featured author: Laura frantz
“In the winter of 1667 – 1668, he noted the loss of “ our ship Providence …
cast away on the French shore … [carrying] … cocoa.”
The Diaries of John Hull,
Mint Master and Treasurer of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay
Esmée Shaw not only wanted to sell delectable confections at Shaw’s Chocolate, she wanted to be as delicious – as tempting – as what she peddled. Just this morning word had come that a certain privateer had docked, the misnamed Bachelor’s Delight, near her waterfront shop. Rather, Wedded Bliss would be more fitting if someone could land, woo, and win the elusive Captain Henri Lennox.
She’d met the maritime hero a year before and now gathered both her wits and her assets for another meeting. Chocolate tarts and almonds. Blocks of fine, pressed Caribbean cocoa. The melted chocolate aroma coming from the kitchen, mingled with the Ethiopian coffee in the coffeehouse next door, was a potent invitation.
She’d also taken pains with her appearance, raising the indentures brows at dawn. Her French coiffure and perfume were compliments of her sister, Eliza. The sudden flutter in her stomach had nothing to do with a surfeit of sweets.
The shop door jingled. Widow Tayloe sailed in in black bombazine. Esmée greeted her only to have her words cut short by a port inspector. All the while she waited on them to make their purchases, she entertained the captain’s memory.
Had his eyes been more azure or silver? His shoulders snug enough to stretch the seams of his finely-tailored coat? And his voice … commanding yet merry by turns, even tender. She flushed, discarding all the handsome details.
The door jingled again, raising her hopes then dashing them. Not one but three chocolate-seekers, quickly devouring the merchandise. All the chocolate tarts. Gone. Every chocolate almond devoured. Even their very best bricks of cocoa were dwindling before her eyes.
The captain’s preference was Jamaican cocoa. Should she secret some away just in case? As she thought it the door opened again and her heart went still even as her heart resembled a hummingbird’s wings.
“Captain Lennox!” A burly port inspector ceased inspecting Esmée’s wares and greeted the tall seafarer now filling the doorframe. “Felicitous timing, this! I’ve a matter that needs discussing. Mightn’t we adjourn to the coffeehouse?”
Through the adjoining Dutch door they went, into the male-only domain of her father, joining upwards of twenty other men whose low voices held the drone of discontented bees as they perused the papers and talked politics.
Schooling her disappointment, Esmée waited on a last customer and the shop emptied.
Now, handsome Henri, would be an opportune time…
Alas, the elusive captain had stepped into the net of Virginia’s gentlemen who’d not seen him in a year and would wait no longer to enjoy his company, seek his advice, and hear about his latest sailing escapades.
The next morn, Esmée opened the shop, ever hopeful. Careful to stay out of the kitchen, she studied their bowfront window overlooking the waterfront, when she was not behind the counter. The clock ticked toward noon with nary a sighting. Her hopes, kite-high one minute, deflated like a shorn sail as the afternoon wore away.
Her father appeared at the Dutch door, the dividing line she was not to cross. “Daughter, how goes business?”
“We’ve rather a rush of late as always happen when fresh stores arrive,” she replied.
“Well, let this be a warning. Lady Lightfoot is coming and you know what that means.”
“That nothing shall be left in the shop if ‘tis not nailed down.” She drifted to the Dutch door and hazarded a look at the captain whose back was turned to her. “I do wish you’d open your doors to women.”
“Ha!” His weathered face lightened in mirth. “If so, I’d be the first in all the colonies. Coffeehouses would then become places of courtship, not conversation.”
She sighed as the late afternoon rush began, the door hardly closing between customers. And then –
Henri Lennox reappeared at a quarter till five. Across the crowded shop their eyes locked, and she melted fast as the marzipan she made. He made his way toward the counter in the suddenly too-small shop, parting the crowd.
“Miss Shaw…” he began, tucking his cocked hat beneath one arm.
“Captain Lennox.” Her voice was warm as melted butter.
Behind her came a startling noise. It rattled the crockery on the shelves and brought everything to a standstill.
The kitchen door swung open with such force it banged into the wall.
“Fire!” an indenture cried.
In a trice the shop emptied, all but the stalwart captain. He strode into the kitchen and grabbed a water bucket to douse the grease fire spreading to the planks before the hearth, finally kneeling beside a burned Josiah who examined his burned hands, raw anguish on his face.
“I’ll see him to the apothecary,” Henri told her as Esmée’s father entered, assessing the damage.
The next morn, Esmée battled tears of frustration as yet another busy day began. Rain pelted down, smearing the window and hiding her view of the harbor. She solaced herself with a newly made sweetmeat, wondering when the captain would stop coming. She’d heard he was to sail with the tide…
“Miss Shaw, I must have more of your candied flowers.”
And so it began. The door never stopped jangling. The rain droned harder. Shelves grew bare. With Josiah gone, Esmée was needed more in the kitchen and her best apron was soon soiled, her patience thin as the heavy weather prevented the chocolate custard from setting. In the privacy of the larder behind the kitchen, she bent her head.
Please steady me, Lord. I’m sinking.
Summoning a smile and changing aprons, she made sure all the indentures had what they needed before she returned to the busy shop front.
As empty as her heart. As she thought it, the door opened then shut. She looked up to find Henri the only customer. Stealthily, he turned the closed sign out toward the street and locked the door, then lowered the window shades.
As if he was sole proprietor!
She smiled, amused. Amazed.
“You look in need of a respite.” He came to a stop, the counter between them. “So I am taking liberties.”
“I wish I’d thought of such myself.” Turning toward the restocked shelves, she asked. “Have you come for a particular chocolate?”
His eyes held a smile. “Only the chocolatier.”
How bold. And utterly delightful. The flush in her cheeks widened to all the rest of her.
“I’m at your service, Captain.” She came out from behind the counter. “Surely you’re in need of a supply of chocolate for your next cruise…”
“’Tis the farthest thing from my mind at present.” Taking her hand, he kissed it and didn’t let go, his breath warm upon her skin. “If I am to sail, I would go with the promise of your being here upon my return.”
“I shall be waiting ever so impatiently.” Reaching behind the counter, she produced the cocoa she’d secreted for him. “Let this be a reminder.”
He took it, clearly appreciative. In one gallant move he leaned closer, the touch of his lips to her own leaving her lightheaded – and craving more. A decisively delicious kiss, sweeter than any confection in her shop.
A priceless guarantee of their future…
Her latest release is A Heart Adrift released in January 2022 from Revell. The flash fiction story featured here was written by Laura as a prequel to this novel especially for Spark Flash Fiction.
Readers can find Laura Frantz at www.laurafrantz.net, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.