Where There's Smoke. . .
USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman
When flames from a recipe gone disastrously wrong send hunky firefighter Will Mason to pretty Clara Parker's rescue, the sparks really begin to fly! And once Will gets a taste of Clara, he aches for more than just a little sugar from the famously single food columnist. . ..
"Donna Kauffman writes smart and sexy, with sizzle to spare!" --Janet Evanovich
The Gingerbread Man
National bestselling author Kate Angell
Folks have always told fun-loving Abby Denton that her anatomically correct Gingerbread cookies are. . .impressive. But those erotic cookies have nothing on the sexy stranger Abby saves from a snowy country road. Could Lander Reynolds be the Christmas treat she's truly been longing for?
"No fan of the genre should miss Angell's surefire romances." –Booklist
Sugar And Spice
When caterer Lily Callahan goes up against hotshot pastry chef Pete Mancuso in the bake-off of the season, the stakes are high--and scandalously passionate. Will the gorgeous gourmand steal Lily's heart--and the top prize in the Christmas cookie competition?
"A mouth-watering, heart-warming, toe-curling holiday romance!" --Amanda Usen, author of Luscious
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About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Kate Angell lives in Naples, Florida. She’s an animal lover, avid reader, and sports fan. Bookstores are her second home. She takes coffee breaks at Starbucks. Her philosophy: Out of chaos comes calmness. Enjoy the peace. Please visit her on Facebook or at www.kateangell.com.
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she's not sitting crosslegged in an ancient desk chair known as "The Pleather Bomber," she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. She resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.
Read an Excerpt
The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap
By DONNA KAUFFMAN, KATE ANGELL, KIMBERLY KINCAID
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Donna Kauffman
All rights reserved.
The snow was starting to come down thicker and faster as Clara Parker drove away from the cookie swap ... and away from her warm, cozy little cottage off Main Street as well. She flipped her windshield wipers to high and clicked on the rear defrosters as she headed over the mountain toward Riverside instead.
A little snowstorm — or even a not-so-little one — wasn't going to keep her from her designated mission: Operation Find Cookie Cookbook. It sounded like a rather silly mission to risk life and limb for, but it was precisely her life she was intending to save. Her first Christmas cookie column was due in to her editor in less than forty-eight hours. Her first of twelve consecutive columns, one per day, every day, leading right up to Christmas. Twelve columns. Twelve cookie recipes, complete with handy baking tips. So, she figured it might be a good idea if she, you know, learned how to bake.
Clara prayed the Riverside bookstore had something with "for Dummies" in the title. "Okay, okay, 'Really Big Dummies,'" she murmured, navigating her way carefully through town on the snow-covered roads. She knew Abby and Lily would happily help her muddle her way through this sudden, unexpected career change, but they had their hands more than full with their own career-oriented baking endeavors at the moment. Besides, she'd gotten herself into her current situation and she needed to prove to her herself, not to mention her boss, that she could get herself back out of it.
It wasn't like being the relationship advice columnist for the Pine Mountain Gazette had been her dream job, anyway. It had simply been a means to an end — a stepping stone, she'd hoped, to the type of local-story journalism she'd always wanted to write. So, losing that job wasn't that big a blow. It was more like a relief, really.
"Yeah, that's what it was. A relief." Clara fished another one of Abby's anatomically correct gingerbread men cookies from the gift box on the passenger seat. "Who needs to earn money? Keeping a roof over my head and putting food on the table? Highly overrated." With the engine idling as she sat at the last traffic light before leaving Pine Mountain, Clara studied the perfectly piped white frosting that trimmed the perfect little gingerbread man's perfect little arms and perfect little legs. Cookies. What on earth had she been thinking, agreeing to write a column on Christmas cookies?
The only thing she knew less about than how to have a functional, long-term relationship, was how to bake. If her chance to springboard herself from advice columnist to a local features writer had been dicey, then making the same jump from a column about baking when she couldn't boil water? "Yeah. Awesome move, Clara. Awesome move."
Not that she'd had much of a choice. It had been writing a baking column or standing in the unemployment line. She sighed and snapped off a perfectly frosted leg, crunching as she waited for the light to turn green, trying not to panic. But there was no way around it, really. A columnist who wrote about baking would have to actually bake things. Which was really unfortunate, especially when one took into consideration that there should be a law preventing Clara Parker from ever being allowed, much less required, to voluntarily put herself in a position to be handling sharp objects around things that got really, really hot. Just ask the local fire department.
She finished off the cookie leg and was halfway through the other one as she left the twinkling lights of Pine Mountain behind her. If only eating cookies counted as research. She'd be golden, then. What she needed was a boost of optimism and confidence. She'd gotten away with being an advice columnist for almost three years, hadn't she? How hard could it be to get away with offering baking tips and recipes for the next ten days? So what if she couldn't even reheat Chinese take-out without involving the local PMFD? Besides, they'd probably already forgotten about that whole incident with the melted toaster oven.
Groaning, Clara snapped off a gingerbread arm, then munched her way through that, the other arm, and the head as she navigated the swirling snow and rapidly diminishing visibility down the other side of the mountain. Why, oh why didn't you talk Fran into a column about something else? Anything else? She spared a quick glare at the protruding peppermint stick remaining on the front of the little cookie man's torso, right before snapping it off with a decisive crunch. Men. It was all their fault, really, that she was in this predicament in the first place.
If Pete Mancuso hadn't been so charming when he'd rescued her runaway grocery cart that afternoon a week ago, offering to buy her a cup of coffee so she could catch her breath after almost being sideswiped by tiny Mrs. Teasdale in her mammoth Lincoln, she wouldn't have assumed he'd been interested in her. And when he'd bumped into her again later at the local café and invited her to an impromptu lunch where they'd spent the afternoon chatting away about their work and such — surely any woman would have been swept off her feet, right? She could hardly be blamed for thinking his intentions were romantic in nature. How was she supposed to know he was just hoping she'd do a human interest story about his star-on-the-rise career as a local chef made good?
But then, she of all people should have known better. She was astutely perceptive when it came to her friends, always aware of the things going on around her, even able to keep up or at least fake her way through most any conversational topic. All in all a pretty sharp, well ... cookie. She also happened to be a too-tall, gawky woman who was a borderline klutz — and, okay, so maybe that line was invisible — with a shock of red hair, stick thin to the point that her curves ranked in the minus column, who possessed zero skill in knowing how to maximize any of it. And yet, there she'd sat, being all giddy date girl, while Pete had simply been networking. Of course he had. Because why in the world would a guy who looked like Pete Mancuso ever consider romancing klutzy Clara?
And, before Pete? Yeah, there had been Stuart Henry, the accountant at the firm in Riverside that did her taxes. He'd been so serious and goal oriented, so ... focused. Some might have used the term nerd, but to her it had been more of a hot, professorial, bespectacled kind of thing. And he'd always been so intent, concentrating exclusively on her whenever they talked, oblivious to the world around him, making her feel special, as if she were the only woman in the room. So, no one could blame her if it had taken a few dates — all right, maybe a few months' worth of dates — to realize that he was, in fact, oblivious to the world around him, and that she really was the only woman in the room. The only woman in the room willing to listen to his endless soliloquies on tax law, his utter fascination regarding corporate withholdings, and the excitement of debating the relative merits of resort property ownership versus group timeshares.
Even more mortifying? She hadn't been the one to break up with him. Turns out Stuart's mother didn't really approve of him dating a redhead. She claimed they were all no-good homewreckers. Which, since Stuart was single, was somewhat confusing, until he explained that his father had run off with a redheaded actuary. All of which meant Clara really wasn't the only woman in the room after all. Stuart's mother was also in the room. In fact, Stuart's mother owned the room. And she wasn't about to sublet any of it to Clara.
Before Stuart, it had been Willard Blickensderfer, the newly imported Swiss ski instructor at the Pine Mountain resort. Clara smiled briefly as the peppermint candy slowly dissolved on her tongue. Willard had been a good half foot shorter than she, but there were certain perks to that. They'd aligned well in other ways. Especially when they were both horizontal. In fact, he'd been great in bed, very energetic, very ... attentive. Turns out, unlike Stuart's mother, Willard had quite a thing for natural redheads. A very good, very enthusiastic thing. He'd also made her feel like the only woman in the room. Which, she'd learned — in a quite mortifying manner on a late-night surprise visit to his little mountain A-frame — was actually a rare thing for him. To his credit, he'd been equally enthusiastic about having her join the two other redheads he'd already been ... entertaining. So he hadn't, technically, broken up with her. But even Clara had her standards. And though she'd been raised to play well with others, there were some things she simply did not share.
And before Willard ... gah. She really didn't want to think about it. She had thirty all but staring her in the face and the most meaningful relationship she'd ever had was her freshman year in college. And that hadn't even really been a relationship. What it had been was a solid friendship that seemed headed toward something more serious, or maybe that had only been in her mind, but she had definitely been falling, and falling hard. Only he'd had to leave school suddenly right before the end of their first year for a family emergency, and ... that had been that. But of all the guys she'd ever spent any appreciable time with, Will Mason had been the only ... well, the only real one. No artifice, no pretense, no game playing.
Of course, they hadn't really dated. They'd never even kissed. She'd been even more insecure about her height, about her hair, her awkwardness, her ... well, everything, back then. So not sexy.
But Will ... well, maybe he hadn't made her feel beautiful exactly, or even like the only woman in the room, but what he had done was even better. He'd made her feel good, happy. Normal. And desirable, even if just as a friend. There had been no other goal than that, no other agenda. He wasn't angling to get her to do his homework, or give him her cuter best friend's phone number. He'd sincerely seemed to like hanging out with her, just ... for her.
They'd been initially partnered in a study lab for a science class, but had ended up spending hours talking while pretending to do their lab work, much of that time sprinkled liberally with laughter. He'd gotten her dry humor, even thought her always too-loud laugh-snort was cute, or at least not mortifying, and she'd gotten that underneath his laid-back, easy-going style he was a guy with goals, with determination. He was smart, and driven in his own way. He just wasn't obvious about it.
She fished out another cookie, then shoved it back in the box as she slowed down to enter Riverside proper. More sugar wasn't helping her still-thumping pulse, nor was thinking about her first crush. Like her, he'd been away from home for the first time, and they'd bonded over that. He was originally from Bealetown, which was on the other side of Pine Mountain, so they'd had a lot of the local landmarks in common, if not the same hometown, exactly. As far as she was concerned, if men were more like Will, she'd probably still have her old job at the Gazette.
"Actually if there were more men out there like Will Mason, they probably wouldn't need an advice columnist in the first place." So, either way, you lose. Clara snorted as she slowly eased into the bookstore parking lot, careful to keep her tires from slipping or sliding in the snow that was starting to mount up on the pavement. It looked like she'd be using four-wheel drive to get home. Maybe even put on the tire chains she kept in the back.
Honestly, it's just as well you're not dishing out advice any longer, she thought as she jockeyed into the first available space she could find. A woman could only take so much rejection before her naturally rose-colored optimism turned into a tell-it-like-it-is reality check, tinged with barely concealed cynicism. For that matter, Will could have grown up to be a self-absorbed, commitment phobic, womanizing jerk, for all she knew.
Memories of how his thatch of wheat-blond hair had always looked like he'd just climbed out of bed, those puppy dog brown eyes of his, the ridiculously sweet dimples that only popped out when he smiled like he meant it ... yeah, so, okay it was hard to imagine him being a jerk of any kind. But still, she wouldn't be surprised by anything anymore.
"See? You're jaded." She debated on indulging in one more crunchable man cookie, then firmly tucked the flap closed on the box. "No more cookie-shaped men. No more real men, either. And, definitely, no more whining. Be thankful you have a job. Be thankful it's your very favorite time of year. Now, go forth and learn to bake!"
She climbed out and flipped up the hood of her winter coat, then made her way carefully across the parking lot, trying not to pull a face plant, or butt plant for that matter, before making it to the curb. She should have thought to bring weather-appropriate footwear, but she'd come straight from the community center and the forecasters hadn't been really calling for the snowfall to amount to anything. Of course, that had been in Pine Mountain. Riverside was in the valley and often got dumped on in the winter.
Despite her now half-numb toes, once she made it to the sidewalk in front of the bookstore, she didn't hurry toward the big double wooden doors. Instead, she took her own advice and took a moment to enjoy the thick, fat flakes as they tumbled through the crisp night air, twirling all around her. She truly loved the winter, loved the snow, loved all the traditions of the holidays. She wasn't going to let some minor personal setback — okay, even a not-so-minor one — interfere with enjoying her favorite time of year. Her own private little rebellion against the reality check life was handing her. Again. To that end, she stuck her tongue out and let a few flakes melt on her tongue.
"Take that, life," she said, a resolute smile on her face as she pulled open the big wooden doors with an enthusiastic, rebellion-fueled tug ... and slipped, almost falling flat on the snow-covered pavement as her feet went out from under her. She managed at the last second to grip the oversized door handle, barely preserving her clothes and her butt, if not her pride.
When she finally managed to right herself, she was relieved to find not a single person had noticed her less-than-graceful entrance. Not because the place was empty. Far from it. The shop was jam-packed. Body-to-body packed. But everyone was facing toward the back of the store. Now that she thought about it, the parking lot had been rather full. Of course, it was only two weeks to Christmas, so every parking lot was an endless sea of jockeying cars these days ... but this was a little nuts, even for this time of year.
It took her a moment as she tipped her hood off — which crumpled and promptly sent a sheaf of snow down the back of her neck and under her collar, making her squeal — to realize some kind of event was going on.
"I know, honey," a woman in front of Clara said, when her squeal and wriggling to keep more snow from going inside her coat drew attention. "It is pretty exciting, right?"
"Right," Clara agreed, dancing a little jig to make the snow melt faster, even though she hadn't a clue what the woman was talking about. If there were signs posted outside, she'd missed them while having her defiant snowflake moment, and the place was too jammed full inside to see any signs. Her height did come in handy on occasion, however, and she could look over most of the sea of heads to where some kind of table was set up near the back of the store. Ah, a book signing. There were too many people crowded in front of the table to see who the guest author was, but she was guessing, since the entire line snaking up and down almost every aisle was comprised entirely of women, that it was probably a children's author. Which made perfect sense at Christmastime.
She'd shopped in the bookstore many times over the years, but had to dodge elbows and shopping bags as she tried to figure out where the cookbook aisle was. That part of the store format was foreign to her. She managed to only partially knock over a spinner rack and clear a corner off of a huge display table before mercifully spying Paula Deen smiling benevolently like Clara's own personal savior from an endcap cookbook display. Sighing in relief, Clara dodged around another cluster of excitedly chattering women — whoever this author was, these women sure were excited, bordering on downright giddy — and escaped into the otherwise mercifully abandoned cookbook aisle. Apparently no one in the store was shopping for anything other than whatever the guest author was selling.
Excerpted from The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap by DONNA KAUFFMAN, KATE ANGELL, KIMBERLY KINCAID. Copyright © 2013 Donna Kauffman. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Where There's Smoke ... Donna Kauffman.................... 17
Mama Mason's Megasized Chocolate Chip Cookies.................... 138
The Gingerbread Man Kate Angell.................... 141
Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Man Cookies.................... 271
Sugar and Spice Kimberly Kincaid.................... 273
Pete Mancuso's Blondies.................... 389