She had grown comfortable enough with her surroundings and her fellow laborers in the enormous hotel kitchen that she had ventured to sing over her work, peeling and cutting and kneading. She had been happier than she had felt since before her father died. Since before Richard Boniface whispered his sweet, false promises of love. Her co-workers liked her voice and requested songs from her. The last few days, other workers came in during breaks, hoping to hear her sing. They didn't even mind that all the songs she knew were hymns and spirituals and camp meeting songs. Carmen had thought perhaps she had a chance to plant some spiritual seed, and she had felt that sweet contentment she thought she would never feel again.
A man in a slick black suit, with a red silk vest and a pointed black beard came into the kitchen yesterday, while she sang in rhythm with the potato peelings falling from her knife. He didn't make his presence known until she finished, though she thought she had sensed something, some change in the comfortably steamy atmosphere thick with the smells of good cooking.
"Very nice," he said, his smile cold when his voice startled a squeak out of her. He came around to stand on the other side of the table from her. "You should be singing upstairs."
"I'm a cook."
"Yes, with those clothes, what else would you be?" His upper lip curled as he looked her over. "I'm Gio Frierri. You know who I am?"
"You're the owner." Carmen set the knife down on the table and wiped her hands on her apron, then kept her hands on her lap, hidden under the table, so he wouldn't see them shaking.