I jump, quickly whipping around to face the source of the deep voice. A man stands before me, smelling faintly of whiskey. Unlike many of the other clients, he is wearing plain, somewhat creased clothing. There is not a designer label or tag to be seen on his grey shirt or dusty brown cargo pants. Is he wearing Jesus-style sandals?
My eyes flicker up towards his face covered in three days' worth of stubble. His shaggy, unkempt hair appears surprisingly clean and soft.
I frown. "Who are you?" My tone is perhaps a little too sharp, a little too aggressive.
The man snorts, a snarky grin stretching his lips. "Why, aren't you just a ray of sunshine?"
I ignore his comment despite my growing irritation. "What do you want?"
He gestures vaguely in the direction of Glimmer who is now on the other side of the room, chatting with another blonde woman. She sporadically shoots angry glares in my direction, nodding frantically in response to a question posed by her friend.
"Princess wanted out. Something along the lines of 'by offending Peeta Mellarco, that insolent girl offended me and everything I stand for. I cannot bear to be in her presence any longer," he paused, distractedly peering into a stainless steel bowl placed on the bench, "- or something along those lines. I couldn't really understand most of the piercing mumbo-jumbo she was sprouting."
I frown. His deep, scratchy voice is coated in the all too familiar American accent. Unlike mine, however, his suggests that he originates from somewhere in the south. How on earth could he understand what Glimmer-the-quality-stripper was saying?
"You can understand Italian?"
He stops fiddling with the bowls, shooting me a smirk. "Be careful, sweetheart. If I was someone else, your evident surprise may have offended me." Right, 'offended him'. I get the feeling this man cares very little about what people think about him.
"Can you speak Italian or not?"
"I only speak the language of vino."
Vino? I frown in confusion.
"I am fluent in the language of wine. The only reason I came here was because we are going to try out some of the famous wines around Tuscany. I've tried shipping a couple of bottles of Sassicaia out to America, but Customs won't allow it -bloody bastards – so here I am, being forced to bake cakes and endure the company of a very unpleasant girl."
I feel myself flush with anger. I did not punch Peeta, but I am very tempted to punch this man in his slightly crooked nose. I take a deep breath and smooth away the flyaway hairs sticking to my forehead. "So, I gather we're partners?"
I really seem to be a magnet for jerks during this trip.
"The name's Haymitch. Haymitch Abernathy." He does not even bother to offer me a handshake, instead motioning towards the recipe booklet near the sink. "Are you gonna start soon?"
I shoot him a look of disdain. "Start what?"
He cocks an eyebrow. "The recipe?"
I glare at him, pushing the recipe towards his side of the bench. "I don't cook."
The ever-present smirk on Haymitch's face does not budge. "Neither do I, sweetheart."
"Then why are you even here?"
"I just told you. Now, the true question here is why are you even here?"
My glare intensifies as my tone sharpens. "It's none of your business!"
He stands half a metre away from me, leaning casually against the sink. His eyes meet mine and I refuse to be the first person to look away. I feel the tension growing in my shoulders and my hands tighten into balls at my sides. Suddenly, he looks away.
Ha, I win.
"Hey, Odair? I wanna swap partners!" His voice reverberates across the large space, echoing slightly. I jump and feel my face instantly blaze as a tiny droplet of sweat slithers down my neck. Asshole.
A tall, lithe man who is talking to a pretty pair of twins perks at the sound of his name. He searches for the source, sea-green eyes sparkling mischievously. After spotting Haymitch, he registers me standing beside the middle-aged man. His grin widens. Finnick turns towards the twins once more, whispering something in their ear causing them to giggle. He winks at them and begins to make his way towards us. His strides are long and confident – it is almost as if he is strutting rather than walking. His eyes will not leave mine, making me feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Ugh, what a show pony.
I feel my expression pull into my signature scowl, annoyance oozing from me like a new type of pheromone. When the sous-chef arrives at our bench, he raises his eyebrows innocently.
"Is there a problem, Mr Abernathy?"
Haymitch grunts, rudely pointing at me. "I want a refund – or a new partner."
"I couldn't agree more," I snap.
Finnick smirks, picking some lint from the tea towel folded over his forearm. "Wow, Everdeen. You sure aren't a people-person."
I am going to kill Prim when I arrive home. I really, really am.
The Adonis lookalike heaves a dramatic, mocking sigh. "Unfortunately, Mr Abernathy, there are no more partners available – and refunds aren't given," he winks at Haymitch "check the fine print."
Haymitch mutters something in Italian, causing Finnick to grin cheekily.
"I thought he said he couldn't speak Italian," I mutter quietly to myself.
"What did you say?" Haymitch stares at me questionably.
I throw my hands in the air once more, whipping towards the younger man. "Did I miss out on something before coming here? Was there a language requirement for this trip, because so far it seems as if everyone can understand and speak Italian apart from me!"
Haymitch rolls his eyes. "Calm down, girl. You're reminding me of Savelli."
I grit my teeth, biting down the frustrated scream brewing in the pit of my stomach. "My name is Katniss – and shut up."
Haymitch raises an eyebrow, glancing towards Finnick. "But then again, at least Savelli was well mannered." The younger man laughs.
"Um, excuse me?"
A young woman around the same age as me stands nervously behind Finnick. She is small and petite with flowing brown hair and green eyes. Her loose aquamarine dress reaches just above her knees and seems to be made from a delicate silk, reminding me of the ocean. As she shifts her weight nervously, her dress ripples like waves. She appears to be a lovely - if somewhat delicate – girl overall.
Finnick spins around, obviously showing off. "Hey," he smirks cheekily 'what can I do for you?" Before the girl could answer, he adds, "Just let it be known that unfortunately I cannot be your partner, but I would be delighted to help you out in any way I can."
The girl shifts uncomfortably, a frown appearing on her youthful face. "Actually, I was just wondering if there were any more copies of the basil gelato recipe – I accidently dropped my own in the sink and the writing is now illegible."
Both Haymitch and I snort loudly. For a fifth of a second, Finnick stares at the girl as if she were an alien – something frightening and new. Quickly, he recovers, stretching his lips into a lopsided smirk.
"Oh, of course. Yes, I do have another recipe – right here in fact." Finnick suddenly swipes the recipe from our bench, presenting it to the girl with a flourish.
"Hey!" I cry, "What the hell?"
The girl's expression of shock and surprise obviously shows that she was not at all expecting that. When Finnick pushes the recipe into her hands, she refuses it. "No, I can't take their recipe. What will they use?"
Honestly, I could not care less about the dumb piece of paper as I was definitely not in the mood to cooks right now. Despite this, however, I would not allow Finnick-the-show-pony to get away with his show-pony ways.
Haymitch shoots me a glare, hissing, "I thought you didn't want to cook?"
"Well, maybe I have just experienced a sudden wave of culinary inspiration," I retort.
Haymitch guffaws. "Right, you feeling creative. I don't think you have a single creative bone in your entire body."
"How can you say that? You literally just met me ten minutes ago!" I hear Finnick snort, but choose to ignore him for the time being.
The girl clears her throat, interrupting our argument. She grins awkwardly. "Ah, sorry to interrupt but don't worry about recipe. Table four has almost finished their preparation and agreed to let us use their recipe sheet."
Finnick swallows. "Right, ok. That's good."
The girl chuckles uncomfortably. "Well, thank you for your help all the same, Mr Odair."
Finnick seems to decipher some social cue and quickly jumps at responding. With his ever-present smirk, he offers a hand to the girl. "You're very welcome, Miss…?"
The girl glances down at his hand before seemingly deciding to ignore it. Instead, she offers him a polite smile. "Cresta. My name is Annie Cresta." She shoots both Haymitch and I equally polite smiles and spins on her heel, making her way to her bench.
Finnick stands frozen for a few seconds, his gaze flickering between his hand and the retreating back of Annie Cresta. His bewildered expression forces a bubble of laughter to explode out of my mouth. Even Haymitch joins in with my snarky chortles.
"What the hell…" I hear Finnick mumble before he shoots us a glare over his shoulder. "Oh, and I am serious about the partner thing, Haymitch. You're stuck with her," he adds with a sneer.
Haymitch's resounding groan reverberates around the room, only increasing in volume when I knock the rolling pin sitting on the bench onto his foot.
"You are psychopathic, girl!"
I know it has been forever since I last updated, but don't think that I've forgotten this story! I hope you like this chapter. Let me know what you think :)