Dom and the aunts
an original cut scene from THE CHOCOLATE TOUCH
by Laura Florand
The eighth morning, she didn’t come.
His heart congealed. Everything lost its flavor. He looked at his elegant, luscious displays and wanted to throw them all out for their worthless, desperate pretense that he was something other than a twelve-year-old sent by his own father to hack meat off bones for a living. The desperate pretense that the truth of life was not there, in that bloody, stinking, cold place while his father at home kept warm with alcohol.
Something moody and bitter rose up in him, the thing that leaked into his chocolates, made them “dark and cruel,” as one critic in Le Figaro had called them, apparently in approval, because Parisians eager to prove their sado-masochistic relationship to chocolate had rushed to his salon the next day.
When she continued not to come, he couldn’t stand himself anymore and flung himself on his motorcycle and cut through the streets, dodging traffic with a lethal disregard for life and limb, over to the Île Saint-Louis. Pretending he needed to see Philippe to talk to him about the Chocolatiers’ Expo in a couple of weeks.
This type of event forced him and the other top chocolatiers and pâtissiers to cooperate, not their favorite thing to do. Dom was well aware that he cooperated worse than any of them. He couldn’t stand his rivals. Being around them made him want to start a fight, and pummel and batter his way to the top of the heap of them and grin in bloody, bruised victory. Yes. I can beat anyone.]
He did like Philippe’s little witch bride, Magalie, though. Quite a lot. He liked her smallness and those boots of hers and that impervious center to her, as if she couldn’t be touched, and he liked the idea of cutting Philippe out, just hard-edged muscling between them. Mostly he liked the rush of violence in the air whenever he thought about it, liked the fact that it was real and dangerous, that Philippe would genuinely try to kill him, and they could fight with fists and bodies and not just with pastries and chocolate.
And part of him, the worst part of him there was, liked the brutality of it, the fact that if he did really steal her heart away from Philippe, he would break his highness, completely and utterly destroy that smug happiness of his.
Besides, the fact that Magalie herself never seemed to notice him beyond a courteous smile annoyed him. That didn’t happen to him too much with women these days, and he thought he could make her notice him if he tried, if only by edging his danger too far into her personal space.
He didn’t because…well, it sure as hell wasn’t because he liked or respected Philippe. Bordel. It made him gun his motor and cut far too close in front of a car just thinking about that as a possible motivation.
He didn’t because…putain. He didn’t because he put a wall of embossed rosebuds in his salle. He didn’t because, no matter how the temptation might whisper at him sometimes, he could choose not to be a man who went around destroying other people’s happiness. He could choose to be a man who created happiness, even “dark and cruel” happiness, instead.
He parked his bike near La Maison des Sorcières instead of going straight down the street to Philippe’s patisserie. He tried to maintain his arrogant hardness as he approached its little door, but somehow found his hands had buried themselves in his jacket pockets. Damn it, his hands always did that when he got anywhere near Magalie’s aunts. And still he kept coming back, like a stray cat.
He gazed at this month’s display in La Maison des Sorcières’ window. A dark chocolate dragon, molded in such an old-fashioned style, like a fairytale more ancient than chocolate, had curled itself around a great primeval dark chocolate fir tree and the tiny witch’s garden of crystallized mint leaves and violet petals at its base. One paw lay gently over a crystallized rose heart, claws massive and unmoving, caging it delicately. A dark chocolate witch sat with her back against the dragon’s great side, staring into her empty basket, making it clear whose heart the dragon held. Two other witches swooped on broomsticks above the dragon-witch couple, like parent birds over a threatened fledgling.
The dragon looked smug.
Well, at least they had gotten his expression right. Philippe Lyonnais definitely was the smuggest bastard. And he had gotten worlds worse since he had landed Magalie Chaudron.
Dom stepped into the little shop, and a silver bell chimed as it always did. He did not like that silver bell. He had a suspicion it was trying to keep him out; it always seemed to give a little jolt against his skin, like a damn cattle prod. Fortunately, he had thick skin.
Geneviève swept out from the back, a big grey-haired woman who gave herself extra volume with the billowing caftan she always wore. “Dominique.” She gave a brisk nod to the bell. “Thanks for the warning. Here, eat this before you cause trouble.” She handed Dom a dark chocolate witch.
He bit into it meekly. His own chocolates might be the best in the world, but according to Geneviève they lacked direction. Her own chocolate bossed people around. This particular witch seemed to be implying that Dom had stopped in the wrong place.
“You did.” Aja came out with a tray, her black braid with its one strand of gray draping the length of her tunic. “Stop in the wrong place. Here.” She handed him a cup of tea. “It might help you deserve what you find.”
Seriously? He gave her a hopeful look that probably made him resemble a damned puppy and drank it down. Only just a little too hot, it heated his throat and sank into his middle, spreading out in a soothing warmth. He might as well have just had his ears scratched.
Putain. Why did he put up with this? Put up with it? He came seeking it out. Half his attraction to Magalie was the desire to have her aunts.
Geneviève and Aja would have made two bites out of his father, turned him into gingerbread in their oven and fed him to a fox. Then they could have adopted Dom and raised him to be a reliably sane human being. Maybe with a sweet, serious, quiet, freckled girl for a neighbor.
But of course it was Philippe, with his normal, happy, royalty-of-pastry family, who got the aunts as relatives by marriage. Didn’t that figure? Before you were even conceived, the gods must decide what you deserved and send you into the womb where you would end up getting it.
The door opened behind him, and he moved absently out of Magalie Chaudron’s way before he remembered he liked crowding her, in order to mess with Philippe’s mind. Plus, she was mignonne comme tout, and he liked women who would stomp him into the ground if he ever needed it.
“Dominique.” She sounded wry. Her black hair was on the top of her head in an elegantly deconstructed chignon, and the ten-centimeter heels of her boots brought her nearly up to his shoulder. She looked like someone a man could pick up in one hand and carry off, if he could survive having stiletto heels driven through various points of his body. For the first time since she had appeared on Dom’s radar by showing up at some expo at Philippe’s side, he didn’t feel any urge to kidnap her, though. He had a hard time even noticing she was there, he was so distracted by images of his inconnuetwisting uncomfortably in some plane seat, on her way back to America.
He forced himself to grin at Magalie nevertheless, keeping up a long-standing habit of being annoying. “Miss me?”
“Yes, you and your self-destructive urges have made a hole in my life. Go pick on Sylvain by flirting with Cade for a while. She’s over at Philippe’s.”
“Magalie. I have standards. I can’t flirt with a Corey. Have you tasted that stuff they call chocolate?”
“I spent half my childhood in the U.S., Dominique. Of course, I have.”
“Really?” Dom blinked. She didn’t sound or act American at all.
The tiny little smile on Magalie’s lips raised every hair on his arms and made him take a step back toward the door. Circe probably smiled like that as she set out food before Odysseus’s men and prepared to enjoy her new pigs. “Did you know Cade has an unmarried sister?”
That was all he needed, an arrogant billionaire heiress. “I don’t really care, Magalie.”
Magalie shrugged and ducked back into the little kitchen. “Do you want some chocolat chaud?” she called from there.
“No.” Not when she was smiling like that while she stirred it. He had enough trouble behaving well without some witch trying to turn him into a pig. “I just had some tea and a chocolate witch.”
“Oh.” Magalie stepped back out of the kitchen and exchanged a glance with her aunts that made him wonder if he should stick his finger down his throat and get that tea and witch back out of his system. “Well, you should be all right, then.”
Ouais, one could always hope. He glanced at the aunts. Aja gazed at him serenely, and Geneviève rather sternly. “I don’t feel all right,” he said reproachfully. Great, now he sounded like a sulky twelve-year-old. Something he had never gotten a chance to do when he was actually twelve. The aunts were supposed to make him feel all right. That and pissing off Philippe were why he came here.
“Well, I should hope you don’t,” Geneviève said, offended. “But don’t worry. You will when you are.”
They might have made for two very annoying aunts, when he thought about it. He hoped to God they were even more annoying to Philippe and left to go give the man the hard time he didn’t dare take out on the witches.
©Laura Florand, 2013.