This story goes to my two darlings, Stella and Lauren, who loaned me their kids to tell this story.

Love you lotses,


The Pursuit of Chocolate


14 out of every 10 people like Chocolate

In my family, we have two passions: Hockey and Cooking. You can chose, my parents aren't like those pushy-parents that try to live their lives through you, they actually had- and still have – pretty amazing lives, but there is still not getting around the fact that in this family you either cook or play hockey, or both, like me.

I played all through school, and even in college at the local leagues and we won a few championships, but from the beginning it had been clear that I was going to follow Dad's path and become and awesome chef. My brother, Nathaniel, instead took after my mom, who does not cook but loves to eat, and loves Hockey, he was an All-American Player in both High School and College, and they wanted to draft him into the minor leagues right after High School but Dad said no way. So, my brother went to college and got himself a degree to appease Dad, and is still unable to cook to save his life, he would burn water if asked to boil some; but by the time I returned from my two-year course in French Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu, Nate was midway through his rookie season in the minors and was being courted by several NHL teams to join their ranks the next year.

It was when I returned from France that it all started. Oh, I loved France, more than any other place in the world, I loved the south of France and the north of France, the Champagne region, and Paris, by all means Paris where La vie an Rose made sense because only there light was pink. I could have stayed there but there are more important things that just your favorite city in the world, like family. I had missed them all so much.

And so, a day before my expected arrival, I found myself standing in front of Zephyr's which was were Dad worked. Zephyr's belonged to Uncle John, Dad's best friend who happened to be married to Mom's best friend, Auntie Stella, that's how they met, and it had always been the plan that I would come back and work with Daddy.

I'm my Daddy's little girl if you haven't notice.

I went around the building and went into the kitchen through the "Employees Only" door. Dad was there cooking, one of my first memories in life was watching Daddy cook, either at home or in here, he was Head Chef of Zephyr's Jason Sadler and that's how it was always going to be.

When the door closed, Dad looked up and saw me.

"Nathalie?" He asked, dropping what he was cooking and coming to me and pulling me into a big bear hug.

"DAD!" I squealed happily.

"Oh, baby," He said and squeezed me tighter. "Weren't you supposed to arrive tomorrow?"

"I took an earlier flight!" I said.

"That was-" I never got to hear what 'That was' because then the door that connected to the dinning room opened and a young man walked in: he was tall, had close cropped black hair and Auntie Stella's green eyes.

"Uncle Jason," He said slowly as he walked into the kitchen reading a supply order.

"Mark!" I cried and he stopped dead in his tracks – right in the path of a waiter carrying a load of silverware – and jerked his head up.

"Na-Nathalie?" He asked with a bit of a stammer.

I went to him and hugged him tight; he was Mark Devane, my best friend in the whole wide world.

What can I tell you about Mark Devane? Like I said: he's tall and has dark hair that he always keeps short (I have known him all my life and I don't think I've ever seen his hair brush the collar of his shirts), he has a nice muscular frame –I know, I've been to the beach with him – with broad shoulders and a six pack, and he has the nicest green eyes ever: they are the moss green and full of good humor and intelligence; but don't let the pretty package fool you: Mark is a dork.

Really, he's just a nerd like any other: he was a great webmaster by the time he was twelve, he loved anime and all things Japanese, he had been in the math club and the debate club, and he had been subscribed to Cinescape since he was in the cradle, practically. But he was my best friend, you know?

I went to him and gave him a hug. "I thought you were coming tomorrow." Mark said a little nervously.

"I decided to take an earlier flight and surprise everybody." I said, still clinging to him a little. Not that he minded. He pretty much always let me do whatever I wanted.

"That's good, Nat," He said looking a little bit dumbfounded. "I'm going – I'm going to go call my parents they'll sure want to see you." He said, taking a couple of steps back (again almost running into one of the waiters) and disappeared in direction of the dinning room.

"Did I say something wrong?" I asked Dad.

"No, of course not. Well, you see, Mark has been planning this huge welcome home party for you, for tomorrow night. You know he missed you a lot."

Didn't I! He had sent me about 100 postcards and letters – one a week for every week I had been away – and every time we happened to meet at the messenger, he could call my pc and we would talk for hours no end, even with the time difference. It's not like we are codependent or anything, at least I'm not, but we are friends. We talk.

Still, it was nice to hear his voice in person again, it sounded different, deeper, more real, like on THX.

"So, act surprised when it comes." Daddy said.

And that was pretty much all he could say before I was engulfed in hugs by my Auntie and Uncle, and my mom –whom my Auntie had called – Mark stayed a little outside the group, with a little smile on his face. But that was Mark for you. Most people thought he was cold, but I knew that everything he felt he felt it deeply, and as such, sometimes, it was hard for him to express himself, so he stayed apart, just a little. Close but not too close. Ready to help whenever he was needed, but mostly he kept himself to himself. That's why he was so lucky to have me, otherwise people would have labeled him a freak but, under my careful guidance, he had actually been quite popular in our school years, even if more by association than by anything else.

"Your uncles will be so happy to that you're back, the last couple of Martineu Hockey extravaganzas haven't been the same without you." Mom said, her arm around me.

"I suppose because there was no one to kick my baby brother's butt?" I asked, amused. I had serious butt-kicking abilities when it came to my 22 year old brother, who played professional hockey but whom I knew all too well and knew all his weak points.

That's really the beauty of growing up among boys. You sort of lose the fear of them, even if they are big and muscular and weight twice as much as you in their full on hockey gear, you still can look at them and remember how they used to run around naked across the backyard yelling "Teletubbies!" over and over again.

My brother is a bit of a sap. But I love him anyway.

"You know your brother; he needs to be taken down a notch now and then." Mom said with a big smile. She was way proud of Nate and his hockey playing. She was way proud of me too, but you know, it doesn't quite has the same ring to it when you say 'My son is a professional hockey player' than 'My daughter is a chef', you know? Unless you're Wolfgang Puck or Julia Child or someone.

"And that's my lot in life, I know." I said with a smile.

After that we went home. Both Nate and I still live with my parents, Nate because he's too lazy to look for a place of his own since he's traveling with his team most of the time. And me because I left for France almost right away after I got out of CIA.

Still, it was a little bit daunting to be living with them after two years on my own, but I would look for my own place soon enough and if everything else failed I could still move to the little apartment above The Sticks, Jocks and Hockey Grill & Bar, just like mom did when she was younger.

Not that I want it to come to that, I love the Martineu's restaurant, but the smell of grease really gets to me after a while.

Just as I was settling in for the night in my Princess-like Canopied bed –and before you make fun of it, my Daddy got if for me when I was eight and I was heavily into Princesses and tiaras and such, and then I just never wanted to give it up because it's really, really comfy – my cell phone began to ring to La Vie en Rose.

"Jet Lagged?" Mark's voice came when I put the phone to my ear.

"Not at all," I said with a fake yawn, I WAS jet lagged, but I wouldn't let him know that. "I was about to fall asleep."

"Then I'll be brief. You know about the party, right?"

"Dad might have mentioned something…" I said.

"It's for tomorrow night, at seven in my place." Mark said. "Is that cool with you?"

"Yes, it should work out just fine." I said.

"All right, then I'll see you tomorrow. Sweet Dreams."

"You too." I said and waited until he cut the communication.

I sighed, wiggled a little to find a good comfortable position and then turned on the TV. It was nice to finally turn on the TV and not hear French. I hadn't realized how much I missed that. I put on the food network channel and began to lull myself with Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals.

However, as I fell asleep, it wasn't Rachel's the last voice I heard.

That actually belonged to a man who said in the most intimate tone imaginable "Dream of me, Nathalie." I knew I knew that voice, but sleep claimed me before I could identify the owner.

End of Chapter ONE