Authors: Peg Cochran
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths
Allergic to Death
“The meals that Gigi Fitzgerald makes may be low in calories, but author Peg Cochran serves up a full meal in her debut book.”
New York Times
bestselling author of the Orchard Mysteries
“A delicious, de-liteful debut. Gigi is a heartfelt protagonist with calories to spare. Tasty food, a titillating story, and a spicy town and theater, rife with dramatic pause. Add a dash of romance, and you have the recipe for a successful series.”
—Avery Aames, Agatha Award–winning author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries
“Full of colorful characters, delicious diet foods, a rescued dog, and an intriguing mystery,
Allergic to Death
is tasty entertainment.”
—Melinda Wells, author of the Della Cooks Mysteries
“Mouthwatering gourmet meals and a scrumptious mystery—a de-liteful combination!”
New York Times
bestselling author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries
“A delicious amateur-sleuth tale . . . Culinary cozy fans will take De-Lite with Peg Cochran’s first recipe.”
—Genre Go Round Reviews
“An absolute delight . . . A super fun read.”
—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews
“De-Litefully written to engage the reader’s investigative imagination and give hours of reading enjoyment.”
—Once Upon a Romance
“With some interesting characters and even better recipes, your mouth will water as you read this book.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Peg Cochran
ALLERGIC TO DEATH
STEAMED TO DEATH
ICED TO DEATH
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China
A Penguin Random House Company
ICED TO DEATH
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Peg Cochran.
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Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-13795-0
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2014
Cover illustration by Teresa Fasolino.
Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
Giovanna “Gigi” Fitzgerald ladled a generous serving of mushroom barley soup into each of the open containers lined up on her kitchen island. Once filled, they would go into white boxes with
Gigi’s Gourmet De-Lite
written on them in silver script. She glanced out the window of her small cottage where fat flakes of snow drifted past. According to the radio, accumulation was less than an inch so far, and she trusted her bright red MINI Cooper would make it through okay. She had several hungry customers waiting for the diet gourmet food she delivered for each of their meals.
Reg, her West Highland white terrier, was asleep right next to the heating vent. Gigi smiled. Reg knew how to make himself comfortable. And when she was cooking, he was never far away. If a piece of food happened to hit the floor, his eyes would fly open immediately and he would be on it so fast there would be no time to invoke the five-second rule.
Right now he was snoring softly, his right ear twitching in time to his breathing, a bluish-gray beam of weak sunlight slanting across his belly. Gigi smiled at him. She’d taken Reg on in a spur-of-the-moment decision, but he had turned out to be a wonderful companion.
Gigi put the containers of soup into her signature boxes along with a piece of crusty whole-wheat bread, a small salad and a fruit compote for dessert.
“Come on, Reg, we’re going for a ride.”
She didn’t have to say it twice—the small dog jumped to his feet immediately, both eyes open and bright. It was hard to believe he’d been asleep seconds earlier. He paced impatiently in front of the back door as Gigi reached for her coat. She carefully loaded her containers into the back seat of the MINI and held the passenger door open for Reg. Reg always rode shotgun, staring through the front window as if he, not Gigi, was responsible for driving the car.
Gigi put the car in gear and slowly backed down the driveway. The wheels slid, then gripped again, and they were on their way. She switched on the windshield wipers, and the snowflakes, which were now coming down faster and harder, were briefly whisked away.
The roads were covered with a fine dusting of snow, but here and there ice lurked beneath the surface. Gigi gripped the wheel as she negotiated the narrow, winding road leading toward the small downtown area of Woodstone, Connecticut.
Gigi made her delivery rounds as quickly as she could. Flurries of snow continued to fall, and the roads became even slicker. She’d spent most of the previous years living in New York City, where she’d hardly ever needed to get behind the wheel. She breathed a sigh of relief after she delivered the last Gourmet De-Lite container and was able to turn around toward home.
She rounded the corner onto her street, and her spirits rose as her cottage came into view. It was white with a bright red door, dormer windows and a picket fence.
With a red, white and green Ralph’s Pizza delivery truck in the driveway.
There must be a mistake. She didn’t order a pizza. Not that she didn’t love it—especially the wonderfully aromatic pies Carlo and Emilio used to make at Al Forno—but Ralph’s was pedestrian fare, full of calories and laden with fat, and something she tried to stay away from.
It had to be a mistake.
A young man in a bright green ski cap and a zip-up plaid jacket was standing at Gigi’s front door, an expectant look on his face.
She pulled into the driveway and stopped. She opened the door to let Reg out of the car and he ran ahead of her, jumping around the young man’s legs and sniffing furiously at the pizza box. Gigi was about to call out to the delivery boy when her front door slowly opened.
“What on earth . . . ?” Gigi was so stunned she stopped in her tracks.
A woman stuck her head out the door. She was tall and thin with dark hair styled in a pixie cut. She exchanged some cash for the pizza box in the delivery boy’s hands and was about to shut the door when she noticed Gigi standing in the driveway, still openmouthed.
“Surprise,” she yelled, waving the pizza box toward Gigi.
“What . . . when . . . how did you . . . ?” Gigi stammered as she approached her own front door.
“You didn’t lock it,” the woman said, making it sound like Gigi’s fault. “Well? Aren’t you glad to see me?” She threw her free arm around Gigi’s neck and hugged her.
“What are you doing here?” Gigi looked her younger sister up and down. Pia was a little thinner than the last time they’d seen each other, and the pixie haircut was new. Gigi liked it. Pia’s eyes were enormous, and the cut accentuated them beautifully. She hadn’t seen or heard from her sister in over a year—not since she had taken off for some artist’s commune in the south of England where they made their own paper and paint and grew their own food.
Pia waved the pizza box under Gigi’s nose. Gigi had to admit, it did smell good. She just hoped none of her clients had seen Ralph’s delivery truck in her driveway! She tried to set a good example by eating healthily herself.
“What are you doing here?” Gigi asked again.
Pia made a face. “Let’s get comfortable first, and I’ll tell you everything. I’ve brought a bottle of plonk—cheap red wine,” she explained, obviously noticing the look of bewilderment on Gigi’s face.
Gigi followed her sister to the kitchen, still half stunned by Pia’s sudden appearance. A battered suitcase and stuffed backpack had been tossed willy-nilly into the living room. Gigi felt her jaw clench. She cherished her cottage and took the time to keep it neat and tidy.
“Got any paper plates?” Pia pulled open drawers and cabinet doors and then slammed them shut. She opened the red, green and white pizza box, which she’d placed on the counter, and pulled out a slice. “Sorry, but I can’t wait. I’ve been dying for some decent food ever since I left the States. It was all roasted root vegetables and dandelion salads in that commune. I’ve been pining for some good junk food.” She took an enormous bite of the pizza.
Gigi grabbed plates and napkins from the cupboard and set them out on the island. The pizza really did smell good. She hesitated, and then finally helped herself to a piece.
“To answer your question,” Pia said around a mouthful of pie, “there was this guy.”
Gigi groaned. With Pia, it was always some
Gigi carefully blotted her slice of pizza with some napkins and then took a tiny nibble from the end. It wasn’t as bad as she expected. As a matter of fact, it tasted heavenly.
Pia twisted the top off the bottle of red table wine she’d brought and waited while Gigi fetched wineglasses.
Pia filled a glass for each of them. “You have no idea how wonderful this is. In the commune, we each had one ugly, handmade brown mug that we used for everything. Even the elderberry wine ended up tasting like coffee.” She shuddered. “I did do some amazing work there though.” Pia helped herself to another slice of the pie. “And it was good with Clive while it lasted.”
Pia heaved a dramatic sigh and rolled her enormous green eyes. “I thought I had found my happily ever after, but it turned out he was cheating on me with that witch Blythe, whose family owns the property the commune is on.”
“I’m sorry.” Gigi looked at her sister. Somehow she didn’t seem particularly brokenhearted. “How . . . how long are you staying?” The words stuck in Gigi’s mouth, and she took a big glug of her wine. It went down the wrong way, and she began to cough.
Pia shrugged. “Don’t know really. Until I’m on to the next good thing.” She pouted prettily. “You don’t mind do you?”
“Er, no. No. Of course not.” Gigi said insincerely.
• • •
Gigi’s cottage was small, but she’d always found it more than roomy enough for her needs. After only four days with her sister in residence, however, the space was beginning to feel terribly cramped. There was only one full bathroom and a tiny powder room, and Pia thought nothing of leaving her wet towels draped over the bath or her dirty clothes strewn across the floor. Gigi’s tiny guest room was already awash with Pia’s things. Her sister didn’t seem to feel the need to put anything away or to make the bed. Whenever Gigi passed the room, the sheets were in a tangle and the comforter was in a pile at the foot of the bed.
Gigi was working on boxing up her Gourmet De-Lite lunches when she glanced at the clock. Surely Pia would be up soon. Gigi had saved her something for breakfast, but it was already nearly lunchtime.
“Good morning,” Pia called suddenly, startling Gigi.
She was dressed in a pair of black leggings, over-the-knee suede boots and a long, hand-knit-looking tunic.
“I’ve got some breakfast frittata left for you if you want,” Gigi offered.
Gigi looked at Pia’s long, thin legs and wondered, not for the first time, why she couldn’t have gotten some of the same genes.
“Thanks, but I’m going out. I have a lunch date.” Pia smiled enigmatically.
“Really? Who?” Pia seemed to attract men like magnets attracted metal.
Pia grabbed her coat, which she’d left draped over one of the kitchen chairs, and began to put it on. “I’ll tell you when I get back.” She winked at Gigi. “This could be the real deal, but I don’t want to jinx it.”
“Oh,” was all Gigi could manage.
“Do you need anything while I’m out? I’d be happy to stop by the grocery store.”
“That would be great.” Gigi jotted a few things down on a list and handed it to Pia.
“Ta-ta,” Pia headed out to the ancient, pea green Volkswagen van she’d bought from someone on Craigslist the day after her arrival. She’d assured Gigi that she was leaving soon and making her way across country to California, but so far, she hadn’t showed any signs of imminent departure. And now with romance in the air, Gigi was beginning to wonder if she’d ever get going.
Gigi sighed. She loved her sister, and it was fun having her around, but she really wanted to have the cottage back to herself.
Gigi put on her own coat, and Reg, who was asleep on top of the heating vent, snapped to attention.
“Yes, you’re coming, too.” Gigi grabbed Reg’s leash while he did an animated dance around her ankles.
Gigi drove down High Street, past all the shops that had become so familiar to her. Someone was leaving the Book Nook with two shopping bags. Sienna must be pleased, Gigi thought. She and Sienna, the bookstore’s owner, had been best friends since college, and Sienna had convinced Gigi to move to Woodstone and open her business when Gigi’s marriage came to an end. Gigi passed Declan’s Grille and felt hot color rush to her face. The owner, Declan McQuaid, was extremely attractive, and she always felt slightly awkward around him. He’d made it quite clear he found her attractive as well, but she’d sworn not to get involved. Declan himself had admitted to being the “love ’em and leave ’em” type, and Gigi didn’t want to take a chance on ruining the budding romance between her and Detective Bill Mertz.
Gigi continued down High Street to her last stop, the law firm of Simpson and West. Madeline Stone, one of her newer clients, was waiting in the small wood-paneled lobby when Gigi got there. She was wearing a slim pencil skirt and a big smile. She had recently become engaged to Hunter Simpson, the son of one of the firm’s partners. She held out her left hand as Gigi approached. Gigi dutifully admired the large diamond solitaire that adorned Madeline’s ring finger.
“It’s beautiful.” Gigi couldn’t help but recall that she’d had one very much like it, but she’d sold it and purchased her MINI after her divorce from Ted. She hadn’t regretted it for a minute.
“I’m so excited about the engagement party Mr. Simpson is throwing for us Saturday night.” Madeline’s eyes glowed as she stopped herself and giggled, “I guess I should call him Bradley now that he’s going to be my father-in-law.” She blushed again. “I can’t quite picture myself calling him . . . Dad.” She ducked her head.
A young woman in a pantsuit brushed past them and gave Madeline a strange look.
“Everyone is so jealous,” Madeline whispered to Gigi as she watched the other woman push open the heavy front door. “They were all hoping to snag Hunter themselves.” A second, very becoming blush colored her cheeks pink. “I still can’t believe he proposed to me!”
Gigi patted Madeline’s arm. “Hunter is the lucky one if you ask me.”
Madeline’s blush intensified.
The elevator doors pinged open, and a tall, attractive blond woman rushed out, stomping past Gigi and Madeline, an expensive leather handbag swinging furiously from her arm. Her black suede stilettos clacked loudly against the marble floor. Her cheeks were flushed bright red, and her cashmere coat swung wide open despite the frigid temperatures awaiting her outdoors.
“Hold my calls. I’m going out,” she barked at the secretary sitting behind the polished wooden reception desk. The girl jumped and nodded her head, but the woman had already swept past in a cloud of expensive-smelling French perfume. She charged through the front door, heedless of the half inch of snow that had collected on the sidewalk.
“That’s Tiffany Morse,” Madeline said in an undertone to Gigi. “Rumor has it she’s in line to become the first female partner at Simpson and West.”
Moments later they heard a car engine start up, and then a bright red Mustang streaked past the front window of the building, fishtailing slightly on the slick road.
“I wonder what’s got her in such a tizzy?” Madeline stared out the window. She turned toward Gigi. “I heard her arguing with Bradley earlier.” This time she barely stumbled over the name. “I was surprised the two of them were fighting. She’s Bradley’s . . .” She hesitated. “. . . Pet. If you know what I mean.” She rolled her eyes at Gigi.