Read The Chocolate Temptation (Amour et Chocolat) Online

Authors: Laura Florand

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The Chocolate Temptation (Amour et Chocolat)

BOOK: The Chocolate Temptation (Amour et Chocolat)
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Coming Next...

Other Books By Laura Florand

An excerpt from The Chocolate Rose

Acknowledgements

About Laura Florand

Copyright

Chapter 1

She hated him.

Tossing around dessert elements as if they were juggling balls he had picked up to idle away the time and, first try, had dozens flying around his body in multiple figure eights.

Patrick Chevalier.

Sarah hated him with every minute painstaking movement with which she made sure a nut crumb lay exactly the way Chef Leroi wanted it on a financier. She hated him with every flex of tendons and muscles in her aching hands in the evening, all alone in her tiny Paris apartment at the approach to Montmartre, knowing someone else was probably letting him work the tension out of his own hands any way he wanted.

She hated him because she knew he probably didn’t even have any tension in his hands. That after fifteen or more brutal hours in one of the most mercilessly perfectionistic pastry kitchens in the world, he was still as relaxed as if he’d been sunning all day on a beach, occasionally catching a wave.

She hated him because five thousand times a day, his body brushed hers, his hand caught her shoulder or touched her back to guide their bodies around each other, in that constant dance of sixteen bodies in a space much too small for so many people working at blinding speeds. She hated him because every time his body controlled hers so easily, she felt all the lean, fluid muscles from his fingertips to his toes – and knew that however lazy he looked, those muscles knew tension.

She hated him because most times when he touched her he didn’t even notice, and once in a while, when he did, those vivid blue eyes laughed into hers or winked at her as if she was gobble-up delicious, and then he was gone, leaving her heart this messy, unthawed lump that had just tried to throw itself into his hands and ended up instead all gooey over her own shoes.

Fortunately black kitchen shoes were used to receiving a lot of gooey messes on them over the course of a day.

“Sarabelle,” he called laughingly, and she hated him for that, too. The way her ordinary, serious American name turned so exotic and caressing with those French Rs and dulcet Ahs, like a sigh of rich silk all over her skin. The way he added
belle
onto it, whenever it struck his fancy, as if that couldn’t break someone’s heart, to be convinced someone like him thought she was
belle
and then realize he thought everybody was
belle.
He probably called his dog
belle
, and his four-year-old niece
belle
when he ruffled her hair.

And they both probably looked up at him with helpless melting, too.

She hated him because she knew he couldn’t even have a dog, given his working hours, and that somehow her entire vision of Patrick Chevalier, which was all of him he let her have, could not possibly be true.

Chapter 2

“You’re covered in ashes, Sarabelle.” Patrick’s voice curled around her like a big hand might curl over the nape of her neck and pull her into a hard chest. It had sand in it, his voice – warm, tropical sand a body just longed to nestle into under southern stars. “That’s a cute look on you.”

She didn’t look up at him. She didn’t want to see the bruises on his face from the fight he had gotten in yesterday with his own chef, over Summer Corey, the beautiful blonde who had been gifted their hotel. A fight. An actual physical fistfight that the doormen had had to break up with buckets of water. Patrick had come back in from it laughing, his enjoyment of the kiss that had started the whole thing apparently too uncrushable even to be punched down with fists.

It shouldn’t matter that Patrick had kissed Summer Corey. He kissed every woman. On the cheeks, two times, four times, every time he saw them. He was French. It didn’t mean that much to shift the kiss two centimeters over from cheek to mouth. Make it longer. Let it linger.

The golden luster dust scattered all over the plate in an ugly, clumsy clump. Damn it. With him watching, too. Sarah focused on the pattern, ash swept out from a phoenix’s wings. Later one of the real chefs, Patrick himself or Chef Leroi or one of the junior sous, would plate the
Phénix
on it, with its flames made out of dark chocolate and its molten heart of passionfruit caramel, and the cognac that would allow it to be lit on fire as it reached the table.

Five months into her six-month internship in the legendary pastry kitchen at the luxury Hôtel de Leucé, she had, so far, learned how to make the molded chocolate flames and been allowed to fill elegant container after elegant container with hot cognac last minute, with several burns to show for it, but she had never been allowed to plate the whole dessert. Making even the pattern of ashes was, in fact, a recent challenge, and she could fail it and be demoted back to the hot cognac.

Patrick never kissed Sarah’s cheeks, of course, despite all the women he kissed. She was the lowly intern. You kissed your equals, not your social inferiors. Not the women who worked for you. That fist tightened around her stomach, the fist that held her insides all the time, merciless, never letting go.

“What do you think?” Patrick’s callused fingers pushed a red plate into her line of vision. “We’re working on the pre-desserts for Valentine’s.”

On the plate, an encapsulated liquid chocolate orb peeked out, gleaming from under a narrow veil of something white, both held in a wide ceramic spoon. A burnt sugar plaque dense with spirals sheltered the orb at an angle. At first glance, the pre-dessert seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with Valentine’s. She angled her head. Hidden under the burnt sugar décor was a red heart smaller than her littlest fingernail.

For the suitor afraid to put his heart out there?

The tiny red heart in hiding, slid across to her like a secret, made her own heart so wistful. Just for one second, her control failed her and she looked up at Patrick.

The bruising on his cheekbone and mouth punched its way into her stomach, and she tried to look away. But her gaze got caught for the tiniest second on that bruised mouth, as it often did when he wasn’t looking. That fine, chiseled mouth always surprised her, because she always expected him somehow to have the lazy relaxed lips of a California surfer back home, and yet no…he had the controlled fine lower lip, the perfect upper bow, of someone who had pronounced impossibly tight vowels and precise consonants all his life, with no relenting. A poet’s mouth. An aristocrat’s mouth, paired with that tousled, sun-streaked, rolled-out-of-a-wave hair, those laughing blue eyes, the lean face that could be smooth one morning and then unshaved for days.

She forced her gaze to meet his, straight and steady. He grimaced as soon as their eyes met. “I know, I know, it would be better without the damn heart, but you know Luc. He loves to stick his heart out there.”

Actually, she did not know Luc Leroi, their internationally famous executive chef pâtissier, head of the pastry kitchen in this Michelin three-star restaurant, in the famous palace Hôtel de Leucé, tucked like the Hope Diamond in the jeweled quarter between the Champs-Elysées and the Seine. She said,
Oui, chef,
and
Merci, chef
to the god of their field when he tossed her work in the trash. And she watched Patrick Chevalier tease him wickedly, completely at ease, so far above her it was like the damned sugar they pulled and blew and molded into pretty things. She came here to Paris thinking how wonderful it would be to learn to make pretty roses and ribbons out of pulled sugar to decorate cakes, and he took the same lump of molten sugar and stretched it nearly two meters high, with impossibly graceful, reaching twirls that intertwined with chocolate, stretching higher and higher, around which stars glowed and planets circled. And she crowded with the other students to watch the Meilleur Ouvrier de France trials through the panels in the doors with stunned awe, fighting for a peek, never having imagined it was possible for any dream to be that beautiful. It would shatter. It had to shatter. And yet Patrick Chevalier transferred his sculpture to its display space gently, and the whole fantastical structure held.

She’d found out later that he’d designed a base with shock absorbers. His little trick.

“It’s beautiful,” she said carefully.

“Yes, but what about the
flavors
, Sarabelle? And the textures? Tell me what you think.” He gave her a limpid look, his eyes alive with teasing. “You know I’m always fascinated by your innocent, untutored tastes.”

It was his job to train her palate, of course, and he was amazing at his job. He might very well be the best
second
on the planet. Students at her pastry school here in Paris would have fallen down and kissed his feet for a chance to be an intern under him. It was also his job to make sure she survived her internship, since he had made the mistake of choosing her. His job the same way it might be his job to carry a tiny, clumsy, abandoned puppy across a raging river. Being good with his pets, he did both at once – he made sure she ate, he made sure she survived the raging river, and he trained her while he did it.

It made her crazy that without him, she couldn’t eat.

She couldn’t manage to feed herself. The knots in her stomach never loosened enough, and she was always so exhausted. And then he fried up two eggs in the middle of all the rest of his enormous responsibilities and slid them down the counter to her without even glancing her way. The buttery edges had just
melted
in her mouth, her stomach practically weeping in gratitude. And two hours later he had gotten in a fight for kissing an international playgirl.

He strolled past her table in the staff cafeteria on the way to flirt with a receptionist and set two cartons of Greek yogurt on her tray in passing. Packed with protein, easy to digest. Always peach, too. Her favorite flavor.

He fed her and he teased her, showering her with careless affection in that comfortable way he had with everyone. Easing her tension so she could survive the pressure she was under.

Until he was all she lived for, all that got her through the day. And she hated him for that.
She
should be what got her through the day. Not a man who thought of her as just another clumsy, cute puppy in his pack of them.

It was not, after all, as if he thought about
her
. Every time she looked, he was flirting with someone else.
Summer Corey,
whom he had just
kissed
and fought his own boss over, was heir to one of the richest fortunes in the world, luminously beautiful and notoriously spoiled.

Sarah glanced up at him again as she took the spoon on which the chocolate orb rested and caught his blue gaze flicking over her plates. He could check out fifty plates faster than the average man could sneak a peek at a woman’s breasts while still pretending to be looking into her eyes.

Everyone at Culinaire had been wild with jealousy when they heard she would be doing her internship with Patrick Chevalier as her head sous
.
It was a miracle to have such a privilege, a chance Patrick himself had offered to her after meeting her during a workshop he had given for Culinaire. She had no idea what she had done to impress him, but she must disappoint whatever potential he had seen in her five thousand times a day. Every single time she got something wrong.

She knew he didn’t, in fact, think she looked cute. Any more than he was dying of unrequited love for the receptionists or the assistant director of the hotel or Chef Leroi himself, as he often swore to them. He was just trying to make her feel good, in that warm, easy way he had that was so effective at getting the over-stressed, hyper-perfectionist kitchen team through a brutal day. It had worked so well for her at first that every muscle in her body had wanted to cry out in relief whenever he came in sight, as if having his attention was the equivalent of sinking into a hot tub. Then it had worked too well, until she couldn’t stop thinking of him, until the fact that she didn’t really matter more than a puppy to him started to eat her alive. And now she hated him.

She hated him, but she lifted the orb in its spoon, taking white veil and burnt sugar with it, and closed her mouth around it. The burnt sugar crackled, bitter and sweet; the veil was a soft vanilla; and it all yielded to and blended with the rush of chocolate bursting from the orb at the first pressure of her mouth. The heart hid itself very well in all that rush of frontal flavors. One could almost forget it was there, except for the little, piquant touch of something elusive and magical, just for a second, before it was gone.

BOOK: The Chocolate Temptation (Amour et Chocolat)
4.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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