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Make your hen party extra special with our Luxury Chocolate Man Parts!
Max Treveleyn stopped in his tracks and stared in astonishment at the espresso and cream-coloured banner splashed across the top of the food stall promoting 'Tara's Tantalising Party Treats'.
This was central London, and party catering was big business. But 'man parts'? It was the last thing he had expected to see at a classy organic food festival.
Max peered over the heads of the ladies who were clustered around the stall, jostling for a position in line to try the samples before making their selections. He didn't want to think about what they would do with them when they got homebut this stall was certainly doing brisk business for a Monday lunchtime.
He glanced swiftly at the digital clock on the wall above the entrance to the underground station. He had twenty minutes at most to find the art gallery where he had arranged to meet his ex-wife Kate for lunchbut he could spare a few of those minutes to find out just how far organic chocolate had come since his last visit to London.
It was only as he got closer that Max realised that a short, bubbly blonde girl was running the stall, completely concealed behind the crush of customers who were waving cash and pointing furiously at the trays of remarkably life-size and anatomically correct shapes.
The blonde was wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Tara's Treats' across the front. In another place, with a different audience, those words might be misconstruedespecially since the T-shirt was rather on the small side for a girl with a substantial bosom.
Perhaps this was the famous Tara herself?
The party treats seemed to be going down extremely well, and it took Max a few minutes to shuffle forward and find a gap in the queue. If only the organic chocolate he made was as popular as this he would never have to worry again about the future of his cocoa plantation back in St Lucia. But, then again, perhaps moulded chocolate man parts were not exactly the premium outlet he needed to bring in extra income.
The blonde looked up at him, blinked twice, then grinned. 'Hello, handsome. Looking for something for your stag party? I have just the thing.' She reached over the counter and pulled out a tray of milk chocolate shapes which literally took Max's breath away. 'It's your lucky daywe have a special offer on all body parts. How many would you like?'
He coughed politely before shaking his head. 'Um Thank you, but I don't need any milk chocolate toes todayalthough I am sure they are quite delicious,' he said, when he finally managed to get some air into his lungs. 'But would you mind if I took some photographs of your stall? It certainly is er different.'
She glared at him open-mouthed for a second, before throwing her head back and laughing out loud with a laugh that echoed around the London street where the festival was being held. It was the kind of laugh that meant that she had to snort in a breath halfway through.
'Daisy! One of our gentleman browsers wants to photograph your chocs. Are you okay with that?'
Max looked over the blonde's shoulder towards a tall brunette wearing chef's trousers and a white jacket, who was rummaging around inside large plastic food boxes. As the brunette flicked a glance towards Max her eyes smiled at the same time as her mouth, crinkling the sides of her cheeks into a rosy glow, so that when she spoke her face was animated and full of laughter and fun.
'Only if he buys something. Here.' She whisked around and presented him with a box of flesh-coloured chocolate half domes made into bosoms, with a circle of caramel icing in the centre. A dark chocolate cocoa bean added the final realistic touch. 'I also have them in a mocha choc blend, if you would prefer that,' she added. 'Or perhaps the lovely Tara can tempt you with some of each? All organic chocolate, of course, and hand-made by the person you are looking at.'
The brunette waved the box under Max's nose, and without intending to he half closed his eyes and inhaled the wonderful aroma of fine chocolate and soft fruit. His nose came a lot closer than he had planned to one of the chocolate cocoa beans, and he physically recoiled the instant he opened his eyes and focused on what was in front of him.
'Wow. That chocolate smells amazing. And is that a touch of raspberry?' he asked.
'Fresh organic raspberry coulis and vanilla extract.' She nodded. 'But tell me now if you want some, because all my boobs are selling out fast ahead of the stag and hen party season. June is such a wonderful month to get married, don't you think?'
A visual flash of memory hit Max hard. Sparkling champagne, kilts and plaid, and Scottish dancing in the tiny frigid village hall chosen by Kate's parents for their wedding. Their June wedding had turned out to be cold, wet and windy, but he had not felt it for a moment. They had both been so young and idealistic, with crazy dreams of their new life in St Lucia.
Shame that the hard reality of that life had burst their bubble only too quickly.
A bustle of ladies looking for unique party treats jostled him gently, and as he turned to acknowledge their apologies he realised that the brunette was still waiting for him to give her an answer.
'Hello? Are you still with me?' she asked with a smile. 'You seemed to be in a world of your own for a moment there.'
'You reminded me about my own wedding. And you were quite right. June can be a great month to get married.' He swallowed down a moment of angst, then looked up at her with a twisted grin and a wink. 'Thank you for that.'
'All part of the service. And er ' she gestured with her head towards the tray of chocolate shapes ' how many would you like? A pair is usual, three is a bit kinky, and four would be greedy. But, hey, go for it.'
He looked up at herand then really looked. She had stepped into the sunshine, and now he could see that her hair was not brown but a deep russet-red colour, and just long enough to flick out at the neck of her heart-shaped face. A pair of wide green eyes smiled back at him, and under his gaze her mouth lifted to create a triangle of creases from her small chin to her rosy cheeks. Somehow he felt able to put aside that lingering sense of failure and regret at the breakdown of his marriage and enjoy the moment.
'I'm sure youryour boobs are very nice,' Max stuttered, creating a titter from the other customers. 'I mean the chocolate boobs, of course. But I only enjoy organic dark chocolate. The darker the better.'
Her face dropped, and he instantly felt guilty about wasting her time when he truly did not want to buy anything. 'Although there is something you might be able to help me with.'
'Really?' she asked, her eyebrows high. 'I find that hard to believe, considering that not even my special boobs can tempt you.'
When she smiled one side of her mouth lifted higher than the other, and he noticed that the end of her fair-skinned nose was peeling a little, with a scattering of freckles.
Red hair, green eyes and freckles.
Oh, no. killer.
His heart started beating just a little fasterbut enough for him to look away and pretend to glance over the banners on the stall. He was obviously a lot more tired than he'd thought he was if a young woman's smile could turn on the switches he had firmly locked into the closed position.
No more girlfriends. He had already sacrificed one marriage to his obsession with growing cocoa and had no intention of going there again.
He quickly coughed, to cover up his embarrassment, before answering her question. 'Do you have something for a children's birthday party? My daughter will be eight next week.'
'Ah, a family man,' she replied in a softer voice, and her shoulders relaxed. 'Why didn't you say so? We sold out of most of our children's treats earlier this morning, but let me just check to see if we have any animal shapes left.' She dived back into the plastic boxes, probably not aware that her chef's trousers stretched a little too tightly over a very pert rear end as she bent over.
'Teddy bears or bunny rabbits?' she replied in a singsong voice as she rummaged. 'White or milk chocolate? Ohand a few very special dark chocolate-dipped raisins. Except we call them rabbit droppings. Kids love that.' She grinned. 'I would recommend the rabbits.'
Pulling out a flat tray, she stepped towards Max and he peered inside. Beautifully formed milk chocolate bite-size rabbits with pink-tinted white chocolate ears stared back at him.
'Those look terrific,' he said. 'I'll take them alland a bag of the raisins. Do you mind if I try one? Denise.?'
'Be my guestand it's Daisy, not Denise,' she answered, and presented him with a small tray of the chocolate raisins. 'Tara and I love catering for children's parties. They are so much fun.' Daisy winked. 'It would make a wonderful birthday present. That little girl will be the envy of all of her friends.'
Max was just about to open his mouth to tell her that he owned a cocoa plantation in St Lucia, so Freya's friends already thought that she had a mountain of chocolate bars stashed in her bedroom cupboard, when Daisy picked up a dark chocolate-covered raisin and without hesitating or asking for permission popped it into his mouth.
Her fingers slid against his lips, and for a fraction of a second Max felt a real connection which was so elemental and raw that he covered up his discomfort by focusing on the food.
Organic chocolate. It had a lot to answer for. But it had been so long.
'What do you think?' she asked, completely unaware that she was responsible for the hot discomfort inside his chest. 'For adult parties I soak the fruit in alcohol, to offset the sweetness, but this rabbit poo is apple juice flavour. It seems to work.'
Max chewed the raisin for a few seconds, then swallowed. 'Wow!' He blinked and tried to hide a grimace. 'I have to admit I'm more used to bitter chocolate, so that amount of sugar comes as a shock. And I'm trying to persuade my daughter not to eat so many sweet foods, so you will excuse me if I only take a few of the raisins.'
'I beg your pardon?'
He shook his head. 'I don't want to be responsible for a troop of eight-year-olds high on sugar and additives.'
There was a hiss from Tara as she whizzed past with an empty tray.
'Whoops. Dangerous ground. You just said the A word. Be prepared to duck.'
Max turned back to Daisy, who was breathing rather heavily, her head on one side, eyes narrowed. Her voice had a definite frosty tone to it when she replied. 'First of all, the only additives I use in my chocolate are organic fruits and sugars. And secondly all raisins are sweet. That's their job. And children adore them. I tried using plain chocolate on its own and they were left on the plate every time.'
'That's a pity,' he replied, and lifted up another covered raisin and held it under his nose. 'I can't even smell subtle flavours in the chocolate. Perhaps you could try a less bitter cocoa bean? That way you could cut down on the sugar but still have the cocoa flavour. A single estate variety would work really well.'
The brunette's mouth dropped open for a second, before she lifted her chin and crossed her arms.
'Oh, really? Do go on,' Daisy replied in a faux-sweet voice. 'I'm quite fascinated to hear how I can improve the recipe for a chocolate coating I have just spent the last six months working on. I can hardly wait to hear what other little gems of advice you might have for me.'
Max cleared his throat. He had said the wrong thing againbut he liked a challenge. Time to throw the ball back and see how high it bounced. 'I'm just saying that it might not be the best choice for coating dried fruit. And this is a fine-quality organic chocolate, isn't it?'
Daisy did not have to answer, because at that moment Tara laughed out loud as she served a young man in a slick business suit with four of the boobs Max had just been sniffing. 'It certainly is,' she said. 'And it costs me an absolute fortune every week. But Daisy insists that our Belgian chocolate has to be the best. Your money won't be wasted.' Tara pointed at Daisy with her tongs. 'And you, young lady, have an appointment somewhere else. Goscoot. I'll take care of your gentleman friend here. And thanks again for helping me out.'
Daisy glanced at her watch and gasped. 'If that's the real time, I am toast.' She popped an extra raisin into the tray of rabbits and pushed it towards Max. 'I hope that your daughter has a lovely birthday party. Even with all of that sweet mystery chocolate which is sure to rot her teeth. Bye.' And with one swift movement she untied her apron, waved to him with the hand that was not occupied in swooping up her bag, and was out through the back of the stall before Max could reply.
He had barely regained his senses when he looked around to find the blonde standing in front of him, with her tongs raised in one gloved hand like a surgeon preparing to operate.
'Hello again. My name's Tara. What other tantalising treats can I tempt you with today?'
Max sauntered down the sunlit London pavement, swinging his Tara's Treats carrier bag in one hand and his luggage over one shoulder. He was going to be late for his lunch date with Kate, but it had been worth it to meet the lovely Daisy and Tara.
Things had certainly changed in the artisan chocolate world if those two ladies were typical examples. Most of the chocolatiers he knew were professional older men, running chains of chocolate shops, or buyers from large-scale manufacturers of famous brands of chocolate being sold around the world in their millions. Not a moulded bosom in sight. More was the pity. But those girls had the right idea. Chocolate was a pleasure to be enjoyedit should be fun! He was going to enjoy sharing these rabbits with Kate and Freya.
Max caught his reflection in the plate glass window of a designer clothing shop and winced. He ran a rough hand across his chin. Not his best look. He had barely slept these last few days, bringing in the cocoa harvest and collapsing into bed out of physical exhaustion only when it became too dark to work safely.