Catering to Love (Departments of Love #1) Read Online Joshua Ian

Categories Genre: M-M Romance, Romance Tags Authors: Series: Departments of Love Series by Joshua Ian

Total pages in book: 95
Estimated words: 90985 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 455(@200wpm)___ 364(@250wpm)___ 303(@300wpm)

After training under the famed Escoffier, Henri is now Head Chef at the Royal Tea Room – the jewel in the crown of the newly opened Hartridge & Casas department store. With his sights set on one day opening his own restaurant, Henri has no time for distractions, especially not love. But his moorings are shaken loose when Nico, a charming and gorgeous new waiter, appears.
However, the interfering adventurer Lord Ockley is determined to have Nico all to himself. When he can’t, he threatens to expose Nico and Henri’s relationship, risking not only the destruction of their careers and reputations, but possibly even worse.
Will Henri abandon his career dreams for the love of the only man who has ever touched his soul? Can Nico convince Henri that love is the most important dream of all?


“But in the deep shadows there was mystery enough to feed the burning impatience of seeing all in the light of day.”

—J.P. Mahaffy [“On Arriving in Athens: The Acropolis”]

Chapter One

London, Summer, 1908

Henri paused across the street and waited for the bus, with its twisting staircase on the rear, to move past. He lifted his hat and patted his forehead with his handkerchief. He wore a herringbone tweed Norfolk jacket and a bowtie, and wondered if he might have chosen lighter dress. Though this had been a mild summer so far, July had finally started to act like July this morning and the bright sun had shone down on him as he walked. He often took the tube and possibly a bus to work, but today he had decided he had the time to spare to enjoy the rare rays. He gazed up at his destination, his work place, the place which had been described as “the tiara of the shopping district” on its opening earlier this year: Hartridge & Casas Department Store.

The front of the building was decorated with Corinthian columns throughout its façade, interspersed at various points with carved figures, all classical in nature, mostly women in the national garb of various countries. It had been a nod to all the various products one could find within. Above the main entrance to the store, the grandest entrance of many smaller, there were two towering statues fashioned like two great Atlantes, each one facing towards either end of the city block, which the department store spread the length of. Above their heads, instead of globes or rocks, they held up giant flowers, wrought in polished stone like themselves, that looked at once both soft and impenetrable.

Fanny Clay, one of the telephonists who worked in the main switchboard room, had explained to Henri one day while visiting the Royal Tea Room that the two carved giants were meant to represent Lord Hartridge and Señor Casas, the co-founders of the store, and that the flowers carved into the tops of their ornate column tops were lilies. “White lilies, they say,” she had added with a giggle before being dismissed by Mrs. Plaistow and allowing Henri no illumination on the meaning behind this language of flowers.

Entering Hartridge & Casas often felt, to Henri, in those early hours before opening, like entering a cathedral. He had no other reference for the quiet reverence he felt. The sparkling tile work, the mirror-like polish of the wood, the air filled with the various scents that changed from floor to floor. At one level sweet floral perfumes, the next the scent of the polished wood furniture, the crisp linens of homewares, the savory tang of the food hall, the library-like smell of stationery with the musky smell of ink at its edges and so on. His mother had taken him to Le Bon Marché when he was a child, and while it was dazzling, it now felt archaic in comparison. The overly ornate stairwells, the grandiose mantle, all seemed to recede into a dusty past when he looked over Hartridge & Casas with its lifts and moving escalators, its gleaming surfaces and wide open spaces with more colors and textures than the mind could imagine. It felt like the very moment of modernity, and, yet somehow, like the future too. These hours early in the morning, these pre-opening hours, felt like entering into the vestibule of a church of the future, just before the service began, silence and calm, but a calm centered in the knowledge that a rush of humanity would soon flood in.

As Henri neared the central lift, which would take him to the Royal Tea Room where he worked, he let his fingers glide along a display of fine kid gloves laid out on a mahogany table. Only months before, this particular display had been piled high with the cashmere shawls and muffs of the cooler months. Now, a disembodied, faceless mannequin head sat in the center of the stacked table, a lively summer hat, tilted at a fashionable angle, on her head. All around her, pairs of porcelain hands sprung up from the table showing off the newest in gloves, for day, for evening, for special events.