Authors: Ann S. Marie
CHOCOLATE CREAM CUPCAKE & MURDER
(A Dana Sweet Cozy Mystery, Book 3)
Copyright 2016 Ann S. Marie
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Thanks to my Father above for every blessing.
Reverse your stress at the Cozy Cupcakes Café. Remember, ‘stressed’ is ‘desserts’ spelled backwards!
(A Dana Sweet Cozy Mystery, Book 3)
Money, Murder & Shady Heirs
Murder strikes again in the small town of Berry Cove. Dana Sweet, part time mystery riddles blogger who has inherited the Cozy Cupcakes Café from her late grandmother, is once again drawn into a strange murder with a bizarre twist.
While catering Chocolate Cream cupcakes for an engagement party for a wealthy and most despised tycoon, Dana Sweet literally stumbles on a body in the grand kitchen—the groom to be, or the groom that was. With an endless trail of possible suspects including his young overindulged fiancée and his grown obnoxious adult children, Dana is in over her head—again.
A Dana Sweet Cozy Mystery series:
Strawberry Cream Cupcake & Murder (Book 1)
Blueberry Cream Cupcake & Murder (Book 2)
Chocolate Cream Cupcake & Murder (Book 3)
The sprawling estate of the Renaldo Mansion was spectacular, Dana thought as she drove her car up to the long stone driveway leading up to the gold iron gates.
The orange and brown fall leaves swirled around as the crisp wind blew. The sky was a deep grey blue color. There was always something cozy and warm about fall weather for some reason. Dana didn’t mind it a bit. She was dressed in her warm dark grey leggings, black knee-high leather fall riding boots and a long knitted navy blue sweater that hugged her curves. Casual yet professional enough for a café entrepreneur. She felt so much for at ease than her previous job as a copywriter in a New York office where all the power dressing and designer handbags was the rage. Her wardrobe used to cost a fortune, not to mention expensive lunches in the city and commuting and the maintenance fees on her old condo in the suburbs. Luckily, she’d sold that and after paying off her debts, moved to Berry Cove to help nana’s ailing business.
Yes, Berry Cove was a complete treat. She preferred to listen to the waves of the water lap against the shores and the birds chirping in the air. She preferred to inhale the sweet fragrance of the country life and vanilla scent of freshly baked goods coming out of her late grandma’s café which she now owned and was keeping afloat since nana’s passing. That was so much better than inhaling the congestion of big city traffic and gridlock. The only gridlock in Berry Cove was a group of ducklings crossing the country road while cars patiently waited and drivers smiled at the beauty of nature. Something she never saw in the big, bustling city.
Her blood pressure was certainly not as pumped up as it was in New York. She savored the slower pace like savoring a taste of fresh whipped cream topping on a cupcake. Nice and comforting and sweet and relaxing.
Dana powered down her windows and spoke to a gold-plated speaker box. “It’s Dana. Dana Sweet from Cozy Cupcakes Café.”
“Yes, Miss Dana.” A disembodied voice sounded through the speakers. “We’ve been expecting you.”
There was a loud clicking sound and the iron gates started to slowly open.
Dana quickly closed the car window, feeling a chill from outside. The temperature had dropped significantly during November.
She then drove her car past the open gates up the interlocking red brick paved driveway leading up to the front of the massive mansion. Elegant. Sophisticated. Her eyes took in a view of a very beautiful golf-course right on the estate. How nice to see how the other half lived.
Her eyes couldn’t help but be captivated by the impressive estate. There must be at least an acre of lush garden, which was nicely manicured, and in pristine condition, especially for the windy fall weather. The marble-framed front doors of the mansion overlooked the hourglass pond and fountain in the front.
Wow. Just wow!
Dana thought to herself.
Dana had never been to this part of Berry Cove before. It was situated just on the border, a rich area with aristocrats and celebrities who wanted to move away to a quiet scenic estate away from prying eyes of the media.
The Renaldos were hosting an engagement party for patriarch, Tierry Renaldo, a rich oilman from out west, in Alberta, who was marrying a woman way younger than he was. According to sources her name was Goldie but people called her “Gold-dig”, which stood for gold digger, behind her back.
The golf-loving tycoon was pushing eighty and his young bride to be was a forty-year-old unemployed model from California. His grown children couldn’t have been all to thrilled about it, Dana guessed, according to rumors out of the gossip headquarters of Berry Cove, otherwise known as Bea’s Salon.
But still, who’s to judge? As long as he was happy, right?
And Dana was so looking forward to gathering the funds together to start the renovation on the old café, which was housed in an old Victorian townhouse and badly needed a new roof. This catering project was a huge contract and Mr. Renaldo had also requested that the café provide all the desserts catering for the wedding. A huge event.
Dana knocked on the golden-brass door knocker and almost immediately the door opened and a tall, lean man answered. She guessed by his neatly pressed black and white uniform that he was the butler.
“You’re the fourth delivery of the day,” the butler said in a thick British accent. He then stifled a yawn. “It’s so unprecedented to have early morning deliveries. You’ll forgive me but I’ve been up far too early this morning. Right this way.”
He led her down a long hallway and she couldn’t help but notice the shiny marble gold-colored floor. She couldn’t help but notice the delightful renaissance feel of the place. The furniture and artwork must have cost a huge fortune.
The walls were all a bone white color and created quite a relaxing ambiance. The long winding staircase in the grand foyer had expensive-looking oak wood banisters.
Imagine living in a place like this.
It looked more like a grand museum or art gallery than a house. She noticed the tall cathedral ceiling with a diamond chandelier hanging from the top.
“Oh, right,” Dana said, as she just realized that Cozy Cupcakes had already had some cakes delivered. “The café had some pastries delivered earlier today. Sorry if we woke you.” Though she didn’t think they were that early.
“Oh, no. I’m not talking about
delivery hours. Master Renaldo received yet another delivery at an unforgiveable time, far too early in the morning.” The man rolled his eyes. “Really now. At 6:00 a.m. this morning when most normal creatures are rightfully asleep. It’s Saturday morning for goodness sake.” The chatty butler just rolled his eyes.
“Six o’clock in the morning for a Saturday delivery?” Dana replied, incredulously. “You’re right. That’s very early for a delivery, especially on a Saturday.” She wondered what sort of delivery an eighty-year-old businessman would have had so early. Even international deliveries started from eight o’clock in the morning, usually. Unless it was a personal delivery.
“Well, at least
didn’t wake me up. The delivery man was banging on my door so loud at the servant’s quarters. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Rude. Well, at least you’re a pleasant face.”
“Thank you.” Dana was left dumbfounded. What else was she to say?
It was already 12:00 noon. She had to head back to the Café soon to help Katie and the rest of the Cozy Cupcakes team. They already had one sick call this morning. Seemed like a bug was going around with the change of season.
When the cafe received a call that Mr. Renaldo didn’t think the cupcakes were enough, she immediately had Inga, the café’s wonderful Russian baker, whip up another batch.
“If you need anything, I’ll be in the study getting Master Renaldo’s chair ready and the fireplace lit.”
“His chair? Fireplace?”
“Oh, yes. Master Renaldo always spends time sitting by the fireplace in the study. He needs to have fresh firewood every day with no exceptions. He has his favorite mahogany-colored leather chair with cow-hide trim, as he’d always make it a point to tell everyone, just in front of the fireplace where he reads his paper then just sits and stares into the fire to get answers. I thought you already heard about his ritual.”
“It’s all over the papers. In fact, he made no secret of it. The press were on it like butter syrup on pancakes. He told them he made his best deals that way and made money with it. It’s a weird ritual really, but he swears, it’s what made him his fortune. Like the answer is always in the fire. He glares at it for a while and answers appear.”
“Yes, it is interesting. It’s very interesting that you’re the only one who doesn’t know that about Master Renaldo. Everyone seems to know him. In fact, he feels like everyone is always out to get him. For his money, you know.”
“Well, that is very interesting. But no. I don’t know too much about Mr. Renaldo.” Only what Bea spoke about casually, when she mentioned that he was getting married soon. That was when Dana had her manicure done and her pedi one day last month. Which reminded her, she’d been so busy helping to run things at the café that she’d almost forgotten to re-book another appointment. Bea was always chastising her customers to keep their grooming appointments. Not that it was about money, but Bea really cared a lot about people’s well-being, according to her motto. She also cared about the latest juicy gossip in the small town. Trust Bea to know everything.
“Well, here is the kitchen,” the butler said after a long walk on the premise. The estate was certainly huge by all definition. “Just let me know if you need anything. The name is George.”
“Thank you, George.”
Dana looked around at the massive stainless steel kitchen with its many marble top counters and dark oak wood cabinetry. The craftsmanship was impeccable. The Cozy Cupcakes café didn’t have any of this fancy stuff. Imagine cooking here? That would be a dream.
Except actually working for the Renaldos, of course. She’d heard rumors about the cantankerous Mr. Renaldo and his bratty grown kids. But who’s to judge? She was there to provide a good service.
“Where is everybody?” she said under her breath. She shrugged and took out the cupcakes out of the box. The Cozy Cupcakes message of the day was:
Delight in the taste of love.
The words melted off her tongue when she spoke it, just as the creamy buttery frosting on the cupcakes and the treats.
“They’re all here.” A voice surprised Dana and she spun around. A woman in a Victorian-styled black and white floor-length maid’s uniform with a maid’s white cap, large white apron with a bib and shoulder straps stood at the door, arms folded across her chest.
The woman looked as if she were cast in Downtown Abbey, though that show was more post-Edwardian era rather than a Victorian-era, but still, Dana couldn’t believe her eyes. The woman was a heavy-set woman with dark grey hair and glasses. She eyed Dana up and down suspiciously and if Dana wasn’t mistaken, she glared at her leggings and curves hugging top. Dana felt so out of place there.
“And what are you doing here?” The woman asked.
“I’m Dana Sweet from Cozy Cupcakes.” Dana couldn’t help but observe her antique-looking outfit.
As if the woman noticed Dana’s astonishment. “Oh, this. Master Renaldo likes to live in the past. The good old days, he calls it. He likes to believe it’s the late 1800s.”
“I’m Molly, head maid.” Her voice was sharp and authoritative. “Weren’t you here before?” She eyed Dana with more suspicion. “We already got an order of those chocolate cupcakes. Not to mention that big chocolate Boston cream cake. I mean, whose idea was it to order so much chocolate cream cakes for an engagement party involving a diabetic bride-to-be? ”
“Oh dear. I’m sorry about that. But Mr. Renaldo requested more chocolate cupcakes for the engagement party.”
“How so? We haven’t even started yet. We’re about to start. Looks like we already have more than we need. Most of the bride’s friends won’t eat anything more than a lettuce leaf to keep their precious toothpick figures.”
“I see,” Dana said, incredulously.
Dana then cleared her throat. For some reason her throat was beginning to feel a bit of a scratch. Was it chilly in there? Aside from the cool chill she was getting from the lovely maid.
“Oh, no!” The maid’s voice raised a notch. “Do you have a cold? Are you bringing in some sort of virus with those cakes of yours?” She had her hands placed on her lips and her eyes narrowed at Dana.
“Oh, no. It’s just that my throat feels a bit scratchy. That’s all. It feels a bit...”
dry in here
, but Dana wasn’t about to criticize the air quality of the mansion right now.
But Dana did notice that the thermostat was turned down to zero.
On a cold day like today?
“Well, you can get a bottle of water out back there. We have another kitchen and fridge over there.” She pointed to the far side.
She then froze from some reason. She glared at the other section then drew in a deep breath. She shifted on the spot, looking hesitant.
“Is something wrong?” Dana asked gently.
“Oh, um…no. Nothing’s wrong.” She gave a nervous chuckle. “Just help yourself and you can let yourself out. Leave the invoice on the kitchen island with the rest of invoices. The head cook will take a look at them and give them to the house mistress.”
“The house mistress?” Dana hadn’t realized how formal and structural running a mansion for a mega billionaire was. Well, now she knew.
“Yes, the house mistress.”
“No problem.” Dana began placing her cakes down. The boxes were all closed so she wasn’t worried about “spreading any viruses” or germs on anything. Not that she had any cold or flu. She made it a point to never show up at work if she had anything spreadable. It would just be a careless and inconsiderate thing to do, unless she had absolutely no choice, of course.
Mind you, Dana was mostly the management brain of the café since her late grandmother, Grandma Rae or Ma Rae as the town’s folk would call her, passed away unexpectedly. Dana had driven to the small coastal town of Berry Cove in Ontario to settle in, leaving the city of New York behind her, across the border. That was all good and fine, of course. Since her ex-fiancé had jilted her for her best friend and taken her money in the process. Well, he owed her money that she’d given him when she borrowed off her mortgage. But right now, she was switching her focus from romance to business.