Pecan Pie Predicament – Addison Moore

My rental house goes up in a wall of flames as if it were doused in kerosene, and all I can do is watch, slack-jawed and horrified. The sound of windows blowing out riots into the night like a bad rendition of a Fourth of July spectacular. Then, one by one, the windows on Everett’s second story detonate as glass rains down over the street. Both houses burn with a fury, with flames that reach to the heavens, red as sin, hot as hell. “Lot Lot!” Carlotta howls. “Your kid and your men are in that house!” “Evie!” I scream, and soon a pair of arms embraces me from behind. I turn to see Evie Baxter’s beautiful face, and I sob for a moment into her neck. “I’m sorry, Mom. I went to Hannah’s house. They were having a party. I didn’t do this, I swear.” “I know you didn’t,” I say as the firemen turn up full force, and I quickly spot my brother-in-law, Forest, in the mix. “Everett and Noah are in the house.” I point over to the towering flames. “They’re looking for Evie, but she’s here and she’s okay!” No sooner do I get the words out than a shadow darkens the door, and I run past Forest and up Everett’s driveway.

“Evie’s down here!” I shout. “She’s safe!” The shadow runs down the stairs, and I can see it’s Everett. “Oh, thank God,” I say as I collapse my arms around him. His body is dusted with soot and holds the heavy scent of smoke. “Where’s Noah?” I glance past him. “Noah is in there?” Everett’s blue eyes glow against the soot covering his face. Everett lets a few expletives fly as he pushes away. “Get to safety, Lemon. Watch over Evie,” he shouts. “Everett, stop!” I howl.

“The fire department is here. They can get him!” A beam falls ablaze into his living room as a part of the roof caves in. “I’m sorry, Lemon. But nobody knows that house like I do. And I want that damn fool out of there alive.” He barrels past me, and three different firefighters try their best to tackle him, but Everett makes his way into that burning inferno despite their efforts. “Dad!” Evie wails as she latches onto me for dear life, and we watch in horror as the structure begins to collapse. A line of firemen gets as far as the entry before trekking around to the side of the house. “They’re not going in.” Evie bucks with grief.

“Uncle Noah and Dad are on their own, aren’t they?” Words refuse to come. Mostly because I want so badly to comfort her, but I don’t know how. The sound of glass fracturing once again goes off, followed by a body jumping onto the patio roof from the second story before hopping onto the lawn below. The firefighters come at him and hold him up like a couple of bookends. They head this way, and I can see those familiar dimples digging in. “Noah.” I dash over and wrap my arms around him. “I’m fine, Lot.” He coughs. “I tweaked my knee.

I got it pinned under some debris. I’ll be fine.” “Oh, Noah.” I pull him even tighter. He looks from me to Evie. “Where’s Everett?” My lips part as I look back at the unholy blaze that rises high like a skyscraper. “No.” He moans as we watch what’s left of Everett’s home collapse in on itself. “No.” This time the word comes from me in a horrific moan.

Evie belts out an ear-piercing scream, and I join her as we wail our grief into the night. It can’t end like this for us. This can’t be happening. I’ve done this. Nell tried to warn me, and I brought on this fury, this evil into our lives, and now it’s costing me everything. God forgive me. Oh, Everett, please forgive me. I fall to my knees and howl with grief. I never want to stop. I can’t.

A maniacal echoing laughter comes from above, and I look up to see that lavender aura ignite the sky. “You are paying dearly,” a disembodied voice warbles from up above. No. I shake my head up at the sky because I refuse to believe it. This isn’t over. It’s not over by a long shot. Grief mixed with rage wails from me. And I pray Everett and I aren’t over by a long shot as well. Let the world burn to rubble. Just give me Everett.

From behind, I hear the whisperings of those in the crowd as they hiss in unison like a chorus—the Hearst curse strikes again. And I wonder. A dark shadow staggers out of the house and I scream once again, this time with relief. Everett stumbles to the porch, down the stairs, before collapsing onto the lawn. The first responders are on him, swarming him with their good intentions, as the rest of us watch with hope. They do their best to resuscitate him. They never stop. I won’t let them. Present day MY NAME İS LOTTİE LEMON, and I see dead people. Okay, so rarely do I see dead people.

Mostly I see furry creatures of the dearly departed variety who have come back from the other side to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom. But right now, I’m not seeing a dead anything. Instead, I’m seeing two unfairly handsome men ready to duke it out. Everett growls at Noah, “You were responsible for my broken arm then, just the same way you are now. Not to mention the lung damage.” Noah’s chest pumps with a dry laugh. “Hear that, Lot? Stick with this guy and you’ll get to play the blame game the rest of your life. And watch out, he’s an excellent opponent when it comes to holding grudges—a real finger pointer.” Everett shoots Noah a look. “Funny you should mention that.

Because of you, I have five less fingers I’m able to point with.” He holds up his left arm, showing off the cast wrapped from his elbow to his thumb. Everett—Judge Essex Everett Baxter—a black hair, blue-eyed god among men, just so happens to be my official plus one. We tied the knot last December so that he could get the full payout from his trust fund. It was more or less a business transaction at the time, but we were an item for a small season just before that. Oddly enough, I was actually dating Noah at the time I married Everett, and well, Noah and I decided to part ways last summer so I could see if Everett and I still had a spark. Suffice it to say, we have a blaze between us, so much so that both of our houses burned to the ground just a week ago. In fact, Everett thought Noah was still inside the burning structure and risked his life, thus breaking one of his limbs, to rescue him. Everett passed out as soon as he stumbled out of the flames and was hospitalized for three days while he recovered. I’ve been babying him ever since.

Everett is a bona fide hero, and I never want to let him forget that. His birthday is later this month, and I’m aiming to throw a surprise party for him. “Come and get your chocolate covered bacon—and fried pickles!” I bellow over the blooming crowd gathering along Main Street for the Taste of Honey Hollow Street Fair. It’s something the town council decided would take place every other Saturday of November leading right up to Thanksgiving. And my shop, the Cutie Pie Bakery and Cakery, has a booth right outside the door of my establishment. The autumn air is crisp today as thick clouds hang overhead with the very real threat of rain. Maple leaves as dry as paper cartwheel down the sidewalk, in every shade of red and orange, as if they were giving an homage to the season. The air holds the aroma of every sweet and savory treat this cozy town has to offer, and judging by the bustling bodies crowding just about every booth here, the people very much approve of those scents. A hard grunt comes from my left as my co-worker, Lily Swanson, plops another box full of sweet treats down in front of me. “Pecan pies!” she belts it out with such ferocity, more than a number of heads turn in our direction.

“Come and get your pecan pies!” She snorts my way. “Sorry, Lottie, but bacon and pickles do not a bakery make. Just because you’re knocked up and eating like a sorority girl after a bender, doesn’t mean the rest of Vermont wants to be dragged into your nutritional nightmare.” It’s true—the knocked up part. I’ve got a bun in the oven that’s been cooking for close to five months now. That’s actually the good news in this scenario. The not so good news? I’m not sure who the father is. I mean, I’ve narrowed the field, and there are just two contenders, Noah and Everett. But this isn’t exactly the scenario I dreamed of for my life, or the life of my child. Although, once the baby is born, we’re doing a paternity test pronto, so my little sugar cookie won’t have to wonder who its daddy is.

I glance to Noah and Everett, who are still actively engaged in a rather animated conversation. Noah Fox has dark hair that turns red at the tips in the sun, eyes as green as a lime, and dimples deep enough to get lost in. He’s the lead homicide detective down in Ashford County and has been breaking hearts ever since he set foot in Honey Hollow—namely mine. We were going strong until his wife popped up out of the blue. I had no idea he was married, or separated as it were, but that little matrimonial detail landed us on a rocky trajectory. Everett and Noah head back this way, both with a determined look on their faces. “Essex,” Lily snips. “Please explain to your wife that the name of the bakery game is sweet treats, not pickled feet.” “I’m not hocking pickled feet,” I say. Although, come to think of it, my shoes feel two sizes too small this afternoon.

Do feet grow once you’re pregnant? There is still so much I don’t know about this whole motherhood deal—this whole growing a life inside of me deal. I am, however, quite familiar with the restroom, thanks to my newly hyperactive bladder and my incessant urge to have a second look at my breakfast. But no matter how nauseous I seem to get, my appetite is still going strong. I shoot Lily a look of annoyance. “And would you stop calling him Essex? Every time you do that I feel like you’re posturing.” More like smashing the fact she’s previously slept with my husband right into my face like a coconut cream pie. Even though Essex is Everett’s first name, he prefers to go by his middle name, Everett. The only women I’ve ever heard call him by his proper moniker are women with whom he’s danced in the sheets. It’s sort of a naughty door prize. Of course, his mother and sister are the exceptions to that coital rule.

And even though I more than qualify to call him Essex all I like, I still refer to him by the name I’ve grown accustomed to. “Sorry, Lot.” Lily shrugs as she slices up another pecan pie. “I’ve garnered the right to shout Essex from the rooftops, and so have half of the women in Vermont. You’ve never mentioned anything about it bothering you before. I’m guessing it’s that baby in your belly turning you into a moody monster.” A crowd steps up and Lily gets straight to selling pecan pies by the slice. Good thing, too, because I was getting tempted to do a little slicing myself, and my pies had nothing to do with it. Okay, so she’s right. I’ve been more than a little moody lately.

Noah chuckles. “You can give me some fried pickles, Lottie.” Everett grunts, “See that, Lemon? Had you chosen Noah, you would have ended up with a mooch.” His lips curve at the tips. Everett rarely calls me anything but Lemon, and I don’t mind one bit. Everett is dangerously handsome. It’s a known fact the baristas the world over have dubbed him Mr. Sexy, and with good reason. Everett’s face alone has the power to disarm nuclear codes. He’s built like a linebacker and hardly ever smiles.

He’s a lean, mean, serious machine who happens to rule the roost as a presiding judge down at the Ashford County Courthouse. Both Noah and Everett are somewhere in their mid-thirties, and I’m barreling toward thirty myself. About six different women crane their necks in this direction to get a better look at the two handsome studs before me, and suddenly the booth is bustling with females. Let’s hope they’ve got a hankering for something other than Noah and Everett. Lily tosses a glance my way. “Lottie, we’ll need more pecan pies soon. And try not to eat the inventory this time.” Noah leans in. “Don’t worry, Lot. I’ll never judge you for having a healthy appetite.

I’ll be your eating buddy. Mangias has a booth across the street. Do you want anything?” “Ohh, a slice of pizza, extra cheese, please. On second thought, I’d better make that a couple of slices. The baby is hungry, too.” Lily chortles as she passes us by. “She’ll add the frosting herself.” She’s not wrong. But who cares? There’s nothing as satisfying as a little vanilla frosting along the crust. “Lemon.

” Everett steps in close just as a tall, beefy man wearing a red tank top steps up to the booth and swipes a plate of pecan pie before taking off. “Hey?” I call out in a semi-friendly tone. “Oh, never mind.” Everett turns in the direction I’m looking in. “What is it?” “That man in the red shirt just took off with a slice of pecan pie. But don’t worry about it. It’s the first day of the fair. Half the people here think the food is free. Were you going to say something?” “I have news.” A devilish gleam takes over his eyes, but before he can expound on the news, Carlotta Sawyer, aka my biological mother, comes up panting as if she just ran a lap around Honey Lake.

Carlotta and I look as if we could be twins, with the exception of the fact she’s ahead of me in the gray hair, crow’s feet, and wrinkles department. We share the same caramel-colored tresses, same hazel eyes, and penchant for seeing the dead. We’re both something called transmundane, further classified as supersensual, meaning we can see right to the other side—the supernatural side. Carlotta holds up a finger. “I just sampled a dish from each and every booth at the fair.” “Carlotta.” I grimace her way. “It wasn’t a race. The fair is open until eight. You’ll have plenty of time to make ten or twelve rounds.

.

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