There they stood in the slightly awkward situation.
Thanks to her sister Layla, Charlotte was standing in front of the dreamiest man she had set eyes on. This man was coated in flour.
Tegan looked familiar, but Charlotte couldn’t determine where she had seen him before.
A slightly younger, thinner version of Tegan brandished a hand broom. “We’ll have this cleaned in no time.”
He dressed more casually in jeans and a gray and red raglan shirt. The similarities in noses and square chins gave away that they were brothers. The man with the Nordic blue eyes that expressed a degree of seriousness despite his smile had to be Logan.
Charlotte switched her gaze between the brothers. Tegan’s eyes were more along the lines of a cobalt blue hue.
“I look more like my father.” Tegan tilted his head toward Logan. “The milkman left him on the porch and we decided to keep him.” A warm grin full of admiration contradicted the barb. .
“Don’t listen to him.” Logan waved the hand vacuum around like it was a weapon. “He’s just jealous because mom loves me best.”
“I can relate,” Layla took the hand broom and handed Charlotte the dust pan.
Layla had already won the battle of “What are we going to do for fun this weekend.” Charlotte wasn’t going to let her sister get the upper hand on this one. She said, “Ah, sibling rivalry at its best,” which meant I’m not going to play this game.
It was a skill her Aunt Lizbeth taught her. If you don’t pick up the ball, they can’t throw it back at you.
Tegan backed away, taking one step in slow motion. He was mid second step when Tegan said, “Hold still. Every time you move, flour falls off of you. This will be easier to clean if you let me get you in one quick swoop.”
“The quick swoop is what worries me.” Tegan held out his hand. Logan handed over the vacuum, again grinning. This time it was one of playful defeat.
Charlotte and Layla swept up the flour on the floor while having a conversation of their own. Flicks of eyes and subtle brow wags claimed dibs. A slight lip curve conveyed agreement. Who cares? Both are cute.
As Charlotte dropped the last dregs of flour into the trash bin, Tegan regaled Charlotte with stories about how Logan roped him into participating in events. He rolled his eyes before saying, “I still don’t know how he talked me into a cookie baking marathon.”
Logan nudged Layla with his elbow. “There may have been some comparisons to the baking shows and fans.” He smirked, “If he asks, tell him the cameras are hidden in the cabinets.”
Logan hid behind jokes, but she could tell that, like Layla, Logan found a sense of purpose when he offered a helping hand to whoever was in need.
“Oh, what happened here?” Janie Roberts, the director of Cookie Palooza, frowned at the mess until she saw Layla. Then she wagged her finger playfully, “You always were a trouble maker. Which means you know how to take care of this.”
Layla batted her eyes and shrugged as if to say, “Yes, I’m a clutz.”
Janie peeked down at the clipboard in her hands. “How do you feel about snickerdoodles?”
The four voices joined to become one. “They’re my favorite.”
Charlotte took the broom and swept the area where the flour had spilled. Layla held the dustpan in place and dumped the fine white dust in the trash. Tegan and Logan moved the bowls and vacuumed the cart rack.
Thanks to their combined efforts, the four of them had the area cleaned in less than five minutes, and Tegan was returned to appearing more like a bodyguard. It was also enough time for an alliance between the sibling families to form.
Janie directed them to the kitchen area, where they would spend the better part of the day. Six of the kitchenettes that were along the walls had teams of people working. The middle area of the room had two rows of four stoves that were lined back to back. Each of them had a cabinet to the side, with two stations sharing a sink.
As they stood among the cabinets, in the middle of the room, Janie reminded the newly formed team of four how the system worked. They’d bake the cookies. When they were cooled, the cookies were stored in containers. The batches of cookies were then delivered to the library. From there, volunteers packaged cookies that would be sold to raise money for the Spirit of Giving Fund.
Over the top of the stove, Charlotte noticed that Bernie Chapman was in the kitchen across from them with his crew. Bernie Chapman. Her stomach soured. The best friend of her ex-boyfriend was in the kitchen across from her for how many hours. Ugh.
Bernie waved. Out of politeness, Charlotte smiled to acknowledge that she saw him. She quickly turned to focus on what Janie was saying.
The entire time Janie talked, Charlotte threw quick glances at the chrome kitchen aid mixer. She baked at home but used either a food processor or mixed her ingredients by hand. A kitchen aid mixer was next level. TV baking contest next level. When Janie left, Charlotte caressed the top of the mixer like it was a new car. “If I’d have known we’d get to play with this, I might have signed up for an extra shift..”
“Oh, we know the secret to impressing Charlotte.” Tegan joked.
Bernie guffawed. “If only all women were that easy to impress.” He talked to Charlotte, “Why can’t I go for a girl like you?”
If Charlotte had feathers, every one of them would have been standing on end. Bernie didn’t have room to talk. He was geekier than her. She remembered Bernie stealing away her ex-boyfriend on more than one occasion for a board game night. She also knew that any banter with him would throw out a signal for attention. Charlotte pursed her lips and silenced her thoughts.
Then something glorious happened.
Tegan stepped in.
His voice was low and sexy like the men in the commercials. He flexed his biceps that said he’d completed thousands, if not millions, of push-ups in his lifetime. “I’ll arm wrestle you to use the mixer.”
The heaviest duty Charlotte did with her arms was to carry a stack of books.
“You win.” She laughed, and the air around her seemed lighter, sweeter, and friendlier.
Bernie squinted his eyes, and he released a frustrated “Bah!”
Charlotte sucked in a breath to contain her laughter. Her eyes connected with Tegan and his face shifted into an expression that asked, “What’s his problem?”
Bernie’s problem was Charlotte’s solution. Tegan.
Charlotte took in a breath and let the happy feeling settle in her chest.
Making fun of a person is easy. Everyone has quirks that make them different. In a sentence, Tegan showed Charlotte that hers made her special. In a good way.
“What if I want in on the contest?” Layla crossed her arms in front of her chest, her lip quirked in challenge, and her eyes sparkled.
“Rock-paper-scissors?” Logan held pressed his fisted hand into his other palm.
Charlotte rolled her eyes but there was laughter in her voice when she said, “Ah, sibling rivalry is the best.” Because she meant it. It really was