Hi, all! Today I’m revealing a bonus story from Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s Red Girl, Blue Boy, a politically themed YA about the daughter of a Republican candidate and son of a Democratic candidate who fall in love. As part of this tour, Bloomsbury is providing a full set of IF ONLY books for one lucky winner, so check out the link to the Rafflecopter at the bottom for a chance to win Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore, Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae, and more!
RED GIRL, BLUE BOY (IF ONLY #5)
Sixteen-year-old Katie and Drew really shouldn’t get along. After all, her father is the Republican nominee for President of the United States while his mother is at the top of the Democratic ticket. But when Katie and Drew are thrown together in a joint interview on a morning talk show, they can’t ignore the chemistry between them. With an entire nation tuned into and taking sides in your parents’ fight, and the knowledge that–ultimately–someone has to lose, how can you fall in love with the one person you’re supposed to hate?
This title in the If Only line is a frank and funny romance that shows how sparks fly when opposites attract.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of more than twenty books for adults, teens, and young readers, including Little Women & Me, The Twin’s Daughter, Crazy Beautiful, and the Sisters 8 series, which she co-writes with her husband and daughter.
Of Cookies & Kisses
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
A bonus scene to Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s novel, Red Girl, Blue Boy—
part of the IF ONLY romance line of books about wanting
what you can’t have!
Drew and Katie are keeping their attraction a secret. The reason: Drew’s mother is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, running against a Republican rival who happens to be Katie’s father. The two sides don’t mix; in fact, they’re supposed to hate each other. In this bonus scene to Red Boy, Blue Girl, a surprise encounter with Drew’s twin younger brothers leads to moments that are hilarious and romantic.
Katie and I are in my garage. We tell each other that we’re working on my Corvair, but what we really do in the garage is talk and kiss. As much as I enjoy this small world we’ve created here, I really wish we could take this show out on the road—you know, talk and kiss in other settings, even in public. But if this is all we can have, because we’ve agreed that our parents’ individual campaigns for the highest office in the land would shine too bright a light on our budding relationship, I’ll take it.
We’ve dispensed with the talking portion of this particular meeting, at least for the moment, and I’m moving in for my kiss. I’m feeling all the usual sensations—heart pounding faster, head feeling a little dizzy like I could spin off the planet, and the amazing combination of peace and excitement I feel inside when I can see from the hungry look in her eyes that she wants to kiss me just as much as I want to kiss her. But then the sound of kids screaming penetrates my brain, and when that is immediately followed by the sound of someone beginning to raise the garage door, I have just enough presence of mind to step away from the girl. In fact, we jump far away from one another so quickly, it’s as though each regards the other as a hot stove.
It is, of course, the six-year-old twins, Max and Matt, still in their school uniforms, ties perfectly tightened at their necks, everything all crisp like they’re just starting their day even though it’s well into afternoon.
Immediately, I grab the first tool my hand touches, a wrench, and pretend to do something with it.
“Yo, what’s up?” I say, trying to adopt a nonchalant tone.
Out of the corner of my eye, I note that when Katie and I did the hot-stove/leaping-apart thing, she made it to the other side of the garage, where she’s now standing stiff against the wall from which hang garden tools, like she’s playing Statues among the rakes.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having twin brothers, it’s that little kids can be hopelessly unobservant; so busy and all-consumed with whatever is in their minds, they don’t notice anything else.
So, maybe they won’t notice Katie standing there? Although, it certainly would’ve been better if I’d had the time to slide her under the car—like I did the last time they surprised us with a visit.
“Yo?” Matt says. “Who says yo?”
Not me, not usually, and may I add, you’ve never been properly dissed until you’ve been dissed by a six-year-old. Oh, the indignities.
“Nanny Stella has a migraine,” Max says. “She had to go lie down.”
“That’s too bad,” I say.
“And you’re supposed to keep us entertained,” Matt says. “Nanny Stella says so.”
So far, they don’t seem to have noticed Katie. Like I said, they’re little kids; they focus on what’s in front of them, which, at the moment, is me.
My goal for the moment? Get them out of the garage as quickly as I can. And after that, get at least one good, deep kiss in before Katie has to call her chauffeur to come collect her earlier than originally planned.
“Oh, yeah?” I say, still doing the nonchalant thing, although, frankly, this wrench isn’t helping any. I’ve been comfortable around tools all my life, but in this moment, hyperaware of Katie across the room, I can barely remember what a wrench is for, much less what to do with this one.
Then I seize on a brilliant idea.
“Video games!” I practically shout.
“Excuse me?” Matt says.
“You know,” I say, wiggling my thumbs like I’m some old fogy unfamiliar with modern technology. “Your devices. Why don’t you go play whatever games you’re into these days on your devices.”
“We can’t,” Max says.
“We’ve already reached the extent of our screen time for the day,” Matt says.
“No more until tomorrow,” Max says glumly.
“Which technically starts at midnight,” Matt adds.
I don’t believe these guys. Are they like the only two kids in the world who are honest about screen time?
“And we’re done with our homework,” Max says.
“So you have to entertain us,” Matt says. “Besides, Nanny Stella says we can’t be without supervision.”
I wrack my brain, trying to remember what I did at their age, those few times in which technology wasn’t involved one way or another.
Then I have a memory of my mom and me, in our tiny kitchen, back in the old place, before life got crazy.
“You want to make chocolate chip cookies?” I suggest.
“Define ‘make,’” Max says suspiciously.
“You know, from scratch,” I say. “You gather all the ingredients and then you make the cookies yourself.”
“Really?” Matt says skeptically. “People do this?”
“Come on,” I say. I put down my useless wrench. “It’ll be fun.”
Then I place one hand on each twin’s shoulder and turn them toward safety, which in this instance would be anywhere but the garage.
“OK,” Matt says. And I think, yes! “Only, there’s just one thing?”
“Hmm?” Lame, I know, but it’s all I’ve got.
Matt stops moving. Then he shoots an accusing forefinger to the side, gesturing toward the garden tools.
“What’s the enemy doing hanging out with the rakes?” he says.
So much for little kids only focusing on their own stuff.
“She’s not the enemy,” I say.
“Mom and Dad wouldn’t agree.” Max gives a sad shake of his head.
“She’s a Republican,” Matt says, as though once he’s said that, he’s said it all.
“Yeah?” I say. “Well, Republicans are people too.”
Matt rolls his eyes at me.
“Well, they are!” I insist. “They just think about certain things differently.”
Again with the eye roll.
“Look, I’ll show you,” I say. “Katie?”
She emerges slowly from among the rakes.
“Katie,” I say again more firmly, “I’d like you to meet my brothers, Max and Matt. Max and Matt? This is Katie.”
Give the kids credit. For all their rudeness with “the enemy” and “Republican” talk, their well-trained politeness kicks in and they offer their hands for a firm shake.
“I’m pleased to meet you,” Katie says. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“You have?” Max says.
“Which begs the question yet again,” Matt says, reverting to form. “What’s she doing here?”
“She’s my friend,” I say simply. And as soon as the words are out of my mouth, I realize just how true they are. Sure, she’s the girl I kiss in the garage, the girl who in so many ways is coming to mean more than I ever imagined. But, at core, she is my friend. It’s a pretty amazing thing.
“Your friend?” Matt snorts.
I ignore that snort. I’d really like to reprimand him for it, but it occurs to me that I need him on my side.
“Guys,” I say, “I need to ask you a favor.”
Matt crosses his arms tight against that perfectly tied tie and Max follows suit.
I ignore their rigidity and plow on.
“I need you to not tell Mom and Dad that Katie was here today,” I say. “They wouldn’t understand.”
“You want us to lie?” Matt says.
It’s hopeless. What was I thinking? These are the kids who are honest about screen-time usage, for crying out loud.
Then I seize on an idea.
“Not lie.” I squirm a bit. “After all, it’s not like anyone’s going to come home and say, ‘Oh, by the way, did the enemy stop by today?’; in which case, if you answered ‘No,’ that would be a lie. But what about simply not offering the information?”
I wait for what feels like the longest time for a response.
Finally, Matt says, “You sound just like a politician.”
I’m about to object when a big smile breaks across his little face.
“I like it,” he says with an approving nod. I think this may be the first time he’s ever been impressed by me.
Katie clears her throat and we all look at her.
“Could I come bake cookies too?” she says.
“Seriously?” I say.
She shrugs, embarrassed. “I’ve never done it before. It sounds like fun.”
For the first time, the twins smile at her. Apparently, they’re bonding over a shared lack of experience in the cookie-making department.
I think, wondering if it’s possible, wondering if this could possibly work. What did my dad say was on the day’s schedule for him and my mom? Oh, right. My mom’s campaigning in the Pacific Northwest, while my dad is doing events for her in Connecticut until at least after dinnertime. Normally, a presidential candidate can depend on his or her own state to come through at the polls. But when both candidates are from the same state, it’s a whole different horse race.
Thank you, complicated election. And thank you, nanny with a migraine. Not that I want Stella to be in pain; or have my mom going through a tougher time than she needs getting votes in her own state.
But come on. I’m finally going to do something with my girl outside of this garage.
We’re going to make cookies together.
* * *
As the twins and I lead Katie through the first floor of the house, I half expect her to make some kind of snooty comment like she did when we first met—you know, something along the lines of, “Wow, everything is so nouveau, are you sure it qualifies as riche?” But all she says is that it’s nice and the look in her eyes says that she means it.
In fact, the only tense moment comes when Matt notices Katie’s feet; specifically, the light-gray Converse High-Tops she’s wearing on them.
“I’ve seen footwear like those before,” Matt says thoughtfully.
The last time the twins saw those shoes they were sticking out of the bottom of my Corvair and I’d told the twins they belonged to my best friend Sandy, he of the supposedly tiny feet.
“Huh,” Matt says. But then he shrugs it away as he tells Katie, “You’ve got the same taste in footwear as Drew’s best friend. No offense, though, your feet look bigger.”
Phew. I guess it wouldn’t have been catastrophic if he’d made the connection, but then if he realized Katie’s been here more often than just today, he might further realize she’s more than a simple friend.
Can’t have that.
Don’t want that.
Once we’re in the monster-sized kitchen, I begin going through cabinets, assembling ingredients. Since the campaign started, every meal around here is takeout this, delivered that, and catered the other. Despite it all, the larder is nothing if not well stocked.
Soon, I’ve covered the counter with flour, baking soda, salt, butter, two kinds of sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and chocolate chips, a baking sheet, bowls, measuring cups and spoons.
“You know how to do all this by heart?” Matt says.
I shrug. “I did it enough times when I was younger.”
For the first time Matt and Max both give me a wistful look.
Poor little guys. They’ve had everything in life it seems sometimes, but they’ve never had this.
“Hey!” I clap my hands together. “Why don’t you guys go change out of your school clothes so we can get started?”
I’m thinking, kill two birds with one stone, right? The kids don’t get their school clothes dirty, and I finally get to kiss my girl today.
But apparently, I am to be thwarted at every turn.
“Not necessary,” Matt says. Then he removes his blazer, carefully drapes it over a chair; unbuttons his cuffs and rolls up his sleeves; and finally flips the ends of his tie over one shoulder.
Max mirrors everything Matt does.
These guys. They’re like two candidates at a clambake or a barbecue. They could be politicians themselves.
And, you know, I don’t get to steal my kiss.
I clap my hands together again, not quite as enthusiastically as before.
“OK, let’s get started,” I say.
After showing them how to preheat the oven to 375, I’m about to show them how to do everything else, when I remember something I learned from baking cookies with my mom: kids have the most fun when they get to do everything themselves.
Plus, if I get them busily occupied enough, maybe I can sneak Katie out of the room for a few minutes.
I verbally direct Max and Matt on how to beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract together. Once they’re doing that, I hold out my hand to Katie.
But she just looks wistfully at the twins. “Is there anything for me to do?” she asks in a small voice I’m unaccustomed to hearing from her.
“I don’t know,” I say. It’s against my own interests, but as much as I’m dying to kiss her right now, I want even more to give her whatever she wants. “Guys? Is it OK if Katie does something?”
They’re having so much fun creaming the butter into everything else, they don’t even look up.
“Sure.” Max shrugs.
“Just not this part,” Matt says. “We like doing this part.”
So I direct Katie on taking a big bowl and then measuring out the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt.
She’s very intent on getting everything right, the ingredients measured perfectly, she’s not even aware that she’s got flour on her nose.
But I am.
And OK, maybe it’s a cliché—I mean, come on, flour on her nose?—but I find it incredibly sexy.
Wait. Does this make me a sexist? Does it mean I want to keep my girl in the kitchen?
No. It’s just so great to be finally out of the garage, finally doing normal things.
I want to do normal things with her forever.
You know what really makes someone want to kiss another person? Not being able to kiss that person. Of course, being able to kiss them only makes you want to kiss them more. But this? This is some kind of torture.
I can’t help it, though, thinking about Katie.
I love how she’s soft where I’m not. I love how she’s smaller than me. Would I feel the same way if she was as tall? Taller? Yes and yes. Because she’d still be her. But I love how, when we’re alone together, and I put my arm around her shoulders, she fits just so at my side; how, when I put my arms around her and she’s facing me, and I pull her close, her head fits perfectly, just under my chin, against my chest.
Aargh! Did I really just use the word love, like, how many times?
I close my eyes tight, trying to push the thoughts and images away. Because, you know, we’re supposed to be making cookies.
But the thoughts, the images—they just keep coming. They are relentless.
I keep my eyes shut against them, yet all the while, all I can do is picture myself, putting my palms on the sides of Katie’s waist—right at that sweet spot where her waist joins the swell of her hips. I picture myself pulling her in close so her body is right next to mine, with nothing to separate us, feeling that softness against me, lowering my face to hers, and then kissing her until we’re both too weak to do anything else.
And when I finally do open my eyes? Because someone is calling my name, no doubt wanting to know what to do next?
The picture is still there, an afterimage I can’t escape, even with Katie and the twins standing right before me, waiting expectantly. That afterimage? Not only can’t I escape it, I realize I don’t want to. Oh, am I ever in trouble.
We haven’t even gotten to the eggs yet.