The Cupcake Cowboy
Cassandra Jamieson checked her watch again. Ten more minutes had passed. Really? She sighed, shuffled her weight from one foot to the other, and fanned herself with her hand because she didn’t have anything else with her. Of course, it didn’t do her any good. This was Texas. In summer.
When she left her office at the culinary school earlier, she’d had no idea the line for cupcakes, for his cupcakes, would be so long in front of, or behind her. And who knew it would take to so long to order a cupcake? It was a little cake and a dollop of frosting. Ordering one wasn’t rocket science.
Yet, it appeared many people took their cupcake selection pretty seriously.
The mid-day sun streamed bright and scorching and chef’s jackets weren’t exactly made of the most lightweight, breathable material. She could have taken it off, but she thought she’d only be in line for a few minutes and the four blocks she’d walked were fine, what with a little cloud cover and slight breeze. Those two things had disappeared the second she’d spotted the line to the side of the cupcake truck.
She’d be too hot to eat a cupcake by the time she got to the Order Here window. She would however, be willing to pony up every dollar she had for every bottle of water the truck might have in stock.
Karma must be laughing at her.
Three more people and she’d be in a little shade under the retractable blue and white striped awning.
Painted a slick, shiny midnight blue with polished chrome bumpers and wheels, the truck was cute, catchy, maybe even a little sexy. An airbrushed pop-up sign in white and blue rested atop the roof, complete with a black cowboy hat and boots. It was masculine, but not overtly so and something about it all just…fit with its owner.
Another step forward and only two customers were left in front of her.
Cass looked at the menu. Simple flavors of chocolate, vanilla bean, red velvet, spice cake, lemon, and coconut were listed on one board. Nothing fancy, nothing earth shattering. On the other side was the list of frostings, then fillings. Those were fancy and earth shattering. From a basic buttercream to a triple chocolate ganache to a lemon chiffon cream cheese swirled with blueberry preserve, the frostings filled up two chalkboards. Two other chalkboards listed the fillings. One could choose from peanut butter caramel, Bavarian cream, strawberry-jalapeño jam, pureed cherries jubilee, or homemade marshmallow cream made with local, micro-brewed dark beer. Beer and marshmallows? In a cupcake filling? The fifth and final board had her smiling like a kid. Titled Fun Flavors, she licked her lips at the thoughts of Toasted S’mores cupcakes, Raspberry Limeade, Blue Suede, Pink Lemonade, and Cotton Candy.
She suddenly had an appreciation of the decision making ability required of anyone who was stood in front of the menus of The Cupcake Cowboy’s mobile bakery.
Jackson. The Cupcake Cowboy. Cass took in an unsteady breath, exhaled in a huff, and smoothed her hair back. Not that she could see if it looked decent or not. She’d sweat enough that her make-up was probably collecting in a pool on the sidewalk somewhere ten feet back. She knew she looked a sight and not a pretty one, but then the reason she was standing in line wasn’t pretty either and it had nothing at all to do with cupcakes.
Now or never, girl. Cass stepped forward, straightened her jacket, and raised her head, waiting. The longer it took him to notice her, the more her nerves kicked in and nausea settled in her gut.
She cleared her throat, but Jackson continued writing on his little order pad. His fingers, stained with icing gels, tightly gripped a green pencil. She’d dreamed about those fingers and what they’d feel like on her skin. It started, this fascination with him the first day he walked into her pastry dough class. He’d had the most beautiful hands, with long, strong fingers. There were calluses on the pads and outer edges of his palms, which she learned were from growing up and working a ranch, but none of that detracted from the reality that he had a gentle and steady, yet forceful and insistent touch. He’d had such a knack for ingredients, an incredible palate and ability to blend tastes, but he lacked the patience dough making took.
As he progressed through the baking tract of his classes, she and his other instructors realized one thing about his ability: He sucked at all things pastry, except cakes, frostings, and fillings.
“Sorry ‘bout that, ma’am. What can I get ya?” he asked easily, as he tore the page he’d been writing on and handed it off to someone just out of sight.
His head shot up as she spoke. A surprised, wide blue gaze whipped over her face before narrowing until she could barely see the irises. He schooled his features quickly and plastered a tolerant smile on his gorgeous mouth. He was all business now. “Ms. Jamieson,” he greeted her tightly. “I didn’t expect to see you. What’ll you have?”
Could she really say it? “To offer an apology and…and to tell you I miss you.” She forced the words past her lips, rushing them so she didn’t have time to bite her tongue.
“Unnecessary, but accepted,” he said curtly. “As you can see…” He swept his arm wide to encompass both the truck and growing line behind her. “You were wrong in your assessment of me and my plans for a cupcake business.”
Cass didn’t consider herself a proud or boastful person, but this humiliating and humbling experience was not one she wished to prolong or repeat. “Yes. Yes, I can. Which is why I’m trying to apologize.”
Jackson waved off her comments. “Appreciated, but again, unnecessary. Now, as we are rather busy, unless you’re ordering something, I’m gonna have to ask you to step aside.”
And just like that, the infuriating, hot–as-a-Texas-summer cowboy dismissed her. He motioned the woman standing behind Cass to move forward and for a moment, Cass was uncertain what to do. Should she stand her ground or and step to the side. He’d made it clear he didn’t want to talk to her. Maybe he was going to keep up this immature slight forever. Maybe there was nothing more she could or should do. He made the choice to shut her out, to forget the heat that radiated between them, and perhaps it was Cass’ turn to do the same.
Decision made, she turned away only to immediately turn back. She tapped the shoulder of the woman who’d taken her place in front of Jackson. “Excuse me.” She used her best and strongest teacher’s voice. “I wasn’t done.” Cass let the woman’s huff roll right off her back. This thing with Jackson was more important than some cupcake order and they was just going to have to deal with it.
He sighed. “Ms. Jamieson, I told you I ?”
“Yes, I know what you said and you didn’t give me the chance to place an order.” Of course, she didn’t want a cupcake. It was too damn hot out for a cupcake. But it wasn’t too damn hot to want Jackson. Naked. Pressed against the back of his truck. Audience or not.
“Uh huh.” He sized her up, assessed her, stared hard into her eyes. “Fine,” he said through clenched teeth some seconds later. “What would you like?”
Cass made a show of perusing the menu, but really hadn’t needed to. She didn’t have fancy taste, wasn’t a sophisticated connoisseur of cupcakes. She just wanted to make him as uncomfortable as he was making her. “A bottle of water and… Hmmm. How about a chocolate fudge cupcake with vanilla bean buttercream?”
He lifted a chestnut brow at her choice, as if to say ‘Are you serious?’ “Simple enough,” he managed. “It’s on the house.”
She opened her mouth to argue but thought better of it. “Thank you.”
Jackson shrugged. “Don’t mention it. Teach.”
His tone was light but she could still make out the veiled sarcasm and strain. He always called her Teach when he wasn’t particularly happy with her, which toward the end of their second term together, was all the time.
She crossed to the Pick-Up Here window on her left, and waited for her cupcake.
She’d never meant to insult him, never meant to offend him, but when he’d come to her for advice about opening a cake bakery instead of finishing school, Cass had automatically fed him the school and experience mandated rhetoric. In as polite a way as she could, she suggested that he finish school, and then give working in an established bakery a try. She told him to spend some time developing more of his skills rather than jumping into the deep end feet first.
He hadn’t taken her advice too well. Criticism, however constructive or well meaning, was not Jackson’s strong suit. He thought she hadn’t believed in him, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. He had talent with a pastry bag and decorating tip and an innate ability to put things together that shouldn’t taste right, but did.
She’d pushed Jackson. She’d pushed him harder than any of her other students, and part of it was because of her attraction to him.
The moment he walked into her eight-thirty Introduction to Pastry Arts class, the air had crackled, as though saying, “He’s here.” That one man who would turn her world upside down. That elusive ‘he’ all the romance novels and chick flicks and fairy tales made millions off of.
She might like cakes and pies and all things fluffy, but she’d never been a believer in love at first sight.
The powerful reaction she had to him kept her constantly on edge whenever he was around. She’d been teaching for years and it was the first time she’d ever felt anything more than professional pride in one of her students. She’d had favorites over the years, both male and female, but she’d never dated any of them. It wasn’t against school policy per se, but it was against her personal code of ethics.
But there was something about Jackson that nipped and gnawed at her until she was completely smitten. He had an easy smile, a quick wit and she’d done her best not to let anything influence either of them. He was younger as well. Almost twenty-five when he walked into her first class and a few months shy of twenty-seven now.
He was still young enough to believe everything was still possible. She didn’t want him to ever lose that feeling, that attitude that pushed him into thinking he could do anything. She’d been afraid he would if he failed at being the master of his own pastry kitchen.
She’d wanted to protect him from the hardship and incredible failure rate of the food business. The industry was difficult and challenging and competitive. The professionals made it look easy, but that was because they’d been at it for so long. He couldn’t seem to understand that just because he had a knack with cakes and frostings that he could make it with a bakery of his own.
Of course, he also took every bit of warning as a challenge. His last words that day in her office had been his promise to prove everyone wrong.
And he had, in fact, done just that. His truck was the hot, new food business in San Antonio.
“Chocolate fudge with vanilla bean?”
“Mine,” she answered absently, so lost in thought she’d nearly forgotten about the cupcake. She held out her hand and a large Latino man with black swirling tattoos up and down his arms, grinned down at her and leaned out the window with the delicate cupcake in his hand.
The cupcake sat inside a clear plastic cup with a lid. She was also offered a brightly colored plastic spoon. She popped the top and took a whiff. She wanted to melt into the sidewalk.
Cass whisked off a bit of frosting with the spoon and licked at it. She moaned in pleasure. Jackson was a flippin’ magician. He couldn’t get anything right with pies, tarts, breads and he burnt the hell out of or under baked cookies, but cakes and frostings and fillings…? Dear God, he was a genius.
Whatever he might think of her, she’d followed his progress from the beginning. He’d been ingenious with his idea of adding cocktail cupcakes to the clubs and bars along the river. During daytime hours, Jackson sold non-alcoholic cupcakes. The duality of his offerings had worked. He had a rock solid customer base during both business and happy hour.
“What are you really doing here?”
The low drawl sent shivers down Cass’ spine. She turned slowly to find Jackson leaning against the back of his truck. Arms crossed over his chest, one lean muscled leg bent with his boot anchored against the chrome bumper. He looked casual, like he had all day to deal with her, but his eyes gave him away. He was spoiling for a fight and she just happened to be his target. That was fine. She could handle the chip on his shoulder for a while. Arguing with him was worth it if it broke the silence between them and gave them common ground to start over on.
And it was worth it if she got to look at him. It had been a while since she’d seen him up close and personal. His choice of clothing was always the same. Jeans, snake skin boots, t-shirts that stretched just right across his chest, a little silver hoop in one ear, dark, wavy hair a little longer than shaggy, and the barbed wire tattoo on his right wrist. She always wondered, wanted to know if there were other tattoos, but she’d never been brave enough to ask.
Then she remembered that she was still tonguing the spoon.
Available as an ebook:
Lone Star Sweets, Book 1
Jackson Dawson had known only one way of life: ranching. That is, until he went to college in the city. There, he was introduced to a whole new world of people, food, and way of life. He never dared to imagine that he could do or be anything other than a rancher’s son, but with his mother’s words ringing in his ears and his sister’s encouragement, he took a chance. And in the process, found himself and met the woman of his dreams.
Pastry Chef Cass Jamieson’s only desire had been to own a bakery. After a stint in pastry school, she quickly learned that trying to make your dreams come true wasn’t easy. She was dejected when her bakery closed and soon returned to the classroom as a teacher to eager young bakers with the same stars in their eyes that had once been in hers.
So, when the stubborn, determined, and hot as summer in Texas cowboy walked into Cass’s pastry kitchen, it turned her life and libido upside down. When he seeks her out for heated kisses and her thoughts on his cake bakery idea, she gives in to the lust, but gives cautious business advice born of experience, only Jackson didn’t see it that way.
Who will bend first in this battle of wills involving sugar and spice and everything naughty and nice? Come take a ride with The Cupcake Cowboy and find out…
Warning: Uses of frosting that frosting was never intended for. A dirt road showdown. A lesson in milking cows. A whole truck full of mouthwatering cupcakes (some with liquor). A little family drama. And dreams on their way to coming true…
Series: Lone Star Sweets, Book 1
Publisher: Lissa Matthews
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 148 pages
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