A Pinch of Murder: A Frosted Love Cozy Mystery (Frosted Love Mysteries Book 2)

BOOK: A Pinch of Murder: A Frosted Love Cozy Mystery (Frosted Love Mysteries Book 2)
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2015 by Maven Publishing - All rights reserved.

All rights Reserved. No part of this publication or the information in it may be quoted from or reproduced in any form by means such as printing, scanning, photocopying or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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Chapter 1

 

M
elissa Gladstone had made her list and checked it far more than twice. She was leaving this afternoon to head to Las Vegas for a National Cupcake competition and the grand prize was $50,000. That kind of money would go a long way toward opening another ‘Missy’s Muffins and More’ in a neighboring town.  Her brow furrowed over the top of her large grey eyes and she tucked a stray wisp of curly blonde hair absently behind one ear as she pored over the list of instructions that she was leaving for her assistant Ben.  The enterprising youth had eagerly agreed to keep the store open and running during her absence, and she was nervous, not because she thought that he couldn’t handle it, but because her store was her life, and this would mark the first time that she had left it in the care of another since her parents had died tragically in a car accident when Missy was 17, leaving her to run the family business.


Ben,

she called out, prompting the young grad student to jog yet again from the kitchen to the front counter, where she had been obsessing over details for her absence since her arrival at around 4 a.m.


What are you worried about now, Ms. G?

he teased, wiping his hands on a towel.

His humor was entirely lost on Missy as she flipped through the pages of instructions that she had painstakingly composed for him upon making the decision to fly to Vegas for the event. 

Okay, now you need to make sure that when you prepare the Muffin of the Week, that you use apples bought fresh from Mr. Jackson, not the ones that come from the wholesale produce guy. They have to be firm and crisp and
…”


And just the slightest bit tart,

Ben interrupted her.

I know, I know. I

ve got this Ms. G; really, you have nothing to worry about. Your Apple Crunch Supremes will be just as perfect as ever

I

ll even send you a picture when they come out of the oven

he reassured her.


You

re a lifesaver, Ben,

she squeezed his arm appreciatively.

Are you sure you

re going to be okay?

she frowned, peering at him over the top of her readers.


Better than okay,

he promised.

We

ll have record numbers while you

re gone. We

ll do so well that you

ll want to leave all the time.
” 
Her assistant headed back to the kitchen before she could ask another question, relieved that she

d be heading to the airport soon.

Missy sighed, rolled her shoulders in a vain attempt to relax and placed the stack of notes for Ben under the counter by the cash register, where it

d be handy for him to grab and check.  She took a last look around the whimsically decorated lime green and pink shop, noting that the muffin counter was fully stocked, the eat-in area was spotlessly clean, and the coffee was fresh.  Whether she felt ready or not, it was time to head home, finish packing and head to the airport.

It was sad and surreal opening her front door and not seeing the sweet face of her golden retriever, Toffee, waiting patiently to give her sloppy kisses.  Detective Beckett, whom she had gotten to know pretty well after helping him solve a murder case right here in sleepy LaChance, Louisiana, had graciously agreed to dog-sit for her, thinking that some time away from her hometown might just do Missy a world of good.  Missy was glad to know that her beloved Toffee would be in good hands, but also knew that she would miss her constant companion while she was away.

Striding briskly through the cozy foyer of her lovingly restored Victorian home, Missy headed straight for the bedroom where her suitcase lay open on the bed.  Events surrounding the competition took up the better part of a full week, so Missy had made reservations to be there the entire time, with a couple of extra days at the end to just relax.  She had packed mostly casual wear, with the exception of a special outfit for the televised portion of the competition and a formal dress just in case she happened to be in the winner

s circle.  Surveying the trio of bags containing her clothing, shoes and toiletries, she nodded with satisfaction, and decided that if she had forgotten anything, she

d just buy a replacement in Vegas rather than stressing out about it. She stashed a granola bar in her purse for the flight, loaded up her little blue car, and headed for the airport in Lake Charles.

 

Chapter 2

 

The heat rolled over Missy in an oppressive wave when she stepped outside at the Las Vegas airport to catch a taxi to her hotel.  She

d experienced some steamy Louisiana summers, but the dry, sunbaked air that felt like a sauna took her by surprise.  She had the conference itinerary in her hand, and planned to pick up her competition packet after checking into her hotel.  Heels clicking briskly on the peach-colored marble, Missy made her way to the reception desk to check in, and moments later, opened the door to a lovely suite overlooking the massive outdoor pool.  She noted with great pleasure that there was a swim-up bar, and decided to have a fruity tropical drink and a cool, relaxing dip at the same time.  Melting her cares away on a poolside lounge sounded like the perfect start to what would likely be a most taxing week.  She unpacked her luggage, stowing her clothes in the closet and dresser, tossed her hair up on top of her head in a messy bun to get it off of her neck, and caught the elevator back down to the lobby.

Missy located the conference room where packet pick-ups were taking place and received her daily schedule, copy of the rules and guidelines for the competition and bag of goodies donated by the sponsors.  She was astonished to see a familiar face smiling back at her from one of the promotional pieces.


Marta Cambridge?

she wondered.

It can

t be!

She quickly opened up the booklet and flipped through the first few pages.  There it was, in black and white, Marta Cambridge, the girl who had single-handedly made Missy

s high school years close to intolerable, was all grown up, had her own cooking show, a high-priced line of designer bake ware, and a chain of franchise bakeries all over the US.   Missy had known all of that, of course, but what she hadn

t known was that Marta was one of the judges of the competition.  A shadow of the fearful insecurity that she had felt in high school crept back in as she thought of the cutthroat competitiveness of the many bake sales, county fairs and community events where Marta and Missy had gone head to head.  Missy was the shy, quiet girl whose parents owned a successful local bakery, and Marta was the spoiled rich girl who took trips to Paris to study the art of pastry making.  Over the years, whenever Marta deigned to grace the simple folk of LaChance with her presence, she made sure that she stopped by Missy

s Muffins and More to pronounce it

quaint

and

provincial

.  Marta carried herself with an air of superiority that Missy found insufferable, but, having been raised in the gentility of southern charm and neighborliness, she put a smile on her face and persevered through the rare visits like a trooper.

Missy

s heart sank. It was difficult to even make it to the final rounds of these types of competitions, and now she had a strike against her going in. It would take a miracle for Missy to have a chance at winning when one of the judges held a long-standing grudge against her.  Her initial inclination was to pack her bags and flee, forgetting about the contest altogether, but the steel in her spine that carried her through every run in with Marta Cambridge, from high school and beyond, would not allow her to turn her back on her dreams. If she lost, at least she

d do it trying her best, and if she won, she

d know that yet again, she succeeded against all odds.  She squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and went back to her room to drop off her materials and change into her swimsuit, heading for the pool.

Chapter 3

 

Missy waded into the blissfully cool water feeling a bit self-conscious in her new sky-blue bikini, but determined to enjoy herself despite the pale skin that hadn

t seen the light of day in a very long time.  She had slathered on waterproof sunscreen, and planned to make the most of her mini-vacation, particularly now that her chances of winning looked much slimmer.  Ordering a mango papaya daiquiri, she was presented with a beautiful concoction dressed out with a pineapple slice, an orange slice, a cherry and a paper umbrella.  Her first sip was an icy burst of flavor that made her smile, and she settled into a lounger by the pool, ready to make the most of the sizzling Vegas sun.


As I live and breathe, is that Melissa Gladstone?

Missy heard the unmistakable syrupy twang of Marta Cambridge.  She looked up, shielding her eyes from the sun to see her rival barely wearing a strappy one-piece crimson swimsuit that covered far less of her bronzed, toned perfection than Missy

s conservative (by comparison) bikini.


Marta, how lovely to see you again,

Missy lied with a smile. Much to her dismay, Marta sank down onto the lounge beside her, looking as though she was making herself comfortable for a nice long chat.


I hoped I

d see you here,

Marta smiled sweetly. 

It

s always good to see a familiar face up on the stage representing our hometown.


Thanks, I

m looking forward to it,

Missy nodded, hoping that would be the end of the conversation.


I mean, it

s so nice to see someone so down to earth mingling with all of these sophisticated big-city types, it

s like mixing it up and having some fried chicken when you

re used to filet mignon, you know?
” 
Marta reveled in her self-perceived superiority, true to form.


Filet mignon is a fine cut, but there are tastier steaks, in my opinion,

Missy

s smile tightened imperceptibly.


And it
is
all about taste, now isn

t it darlin

?

Marta purred, smiling in a most predatory fashion.


That

s our business,

Missy agreed, raising her daiquiri, taking a long pull from it and instantly regretting it as her head was pierced with a raging brain-freeze.  She refused to acknowledge the pain, completely unwilling to show even the slightest crack in her armor in front of her arch rival.


How

bout you and me go out and have some girl time, just us, during the lunch break tomorrow? My treat,

she tacked on at the end, as though she thought Missy couldn

t afford to pay for her own lunch.

Missy was caught completely off guard by the invitation that was entirely unexpected. 

Lunch? Oh

well

I, umm

I

d actually planned on going to the luncheon that

s being held for the competitors tomorrow,

she fumbled for an excuse, coming up sounding lame, even to herself.


Oh, honey, you don

t want to experience the pitiful offerings from the cut-rate caterer that they

ve hired for this shindig, I

ll pick you up in the lobby after the morning session,

she dictated, rising to leave.  She gave Missy a once-over, gazing down at her over the top of her designer sunglasses.

And

if you need something to wear, I have some extra dresses

you can borrow one.

Missy was astonished at the blatant snobbery of the former hometown girl.

I may not have my own cooking show, but I do own a decent dress,

Missy assured her, trying very hard to hold her temper.


Of course you do, darlin

,

she replied, condescending to the extreme. 

See you tomorrow,

she called out over one perfectly tanned shoulder, waving breezily.

Missy sat on her lounger, fuming. Marta always had a special gift for making her feel petty and small, and today had been no exception.  All she had wanted was to relax by the pool, sipping her drink and clearing her head for the competition.  Any chance for that had been shattered by the sickly-sweet sound of a woman bent on belittling.  Her drink was melted, she had stray curls sticking to her neck and forehead, and her skin was beginning to turn pink, so she gathered up her towel, magazine and shoes and trudged to her room, upset by the encounter.  She hadn

t agreed to go to lunch with Marta, but the insufferable woman had taken her acquiescence for granted, so now she was stuck, unless she wanted to end up looking like an ass.  It never ceased to amaze Missy that Marta Cambridge always seemed to know how to get her way in every situation and look completely innocent while manipulating everyone around her. But then again, she

d had tons of practice; it had been her method since before high school.

BOOK: A Pinch of Murder: A Frosted Love Cozy Mystery (Frosted Love Mysteries Book 2)
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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