. Makes you go all shifty, like you’re scanning the exits, planning your escape. Relax, and you’ll look fine.”

“It’s just…why does this have to be part of being a chef?” Adam complained, for the zillionth time. “Why can’t I just cook fantastic food and have people come and enjoy it? All this publicity bullshit.” He shook his head, blew out a sigh.

“Doesn’t have to be part of it. If you want to work for someone else the rest of your life. If you want to call the shots?” Frankie edged a hip onto the sink in front of Adam. “You’ve got to make nice with the industry wankers, and tell ‘em why Market’s the best new restaurant in the whole fucking city.” He clamped his teeth on the cigarette, and reached out to tug Adam’s lapels into place. “And apparently, you have to do it all while wearing a suit.”

“Yeah, ok.” Adam felt the corner of his mouth hitch up. “It is a pretty great restaurant, though, isn’t it? Or, it will be. Once we open.”

“Course, mate. With the two of us running the kitchen? It’s aces.”

“Dynamic duo,” Adam agreed, feeling better. “Thanks, man.”

“That’s my job.” Frankie grinned. “Buck up the boss when he’s feeling blue. And along those lines,” he said, smoothing a hand along Adam’s shoulder, straightening the fall of the jacket, “I’ll also tell you that this suit doesn’t make you look like a felon. You look bloody hot in it. I’d do you.”

“You’ll do anything that’ll stay still long enough.” But Adam stood a little taller, turned to see how he looked from the side. Maybe the suit wasn’t so bad.

Frankie actually had pretty high standards, in both men and women, and the blatant appreciation in his gaze was flattering. Adam figured it didn’t make him any less of a macho straight guy, just because another man happened to compliment him. Besides, he couldn’t have stayed friends with Frankie this long if he’d been too sensitive about the idea of man-on-man action. It was just part of the best friend package, something Adam accepted. Even if he didn’t necessarily want to hear all the details.

“Well,” Frankie drawled. “Not too still, eh? I like a little chase, me.”

“Speaking of which, have we finished staffing the front room?” In the last two restaurants Adam and Frankie had worked together, Frankie had regarded the servers and bartenders as his own personal dating pool.

Frankie gave him a look that said he knew a stall tactic when he heard one, but all he said was, “Not yet. Grant’s still looking around. Told him to just poach the best-looking ones from other restaurants, but he’s being all honorable about it.”

“He’d better hustle up. We’ve only got two weeks till opening night.” He groaned. “Which is exactly what I’m supposed to be talking about upstairs right now.”

“Sod ‘em,” Frankie replied, always ready to tell the world to go fuck itself. “It’s your party, the drinks are flowing freely, let ‘em wait.”

“Yeah, but how long? Until I come up with a good speech?” That could be years. Adam didn’t think the rosewater vodka would hold out.

“Nah, you’re at your best off the cuff.”

“And at least they’ve got poached quail eggs on brioche and roasted root vegetable skewers to keep them happy while they wait, right?”

“Well,” said Frankie, looking a bit like a shifty-eyed felon himself, for a moment. “Not quite quite. I told Grant to hold off on the apps until you got up there. Let you say your say, then get to see how the stuff goes over, like. In person.”

“You what? Frankie, no.” Adam stared, panic building up a head of stem in his chest like a pressure cooker.

Frankie shrugged. “Plus, get ‘em good and lubricated, yeah? All loose and happy for your speech.”

He looked supremely unconcerned, as well he should, since he didn’t have to dress up like a Madison Avenue wonk and try to sell his dream to a bunch of jaded, snotty restaurant critics, food editors and local gourmands. Who were now probably all shit-faced on vodka and jittery with the sugar from the simple syrup.

“I can’t believe you,” Adam snarled. “The best and brightest of Manhattan culinary society is up there, and you thought it would be a peachy idea to get them drunk. And now I’ve got to go talk to them. You’re the one with all the experience in front of a live audience, dude. Why aren’t you getting up there with me?”

“Not the front man,” Frankie calmly pointed out. “Bass player doesn’t have to say anything, really. Punk audiences aren’t much for the chit chat, in any case. But I’ve noticed shows go over better when the wine flows like beer.”

Adam thew up his hands. “You’re no help at all.” But the last thing Adam saw as he shoved out of the bathroom was Frankie’s widening grin. And he couldn’t help responding with a grin of his own; Frankie might be a reckless dickhead, but he knew just how to distract Adam from his jangling nerves. One way or another, he was always there for Adam.




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