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Authors: Darlene Panzera

Spoonful of Christmas

BOOK: Spoonful of Christmas
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The Cupcake Diaries: Spoonful of Christmas

DARLENE PANZERA

 

Dedication

For my husband, Joe, and our children, Samantha, Robert, and Jason, and also for our special cousin Brandi, whom we love so much.

 

Contents

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Recipe for Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes from Malorie Gibson of Jackson, New Jersey

An Excerpt from
The Cupcake Diaries: Sweet On You

An Excerpt from
The Cupcake Diaries: Recipe for Love

An Excerpt from
The Cupcake Diaries: Taste of Romance

Acknowledgments

About the Author

By Darlene Panzera

An Excerpt from
Rescued by a Stranger
by Lizbeth Selvig

An Excerpt from
Chasing Morgan
by Jennifer Ryan

An Excerpt from
Throwing Heat
by Jennifer Seasons

An Excerpt from
Private Research
by Sabrina Darby

Copyright

About the Publisher

 

Chapter One

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.

—Peg Bracken

A
NDI GLANCED AT
the number on the caller ID, picked up the phone, and tried to mimic the deep, sultry voice of a sexy siren. “Hello, Creative Cupcakes.”

“What if I told you I’d like to order a Mistletoe Magic cupcake with a dozen delicious kisses on top?”

She smiled at the sound of Jake’s voice. “Mistletoe Magic?”

“I was guaranteed that the person who eats it will receive a dozen kisses by midnight.”

“What if I told you,” Andi said, playing along, “that you don’t have to eat a cupcake to get a kiss, and the magic will begin the minute you walk through the front door?”

Jake chuckled. “I’m on my way.”

Andi’s sister, Kim, and best friend, Rachel, watched her with amused expressions on their faces.

“I hope Mike and I still flirt with each other after
we’re
married,” Rachel said, her sing-song voice a tease. “But the name ‘Mistletoe Magic’ isn’t half bad. Maybe we
should
make a red velvet cupcake with a Hershey’s kiss and miniature holly leaf sprinkles on top.”

Kim finished boxing a dozen maraschino cherry cupcakes and handed them to the customer at the counter. “As if we don’t have enough sales already.”

“Sales are great,” Andi agreed. “We’ve booked orders for eighteen holiday parties. Now, if I can only figure out what to get Jake for Christmas, life would be perfect.”

Rachel rang up the next customer’s order. “Mike and I decided our Hollywood honeymoon will be our gift to each other.”

“Are you serious?” Kim picked up a pastry bag from the back worktable. “You—the woman who can’t walk three feet past a store window without buying anything—are not going to get Mike a Christmas gift? Not even a little something?”

“It
is
hard,” she admitted. “But I promised him I wouldn’t. I also promised I wouldn’t go overboard with spending on the wedding arrangements.”

“You could always have a small, simple wedding like Jake and I did,” Andi suggested.

Rachel’s red curls bounced back and forth as she shook her head. “I already booked the Liberty Theater for the reception. I know it’s expensive, but the palace-like antique architecture is so beautiful, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve always dreamed of—”

“Being Cinderella?” Kim joked.

“I
do
want a Cinderella wedding,” Rachel crooned. “I figure I can bake my own cake and skimp on other wedding details to stay within our budget.”

Andi didn’t think Rachel knew the first thing about staying within a budget but decided it was best not to argue. Instead, she turned toward her younger sister. “Kim, what are you getting Nathaniel for Christmas?”

“I’m not sure.” Kim shrugged away. “Maybe I should just get him a new set of luggage tags.”

Rachel frowned. “That’s not very romantic.”

“No, but it’s practical,” Andi said, coming to Kim’s defense. “Nathaniel’s probably getting her the same thing.”

“He planned to fly to his family’s home in Sweden this Christmas,” Kim confessed, her dark eyebrows drawing together. “But I told him I couldn’t go, and he didn’t want to go without me.”

“Of course you can’t go!” Rachel said, bracing her hands against the marble counter. “I need you to be my bridesmaid!”

“It would have been awkward spending Christmas with his family anyway,” Kim said, as she piped vanilla icing over the cupcakes. “It’s not like I’m part of his family or like we’re even engaged. In fact, I don’t know what we are.”

“You two are great together,” Andi encouraged. “You are both artistic, enjoy nature, and love to travel.”

Kim nodded, then looked up, her expression earnest. “But what else? I’m beginning to wonder if I should tell Nathaniel to go to Sweden without me.”

“And miss my wedding? But you’ll need a dance partner at the reception,” Rachel reminded her. “He wouldn’t go and leave you stranded without a date on Christmas Eve, would he?”

Kim hesitated. “I don’t know.”

The bells on the front door jingled as a man in his late forties wearing a pricey three-piece business suit entered the shop with a briefcase in hand.

“Are you the owners of Creative Cupcakes?” he asked, his expression hopeful.

Andi stepped forward and smiled. “Yes, we are.”

“I’m Preston Pennyworth.” He placed his briefcase on the end of the counter and released the latch. “And I have an offer I think you might like.”

“What kind of offer?” Rachel asked, anticipation lighting her faint-freckled face.

Mr. Pennyworth handed them each a set of papers a half-inch thick. “An offer to buy Creative Cupcakes.”

Thirty minutes later, after the businessman had left, Andi, Rachel, and Kim sat staring at the pink-swirled, strawberry parfait cupcake they’d placed at the center of the table for Rachel’s birthday.

“I can’t believe that just happened,” Andi said, breaking the silence.

“A million dollars is a lot of money,” Rachel commented.

“Enough for
each
of us to start our own businesses,” Kim added.

Andi picked up the long golden cupcake cutter they’d bought to celebrate the grand opening of Creative Cupcakes and held it tight in her hand. “The fact we own the property is a huge plus. And our revenue from shipping cupcakes and packaged mixes nationwide has increased every month, making our shop very attractive to prospective buyers.” She paused. “But, of course, we’d never sell to him or anyone else who offered.”

“No,” Rachel chorused. “Of course not.”

“Even though I could travel to every art gallery around the world,” Kim said dreamily. “Or buy my own art gallery to house all my paintings.”

Rachel gasped. “I could have the wedding of the century.”

“I could put a down payment on a big house with twenty bedrooms,” Andi told them. “A master suite for me and Jake, a bedroom for each of the girls, and—”

“What would you do with the other seventeen bedrooms?” Rachel demanded.

“I’d use them as guest rooms.”

Kim laughed. “Sounds like a hotel, but knowing you, you’d probably invite every homeless person on the street into the house for the night.”

“Imagine how many people I could help,” Andi countered. “I’d be doing a good deed.”

“Speaking of good deeds,” Rachel said, nodding to the cupcake cutter in her hand, “are you going to split that cupcake?”

Andi divided Rachel’s birthday cupcake into threes and served them each a piece on a napkin, as was their tradition. In the past they’d divided the cupcake to cut calories, and this year was no exception. They had only five weeks before they had to squeeze into their slinky designer dresses for Rachel’s wedding.

Because their birthdays were spaced four months apart, they also set goals for themselves from one person’s birthday to the next—which, of course, was much easier than setting goals for a whole year.

As usual, Andi had an ever-growing list of goals, but her first one was to tell her husband about Preston Pennyworth’s outrageous offer.

A
N HOUR LATER
Andi met Jake for lunch at the Captain’s Port, the restaurant where they had first met. Out the window, a seal bobbed up and down in the wake left behind from the large cargo vessels making their way down the Columbia River toward the Pacific Ocean.

Andi bobbed up and down in her seat as well, anxious to see Jake’s reaction to the news she just gave him.

“He offered to buy Creative Cupcakes for
a million dollars
?” Jake’s eyebrows shot upward. “What did you tell him?”

Andi laughed. “First our jaws hit the floor from shock. Then I let Mr. Pennyworth know how hard we had worked to make the shop a success. And you know what he did? He upped his offer to
one-point-two
million.”

“That’s twice what it’s worth.”

“Pennyworth said his daughter has a dream to own a cupcake shop, and he’s determined to buy her one, no matter what the cost. They love our view of the Astoria-Megler Bridge through our shop windows and have made it clear they don’t want to be rivals with us.”

“Of course not. We’d put them out of business.”


That’s
why they want to buy us out and then open other stores across the country using our name and logo.”

Jake let out a soft whistle, obviously impressed.

“They said if they bought Creative Cupcakes, they’d also want rights to the recipes,” Andi continued, then scowled. “The recipes handed down to me from my mother.”

The expression on Jake’s face seemed more hesitant than sympathetic—not what she had expected.

“You turned him down, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Of course I turned him down. I wouldn’t sell the shop for any amount of money. Would you?”

He’d won her over with his whole-hearted support of the cupcake shop earlier that year. Since then, he’d become her business partner, her husband, and a father to her six-year-old daughter, Mia. So why was he looking at her as if he were unsure what to say?

Andi frowned, then repeated the question. “Would you sell Creative Cupcakes?”

Jake cleared his throat. “I think we should leave all options on the table until we’ve had a chance to discuss the matter.”

Andi longed to brush the light brown hair off his forehead and check his temperature to see if he was feeling okay, because at the moment he didn’t sound anything like the man she had fallen in love with. “What is there to discuss?”

“I have news for you, too,” Jake said, reaching across the table to take her hand.

Oh-oh.
She didn’t like the shadow in his eyes or the ominous tone in his voice.

“Something . . . good?” she ventured.

“I’ve been offered a job—in Washington—as a staff reporter,” he said quickly. “It’s a big step up with a double pay raise, but—”

“Oh, Jake!” Andi gushed, her anxiety slipping away. “That’s fantastic! But I’m not surprised. Your articles for the
Astoria Sun
have been gaining national recognition.”

Jake flashed her a big smile. “I’ve always dreamed of an opportunity like this, but I never thought in a million years they’d contact
me
. . . or that you would be okay with it.”

“Why wouldn’t I be okay with it? The commute shouldn’t be too bad. Washington is just over the bridge.”

Jake’s smile faded. “Not Washington State, Andi.”

“No?” The back of her throat closed.
He couldn’t possibly mean—

“Washington, D.C.” he affirmed. “I’d be working for the
Washington Post.

Her jaw dropped for the second time that day, and for a moment she couldn’t breathe. “Th-that’s the other side of the country.”

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