Caged in Winter

By: Brighton Walsh

I didn’t think it’d feel like this. In all the times I let myself go down this path, indulge in this daydream, I thought there’d be waves of panic, a crushing weight on my chest, shackles chained to my ankles from being connected to someone. From being on the receiving end of someone’s love. There’s too much responsibility, too much faith lying in your actions, too much possibility of heartache.

I didn’t want any of it.

And then Cade came, sweeping his way into my life, imposing and relentless and persistent, and I’m not the same.

For Christina, because two little words from you sparked this entire thing.


They say it takes a village to raise a child. A book-baby totally counts. Thank you to the following glorious people for being my village:

To my agent, Mandy Hubbard, for reading and loving Cade and Winter as much as I do. For being the perfect mix of professionalism, knowledge, and Saved by the Bell gifs. Thank you a million times for taking the stress out of the business side of writing. You are a life and sanity saver.

To the entire team at The Berkley Publishing Group, especially my editor, Leis Pederson, for molding this into the best book it could be. Thank you for making my first foray into traditional publishing utterly painless.

To Christina, for the possibly—probably—thousands of texts exchanged when I’d hit a bump or stumble from my outline and need a push in the right direction. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to have you be my Plot Whisperer, but I’m keeping you.

To Jeanette Grey for sticking by my side through everything I’ve ever written and holding my hand every step of the way. I’m running out of ways to say thank you (have I said that before?). My words never feel like they’re ready for the world until I’ve had your input. Here’s to another six (yes, it’s really been six!) years. Can’t wait to go to Paris as bawdy old ladies and eat Nutella by the Seine.

To Jaime, Caren, Tonya, and Avery for reading, offering your thoughtful critique, and generally being amazing (and pretty) cheerleaders every step of the way. I love you guys like whoa.

To Chef Amy for all your helpful insight and careful advice on the culinary portions of this book, for taking endless pictures of your workstation, the kitchens, and the restaurant and letting me borrow them as inspiration for Cade’s work spaces, for always being there with amazing ideas for recipes and giving step by step instructions on how to make them. And, finally, for reading this over in its entirety to make sure this book about a chef actually sounded like a book about a chef. I seriously couldn’t have done this without your help and guidance.

And last but not least, to the three guys who make my world go ’round: My husband for understanding why I became a hermit the entire month I wrote this and for doing everything in your power so that I got uninterrupted time to write. Thank you for supporting me in my dream. And to the little guys who call me Mom, because you’re the most amazing, sweet, compassionate, sensitive, and fun-loving boys I’ve ever known. Because you’re as excited as anyone I’ve told about my book being in real live bookstores. And because you said, “Mommy, can you mention us in your next book?” And, really, how could I say no to that? I love you, I love you, I love you.



Seventy-six days.

The number repeats as a mantra in my mind, echoing like a drumbeat with every hurried step I take.

Seventy. Six.

Seventy. Six.

Stale air and dim lighting greet me as I tear down the hallway of my apartment building, jamming my key into the lock of my door and rushing inside. If I don’t get my ass in gear, I’m going to be late. If I’m late, I could get fired.

I can’t get fired.

I toss my bag on the floor, already stripping off my sweater and searching for the minuscule articles of clothing my employer considers a uniform. I find them piled in the corner of my tiny studio apartment. Like tossing them to the side and burying them among a hundred other things would somehow make them disappear. I hate this nightly routine. I hate walking out knowing what awaits me. Knowing what kind of front I’ll be putting on. Knowing it’s my only choice.

Still, it beats living on the streets, and I’m about fifty bucks from having my ass kicked to the curb.

As fast as I arrived, I’m out of there, grabbing a banana on the way. It’s not much as far as dinners go, but it’s all I’ve got. I inhale it as I head across campus, a hoodie and a pair of yoga pants thankfully covering the parts of me I don’t want to show every horny college guy I pass. Not that being in the pub is any better. But at least there it’s expected, and I feel somewhat protected while surrounded by other people. They can look their fill, but don’t touch.


When I’m working, I paint a lifeless smile on my face. Laugh. Flirt. Engage. It took me a day to figure out that smiling got me bigger tips. Took me a week to figure out that flirting got me even more.

My head’s down as I book it two blocks from the outskirts of the opposite side of campus. Having to stay behind at my last class, I missed the bus I usually take to get to work, but I don’t mind walking. It’s warming up, the first traces of spring in every newly budded tree, in every sprouted flower. New beginnings, some would say. The season of love and light. The opposite of winter, when everything is harsh.

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