I’m so honored to be critique partners with the fabulous author, Jennifer Rodewald. She’s such a versatile writer, and her latest novella proves that even more. It’s an absolutely scrumptious story! I asked her to share an excerpt for Inspy Romance readers today.
My name is Kirstin Hill. I’m a simple girl trying to figure out life in a small town. There are a few things you should know about me before we begin. I grew up in the city. I’m a teacher–a first year teacher (some of you understand that significance). And, finally, when it comes to cooking, I’m a disaster. Maybe none of those things seem story-worthy, but trust me, I have a story. I call it The Cupcake Dilemma, and it literally changed my life. How? I’m glad you asked.
It all started with an extra assignment delegated to me at school right before Valentine’s Day… but before we get too far, let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.
So without further ado, here’s a small sweet taste of The Cupcake Dilemma!
Monday’s spelling list included the words cute, cookies, correct, and for bonus points, unicorn. While my second graders were busy practicing word usage by creating sentences with their word lists, I made up my own sample sentence.
This afternoon Ms. Hill will learn the correct way to bake cookies with the cute baker. And unicorns will appear on Main Street.
I felt sweaty in my teal super-soft cardigan and hoped that my nylon-and-lace flowy top underneath the open sweater didn’t have pit marks. What in the world was Ian Connealy thinking? Clearly he hadn’t understood the depth of my kitchen ineptness. He was a baker—in his business, surely taking on a large order of cupcakes was a good idea.
“Ms. Hill?” Keegan Kent waved at me, the tone of his voice letting me know that this hadn’t been the first time he’d tried to get my attention. I snapped from my dazed stare at the Smartboard upfront, where the word list glowed on the LED screen.
“Yes, Keegan? Do you need help?”
“You were staring,” he said, one ornery eyebrow raised.
“I was just thinking about something I have to do later.”
“Must be something hard. Your forehead was kind of mushed up.”
“Thank you, Keegan. Did you have a question?”
“No. Just wondered if you were okay.”
He smiled—it looked like a Dennis the Menace grin, all mischievous and cute at the same time. Kind of like Ian’s grin when I’d skulked up to the cash register where he was wiping down the counter just before Anastacia and I had left Saturday morning.
“Okay, you have a deal,” I’d mumbled, looking at Ian like he was in for it. Because he was.
Cue the cute troublemaker grin. “Excellent. We’ll start on Monday afternoon.”
My right eyebrow rocketed toward my hairline. “We will?”
“Of course. One must practice.” He continued working, as if this were a normal conversation.
“When did you think we’d have time to practice?”
He stopped, his chin tilted while his face radiated little-boy mischief. “I just told you. Monday afternoon, whenever you get done with school. And then Tuesday. After that, Wednesday.”
I braced my hands on my hips. “How do you know I work at the school?”
His eyes rolled as if I were the crazy one. “Ms. Kirstin Hill. Second-grade teacher. Likes the Rocky Road Toads, Red Velvet Delights, and occasionally will go for the Dark and Dangerous. But I think that’s only for a bad day. Keegan Kent is one of your students, and here’s a bit that maybe you don’t know, but you might need to—” He leaned across the counter and dropped his voice to a whisper. “Pretty sure the kid’s got a crush on his teacher.”
All of that ended with a wink, and then Ian crossed his arms and rocked back on his heels—a silent sign that he thought I should be impressed.
I blinked twice and stared at him for two more breaths after that. “Are you a stalker?”
Laughter shook his shoulders. “Nope. Just a guy running a business in a small town. And since you’re the new teacher, you get noticed.”
I crossed my arms. “Anastacia’s a new teacher too.”
“Right. Married to Mitch Campbell, the new and only doctor in town. Likes the Carmel Fudge Smudge, and Mitch goes for the Simple Spice. She’s a coffee drinker, but I’m pretty sure he only ever drinks water. They’re complete opposites, but it works for them. Anything else you want to know?”
I fought against the amusement tickling my mouth. The smile pushed its way out anyway, and I shook my head. “What time again on Monday?”
“Whenever you get here. I close at six, but we can work after that if we need to.”
I turned to go but stopped two steps toward the exit, glancing over my shoulder at him again. “You might regret this.”
“I doubt it.”
“You could call my mother—she’d corroborate my story.”
“I’m not scared.”
“Hope you’re insured.”
He’d laughed, and I’d left with a burned-in impression of the smile that resembled Keegan Kent’s.
Recovering back to the present, I glanced over at Keegan again. He sat with his shoulders bent over the desk, scrawling out his sentences with that yellow number 2 pencil. After a moment, he glanced back at me and grinned when he found me watching. Both eyebrows wiggled up and down, and he waved.
I barely held in a snort-laugh. The little rascal was cute, and he knew it. Pretty sure Ian had been just like him at age eight.
A quick glance at the clock told me it was 2:52. Thirty-eight more minutes and I’d dismiss the kids. Another hour’s worth of work waited for me at my desk, and then…
I’d find out how much Ian was like eight-year-old Keegan. And he’d find out how kitchen inept I really was.
Heh-heh-heh. The gleeful chuckle floated through my mind. I was ready. Pretty sure Ian was not.
Do you love it yet? I’ve read the whole novella, and I know you’ll enjoy it! Thank you, Jen!
Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.
She would love to hear from you! You can find her at:
Preorder your copy of the The Cupcake Dilemma for only 99 cents!
Jen is graciously offering one of her eBooks to one person who comments here by February 5, reader’s choice! (void where prohibited)