tagRomanceThe Dark Side of Chocolate

The Dark Side of Chocolate

bystubborn_dreamer©

Prelude: The Box of Assorted Chocolates:

There are reasons women never get what they want. Hey...hey don't give me that look. If anyone has the right to lecture you, it's me. Trust me when I say that its nature's way of protecting us from ourselves. (And yes, male audience, I'm sure you're loving this.) Nature is seeking to preserve us, the progenitors of humanity, even at the cost of a chocolate covered depression.

In the end, we're supposed to ended up with something better, safer, and less lethal than our misguided desires. There are a lot of things I wish I had gotten over. I'm taller than I want, curvier than I want. I was naïve. I thought I could rule the world because I'd made the "don't talk to me," look a higher art form, and a buttery smooth talker. And a pretty quick runner.

I survived complete calamity for 24 years. I survived my college loans. Best day of my life hands down. I got too confident. I think the I-told-you-so types will call it, "hubris." The universe saw I had tipped the balance, and rectified its mistake by allowing me to stumble into the ultimate boo boo. That's why I'm currently dressed in a red, diamond encrusted dress, in a place I haven't even heard of.

That's why I'm pretending, quite successfully, to be calm, letting this expensive and wickedly delicious wine breathe.

Hi, I'm Audrey Rose, and I'm sitting here, waiting to die.

Across from me sits a pair of dark eyes. They belong to a gorgeous, marble-made man who is ninja code honor bound to fulfill my final request. Then, I'm going to willingly go to my death. That reminds me.

Peeking up from my flute, I see that he's still staring at me. I don't think it was because he thought I might escape. I had already tried that. He wasn't uncomfortable. I severely doubted that any woman, or man for that matter, could make him uncomfortable. It was something much deeper, sinister. He was studying me, trying to pry apart my secrets before he destroyed them forever. He was taking me in, sucking out what he would remember about me. I took a long sip.

Right, well you must be confused. You're probably wondering, how a sweet girl like me ended up across from a killer. Well I'll tell you. It was all that damn Marco's fault.

Chapter One: Milk Chocolate

"Hey baby you tryin ta kill somebody this morning?"

A woman dressed in pants and a blazer spied the obnoxious hobo to her right and kept walking. I was early and she wanted to stab most of the sound around her. She wasn't a morning person. If a stray bird started to sing to her at 5 am outside her window, she wanted it to die. Still there was no reason to automatically get irritated. In fact it was vain. There was no need to assume he was talking to...

"Hey! ....Milk chocolate!" Oh damn it was her.

Audrey ran down into the mouth of the subway, swiping her metro card in one smooth motion as she slid though the turnstile. Seven am, February 1st, and her month was officially off to a rough start.

Audrey Rose was not what anyone could call a thrill seeker. She had gone to school, finished, and now worked as an editor at the What'd You Say news magazine. WYS was for the lovechild of NBC news and People Magazine. It had a borderline religious idolatry to the celebrity gossip, but their work contained facts and insider scoops other papers couldn't get.

The WYS prided themselves on reporting, "the truth." A celebrity could rest assured knowing they were being portrayed in their tRuth wholesome light, unless of course, they were really a bastard. Then the whole world would know. Audrey didn't know how the magazine profited, but someone was getting paid to pay her. She was an editor in the entertainment column, mostly writing about club scenes. WYS wasn't her first choice.

She had been politely refused from The New Yorker, Esquire, and The New York Post. SHe applied to WYS out of desperation. It might have been her last option, but it was the only option that called her back. They hired her on the same day of her interview.

The last question had been, "What do you like to do for fun?" She's answered truthfully. "Write."

She had learned later from her coworker Marco, that they had chosen her because a studious pretty girl was likely to get into the club quicker, but actually take notes and write the article.

"So I got the job...because I'm boring."

"Yup. Pretty much, girl."

Marco, her cubicle neighbor and steady friend of three years was a well-dressed bar of dark chocolate with a country twang. He was a head taller than her 5'7, tone with natural muscle, and a perfect gentlemen. Too bad he was gay.

His brown eyes sparkled when he gossiped and as a result his eyes were a constant firework show. His column the "What Not to Dos" detailed the awful moments people, celebrities and Everyday Joes, found themselves caught in. He had framed his favorite article, a picture of a man who had gotten his hand stuck in his ex-girlfriend's mail slot.

"The story pretty much makes itself at that point," he chuckled, straightening it proudly.

"What happened to reporting "the truth," Marco?"

He rolled his eyes. "Come on Audrey, don't be naïve."

Marco was a sadist if she ever knew one, which was why he was obsessed with people's lives, and her life.

To torture it.

Audrey typed furiously at her computer. She was finishing up an article about this club called "Lights Out," when a dark shadow covered her.

Well, that wasn't ironic.

Looking up she saw Marco grinning at her from over his cubicle wall.

"Hey, how you doing?"

She shrugged. "Fine, tired as always."

His lips flattened as he gave her a knowing nod.

"I feel you. You wanna talk about it?"

"Sure, you want to do lunch?"

"We need to."

Glancing at the clock, she saw he caught her at the right time. She needed to take her break; otherwise she would work through it...again.

"LaCienega! Audrey and I are going to get lunch!"

"Okay! I'm on my way!"

Audrey huffed. Marco laughed at. "Girl you two need to get along. She can help you."

"With what? Alternate forms of birth control?"

"Oh...that's cold."

"I don't need help," Audrey spat grabbing her purse and blazer.

"You're going to wear your work blazer to lunch?"

Marco's face was mortified.

Audrey's brow furrowed. "...is that wrong?"

LaCienega rounded the corner, inserting herself seamlessly into the conversation.

"I mean, it's cute and all but really girl? Its spring chica, you need to start showing some skin."

Seeing her tight pencil skirt and low cut red blouse, Audrey could see that at least she wasn't a hypocrite.

"Someone needs to tell her Lala." Marco shook his head as dramatically linked arms with them, escorting his ladies out the office. Lala laughed.

Audrey didn't think it was funny. As she looked at the giggling Lala, she thought that "Lala" was an appropriate nickname. She was sure that every time she spoke, LaCienega heard singing in her cavernous head.

Marco opened the office door for them and Lala giggled again, butchering a curtsey before strutting through.

She gave Marco a pointed look. "Please."

"Audrey, you need friends. The world is too cold to be an icy bitch."

Audrey sighed, shaking her shoulder-length black hair around her like a propeller.

"Sure. Every girl deserves a meddling gay and a sprightly hoe."

He laughed putting his arm around her.

"You really need to work on highlighting your redeemable qualities. No one would ever know you cried after watching Home Alone."

"It was sad! He had abusive parents and it was Christmas!"

Marco put a finger to his lips, indicating she should shush as Lala came in view, waving at the open elevator like she had discovered life.

Oh yeah, Marco was a sadist.

As they walked down the street, Lala's easy smile, Marco's flirty looks, and Audrey's perpetual scowl making them an awkward trio.

When they settled into the diner, Audrey had 45 minutes left. It was an attractive place with big homey booths and tons of appetizers.

She let the others order the food, and got an orange juice. As she sipped it slowly, it drastically improved her mood. Oh Orange Juice, the power of the sun compels you to make my world sunny.

"So, how was the Light's Out premiere?" Lala asked as she sipped on her coffee.

Why, why must you take it away?

"It was good," she responded, above her glass.

"Yeah? Did you get any numbers chica?" She sung the last part like it was a popular pop song.

Didja get any numbahs chica?

"Yeah one," Audrey responded, absentmindedly bobbing to the imaginary beat.

"Hold up! You! And you didn't tell me? Girl..."

Marco may have been threatening her with her gender, but she could see he was legitimately upset. She sighed.

"It's not what you—"

"From who?" Lala said inching towards her.

"What's the name?"

"...Club Lights Out. I needed the number for my article."

They looked at each other and fell back in exasperation.

"False alarm," Marco snapped, his voice filled with disapproval. "Did you at least hook up with the bartender?"

Audrey frowned thinking it over. "No...I really should have interviewed him about the drink menu..."

"Nooo," Marco said knocking on her head. "Hello? Is anybody in there? Earth to Audrey."

She covered herself with her arms and yelped at him to stop. Lala put what was supposed to be a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Honey, you need to loosen up. Do you want to die a virgin?"

"Not so loud!"

Lala laughed and looked on to what appeared to be their order.

"All I'm saying is that you need to look more nice. You know, available if you want guys to talk to you. Valentine's is right around the corner."

The waiter came over and Lala bowled him over with a smile as he set down the trays.

"Gracias niño," she said in a cute lovable voice. The waiter nodded, giving a quick glance at her breasts. She gave him a wink and he walked off, leaving with Audrey's appetite.

"Why are you wearing a sweater?" Marco suddenly asked. "You know that it's getting hot outside right? Or are you in Audrey world where OJ is lunch?"

"Firstly, it's still mild outside. Secondly, I was trying to be courteous, but I see my efforts were wasted."

"That's another problem," Marco said frowning as he grabbed a mozzarella stick. "You're too courteous. Don't you know that guys like a bitch?"

"I thought I was a bitch."

"No, you can be a bitch, but a bad bitch. You need to be a good bitch. Or, if you're in the market for some Beyonce-Janet Jackson action, a bad bitch."

"You don't make any sense!"

"People like bitches!"

"I know," Audrey snapped, giving Lala a not so nice look.

Lala laughed and took a sip of her raspberry lemonade. "That's more like it. So...what's your next assignment?"

Audrey racked her brain for a moment before shrugging. "I don't remember. I'm supposed to check out this spot called the Black Spoon or Knife or something..."

"You mean the Black Blade?"

Lala dropped whatever she had in hand. Audrey watched as Marco's eyes grew wide.

"Well?"

"Um, yeah. I think that's it."

"Do you even know how exclusive that club is?"

Lala shrieked. "It takes a year for a non-celebrity to see the coat check out. And I bet that's probably fabulous!"

Audrey sighed heavily taking the last swig of her OJ, as the two party animals across from her gushed.

"So who's your guest?" They looked at her intently and she blinked in confusion.

"What?"

"With every reservation to Black Blade you get to take a plus 1. Usually you'll both pitch in for drinks."

"I'm not going to drink, I'm going to work," Audrey stated dryly.

Marco took her hands holding them firmly in his own. "Virgin Mary please. For once in your life can you not be you?"

"Only if you won't drop dead Marco," she replied with a fake smile.

"When do you have to go?" Lala interjected still thirsty for details.

"This Friday."

"Damn!" Marco exclaimed hitting the table. "Me and Stephon are supposed to go out."

"Ha ha! I win!" Lala giggled happily.

"Win what?" Audrey asked confused.

Marco glanced up at her with a pout. "What we're saying is that you should take Lala with you. She can help you have a good time."

Audrey looked at them incredulously. "Are you both on the same drugs? Because if you are you can help each other quit. I'm not going to this club for a good time. I am going for work, do you two idiots understand me?"

Marco raised an eyebrow.

"So...you're taking Lala. Right?"

"Right chica?"

"Right?"

"?"

"You know what?" Audrey shouted, snapping under the peer pressure. "Fine! Come Lala, but I swear I'll flip if you interfere with my work. I'm warning you."

"Muchas muchas gracías amiga!" Lala gushed clasping her hand. "You won't regret it."

Oh I will, Audrey thought. I just don't know how yet.

"It's settled," Marco said, recovering from his depression.

"Now what will you wear?"

Audrey drew a blank, the thought having never

crossed her mind.

"Clothes? What I usually wear. I dress nice."

Marco and Lala looked at each other and grabbed her phone.

"It has a password you jerks!"

"Mm hm," Marco said taping on her phone.

She panicked when she heard it unlock. "Hey!"

"1234 just like I thought," he stated rolling his eyes. "That's just pathetic girl."

"It's supposed to be ironic...you know."

"Yeah, real ironic. I am-about-to-get-my-shit-stolen --ronic."

Scrolling around, he found her planner and turned to Lala. "She's free this Wednesday. I can do the morning, you?"

"No Papi, I have a dance class. What about her Thursday?"

Marco shook his head. "Nope I have an assignment all day."

"Guys! How about you include me in my life?"

"Chica it's for your own good. They won't let you in looking normal even if you have a Press pass. You have to dress like you're going to a slutty junior prom."

"Sounds classy."

"How about today?"Marco asked, giving Audrey a smirk. "You have nothing after work today and I think me and Lala are free."

"Today it is," Lala agreed polishing off the rest of the mozzarella sticks.

"Honey? Check please!"

The waiter gave her a shy smile and Audrey banged her head against the table.

Of all the rotten luck.

As promised, at the end of the day Marco and Lala showed up to her cubicle like parole guards. She gave them dirty looks before grabbing her purse.

"I'm not spending more than a hundred."

They looked at her like she had said she wanted a dress made of pretzels.

"Then why don't we just wrap you up in a paper bag?" Marco snapped impatiently.

"Maybe I'd like it!"

"Well at least it'd be avante- garde!"

"Last time I checked I was the one being forced to shop and take along Miss Lala. So if I decide to wear a paper bag dress I'm inclined!"

Marco and Audrey stared each other down until Marco snapped his fingers.

"Fine, you're right. Lala, you're a free loader. You'll pay the difference."

"What?"

"Oh stop," Marco waved heading towards the door. "Black Blade door costs would've cost you three hot dresses."

Considering it, Lala nodded. "Okay fine. But I have to like the dress. We're gonna show off your curves whether you like it or not."

Audrey sighed again, wondering why she was being punished.

"You're going to wear red!"

"The day I wear red is the end of the world."

------------------------------------------------

The dress she ended up with was not her normal style by any means, but she liked it. It was ankle length, a long, black, sleeveless dress with a heart-shaped front. The skirt was cut in a diagonal so the left was shorter than the right. A sewn in slit gave the illusion that she was wearing a skirt underneath, and along her waist, about a rib down on both sides, was a sexy crisscrossing slit that ended right above her waist.

"I love the dominatrix look on you, sweetie. You should come over sometime to spank me and Stephon."

"You are joking, right?"

"Only if you are."

It bothered her that she wasn't quite sure if he was joking. Sex was a touchy subject, both figuratively and literally. Audrey didn't know why she wasn't in a relationship. It wasn't that anything was wrong with her, she was just...normal.

Maybe too normal. Nowadays women had to be these outgoing, super confident ultra divas. The girl next door was secretly a sex addict; the schoolroom teacher was actually an international spy.

Audrey was just Audrey, and it wasn't fair that people treated her like something was wrong with her because of that.

"So, shoes now?" Lala asked, licking her plump red lips. "I might need to upgrade too. When are you free?"

"Lala, it is 12 pm and we have work tomorrow. My wallet is closed."

"Marco! Talk to her!"

"I really like that dress. I'm gay and I was aroused by it."

Lala laughed. "Yeah, our little Puritan Mary is gonna need to repent big time."

Audrey laughed. "Keep it up. You're both going to hell."

"In a handbasket?"

"Woven by God himself."

They laughed and linked arms. Audrey smiled.

Maybe Friday wouldn't be so bad.

--------------------------------------------------

Chapter Two: Coconut Chews

Friday came faster than Audrey was comfortable with. Lala had gotten her number from Marco and was texting her like crazy.

What shoes should I wear? What are you wearing? When do we meet? Give me your soul! Blah blah blah!

Audrey was an inch from pitching herself off the roof.

Sitting on her bed, Audrey looked at her unused black leather boots. They remained in the box, the heel modest considering what her mom had previously tried to push at her. She had a decent parent relationship. Her older sister Aubrey was closer to home, settled down with a hubby and 3 kids. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Michael worked a lot. Their parents were busy helping Aubrey.

Hearing a telltale knock at the door she checked the time.

It was 9:12, that blasted girl had come 18 minutes early. Sighing, she opened the door and watched as Lala ran in with two large shopping bags.

"Aw! It's so tiny! Like a matchbox for a poco little mouse." She spun in a circle. "I love it!"

"Thanks." Audrey said drily. The girl's brain had to be made of nuts if she considered her words a compliment.

"So, where do I set up?"

"In there I guess," Audrey said, pointing her to her bedroom. "You know this isn't prom right?"

"It's slutty junior prom. For a wealthy socialite."

"Right..."

Audrey heard silence before Lala asked, "Where's your vanity?"

"With you I'm sure."

"What?"

"I don't have one. Hold on."

Getting a chair from the kitchenette, she dragged it into her room and placed it in front of her big closet mirror.

"Enjoy."

"Oh no sweetie. Sit down."

"Why?"

"And put on this bathrobe."

She sat down and Lala began filing her short fingernails into round talons. It was going to be a long night.

By the time they were done sprucing up, Audrey had gotten a face mask, a manicure, a painful lip waxing, and a full assortment of makeup applied to her face.

"Wow...you look amazing. It's my best work yet. Who knew you were so pretty Audrey?"

"Lala, I really can't tell if you're complimenting me."

Looking into the mirror behind her she was shocked that Lala was right. Her eyes were always her best feature, but outlined by the black liner and a gray smoky eye it looked like she could see into someone's soul. And wanted to do dark naughty things to it. Lala had covered her lips with a dark pink lip gloss. Her hair had been curled over into a 1920's flare. It was Audrey, but Audrey Noir, the femme fatale she had always dreamed she'd be in another life. liked.

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