The Chocolate Thief
Melting, yielding yet firm, exotic, its secrets are intimately known to Sylvain Marquis. But turn them over to a brash American waving a fistful of dollars? Jamais. Not unless there’s something much more delectable on the table…
Whether confections taken from a locked shop or kisses in the dark, is there anything sweeter?
American chocolate heiress Cade Corey will do anything to learn the secrets of Sylvain Marquis, the dark, arrogant chocolatier who has ensorcelled all of Paris. From attempts at outright purchase (denied, because he considers himself beyond price), to spying, perhaps even to a descent into crime. Here, Sylvain discovers her attempting to sneak into one of his workshops in disguise and decides that, after all, maybe she deserves a lesson…
“This is one of my favorite moments,” Sylvain murmured to her, his voice a brush of sound, too low for anyone but her. “The chocolate is untouched, virgin.” Chocolat, he said. Not that clumsy, cute English word “chok-lat” but a caress, a mystery, sho-co-la. “I choose it. It is beautiful as it is, perfect, anyone could eat it forever. And I bring something else to it, blend it with another flavor that makes people encounter it in a new way, a richer way.”
His voice burred over her skin. All the fine hairs on her arms raised to that voice and to the words that seemed to talk about more than chocolate. Made her want to be his chocolate.
“I pour it into another form worthy of it, something as beautiful as its essence, so that just looking at it fills people with desire.”
She realized her lips had parted, her breath grown shallow. She kept her lashes lowered, her gaze focused on that dark block in his hand. On his strong square palms, on the long, adept fingers.
“Tenez.” He lifted a shaving on one finger and brought it to her lips. “Goûtez,” he said. “Tell me what you taste.”
The chocolate was melting already on her parted lips. She took it, perforce, her lips closing just barely, just briefly on his. She tasted…she didn’t think she should tell him what she tasted. It went beyond the chocolate, which was bitter, bitter on her tongue but extraordinarily smooth.
“What do you like in your chocolat, mademoiselle?” He poured white cream into a small pot as he spoke to her and added inverted sugar.
“Cinnamon,” she said.
“Cannelle?” He gave her a little smile, as if she had charmed him.
Charmed him how? Like a quaint child whose hair he wanted to ruffle?
“Vous aimez la tradition,” he said.
Yes, she supposed. Corey prided itself on being the chocolate of generations of Americans, and it had never once changed its original milk chocolate bar. So that was tradition. And the only way she wanted to break that Corey tradition was by sinking into a realm of chocolate that had been expert before her country was born.
“Then we shall make you something with cinnamon.” He moved away to the shelves where the brown bottles were, grabbing a handful of cinnamon sticks. On his way back to her, he picked up a brick of butter that had been set out to soften. “Say it again in English?”
“Cinnamon,” she repeated helplessly.
Heat leaped in his eyes. “It has a je ne sais quoi to it in English, cinnamon. More mystery, more exotic, than in French.”
“Tenez.” He handed her the cinnamon sticks and nodded to the pot of cream. She dropped them in it, watching white drops splash over the brown of the sticks. “A feu doux.” He caught her eyes just for a second. “One must start à feu doux.”
With a gentle flame.
If this was gentle, she didn’t know whether to crave high heat or be terrified of it.