Jesper supposed the Clear Creek pâtissier planned to stick to her guns. Perhaps she was foolish or brave but all the faux brave ones always folded. I don’t mind the harsh weather, it’s when I work the most. People are non-existent during the remaining three months of the year and that means I can work in peace until spring comes back to greet us. I know how I come off, that I despise people, but it’s mostly untrue. I don’t hate people but they are messy and undisciplined save for the few employees I have. They pay very close attention to detail and never shortcut. If they did it could easily cost someone their lives on the water. My men and I build boats among other crafts, but the former keeps us busy for months. Just about everything is done by hand as it should be. Two are in the works, a Cabin Cruiser and a Cape Islander. The former was requested all the way from my birthplace, Iceland.
I can never get away from home, it’s always with me, even bitter memories reside somewhere deep in the back of my mind. But I love my work, I wouldn’t want to do anything else with these hands. Craftmanship runs through my blood but that’s where it stops, not necessarily by choice. I was married once but things ended badly and I never got one child from it. That’s when I left Iceland. Leaving hurt just as much as my failed marriage, but there simply wasn’t enough room for my unfaithful ex-wife, her lover whom I crossed paths every day and me. I could have pummeled his face in and believe me, I wanted to, but it wouldn’t have been worth it. I’m a man of nature and I don’t like restrictions forced on my freedom.
Still, it’s natural for a man to want to secure is legacy through his children. I very well may die without having so much as another chance of reaching that milestone. Work is all I have and that’s all that’s in the cards for me.
I dare admit it stings when my heart is pricked as I witness my employees on their off days teaching and molding their children into the adults they will become. I wonder if it’s the same for the baker? Is she without children? She’s a sassy one. I didn’t spy a ring on her finger or any other marks that says she’s off limits.
It’s ludacris I’m even thinking about a woman who’ll be gone soon enough. But, it’s commendable to start a business from the ground up, it’s extremely difficult. I should know. Even after fifteen years of crafting boats, I still run into make or break situations that have the potential to ruin my name. But those tight moments have made me into the man I am today.
There’s nothing on the agenda for this morning. From the times Wicked Temptations displayed, they’d be closed all weekend but I find myself tugging on my boots in favor of a drive into town. There’s nothing there that I haven’t already seen but if luck was on my side, maybe I’d get a glimpse of her.
I may be stuck in my bachelorhood but I still appreciate heavenly views and hers is one to drink in. The closer I get I try to keep hope at bay but he kicks up in me like a needy lap dog hungry for attention. The reemergence of a woman is slowly turning me into the guy that was just casually passing by. I didn’t like the hook I’d unknowingly put myself on hoping she’d be curious enough to bite. But here I was parked in front of her bakery. But to my surprise, a light caught my attention just to the rear of the shop. Then just like that, she appeared looking like an island girl. Her wavy hair hung just above her waist and a large flower looking wreath thing adorned her head. Her vibrant calf length skirt flowed along the curves of her body. She reminded him of the ocean, devastatingly beautiful yet uncontrollably dangerous and unpredictable.
She stood behind the counter looking over something with a laptop open resting beside her right arm. I could stare at her all day but staying tucked in my truck made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want her to look at me like I was really stalking her. So, I got out and pulled the handle but the door was locked. I must have startled her because her head jerked up and she squinted my direction. Carefully, she rounded the counter and stood at the door pointing at the CLOSED sign.
“I can see that. But you said if I came back today, you’d have more pastries for me.”
“You sure did.”
“I guess it was a mistake on my behalf, but there isn’t anything here for you to eat.”
“Do you mind if I come in after coming all this way?”
“You’re stalking me.”
“Not at all.”
“Give me one reason I should let you in after trying to destroy my dreams, dream killer?”
“First, you’re exaggerating, second, I wasn’t trying to kill your dream, I was only giving you the history of Clear Creek.”
“So what was that about winter sending me running with my tail tucked between my legs?”
She was actually challenging me and made me more determined to get inside there.
“I never used those words.”
“I have every tool to execute you in a heartbeat buddy so you better not try anything.”
“This is twice you’ve threatened me.”
“There will be a third if you make it out of here alive.” A small smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. She’s interesting, very much so. I watch her unlock the door and push it open to welcome me inside. It was dim but with just enough light to move around safely.
“What are you doing here?”
“Inventory and looking over some financials. What are you doing here?”
“You don’t beat around the bush, do you?”
“I prefer to get things out in the open. So, answer the question.”
“I’m here because I was hoping I was wrong.”
“I don’t follow you.”
“I really want to be wrong about you. You said you weren’t a runner, so prove me wrong.”
“Let me find a piece of chocolate to restore your faculties.”
She lightly chuckled shaking her head at me.
“How about we start with introductions? My name is Jesper Rzeznik and I build boats for a living…mostly.”
“I’m Leilani Marie Asano and I bake confectionery treats.”
“You have a beautiful name.”
“Thanks, it beats a name no one can pronounce.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a blend of races. My mother is black and Hawaiian and my father is Japanese. Imagine if I’d been named something thirty characters long! Leilani is short and sweet.”
“What do you most identify with?”
“All of them. My ethnic makeup isn’t separate from me. I’m proud of my heritage.”
“I suppose one could say I’m a bit of a mutt myself. I’m a mix of Polish and Icelandic.”
“So, you weren’t born here.”
“I was born in Japan but we moved to Hawaii when I was a kid. I’m an army brat so I’ve seen a bit of the world. Do you miss home?”
“Not as much as I use to but there’s still a longing to go back. How about you?”
“I can go to Japan anytime I want, but I do miss the culture there and Hawaii.”
“Is that why you’re dressed like Pocahontas?”
“Pocahontas was Native American not Hawaiian. But I get what you’re saying about my tribal clothes. I didn’t know Pocahontas had made it to Icelandic history books. You all are so well informed.” Leilani teased and I could appreciate the dig. Of course, I know who Pocahontas was just to be clear. “My tribal clothes aren’t just clothes to make a fashion statement, they are apart of me in every way.”
“I get it, I really do.”
“I have to finish looking over my accounts so…”
“I won’t bother you. I’ll wait until you’re finished.”
“To do what?”
“Ask you what you’re doing later. It isn’t even noon yet so hopefully you won’t be at this all morning.”
“It’s supposed to rain around two and I’d like to be in by then.”
“Then I guess you better hurry up so I can treat you to lunch to thank you for the delicious pastries. I can see what the fuss is over, now.”
“That’s sweet of you but I’m not going on a date with you.” There she goes with that smirk. Ms. Asano is going to make this difficult for me.
“I don’t bite.”
“I’ve already determined you’re not a threat.”
“Then there’s no reason we can’t make this happen.”
Leilani stared up at me and my eyes held hers in some sort of entrapment neither of us a willing to break out of. All I remember was resting on my elbows staring at her for what seemed like an eternity. After I left that shop and climbed into my truck, I could still feel her eyes on my back and I’m sure she was still smirking for having won this first round.
Love Below Zero part 3.