THE CHOCOLATE ROSE is ready for Kindle!

THE CHOCOLATE ROSE is ready for Kindle!

THE CHOCOLATE ROSE is live on Amazon already! Other apps/devices should follow in short order. And print will come! It will just take a bit longer.

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A glimpse of the book, the first meeting between Gabriel Delange and Jolie Manon. (Well, when I say “first”: They had crossed fairly indifferent paths when she was a young teenager and he was a young adult.)

THE CHOCOLATE ROSE EXCERPT

She turned down another street, then another, weaving her way to a secret, narrow alley, shaded by buildings that leaned close enough for a kiss, laundry stretching between balconies. Jasmine grew everywhere, tiny white flowers brushing their rich scent across her face.

Kitchen noises would always evoke summer for her, summer and her visits to France and her father. The open windows and back door of Aux Anges let out heat, and the noises of knives and pots and people yelling, and a cacophony of scents:  olive oil, lavender, nuts, meat, caramel. . . .

As she approached the open door, the yelling grew louder, the same words overheard a million times in her father’s kitchens:  “Service! J’ai dit service, merde, it’s going to be ruined. SERVICE, S’IL VOUS PLAÎT!

            “—Fast as we can, merde putain, watch out!”

A cascade of dishes. Outraged yells. Insults echoed against the stone.

She peeked through the door, unable to resist. As a child and teenager, she had been the kid outside a candy shop, confined to her father’s office, gazing at all that action, all that life: the insane speed and control and volcanic explosions as great culinary wonders were birthed and sent forth to be eaten.

At least fifteen people in white and black blurred through a futuristic forest of steel and marble. Four people seemed to be doing the yelling, two chefs in white, two waiters in black tuxedos, separated by a wide counter and second higher shelf of steel: the pass, through which elegant plates slipped into the hands of waiters, who carried them into the dining rooms with—ideally—barely a second’s pause between when the plate was finished and when it headed toward the customer who was its destination. A wave of profound nostalgia swept Jolie.

Connard!” somebody yelled.

C’est toi, le connard, putain!

A big body straightened from the counter closest to the door and turned toward the scene, blocking her view of anything but those broad shoulders. Thick, overlong hair in a rich, dark brown, threaded with gold like a molten dark caramel, fell over the collar of the big man’s chef’s jacket, a collar marked with the bleu, blanc, rouge of a Meilleur Ouvrier de France. That bleu, blanc, rouge meant the chef could only be one person, but he certainly wasn’t skinny anymore. He had filled into that space she had used to only imagine him taking up, all muscled now and absolutely sure.

His growl started low and built, built, until it filled the kitchen and spilled out into the street as a full-bodied beast’s roar, until she clapped her hands to her head to hold her hair on. Her ears buzzed until she wanted to reach inside them and somehow scratch the itch of it off.

When it died down, there was dead silence. She gripped the edge of the stone wall by the door, her body tingling everywhere. Her nipples felt tight against her bra. Her skin hungered to be rubbed very hard.

Gabriel Delange turned like a lion who had just finished chastising his cubs and spotted her.

Her heart thumped as if she had been caught out on the savannah without a rifle. Her fight instinct urged her to stalk across the small space between them, sink her hands into that thick hair, jerk her body up him, and kiss that mouth of his until he stopped roaring with it.

That would teach him.

And her flight option wanted to stretch her arm a little higher on that door, exposing her vulnerable body to be savaged.

She gripped that stone so hard it scraped her palm, fighting both urges.

Gabriel stood still, gazing at her. Behind him, the frozen tableau melted: petits commis, waiters, sous-chefs, all returning to their tasks with high-speed efficiency, the dispute evaporated. Someone started cleaning up the fallen dishes. Someone else whipped a prepped plate off the wall, where little prongs allowed them to be stacked without touching each other, and began to form another magical creation on top of it.

Jo tried to remember the professional motivation of her visit. She was wearing her let’s-talk-about-this-professionally pants. She was wearing her but-this-is-a-friendly-visit little sandals. Given the way her nipples were tingling, she would have preferred that her casually formal blouse have survived her one attempt to eat chocolate in the car while she was wandering around lost for hours, but no . . . her silky pale camisole was all she had left.

Gabriel’s eyebrows rose just a little as his gaze flicked over her. Curious. Perhaps intrigued. Cautiously so.

“You’re late,” he said flatly.

“I had a lot of car trouble,” she apologized. It sounded better than saying she had spent hours circling Sainte-Mère and Sainte-Mère-Centre and Sainte-Mère-Vieux-Village, utterly lost. Wait, how did he know she was late? This was a surprise visit. “I’m sorry. I know this is a bad time.”

Bon, allez.” He thrust a folded bundle of white cloth at her. She recognized the sturdy texture of it instantly:  a chef’s jacket. A heavy professional apron followed. His gaze flicked over her again. “Where are your shoes?”

“I—”

“If you drop hot caramel on those painted toenails, I don’t want to hear about it. Coming to work without your shoes. I thought Aurélie told me you had interned with Daniel Laurier.”

“Uh—”

Eyes blue as the azure coast tightened at the corners. “You made it up to get a chance. Parfait. And you’re late. That’s all I need. Get dressed and go help Thomas with the grapefruit.”

Probably she should have told him right then.

But . . . she had been having a hellish two months, and . . . a sneak peek into Gabriel Delange’s kitchens. . . .

A chance to work there through a lunch hour, to pretend she was part of it all. Not in an office. Not observing a chef’s careful, dumbed-down demonstration. Part of it.

She had spent the past two months dealing with hospitals and fear and grief, and he had just handed her happiness on a plate. What was an impassioned food writer to do?

Not the ethical thing, that was for darn sure.

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