Marie Lennox was anything but shy a majority of the time. So when the fire department came after their little kitchen blunder the other day, she had happily accepted the number the guy she was eyeballing provided her with.
"So sorry to bother you," She said into her cellphone, the slip of paper tucked between her fingertips. She toyed with it as she spoke, a smile on her face. "I didn't know who to call. Our fire-alarm has gone off a few times, periodically and I just wasn't sure if it was time to replace it. I know you took a look the other day, but…"
December had rolled her eyes at her friend and colleague at the time, but it worked like a charm. The lovely Seth Vonacelli arrived not but half an hour later, fresh batteries in hand.
"I'm so sorry—" Marie said to him again, as he stood on the small stepladder in the kitchen. She had one arm folded across her chest, the other holding a cup of coffee. "You aren't even on the clock, are you? I didn't want to call emergency services for something so silly…"
December had to give it to her—the girl was excellent at playing dumb. Kyle, on the other hand, was quite agitated at the little display, opting to throw as much in her direction to keep her from fawning over the fireman.
"I'm going to need you to help me with these onions," Kyle told her, dropping a small box of them on the countertop.
"In a minute," she responded. When Kyle glanced at December though, the blonde woman just shrugged. Marie scowled, grabbing a knife from the block before getting to work.
"I could have sworn that battery was fine when I checked it," Seth said. "I'm sorry. You were right to check on it again if it was acting up the way it was."
He moved the stepladder from the floor, folding it up. December took it gently, placing it against the wall. He gave a small nod in thanks, watching her movements as she did so.
"I know you," he said after a moment. "Don't I know you?"
December's eyebrows raised at the comment, unsure. Marie huffed, rolling her eyes. She had not intended for him to flirt with her friend instead of her.
"Probably not," Marie told him. "All she does is work and sleep."
"Nate!" He exclaimed, snapping his finger as it came to mind. "You're Nate's girl!"
She cleared her throat, embarrassed. "Was," She specified. His mouth opened quickly, attempting to mutter an apology quickly, which she waved off. "It's fine. Really."
"I can put my foot in my mouth sometimes," he admitted. "I had no clue. Nate and I haven't seen each other since before the holidays. I teach the CPR classes over at the high school and—"
"Say no more," she said. "It was…amicable. Around the New Year."
Marie inhaled sharply, the blade of her knife grazing her finger. She immediately dropped the knife, going to the sink. Kyle rushed over to her with a towel, and she tried to shrug off his touch.
"First Aid kit?" Seth asked. December reached under a counter, handing it to him. He pulled on a pair of gloves before going to check on the young sous-chef's hand.
"You are such a klutz," Kyle said, shaking his hand. "We haven't had a workplace injury in a year, and even our students have safe knife skills—"
"Well, accidents happen," Seth said, holding Marie's hand under the sink. She melted at his touch, turning into a mess of a puddle. "With the storm coming and the fire the other day, it's only natural that there are distractions."
December wanted to say that the only distraction here was him, but it would have come off much ruder than she would have liked.
Mandy appeared in the kitchen, aghast at the sight of the familiar face.
"Was there another fire?" she asked. "I swear I didn't do anything, I've been really careful, and—"
"Calm down," December assured her. "He just stopped by the check on the fire alarm before we're snowed in."
Mandy nodded quickly, trying to stop her panic from spreading.
"Bianca wanted me to tell you that, and I quote, the bride is coming and is staying the night," Mandy repeated slowly. December blinked, trying to absorb what the young woman was saying.
"The bride?" she asked.
"To stay here when we will possibly be snowed in?"
December nodded, clenching her jaw at the thought. Next thing she knew, she was also reaching in to the First Aid kit—but for aspirin instead of band-aids.
"Are…you okay?" Mandy asked her.
December nodded again, opening the packet of tablets she'd taken in her hands.
"Everything's fine," she said, still nodding. Marie tried not to recoil at the calmness her friend was displaying, because it wouldn't be present much longer. Kyle decided now was the right time to excuse himself. "I'm going to go to my office if anybody needs anything."
Marie hesitated to speak, "Patrick is still laid up in there. His back—remember?"
Seth sighed, dropping the gloves he'd just used into the trash.
"What is going on with this place?" he asked. "Did you suddenly become an accident prone mess?"
"It's fine," December repeated. "Right. Well, I'll just hide in my room, then."
"Hide?" Mandy mouthed the word to Marie, who shook her head quickly. "December—"
"No," December said firmly. "I'm going to go to my room. Where I will be for a minimum of 30 minutes uninterrupted." Mandy opened her mouth to speak again, and Marie continued shaking her head quickly. "Why is Bianca even still here? I told her to clear out before the weather hit!"
Without another word, the blonde whirled out of the kitchen, the door swinging behind her.
Marie released the breath she wasn't aware she'd been holding.
"Is she…?" Seth started to ask, and Marie held up her recently bandaged hand.
"Don't ask," Marie said. "Just leave her alone for a little while. And you—" she turned to Mandy. "Finish up those onions, will you?"
December had firmly told Bianca to pack up and head home, much to the chagrin of the young front-desk attendant. She left a bell on the desk, proceeding to her room where she shut the door and promptly sat down on the floor behind it.
She had been trying so hard not to think of him. She'd been doing so well. Between the romance in the air at the estate, and the holiday, and everything else—it was hard.
To hear his name, though.
She just couldn't.
Now in addition to the heartache she'd suppressed, her office had been trashed and was occupied with a stubborn old man, and a potential bridezilla was on her way to loom over everything while there was a blizzard approaching—and quickly.
December stood, making her way to the window that looked over the side of the estate, watching the snow begin to fall.
She paused before grabbing her coat off of her bed, unsure if anyone had actually spread the ice-melt that Patrick had injured himself trying to acquire.
As she rushed out of her room, however, she collided with somebody—familiar hands reaching out to steady her before she hit the floor.