Read The Chocolate Thief Online

Authors: Laura Florand

The Chocolate Thief (12 page)

A moment of wounded silence came over the phone. “I would be a good partner.”
“I didn’t say you wouldn’t, Grandpa, but I want to do this by myself. We can go to Switzerland next month.”
“Switzerland,” Sylvain said by her ear flatly, his mouth turning down. Did he have no sense of personal space, or what? Could he hear what her grandfather was saying?
She put a little more oomph into the cold-shouldering. Apparently it wasn’t having much of an effect on him. Did he think he could just play with her emotions all morning, turn around and kick her out cold onto the street, force her into a life of crime, and then be on chatty terms with her the next day?
“What do you mean, next month? Don’t you have to work?” her grandfather demanded. Then he audibly perked up. “Is your father letting you play a little? I always did think it was excessive that you worked so much. Go out shopping or something. It’s not as if you were a boy.”
Cade sighed and rolled her eyes. “I just bought something pretty at Hermès, Grandpa. Don’t worry about me.” What was wrong with the stupid code panel? Why couldn’t she get the door to open?
“Who’s Hermès?” her grandfather asked blankly. “I thought we were talking about shopping. You mean the chocolatier?”
“Are you going to see Pierre Hermé now?” Sylvain sounded very frustrated. The only effect her cold shoulder seemed to have had on him was that now she could feel his breath on the top of her head and not in her ear. “Did he let you tour his
laboratoire
? You smell a little of lemon and vanilla.”
Were the scents from his
laboratoire
marking her like ink stains? “You’re smelling yourself,” she told him curtly and lifted the bag to wave the logo in front of him. “Hermès.”
Sylvain stared at it blankly, despite the fact that it was one of the top names in couture in his city. He was as bad as her grandfather. And her. Why was her kindred soul such a jerk?
She tried to type the code one more time and froze. She had been entering the code to his
laboratoire.
Right in front of him.
She slid a glance sideways. He was staring at her hand on the code panel.
He didn’t say anything.
Maybe he was just staring blankly, not paying any attention to what she was actually typing. She began typing in the correct code, angling her body ostensibly to block it from his view as if he were a suspicious person.
That’s right, throw the suspicion back his way.
That had to be a good psychological trick.
“And you didn’t answer my question,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here.” She pushed the door open at last. “When I rented an apartment in Paris, I had no idea you would be such a
con
.”
She let the door slam behind her.
Chapter 12
T
hat night, the scents of his
laboratoire
lured her everywhere, into everything.
As she tried the chocolates Sylvain Marquis and his people had made that day, she closed her eyes, trying to pretend she had been there for the making, that she had a right to test them to see if they were worthy of their name. Did the outside have the right bite to it? Yes, it always did. Was the inside an unctuous surprise that prickled the senses and made them long for more? Yes. It always was.
In the walk-in where the
pistoles
were stored, she tasted chocolates from black to white but kept going back to the bitter dark ones, closing her eyes and gleaning from her tongue exactly where this chocolate had traveled, from an island off the coast of Africa or somewhere in the Andes. Had she seen its pods being pounded on a visit to the cacao plantation where it grew? She tried to guess its journey, what had been done to it at Sylvain’s orders to make it into the chocolate it was. The temperatures, the times, the rhythms.
What would this chocolate taste like coating candied orange slices from Spain?
She found the candied orange slices from Spain, still moist, and tasted one, her fingers growing sticky and specks of chocolate clinging and blurring against her skin under the residue of the orange. Sylvain had shown Christophe how to coat these in chocolate.
She imagined Sylvain’s fingers growing all sticky. She sucked slowly on her finger, licking the stickiness off.
Abruptly, she opened cabinets until she found the components of a small bain-marie.
A giddy kind of pleasure rose through her as she began to heat the water and pour chocolate
pistoles
into the pot set above it, a pleasure something like that fizzing Coke bottle her first day here, only more alarming.
Sylvain Marquis might have refused to allow her a place in his workshop, but she would steal one, right here in the heart of Paris, and make her chocolate in the dark of night.
While she worked, she kept looking up into corners, expecting to find the sorcerer of chocolate waiting there, his eyes gleaming like fires in the dark as he closed the trap on her in his lair.
But he never did.
 
Sylvain felt his heart kicking into gear as he opened the door to his
laboratoire
the next morning, the rich scents flooding him. Had she been there, the thief?
He shouldn’t get his hopes up.
His hopes?
Was he
hoping
that outrageously arrogant woman had broken into his workshop and stolen his chocolate?
She had, he saw almost instantly. Thumbprints smudged the marble counter they always left so glossy and clean at the end of the day. He could track her across the room. Here, she had tasted candied orange slices from Spain. Here, she had dipped into all the chocolate
pistoles
. Here she had . . .
She had helped herself to at least one of every single chocolate they had produced the day before.
He grinned, his heart thumping. She couldn’t get enough of him, could she?
He stopped when he found the components of a bain-marie dripping dry in a sink. Had she been making chocolate in his workshop? Exactly how nervy was this thief?
 
“So, did she come back?” Christophe asked eagerly just before lunch.
Sylvain, in the act of transferring a thirty-kilo
marmite
of chocolate to a heat source, considered dropping it onto the man’s toes. He’d done the blogger a favor once, let him visit his
laboratoire
at his begging, and the man thought they were such buddies that he could come be nosy about Sylvain’s thief?
“She did, didn’t she?” Christophe said, delighted. His chest visibly expanded with joy.
So had Sylvain’s, that morning. He put the giant pot of chocolate down before he could yield to temptation.
“What did she take? Do you know who it is? Do you know how she got in?”
“Somebody is stealing chocolate?” Pascal Guyot appeared at Sylvain’s shoulder. Not a blog reader, Pascal. Sotto voce, he added, “Is it someone who works here, do you think? But we keep that platter in the employee lounge full of them.”
“Oh.” Christophe looked disappointed. “Really? Do you think it’s an inside job?”
“C’est possible,”
Sylvain allowed slowly. “One of the assistants, maybe. It was a small thumbprint. That makes more sense than imagining someone would risk breaking and entering for my chocolate.” It did make more
sense
. If they were dealing with someone behaving sensibly.
His heart kicked into high gear again, and his body tightened as he imagined the thief losing her head for him.
For his chocolates.
Close enough.
“I’ll tell you what,” Christophe said. “You imagine the suspect you want, and I’ll imagine the suspect I want. Just tell me—did she come back last night? You can blink once for
oui
or twice for
non
.”
Sylvain blinked once but at the pure effrontery of the man in trying to cajole him into an admission.
“Oh, she did!” Christophe clasped his hands,
ravi
. “You have made my life, Sylvain Marquis.
Merci, merci.
” He whirled out.
A few seconds later, he whirled back. “You don’t have Wi-Fi here by any chance?”
Sylvain narrowed his eyes at him, starting to smolder. If the man was going to keep a public journal of his puerile fantasies, he could at least have the grace to make them different fantasies from Sylvain’s.
“No, never mind. I’m sure the café down the street has it.” Christophe whirled out again, exiting through the shop. Sylvain saw him buy a box of chocolates on his way out.
 
Voleuse de Chocolat, je t’aime,
read Christophe’s headline.
As I sit here biting slowly through the robe of Sylvain Marquis’s
Caraque,
a delicate crunch and then silk ganache, I know I have found a kindred soul. You, too, think this is worth risking life and liberty for....
Well, maybe not
life,
Cade thought uneasily. French police didn’t have a tendency to close in with guns blazing, did they? And as for liberty, maybe she should make another major contribution to the political party in power right now just in case she needed any intervention from the ambassador. This whole French prison thing didn’t sound appealing at all.
 
The Chocolate Thief Strikes Again
flew up in blog titles throughout the Anglophone world. French was no barrier to the food bloggers, who all knew in what language their bread was buttered with 85 percent butterfat.
Please, Can I Be a Chocolate Thief? A Taste of Elle
wrote, which was just greedy on her part, since she was engaged to chocolatier Simon Casset. Another posted
How to Steal Chocolate in Ten Easy Lessons. Number 1: If you’re going to go to jail for it, make sure you don’t settle for less than Sylvain Marquis.
“That’s funny,” Maggie Saunders said, reading over another traveler’s shoulder in a security line that had been stalled for two hours at Charles de Gaulle. “I was just at one of his workshops.”
“Really?” The man turned.
“You know the strangest story?” Maggie said proudly. It was not every day, or even every decade, she got to share a story as juicy as this. Well, her friends’ stories could be pretty juicy, but she felt guilty about sharing those. And they weren’t famous, so no one cared. “You know the Corey family?”
The man’s brow knitted. “The Corey family? The chocolate family?”
“That one.” Maggie nodded enthusiastically. It was always better telling a story about famous people when the listener recognized their names. “One of them, Cade Corey, bribed me to let her take my place in Sylvain Marquis’s workshop. She was spying on him! I probably shouldn’t have let her,” she added guiltily. She touched the platinum D on her wide leather belt to console herself.
The man’s eyebrows shot up to the top of his head. “Really? How much did she bribe you?”
“I kept it under thirty thousand,” Maggie said vaguely. “I think. I didn’t buy any real jewelry,” she added defensively. “And I could have!”
It was impossible for the man’s eyebrows to climb any higher, but they tried. His eyes were gleaming. “Cade Corey paid you thirty thousand dollars so she could slip into a chocolate workshop run by the best chocolatier in Paris, in disguise?”
“She did better than that! She let me use her credit card for a day. I could have spent a lot more, but I had moral qualms.” And she was regretting those qualms already. One ten-carat diamond ring—that wouldn’t have been so bad, right?
“My God, I wish the man had stock I could buy.” The stranger propped his laptop on the top of his suitcase and began typing. “Now, when was this?”
By the time he had all the details, the line had still not advanced by even one person. He pulled out his phone to call someone and spoke into it. “Can I change my flight to take another couple of days in Paris? I mean, officially, as opposed to just standing in this security line that long? Because I think I might have a fun one here.”
“You’re leaving?” Maggie said, disappointed. In a security line like theirs, no one wanted to lose entertainment.
“Would you be willing to share your contact information by any chance?” he asked her.
She pulled back suspiciously. It had been all very well sharing the details of Cade Corey’s story with a complete stranger, but she didn’t want to have some weirdo stalking her.
“I’m sorry, I never introduced myself.” He pulled out a card. “Jack Adams,
New York Times.
I usually write for the financial section, but I’ve been begging to get into Food.”
“That’s quite a jump,” Maggie said sympathetically.
He grinned. “Yes, but sometimes God smiles on you.”
“That’s what
I
thought!” Maggie exclaimed in wonder. “Isn’t that something? That means God’s used Cade Corey twice now. I hope she appreciates it.”
 
That
How to Steal Chocolate in Ten Easy Lessons
blog post had some good tips, Cade decided. Except for number one:
Make sure you steal from Sylvain Marquis.
That was just going to make his head even bigger than it already was. How well did he read English?
But number five, how to avoid a French prison—she might need to pay some attention to that.
Comments were more or less evenly divided between envy of the thief and outrage on Sylvain Marquis’s behalf. “Shouldn’t chocolate be accessible to all?” Cade wrote quickly and hit Submit before she could think better of it. She probably shouldn’t be participating anonymously in debates about herself.
Besides, she didn’t exactly want chocolate to be accessible to all. She wanted the end product to be accessible to most, but she wanted the hidden inner fastnesses to be accessible only to her.
And perhaps one sexy, dark-haired lord of the keep.
“You are my hero,” her grandfather told her over the phone. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to go back twice? You couldn’t steal everything you needed the first time?”
Cade glanced around her. She was trying to combine taking advantage of Paris and combing through the reports on Devon Candy her father wanted her to look at by taking her laptop out to the Seine. The widespread availability of Wi-Fi meant she kept getting distracted by blog posts, though. And her fingers kept stiffening up. It was a little chilly.
From where she sat on cold concrete above the brown water, the flying buttresses of Notre-Dame soared up above her to her left, and bridges arched over the river to either side. “La Vie en Rose” crackled through poor speakers every time an excursion boat sparsely populated with tourists passed. Yellow-brown and burnt-sienna leaves swirled around her feet when a breeze blew, fallen from the plane trees that lined the upper and lower quays. Late autumn in Paris wasn’t a brilliant last burst of color. Plane trees, so beautiful in the summer, didn’t go out with a bang but, rather, leeched themselves into a gray-yellow-brown and dropped their leaves reluctantly. Paris retreated from the
joie de vivre
of summer into wistfulness, a cold chill, and longing.
“I can’t find his recipes, Grandpa!”
“If he’s smart, he locks them up at night. How are your safecracking skills?”
“A safe? That’d be kind of paranoid,” she said severely.
“Maybe,” he said. “I mean, ours are in a safe within a safe within a safe and written in code, but our chocolate is
important
. People use it to get by every day. His stuff is just luxurious fluff for people who already have everything else money can buy. Tell me something, though. Have you seen any signs he’s experimented with spinach? Or kale. It’s packed with nutrition, kale.”
“Toute seule, chérie?”
a male voice asked, and Cade turned from the Seine-backdropped laptop to stare at him blankly.

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