The Little Red Tree

hungryhearts banner(STATIC713x316)(1)Hey, y’all! I have Lissa Matthews, my kitchen soul sister, here today! She loves to cook, and she writes naughty books! #LOVE Don’t forget to enter our giveaways at the bottom of the post… Hi Lissa! 🙂

I love Christmas trees and holiday lights. They’re my favorite. Even more than presents, especially as I’ve gotten older. I love walking into a room or looking through windows or driving by houses and through neighborhoods looking at the lights. It’s something we’ve been doing since I was a child and I’ve carried that tradition on.

We only had one tree when I was growing up. But when my kids were little and even still some years, they’ve had a small tree in their rooms, decorated with their own box of ornaments.

And, I’ve had a tree too. In my room. The kitchen. It’s an appropriate place for my tree as I spend so much time in it, cooking and baking. It’s a small, 2.5 foot red tinsel tree. It sits on the island and it is decorated with Coca-Cola polar bear ornaments, cookies and cupcakes and the annual red cup ornaments from Starbucks. Caribou Coffee has ornaments on my tree as well. It’s a special tree to me. It’s festive and bright and reflects a bit of me. I love putting it up and hate taking it down.

I always look for new ornaments. I would love to have some miniature kitchen utensils for my tree.

I think Christmas trees are so magical and beautiful. They hold memories in the ornaments that decorate their branches. And the lights keep the darkness at bay and brighten the corners.

Do you have a favorite ornament? Or do you have a small tree that represents you?

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season full of hope and joy and love.


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…


Jackson’s text said he needed to talk to her, but it seemed she wasn’t done running from him or the deal they’d made just yet. Well, the deal he’d made and she’d gotten pissed about. He’d had no right telling her she should try again with a bakery, no right in telling her that he wanted her to take another chance. She didn’t have the right to tell him he needed to talk to his father either, so in that, they were even. Still… She’d lost everything when her bakery went under. She’d lost her pride, her confidence, her ability to dream. It had devastated her in ways she hadn’t been expected, not only professionally, but personally. She’d pulled in on herself, become a hermit. She’d stopped dating and until Jackson had wandered into her class, she couldn’t have told anyone the last time she’d been interested in anyone.

It had humiliated and embarrassed her. It was only with her tail tucked between her legs that she’d contacted her former pastry instructor looking for a teaching job. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to look for jobs in other bakeries. And now Jackson wanted her to take a chance again, to put herself out there, to set herself up for failure.

Why couldn’t he understand that going to him, facing him, confronting him was as much as she could do? He hadn’t rejected her as she’d feared, not really. He’d needed a nudge and an explanation of her feelings, but once he had it, once he realized her intent had never been to undermine, but instead caution, he’d been all over her.

What he was asking of her was different, harder. The one thing in the world she’d always wanted, until him, had flopped. It broke her heart and she’d never fully recovered.

“You’re as bad as my brother.” Samantha’s voice called Cass back to the present.

“Huh?” She looked down. “Oh.” Cass smiled, chagrined. “Sorry about that.”

The ball of dough she’d been kneading wouldn’t be worth anything if she kept it up. One more fold, press, and a final fold over and she grabbed a rolling pin from the center of the large marble worktable.

Samantha had a decked out pastry kitchen with all the essentials. It was a small space that wouldn’t afford a lot of gadgets or the latest machines, but it had everything she needed for her craft. Excellent copper pots for making caramel. Three professional grade stand mixers for making small batches of dough. Two magnetic strips hung on one wall and held her knives. The most extravagant piece of equipment was the work surface. Half marble, half butcher block. It swallowed the room whole with its monstrous size. It was well made and it’s base was hollowed out for storage cubbies full of rolling pins, pans, and bowls. It was gorgeous and Cass couldn’t quell the pangs of envy, jealousy, and wistfulness.

She dipped her hand in the bowl of flour several inches in front of her and coated the already well seasoned rolling pin in her hand. The dough was a little tough to roll out because she’d kneaded it too much. It wasn’t as elastic as it should have been.

“Hey guys, see this?” Cass took the circle she’d rolled out and held it up. It didn’t have a lot of give. “This isn’t what we’re looking for,” she told her students. “We’re looking for elastic, not rubber.” The few days she and Sam had been doing this little hands-on field trip, Cass has only been able to bring four students at a time. But it had been a big success and the administration had been all for it. There was already a waiting list for future classes.

Sometimes, though bullheadedness and charging headfirst worked, having this kind of training outside the classroom would be an invaluable part of their education.

Jackson hadn’t been approached about it yet and Cass didn’t know if he would be. She’d been avoiding him and it wouldn’t look right if she showed up asking for a favor.

“So, you mean you’re not perfect, Chef?”

“Man, that’s a relief.”

Cass stared at her students. This group was fresh out of community college and younger than the group she’d brought over two days ago. She flicked flour in their general direction. “Of course I’m not perfect, but you won’t be either if you do this to the dough.”

“Perfection is overrated,” said another of her students.

“Depends on what you’re trying to perfect.”

Cass froze at the voice behind her. Her fingers involuntarily tightened on the circle of dough. Sam reached out and ripped it away from her with smirk. “Here. I’ll take that before you murder it.” To the people gathered around the table, Sam said, “This is my brother, Jackson. He owns The Cupcake Cowboy mobile bakery. By the name, you should be able to guess what his specialty is.”

“Oh man, I love your cupcakes. That red velvet is to die for.”

“Nah. The coconut cream is the best.”

“I like the chocolate stout with beer buttercream.”

Cass hadn’t turned to look at Jackson, but she felt him. He was so close to her back that the heat of his body flowed into her. Not that she needed to be any warmer. The heat in The Sticky Cowgirl kitchen was oppressive enough with the extra bodies filling the space, but the heat from Jackson was of a different variety. It caused her heart to start racing, her palms to sweat, liquid to pool between her legs.

“Thanks. What’ve y’all got goin’ on here?”

When Cass started to move, which way she didn’t know, Jackson settled a large, firm hand on her shoulder. Was she going to turn around? Was she going to run out the back door? Was she just going to crawl into the oven and be done with it?

“A teaching lesson,” Sam offered. Cass was so thankful that the other woman was there. She could carry the conversation with Jackson while Cass stood mute, unsure what to say to the man at her back. “I approached Cass last week about it and every couple of days, she brings in a fresh batch of young, bright eyed people for me to corrupt to the darkside.”

Jackson’s fingers flexed on Cass. “Sticky buns are the darkside?”

Samantha stuck her tongue out at her brother. “Going into business for yourself is the darkside. It’s not easy, and they’re learning valuable lessons about running a kitchen of their own.”

“That’s a great idea. But… I have to say I’m a little hurt that no one mentioned it to me.”

“Maybe you and Cass should step outside and discuss how you’d fit more than one extra person in the back of your cupcake truck.”

Cass shook her head, but Jackson ignored her by saying, “Yes, maybe we should. Ms. Jamieson, a word please.” He didn’t give her a chance to respond. He just used the hand on her shoulder to turn her wooden body toward the door leading to the outside of the shop.

She would have to face him now. She would have to look him in the eye and tell him she couldn’t do what he wanted her to do. But that would evidently have to wait because he had maneuvered her until her back was against the wall and his mouth was on hers.

Their tongues tangled and his hands anchored her in place. She grabbed for his t-shirt and pulled him even closer. He situated one of his thighs between her legs and repeatedly nudged with pointed precision.

She should’ve pushed him away. She should’ve ended their kiss and gotten the conversation out of the way so she could get back inside to her class. She should’ve done a lot of things, but she didn’t. Instead, she stayed put, trapped between his hard body and the hard wall, rocking on his thigh.

The proverbial rock and hard place. Only it wasn’t proverbial anymore. It was literal. Real. Happening to her.

She worked, against her better judgment, to increase the friction of hard denim seam, silky satin, and male thigh strength. She wrenched her mouth from his to inhale air into her lungs, but he took her with another kiss almost immediately.

His teeth nipped at her. His tongue slipped and slid around her mouth, tasting every inch, then engaged her tongue once more in the play.

He tasted like sugar and chocolate. Buttercream. It was her favorite and on him, it was divine and she’d never be able to lick it from a spoon, a beater, a cupcake without thinking about him.

“Remember this position, baby? Remember being on my couch that first time?”

Oh yes, she remembered everything about that night. The wickedness of the frosting foreplay ramped up the arousal currently assaulting her. His lips skittered from her mouth across her cheek, down to her jaw and over to her ear. He bit the lobe gently and the heat of his breath made her moan.

Bright sunlight glared at her. The sky was a clear, crystal blue without a cloud to mar its beauty. She could see tree tops with bright green foliage and in the distance she could hear the activity from inside the kitchen, laughter, and the always busy Riverwalk district and downtown business happenings.

She could see it, hear it, but she couldn’t respond to anything other than Jackson. She bucked and rode his thigh, seeking an orgasm that was just over the ridge. “Please,” she managed to croak out.

“Feel good, baby?”

That drawl she’d been ruminating on earlier teased her with its nearness. It jacked up her need. “Better than…”

WHEW! *fanning myself* You KNOW you want to ride THE CUPCAKE COWBOY, too. Here…there’s enough of him to go around. 😉

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11 Replies to “The Little Red Tree”

  1. All the ornaments the kids made over the years are my favorites. We put up an extra, smaller tree just for all the kid made ornaments. Now that they are grown up it really is a special tree.

  2. Phew…love the excerpt. Is it hot in here to y’all? Definitely going on my TBR list! Ok, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, special ornaments, when my children were born we started the tradition of getting a special ornament for each of them every year. Now that they are all in their 20’s the tree is full of “special” ornaments especially when you add in my personal favorites. The ones they made themselves from preschool through elementary. The tree is full of special memories every year.

  3. Man, that was a great excerpt! And sooo cruel!! I wanted to keep reading, haha. I don’t really have any special ornaments but I am drawn to reindeer ones. Does that count? 🙂

  4. Whats not to like, cowboys and cupcakes. I love my christmas tee ornaments, especially the homemade ones and the school pics. My kids are now grown but brings back so many memories.

  5. WHEW! *fanning myself*” is right!
    We have several special ornaments. When we were in Europe, we bought many ornaments from Germany, and the Netherlands. And I have several that the children made. For many years, our tree was the silver aluminum type, but we never bothered with a color wheel – all the ‘special’ ornaments made it so pretty. And the only ‘normal’ ball ornaments we used were a few in the very center to hide the pole. We’ve gone to a green tree in the last years, but I’ve never thought it was as pretty, nor does it show off those special ornaments as well. But, I must admit, we haven’t decorated a tree in several years, so I can’t remember any specific ornament, or one that is a favorite.

  6. Thank you Amanda for having me here. You are truly one of my most favorite people (ice cream, anyone?)! I love the comments and apologize for not being around earlier. Between edits, writing, and general life, I’m finally baking cookies and taking a time-out to visit…

    I was digging in my ‘big blue box’ for ornaments the other day and found so many of the pipe-cleaner/bead candy canes and wreathes that my grandmother and I made over the years. And our family tree this year is larger than in previous years and we’ve gotten the kids’ ornaments out for that one as well. The memories evoked from ornaments are so special to me and the older I get, the more and more special they are.

    I appreciate all the comments and you sharing your ornament memories with me. I love that.

  7. Sounds good. My oldest daughter has maybe a foot tree in her room this year that she decorated with craft items from around her room.

    As far as ornaments, we tend to buy new ones every year. Not a whole lot, but like two or ten. We are consistently working on a theme.

    I don’t know if I have a favorite ornament. I just know that the sweet whimsical theme we have going on this year is my favorite so far.

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