It’s kind of surprising how often my heroes bake cookies. But, at Christmas it almost seems inevitable. Here’s Aldo–one of the heroes of my futuristic holiday menage Finders Keepers–baking one of my personal favorites.
Blurb: Sometimes finding what you want is the easy part.
Caleb is a bionic soldier with little-to-no memory of his past. He’s seeking the truth about himself and those missing memories.
Aldo’s an undercover cop who just might have the answers to Caleb’s questions. But if Caleb’s the man Aldo thinks he is, how can he let him get away a second time?
Then there’s Sally; she’s an ER physician who used to be married to Aldo’s late partner, Davis. Sally’s not dealing with widowhood very well. In fact, it’s getting harder, every day, just to find a reason to keep getting out of bed. If the truth about the men’s shared past comes to light, she could lose them both. Along with her last, best reason to go on living.
This holiday season, chance will bring them together and give them an opportunity to help one another find what they each want most. But every gift comes with a price. And keeping what they’ve found once they’ve found it? Yeah, that’s gonna be the hard part.
Aldo was baking cookies. Spicy black-pepper-cinnamon cookies—Davis’s favorite. He rolled the dough thin, then cut them out using the maple-leaf cookie cutter Sally and Davis had brought him back from Vancouver. Then he decorated them with sanding sugar in a variety of colors, some in plain red or green in a nod to the season, some swirled with autumn shades of burgundy and gold, others frosted just at the tips in blue and white, as though they’d been touched by an ice fairy. Maple leaves weren’t particularly Christmasy, he supposed, but he didn’t care. He liked the way the cookies looked, liked the way the edges browned first, like real leaves would. Besides, he doubted anyone else here would even notice what shape cookies he made…not unless he used the pornographic cookie cutters he’d received one year as a gag gift. Too bad he wasn’t in the mood to play around like that. Not when he was the only one in the house who wasn’t getting any.
That was a big part of the reason he was baking, come to think of it—because he had nothing better to do. Or no one better to do. No one at all to do, for that matter—but let’s not go there. And because baking cookies was part of what he’d always done at this time of year.
Of course, in years past he’d baked mostly because Davis, who had a hellacious sweet tooth, couldn’t get enough of them. But Sally had always liked his cookies as well, and anything that made her happy, anything that made her feel like the world hadn’t ended with Davis’s death was a good thing. They both needed to feel like that. Besides, the weather had turned cold and it had been snowing for the better part of the afternoon, so going for another hike was out unless he wanted to end up with hypothermia. He could either bake or spend all his time curled up in front of the fire thinking gloomy thoughts. He’d done more than enough of that in the past few days.
He was happy Sally had found someone—truly, he was. Even if it was someone they knew so little about, someone who knew too little about himself. Someone whose very presence left Aldo feeling conflicted and confused. After a solid week of scrutiny and daily observation, Aldo was still no closer to solving the mystery that had been plaguing him. Their “vacation” time was almost over, and Aldo was beginning to despair of ever learning the truth. Were Kyle and Caleb the same person? Did it matter? What would it mean if they were? He was almost afraid to find out.
Aldo could still recall the grief he’d felt when he’d learned Kyle had been killed, the frustration when he could get no details, no answers, no closure. If it turned out Kyle hadn’t died after all, Aldo didn’t even know how he was supposed to feel about that. A lot would depend on why. If Kyle had been so badly hurt that this was the only option, the only way to save his life, that was one thing. He’d feel nothing but grateful then. But wouldn’t Aldo have been told about it, if that were the case? There wouldn’t be any reason for secrecy in that scenario. If this was something Kyle had chosen, on the other hand, if he’d made a conscious decision to off his former self… But no. No, damn it. Why would he do that? Had he thought at all what it would mean to make a total break with his past, to disappear forever? Had he even considered that he’d be breaking Aldo’s heart all over again?
Aldo continued to roll out more cookie dough as he thought, slamming the rolling pin hard on the counter at the start of each pass. Maybe he wasn’t being fair. After all, Aldo had been the one to end things, to break things off between them. They had been over for months before Kyle’s death…his supposed death. Maybe Kyle had honestly believed it wouldn’t matter to Aldo if he lived or died. Maybe he even had reason to feel that way.
Kyle had tried to contact Aldo in the weeks leading up to his disappearance, but Aldo had been incommunicado at that point, immersed in his own training, his own transformation. He didn’t learn about those failed attempts to reach out to him until it was too late. Those missed calls and unread messages had preyed on his mind. They’d been a big part of Aldo’s disillusionment with the military, and the main reason he’d decided to buy his way out. He’d given away his right to make his own decisions, the freedom to think for himself—to go where he needed to be, to do what he needed to do. He’d never make that mistake again.