Read The Chocolate Thief Online

Authors: Laura Florand

The Chocolate Thief (15 page)

It was still embarrassing as hell, though.
He followed her and stood just hidden in the doorway as she crossed the street, making sure she went back where she belonged.
Or maybe just making sure she got back to her apartment safely.
A shadow shifted under the bakery shop awning, someone standing there watching her. She glanced that way, pulse jumping in a preliminary fight-or-flight instinct, but the shadow shifted farther back.
She relaxed. Whoever it was, he was no danger to her tonight.
Perhaps he had seen Sylvain keeping watch.
Chapter 14
“S
ylvain. Sylvain.”
Sylvain blinked, shaking his head and focusing on Pascal.
“We were trying to decide what chocolates to make today,” Pascal prodded, indicating with a look the battered, worn, schoolboy binder in which were stored a decade of recipes. Well, the ingredients for the recipes. The technique, the timing, were all in Sylvain’s head.
Sylvain rubbed his brow. “
Pardon.
I didn’t get much sleep.”
Pascal pursed his lips on a grin, as if a dozen possible jokes about lack of sleep had leaped to mind and he was restraining himself from uttering any of them. “Well, go over this with me, and then go home and get some rest, if you want. You almost never take a day off.”
The door between the workshop and the shop opened, and Francine, his store manager, came back. “Sylvain, can you tell me what this thief story is about? People have been coming in for the last two days asking about it, and now there’s one of the Americans who lives around here saying she saw an article on the
New York Times
site this morning. And someone from
Le Monde
is calling. Is some American chocolate baron stealing your chocolate? Co-ree?”
Sylvain blinked some more. “The
New York Times
? Today’s
New York Times
? Is it out already?” Fuzzily, he tried to remember what time it was on the other side of the Atlantic. But since what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic had never been much of a concern of his, he had no idea. “And it mentions Cade Corey’s name?”
Francine spread her hands. “I haven’t seen it. But I assume it’s online.”
Sylvain abandoned the recipe binder without another word and went to the laptop in his office.
A Chocolate Thief by Any Other Name
read the lead title of the Food section. He grinned.
Lovely.
Any time his name came up in the Food section of the
New York Times,
he made a fortune for the next couple of months in American-tourist sales. He already had a solid contingent of American celebrities and extravagantly wealthy patrons who had his chocolates airmailed over to them once a week, and he would certainly see a jump in that list, too. He felt intense satisfaction when he watched a movie by Steven Spielberg, or a role played by Cate Blanchett, or opened Microsoft Excel or Google on his computer and thought about those people biting into one of his chocolates as they worked on producing their masterpieces.
For the past two days, bloggers have been reporting a thief stealing world-famous Sylvain Marquis’s chocolate.
World-famous.
Sylvain grinned again. It was true but always nice to see it repeated by one of the accepted global authorities on news.
Can it have anything to do with Cade Corey, daughter of Mack Corey and part-owner of Corey Chocolate, currently in Paris? According to sources, she allowed one woman a day’s use of her credit card—to the tune of $30,000—in exchange for her place in a workshop by Sylvain Marquis. And last night, she was seen slipping into and, a few hours later, out of, Sylvain Marquis’s workshop in the middle of the night when no one else was there.
Sylvain had been there, he thought, losing track of what he was reading as he felt Cade Corey’s body against his again, saw the way she had tilted her head back and looked at him as he caught her in his
laboratoire
.
Right about now, he thought, she must be fielding a lot of calls. His face couldn’t quite decide whether to grin or raise eyebrows in alarm as he tried to imagine her reaction to this article.
His main worry, he had to admit, was that she might stop sneaking into his workshop to steal his chocolate in the middle of the night. He had already been worried about that, in fact. What if last night was a one-night affair, never to be repeated?
What two people might do in the dark without speaking, they might never do again or even want to admit to. He had learned that growing up.
He had given her more chances than he’d wanted to, more chances than he owed to a fantasy caught in his workshop. He had waited longer than he could bear too many times last night, to see if she would turn away or change her mind.
But she had never even seemed to hesitate. Not once.
And that meant . . . absolutely nothing today. You could keep a fantasy about as well as you could keep a butterfly. It was all too easy to want it too badly and crush the life out of it. His mouth shifted from a grin into grimness.
Ça, alors . . . ça serait vraiment con.
That would be really, really lousy, in fact.
He had been stupid. He knew all about tempering chocolate; he knew all about the way he should have stroked her afterward, eased her back to normal temperature and normal life. And he had not paid attention. Too caught up in his own experience, thrown too completely, as if he had rubbed one of his bottles of vanilla extract and a succubus had popped out at him.
It was only after she had twisted away from him and started getting dressed, in that awkward silence, that he had had the brains to save the moment by offering her hot chocolate.
He had done his best to recoup his carelessness. He had calculated every move and word, from then on, to try to lure her back into warmth and into his arms. He had almost frozen to death keeping his shirt off the whole time he made that hot chocolate. But if the sight had sent her mad with lust again, she had kept a pretty tight lid on it.
So he didn’t know if that chocolate made up for . . . anything. With women, you never knew for sure what they were thinking. They seemed to have some instinct to go off in bizarre directions, get mad, get weird, just because they had sex. One would think sex would drive them in the other direction—into a blissful sense that all was right with the world—but no. You had to be careful all the time with women, and he hadn’t been.
Some of his efforts to make a future out of that night
clearly
hadn’t worked. He had thought a blackmail sex fantasy might appeal to a woman who dressed up in leather to break into his
laboratoire
and deliberately got caught at it, but she had seemed to get angry more than anything. He could still hear that empty cup clicking down on the marble like a dead bolt sliding shut.
If he lost her and it was his own stupid fault . . .
ça serait vraiment, vraiment con.
His own phone started to ring.
 
Her phone buzzed and buzzed and buzzed, maddening her, as if she kept being stung by a bumblebee, until it finally forced her out of sleep. Such a happy, mindless sleep.
She looked at it, saw the quantity of missed calls from her father and grandfather and even Jaime, then rubbed her face hard and switched the messages over to her e-mail.
Her in-box flooded, downloading Google Alert after Google Alert.
Good grief.
What had Sylvain Marquis done to draw so much attention this time?
She looked at the first one, a ten-word excerpt from the
New York Times
Web site, and saw not only Sylvain’s name but hers and
thief.
The bottom sank so far out of her stomach that she nearly threw up right there.
Her phone buzzed some more, like a beehive gone mad. She got up, walked into the bathroom, and braced herself over the toilet for a long time, until she could be quite sure she wasn’t going to throw up the remains of last night’s hot chocolate. Then she went back and read through the primary articles. Then she went back and hung over the toilet again for a while. And then she came back, opened the new laptop she had bought the afternoon before, and spent twenty minutes trying to get Skype working on it before she could finally face the music.
Her father, unshaven and his gray hair sleep-crushed, still rubbing drowsiness out of his blue eyes, was almost incapable of forming words: “I just . . . I can’t . . . were you out of your mind? Cade. Why? We have
people
for this.”
“You’re not supposed to get caught,” her grandfather pointed out over his shoulder. He was thinner than his stocky son, wrinkled and white-haired, and he looked as spry as if he had been up for hours, which might be true. He only slept a few hours a night. His blue eyes were paler than Cade’s or her father, Mack’s, having lightened with age, but they still held absolute confidence in every word he said and their typical glee at the world’s twists and turns. “I told you not to get into a position where they could start sniffing at you.”
“When are you flying back?” her father said.
She frowned, worrying a thumbnail. “I’m not. Not yet.”
Flat silence. In the delay in the video, her father just sat still, staring at her. “Why
not
? What more damage do you hope to do there? Cade, I’m fielding calls from The
Wall Street Journal
here. I just made an extra political contribution in case we need to get you out of some French jail. You’re not Jaime!”
Yes, and somehow Jaime always got to do what she wanted, wherever in the world she wanted to do it. G8 summit protests, tear-gassed on the front page as a poster girl for anti-capitalism, backpacking trips abroad while Cade had worked for Corey since she was a teenager. Jaime had even been able to
abandon
all the business and follow her
heart
, and her father and Cade herself had thrown everything Jaime wanted at her as a reward—Corey funding for her cacao plantation labor work, everything. Cade couldn’t help thinking that if just once as a teenager she had had the chutzpah to get on the front page at a World Trade Organization protest, she too might be free, right at this moment. Free to pursue whatever dream she wanted. Ha, and maybe
Jaime
would be the one stuck with all Corey Chocolate on her shoulders, whining about how her older sister had ditched it on her.
“You know, France probably won’t bother to extradite over a simple breaking and entering, so if you come home before they put an arrest warrant out, you might stay out of jail,” her grandfather offered helpfully.
“I haven’t gotten what I came for,” she said stubbornly.
“I haven’t figured out a way to incorporate spinach into chocolate yet, either,” her grandfather said. “Some things you never do manage.”
She gave the screen a narrow look. Her grandfather was being a turncoat, that’s what he was. He had been totally behind her before the Corey name got out there. “Yes, but you’re still trying. And Great-grandpa still tried for that milk chocolate, even after he burned down the farm with his experiments.”
Suddenly, the memory of that was reassuring to her. However unhappy her family was with her, Great-grandpa’s family had to have been even more unhappy with him when he burned down the place where they lived for some pipe dream. And look where they all were now, thanks to that experiment.
They all were . . . at the mercy of the sniff of a French chocolatier, thanks to her.
 
“Let me get this straight,” Sylvain’s mother, Marguerite, said over the phone from Provence, where Sylvain had helped his parents buy a house when they retired.
Just his luck. He had thought he was picking up a call from
Le Monde.
“Some spoiled, rich owner of
Corey Chocolate
is breaking into your shop to steal from you?” Sylvain’s mother kept her voice modulated and lovely as she always did, but her outrage vibrated through it until his ears prickled.

Maman.
How did you find out about this so fast?”
“I have a Google Alert on you, of course,” she said promptly. “Also, I got ten calls from friends before I could get out of the shower this morning. Is it true?”
“She hasn’t actually managed to steal anything but chocolates yet,” he hedged. “She hasn’t found my recipes.” Not that they would do her much good. He just listed ingredients to jog his memory. The timing, the temperatures, everything else was in his head.
“Maman, une alerte Google?”
“Why are you saying ‘yet’?” his mother demanded. “Haven’t you had her arrested?”
Sylvain tried to think of the best way to say
non.

Maman
. This is chocolate business.” As in,
his
business.
Back off.
“It’s okay.”
Of course, his mother didn’t get the hint about minding her own business at all. She never had. “You haven’t had her arrested?” Again his ears prickled with the depth of outrage in that perfectly elegant voice. “You’re going to just let her get away with it?”
Not only that, but he was hoping she would come back and steal from him some more. “It’s complicated,
Maman.

“What is complicated about it?” she asked dangerously.
“Well. She’s kind of cute,” he said apologetically.
“Oh, Sylvain.
Please
don’t tell me you’re going to let some spoiled rich brat use you to steal what’s most important to you. And break your heart.”
“I won’t,” Sylvain said firmly.
Merde,
it already sounded like a lie. That wasn’t a good sign for him.

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