Klaus watched her dealings with the merchant from Silk Country, a smile lighting up her youthful face as she gave the other woman a basket piled high with fresh vegetables she had grown on her farm. Asche inspected the merchandise and nodded appreciatively, then handed over a pouch of coins in return as payment for the goods. She then thanked the merchant with a polite bow and returned to where she had tethered her horse, offering him a treat to busy him while she untied his reins from the post. With that done, she mounted her steed and took off at a slow trot off through town – and likely back to her farm.
It was a rather mundane scene, one that no one would really take any notice of. Farmers were always bringing their goods to the square to sell to the traders who came to visit Oak Tree Town, after all. To Klaus, however, it was more than an everyday occurrence. It was an opportunity for him to get to see the young woman who had taken over the farm next door to old Madam Eda's.
He had first met her about a week following her arrival, during one of his trips into the mountains to search for ingredients he could use in his perfumes. She had wanted to go into town and get acquainted with the villagers, but had managed to get herself hopelessly lost. He'd gently scolded her before offering to escort her wherever she wished to go, and the way she looked in that moment had been his undoing. Her brown eyes had been cast downward, her long lashes resting against the pale skin of her cheek as it rapidly took on a pinker hue. The worst part was when she'd drawn her bottom lip between her teeth. It was an unconscious, nervous gesture, but it had served to draw his gaze to her mouth. Her lips weren't overly full, but they were plump enough to be described as kissable, and they were stained the color of ripe raspberries. He'd caught himself wondering if they tasted like raspberries, as well, then he reminded himself he had only just met her and didn't even know her name.
Avery, she'd said when he asked. Her name was Avery. He'd introduced himself, as well, and explained to her his work and why he had been wandering along the mountain paths so far from town. The two of them chatted amiably during their walk to town, and he'd learned that she decided to move to the country in order to get away from the noise and hectic pace of the city. It was a sentiment he fully understood, as that had been his own motivation for returning to Oak Tree Town in his late twenties. He still had several clients who lived in the city, though, and so made trips there a couple of times a week to take orders and deliver the perfumes he had created.
They parted ways outside the general store, but not before he had offered to create some perfume for her as a gift to welcome her properly to town. Then, impulsively, he'd raised her hand to his lips and graced the backs of her fingers with a gentle kiss. He told himself he'd done it because it was the polite, gentlemanly thing to do. Really, though, he'd done it to see her blush again. Her lips had turned upward into a shy smile, and the very sight made his blood heat up.
He knew it was wrong, what he was feeling. He'd put the days of his lust-filled youth behind him. He was older now, more mature, but something about her drew his attention like the proverbial moth to a flame. Her sweetness, her kindness, her innocence, her youth... they combined into a quality that made her infuriatingly tempting.
Somehow, he just knew this young woman would be his downfall.
Avery had felt Klaus' eyes upon her at the market. She had even looked his way once or twice, only to catch him immediately averting his gaze. He seemed almost guilty, like he believed he shouldn't have been watching her. In truth, she liked being watched by him.
Ever since their first meeting on the mountain trail near her farm, she had been fascinated by him. He was so unlike the other eligible bachelors in town – older, more sophisticated – and it had immediately sparked her attraction. He wasn't all that hard on the eyes, either, with his dark hair and unusual golden-green eyes. He was charming, well-dressed, mature, intelligent... all of the things the boys in the city hadn't been.
Madam Eda had tried nudging her toward Fritz, another new farmer in Oak Tree Town who was about her age, but while he was nice enough Avery had no interest in him beyond friendship. He was too needy and whined too much. He'd even had the nerve to accuse her of attempting to steal his farming techniques when she paid him a visit on his farm, then more or less tricked her into watering all of his fields for him under the guise of training her. It had infuriated her and she wanted to smack him hard enough that he would have a black eye to match the bandages he always seemed to be wearing upon his left cheek.
Shortly after her arrival in town, she'd met Mistel. She'd originally mistaken him for a girl when she first saw him, due to his smaller size and delicate features. The shock of learning he was, in fact, male was nothing compared to the one she felt the first time she heard the deep, masculine voice of the town doctor, but it had still surprised her to learn that he was actually not a girl. Mistel was a kind young man, almost to the point of being annoying, and he seemed to be overly attached to his older sister – who Avery had soon discovered was a well-renowned writer of romance novels. Both of those qualities were enough to make her cross him off the list of potential matches.
The only other young man she'd met in town was Raeger, the owner and chef of the local restaurant. He was nice enough, and a damn good cook, but he was good-looking and he knew it. He flirted with every female who walked in the door of his establishment, and while she shamelessly flirted back whenever his attentions turned upon her they both knew it was just harmless fun and nothing would come of it. He was a ladies' man who enjoyed his freedom, while she wanted something more. They had become close over the course of the single season she'd been living in Oak Tree Town, however, due to the chats they had while she enjoyed her lunches at his counter every day he was open for business. Of all the residents in town, Avery considered him her best friend.
Then there was Klaus...
Everything about the man threw her senses into overdrive. His eyes held her gaze whenever they met – until he inevitably broke the contact. His voice was smooth and deep and had the slightest hint of an accent, a lazy little drawl likely earned from having grown up in the area but largely lost due to the many years he lived in the city. His hair was slightly tousled and looked soft enough to touch, and she often found herself wishing she could just reach out and run her fingers through the raven-colored tresses without any repercussions. He even had a unique scent about him, likely due to the hours he spent working on creating fragrances for his many customers. It was spicy and floral at the same time, with the slightest hint of citrus.
Even in spite of the short time which had passed since their first meeting, Avery instinctively knew... This was the man she was meant to be with.