Jenny hopped down from the counter where we were sampling wedding cakes, licking frosting off her fingers. “It’s cool. We’ll sugar him up and send him back.”
“Bud wouldn’t have called me in if it wasn’t a crisis.” He looked around the shop. “This looks fancy.”
“Wedding cakes should be fancy.” Jenny took Manuelito’s hand and led him to a stool. He happily transferred his trust to her, a trait that was endearing to most people but made me worry about who he might run off with if he wasn’t watched. She lifted him up on a sparkly pink cushion. “We’re making grumpy dad pay for it.”
Gavin looked a little out of place in his mechanic’s shirt, jeans, and heavy boots, surrounded by the shop’s delicate filigree decorations, spun sugar, and lace curtains. Normally this was his afternoon off, and he’d planned to take Manuelito to a park while Jenny and I checked out the bakery. We’d decided not to put off the wedding. By combining incomes and expenses, we could do a better job of helping Rosa with the boy.
He came up behind us and leaned over my shoulder. I lifted a lump of pink icing to his lips.
He took in far more of my finger than was necessary, sliding his mouth along the full length. I widened my eyes at him and glanced down at Manuelito, who was staring bug-eyed at all the miniature cakes lined up on the counter.
“He’ll have to get used to us being all gross and kissy,” Gavin said, grinning.
“Have you talked to Rosa about his first overnight yet?”
“Not sure I’m ready.” He frowned as he actually tasted the frosting I’d given him. “That’s a weird one.”
“Yeah, it has cayenne. No thanks.”
Gavin shuddered. “Oh, yeah, that’s really bad.”
I handed him my glass of water. “Here. Wash it down.”
He gulped for a second, his eyes traveling back to Manuelito, who was about to snatch up one of the cakes. “He’s going for it.”
Jenny pushed it away. “That one’s got spearmint,” she said. “And I don’t mean the flavoring. I mean actual leaves.” She pointed to a piece of green caught in a spongy cross section of cake.
Manuelito looked up at her, confusion creasing his brow.
“Vegetables,” Jenny said.
The boy made a face and pushed it farther along the counter.
“Yeah, he understood that,” Jenny said. She shoved at Gavin. “Go, Daddy dearest, off to work. We’ve got this.”
“You girls picked a crazy place.” He ruffled Manuelito’s hair. “You be good for Corabelle, okay?”
The boy nodded, now looking with suspicion at all the other cakes.
Gavin leaned back toward me and kissed my hair. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I know this still isn’t easy.”
I squeezed his hand. “We’ll be fine. Jenny is total aunt material.”
The woman who managed the weddings reappeared from the back, holding another small tray of cakes in front of her pink apron. She looked like a housewife from a 1950s ad.
“I brought some more traditional selections out.” She glanced at Gavin’s retreating figure. “Was that the groom?”
“Oh yeah,” Jenny said. “But don’t let him in your dish room. Things get pretty sticky.” She elbowed me.
The woman smiled as though she were used to customers saying completely random things. “Oh, and I see we have a new little addition.”
Manuelito was just pulling his finger out of a tiny tub of chocolate frosting. His eyes got wide as saucers, realizing he was caught.
“I have just the thing for you,” she said, bending over to retrieve a plain oversized cookie from the bottom rack of the display case. “Come with me.”
She lifted a section of the counter to step out into the room. “What’s his name?”
“Manuel,” I said.
“Come here, Manuel.” She walked over to a tiny table meant for children and tugged a long piece of wax paper from a roll on one end, setting the cookie on it. “Would you like to decorate a cookie?”
I had no idea if Manuel understood what she was saying, but he seemed to recognize the tiny chair was meant for him and sat in it.
The woman looked up at us. “We often have little guests while we’re sampling. This will keep him busy for a while.”
She opened a cabinet in the wall behind her and withdrew three more tiny frosting tubs and a brush. “You can paint a picture on it with frosting,” she said, handing him the brush.
He looked at it, confused, until she dipped the end in the frosting and spread a line across the face of the cookie. Then he snatched the brush and stuck it in the pot, dumping yellow across its surface.
“There we go,” she said, returning to the counter. “Why don’t you try the traditional white cake now?”
“I think that’s going to be a whole lot better than the ginger-oregano one,” Jenny said.
The woman’s face remained impassive. “Our signature flavors aren’t for everyone.”
We each took a forkful of the white cake, soft and nuanced with a hint of almond extract.
“Now this is good,” Jenny said.
“Yes, we’ll go with the simple one,” I said, glad to have a decision made. I wanted everything to be as easy as possible, but Jenny was too gung ho about the festivities to let me just pick up a ready-made cake. Or snag a dress off a department store rack. We were still trying to keep it all inexpensive, even though Mom was sending money and gift cards constantly for us to use as we put everything together.