The Bed You Make
Chapter 42
~ Cards on the table ~

Each night before closing, Chef Philip Gottorp painstakingly checked random areas of the kitchen just to ensure that his staff did not become complacent about their cleaning duties. Not that Philip had any real complaints about the professionalism of his restaurant staff. Xanthe had staff members whose only job consisted of keeping the kitchen clean throughout the day and ensuring an almost sterile condition when they closed at night. They were dedicated men and women who took almost as much pride in Xanthe as their head chef. Tonight was a prime example of that.

Philip had called a brief meeting an hour before opening to warn his staff that he expected nothing less than perfection for that evening's service. His favorite cousin, Stefan, was scheduled to patronize Xanthe with his new bride. Without Stefan's support, the chef informed them, Xanthe would not exist. Not surprisingly, each of Philip's people rose to the occasion. They'd all heard at some time or other about the man who had made it possible for the chef to realize his dream. No one wanted to be the one who disappointed the restaurant's most generous benefactor.

While preparing for the evening, Philip mused privately that he probably would not even be a chef without his cousin's efforts on his behalf. As boys Stefan had made a promise to help Philip realize his ambition to be a culinary superstar. Young Stefan had been quite pragmatic about the matter, cautioning his cousin that he would probably be an old man before he was in a position to be of help. Neither boy had envisioned the early death of Stefan's father Mikkos or his older brother Stavros the Prince.

With their deaths had come a struggle for the leadership of the Cassadine family and its enormous fortune. On the surface, the infant Nikolas was the acknowledged heir to the Cassadine paper throne. But every member of the family knew that the true power lay behind the scenes, and the true battle would be against the Widow Cassadine. To most of the family's surprise, Stefan emerged victorious against his mother.

Philip was not surprised at Stefan's triumph. His cousin was driven by the singular desire to protect Nikolas and to safeguard the tiny prince's inheritance from Helena's control. Stefan had contrary to all expectations moved swiftly and emphatically against his mother, gathering allies among the family and then boldly taking back most of the invaluable resources Helena had siphoned from the Cassadine coffers.

And though Philip never spoke of that childhood conversation again, as soon as he was in charge Stefan generously gifted his cousin with an endowment to begin his dream. He paid for Philip's education in the culinary arts and arranged for him to apprentice with the finest chefs in both Europe and the United States. And when the time came, Stefan paid for the construction of Xanthe, the restaurant that represented the culmination of Philip's dream. For that alone Stefan would always have Philip's unwavering devotion.

Xanthe's success allowed Philip to repay Stefan's generosity back several times over. The chef calculated how much his cousin had spent facilitating his dream and then, with almost fanatical devotion, put away every penny of Xanthe's profits those first few years in order to pay him back. Stefan had accepted the repayment with a quiet nod of thanks.

Philip reined in his wandering thoughts. He finished his survey of the kitchen and flipped the wall switch, plunging the room into darkness. No sooner had he done so than the fine hairs on the back of the chef's neck began to stand on end.

continued