Taste of Lacey

By: Linden Hughes

Chapter One

It was over! The fund-raiser dinner for the mayor of Atlanta and five hundred of his closest contributors ended without a drop of tea spilled or a single cold-food complaint. Not bad for a twenty-nine-year-old black female, and she was just getting started.

The top item on Lacey Bishop’s “things to do before turning thirty” list was to have her own business. A year ago, she’d opened the Seasoned Thymes Catering and given her mother heart palpitations at the same time. “Why, pray tell, would you snub a job at the realty office or at your father’s construction company in favor of menial labor? And why do you always have to go against the grain?”

Despite her mother’s accusations and loud, headache-inducing objections, Lacey’s parents wrote a fat check, giving the Thymes a much-needed capital injection. Her mother even brokered a deal for Lacey to purchase three adjoining buildings in a growing area for less than a song. After a quick rehab of the neglected properties, the Thymes began operations in the middle unit. Lacey liked to think the investment was a sign of unwavering support, but she knew better. More than likely, the cash was a bandage to minimize the bleed of potential embarrassment to her mother. It wouldn’t do for Lena Bishop’s daughter to operate in a low-rent area and be a “glorified cook.”

The words—spouted in anger by her mother and later recanted—were forgiven but not forgotten. In fact, they served as Lacey’s motivation to become the caterer to Atlanta’s elite. To date, accomplishments toward her dream could fit on a dime, but tonight’s event and picking up five more contracts hadn’t hurt. Too bad her love life wasn’t coming together as well. A man was the least of her concerns anyway. As soon as she became a catering mogul, she’d put “have a successful relationship” on her to-do list. That would make her mother happy. Maybe.

A janitorial service had handled the majority of the postevent cleaning, but family and friends also pitched in so Lacey could tie up loose ends and at least try to leave before dawn. As expected, her sister, Lisa, cut out before dessert, but the antics of that drama queen weren’t enough to dampen Lacey’s spirits.

As soon as Troy, the head chef, finished loading supplies onto the company van, she’d collect the payment, and they could leave. With the exception of a couple of security guards and the mayor’s assistant, everybody else was gone already. Lacey didn’t mind; she needed the solitude to help her absorb the enormity of the night’s event. Even her parents and brother left, but only after Lacey had threatened them with bodily harm. Lacey shook her head and smiled. Oh, the irony. After giving Lacey pure hell for once again being the “family traitor,” her mother frequented the Thymes gigs like a groupie, often dragging her father along.

Tonight was the gig that counted, though.

Her savvy marketing skills and an impressive culinary degree had put Lacey’s foot in the door to bid on the contract for the mayor’s dinner; her outright refusal to cut corners had made her a contender. She’d gone up against quite a few experienced, well-established caterers, but their mistake was promising and delivering cheap. Anyone wanting cheap need not look Lacey Bishop’s way—a philosophy she’d embraced long before opening the Thymes. She realized watered-down, tasteless food would do nothing to spark donors’ generosity, which was the main goal. Plus, the seafood gumbo and smoked salmon at the tasting had caused the mayor’s rotund assistant to smack his lips and moan out loud. Thank goodness the mayor’s office chose quantity and quality—and awarded the job to the new kid who happened to be the highest bidder. Now he was about to fork over a pretty penny for a fabulous Thymes experience. Yes.

Lacey wasn’t normally a very demonstrative person, but a loud, rambunctious scream was close to her vocal chords, rearing like an Olympic sprinter to break free. She’d pulled off an event for the mayor of one of the largest cities in America! Restraining the fist pump also threatening to escape, she calmly headed in search of the mayor’s assistant when the lobby doors swung open. Expecting Mr. Hubbard, she couldn’t hide her surprise when Ryder McKay, or Rye, her brother’s best friend, strolled in. Rye, his parents, and several neighbors from their old subdivision had attended the dinner in support of the Thymes. To say she was humbled would be an understatement.