Cup of tea, cookies, chocolate – Depositphotos

December seems to always be a busy month, whether it’s day-jobs, family obligations, or holidays. Seems like it might also be a good time to remind ourselves to take some short breaks to retain our sanity, doesn’t it?

When my boys were little, we did a lot of baking in December, way more than I do these days. I would venture a guess that we used to have at least a dozen different kinds of cookies at once, plus a cake or pie of some sort, breads, and occasionally candies.  I never did get my sand tarts as thin as my Grandma’s used to be, and I eventually gave up trying. I did persuade my other Grandma to share her recipe for the nut rolls she used to bake that I loved so much–those aren’t quite right either, but I’m still trying. These days, I may make two or three different kinds of cookies, max, mostly for the boys.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else would bake cookies for us, so we could enjoy them without all the work (and the clean-up!)? I haven’t managed to persuade the boys that baking is all that much fun (when they were littler, they mostly liked the cookies we rolled, cut out and then decorated, and it was messy), and there were a number of years when I was still working retail that I barely had time to make dinner, let alone multiple batches of cookies in December.  These days, my December day-job schedule isn’t quite that crazy, though busier this year than the past few. But it feels like there are still a million things to do.

Which is why I am thinking about a break, and I think you should all take a break, too. At least once a day, take a short break where you can sit down for five or ten minutes with the beverage of your choice (I have raspberry hot chocolate in my mug right now), maybe a book, maybe just enjoy the quiet, and relax, or try to. I’m trying to sneak in some relaxation time today between chores (only one more load of laundry to go!), like doing some reading for a friend, and doing some writing for me, and maybe later a bit of reading.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to sneak much of that in next weekend, because I’ll probably have to go in to the office for a couple of hours, but I will still make the attempt.

Before I get back to my chores, I have a little story snippet for you, from the fifth story in my shifter series.

________________

Joe blinked at the scowl on Piper Finnegan’s face when the door swung open. Somehow, he’d expected she might be happy to see him. Or hoped she would. He cleared his throat. “Hi, Piper.”

“What’s he done now?”

Wow, not even a hello. “Nothing that I know of. I came to see you.”

The wariness in her eyes didn’t dissipate, but she took a step back and gestured inside.

This might not be as easy as he’d assumed. He walked inside, noting the wispy blond hair and wary blue eye peering at him from behind the battered sofa. Her daughter. He smiled, and the eye and hair vanished. Bashful. Or afraid? His smile faded a little. “Am I interrupting anything?” He turned, noting that Piper relocked the door before she faced him.

“No, we were going to start making supper soon, though.”

Joe tamped down the urge to smile at her brusque tone, the not-so-subtle warning in her words. “You should sit, Piper.”

Her mouth tightened, but, after a few seconds, she came away from the door and perched on the edge of the sofa.

Joe dropped carefully on the battered armchair. Satisfied it was sturdier than it looked, he set his elbows on his knees and studied her. Dark smudges marred the fair skin beneath her eyes, and her shiny brown hair was scraped back away from her face into a knot, but wisps brushed her temples and ears. The white blouse she wore was creased, as if it had been bunched under some other garment all day, and her dark grey pants were wet at the bottom. He frowned.

Piper cleared her throat, and he met her gaze again. “Why are you here, Joe?”

He saw her daughter peek around the sofa again, but he kept his gaze on Piper’s face. “I just found out what’s been happening to you because of Chris.”

Her eyes widened a little, and she opened her mouth. A knock at the door made her shut it again, her jaw tightening slightly. “I’m sorry, I need to see who that is,” she murmured as she got to her feet again.

Joe waited while she went to the door, smiling at the little girl who peeked around the edge of the chair at him, solemn and wide-eyed.

“Hey, Piper, just wanted to let you know I got the rent money. You sure you don’t wanna do a trade instead? Keep your money?”

Joe’s attention snapped to the man at the open door–human, maybe forty-ish, slightly paunchy with tumbled brown hair that fell into his eyes, eyes that crawled over Piper’s chest.

“I’m sure,” she said politely, though her fingers tightened on the door.

The man tsked. “Baby, you should reconsider. I gotta lotta people who’d like a nice apartment like this.”

Joe’s eyebrows shot up, as he considered the scratched bare wood floor and the painted metal kitchen cabinets that had to be from the seventies. ‘A nice apartment’? The guy must be high.

Piper swallowed. “I’m sure,” she repeated.

“You an’ that cute little girl–”

Joe shoved to his feet, and the other man’s gaze finally shifted from Piper’s chest to Joe’s face, surprise widening his eyes a little.

“Oh, hey, man. Didn’ know I was poaching.”

Joe glared at him, but when he opened his mouth, he saw Piper shake her head, just a little. He swallowed back his first thought, searched for something else that wouldn’t be out of line, but–

“Or maybe you wanna share?”

His fists clenched, and he took three long strides toward the door and Piper.

The other man held up both hands in surrender. “Or not. Didn’ mean any harm.” He backed up a step, glancing at Piper. “Hey, your boyfriend isn’t stayin’ here, is he?”

“No, and neither is she. Give her rent money back,” Joe growled.

Piper’s eyes widened, and she opened her mouth.

“Now,” Joe said.

The other man’s shoulders dipped a little. “Shit, all right, man. Gimme a minute.” He took another step back.

“I’ll go along.” Joe looked at Piper. “I’ll be right back.” He held her gaze and read the worry mingled with the resignation. It would do for now. He followed the super back the dingy hallway, fishing his phone out of his pocket as they went. He thumbed it on and chose a number from his contacts.

The other man fumbled open a door, revealing a living room with toys and clothing scattered around the floor and on the ratty furniture.

“I need a hand,” Joe said into his phone when his cousin answered.

Anton cleared his throat. “Where are you?”

Alarm widened the landlord’s eyes as Joe recited the address. “Hey, I’ve got the money, man.”

Joe resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Apartment 1D,” he added. “We’re moving someone out.”

The other man didn’t look any happier, but he turned to a small wooden box on the battered kitchen table, opening it and taking out a white envelope. Joe crossed the dingy linoleum and took the envelope. Cash. Gods. And too much for this dump, judging by the feel of it.

He glared at the other man. “Someone should tell your wife about you.” He turned away, only slightly gratified by the cowed silence behind him.

The door to Piper’s apartment was closed, so he knocked again. She opened it right away, as if she’d been standing there waiting. He handed her the envelope as he entered the room. “I can help you pack.”

She lifted wide, worried eyes to his face. “Where do you think we have to go, Joe?”

“You let me worry about that for tonight.” He saw her daughter peeking at him again from behind the chair, and he smiled. “Where should we start?”

Piper sighed, shoulders slumping. “Why don’t you let me do this?”

“It’ll go faster if I help, and one of my cousins will be here soon to give us a hand.”

Distress clouded her eyes. “That isn’t necessary.”

He winked at her. “Mostly it’s to be sure that moron doesn’t give us any trouble. Come on, Piper, let’s go pack.” He glanced over his shoulder to make sure she’d latched the deadbolt.

Defeated, she moved around the rocking chair toward the open doorway on the other side of the room.

________________

Now it’s back to chores for me since my hot chocolate is gone, but I hope you make time for a little break, too. Let me know how that goes for you this week!

Tea, books & heart cookies – Depositphotos

 

 

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