It was hot.
And not just hot, humid. The air was heavy and sticky. It felt like being covered in a fleece blanket even though it was approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was nearly unbearable, and Alina Martin was desperately trying to take her mind off of it.
She looked around the Bayside Marketplace. How did all these insane people live here? And what was so great about Miami anyway? In the small Oregon town where Alina went to college, Miami was seen as the ultimate Spring Break getaway. All bikinis and bronze skin, beach parties and pouring shots of tequila down the throats of attractive strangers. And here she was, at the Spring Break capital...with her family. Not exactly how she pictured her first trip to Miami.
Alina wasn't a big partier anyway. She didn't drink much unless she was with a small group of friends though she had been dragged to the occasional house party a few times. She was mainly focused on school and exploring the beautiful outdoors that Oregon had to offer. The only reason she didn't stay behind for Spring Break is because she felt a short hiatus from Oregon, and all the people who lived there...well, really only one person, would be good for her.
She shook her head to get his image out of her brain. He was the last person she wanted to give her thoughts to right now, especially after traveling 3,000 miles to ensure she wouldn't run into him for a few weeks.
"Melissa! There you are!" A tall man with broad shoulders and tan skin came bounding over to their table and hugged Alina's mother. "It's great to see you!"
"John! Thank you so much for meeting us! And you must be Noah, your Dad's told me so much about you."
Alina let her mind wander for a few more moments. She fanned herself with her shirt and contemplated whether jumping in the ocean would make her feel better or worse.
"Josie, Alina, this is my friend John and his son Noah." Alina looked over in time to see the tall man shake her little sister's hand. The young man standing next to John was staring right at Alina with the slightest tilt to his head. Alina focused back on John and gave a small nod and hello. She normally would've gotten up and pretended to care about her Mom's old army buddy, but it was too hot for pretending. She wondered if people from Miami were incredibly honest - too uncomfortable to beat around the bush.
As John talked about how tall Josie was and Alina's mother mentioned her enthusiasm for basketball, Alina pretended not to feel Noah's eyes roaming over her. She couldn't tell for sure if he was looking at her behind his dark sunglasses but it sure felt like someone's eyes were on her. She wondered if he could hell how uncomfortable and sweaty she felt.
Noah was tall like his dad, and thin but not scrawny. He was wearing black basketball shorts, a plain blue t-shirt, and a backwards baseball cap that failed to contain his dark wavy hair. He had a pronounced jaw and, even under sunglasses, and in Alina's peripherals, she could tell he was attractive. Alina felt a blush creep across her face and she swore she saw the faintest hint of a smile on his lips as she pretended to look up at the signage of the outdoor marketplace.
"Well, I was really excited to take you on a tour of the arena but it appears we have been delayed for at least a few hours. Something about a repair that's gone on longer than intended. Would you like to sit here and catch up for a while or go do something else?"
"Catching up sounds great," Alina's mom said and returned to the seat she occupied before they had arrived. Josie plopped into a chair, pulled out her phone and started playing something while John and Noah took seats on the other side of the metal table.
"So Alina, your mom tells me you are studying marine biology, that sounds interesting," John said.
Alina looked over to see everyone but Josie's eyes on her and she hoped her blush was gone and the sweat on her brow wasn't too obvious.
"Yes, I guess I'm a little obsessed with the ocean," Alina offered with a small smile.
"Well you'll have to check out our ocean, maybe we can take you on a snorkeling excursion later this week, what do you think?" John asked.
"She would love that," Alina's mom said before Alina could respond. "And thank you so much for offering to give us a tour of the Miami Heat arena, Josie has been so excited to see it."
"Mom, it's called American Airlines Arena, it's where the Miami Heat plays" Josie said without looking up from her phone.
Alina's mom shrugged and her and John laughed and started reminiscing about their Army days. At this point, Alina didn't think she could stay here for another minute. The small talk was just too much for her right now.
"Mom, I'm going to head into the mall for a bit," Alina said, her chair legs scraping the concrete as she pushed back from the table.
"Oh, okay well please keep your phone on in case I need to get ahold of you. It's charged right?"
"Yes, of course," Alina said over her shoulder as she started to walk away. Alina could hear her mother tell the others that Alina had just flown in that morning and was a little cranky from jet lag and the heat. She and John laughed again.
Just then, Alina felt someone walking next to her and looked up to see a tall, smirking Noah striding alongside her. Her mouth went dry.
"Hey I'll come with you," he said.