Read The Chocolate Thief Online

Authors: Laura Florand

The Chocolate Thief (8 page)

“There are a surprising number of good restaurants in Paris that aren’t in my neighborhood,” he pointed out.
It was hard to carry on a conversation with someone who wouldn’t politely refrain from calling her out on every possible thing that he could. Were all conversations more like fencing matches in Paris, or did she and he just have a special relationship?
“I didn’t realize you lived near here, too.”
He blinked, silenced for a moment. “You don’t know where I live?”
She was sure she had it in her files. She just hadn’t paid attention to his home address. “I’ll look it up if that would make you happy.”
Another pause. “You really are focused exclusively on my chocolate, aren’t you?”
Cade gave him a blank look. What did he think?
What
did
he think? And did he like whatever it was he was thinking? And if so, like it how? With arrogant satisfaction or . . . ?
“I believe I mentioned my interest in your chocolate when we first met,” she said pointedly. “In fact, I believe my assistant might have hinted at something to that effect when she set up our first meeting.”
He made a vague gesture at the mention of their initial, infuriating meeting. “I thought you were just asking to visit the
laboratoire
while you were in Paris. It seemed a simple courtesy to agree.”
“You do things out of courtesy?” she asked blankly.
Indignation sparked immediately in those chocolate-dark eyes. “I’m being courteous to you right now!”
Was he brushing his finger against her lips as he brought exquisite, bitter chocolate to them out of courtesy? Because if he was, she was going to kill him.
Him and his kind girlfriend.
“I am making you a chocolate,” he said. “I don’t get any more courteous than that.”
Was he really? she thought, utterly seduced and undone. Was he making up a chocolate on the spot, just for her?
“But if you sell it, or put my name on it, or in any way reproduce it in some mass, bastardized version of pseudo-chocolate, I will take my case straight to US courts, where I can sue millions out of you.”
“Or we could skip the suing step and just sign a contract,” Cade suggested. “You would still get millions, and I’m sure it would be less stressful.”
His jaw clenched. He whipped up the butcher knife and shaved a second block of chocolate to bits in so little time, it was like watching
The Six Million Dollar Man.
It gave a jolt to her stomach to think exactly how much he had been taming himself to go slowly with her a moment before. It gave a jolt to some other regions, too. This man made her melt all over.
“Exactly how much money would I have to sue out of you to make you regret something?”
Cade gave that some thought. “I think a few million would probably get the company’s attention.” Really, any lawsuit was a potential public relations issue; there was always the risk the media might pick it up and glorify the plaintiff.
“L’attention de la compagnie, je m’en fous,”
he said crudely. He flipped the knife to scrape the shavings into another pot and set it over a bain-marie on a burner next to her cream, which was slowly infusing with cinnamon. Steam breathed gently up from the water. “If you do anything to me, I want you to personally regret it.”
Cade could think of at least ten ways he could make her personally regret something right off the bat. But she managed to refrain from passing on a list of her weak spots to him. It was one thing to go kamikaze and quite another to commit suicide to no purpose.
Besides, she had a strong suspicion he was figuring out some of those weak spots on his own. In his pot, the chocolate shavings were melting helplessly over a flame so low, nothing else would even notice it.
The shavings were just like her, probably. He probably wasn’t even trying.
“Am I not supposed to use cinnamon in any Corey products for the rest of my life, or what are you trying to get me to promise?”
He stirred his chocolate and looked aggravated.
Pascal Guyot, passing him to pick up vanilla beans for everyone else’s workshop, gave him an ironic look. Sylvain looked a little embarrassed and focused more intensely on his chocolate. “She told me her name was Maggie Saunders,” Pascal mentioned.
Cade remembered her credit card, and qualms seized her.
“You know what’s strange?” Sylvain said, speaking more to her than to Pascal. “I would have thought a company the size of Corey would have other people to do your corporate espionage.”
They did. And those people were very far removed from the top cadre of family members and executives. “You’ve seen too many movies,” Cade dismissed him. “We’re a very hands-on family, really.”
The hands-on part was true, anyway. Who wanted to keep their hands off chocolate? Who the heck wanted to
pay
someone else to go learn all the secrets of a top Parisian chocolatier?
Pascal shook his head, with one last dry look at Sylvain, who ignored him, and continued back to the others, distributing vanilla beans as he went.
“I thought this workshop was full six months ago,” Sylvain said. “They usually are. Did you sign up under a fake name before you even made me your offer?”
If he caught her in a lie, she knew darn well he wasn’t going to ignore it to let her save face. But he probably didn’t handle the day-to-day registration process for his workshops himself, right? That would be a waste of chocolate talent. “No, it was an impulse. There must have been a last-minute cancellation.”
She wondered if it would be morally right to slip out and cancel her credit card now. Cade’s assumption of Maggie Saunders’s identity had ended up lasting only five minutes.
But if she slipped out, would she get back in?
Exactly how much was she willing to pay to learn how to infuse cream and melt chocolate, two things she already knew perfectly well how to do? This little tourist workshop was nice. It was sadistically kind of him not to kick her out of it, even. But it did not begin to be the immersion into the world of a Parisian master chocolatier that she wanted.
Sylvain Marquis leaned over her to examine her cream, and all thoughts of her credit card slipped from her mind. He picked up a clean spoon and dipped it into the cream to taste it. His eyes closed a little as he concentrated on the flavor, and she watched him helplessly, longing to know what he tasted.
He opened his eyes and smiled at her, then dipped a fresh spoon into the infusion and proffered a swallow of cream to her lips. “What do you think?”
It tasted sweet and strongly of cinnamon. His mouth would taste of cinnamon. She felt like that cream, slowly infusing with the warmth and taste he desired as he watched.
She tried to produce a coherent comment. “Too much?”
“The chocolate will overpower it quite a bit,” he said. “I haven’t worked much with cinnamon recently, so this is an experiment. Let’s see how it goes.”
“Why haven’t you worked with cinnamon recently?” she asked as he fished the cinnamon sticks out of the cream. It seemed an obvious flavor combination to her.
“C’est très datée.”
He dumped her chocolate shavings into the cream.
Cade hid a squirm. Really? Her tastes were dated for this top chocolatier? That explained the smile when he’d mentioned
“la tradition.”
“Et maintenant, fouettez.”
He put a sturdy whisk into her hand. “Hold it firmly, and whip it hard.” He grinned a little at his own words but didn’t share whatever they made him think of.
Cade, grasping the handle of the whisk and whipping the chocolate and cream into a glossy hue, suspected she could guess.
“Have you ever tempered chocolate by hand,
mademoiselle
?”
She had a couple of times, in US workshops, rather poorly. But if she said yes, he might not teach her, or, worse, he might let her manage on her own, so she shook her head.
“Bon, d’abord, sur la table. Tenez.”
He put her hand on the pot handle. “Pour about a third of it out onto the marble.”
The chocolate spilled over the marble, silky, warm, brown. Its gleam in the light made her think of that gleam in his eyes.
“Et maintenant nous le travaillons.”
In one hand he picked up a long metal spatula three or so inches wide, in the other a much wider, shorter spatula, again flat metal. Expertly, he began to scrape, lift, and spill the chocolate between these two blades.
He had been doing that when she first met him. And she had been fantasizing she was the chocolate stretched out on his marble. She stared at it helplessly.
“You see? Now you try.” He placed the spatulas into her hands, fingers brushing hers again.
She thought she made a reasonable imitation of his gestures, albeit much clumsier.
He laughed.
“Encore une fois.”
He shifted behind her so that his sleek, muscled body enclosed hers, brushing against the whole length of her back. She felt his breath stirring the hair on the top of her head and lost all thought.
He closed his hands around hers on the spatulas. For a second, as he tried to guide her hands through the gestures, her own automatically sought control, their unblended gestures ungainly.
“Relax,” he murmured into her ear. “Just let me take charge.”
If she relaxed, she was going to so completely lose her muscle strength that he was going to have to pick her up and carry her straight to a bed. Or just stretch her out there on the counter and make everyone else leave.
His body was so warm behind hers. His forearms against hers were so lean and strong and perfect for his task. Across the great marble island from her, one of the Japanese women narrowed her eyes at her in open jealousy.
“Et puis touchez,”
he breathed into her ear. “Touch with the back of your hand. You should feel neither warmth nor cool. It should be exactly the same temperature as your skin. It should be . . . exactly matched to you.” He dipped the knuckle of his pinky into the chocolate as she did hers. “Can you tell?”
She was not sure her current body temperature was a reliable indicator for chocolate tempering. She was too hot.
Not Sylvain? Was he still as cool as a cucumber?
“How long did it take you to learn to do that?” the Frenchman who was taking the workshop asked from down the marble counter.
Sylvain turned easily to answer him. It seemed to cost him no effort to wrench himself away from her.
Cade wished they were alone. Not only because she didn’t want to be just another tourist among this group, but because she didn’t think she would let him get away with this if they were alone. She would break, one way or the other, and whether by grabbing him or by dumping a bowl of cream on his head, challenge him to quit
toying
with her.
He
was
toying with her, wasn’t he?
Like a shock of cold water, it occurred to her that maybe he wasn’t trying to drive her crazy. Maybe this was just the way he was, and let the women fall where they may.
 
It was a good thing they weren’t alone, Sylvain thought. He wasn’t sure, if they weren’t watched, that he might not crack, push too hard, reach for too much, too soon. He had learned patience the hard way as a teenager, paying the price whenever his control slipped and his greed showed before the pretty girl in question was completely mesmerized by chocolate.
He had grown into himself. Journalists liked to say he was
beau,
and even Chantal insisted it was true these days, so he supposed he was. But he actually had no idea how to attract a woman without chocolate.
Ce n’était pas grave
. Chocolate had proven extraordinarily effective.
Its effectiveness right now was driving him crazy. Miss Ruler of All Money Can Buy, so small and arrogant and intense, swamped by her borrowed pastry-chef jacket, was letting him stand so close behind her as he showed her how to temper his chocolate. She was taking tastes off his finger, off a spoon held in his hand. Testing the warmth of the chocolate. Blushing. She kept blushing.
Money can’t buy this,
he thought at her, but it wasn’t quite true. He had always been attracted to women who were rich and elegant, confident and together. Even in high school, when he didn’t have a prayer of attracting them—before he learned chocolate—those had been the women who attracted him. So was he letting her money buy him?
She had walked into his own
laboratoire,
confident as could be that she could buy him and produce him in a factory, and he had put her quite properly and resoundingly in her place.
But here he was, two days later, letting her infiltrate his workshop. Giving her a hands-on lesson.
Very hands-on. He was reducing himself to a state of pure desire. Fortunately, a chef jacket could hide quite a bit.

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