"I can NOT believe your man knocked on that bedroom door to get us up and then went back to bed," Claude grumbled as he worked the next morning. "I remember times in my life that I was just going to bed at this time of night, and you two got me up making donuts."
"Yeah, and you could make them faster if you would stop whining and pay attention to what you're doing," Keagan laughed as he reached over and stopped his big brother from dusting the powdered sugar donuts with flour instead of sugar. "Go look in that second refrigerator on the top shelf. There's a bottle there with yesterday's leftover coffee. Drink it."
"You want me to drink day-old coffee? Are you trying to kill me?"
"I'm trying to wake you up, and Chay does that some mornings to make sure that he's awake," Keagan laughed again. "It won't kill you, but you're going to want some…. Ok, maybe not." He had been about to suggest adding milk and sugar to the coffee in the bottle, but Claude had just turned the bottle up and taken a big swig as it was.
"AHHHHGGGGHHHH! I knew it; you were trying to kill me," Claude gasped, screeched, and whined. "You could have told me he takes it black. How does he swallow that?? Oh my God. I think my eyes are bleeding now."
"I tried to tell you, but you weren't listening," Keagan gasped out as; he held onto the counter he was laughing so hard. He then gasped as a big dollop of the white crème for filling some of the pastries splattered all over his face. He immediately launched a counterattack, using raspberry jelly filling as his weapon of choice. Ten minutes later, he squeaked like a mouse caught in a trap as Chay entered the kitchen from the stairs at the same time as a policeman entered from the dining area.
"Mr. Anthony is everything alright in here?" the cop asked as he looked around the destroyed room, taking in the appearance of the two combatants as well.
"Does it look alright, Frank?" Chay growled. He turned on his two employees. "Do you want to tell me what is going on here? What are you both doing in here looking like this when you have customers out front to be served?"
"Umm… Chay, there aren't any customers," Frank the policeman butted in. "Mrs. Pernell was waiting at the door for you guys to open, and she got concerned when you were late opening up. She saw me walking the other side of the street and called me over. When I heard yelling inside, well… umm… I broke out the window in the door to get in here and check on you."
"I'll pay for the window," Claude offered up, then he blushed and looked back at the floor.
"You're darn right you're going to pay for the window, but with what?" Chay asked him very calmly. "You two have ruined the entire stock for the day. We have nothing to sell to the customers, and it will take at least an hour to get this kitchen cleaned up to start over. Keagan, where do you think you're going?" he called out as he whipped around to stop the teen from going up the stairs.
"I was going upstairs to pack," the shaking young man whispered, as he wiped tears from his face.
"Pack? What are you talking about?"
"Well, you're going to fire me for messing up your business, so…"
"I'm not… I could never..." the baker stammered before being cut off by Frank.
"Chay, am I correct in hearing that this child is an employee here?" the policeman demanded as he walked closer to Keagan. "And am I booking this other one for sexual assault of a minor?"
"Sexual assault?" Claude gasped. "What are you… OH… that's not… that's not what you think it is, officer, I swear. It's the cream filling for the pastries. It was a food fight, that's all. I swear I never… I wouldn't do that to my baby brother."
"Claude would NEVER," Keagan snapped at Officer Frank. "He's my brother. That's just… EEEWWW! Shame on you for even thinking that." He grimaced and shook all over in disgust at the thought, but then he straightened up and glared at the policeman. If looks could kill, Frank would be a puddle of steaming goo on the floor. "And I AM NOT A CHILD!" he growled as he stomped his foot and crossed his arms over his chest in a very mature, not childlike at all, pout. Altogether, it came across about as ferocious as a six-week-old kitten.
Frank diplomatically stepped back with one hand up in surrender and apology while the other hid his grin, but Chay saw the smile anyway. The policeman then looked over at Claude, who was covered head to toe in raspberry jelly, chocolate cream filling, powdered sugar, flour and apparently bits of dough as well. Looking back at Keagan, he saw the one blob of cream filling on his face. That was it. He stepped closer and took Keagan's hand by the wrist, holding it over the young man's head. "The winner!" he announced with a grin. The teenager blushed profusely, causing Chay to fall over onto a counter; he was laughing so hard.
"I would have gotten him back if he didn't keep ducking under the prep tables," Claude called out, defensively. "You guys just interrupted us too soon." At the look from both the cop and the baker, he too blushed and looked at the floor. "Umm, I'll just shut up and start cleaning now."
"I promise you, Frank, Keagan is legal to work in here," Chay vowed as he turned to the man in uniform. "He'll be eighteen in two months. He follows all the guidelines for safe working procedures, mostly because there isn't that much knife work in a pastry kitchen anyway."
"Well, if you got everything under control now, I'll get back to work," Frank said as he gave the patented scary cop glare to Claude and Keagan. "I would normally hint for a free donut, but under the circumstances…."
"Why not just try this, Officer Frank?" The policeman, the baker, and the teenager all turn to see old Mrs. Pernell, aka the butt pincher, taking a beignet from a tray and using it to scoop some of the chocolate cream off Claude's shirt front. "This is good, but the raspberry jelly on his butt is much better," the old woman said calmly. "There's some mint cream on his crotch that's quite tasty, too."
"Help me," Claude mouthed to the other three males in the room, who were no help at all as they were hanging off one another laughing.
After some time checking the kitchen over thoroughly, Chay found enough products not destroyed in the food fight to open for business for the day, although it was an hour late. He had Claude cleaning while he concentrated on getting the pastry displays filled up. Keagan was out front, sweeping up the glass from the broken window, explaining to their regular customers why they were opening so late, and giving coupons for free items at a future date to those who could not wait for the shop to start up for the day. A very happy and well-fed Mrs. Pernell finally stopped scooping sweets off Claude and headed out the door just as Aunt Dixie walked in. Mrs. Pernell curtsied to Dixie with a smile.
"Queen Dixie, may your day be blessed as much as mine already has been and more," the sly old woman grinned before leaving.
"What dat dirty old cougar meant by dat, Claude Guebert? You got the face like the stop sign you so red. What you been up to with that woman and this place not even open?"
"Is everybody going to pick on me today?" Claude whined as Keag and Chay both laughed. "My Queen, that shameless old woman was practically licking me just a few minutes ago. Put the hex on her."
"Claude, you knowed that serious bidness to put the hex on somebody," Aunt Dixie said with a frown. "You family to me, though. You want old Paula hex, dat's what I'ma did."
"No, I didn't mean it, really," Claude stopped her quickly. "I was just embarrassed by her eating stuff off me."
"I think you better explain that some more before I do hex her," Aunt Dixie growled.
"He started a food fight with me in the kitchen, Aunt Dixie," Keagan explained. "He lost, too," the little teen added with a big, proud grin. "Never start a food fight with an orphanage kid. We're pros at them."
"He start a fight with my Sunshine Baby?" Aunt Dixie cooed and pulled Keagan into her arms for a cuddle. "You alright, my little beignet?"
"Wait a minute; he won," Claude protested. "Not only that, but he's not the one that had a perverted old lady drooling all over him and licking him clean. Why does he get cuddles?" He pouted and shuddered in disgust at the memories as Keagan just giggled more at him.
"That the music sound prettier in my ear than anything else," Dixie smiled and then pushed Keagan toward the counter. "Fetch me some café au lait and beignet, little sugar. It okay with me if they got some jelly or cream on them from you food fight. Oh, and you told Sugarman I spoke with him after he close up today." Keagan nodded, kissed her on the cheek, and then rushed back to the kitchen.
"He's really busy making up for the damage I caused this morning, My Queen," Claude told her. "He'll probably be pretty worn out this afternoon," he admitted guiltily.
"I don't doubt that, but he got something on his mind beside dat and he need to spoke about it," the old woman told the college boy. "Now, Claude, don't you worry you head about him being mad on you for this morning. I guarantee you ask him about it, he gonna told you it the happiest he seen little Sunshine since he been here, except maybe last night on that levee. It not good to not open on time, but he could stand the hurt that did. Maybe he even thank you after he settle down a bit and see a few more smiles on that sweet face he never take his eyes off."
"You already know about the levee?" Keagan blushed as he served her coffee and pastries.
"I don't miss much of nothing, Sunshine," she laughed at his sudden shyness. "Especially when my heir come told me about it first thing this morning. I'm happy as I can be for both of you, my little prince. That don't mean I won't skin you both alive if you get too far ahead of youselves before you legal and proper."
"Yes, ma'am," Keagan nodded so hard, and then blushed and started shaking his head so quickly that Claude thought he would injure his neck. "I mean no, ma'am. We won't do anything naughty. I promise. But… well… umm… Is it ok if we kiss sometimes, maybe just a little?"
"Baby, long as he don't touched nothing between you knees and you belly button till after you eighteen, you all good," Dixie laughed as she swatted Keagan playfully on the rump. "Run on back there and help you man clean up that mess. I got to spoke with Claude for a bit."
"I love you, Aunt Dixie," Keagan told her before giving her cheek another kiss, and then disappearing back into the kitchen.
"I accept the punishment you see fit, my queen," Claude said softly as he knelt beside the old woman's chair.
"Get up from that floor, boy," Dixie scolded gently. "You got punishment enough coming to you, Claude Guebert. I been heard my heir sleeping before. Snoring like a hundred freight train, that's what you got to look forward to," she added with a laugh. "Yes, Cassie told me you accept his courtship. I never been so happy my whole life. You and Keagan already bind my House with the House of Lafayette, just by being adopted into both families, but with you the split apart of my heir, you bring the House of Lafayette even closer. You PawPaw Henri, he the best friend I ever have in my whole life. I always think of him as my brother, and thanks to you and Keagan, now he really is family to me. Now me and you got to spoke about the duty of the Crown Prince Consort. You not the first consort to not have the gifts, so don't worry you head about that." Aunt Dixie stayed and talked with Claude until the bakery was ready to open for business, late, but they did still open. When Dixie and Claude told Chay how many people had stopped by, saw the broken window, and expressed concern that there had been a break in, Chay was truly touched and humbled by his loyal patrons.
"They all told me to apologize again for messing up your business today, and to let you know that they would be back tomorrow just like always," Claude said sincerely. "Three of the old ladies hit me with their purses for making them miss out on your good cooking, and Aunt Dixie let them do it, too."
"They ain't hurt you none, you whiner," Dixie laughed. "They all three say to give Keagan a kiss for winning the fight, too. Claude, he don't seem to remember that part."
"I am never going to live down that he won the food fight, am I?" Claude pouted.
"Not a chance," Chay grinned as he walked over to them. "Especially since while Keagan was cleaning and you were busy being Mrs. Pernell's personal buffet, I got pictures of the kitchen and the two of you. That reminds me, Mrs. Pernell insists on getting a copy of the picture of her scraping the raspberry jelly off the back of your pants with her finger."
"I knew she was getting handsy," Claude squealed. "I need a bath in Clorox now. I got old lady germs."
"You got what?" Aunt Dixie asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, umm… nothing, Aunt Dixie, I just uhh… I need to go get ready for class," he blurted and ran from the dining area.
"I might believe that excuse if it weren't Saturday, and two o'clock in the afternoon," Aunt Dixie laughed. "So, Sugarman, my idiot heir tell me he finally taking my advice and asking you to go in business together."
"So you did try to help me get a start in this town?" Chay teased with a smirk.
"I did not," she denied. "I tried to help my nephew's business grow. It's different." She looked over at Chay, and they both laughed. "So maybe I knowed the first time I see you that you something special and that you belong a part of my family. I admit I first think maybe you and Cassius hit it off, but I see now that ain't the way things work out. Ain't nothing wrong with that."
"No, there isn't, Aunt Dixie," he agreed. "Cassius is, well, it's hard to explain, but even though I've only just met him, Cassius feels like the brother I never had, but always wanted. I actually don't think I would have objected if you had helped me out getting my start in town, but I am much happier with the way things are working out now, though."
"Me too, Sugarman, me too," Dixie murmured as she looked over to the counter where a red- faced but clearly happy Keagan was getting a kiss on the cheek from one of the old ladies who was a regular in the bakeshop.