Cupcakes and Cupids -- Debora Dennis

Cupcakes & Cupid
A Starlight Hills Holiday Novella

Welcome to Starlight Hills! Mountain views, small town charm, and one little bake shop, where romance is always on the menu.

While the rest of the town celebrates Valentine's Day with flowers, chocolate, and the annual Cupid Ball, Katie Dixon plans to spend it like every other day…alone, in her nursing scrubs. With a broken engagement in her past, her dreams of cuddling by the fire with the love of her life now involve her cat, chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes, and a book. No lying, cheating men. No wilting flowers to throw away. No more broken heart.

Three years ago when Reed Dempsey left Starlight Hills, he thought he'd left his wounded heart behind too. In love with his best friend's fianceé, he took off to build his life in the city, far away from the ever prying eyes of his small hometown and constant reminders of Katie. Now he's back to get his grandparents' flower shop through Valentine's Day and ready to sell before he falls for Katie all over again.

This year Cupid might need a little help to get these two hearts to the ball. Fortunately, one bakeshop matchmaker might be baking up more than cupcakes!

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February 1st.

Thirteen days before Valentine's Day, the lure of a freshly-baked chocolate-covered strawberry cupcake overpowered Katie Dixon's common sense.

She ignored the poster in the window announcing the annual Cupid Ball and pushed open the door to the Itty Bitty Bake Shop. The sweetly-scented air warmed her cold cheeks as the bell above the door jingled her arrival. Before Katie could blink, Bitty Crane leaned over the counter near the register, her brown curls bobbing and her blue eyes locked on Katie.

"Good morning, Katie. I thought you might be stopping by today." She slid a bright yellow bag across the counter with a wink. "One Cupid's Kiss cupcake to go."

How does she do that?

Katie eyed the bag on the counter knowing it would be pointless to ask how Bitty always seems to know what most people in Starlight Hills need before they do. For a moment she stood there, removing her leather gloves and smiled back, deciding to chalk it up to Bitty's uncanny intuition. Katie took the bag and peered inside at the little bit of heaven she'd probably finish before she got halfway to the hospital. Then she glanced at Bitty. "Nice try, Mrs. Crane, but it's still just the February Special to me."

"A rose by any other name—"

"Roses wither and die. I'll gladly take the cupcake any day. They never disappoint." She held the bag up and wiggled her brows, suddenly feeling a little more playful than she had all week. What was it about this shop that simply made people happy? It had to be the sugar rush.

Bitty shook her head, the smile not wavering. "Now, now. I won't have any of that negative talk so close to the Cupid Ball. Besides, your mother is in charge of decorations and I'm positive red roses will be in abundance."

Red roses, glitter, and disco balls; her mother was in her decorating glory. Anita Dixon lived and breathed the Cupid Ball from the first of the new year until February fourteenth, and if Katie wanted to stay sane, she'd learned to stay out of her mother's way for those six weeks. However, avoiding Bitty Crane was another matter when February rolled around and Katie's favorite treat showed up in the bake shop window. If she kept her wits about her, she should be able to grab her cupcake fix and get out before her love life became the topic of conversation.

Lamenting about flowers could be safe if she kept focused.  "Mom does love her roses, doesn't she? Especially the red ones."

Bitty nodded and reached into the display case for another cupcake. Her sympathetic half-smile immediately put Katie on the defensive. It wasn't that she didn't like roses; she'd loved them once too. Now they just held memories of her cheating ex-fiancé, wedding plans, and broken hearts. So much for flowers being a safe topic.

Bitty handed Katie a second bag, her eyes still bright, but her smile not quite as jovial. "Would you mind dropping this off with your mother on your way to work? I'm alone this morning and I promised her one of the first ones out of the oven."

 "Another peace offering?" Katie laughed. "She's still mad you changed the name on the posters, isn't she?"

"Cupid Cotillion just sounds so southern. Don't you think? The Cupid Ball simply has a better ring."

"I'm not going, so I'm not really involved..." The two yellow bags sat between them and all Katie wanted to do was grab her cupcake and leave. But she hadn't paid for them yet and she braced herself for what was coming. She buttoned up her coat and re-wrapped her scarf around her neck hoping Bitty would take the subtle hint.

"Not involved?" Bitty smoothed her hands down the side of her red apron and then leaned on the counter, her lips turned into a disapproving pout. "Katie, Katie, Katie. You know you can't hide out all alone in your apartment forever, and I'm sure Anita could use your help."

Damn the February Special! She should know better than to come anywhere near Bitty Crane and her bake shop this close to Valentine's Day. Katie looked around the shop, red paper hearts everywhere, and Cupid and his arrow of love hung from the ceiling as if mocking her as he turned slowly through the air.

Look away little man, nothing to aim at here!

She looked back at Bitty and scooped up the bags. "I'm going to be late for my shift if I don't run."

"Give your mother my best."