A Tumi Inca Knife and a Regency Romance. How is this going to work?
Helen wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. The meager, thatched roof of the fruit stand did little more than keep the sun off of them while at the same time trapping the damp heat of the July day underneath, making Helen think she stood in an oven.
“Your admirer is coming.” Mary gave Helen a nudge with her elbow.
“He’s not my admirer,” Helen muttered.
“Oh?” Mary looked at Helen with raised eyebrows. “Then why does he come to buy fruit each day?”
Helen arranged the fruit in the baskets. “Because we’re the only people who have apricots.”
“He has servants who could fetch him as many apricots as he could eat, and yet here he comes.”
Helen glanced up and found Mr. Altham and his friend Mr. Langdon walking up the road. Their fine jackets and collars along with their shining boots looked out of place among the other fruit buyers, who wore more conservative attire.
“This is the third day in a row he’s been here,” Mary said.
“It is as I said, he likes apricots.” Helen arranged the fruit again and forced herself to believe the words. Mr. Altham had paid extra attention to her during all of his visits. He bowed to her and engaged in spirited conversation for much longer than his friend looked comfortable with.
A quick look told Helen that they were close. She felt a blush rising as she studied Mr. Altham. He stood tall and straight with long limbs and wide shoulders. His blue waistcoat complemented his eyes, and curly brown hair topped his head. Each time he smiled, her heart skipped a beat.
“He’s all yours,” Mary said.
“Wait,” Helen protested as Mary moved to help another customer. Mary ignored her. Helen took a breath, swallowed a growing sense of apprehension, and met Mr. Altham’s eyes as he approached.
As usual, he bowed. Deep and low. His friend gave her a small bow.
“Miss Kendal. How good to see you.”
Helen curtsied and bowed her own head. “Mr. Altham. We are honored to have you visit us again.” When she looked up, she found him grinning.
“You are the only stand with apricots.” He gently pounded a fist on the warped, wood top of the stand. “I must have them!”
Mr. Langdon rolled his eyes. A very un-gentleman like gesture, and it was doubtful that anyone else noticed, but Helen had been watching for it. He didn’t approve of his friend’s coming here, but he still came with him. Helen hadn’t figured out what that meant yet. She cleared her throat. “Well, we happen to have a fine batch today. I picked them this morning.”
“This morning? How wonderful.” Mr. Altham continued to smile, as if his features has been frozen that way. “I will take my usual order.”
“Of course.” Helen had already set a small bag of the best apricots aside for him. This is why she assumed he kept coming back. She retrieved the bag and set it before him.
He beamed. “You have anticipated me.”
Mr. Altham took a small pouch from his pocket and drew out a silver coin.
Helen’s eyes went wide. “That’s too much.”
“Nonsense. This is for the apricots and for always taking such good care of me.” He held out the coin.
Helen hesitated. They could purchase a new roof with that coin. Or perhaps a new dress or two for her and Mary.
“Come, now,” Mr. Altham said. “Please take it or I shall be very cross.”
Cross? Helen was certain that Mr. Altham couldn’t be cross if he tried. The sincerity shining in his eyes melted Helen’s heart, and she curtsied again. “Thank you.” When she reached out to take the coin, their fingers touched, and the world stopped.
Warmth flowed from the point of contact as the two of them stared at one another. Everyone around them faded away. Mr. Altham’s blue eyes stared into hers, and she wanted to get lost in them.
Mary cleared her throat, jerking Helen out of the moment. She quickly withdrew her hand.
Mr. Altham coughed. He glanced around and then looked back at Helen. “I also have a gift for you.”
“A—A gift?” Helen’s mouth dried out.
“Yes.” He handed the bag of apricots to Mr. Langdon and pulled a cloth-wrapped bundle from inside of his coat. He set it before him and slid it over to her.
Helen stared at it. She longed to reach out and touch it. To open it and see what lay hidden beneath the folds. However, she knew her place. “I can’t accept it,” she said in a soft voice.
His smiled faltered for a moment, but recovered as he began to unwrap the package. “You see, it’s useful. I saw you trying to cut some of the fruit with your old knife, and when I saw this I knew that you could use it.” The words tumbled out as the contents emerged.
A half-circle blade, the size of her hand, was topped by a representation of a strange-looking man with an ornate halo around his head. It was beautiful and mysterious at the same time.
When she tore her eyes away, she found Mr. Altham watching her. “I got it from a man who got it from the Americas. They use it for everything there. It’s wicked sharp, and you should have no trouble cutting your fruit with it.” He held it out as if it were his most prized possession.
Before she could refuse it, he snatched her hand and pressed the unique knife into it. “Please, accept it.”
Helen opened her mouth to talk. Before she could get words out let stepped back and smiled. “I’ll be back tomorrow to see how it goes.” Then he turned and walked away.
“Still not an admirer?” Mary asked.
Helen shook her head, wondering what had just happened.
This is the best I could do!
Not going to lie, the hubby helped me with this one. My mind totally blanked out.
Genre – Regency Romance
Location – Fruit Stand
Random Object – Tumi Inca Knife
Here’s a picture in case you have no idea what that is. Pretty sure it wasn’t used to cut fruit…