“Who’s Rainier?” he asks, looking out the window as the snow continues to fall in thicker and thicker layers.
“He’s my older brother. He’s bringing his girlfriend home to meet the family this Christmas Eve.”
“Rainier’s kind of a strange name for a guy.”
“You’re talking to a girl named Cookie Crumble and Rainier is the name that seems strange to you?”
He laughs. “I know your name is a bit strange, and I think you know that too. You don’t need me to remind you.”
“And you’re named Baker Burns. A suggestion that you’re a baker who burns things.” I sigh, shaking my head. “My brothers are Rainier and Hood, they’re named after local mountains. My mother thinks a name should instill values you want in someone. Her boys should be hard, reliable, and able to withstand the worst of times.”
“And that means you’re meant to be so sweet that I want to eat you all up?”
I turn slightly red at his words. “Maybe that’s what she meant. Or she just really liked the combination with Crumble, and thought I’d get teased a whole lot less than a boy named Cookie.”
He turns and chuckles. I can tell he’s biting his tongue, maybe trying not to make some joke about wanting to taste my cookie. It’s a cheesy pickup line that I heard constantly throughout high school, but despite that, I wouldn’t mind hearing it from him.
“Now that we’ve broken the ice, would you like something to drink? We got the whole night to ourselves and I think we both could do with a little something special.”
“A drink? Um, sure, I’d like more tea.”
He shook his head. “I meant more like something to take the edge off, Cookie.”
He goes to the fireplace and sets some logs down, adding fuel and getting the blaze going before he heads into the kitchen and leaves me to my own devices. My mind is rushing with possibilities of what the night will bring. I’ve always wanted more of him, but I have to admit that the suddenness of being here with him makes me a tad anxious.
The fire crackles to life, and soon, Baker returns with two mugs, one of which he sets down on the side table next to the sofa that’s currently my home.
He sits down on an armchair to the side, and takes a sip.
I’m more tentative in picking up the mug. It’s hot, but not overwhelmingly so. There’s a bit of lemon floating in the brown liquid, and I take a sip. It’s strangely soothing.
“Take it you’re not too experienced with alcohol?” Baker asks.
I nod. “My parents are old-fashioned like that.”
“This is nothing major. Just a hot toddy.”
“What’s in it?”
“A bit of whiskey, some honey and lemon juice, and a few more spices of my own choice mixed in. It’s something my mother taught me to make.”
“Your mother taught you how to drink whiskey?”
“She gave it to me when I had the flu as a teenager. Insisted it would help.”
I smile. “Did it help?”
“Got me buzzed enough that I didn’t care as much. Probably not the best medicine, and I’ve treated it as such since. It’s one of my favorites though.”
Another sip and I’m nodding. “I think I’m liking it too.”
“I’ll show you my recipe sometime. It’s not exactly the same as my mom’s, I’ve modified and tinkered with it to make it better.”
I nod his way. “I like a man who isn’t afraid of the kitchen.”
He grumbles. “A man should be able to cook for his woman, because even if she strives to be the most traditional housewife she can be, there’s going to be times when she’s not able to do the cooking herself. Feeding the family is everyone’s responsibility in my opinion.”
More nodding. “Nothing unmanly about wearing an apron. It can be kind of sexy sometimes.”
“Especially if the apron is worn with nothing else, huh?” He lets out a deep belly laugh, and I join him.
“So, um, I’ve been wondering,” I say, taking another sip of the hot toddy. “My dad says you’re building an ice rink for the town? Why?”
“There isn’t one here, mainly. Growing up I had to travel over an hour into the city to get to a rink, and I’m thankful that my dad cared enough to help me do that, or I’d never have been able to go pro.”
I look at him with shock. “Go pro? Pro what?”
“Professional hockey player. Retired now. I saved my money, and decided to get out while I still had all my teeth. Plenty of lumps elsewhere, though.”
More giggles from me. “I’ve never followed hockey, so I never would have known you were famous.”
“Part of the reason that I came back home. A little bit of anonymity gets restored to my life here.”
“Back home? You’re from Linesworth?”
Another nod. “Haven’t lived here in nearly twenty years, but it’s definitely home for me.”