Read The Chocolate Thief Online

Authors: Laura Florand

The Chocolate Thief (11 page)

Devon. The international British-based confectionary company dominated markets like India and held a strong place among the cheaper, mass-market chocolates sold in Europe. Cade thought of all the bars she saw in London airports, the brightly packaged, chocolate-coated candy.
If they had Devon, there might be a need for her to stay here, based in Europe. Devon Candy. Billions of candy bars spouting into molds, wrapped by the millions a day. Just like Corey.
She massaged the bridge of her nose, depressed for no reason she could identify. “I need to look at it more,” she said. “I thought we were more interested in opening up our own premium line as our next market move.”
“Mmm.” Her father’s tone just reeked of enthusiasm for this Paris premium-chocolate venture, all right. “Go ahead and look more at Devon, and get back to me tomorrow. Do you think . . . ?”
Before she knew it, she was knee-deep in business discussions, right there in the middle of breaking and entering a chocolate shop. She felt disoriented, as if Aladdin in that cave had suddenly had to stop and go over the ins and outs of a corporate acquisition.
It took her half an hour to get off the phone, with some desperation.
By that time, she had tried a chocolate from each mold. Greedily, unable to stop, as if at any moment they might be reft from her forever. As if she might, at any moment, find herself back in factories and boardrooms.
She might, at the rate she was going, find herself in prison. They would almost certainly not provide her Sylvain Marquis chocolates in prison.
She tried the one printed with a tiny flower, the little glossy ribbed mound, the one shaped like a cone and decorated with bits of cacao bean, like some playful reference to a child’s nut-studded ice cream cone. Its inside was the silkiest mint ganache, bursting into her mouth.
She turned off her phone completely and slipped it into her pocket.
Chocolate melted on her tongue, melted into her body. Its warm, rich sweetness combined with the pounding adrenaline until she felt . . . the closest she could think of was aroused. Desperately, intensely aroused, as if someone could come out of the shadows with his sorcerer eyes glinting and lay her down on the dark counters and . . .
She swallowed the chocolate with a shiver, the fine hairs on her spine prickling from her nape all the way down to her back’s lowest, lowest point and maybe even a little farther, with the desire to be discovered by him.
She forced herself to continue through the workshop to what she guessed was the office door.
No recipes lay scattered on the desk for her to grab. She used the penlight to check the filing cabinets. No files were marked
Secrets
. There was one marked
Recettes,
which got her excited, since that could mean recipes, but it turned out to contain receipts. Other folders contained employee files and bills from different suppliers. She turned to study the laptop sitting closed on the desk.
She preferred the image of Sylvain Marquis writing recipes in sorcerous runes on parchment, but the laptop might be more likely. When she turned it on, though, a log-in screen showed. She tried the obvious:
admin, Sylvain, Sylvain Marquis,
password
chocolat.
But nothing worked. What was his birthdate again? She would have to look through her research on him and come back better prepared tomorrow.
She pretended to ignore the thrill that shot from erogenous zone to erogenous zone at the idea of coming back tomorrow.
She lingered a while, reluctant to abandon the sense of sinfulness and power and the delicious hope of danger, that sorcerer-coming-out-of-the-shadows fantasy she felt being in Sylvain Marquis’s lair at night. Helping herself to some paper from his desk, she spent a long time writing down all the equipment she could find, in case the Corey Chocolate experts could figure out more from it. But the sorcerer did not come out of the shadows, and she finally slipped out the way she had come, feeling oddly anticlimactic.
At the very last second, passing the stacks of chocolate boxes, she found herself reaching out and taking one, two, three, four of them, as many as she could carry. She didn’t really mean to do it. But she couldn’t stop herself. She wanted his chocolate, and she
didn’t
want to have to come into his shop tomorrow and humiliate herself by letting him see her buy it.
She stopped herself from grabbing a fifth, but only because she could envision them all toppling out of her hands as she tried to cross the street.
And she snuck back up to
her
lair, her tower, with her loot, to curl up with it, gloating.
Chapter 11
T
he first thing Sylvain noticed when he opened the workshop the next morning was that there were four boxes of chocolate missing. He stopped, puzzled. He had been the last one there after the class ended yesterday, and he was the first one back, so—something immediately did not add up. Pascal and Bernard had their own keys and the security code, but why would they sneak back to steal chocolates?
“That’s odd,” he murmured.
“Qu’est-ce qui est bizarre?”
asked Christophe. Sylvain had promised the food blogger he could come visit his
laboratoire
after the man had written up a visit to his shop with extravagant praise.
Justified
extravagant praise,
bien sûr
.
“Some of the boxes we prepped yesterday are missing.” He looked around, expecting to find them set in another spot.
“A chocolate thief?” Christophe asked, intrigued. As the words sank into his imagination, his eyes grew dreamy. “I think I might just have discovered my third career. Imagine sneaking into
laboratoires
every night to steal the finest chocolates.”
“To eat or for the
marché noir
?”
“Both, really,” Christophe sighed blissfully. “You could probably make a killing on the black market if you didn’t eat all your ill-gained goods.”
“Well. The thief would have to steal more than four boxes to manage that,” Sylvain said arrogantly. No one had ever eaten just one of his chocolates. Not since he was sixteen years old.
Maybe the boxes had just been . . . just been what? He tried to think. He had been the last one out the door the night before and the first one back in. Who would have moved them, sold them, taken them home?
He went into his office to double-check his laptop, which lay untouched on his desk. Or . . . he stopped.
A chocolate thumbprint mark. There was nothing unusual in that; he often left chocolate thumbprints on documents on his desk. But this thumbprint was a lot smaller than his.
He laid his thumb beside it and studied the difference for a long, thoughtful moment.
When he came back out into the main room of the
laboratoire,
Christophe was running his hand over one of the marble counters, looking around, and smiling.
“What?” Sylvain asked him.
“I’m just imagining the kind of person who would steal chocolate,” the curly-haired blogger said, quietly happy. “He certainly picked the right person to steal it from.”
“She,” Sylvain said, remembering the size of that chocolate thumbprint.
Christophe blinked in pure joy. “Oh, that’s perfect.”
Sylvain raised his eyebrows.
Christophe stared at him. “Doesn’t that make you happy? A woman thief sneaking into your lair to steal your chocolate? Don’t you want to hide out here overnight to try to catch her
en flagrant délit
?”
Sylvain opened and closed his mouth. Yes. He did. “I think we might be a little premature in deciding there’s a thief. I’m sure there’s a much more innocuous explanation.”
None leaped to mind, but—a thief who stole chocolate but not his laptop? He might have to marry her. He could feel himself falling in love just at the idea.
He hoped she had worn black leather pants.
“Well, where would be the fun in that?” Christophe asked indignantly. “Can
I
hide out and catch her? If it’s going to be wasted on you.”
For a food blogger, however famous, who was here as a special privilege, Christophe wasn’t showing nearly enough humble appreciation and respect, Sylvain decided firmly. Food bloggers were getting pretty
gonflés
these days. Full of themselves.
And if there really was a thief—which he very much doubted—then he was the one who should get to catch her.
 
Voleuse de Chocolat chez Sylvain Marquis?
went up the title on Christophe’s blog only a few hours after he left the
chocolaterie
.
Cade, who had a Google Alert set to go off whenever Sylvain Marquis’s name showed up in a new posting on the Web, looked at it and jumped a foot. That was fast.
She read the post quickly, or as quickly as she could read things in French. Most of it seemed to trade in fantasy.
Is a thief stealing Sylvain Marquis’s chocolates? When I was there this morning, Sylvain discovered four boxes missing and a small, feminine, chocolate thumbprint on his papers. Is someone breaking into his
laboratoire
to steal his chocolates? If so, this woman is my soul mate. I think I may be in love
.
She had left a thumbprint? Well, actually, she had probably left many, just not all visible in chocolate. But her fingerprints weren’t on record anywhere, and it would spoil the fun if she had to wear gloves the whole time. She couldn’t even imagine deadening her sense of touch to that smooth, perfect chocolate.
She noticed, with almost no guilt, that she had thought
would spoil
not
would have spoiled.
Yes, she was going back. If she didn’t get caught.
The blog post passed on almost immediately to other details of the visit. Sylvain had taught this
Le Gourmand
blogger, Christophe, how to make chocolate-dipped candied oranges.
The details made Cade want to grab both the blogger and Sylvain Marquis by the hair and rip it out.
Those were all the things
she
wanted to do. Plunge her hand into sacks of sesame by the light of day, lay candied oranges from Spain out on a counter and learn how to dip their brilliant colors into dark chocolate. Be part of it, be welcomed into the secret.
Instead, she was fumbling around at night trying to figure it all out on her own.
It really was Sylvain Marquis’s fault she had to steal what she wanted to own. She would have been happy to pay for it. Pay a really high price, too.
If money wouldn’t buy something, you had to steal it.
Right?
So he had no one but himself to blame for not being willing to share.
 
Sylvain, who didn’t have a Google Alert on his name but who had been e-mailed a link to the post by Christophe out of courtesy, read the first paragraph with deep annoyance. What did he mean, the thief was his soul mate? What did he mean, he might be in love?
Talk about presumption.
If
the thief existed, which was unlikely, then she was
his
fantasy. Not Christophe’s. He was the one in love with her. Christophe could go try to talk himself into some other chocolatier’s
laboratoire
for a one-on-one visit, that’s what he could do. Not try to cut in on Sylvain’s mystery.
 
The next time Cade checked her e-mail, after a long walk along the Seine and some meditation in Notre-Dame to try to get herself to focus on aspects of Paris other than Sylvain Marquis’s
chocolaterie,
there were twenty more e-mail alerts from Google. Mostly pingbacks to the first Chocolate Thief post.
She raised a horrified hand to her mouth. It turned out that this was a really popular idea among food bloggers. It had crossed the language barrier, too.
A Taste of Elle
had picked it up in English right away, adding lots of exclamation points, and the other English-language food bloggers in Paris and then their comrades in America and England hadn’t been long to follow.
A Taste of Elle
had even drawn a fairly sexy caricature of what the Chocolate Thief would look like, tiptoeing away with a bagful of chocolates in hand. It had some elements of Michelle Pfeiffer’s
Catwoman
suit. Maybe Cade needed to get some black leather pants.
Another blogger, a Frenchwoman, had named a chocolate concoction she had just been working on the
Chocolate Thief
. An American, posting at nearly the same time, had a chocolate double-ganache cupcake called
La Voleuse.
Her remaining fifty e-mails were work questions people were failing to handle in her absence. Cade turned straight back around and went shopping. If Maggie Saunders could go shopping, she could, too.
 
“What do you mean, you can’t sell me . . . ?” Still not quite grasping the word for
extremely small spy video camera
in French, but having managed to convey the idea, Cade held up thumb and forefinger pinched to almost touching, the agreed-upon sign between the French salesman and her for these items.
What was it with the French and their refusal to sell things? It defeated one of the main points in having plenty of money.
“C’est illégal,”
he said coolly. “We don’t carry those anymore.”
There was another thing about every time the French wouldn’t sell her something. It was not only that they said no; it was that they seemed to take such a smug satisfaction in the ability to do so.
“What about things that listen?” She cupped her ears, familiar with the word
écouter
in French but carried away by the whole sign language thing.
Maybe Sylvain Marquis muttered his recipes aloud while he was working on them. Like a mad scientist.
“We have these.” He showed her some listening devices about the size of an iPod Nano.
She pinched her forefinger and thumb again.
“Petit.”
“Non,”
he said smugly.
“C’est illégal.”
Cade wondered, if she called their corporate security for a little equipment, how long it would take for someone to let her father know. Five minutes?
“Fine,” she said. If you wanted something done, you had to do it yourself. “Do you know where I can get some black leather pants?”
The salesman stared at her blankly.
 
She ended up getting her leather pants at Hermès, just to prove to herself that there was something money could still buy in France. Also, she felt a little odd that Maggie Saunders had spent more time enjoying the Paris fashion scene than she herself had. She wasn’t sure she was an entirely balanced child of wealth and privilege. Was it normal that she bought chocolate instead of clothes?
She was keying in the code to her building, her shoulders tightening against the thought of all the responsibilities surely waiting for her in her in-box, when Sylvain Marquis stepped outside the back door of his
laboratoire
and, of course, raised his eyebrows at her.
He had a real gift with that eyebrow-raising thing. The urge to swing her Hermès bag and knock those eyebrows right back into place was intense. Lucky for him he was across the street.
Her phone rang, and she turned her back on Sylvain to answer it. “Please tell me this is you,” her grandfather begged her on the phone. “The Chocolate Thief.”
“Grandpa! Do you really think I would?”
“Well, I hope so,” he said indignantly. “I think your father is the only white sheep in the family. No idea how it happened. You would think he would be at least brown.”
“Has Dad seen any of the blogs?”
“I doubt it. He’s too busy to read blogs, your father. Besides, if he had, you wouldn’t have to ask me the question.”
That was true. Her father would have been calling her at midnight again. About something other than Devon Candy, for once.
“Well, don’t point them out to him.”
“No,” her grandfather promised. Then he added, unreas-suringly, “It’s hard not to gloat, though. Your dad was so determined to raise you right, but I knew one of you girls would turn out to be a chip off the old block of chocolate. Although—not to speak ill of the dead, but between Jaime getting arrested at G8 summits as an annual tradition and you acting like your goal in life was to wear a suit and sit in an office—I was starting to think some bad thoughts about your mother’s gene pool. Tell you what, honey, what do you say to me flying over there and the two of us hitting up one of those Swiss factories, just for the fun of it?”
“Are you staying here?” Sylvain asked right by her shoulder, and she jumped so violently, he had to catch her to keep her from falling over.
“I’m on the phone,” she told him severely and turned her shoulder on him. He let go of her so she could do that, much to her regret. She tried to pull the door open, but it stayed locked. She frowned and typed the code again. “Oh, no one, Grandpa, it’s just that Marquis chocolatier I mentioned to you.”
“Really?” Grandpa Jack sounded delighted. “Is there any way you can make sure I hear what he’s saying? Can you put your phone on speaker so he can hear me? I know some really good cuss words in French.”
“No. And don’t come flying over here. This is my thing.” If Sylvain hadn’t come nosing over, she might have tried to convince her grandfather she wasn’t really stealing chocolate secrets, but she couldn’t figure out how to do that in front of the person she was stealing them from. Probably just as well. Grandpa was so proud of her.

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