Just One Taste

We first met Wes Murphy, a driven young culinary extern with a lot to prove, in Can’t Stand the Heat and On the Steamy Side. Now he’s getting his own story in Just One Taste, and to give you a little insight into what kind of hero he’ll be, I offer a short vignette from his childhood. Enjoy!

The wet slap of his feet against the concrete as Wes ran made him want to run faster. If he could only run fast enough, he could outrun his pursuers, Pops, what he’d just done . . . himself. His breath was beginning to come in gasps, and when he rounded the next corner, he ducked into the shadows provided by the narrow alleyway.

Crouching by the wall, he struggled to make himself invisible among the other pieces of trash, the empty bottles and dirty paper littering his temporary retreat. The pounding of his blood seemed to shake his small frame, and he held his breath reflexively to avoid the smell of the garbage.

It was quiet; or at least, as quiet as it ever got in broad daylight in the middle of a big city. What city was this? He couldn’t remember; didn’t matter anyway. They wouldn’t stay long enough for it to matter. But there were no more sounds of pursuit, no angry yelling, no heavy police boots pounding after him. He’d lost them.

Good thing, too, because he wasn’t totally sure his dad would’ve come for him—not after the way Wes screwed up today. He’d played it too hard, desperate to get it over with, and the mark had gotten suspicious. Suspicious enough, it turned out, to alert the police to the whole game. They’d been waiting for him when he went back to the room he and Pops had rented. So he’d run.

He wasn’t worried about Pops; his old man could smell cop from two miles away with a bad head cold. He’d never even come close enough to the trap to let the cops get a good look at him. Not like Wes.

Biting his lip until it throbbed, Wes clutched his knees to his chest and vowed to do better. Pops counted on him, he knew. They were a team. And just because some of the things they did, the ways they lied and tricked people, made Wes’s stomach hurt—well, that was no excuse. Pops took care of him, so he had to take care of Pops right back. At least until Wes was big enough to take care of himself. Maybe when he turned ten . . .

The thought of being on his own pushed him back to his feet. He had to go meet Pops at their backup spot so they could get out of this town and on to the next.

Peering around the corner of the building that had sheltered him, Wes hoped Pops had at least managed to hold onto enough of the take to get them a couple of bus tickets. His dad wasn’t the most reliable when it came to money.

But he loved his son, Wes knew. Even when Wes messed up. And next time, it would be better, he told himself, forcing his jittery feet to take slow, measured steps down the street instead of running the way they wanted.

Next time. The next city, the next con . . . it’d be better. It had to be.


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