Lili and Chiara never miss a rostered shift at their aunt’s café. When Yannick makes them an offer they don’t want to refuse, they have to make a choice. Trusting their future to a grumpy baker and a Christmas wish is risky, but sharing is their style. Why change that now?
Lili and Chiara love their jobs at Fee Kaffee, but after the peach schnapps and poteen incident sets off a family row, their home life feels increasingly restrictive. When Irish Toby tosses them charmed apples, they decide to make a Christmas wish. The café offers a venue, but their apples have vanished. It seems they’re not the only ones using Fee Kaffee for a little Christmas magic.
Yannick has worked for Martina Bless for three years. He likes the job, but Martina’s twin nieces constantly distract him. In an effort to get them off his mind, he makes a charmed cake meant to attract his heart’s desire. He’s just added two spare apples to his recipe when he hears someone in the café.
The twins need men, and Yannick needs a woman. It might be a match made in heaven, but there are two of them and only one of him. The three of them go to Yannick’s house to thrash the matter out. Once they find their solution, everything is fine…maybe.
Meanwhile, at the café, Martina faces the post-Christmas rush with a staff gone suddenly AWOL. The only clue she has is a napkin with a two-word message saying Just Eloped.
Lili Bless, Christmas Eve
Lili woke at six o’clock on Christmas Eve, just as her sister blinked awake in the second twin bed.
They sat up in unison.
Nina, their mother, didn’t understand how they did that.
“It’s a twin thing.” That was their answer to everything.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not even identical.”
Nina had taken them for genetic testing when they were four.
Anyway, Lili had darker hair and bluer eyes.
Nina didn’t believe in the twin thing. She didn’t believe in the sight, either. The twins did. Tante Martina had it. The occasional information that came into Lili’s mind might have come from the sight, but she thought it just as likely it came from Chiara.
They turned to their wardrobes on opposite sides of the room. Lili picked out a pair of jeans she hadn’t worn in months and a pink singlet top. She conjured them on.
Behind her, Chiara closed her closet door with a bang.
She turned to face her sister across the room.
“Twinned again,” Chiara said mournfully. She had on an old pair of jeans and a pink singlet top as well. They weren’t identical to Lili’s, but they were close enough.
“I’ll change. Otherwise Mum will think we did it to annoy,” Lili said.
“She won’t see us. We’ll get coffee at the firm.”
The firm was their name for Fee Kaffee, the café where they had worked for the past three years. It belonged to their aunt, Martina Bless. Martina was unruffled, fair-minded, and sometimes formidable. She scared the pants off patrons who got out of line.
“Our Martina’s better than a cattle prod to the balls when she’s roused.” That was what Uncle Dario said. He was only six years older than the twins and their mother disapproved of him.
Lili conjured two bananas out of the kitchen as they headed for the garage. She could have conjured coffee, but the stuff Nina bought was denatured, decaf and tasteless. They’d tried buying their own supply. Nina called that ridiculous.
Lili stuck half a banana in her mouth and chose a bike at random. They’d each bought an identifying sticker so they’d know whose bike was whose, but they had accidentally chosen the same ones.
In unison, they trod on their pedals and wheeled out of the garage and along the quiet street.
“Hm?” Lili focused. Chiara only ever called her twin sister for something important.
“Identical twins?” Chiara suggested.
“Been there, done that, and they were—”
“Not even pretty ones.”
They canted around a corner and another. The market was two blocks ahead.
They stopped together in a spurt of gravel before they wheeled their bikes into the racks provided for the market.
Lili conjured the wide-mouthed market baskets their aunt insisted on.
“I saw that, Lili Bless!” Tab Merriweather called, grinning at them from across the parking area.
Tab had three look-alike brothers, so his habitual focus on detail meant he could easily identify the twins.
Lili gave him the finger. “Oh, go and yodel Josefa.”
“Go and what?”
Chiara flicked a glance at Lili, and they chorused, “Stick your dick where the sun don’t shine.”
“Josefa is my sunshine.” Tab’s attention turned to his betrothed, who was desperately poking at the keyhole of an ancient yellow utility.
“Shit-shit-shit, it’s stuck in the hole,” she yelled.
The twins laughed.
“Tango and Tempo? Togetherness would be normal to them,” Lili pondered sotto voce.
“Too young,” Chiara objected.
“They’re legal. Let’s ask Tab.”
“Ask me what, you mad mädchens?” Tab had unnaturally good hearing.
Lili looked him over. The Merriweather brothers were all tall with dark hair, pale skin and grey-gold eyes. Tab, the eldest, was betrothed to Josefa, and Timbre, the youngest, was in love with a courtfolk lady. That left Tango and Tempo in the middle.
Tab backed up against the ute with Josefa. “Why are you two looking predatory?”
“Would Tango and Tempo like us for Christmas, do you think? Or maybe we could have them?” Chiara asked.
“Not if you’re going to look at them like that.”
“We’d make very nice Christmas presents. So would they.” Chiara sounded injured.
Tab crossed his forefingers and put up his hands. “Save me, Josefa. They’re doing that x-ray spooky-eyed twin thing.”
“Never mind, I’m sure you’ve got nice bones,” Josefa said. She turned to the twins. “You can’t have Tab. He’s all mine. You have good taste in men, but I warn you, Tan’s got that nice brae halfling—Alys something—in his sights.”
“No dice then. We need a matched pair.” Lili waved to Josefa and grabbed her sister’s free hand. “Dylan it is.”
There was only one of Dylan Castle, but that wasn’t the point. He was a possible solution to their other problem which, loosely speaking, boiled down to How to Get out of Dodge.
Dodge was their name for their parents’ house, which felt increasingly like a too-tight pair of jeans.
It was definitely too tight in the knicker department. Their unsatisfying liaison with the identical twins had taken place in the men’s van after work, and the logistics, as well as the twins, had proved impossible.
They entered the market and bought tomatoes and a box of eggs from Jeremy Costas.
“Bother. We ought to have got the eggs last,” Lili said.
“They’re padded with feathers,” Jeremy said.
He shrugged. “Where there’s poultry, there’s feathers, and they’re more environmentally sound than packing peanuts.”
Lili thanked him, and they moved off in concert along the front line of stalls.
“Target locked in,” Chiara said presently.
Lili looked at the tall young man with the mixed vegetable stall. He had brown hair, blue eyes and a beauty spot on his cheek. She caught his eye and smiled demurely.
“Hey, Lili. Hey, Chiara. What can I do you for?”
“We don’t need much today, since the café’s closed tomorrow for Christmas,” Lili said.