In this special Christmas novella from Darlene Panzera, THE CUPCAKE DIARIES: Spoonful of Christmas continues the adventures of three cupcake-loving women who work to keep their dream cupcake shop open while balancing love, family, and friendship.
When businessman Preston Pennyworth offers to buy Creative Cupcakes for a million dollars, the women are startled by his offer. Friends Andi, Kim, and Rachel have put everything into the shop and don’t want to give it up. Despite refusing the expensive offer, their worries are starting to pile up—just in time for the Christmas season. Between Andi’s concerns about a potential cross-country move, Rachel’s wedding-day stress, and Kim’s love life woes, the spirit of the season seems to be lacking! With the added stress of the holiday season, the women can’t help but imaging the possibilities of the offer.
Things change when Andi decides to organize a Christmas party for the foster kids in the area and the whole town gets involved. The women of Creative Cupcakes are reminded of what truly matters, as they realize the best things in life are close to home! But, when the shop is vandalized, the foster kids’ gifts are stolen, and Rachel’s wedding is sabotaged by a real life Grinch, the women can’t help but feel hopeless on Christmas. Will their Christmases be saved?
In this warm and heartfelt add-on to THE CUPCAKE DIARIES trilogy, Darlene Panzera’s Christmas novella will captivate reader’s hearts and capture the true meaning of Christmas.
The Cupcake Diaries:
Spoonful of Christmas
By: Darlene Panzera
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He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
—Roy L. Smith
Andi stared at the green monster, wishing it were a weekday when Mia and Taylor were in school, but being a Saturday, they were right behind her.
“Grinch!” Taylor cried. “I’m scared of the Grinch!”
Taylor hugged Andi’s legs, almost tripping her. But Mia drew closer to the storefront wreckage.
“The Grinch hurt Frosty,” Mia said, pointing to the pile of white vinyl.
Andi glanced at the doorknob, where a long string of jingle bells had dangled, and the top of the window, where they had strung Christmas lights. What did the thief do with them?
“If I catch whoever did this,” Andi growled, “I’m going to wring his little neck.”
“Not if I get to him first,” Kim said. “He painted over everything I did yesterday.”
Rachel pursed her lips. “You have to admit the vandal is a pretty good artist. Although whoever did this got his Christmas stories crossed.”
“What do you mean?” Mia asked, coming over to investigate.
“See the words painted beneath the face of the Grinch?” Rachel explained, tapping her fingernails against the glass. “‘Bah humbug’ is a famous saying from A Christmas Carol, you know, the story about Scrooge.”
Kim bent toward the Grinch and looked more closely. “Looks like he started to use spray paint but then switched over to brushes.”
Andi went and stood next to her and studied the artwork. “Why would he do that?”
“He’s angry,” Kim assured her, “but notice the intricate brushstroke design, the detail he put into the facial expression? I think deep down inside, he’s also an artist who cares about his work.”
Andi frowned. “At least he cares about something.”
“So there’s still hope for him?” Mia asked, turning to face her.
Andi nodded. “There’s always hope.”
When Officer Ian Lockwell arrived at the shop, he helped Andi review the security camera footage shot the night before. Unfortunately the lens faced into the shop and not toward the outside.
“I don’t understand,” Andi grumbled. “Why would anyone do this?”
Mia stopped taping red and green strips of paper into a chain to answer her. “Because his heart is too small.”
Rachel laughed. “Yes, in the story the Grinch needed a bigger heart.”
Andi pulled out a new three-ring binder decorated with flying reindeer—which Mia had picked out—and spread it open on the front counter.
“Our new Cupcake Diary,” she announced.
On page 1 she had recorded the recipe for Mistletoe Magic cupcakes. Taking a pen, she wrote on page 2, How to catch a Grinch.
“A trap?” Rachel suggested.
“Another security camera?” Kim offered.
Mia shook her blond braids back and forth. “Love. Didn’t you see the cartoon on TV? You have to catch the Grinch with love.”
Ian chuckled. “How do you do that?”
“I’m going to make him a present,” Mia declared.
Andi exchanged smiles with Rachel and Kim as Mia took out her crayons and began to color a picture.
“I’m going to make a present for Max, too,” Mia added.
“Who’s Max?” Andi inquired.
“He’s the boy under the table.”
Andi glanced at Taylor. “Did you see a boy?”
Taylor shook her head, and Andi bit her lip.
After her divorce, Mia had been upset and developed an imaginary friend to help her deal with her emotions. Was this Mia’s way of covering her fear of the vandalism?
Mia’s eighteen-year-old babysitter, Heather, who doubled as one of their employees, walked through the front door. “Sorry I’m late for work. Traffic was terrible. Everyone’s Christmas shopping.”
Guy Armstrong, the white-ponytailed tattoo artist from the building next door, entered the shop behind her. “Carolers are strolling the streets singing and carrying on about glad tidings of joy and whatever. I’ll be glad when the whole holiday season is behind us.”
“What’s the matter, Guy?” Kim teased. “Don’t you like Christmas?”
“No, I don’t. It’s all a bunch of commercial nonsense, everyone spending all their hard-earned money on gifts they don’t even need. And there’s no sense putting up a tree and making a fuss when I’m all alone.”
Mia’s mouth popped open. “Guy, are you the Grinch?”
Guy laughed. “No, and I’m not Santa Claus either.”
Mia made a face. “I know that. Of course you aren’t Santa. You’re silly, Guy.”
“So now I’m a silly guy?” he joked.
“No,” Andi told him, as she took one of her newest baked treats out of the glass display case and handed it to him. “You’re just in desperate need of a Mistletoe Magic cupcake. And we’re in desperate need of another set of eyes on our shop at night.”
“Sure,” Guy agreed. “What am I looking for?”
Andi smiled. “Anyone who wants to steal Christmas.”
Rachel didn’t realize Mike had come up behind her in the kitchen until he pulled the long scroll of yellow notepaper out of her hands.
“Are you making a list and checking it twice?” he teased.
“You aren’t supposed to see!” she squealed as she tried to get the paper back.
“Why not?” Mike grinned. “There shouldn’t be anything for me on there since we agreed not to get each other Christmas gifts this year, right?”
Rachel hesitated. “A fun gift under five dollars wouldn’t count, would it?”
Mike frowned. “Rachel—”
“Okay, okay, no gifts,” she agreed. “There’s no extra money anyway. Mike, I think we’ve made a mistake. We should never have decided to get married on Christmas Eve.”
A look of uncertainty flashed across his face. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“Not about marrying you,” Rachel amended. “But about the date. I didn’t realize we’d have to budget money for the wedding and Christmas at the same time.”
“We could elope.”
“Mike, I’m serious.”
“So am I. If we skip out of town, you won’t have to worry about your crazy cousin Stacey ruining the wedding.”
“Good point,” she said and grinned. “But my mother spent countless hours sewing my wedding dress, not to mention the dresses of my bridesmaids, and she wants the whole town to see. Besides, that doesn’t solve our dilemma over Christmas gifts. What are we going to get Grandpa Lewy?”
“Easy. All he ever wants is cupcakes.”
“We can’t give everyone cupcakes for Christmas.”
Rachel laughed. “All right. Cupcakes it is.”
Mike pulled her into his arms, glanced up at the mistletoe hanging above them, and gave her a warm kiss. “Selling ‘Cupcakes’ to that businessman would be the only other way to pay for everything on your list.”
“If it were up to me,” Rachel whispered, her eyes on the double doors of the kitchen, “I’d take the money and run.”
“You would?” Mike asked, surprised. “I would, too.”
“You think we should accept the offer?”
“Yeah, but it’s not my business, so I wasn’t going to say anything.”
Rachel winced. “But how do I tell Andi?”
“You could stick a note into the Cupcake Diary,” Mike suggested.
“Andi would kill me. She’s got her heart set on keeping Creative Cupcakes, and together, she and Jake own half the shop’s business shares.”
“One-fourth of one-point-two million is three hundred thousand.” Mike gave her a mischievous grin. “With my salary and the extra money, we could move to Hollywood, closer to the studios I work for, and you wouldn’t have to work at all.”
“What would I do?” She pursed her lips as she considered. “Get my nails done? Shop for new furniture? Audition for a TV commercial?”
“We could start a family.” Mike brushed the side of her face with his finger. “Wouldn’t you like to be a mom?”
“I—I don’t know. I’d like to concentrate on the wedding first. You know, make sure I don’t trip down the aisle in my high heels and fall flat on my face.”
“If you trip, I’ll catch you,” Mike promised. “You know I will always be there for you.”
Even if she didn’t want kids right away? She loved Mia and had recently gotten to know Taylor, but she’d never done much babysitting. And changing dirty diapers was not her idea of fun.
Maybe it was a good thing Andi wanted to keep the shop. While money would be nice, she wasn’t sure she was in sync with Mike’s idea of what they should do with it.
About the Author
Darlene Panzera is the winner of the “Make Your Dreams Come True” contest sponsored by Avon Books. The win led her novella, The Bet, to be published with Debbie Macomber’s Family Affair. The award-winning novella (chosen in a blind-read by Debbie Macomber) was then published as a full length novel retitled, Bet You’ll Marry Me. Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene is now a resident of the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and three children. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, two horses, and loves: camping, hiking, photography, and lazy days at the lake.
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I read the first three books in this super sweet series. I hope to read this one eventually as well. :D
Do you like to read Christmas themed stories too?
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