Unexpected Flame

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Chapter 2

All my anger had fizzled over by the time I finished cleaning up the mess left by Holt and Sullivan. Partly because my body is immensely attracted to Holt and partly because there was no sense in getting angry about it. I was never going to see those two men ever again, so they weren’t worth my anger. What are you saying Marianna, you met this guy for not even five minutes and you’re already obsessing over his looks? You’re not some love-obsessed high schooler!

After cleaning up the spill, James informed me that the owner’s wanted me to make a farmer’s market run for ingredients. Our bosses were big on getting homegrown ingredients for the muffins and cakes we sell. It was cheaper and they were big on supporting local businesses. I was too for that mattered. I shudder every time I have to head into a Stop and Shop.

With my signature white beanie adorned on my head, I exited Grind House and took a left down the street. There was a local farmers market only a few blocks away that always gave us a discount. As I traversed the cracked sidewalks, I thought about the empty fridge in my studio apartment. Maybe I’d take this opportunity and get some food for myself. That way I didn’t have to live on microwaved dinners and hamburger helper for another week.

The cold fall wind whipped around me, reminding me of the thin cotton material that my work uniform consisted up. The forest green polo contrasted against my slowly reddening skin due to the cold. I should be used to this weather considering I’m from Illinois. Hell, I’ve experienced worse weather than this. I’d have to wear a jacket if I were back home.

Within a few minutes, I came upon the small but open park the farmers market was held in. Wooden booths and stands were set up throughout the park, offering various products for the people walking through. I couldn’t help but inhale deeply as I approached the wrought iron gate that acted as the entrance. The smell of cinnamon, jam, and various other fruits and vegetables wafted its way into my nose. Smiling, I crossed the threshold of the gate and entered the park. First stop, Jams.

The jam stand was run by an older woman named Rosie. She was a retired schoolteacher who now sold her homemade jams to help supplement her income. We always use her homemade Raspberry jam for the Raspberry Danishes we sell though I always manage to snag a jar of blueberry preserves to take home.

When Rosie sees me approaching her stand, a big smile breaks out onto her face. “There’s my favorite girl!”

“I better be your favorite girl. After all, I am your best customer.” I winked at the older woman as I approached the stand. “It’s going to be the usual today, plus any of your blueberry preserves if you’ve got any.”

“I managed to snag two jars just for you.” Rosie lifted a small wicker basket of jars up onto the table. Each mason jar was filled to the brim with jam and a checkboard bow tied around the lids. I paid her for the Raspberry jams when I tried to pay for the blueberry preserves, she pushed my hand away.

“I can’t take your money. I don’t need your money.”

“Rosie, I insist. You take such good care of me and the shop. Let me repay you.”

“You repay me by coming back for more business.” Rosie gave me a look before turning her back on me to deal with another customer. I couldn’t help but smile at the exchange we shared. Rosie always reminded me of my own grandmother who sadly passed away a few years back.

I grabbed the jams and walked further into the farmer's market. My next and final stop was the vegetable stand for fresh carrots and zucchini for our loaves of bread we bake. It was a little bit of a walk from the entrance but totally worth it in my opinion.

I took in the atmosphere around me as I meandered my way through the park. Seeing the interactions between the different groups of people made me happy. I’ve always been the type of person that gets joy in seeing other people or helping other people. That’s why I got a job at the coffee shop. Sure, it’s not what I wanted to do with my life out of college, but I liked being around people. This was a way I could get this accomplished.

After a few minutes, I finally reached the vegetable stand. It’s much bigger than Rosie’s jam stand. The vegetable cart had multiple sections; each section organized by color. The perfectionist in me was pleased every time I saw the neat organization of this stand.

I grabbed the zucchinis that I need and then went towards the carrot section. As weird as this sounds, I took pride in the selection of carrots. I knew I was going to be the one to have to make the carrot cake and I wanted to make sure I had more than enough for what I needed them for. God, and you wonder why you don’t have a social life, Marianna.

My back was turned to the rest of the crowd as I ran my right hand over the rough exterior of the carrots. It’s hard to explain, but a feeling coursed through my veins at the prospect of making sure I picked the perfect carrot. Maybe I was putting too much thought into it, but I honestly didn’t give a shit.

There was a voice that started to rise above the others but with all the noise around I couldn’t tell who it was. It wasn’t until the voice was much closer to me that I could make out what they were saying. “Aren’t you the girl from the café earlier?” I felt my entire body tense as my ear’s registered the voice as Holt. My brain, being the social spastic that I am, froze as I stood there with my back turned towards Holt. He’s here? In the same Farmer’s market, you’ve always gone to. What the hell are the chances of that?! Just my fucking luck.

I felt a rather large hand which I assume to be Holt’s land on my shoulder, his fingers curling over the top of my shoulder to grasp.

I did what any rational person would do in this situation. I squealed, not expecting the warmth from his touch as I jerked my body forward to remove his hand from my shoulder. In the midst of my body lurching forward, my boot caught on the leg of the vegetable stand. I tried to stop myself from falling but failed as I smacked my head against the edge of the stand, groaning as I fell to the ground.

My body hit the soft grass with the thud. Only you would manage to embarrass and possibly give yourself brain damage in front of the cute volunteer firefighter. I continued laying on the ground, my eyes looking up at the bright sky above. Holt’s face peered down at me as stared down at me from above.

“You good there?” He raised an eyebrow at me, the sun reflecting off the silver lenses of his aviators.

“Yeah, I think so. This sort of thing happens all the time.” I muttered. I brought a hand up to my forehead, feeling around for any obvious bumps.

“Here- “Holt extended his hand to me as he waited for me to accept it. Once I placed my hand in his I was effortlessly lifted off the ground and placed on my feet.

“Thanks- “I shut my mouth as I didn’t know how to address him. I wasn’t going to be the asshole to address him by his last name.

He must have sensed my hesitation because he spoke up, bending down to pick up the vegetables I dropped. “It’s Nicholas. You can call me Nick, or Holt or- whatever.” A few errant strands of his dark hair fell into his eyes as he stood up. I had to resist the urge to swoon when he raised a hand to brush the strands back.

“I think these are yours.” I made sure to not only avoid his eyes but his hands as well when I accepted the vegetables. Turning my back towards him, I took the money out of my pocket to pay the person behind the stand. I wasn’t able to extend the money towards the owner as another hand shot across the stand with a crisp $20 bill in hand. Nicholas.

“Figured it was the least I could do, considering I almost gave you a concussion. And for the mess in the café earlier, which I’m sorry about. My friend- he can be an asshole.” He chuckled, running another hand through his dark hair. Even his laugh sounded hot. Jesus, was there something he did that wasn’t going to make me want to melt into a puddle?

“Well, from what he said it sounds like you deserved it. Thanks for the vegetables.” Nodding my head, I picked up the jars of jam and preserves that had miraculously not been broken in the accident. I didn’t bother looking back at Holt as I walked out of the park and away from the farmer’s market.

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