A Reason To Live

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Chapter Nineteen

I sit on the counter in Zander’s kitchen, munching on a few pieces of cucumber as I watch his back as he cooks. The dread that entered my mind earlier today is dormant for now and I am thankful.

“When are you going to let me cook?” I ask before biting off a chunk of the cucumber slice, trying to focus on something else.

Zander turns towards me, eyebrows raised, and curiosity on his face at my question, “can you cook?”

I cock my head to the side in disbelief. “You are asking a southern woman if she can cook?”

A smile spreads on his face, “So you are finally admitting you’re from the south huh?” I can hear the teasing tone in his voice and it causes me to roll my eyes.

“You knew that Zander, don’t play coy with me,” I shove the other half of my cucumber slice in my mouth.

He turns his attention back to the stove, turning the lemon pepper flavored chicken over in the pan, “I do no such thing, Frey. But if you want to cook for me, I wouldn’t turn some good southern cooking.”

“Great!” I say happily, “I will go to the store in the morning and get what I need to make a delicious chicken and sausage gumbo.” At least cooking will distract me for a bit. Maybe I’ll even make some desserts; fudge and pralines take a lot of concentration.

“Sounds amazing, Freya.”

“Just wait till you try it, it tastes better than it sounds.”

“You know what else also sounds amazing?” Zander asks as he moves towards me and then places his hands on either side of me on the counter. “That accent of yours.”

“What accent?” I ask, knowing damn well what accent he is talking about.

“Who’s playing coy now?” A smirk plays on his face at his words causing a giggle to escape my lips.

“Don’t you know?” I ask, allowing my southern accent to come out, “a real Southern lady always plays coy, Mr. Scott. It’s why men always fall at our feet.”

“Well, it’s defiantly working, Ms. Conner.” Zander presses his lips onto mine and I immediately wrap my arms around his neck as I kiss him back.

~~~

After a two-hour-long grocery shopping trip, I am standing in Zander’s kitchen staring at the bags full of various items in front of me. Flour, half and half, chicken, sausage, pecans, the holy trinity, and more are staring back at me.

I have no idea where to start and am slightly worried I bought enough food to feed a small army. I glance at the clock on the stove to my left noticing it’s after noon already.

“Well, here goes nothing I guess.”

I start my playlist for music and get to work, grabbing the bell peppers and celery and giving them a good clean in the sink before chopping them up along with a large onion.

Next, I start on my roux for the gumbo. Roux is the hardest part of gumbo, it has to be watched carefully so you don’t burn it.

Four hours later I am pouring the hot fudge into a baking dish covered in butter, saying a silent prayer to the fudge gods that it sets right. My Nana says said, ‘fudge is finicky Freya, if the mood or weather isn’t right, the fudge won’t set.’ I’m still not sure if she’s right but who am I to question her?

I place the pot down on the stove and pick up the baking dish, moving the dish around the spread the fudge properly into all the corners and the edges.

I carefully place the fudge on the counter and walk away, it’ll take at least 30 minutes before it’s ready to be cut into but for now.. I take my spoon and scrap the extra fudge in the pot into the spoon before shoving it in my mouth. Mmm, just like Nana used to make.

I take the time eating the extra fudge out of the pot to look around the kitchen. A chuck comes from my fudge-filled mouth as I look at the mess I made and memories of cooking with my Nana fill my head. We always made a mess, she was the messiest cook I know. She used to wave you off anytime her mess was brought up, ‘I’ll clean it when I’m done.’

I lean my back against the counter as the memories wash over me. Her flour-covered top, messy flour and egg-covered fingers from making fried foods, and all the love she put into everything. Tears fall from my eyes as the sound of her laughter fills my ears, it has been a while since I thought about her.

“All right, Freya,” her voice rings in my ears, “time to clean up this mess, no time to wallow in the past.” She was a stubborn woman sometimes.

“Yes Ma’am,” I say out loud as I push myself off the counter and start cleaning up the rather large mess I made in the few hours of cooking I have done.

“Damn something smell amazing,” a voice rings out from the front door as I’m putting the knives away.

A smile spreads on my face as I set the knives on the counter and walk over, poking my head out of the kitchen and looking towards the front door.

Zander walks into view, his suit jacket gone and he is unbuttoning his top two buttons of his white shirt. “I’ll be honest, I have been thinking about this gumbo all day. I can’t wait to try it.”

I step out of the kitchen fully and stand in front of him, “just wait till you taste it.”

Zander starts laughing and confusion floods me, “you have flour,” he reaches up and carefully wipes my cheek with the pad of his thumb a few times, “there, all gone.”

My cheeks feel like they are fire, I can’t believe I forgot to check myself before he came home. I probably look like a complete mess.

Before I can think any more negative thoughts Zander pulls me against him and places a kiss on my lips, “been thinking about all day too.” He mumbles before pressing his lips against me again, this time I wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him back.

My stomach growls, interrupting our moment and I pull away laughing from embarrassment, “Sorry, I haven’t really eaten much today.”

“Well, better not let you get anymore hungry.” He turns me around and pushes me into the kitchen, his hands on my hips. “Let’s eat.”

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