The Cupcake Diaries
Sweet On You, Recipe for Love, Taste of Romance
By: Darlene Panzera
The Cupcake Diaries Book Three: TASTE OF ROMANCE
(Avon Impulse; on-sale May 21st, 2013; e-book ISBN: 9780062242839)
For fans of Debbie Macomber comes Taste of Romance, the third installment in the Cupcake Diaries series. Kimberly Burke has avoided all types of risk since her mother's deadly plane crash—including risky relationships. Seems like everyone is always leaving her behind: her ex-boyfriend, her mother, and now her sister Andi and best friend Rachel—who have each found the man of her dreams. Then she meets Nathaniel when she mistakes his backyard for the new community park. He loves her passion, and when he learns of her wistful desire to travel, he takes her up in a hot air balloon, hoping to overcome her fear of flying so that she can accompany him abroad. But before he leaves, they must catch the Cupcake Bandit and replace the money stolen from Creative Cupcakes before the shop is shut down. Will discovering the thief's identity persuade Kim to take a risk on love ... or will she stay behind and let Nathaniel fly off without her?
All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!
Focus, Kim reprimanded herself. Keep to the task at hand and stop eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.
But she didn’t need to hear the crack of the teenage boy’s heart to feel his pain. Or to remember the last time she’d heard the wretched words “I’m leaving” spoken to her.
She tried to ignore the couple as she picked up the pastry bag filled with pink icing and continued to decorate the tops of the strawberry preserve cupcakes. However, the discussion between the high school boy and what she assumed to be his girlfriend kept her attentive.
“When will I see you again?” he asked.
Kim glanced toward them and leaned closer.
“I don’t know,” the girl replied.
The soft lilt in her accent thrust the familiarity of the conversation even deeper into Kim’s soul.
“I'll be going to the university for two years,” the girl continued. “Maybe we meet again after.”
Not likely. Kim shook her head, and her stomach tightened. From past experience, she knew once the school year was over in June, most foreign students went home, never to return.
And left many broken hearts in their wake.
“Two years is a long time,” the boy said.
Forever was even longer. Kim drew in a deep breath as the unmistakable catch in the poor boy’s voice replayed again and again in her mind. And her heart.
How long were they going to stand there and torment her by reminding her of her parting four years earlier with Gavin, the Irish student she’d dated through college? Dropping the bag of icing on the Creative Cupcakes’ counter, she moved toward them.
“Can I help you?” Kim asked, pulling on a new pair of food handler’s gloves.
“I’ll have the white chocolate macadamia,” the girl said, pointing to the cupcake she wanted in the glass display case.
The boy dug his hands into his pockets, counted the meager change he’d managed to withdraw, and turned five shades of red.
“None for me.” His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “How much for hers?”
“You have to have one, too,” the girl protested. “It’s your birthday.”
Kim took one look at his lost-for-words expression and said, “If today is your birthday, the cupcakes are free.” She added, “For both you and your guest.”
The teenager’s face brightened. “Really?”
Kim nodded and removed the cupcakes the two lovebirds wanted from the display case. She even put a birthday candle on one of them, a heart on the other. Maybe the girl would come back for him. Or he would fly to Ireland for her. Maybe.
Her eyes stung, and she squeezed them shut for a brief second. When she opened them again, she set her jaw. Enough was enough. Now that they had their cupcakes, she could escape back into her work and forget about romance and relationships and every regrettable moment she’d ever wasted on love.
She didn’t need it. Not like her older sister, Andi, who had recently lost her heart to Jake Hartman, their Creative Cupcakes’ financier and reporter for the Astoria Sun. Or like her other co-owner friend, Rachel, who had just gotten engaged to Mike Palmer, a miniature model maker for movies who also doubled as the driver of their Cupcake Mobile.
All she needed was to dive deep into her desire to put paint on canvas. She glanced at the walls of the cupcake shop, adorned with her scenic oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings. Maybe if she worked hard enough, she’d have the money to open her own art gallery, and she wouldn’t need to decorate cupcakes anymore.
But for now, she needed to serve the next customer. Where was Rachel?
“Hi, Kim.” Officer Ian Lockwell, one of their biggest supporters, sat on one of the stools lining the marble cupcake counter. “I’m wondering if you have the back party room available on June 27?”
Kim reached under the counter and pulled out the three-ring binder she, Andi, and Rachel had dubbed the Cupcake Diary to keep track of all things cupcake related. Looking at the calendar, she said, “Yes, the date is open. What’s the occasion?”
“My wife and I have been married almost fifteen years,” the big, square-jawed cop told her. “We’re planning on renewing our vows on our anniversary and need a place to celebrate with friends and family.”
“No better place to celebrate love than Creative Cupcakes,” Kim assured him, glancing around at all the couples in the shop. “I’ll put you on the schedule.”
Next, the door opened, and a stream of romance writers filed in for their weekly meeting. Kim pressed her lips together. The group intimidated her with their watchful eyes and poised pens. They scribbled in their notebooks whenever she walked by as if writing down her every move, and she didn’t want to give them any useful fodder. She hoped Rachel could take their orders, if she could find her.
No answer, but the phone rang—a welcome distraction. She picked up and said, “Creative Cupcakes, this is Kim.”
“What are you doing there? I thought you were going to take time off.”
Kim pushed into the privacy of the kitchen, glad it was Andi and not another customer despite the impending lecture tone. “I still have several dozen cupcakes to decorate.”
“Isn’t Rachel there with you?”
The door of the walk-in pantry burst open, and Rachel and Mike emerged, wrapped in each other’s arms, laughing and grinning.
Kim rolled her eyes. “Yes, Rachel’s here.”
Rachel extracted herself from Mike’s embrace and mouthed the word “sorry.”
But Kim knew she wasn’t. Rachel had been in her own red-headed, happy bubble ever since macho, dark-haired Mike the Magnificent had proposed two weeks earlier.
“I’ll be in for my shift as soon as I get Mia off to afternoon kindergarten,” Andi continued, “and the shop’s way ahead in sales. There’s no reason you can’t take a break. Ever since you broke up with Gavin, you’ve become a workaholic.”
Kim sucked in her breath at the mention of his name. Only Andi dared to ever bring him up.
“Gavin has nothing to do with my work.”
“You never date.”
“I’m concentrating on my career.”
“It’s been years since you’ve been out with anyone. You need to slow down, take time to smell the roses.”
“Smell the roses?” Kim gasped. “Are you serious?”
“Go on an adventure,” Andi amended.
“Working is an adventure.”
“You used to dream of a different kind of adventure,” Andi said, lowering her voice. “The kind that requires a passport.”
Kim wished she’d never picked up the phone. Just because her sister had her life put back together didn’t mean she had the right to tell her how to live.
“Painting cupcakes and canvas is the only adventure I need right now. I promised Dad I’d have the money to pay him for my new art easel by the end of the week.”
“Dad doesn’t care about the money, but he does care about you. He asked me to call.”
“He did?” Kim stopped in front of the sink and rubbed her temples with her fingertips. Her sister was known to overreact, but their father? He didn’t voice concern unless it was legitimate.
With the phone to her ear, she returned to the front counter of the couple-filled cupcake shop, her heart screaming louder and louder with each consecutive beat.
They were everywhere. By the window, at the tables, next to the display case. Couples, couples, couples. Everyone had a partner, had someone.
Instead of Goonies Day, the celebration of the 1985 release date of The Goonies movie, which was filmed in Astoria, she would have thought the calendar had been flipped back to Valentine’s Day at Creative Cupcakes. And in her opinion, one Valentine’s Day a year was more than enough.
She reached a hand into the pocket of her pink apron and clenched the golden wings she had received on her first airplane flight as a child. The pin never left her side, and like the flying squirrel tattooed on her shoulder, it reminded her of her dream to fly, if not to another land, then at least to the farthest reaches of her imagination.
Where her heart would be free.
Okay, maybe she did spend too much time at the cupcake shop. “Tell Dad not to worry,” Kim said into the phone. “Tell him … I’m taking the afternoon off.”
“Promise?” Andi persisted.
Oh, yeah. Tearing off her apron, she turned around and threw it over Rachel’s and Mike’s heads. “I’m heading out the door now.”
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.