-Carolyn concentrated on squeezing out just the right amount of icing for the gingerbread cookie she was decorating. This batch was going to be her contribution to Dylan and Erin’s upcoming Christmas party, so she wanted them to be perfect.
Footsteps alerted her to someone entering the kitchen. She knew it was Jared. He always showed up when she was baking. Without looking away from her task, she said, “Don’t you dare.”
“What?” he asked innocently.
“You know what. These are for the party.”
“Oh, come on,” he whined, reminding her of how he used to beg his mom for cookies as a kid. “Just one. They won’t even know.”
Biting back a smile, she focused on creating a smooth, even line. “There!” She smiled brightly as she stood up. “That’s the last one.”
When she looked at him triumphantly, she saw he was chewing. “Jared Benjamin Grayson! What did I say?”
“What?” he mumbled around the mouthful of cookie. “It was an ugly one.”
“Excuse you. None of my cookies are ugly.”
He shrugged a shoulder. “I just wanted to make sure they taste good.”
Crossing her arms, she shook her head. Some things never changed. Sighing, she said, “You’re supposed to be shopping today.”
His face scrunched into a grimace. “I need your help.”
Of course he did. Every year was the same. He always came to her for help buying Erin’s gift. As she untied her apron, she sighed. “You know, one day you’re going to have to do this on your own. She’s your sister. How hard can it be to find something she likes?”
They both knew she was going to give in and help him. She always did. Shopping together for Erin had become their tradition. They’d been doing it since they were kids, and she secretly looked forward to it every year. But she had to keep up the annoyed act. It was part of the tradition.
“I just want it to be special,” he grumbled, his mouth turning down in a pout.
“Fine,” she said. “I have to put these cookies away, but they need time to set first.”
His face brightened. “Thanks, Care, you’re the best.” He wandered over to the kitchen table and opened a tin. “Hah! Found it!”
She chuckled as she watched him bite into a piece of tiger butter fudge. Knowing it was his favorite thing his mother used to make for him, she made a point to make it every year.
When he turned to her, his eyes were glassy. “Thank you, Care.”
The emotion in his voice caused her own throat to thicken. She nodded. “You’re welcome.”-