Drowning the Daffodils (A Heavenly Highland Inn Cozy Mystery)

Drowning the Daffodils

 

A Heavenly Highland Inn Cozy Mystery

 

Cindy Bell

 

Copyright © 2013 Cindy Bell

All rights reserved.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. 

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious.  Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

 

All trademarks and brands referred to in this book are for illustrative purposes only, are the property of their respective owners and not affiliated with this publication in any way. Any trademarks are being used without permission, and the publication of the trademark is not authorized by, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owner.

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter One

 

Vicky closed her eyes and drew a deep breath of the fresh summer air. It filled her lungs in a soothing way that allowed her mind to ease. The front parking lot of the Heavenly Highland Inn stretched out before her, sloping upward slightly along a hill. Beyond it to the right was the lush, manicured lawn that led to the gardens. To the left was a path that wound around behind the inn to the pool and the nearby woods. There was a sense of peace brought on by the quiet tweets of birds and the distant calls of squirrels. When paired with the flawless, blue sky above her, Vicky found it impossible not to feel content.

Vicky
tried not to think of the night before. It was supposed to be a romantic evening to celebrate a six month anniversary. She and Deputy Sheriff Mitchell Slate had been dating for that long, which she didn't realize until he announced it. Vicky wasn't one for anniversaries. She also didn't enjoy putting labels on relationships. She was a free spirit and though she cared deeply for Mitchell she hadn't expected the turn their conversation had taken.

Mitchell
wanted to discuss their future, as if it was a step by step plan they could follow. Of course it made sense that Mitchell would think this way. He was very logical, always following the evidence in a crime and rarely led by emotion. When Vicky had responded that she didn't think they needed to put a timeline on things, and preferred to let things flow as they did, his reaction had been startling. Instead of quietly nodding as he usually would, Mitchell had insisted that they needed to discuss some kind of commitment.


I'm invested in this,” he said as he met her eyes. “I want to know that you are, too.”


It's not a business opportunity,” Vicky had pointed out with annoyance.


So, you're saying you don't see a future for us?” Mitchell had responded with growing irritation. “Just be honest with me about it, don't string me along.”


Don't put words in my mouth,” Vicky had countered as she stood up from her chair. “I love you, Mitchell, I've told you that, if that's not commitment enough then I don't know what you want from me.”


I want to know that you want this to last,” Mitchell replied as he also stood up. The delicious meal that Vicky had spread out on the table between them was forgotten. Their voices rose within the confines of the large apartment that she lived in within the inn. “Is that so much to ask?”


Maybe it is,” Vicky pushed back, startled by the anger in her tone. “What's next, you're going to want me to sign a contract?”


What?” Mitchell snapped. “You're being ridiculous.”


Am I?” she asked as she marched towards the door of the apartment. “Well, I certainly can't understand why you would want a future with a ridiculous person,” she opened the door and held it for him.

Mitchell stared at her with a mixture of hurt and confusion. He opened his mouth to speak, but instead he walked right past her. When Vicky closed the door behind him her mind was reeling with emotions. She and Mitchell had never fought like that before. But after a few weeks of him dropping hints about wanting to move their relationship forward, Vicky's nerves were on edge. She didn't like to feel pressured into anything. It was crushing to think about how she had spoken to him. She hadn't been able to sleep a minute as she regretted kicking him out of the apartment.

Mitchell was the first man she had ever imagined a future with, and she wondered if she wasn't pushing him away because it frightened her. But as she looked out over the clear, blue sky she forced herself not to think about it. Instead she tried to focus on the family reunion that was taking place at the Heavenly Highland Inn. She was planning the event of course, and was looking forward to immersing herself in her work to avoid the troubles that were weighing on her mind. The Carter family was very well off and quite large, so they had booked several rooms in the inn.


What's wrong, Vicky?” Aunt Ida asked as she walked out of the lobby of the inn and onto the white, Roman-style porch. “It looks like someone strangled your cat.”

Vicky arched an eyebrow at her aunt's words.
“I don't have a cat,” she pointed out with some confusion.


It's just a saying,” Aunt Ida rolled her eyes as she rested her elbows on the railing beside her niece. Aunt Ida had become like a mother figure to both Vicky and her older sister, Sarah, after their parents were killed in a car accident. Though Aunt Ida had her quirks and insisted she was in her thirties when sixties would be more accurate, she was always there for her nieces when they needed her. She also lived at the inn, as she had when Vicky's parents owned it. She stayed in one of the guest rooms.

After their parents’
death Sarah and Vicky had taken over the inn. Sarah was responsible for managing it, while Vicky coordinated events as well as other aspects of the day to day running. The inn was a very sought after destination, especially by the wealthy and elite. It was a grand old inn with lots of character and top class facilities.  It was located in a beautiful setting surrounded by gardens and mountains and had hosted some big name guests over the years.

“Just spill,” Aunt Ida insisted and locked eyes with Vicky who was leaning against the front pillar of the porch.


I'm just waiting for the Carter family to arrive,” Vicky insisted with a mild shrug. “They're going to be here for the weekend for a family reunion,” she explained hoping to steer Aunt Ida away from the topic of her demeanor.


Mmhm,” Aunt Ida nodded slowly. “And that's got you so glum?” she asked with disbelief.


I'm not glum,” Vicky protested and averted her gaze from her aunt's. Aunt Ida had a knack for seeing right through her.


Is it Mitchell?” Aunt Ida asked, though the certainty in her voice made it clear she already knew that it was. Vicky cast a glance at her aunt with wide eyes. There were times that she could be so perceptive that Vicky questioned whether she might be just a little psychic.


It's Mitchell,” Vicky admitted with a sigh as she began to pace back and forth across the porch. She didn't want to appear riled up when the Carters arrived.


What did he do?” Aunt Ida asked, and Vicky smiled with relief that her aunt didn't instantly take Mitchell's side. Mitchell was amazing at his job and was always available to help them with anything they needed. He was from the deep south and was a very kind and respectful man. Aunt Ida had never hidden the fact that she thought he was downright handsome and a great catch. 


It's not something he did,” Vicky frowned as she met her aunt's eyes. “We just have different desires in life.”


Oh?” Aunt Ida asked as she leaned against the railing of the porch. “What desires might those be?”


You know, the usual things,” Vicky shrugged as if it was no big deal, but it was clear in the creases of her features that it bothered her. She cared very deeply for Mitchell. “The whole picket fence and babies scenario.”


Oh, I see,” Aunt Ida patted her niece's arm gently. “I know from my own experiences that men don't always understand a woman who doesn't count down the minutes to a ring and a mini-van.”

Vicky smiled at that. Aunt Ida was a perfect example of a woman who had what some might classify as less traditional desires in life. She had traveled the world, never slowing down long enough to marry though she
had had plenty of lovers. She had no desire to have children of her own, but had doted on her nieces and spoiled them with exotic gifts and experiences. Vicky had always looked up to her way of life, and though she adored her mother, she had always found Aunt Ida to be much more interesting.

Her older
sister, Sarah, on the other hand had been eager to marry, and was swift to begin having children. Vicky admired her, too, and she couldn't argue the point that Sarah was blissfully happy with her family. Vicky just hadn't decided for herself what she wanted, and in fact she had been doing her best to avoid the decision for quite some time.


It's not so much that I will never want that,” Vicky admitted thoughtfully. “But I certainly don't want it now.”


Well, did he propose to you?” Aunt Ida asked curiously.


No,” Vicky shook her head. “Nothing like that.”


Then what?” Aunt Ida pressed as her eyes narrowed slightly. She was very protective of her nieces and would get a little aggressive with anyone that might cause them the slightest harm.


He just wanted to talk about our future together,” Vicky shrugged mildly.


That's all?” Aunt Ida asked as she studied her niece. “What's wrong with that?”


Nothing really,” Vicky admitted with a frown. “I just don't see a need to talk about it.”

Aunt Ida paused for a moment and tapped her fingertips lightly on the railing of the porch.
“You know, Vicky, sometimes men can feel insecure, too. Maybe he just wants to know that you do want a future with him. I mean, if you do. You don't have to define what that future might be, but maybe he's thinking you're just biding time with him.”


That couldn't be further from the truth,” Vicky sighed and closed her eyes. “I know that I overreacted, but I just don't like to feel pressured.”


Life is pressure, sweetie,” Aunt Ida patted her arm again. “But it's a lot easier to deal with when you have someone you love to share it with.”

Vicky nodded solemnly as her aunt's words sunk in. She was a little embarrassed by how quickly she had blown up over a simple request from Mitchell, but she wasn't ready to admit to that yet. Luckily
, before she would have to admit to it, a town car pulled into the large parking lot and rolled up to the front steps of the porch. A driver stepped out and walked around to the passenger door closest to the porch. He opened the door, and a man stepped out. Lawrence Carter was exactly as Vicky expected him to be. She had never met the man before, but knew that he came from old wealth, and he had a good reputation in the community. She was honored when they had chosen to have their family reunion at the inn.

Now that he was standing on her front porch she was a little nervous. He had the presence of an aristocrat, and the arrogant glare to back it up. His gray hair was balding and had retreated to the middle of his head. When combined with his steel blue eyes, it made him appear to be
a very powerful man. He was fit, with broad shoulders and a hint of muscles beneath his polo shirt. He looked uncomfortable in his jeans, and Vicky assumed he was used to wearing trousers instead. He probably didn't take vacations too often.


Are we the first to arrive?” he asked before even greeting her.


Yes, you are,” Vicky smiled warmly as a woman ascended the porch steps behind him. She had long, brown hair that glistened in the sunlight. It was clear that she was at least twenty years younger than her husband. Vicky assumed she was not the first Mrs. Carter. Behind her was the driver of their town car, carrying four suitcases.


Would you like some help with that?” Vicky offered as the man struggled up the steps.


He can handle it,” Lawrence said dismissively. “Can we just get signed in?”


Absolutely,” Vicky smiled again and led them into the inn. She stepped behind the desk and pulled out a small clipboard. On it she had printed all of the names of the Carter family and any guests they would be bringing. She checked off Lawrence and Alina Carter, and then turned to the computer.

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