During the DABWAHA, I asked what people would like to see if we survived the last round against Katie McGarry, and most people voted for a glimpse of a Summer & Luc story. Well, we didn’t survive, but the outpouring of support was so enormous. I couldn’t believe how close it was!
So of course I am going to share it with you anyway!
Here is the story behind this story:
Once upon a time I started to write a bonus scene to tie up a loose end leftover from all the cuts and editing on THE CHOCOLATE HEART. (Summer’s bracelet.) But…here is the problem. This “bonus scene” is now nearly 50,000 words long, which is the length of a short novel. I’m not really sure how this happened, except that when I imagined Luc and Summer dealing with pregnancy, it was so obvious that they would both, in their ways, go off the deep end. That they would be challenged in all their insecurities, and that they would–gasp–need a social circle. Exactly the thing they didn’t have anymore, having uprooted for each other. And so it just grew and grew. Sylvain, Dom, Patrick, Cade, Jaime, Sarah…they all got involved, and I’m not entirely sure but I have the impression Gabriel might get involved, too. So I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. I’ve never written a sequel about the same couple before.
So what you have here is an excerpt from an as yet untitled novel that is a sequel to THE CHOCOLATE HEART. I have not actually decided whether I will publish it or not, and it’s not yet done, so I would be curious as to whether you would like it.
You may or may not want to read it if you haven’t read THE CHOCOLATE HEART. I don’t think it really spoils anything (I mean, you do know that in all my books, the couple does get together at the end, and I think that’s primarily what is revealed here). But your call!
Please note: this is a rough draft. It has not been edited. It’s a work-in-progress snippet, which I don’t usually show, but I promised! Summer is pregnant (morning sickness, cravings, etc.), and the pregnancy is all still pretty fresh news to them both.
Excerpt (untitled possible sequel to The Chocolate Heart):
Every time Luc glanced at Summer, she was sucking so eagerly on the mango ice pop Luc had made her that a man had to be grateful the length of his chef’s jacket hid his reaction to that eager mouth.
And yet somehow, the drips on the marble counter below it grew and grew, until he turned back from some issue to catch her swiping one of his sous-chef’s towels to clean it up, the tip of the ice popping right back into her mouth when he looked at her, as she made an eager yum sound.
Damn it, he was never trusting her when they had sex again. He was going to keep his fingers right where he would know she wasn’t faking anything.
He drew a breath and let it slowly out. “What flavor did you want?” he asked, not between his teeth at all. “For your popsicle?”
“Lime,” she said wistfully. And quickly, “But this is wonderful. You know I love mangoes. It’s so sweet of you to make my favorite.”
And she didn’t, last time he had checked, particularly like lime. “I’ll make you some lime.”
“You know what would be delicious?” she said longingly.
No, but his whole body pricked awake, ready to give it. Aroused to give it.
His whole body felt as if it had just taken one to the groin. “Pickles?”
She nodded eagerly.
His shoulders slumped. He shifted into his chef de cuisine’s side of the kitchens and sent the first commis he encountered running for some of Nicolas’s pickles. Not jealous in the least that his chef de cuisine got to feed her and not him.
No. Because jealousy like that would be crazy.
Nico, who was all about living from the land and using all nature’s resources, had pickled watermelon rinds, pickled pears, pickled peppers, pickled beets, pickled figs, and pickled corn. Probably gleaned from local fields post harvest. The man liked to stroll along the edges and even through farmers’ land, picking up all the leftovers that would otherwise rot. Luc would probably get arrested if he ever tried that kind of thing – not to mention that his whole childhood flinched inside him in desperate panic when he even though about it – but somehow people let Nicolas do anything.
Summer picked at every single type of pickle, biting her lip in a clear battle with revulsion. Kind of nice to know he wasn’t the only man failing her right now.
Except – shit. He had to manage to feed her. He had to.
Summer tried a watermelon rind and sagged a little, pushing it away. “Just regular pickles,” she said. “Like – “ she glanced around to make sure Nicolas wasn’t in earshot and lowered her voice so even Luc could barely pick it up. “From the store.”
It was a good thing he could count on Summer’s manners in all situations. If she’d said that loudly enough for Nicolas to hear it, he might be hiring a new chef right now.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t hire a new self, no matter how hard he tried; he could only deal with the self he had. The insane self, that kept trying to get out of its padded cell.
He slipped one of his apprentices some money. “Carmel. Run down to the épicerie and get me a jar of pickles, all right? Don’t let Nico see.”
But when he slipped Summer a tiny bowl of the miniature cornichons Carmel brought back, she took one bite and grimaced, visibly trying to control a gag. “American pickles,” she said, shoving the cornichons as far away from her as she could. “You know, with dill?”
Luc went and found Nicolas, breaking it as gently as he could that Summer had refused every single one of his special pickles and only wanted this dill stuff. Nico took it oddly well. He even seemed amused. Sometimes the guy was disconcertingly rough-and-ready, take-it-as-they-come, compared to Paris chefs. “Sure, I can make them. But, Luc,” the burly, brown-haired farmer of a chef said with that kind of callused-hand gentleness of his, like he was taking care of a newborn lamb, “they take several weeks.”
Luc stared at him. He knew that. He’d never actually made a pickle, but he’d been working in kitchens all his life. He did know that. He just – went out onto the tiny terrace of the restaurant. Pacing between pots of lavender, he called Sylvain Marquis, a top chocolatier in Paris who had been sufficiently confused about his priorities in life to marry the heir to and vice president of the world’s largest producer of mass market crap, otherwise known as Corey Chocolate. Cade Corey Marquis, Summer’s second cousin. “I need to talk to Cade.”
“Sorry,” the chocolatier said cheerfully. “She’s only allowed to talk to handsome chefs by prior appointment between 3:14 and 3:15 in the afternoon. What is it? Is it about one of the apprentices? How are they working out for you anyway?”
“Fine,” Luc said blankly.
“Are Cade and Jaime sending you the easy ones?” Sylvain asked suspiciously. “Because a couple of the kids I’ve gotten…” He let his voice trail off in a way that spoke volumes.
“They don’t act that differently than some of my foster brothers.” Luc shrugged. Or sometimes, that differently than he himself had once acted. Sylvain came from a happy family, that was his problem. Luc, on the other hand, just trained whatever kids he got and dealt with whatever he had to deal with. And Summer mothered them and patiently taught them letters when they were illiterate, and as far as he could tell, the kids were as happy as bees in honey. They still needed to relax and accept no one was threatening the honey, but from Luc’s personal experience, that might take years.
A lifetime, at the rate he himself was going.
A vision of Summer’s face, the patience and warmth as she sat there with those kids.
He grabbed the image and fed it to the insane him he was keeping locked in a padded cell. She’s maternal, you fucked-up idiot. She loves kids. She would never, ever run out on her baby.
What do you know? Insane Him asked. Maybe your mother was maternal, too. Before she had you. And then you were so damned difficult, you ruined that for her.
He slammed the cell door back on the bastard.
“Listen, is Cade there? I have an American question.” Maybe he should have called Jaime. She and Dom had been together for over a year now, and Dom was starting to act mildly sane about her. It gave a man hope for his own case.
Sylvain laughed. “All right, but you only get one minute. I’m timing you!”
“Ignore him,” Cade said as she came on the phone. “It’s the only thing to do. What do you need?”
“Pickles,” Luc said.
A tiny silence on the other end of the connection. Possibly a choked sound. “Pickles?”
“Whatever kind of American pickles that you and Jaime and Summer would have been eating as kids, I assume. Can’t you eat normal pickles like the rest of us?”
More amusement on the other end. “Well, one person’s idea of normal, Luc, is another person’s crazy.”
When they were talking about food, he was pretty sure the French got to decide what was good and what was crazy – for God’s sake, her country had invented peanut butter! And then put it with chocolate! But he needed a favor, so he resisted rubbing it in. She got touchy about those ghastly Corey products sometimes. “Whatever you consider normal pickles. I think that’s what I need.” And, realizing that required some explanation: “Summer’s pregnant.”
At the startled gasp and then the squeal of excitement, he suddenly realized he should have let Summer break that news. “No way!” Cade was exclaiming. “Is she really? That was fast! You guys just got married! Oh, man, wait til I tell Jamie! When’s it due? Is it a boy or a girl? Do you need a – ”
Luc held the phone away from his ear and stared at it. Cade knew how to squeal? Cade Corey? Damn, he really should have let Summer be the one to receive that first burst of delighted enthusiasm from her cousin. Shit, he just hadn’t realized. The news had hit him with terror. “I need pickles,” he said firmly. “American pickles. With dill.”
“There’s an American store here in Paris,” Cade said. “Can I overnight them or do you want a courrier to bring them down today?”
Sometimes he just loved knowing so many billionaires. “Today,” he said. Made for kind of expensive pickles, but he’d never had a particularly good grasp of money anyway, and ever since he’d married Summer, the excessive amounts floating around all these Coreys had completely lost him. Whatever it cost, he was pretty sure it wouldn’t break anyone’s bank account.
When Summer got her pickles, she devoured them. He nibbled one, puzzled, watching the pleasure on her face, trying to imagine what was going on in her mouth, that the crunchy burst of acid would feel so good to it. Then she threw her arms around him and kissed him to say thank you, and he tasted the vinegar on her lips and almost, for a second, knew.
[End of excerpt.]