In Zero Dark Chocolate, the fifth book in the series, Miranda and Parker end up in Paris, no less. But this is no vacation. They are in for one harrowing time. Especially with Miranda wondering what Parker knows about those mysterious text messages she's been getting.
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Zero Dark Chocolate (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #5
Fulfilling your destiny…one killer at a time.
Paris. The City of Lights. The City of Love.
Not to mention the food. Gourmet dining. Fine wines. Exquisite French pastries. Especially the ones covered in dark chocolate and crafted by the best chefs in the city.
How could anything bad happen on such a perfect day?
Joan Becker stepped out of the glass doors of Le Gastronomique Divine in the city’s fifteenth arrondissement, into the quaint little French back street, and breathed in the foreign-smelling air.
She’d been in the city three whole days and still couldn’t believe she was really here.
With the smile that must have now been permanently plastered on her face and the luscious taste of the chocolate and fresh raspberries from her cooking class still on her tongue, she headed for the corner.
The dessert she and the other students had prepared today had reminded her of her own Chocolate Raspberry Delight, the entry in the Summer Dessert Contest back home that had won her this week of chocolatier and patisserie classes at the famous cooking school.
Today’s lesson had been even more challenging than the two previous days.
An individual-sized yellow cake with a cream cheese filling topped by a dark chocolate ganache and garnished with the raspberries the students had selected that very morning from the open air market.
Their teacher, Chef Emile, had patiently demonstrated how to make the dish while everyone took notes. Then there was a tasting and finally, they each had to reproduce the dessert.
An elderly gentleman, Monsieur Emile was so tall, he towered over his students, especially in his mile high chef’s hat. With his long arms and dramatic gestures he could be a little frightening.
But Joan thought his pale blue eyes were kind. She liked the way he quoted some of his father’s sayings, such as Le secret est dans la recette. “The secret is in the recipe.”
And besides, he’d taken a liking to her.
Today when he’d tasted her creation he declared it the best of all. Her layers were even. Her flavors were wonderful. He’d even pointed out the artistry of her raspberry drizzle over the concoction and given her a sly wink.
“Parfait!” he had exclaimed, waving a hand in the air.
The others in the class had seemed a little jealous.
Still dizzy from the compliment, Joan made her way down the bustling Paris street, through the pedestrians and bicyclists on the sidewalk and climbed aboard a waiting bus.
Rather than the Metro, she liked taking the bus back to the hotel because she preferred seeing the sights above ground.
She’d learned it was considered impolite to smile at strangers on public transportation here so she ignored the grumpy looking man with a beard and a beret beside her and instead grinned out the window at the passing architecture.
The five- and six-story structures of cream and ivory facades with their fanciful rooftops, charming rounded balconies and delicate iron railings seemed to smile back at her. They were centuries old. Had been here when carriages rolled down this avenue, maybe since Marie Antoinette lost her head. Maybe she’d do a replica of one in white chocolate for her final project.
There were tons of food places along this street. On every street she’d been to, really. Bistros, brasseries and boulangeries. Patisseries and chocolatiers and cafés.
She wondered what it would be like to live here, maybe open her own place and make wares to rival her neighbors. Would be a tough gig, here in the gastronomical capital of Europe. Plus she had her own catering service back in Atlanta.
And there was her honey bun, who was waiting for her back at the hotel.
Dave liked to wander the nearby shops and do some sight-seeing while she was in class. But when she got home, all bets were off. After all, it was a second honeymoon and they were about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
Her smile deepened as she thought of his adorably homely face over strong coffee and fresh baked croissants this morning. With a sly look, Dave had promised her a surprise when she got home.
She wondered what it was.
It didn’t matter. She loved everything about Paris and everything about Dave. He’d been her childhood sweetheart. She still had to pinch herself at all the wonderful things that were coming true for her.
Little Joan Fanuzzi from Brooklyn in the City of Lights and romance with the love of her life.
She’d always thought of herself as a tough cookie. Life had dealt her some hard knocks. But she’d survived and now…Yes, right now life was just about perfect. Or as Chef Emile would say, “Parfait.”
She giggled to herself as she got off the bus at her exit.
She was humming as she rode up the hotel’s quaint little elevator and nearly danced down the hall once it stopped. She couldn’t wait to see what Dave had gotten her.
She put the old-fashioned key in the door and turned it.
“Honey, I’m home,” she sang out in her most seductive voice.
No answer. That was weird.
“Snookums, guess what Chef Emile said today?” She stepped inside and locked the door behind her. The room was empty. The bed neatly made.
It was a small room done in plain brown and beige with a wide angle photo of the Arc de Triomphe along the wall. Everything looked clean and tidy, as if no one had been here since the maid. But that couldn’t be right.
She crossed the floor to the tiny balcony and peeked through the lightweight curtains. No Dave there. Just the pretty wrought iron railing and the city landscape with a smidgen of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
She turned around. Was he in the bathroom?
She scampered over to the old wooden door and knocked. Was the surprise a bubble bath in that old fashioned clawfoot tub? That would be romantic.
“Dave? You in there?”
This was getting ridiculous. She opened the door. “Ready or not, here I come.”
But there was nothing inside but the checkerboard floor, the sink, the tub, the small shower stall that looked like a modern afterthought to the décor.
Fresh soap and towels neatly arranged on the vanity. Here, too, it looked like the maid had just left. Everything clean and dry.
What the Sam Hill?
She stomped back to the bed and flopped down on the mattress, pulling out her cell phone. Least he could do was leave a message. But she’d had her phone off all morning for the lesson.
She turned it on and checked.
Nothing. The last text was from yesterday.
Had he gone off somewhere? Gotten distracted by some shiny gadget in an electronics store? Would be just like him, she thought, pressing his number. Dave could be spacey at times, but he wouldn’t forget his own surprise, would he?
She’d fuss at him for giving her such a start then forgive him right away.
How could she not? He was so adorable. And he loved her to distraction. And he was a great father to her three kids. They’d whined when she told them they had to stay with her mother during this trip. And then there were those big brown puppy dog eyes of his.
She sighed as the phone rang. But then it went to voice mail.
His familiar voice echoed in her ear. “Uh…hi…yeah. You’ve reached Dave. I’m probably busy now but leave a message and I’ll get right back. Later.”
“Dave, it’s me,” she said with a nervous laugh. “I’m done with class and I’m at the hotel. What’s going on? Call me right away.”
She dropped the phone in her lap and just sat there staring out the window at the city beyond. A strange feeling of dread began to steal over her. This just wasn’t like Dave.
Something was wrong.
She picked up the phone again and dialed his number. Maybe he had a bad connection. Again it went to voice mail. She hung up and went to the desk, shuffled through the few papers there, looking for a note he might have left her.
There was none.
She went back to the bed and sank down onto the mattress. She glared down at the phone willing it to ring.
But it didn’t.
Okay, she thought, nerves and anger getting the best of her. If you’re not coming to me, Dave Becker, I’ll come to you. She got up, grabbed her purse and headed out the door.
Enough with the fun and games already. Where the hell was her husband?