Read A Taste of Chocolate Online
Authors: Vonnie Davis
Thank you for purchasing this publication of The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
A Taste of Chocolate
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Taste of Chocolate
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Vonnie Davis
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2013
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-907-0
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Vonnie Davis and…
THOSE VIOLET EYES,
the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award:
“Definitely one of my favorite books… short but packed with such a great story and characters...Vonnie Davis has a BIG fan in me after reading this story. I’m looking forward to reading more from her.”
~Marion, Belles Book Bag (5 Stars)
“Davis sure knows how to write a novel with romance in all the right places, emotions of fear and doubt on both leading characters and have us readers laugh out loud at the funny parts... a story that’s engaging, charming, romantic, sexy and all kinds of addictive!”
~For the Love of Reading (5 Stars)
Finalist for the HOLT Medallion in two categories:
“This book has easily found its place on my keeper shelf…. If I could pull these characters from the pages and make them real I would.”
~Long and Short Reviews
Nominated as Book of the Year, 2011
“Readers, prepare yourselves for a breathtaking emotional journey.… The characters are well crafted and...[the] writing is tender, witty and beautiful. I devoured each page, but didn’t want the story to end because it’s so powerful.”
~Siren Book Reviews
MONA LISA’S ROOM:
“In the same terrific voice as her romantic comedies…it’s everything her other books are and perhaps more: murdering terrorists, international intrigue, and handsome French heroes.”
~Romancing the Book
To the makers of chocolate
and all the lives you’ve saved.
Her lungs stopped working. This couldn’t be happening. Hope Morningstar read the words on her cell’s screen once more. Black spots danced across her vision field, and she finally breathed again. “He broke up with me!” Her gaze jumped from the screen to her sister’s questioning face, her finely waxed eyebrows scrunched and her brown eyes narrowed. “Barclay broke up with me…in a text!”
Gracie snatched the cell from Hope. “Let me see.”
Hope rested her elbows on the table and dropped her face into her hands. This couldn’t be happening—not again.
Gracie, her older sister, ever the protective one, muttered several choice words about Barclay’s paternity and physical attributes. Then she read the text out loud, as if it wasn’t already seared into Hope’s psyche. “Dumpin u. Been fun, but m bored. Good luck finding someone who can handle ur bossiness. B.”
Hope didn’t bother to hide the tears slipping down her cheeks, not here on her sister’s deck, surrounded by swaying palms and ferns. Her sister’s backyard had always been an oasis of peace with its gurgle of a waterfall into the koi pond. “What’s wrong with me?” Hope swiped at tears with the back of her hand. “This makes the second sudden breakup. First Jason and now Barclay.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you.” Gracie gathered a fussy Olivia from her infant seat and settled her to her breast. “If you’re doing anything wrong, it’s the kind of men you pick.”
Hope tugged a package of tissues from her shoulder bag and pulled one out. “Yeah, I am a jerk-magnet. I mean, how many women get a ‘Dear John’ letter from a serviceman while
deployed? Usually it’s the other way around, but not for me. Then I meet Barclay and things go well for six months. And now this.” She glanced at her phone and chewed on the corner of her lower lip. “Should I text him back or call him?”
“And what? Beg him to reconsider? Certainly not!” Gracie ran a hand over her daughter’s blonde fluff. “Look, you have to stop being so desperate. You run after these guys, and then they break your heart. Let one chase you for a change. Let him prove to you he’s worthy.”
“You make me sound like…like…” She blew her nose, not wanting to voice her thoughts.
“Like a woman with low self-esteem.” Leave it to her sister to zing in with the obvious.
“Men always walk away.” Her own father had started this mass male exodus from her life, followed by every guy she’d ever cared for.
“Daddy left us because something was wrong with him. If he couldn’t handle the responsibilities of family, he shouldn’t have gotten Mom pregnant twice in two years. And if he couldn’t be a faithful husband, he shouldn’t have gotten married—three times. He was the one with the problem, not us.” Gracie stared at her. “Honey, you are as deserving of love as anyone else.”
“Then why am I always left behind?” Her vision blurred with tears.
“Because the men you choose are players, just like Daddy. Time for you to look for someone who’s deep, not superficial. Quit worrying about their looks or what type of car they drive and focus on the depth of their character. And quit trying to run their lives. I’ve watched you push or pull them to do whatever you want. It’s as if you think by controlling them you’ll have them forever.”
“I don’t do that...do I?” Her sister gave her a self-satisfied smirk. “That’s easy for you to say. You’ve got a man who adores you. And a baby. And, yes, I’m jealous.”
“Is your biological clock ticking?” Gracie patted Olivia’s back to burp her. “Don’t give me that narrow-eyed glare, little sister. You don’t scare me.” Her lips twitched into a smile. “Look, you’ve got your career. You seem happy with your teaching.”
Hope smiled, her stomach unknotting from Barclay’s text. “You know how much I love my students. Two more weeks and school will be over for the year. What will I do with myself then?” Olivia’s gentle snoring further relaxed her.
“Well, you can spoil your niece some more, if that’s possible. More importantly, you can learn to love yourself. Start demanding respect from others. If a man puts you down, ditch him.”
She shook her head, recalling Barclay’s snide remarks. “At that rate, I’ll never have anyone.”
“A man will treat you the way you demand to be treated. Set the ground rules. Let him know you won’t put up with his crap. You deserve someone who will cherish you. There’s a man out there just wondering where you are. Just waiting for you.”
The next morning, Hope stumbled into her bathroom and nearly shrieked at her reflection. A severe case of bed-head, swollen eyes from crying, and a zit blooming like an oriental poppy on her nose greeted her. Thank God this was the start of Memorial Day weekend. No second graders making demands today.
An hour later, she stepped into A Touch of Grace, her sister’s salon. An elderly customer walked around with baby Olivia. Hope went over to her. “Would you hand me my niece, please. I need some sugar slobbers.” Olivia, drooling a smile, leaned toward Hope, her chubby arms outstretched.
Gracie glanced at them over a blonde whose hair she was cutting. “Wasn’t expecting to see you today, sis. How’re you feeling?”
Hope shrugged, kissed Olivia’s forehead, and inhaled baby powder and lotion. “Rotten.”
Her sister turned to the older woman who’d been holding the baby a few seconds earlier. “The guy she was dating broke up with her yesterday. In a text. Can you believe it?”
“No!” Both the blonde in the chair and the elderly woman chimed in unison. A prime session of male bashing began, and for once Hope was more than happy to join in.
A few minutes later Gracie tugged the rubber band from Hope’s ponytail, asking her customers what they thought she should do with her sister’s hair. Gracie insisted a new hairdo would lift Hope’s spirits. The women offered ideas. They debated. They collaborated. For just an instant, Hope wanted to dash out the door. Instead, she stayed, enjoying the impromptu sisterhood that warmed her battered spirit. The collective power of any group of women had the ability to heal and support…and to persuade.
Perhaps they persuaded too well.
Hope sat in her car staring in the sun visor’s mirror. How had she allowed her sister and two strangers to talk her into such a radical change? She’d walked into Gracie’s beauty shop with her long mousy brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and walked out with short, spiky red hair. She picked at the gelled strands sticking up every which way. Turning her head from side to side, she tried to assess the change. She’d gone from harried school teacher to wide-eyed perky in the span of a few scissor snips. Oh, this is so not me.
The exit to the Mall of Louisiana was closed, so Hope took the next one, planning to circle back toward the shopping center. Her stomach rumbled. She hadn’t had lunch, and she promised herself something decadent at one of the mall’s eateries. Now that she didn’t have to watch her diet to impress a man, she could indulge.
A few turns later, she was lost. Somehow she’d gotten confused in this Baton Rouge neighborhood. Her stomach rumbled louder and she wished she were home, lying under the ceiling fan, reading
That Dating Thing
, which she’d started BBB—Before Barclay’s Breakup.
She braked for the light. There was a laundromat with dingy windows on her side of the street, and across the corner was a coffee shop, a great place to ask for directions. When the light changed, she eased her compact car into a parking space along the street. She hopped out and dashed through the break in traffic.
Freya’s Coffee Shop looked out of place among the four-storied red-brick buildings that hugged the sidewalk. This yellow stone structure sat beyond a small garden of flowers. Butterflies flitted from blossom to blossom. Bees added their own music. A curved gray-stone walkway led to the red door. With its gray thatched-style roof, it reminded her of the Irish pubs she’d visited with Gracie on their trip to Ireland two years ago. A magical place Ireland was, and it had seduced her fanciful nature.
An overhead bell jangled when Hope opened the door. Air conditioning kissed her heated skin. Celtic music played softly. Irish emblems and pictures, similar to what she’d seen in Ireland, decorated the walls. Wooden booths lined one side of the cafe. Small tables were adorned with red-striped linens and vases of red flowers. The aromas of fresh baked bread and something chocolaty wafted through the air.
“Hi, darlin’, have a seat. I’ll be right with you.” A redhead whizzed by carrying a tray of coffee cups and sandwiches.
“Okay.” Hope settled in a booth and reached for a menu.
“No need for a menu, darlin’. I know what you need.” The woman spared her a wink before turning her attention back to the family at another table.
Yeah, a new life.
Clearly she needed to make some changes and better choices. While her career was on track, her personal life lacked promise. Why? Could Gracie be right? Was she desperate where men were concerned? Had she become one of those clingy, needy women guys harped about? She propped her elbows on the table and pressed her face into her upturned hands.
I am such a weenie where guys are concerned. I try so hard, I scare them away.
She sat back and squared her shoulders. Determination steeled her spirit. Maybe it would do her good to take a vacation from men, to work on her self-esteem issues, and to decide what kind of man she wanted in her life. Andy, Gracie’s husband, was strong, yet gentle. There was no doubt he was devoted to her sister and their child. Andy was pretty quiet, though. She preferred a more talkative man, someone who could discuss literature and music and the meaning of life. She set her chin on her fist.
Does such a man even exist?