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Read, Write, Love at Seaside(8)

By:Addison Cole

Normally, Leanna wasn’t anxious for the flea market to close. She enjoyed the constant influx of people and loved knowing they enjoyed her products. But today she planned on taking a basket of goodies to Kurt to thank him for rescuing Pepper the evening before. Bella had given her grief for pushing him out of the cottage, and she’d given her more grief for not trying to hook up with him. But Leanna wasn’t in Wellfleet to pick up a brooding writer; she was there to figure out her career. If she’d learned one thing about Kurt Remington in the short time they were together, it was that he might be brave, hot, and successful, but he was the epitome of organized and—the thing she could never even hope to be—neat. Bordering on tragically so, from what Leanna could tell. And for a girl who sniffed her tank top to see if she could toss it on over her bathing suit for the second day in a row, that was a scary thought. She was brought up right, however, and showing gratitude was important. Even if she sometimes pushed handsome guys out of her cottage so her hot and aggressive girlfriend didn’t start hitting on them.

She’d arrived late again that morning and missed the first rush of customers. Leanna had brought a few of her new jam flavors to the flea market—apricot-lime and strawberry-apricot—and they’d caught the attention of some of the regulars. She wondered how much business being late had cost her. It didn’t matter how hard she tried or how early she got up; she was always late. For everything. She was even born a week late. Her mother should have nipped it in the bud when she was younger. Punished her more or something. Anything. But Gina Bray would never have done anything so regimented—or expected. I don’t want my kids to be cookie-cutter clones of other children. How many times had she heard her mother say that to her teachers when they’d complain that Leanna wasn’t focused or that she was too talkative or too loud? And her father, Colonel Will Bray, who should have been more regimented and stern, given his military career, was equally as forgiving of his children’s faults. It was a wonder that she and her siblings ever got anywhere on time or completed a darn thing in their lives. But they all had. At least each of her siblings had. Her older brothers, Colby and Wade, had found their calling. Colby was a Navy SEAL, and Wade was an artificial intelligence guru. Even her younger siblings had found their groove. Bailey was a musician, and Dae, who her parents adopted from Korea when he was a baby, was a demolition expert. Only Leanna seemed to still be floundering, and at twenty-eight, she wondered if she’d ever find anything that didn’t leave her longing for more.

Pepper whined at her feet where she’d tethered him to the leg of the table with a long leash. She hated leashing him to the table, but they didn’t allow unleashed pets at the flea market. Leanna thought about Kurt. She probably should have had Pepper on a leash last night, but she was glad she hadn’t.

“We’re leaving in a few minutes. Can you please wait?” Leanna patted his head. The flea market closed at four, and she had disassembling her booth down to a science. She could do it in fifteen minutes flat. Most of the time. Today she hoped she could, as she was anxious to bring the basket to Kurt.

Pepper looked at her with pleading, big, round eyes and barked. He had already wrapped himself around the table leg a bazillion times and she’d had to untangle the unhappy pup. He wanted to roam free—and she didn’t blame him, as she had that gypsy urge running through her blood, too.

Leanna had sold one hundred and forty-two jars of jam and jelly today, and at four dollars a jar, it wasn’t exactly a killing, but it was good enough. She loved working at the flea market. Vendors changed often, and there was always an influx of new and interesting people to watch or to chat with. She kept a little radio on beneath the table, and when it wasn’t too busy, she would dance by herself. Leanna had become friends with the neighboring vendors, and she was trusting by nature, so she never thought twice about having them watch her booth if she had to walk Pepper or use the ladies’ room.

Pepper whined again.

There were only a handful of customers left on the flea market grounds, and Pepper was wrapping his leash around the table leg again.

“Hey, Carey,” she called to the lanky twenty-four-year-old vendor in the next booth. He, like Leanna, had maintained his booth for the entire summer, and they’d become friends. They’d gone to the beach a handful of times, went out for drinks, and generally hung out. “Would you mind watching my stuff for a few minutes so I can walk Pepper?”

“No prob.” Carey sat with his feet propped up on a plastic milk crate full of vinyl records, wearing the same style cargo shorts and tank he’d worn all summer. He had a deep tan and longish, light brown sun-streaked hair, and because they’d gone swimming together, Leanna knew he had a six-pack beneath his tank top and looked amazing in his board shorts.