Authors: Kathi Daley
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Katherine Daley
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
I want to thank the very talented Jessica Fischer for the cover art.
I so appreciate Bruce Curran, who is always ready and willing to answer my cyber questions.
And, of course, thanks to the readers and bloggers in my life, who make doing what I do possible.
Thank you to Randy Ladenheim-Gil for the editing.
Special thanks to Jeanie Daniel, Nancy Farris, Robin Coxon, and Connie Correll for submitting recipes.
And finally I want to thank my sister Christy for always lending an ear and my husband Ken for allowing me time to write by taking care of everything else.
Books by Kathi Daley
Come for the murder, stay for the romance.
Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery:
The Trouble With Turkeys
Big Bunny Bump-off
Beach Blanket Barbie
Turkeys, Tuxes, and Tabbies
Candy Cane Caper – October 2016
Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery:
Romeow and Juliet
The Mad Catter
Grimm’s Furry Tail
Much Ado About Felines
Legend of Tabby Hollow
Cat of Christmas Past
A Tale of Two Tabbies
The Great Catsby
Count Catula –
Cat of Christmas Present –
Seacliff High Mystery:
Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery:
Murder at Dolphin Bay
Murder at Sunrise Beach
Murder at the Witching Hour –
Road to Christmas Romance:
Road to Christmas Past
Monday, October 24
“We could still go with the chubby pumpkin costume,” I suggested to my best friend, Ellie Davis, as I tried to help her squeeze into a sexy vampire costume that was never going to fit.
“I’m not chubby,” Ellie insisted as she stood in front of the full-length mirror in the dressing room of the local costume shop, sucking in her stomach.
“I know, but you
three months pregnant. This costume isn’t going to fit no matter how much you suck in your stomach.”
“If I go as the chubby pumpkin people will know. It’s the classic costume for pregnant women.”
“No one will know.”
“Okay, how about a ghost? We’ll just grab a sheet, cut out some eye holes, and you’ll be good to go.”
Ellie started crying.
I knew it was the pregnancy hormones, but seriously? If I was going to cry at every little thing when I got pregnant I was going to go back on the Pill before it was too late. Of course Ellie wasn’t just pregnant; she had a secret—a very big, life-altering secret she’d already kept much too long.
“Don’t cry; we’ll figure this out.” I tried for an encouraging tone. “We’ll keep looking until we find the perfect thing.”
“It’s no use,” Ellie sobbed. “I look like a whale. I’ll just skip the party and stay home. It’s really the only logical choice.”
“You’re not staying home and you don’t look like a whale. In fact, other than the tiny baby bump you don’t look any different at all. Still, it’s not going to be too long before even the baggiest sweaters fail to hide your secret.” I took Ellie’s hand and led her over to the little bench that ran along one wall. I sat down, pulling her down beside me. “You know I love you and you know I’ll do anything for you, but it seems to me that your current dilemma might serve as a hint that it really is time.”
“You can and you should. Levi has a right to know.” I referred to the baby’s father, my other best friend, Levi Denton.
Ellie took a deep breath. Then she let it out slowly. “I know. I’ll tell him. I promise. I just need to find the right time.”
“Now seems like as good a time as any.”
“No. Not now. He has the big game against Bryton Lake this week. I don’t want to distract him. I’ll tell him after.” Levi was the head coach for the Ashton Falls High School varsity football team.
I gave Ellie’s hand a squeeze. “Okay. I guess it can wait another week. But we really do need to find you a costume for the party. You mentioned a whale. You know, a whale actually might be the perfect costume.”
Ellie started crying again.
Good going, Zoe.
“How about we take a break? We’ll go get something to eat and maybe we can try costume shopping again another day.”
“Okay.” Ellie dried her eyes with the back of her hand. “I guess I am hungry.”
“It’s a beautiful fall evening. How about we eat at Rosie’s and then take a walk along Main and look at all the decorations? I just love it when the town is lit up for Halloween. The merchants have gone all out with the windows, and I heard the gazebo in the park is lit up with orange and white twinkle lights.”
“Okay. Just let me change back into my clothes.”
“I want to look for some lights for the front of the house.” My husband, Zak Zimmerman, in usual Zak fashion, had gone Halloween crazy, stringing all the lights we had around the pool and patio in the back of the house. “I’ll meet you up front.”
“Can you grab some lights for the boathouse? I think I’m going to decorate this year. Seems like the baby and I need to start some new traditions.”
I smiled. “That sounds like a wonderful idea. I’ll even help you put them up.”
After I left the dressing room I headed toward the decorations. I know at times I give Zak a hard time for being so Halloween crazy, but the truth is that I find his enthusiasm sweet and charming. Of course we’re at the point where we’re going to have to build a second garage or at least a shed on the property to store everything, but there’s no denying the Zimmerman house is the sincerest at the lake.
“Zoe?” someone said from behind me. “Zoe Donovan?”
I turned around. “Rachael.” I hugged the woman I hadn’t seen since she’d left the area more than ten years earlier. “How are you?”
I looked at the young girl clinging to her hand. “Is that your daughter?”
“It is. This is Joslyn.”
“I’m so happy to meet you, Joslyn.”
“It’s nice to meet you too.”
I looked at Rachael. “Are you in town for the Haunted Hamlet celebration?”
“Actually, Joslyn and I have moved back to Ashton Falls. My aunt passed away last year and left me her house. At first I planned to sell it, but Jos and I talked it over and decided to give small-town living a try. We only just arrived last week, but so far we’re enjoying the decorations and the holiday feel very much.”
“Well, I for one am happy you’re back. And you picked a great time to arrive. We have a lot of really awesome events planned for the weekend.”
“Will there be a pumpkin patch?” Joslyn asked.
“There will. And a hay bale maze and hayrides. If you’re the brave sort, there’ll be an awesome haunted house as well as a chili cook-off and a bake sale. There really is something for everyone. Is it just the two of you?”
“Yes,” Joslyn answered. “I don’t have a dad.”
I glanced at Rachael.
“He was never in the picture, but Jos and I have done great on our own.”
“I’m sure you have.” I looked back to the girl, who had bright blue eyes and long brown hair. “So, are you attending Ashton Falls Elementary?”
The girl nodded. “I’m planning to go there beginning next week. I’m in the fifth grade.”
If Joslyn was in the fifth grade chances were Rachael had been pregnant with her before she graduated high school. Actually, that would explain a lot. She’d simply disappeared after graduation. I’d figured she’d gone off to college, but her parents had remained in town for a couple more years before moving to Florida and she’d never once come to visit that I knew of.
“I heard you got married last year,” Rachael commented. “Any little ones on the way?”
“No. Not yet. Although Zak and I do have two minors living with us.” I made eye contact with Joslyn. “Scooter is in the sixth grade. He’s an energetic sort. I’m sure you’ll meet him. Zak and I also have a twelve-year-old girl named Alex living with us. She attends Zimmerman Academy, but I’d be willing to bet she’d be happy to show you around if you’d like.”
“I’d like that.”
“I heard you started your own private school,” Rachael joined in. “How’s that going?”
“Good. The actual construction of the new facility has had a few setbacks, so the dorms aren’t open quite yet, but we’ve managed to recruit a bunch of local families to temporarily board students, so we started offering a full class schedule beginning this semester. I’d love to tell you more about the school and catch up in general. We should make plans to get together soon. I’m sure Zak would like to say hi.”
“I’d like to. It’ll be nice to catch up with old friends. Is Levi Denton still in town?”
Suddenly I remembered that Rachael and Levi had dated senior year. I looked at Joslyn. She definitely had the same coloring as Levi. Surely he couldn’t be… “Yeah, Levi still lives here. He’s coaching football over at the high school.”
Joey Waverly and Levi had been good friends in high school, both starting players on the football team.
“Yup, he’s still around too. He married Margo Margolis right out of high school, but they got divorced almost a year ago. Joey works for the electric company.”
“And Tommy Payton?”