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Kaden Danes stood in the doorway of the kitchen tent and peered inside at the hustle and bustle. He'd waited years for this moment. Finally at eighteen, the age of consent, he could become a kitchen hand. Unfortunately there were two small problemsâ€”his feet refusing to enter and the swirling nausea churning around his stomach with tornado-like velocity.
"Don't just stand there, boy! If you want something come inside." Denel Jackson, the kitchen manager, flashed him a disapproving look with his sharp brown eyes. Kaden had studied the man before applying, determined to learn all he could about the person who could shape his future. He'd talked to people who'd worked with Denel in the past and had researched the man's reputation online. Everyone had told him the manager made a fair but tough mentor and Kaden would be lucky if he could convince Denel to take him on.
"Sorry, sir." Kaden cast his eyes respectfully downward. "I've come to work in the kitchens if you'll have me."
He forced his fidgety muscles to remain still while the manager looked him over. He knew what Denel saw when he looked at Kaden but he hoped to get the job anyway. Kaden bit his lip trying to hold back the urge to plead with the manager. If Denel didn't want him he'd try to leave gracefully.
"Kind of pretty to work the kitchens, aren't you?" Denel asked after a minute that felt stretched to eternity.
"Yes, sir." Kaden couldn't deny the facts. His mother's genes had made him delicately built, and by everyone's account, too pretty for a man. Hopefully it wouldn't hold back his career. Kaden swallowed the lump of nerves in his throat, not daring to look up. His entire life hung in the balance of the manager's decision.
Most gammas raced to be part of the sex squad as soon as they came of age, eager to service all the beta soldiers. Kitchen work generally went to omegas and older, mated gammas. But Kaden dreamt of cooking. Mixing flavours, toasting spices and cooking meat until it reached its pinnacle of tasteâ€”those were the hopes filling his head at night.
"I-I've always wanted to cook, sir," Kaden confessed. He blushed beneath Denel's intense stare but refused to back away. He needed this. He had to get this position. His entire life depended on the kitchen manager's answer.
Kaden glanced up in time to catch the look of surprise in the manager's eyes before returning his gaze to the floor. He nodded. "Yes, sir."
Denel folded his arms over his chest. Kaden's heart sank. "Have you cooked before?" Denel asked.
Kaden couldn't blame the man for his disbelief. Most male werekin didn't want to become cooks. It didn't fit the tough alpha mould. However, Kaden had never been the stereotypical werekin and he refused to give up on his dream. If he had to, he'd pursue his goals in the humans' territory.
Participating in the war and doing his part were important to Kaden, but he'd never be a fighter. Violence didn't settle well with his naturally passive nature, even though he knew the wolves couldn't let the vampires win. Shifters would be endangered if the vampires had their way. The war between the two forces, now in its sixth year, had no end in sight and since the vampires truly wanted all werekin dead, Kaden didn't anticipate it ending soon.
"My nana taught me how to cook." Kaden smiled at the memory. As the youngest grandchild by a wide margin, Kaden had always been the one left behind when the others ran off to hunt. His grandmother, a human, had kept young Kaden busy preparing food for when the others returned. When she'd died last year, he'd vowed to keep his promise to her and follow his passion. The rest of his family had thought he'd lost his marbles. None of them would stand in his way, but they didn't outwardly support him either. He had to do this to honour her. Still looking respectfully to the side, he could only hear the manager come forward.