Three words, to shake a man’s existence.
Three words, to call on all a man’s strength, all his courage, all his love, and all his ability to hope and dream…and trust.
Three words, to wake up every fear a man has ever had.
“I’m pregnant, Luc.”
Now how could a man be perfect enough for that?
It was midnight before Luc stepped out of the kitchens into that still unfamiliar and lovely Provençal alley behind the restaurant, flexing his shoulders, rolling his head, his eyes closing just a moment as he took a deep breath of cool night air and jasmine and clean stone, trying to ease the stress out. God, what a night. He missed his team in Paris so damn bad.
Patrick, merde. What he wouldn’t give to have his old second Patrick down here, all laughing pseudo-surfer attitude and intense skill, helping him get this restaurant running right. Instead of helping with the transition to a new chef at the Leucé sixty hours a week and buried in his math and physics summer courses another twenty, trying to build up the foundation to start an engineering degree.
Engineering. Luc had tried and tried to wrap his mind around that as a career for Patrick, but he couldn’t even entirely imagine what an engineer would do. From everything he’d read, it sounded like what he and Patrick already did, only with a lot more boring materials.
And with permanence. There was that.
So he’d lost Patrick—to one of his own interns, a black-haired woman named Sarah—and to another dream. One that had permanence.
And now he had everything on his shoulders, every single aspect of making sure this worked, that one of the wealthiest and most beautiful heiresses on the planet hadn’t married a failure. That the sweetest, shyest pseudo-socialite hadn’t bravely left her island and come into his harsh world for nothing.
He couldn’t be nothing again. For her sake, he couldn’t be nothing.
He was used to refusing to be nothing for his own sake, and to have it instead be for her, to have had his whole world shifted so that he was no longer his own center but she was, left him radically off-balance. But he was doing his best.
And his best was the best in the world, damn it. It was.
But right now…the compressor in the walk-in had failed, putting thousands of dollars of food stuff at immediate risk, not to mention that it would have shut them down for days if the supplies got ruined and couldn’t be replaced. So he’d spent an hour frantically calling around in a strange region—the Parisian snob chef whom no one local quite wanted to help—trying to find someone who could fix it at that hour of the night. His chef de cuisine, Nico, from the area, had stepped in and made a few calls and someone had shown up a half hour later, which would have been fine, except that normally the executive head chef was a chef de cuisine, not a pastry chef, and Luc had to establish his authority and power absolutely for the staff to accept the reversal of the roles. He couldn’t be the person who failed to solve a problem that his chef de cuisine could solve with a couple of calls.
Then his night dishwasher and his night porter were acting as if they were about to knife each other, and he had no idea why. That was the kind of personal dispute that Patrick had always solved. His new sous-chef, Antoine, just didn’t seem to have the knack yet.
Summer, actually, had an odd knack for it. But since most of his staff was in love with her and would do anything to make her smile at them, it was a knack that made him want to strangle every one of them. And Summer had taken the afternoon off and hadn’t come back in for the dinner service. He’d missed her. This great hole opened in his life when she wasn’t there, and he had to remind himself that he was a sane adult man and not that obsessive, clinging brat that kept clamoring back from his childhood.
Not everyone wanted to spend every waking moment in a restaurant. It was fine.
He had to do payroll tomorrow morning, unless he let Summer do it for him, but he couldn’t inflict that on his own wife. Payroll, God. All the bits and pieces of working hours, who had covered for whom, who had worked a double shift, who was flat-out lying about the hours he claimed. At the Hôtel de Leucé, sure he had to keep things in order in his part of the kitchen, but the hotel had had accountants. Good ones, too. In the end, he could shove it over to them.
Here, like everything else, it was all on him. The math of it was already giving him a migraine, and he’d downed eight aspirin already tonight.
“Let me,” a warm, husky voice said, and his eyes flew open.
“Summer.” He tried to relax all the tension out of his shoulders as he turned toward her. She couldn’t see this. How hard this was. How intensely he fought to succeed.
Perfection costs me nothing. Of course not. It’s just the way I am.
Which, if it were true, would make me almost worth you. That fragile, generous, wanting heart of yours that you let me hold.
He smiled at her, happiness seeping through all those tense muscles and unwinding them in an involuntary way far more powerful than all his efforts to force the relaxation.
“Here.” Summer reached her hands up to grip his shoulders, digging her fingers in, and he gazed down at that beautiful face that was all his. Delicate but strong cheekbones, sunlight hair, blue eyes, fingers trying so hard to be strong enough to really ease his muscles.
Because she was so much smaller than he was, she couldn’t really dig into his muscles properly from her position, but…the effort accomplished quite a lot. Her fingers finally shifted from the attempts at massage to stroke gently up and down the nape of his neck. Pleasure ran through him, this shivering deep sensation of slightly too cold water after a much too hot day. He would ease into it in a second. His body would accept it, be delighted with it, just as soon as it had a chance to adjust to the fact that it was actually his.
“I’ll give you a better massage when you get home and can stretch out,” Summer said. A tiny flicker in her eyes, the most fleeting look. “Do you think you’ll get home soon?”
A knot of tension came back, even under her hands. “I’m trying,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
He knew it was one of the things she had most feared from him, that he would pour himself into his work just as her self-made billionaire father had and forget to leave her any worth or room in his life at all. He’d promised not to be like her father.
“It’s okay, Luc.” She stroked his cheeks. “I know. I know getting it off the ground is hard.”
She always said that. She always seemed okay.
Okay being the one to make all the efforts for them to see each other. Okay coming into the restaurant to fold napkins and set tables and act as hostess when their new staff once again failed to show up. Okay stopping by the restaurant late at night like this just to talk to him a minute and rub his shoulders. Okay being the person who poured out all her support with a smile and never, ever asked for a single thing back.
But Summer was so good at faking things to try to please. Had any other man ever thought she was okay with him right up until he was staring at that golden hair as she walked away?
“I love you so much,” he murmured, closing her back against the stone wall of the old building, mostly just to cage her. Mine, mine, all mine.
His hand fisted around the jasmine climbing up the wall. The building had been used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to process the flowers harvested in the region, and in some spots inside it, away from the kitchens, he could swear he still caught hints of rose and lavender when he rested his head close to a wall. But here, in the Provençal night, he could only smell stone and jasmine and her monoï-based shampoo. It was like smelling the essence of starlight.
“I’ll finish up as soon as I can,” he told her, bending down to kiss her.
But she brought her hands to his shoulders and pushed him back, and because he was stupid, he had to work not to tense at even that tiniest rejection. “I have some news.” Her eyes, big in the dim light, made her look almost scared to tell him. “I was trying to wait until you got home, but I just couldn’t wait anymore.”
Something she was excited about, then. The school had finally said she could volunteer? He caught one of her hands on his shoulders and squeezed it while he bit the words back just in case that wasn’t her news. She never talked about how hard she had worked to try to get any school around here to let her teach or even volunteer, and how many people had turned her down as if she herself, minus money, was worthless. Probably she didn’t want to make him feel bad for dragging her here.
For dragging her away from that island, where she was so happy and confident and valued, to his world, where people treated her like some very expensive shit. She’d known what it would be like, and she’d still made that choice. For him.
“Yes?” he nudged when she didn’t speak. Squeezing her hand again, he rubbed one thumb down over her knuckles.
Her eyes got so huge he could drown in them. She took a deep breath and then let the words out fast, on a gasp: “I’m pregnant.”
The world stopped.
This delightful, often hilarious story, filled with pickles, Popsicles, peaches, and passionate sex, sweeps Luc and Summer into the next delicious stage of their relationship and will leave fans anxious for more.
— Library Journal
Lovely… I was charmed by the gathering of all previous couples, I fell in love even more with Summer and Luc and I finished the book a bit excited about who would be coming next. I adore Ms. Florand’s writing and her way with imagery so much that I think I will go back and read some of these books again. Fans of this series will love this one.
A beautiful continuation of Luc and Summer’s story. As usual Laura Florand manages to dig deep into my heart and stir up so many emotions! A definite must for any fan of the Amour et Chocolat series!
I loved it...Read Chocolate Heart and then read this. And then make sure you’ve read this entire series because it’s totally fabulous.
There is so much emotion is this book; love, fear, friendship...As with all Ms. Florand's books I finished the book with a smile on my face. Her characters are so engaging, the descriptions of the locations make you feel like your there, and the desserts are to die for. I know when I open an Amour et Chocolat story I will not put it down till I'm finished.
Shadowed Heart is a must-read for fans of Florand's work. It's heart-felt and the depth packed into its short pages is unbelievable…Without a doubt, Shadowed Heart is yet another incredible novel from Florand--one of her finest yet.
Sensual and beautiful.
Simply gorgeous, in a painful, raw, and ultimately heart soaring way...A top read of 2014.
I cannot recommend Laura Florand and her books highly enough. They are angsty masterpieces that will give readers all the feels - from the highs to the lows back to the highs again....Don’t miss any of the Amour et Chocolat books, as they are all romances make the heart sing.