USA Today Bestselling Author
Chocolate expert Chantelle Cummings arrives in Marietta, Montana with two goals—sign copies of her new book and research a quaint local chocolate shop. When she meets a gorgeous guy passing out chocolate samples, her visit turns sweeter than she ever imagined. The man melts her heart, but her dream of working in France with her family makes her hesitant to pursue a romance.
Former Air Force captain York Parker has one month before embarking upon a consulting career. He never expected to be selling chocolates, but he’s happy to help his sister and her boss. He also likes spending time with sassy, pretty Chantelle. His new co-worker may have the chocolate touch, but he’d rather taste her decadent kisses… That is, until he learns the real reason she’s in town.
Will the truth harden his heart, or will love pave the way to a sweet future?
York has just come back from the wonderful vacation in Fiji that Dustin won in ‘The Valentine Quest’. Before he moves on to the next phase of his life as a consultant he’s spending time with his sisters Dakota and Nevada. Always willing to lend a hand, he’s helping Dakota with chocolate samples and serving the signature hot chocolate at a book signing.
The author of the book, Chantelle is signing her latest book ‘The Chocolate Touch’ and she plans on visiting and sampling Sage’s chocolates at Copper Mountain Chocolates.
She’s getting some of those treats at her signing, but she needs to check it out closely if she’s going to recommend her Uncle Laurent pursue obtaining the recipes to add to their line. She’s also hoping that her Uncle will finally put her in the position of Chocolatier at her family’s business Delacroix Chocolates. Little does she know that relationship will threaten everything she’s worked for.
What starts as simply helping out becomes more when Portia goes into labor and the chocolate shop is short handed. York steps in along with Chantelle to take care of the customers while Sage and Dakota take care of Portia.
This is a favorite scene.
Standing next to the display case, Chantelle watched York clear the table without a wasted motion or word. He seemed…stressed. Not only that, but he scrubbed as if a contagion on the tabletop could wipe out mankind if he didn’t eradicate it first.
Worried, trying to keep busy, or a combination of the two?
She understood why he needed to keep himself busy because she couldn’t stop thinking about Portia, either. Chantelle hoped the young woman and her baby were okay. Like York, Chantelle needed to do something other than stand here.
“York,” she said finally. He stopped wiping and glanced her way.
He seemed to have forgotten she was there. “Chantelle. Sorry. I…wasn’t expecting this to happen. Dakota seemed worried, Portia looked scared, and I’m not sure what I should be doing.”
His honest words matched how Chantelle was feeling. The urge to reach out to him was strong, but the distance between them kept her from doing that. “Same here.”
“It’s my first day.”
“One you won’t forget.”
“That’s for sure.”
His smile returned full force and hit her like an unexpected gale. She took a step back. Swallowed. Might have been better for her if he continued to be wigged out, but she really liked that smile of his.
“I’m happy you’re here,” he added.
“Me, too.” And she was. Because of him.
Helping was something her parents had taught her to do. She’d grown up being taught the importance of lending a hand if she could. Yet, more was at play here. York Parker intrigued her, even if she knew better than to feel that way.
And she did know better.
But some things—like a second piece of chocolate—weren’t that bad for a person. She hoped that was the case with York.
“Should I put on an apron and stand behind the counter?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah. That would be good.”
He wiped the table again. If he kept that up, his next job would be to refinish the wood.
“Where are the aprons?” she asked.
He straightened. “In the back. Sorry. I keep thinking about…”
His gaze met hers, and he straightened. “There are clean aprons hanging by the cubbies. You can leave your purse and jacket inside one of them.”
“The restroom is back there, too. Wouldn’t want you to have to wander around to find it.”
The amusement in his voice reminded her of two nights ago. He’d remembered what had happened at the bookstore. She hadn’t forgotten one second of their encounter.
She walked toward a door she assumed led to the back as it was where Sage and Dakota had disappeared into during the tasting last night.
Chantelle stepped into a small chocolate factory complete with an industrial-grade stove and roaster.
This was where the magic happened…
A rush of excitement flowed through her.
When she was younger, her mother had told her chocolate makers were magicians who used magic to create the most wonderful things to eat. After touring the Delacroix chocolate laboratory in Bayonne with her uncle, she knew her mother was correct. Seeing all the people working together, and the traditions created by her grandfather, had made the factory feel like home and the employees extended family.
But it wasn’t as simple as waving a magic wand, saying abracadabra, and pulling a piece of chocolate out of a hat. Each chocolatier had their own process, but the steps were similar. Cacao beans had to be roasted, cracked, and the nibs heated to remove the husk. But those were only a few of the steps. The process took days for chocolatiers like Sage to complete, but the results were worth the time and effort.
Quality over quantity.
The smells were sharper than out in the retail section. No doubt because the ingredients were stored here.
Inhaling, Chantelle captured the scents of cinnamon and vanilla bean. A hint of chili powder, too.
A potpourri of chocolatey goodness.
Excitement shot to her fingertips.
Her dad had once joked that chocolate ran through Delacroix veins. That seemed to be the case with her mother and uncle. Would it be true for her and her cousin?
The cubbies York had mentioned were against a wall. She placed her jacket and purse inside one. A wallet and phone filled another. It had to be York’s stuff. The rest were empty. As he’d said, the aprons were hanging right there, so she grabbed one.
After another glance around the mini-factory, she grinned. A satisfied feeling settled over her. The urge to take a photo or two for her report was strong, but she couldn’t without permission. Chocolatiers guarded their processes and recipes like state secrets.
Nothing in Chantelle’s reports would be considered confidential. Much of her research was done online prior to her visit. She then formed opinions based on what she saw, tasted, and the answers given to her questions. Once she decided, she gave a buy-or-pass recommendation to her uncle.
Still, she couldn’t believe her luck. Not only did she get to see a different side of Copper Mountain Chocolates, but she also had the chance to view the retail side of a chocolate shop from the other side of the counter. Getting customer-service experience was one of the steps on her uncle’s list.
She couldn’t wait. One afternoon helping in a shop wouldn’t count as enough experience, but it was a start.
McClone, Melissa. The Parker Family Trilogy : Love at the Chocolate Shop. Kindle Locations (6754-6793). Tule Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Now while I’m pretty sure Chantelle isn’t doing anything underhanded, it is very close to the line.
Then there’s also the sleuthing York’s doing to discover the anonymous benefactor.
There’s ups, downs, twists and turns as this story unfolds and romance blooms.
5 Contented Purrs for Melissa!
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USA Today bestselling author, Melissa McClone has published over forty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group.
With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters.
Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities.
Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds, and cats who think they rule the house. They do!