Authors: J.A. Whiting
SWEETNESS AND LIGHT
A Sweet Cove, Massachusetts Cozy Mystery
Copyright 2015 J.A. Whiting
Cover copyright 2015 Susan Coils at:
Formatting by Signifer Book Design
Proofreading by Donna Rich
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, or incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to locales, actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from J. A. Whiting.
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For my family, with love
Ellie Roseland edged her van into a parking spot in the lot of the Sweet Cove Resort. She, her three sisters, and the family friend, Mr. Finch, got out and headed for the front door. A warm breeze off the ocean carried a salty scent and the sound of the waves crashing against the sandy beach filled the air.
The resort was set on acres of lush lawn on a bluff called Robin’s Point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The resort consisted of a main hotel-spa and a number of small suites set in cottage style bungalows spread across the magnificently landscaped grounds. Shade trees and flowering shrubs and bushes dotted the lawns, and perennials and annual flowers spilled from manicured beds and ceramic pots.
Twenty-two-year-old Courtney looked longingly at the ocean waves crashing against the white sand beach below the bluff. “I’d love to jump right into the surf.”
A second round of weather with temperatures in the low nineties had descended on Sweet Cove, so Courtney had her hair pulled loosely up on top of her head and she wore a sleeveless, sea foam-green summer dress. “It’s sooo hot.” She fussed and wiped at her forehead with the back of her hand.
The air conditioning in Ellie’s van had broken down just as the high temperatures hit and riding in the vehicle was like being in an airless, stifling, closed up box.
Angie’s shirt stuck to her back from perspiration. She winced when she reached behind to pull the cloth away from her skin. Her shoulder and neck were still sensitive and sore from being hit by a baseball bat while she was trying to solve a recent crime.
“After this meeting,” Jenna said, “let’s head down to the beach for thirty minutes and swim before we all have to head off to work.”
Despite the high temperatures, Mr. Finch was dressed in a pressed white shirt, necktie, and suit jacket. He leaned on his cane. “I must present a professional appearance to our new clients.”
As the five of them approached the front entrance to the resort lobby, Josh Williams, the resort co-owner, came out to greet them. Angie quickly smoothed her honey-blonde hair and straightened her skirt attempting to look cool and calm. It was a losing battle since her internal temperature had increased a few degrees at the sight of the attractive man heading towards them.
Josh smiled broadly at Angie, bent, and kissed her sweetly. “How is your shoulder?” He brushed his hand over her arm being careful not to jostle her limb and cause her discomfort.
“It’s getting better.”
But not fast enough
, Angie thought. She was surprised at how long it was taking to regain the full use of her shoulder.
Josh said, “Senator Winston texted me and said that he and his daughter were running late. Would you like to come into the café and have a cold drink before they arrive?”
Everyone happily agreed and turned for the door just as Josh spotted the Winston vehicle heading their way from the parking area. “Oh, here they come now.”
A powder blue Bentley convertible drove slowly around the circular entrance drive. A white-haired man sat in the driver’s seat and a platinum blonde stared straight ahead from the passenger side, a bored expression on her face.
The man waved to Josh as they glided past. He called out. “We’ll have to arrange another meeting time. Can’t make it today.” The young woman didn’t even glance at the group. The vehicle picked up speed and headed away down the long driveway to the street.
Josh looked dumbfounded. “What the….?”
“Nice meeting you, too,” Courtney deadpanned. “I guess our meeting has come to a close.”
Josh apologized for dragging the Roselands and Mr. Finch to the resort for nothing. “I suppose we’ll reschedule.” He scowled after the Bentley as it made a right turn from the driveway onto the main street.
Ellie grumped. “That was very rude.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest. Ellie believed in good manners and courteous behavior.
“I guess Senators do things in their own time and in their own way.” Jenna shrugged.
Senator.” Mr. Finch tapped his cane on the pavement. “Why don’t we go inside and have that cold drink anyway. Miss Betty isn’t picking me up for an hour.” Mr. Finch was dating Sweet Cove’s most successful real estate broker, Betty Hayes. Finch recently closed on the house located right behind Angie’s Victorian, and with the help of the Roseland sisters, he had moved his few belongings into his new home. Finch and Betty were going furniture shopping later in the day.
The four sisters, Mr. Finch, and Josh headed out of the oppressive heat and into the air conditioned coolness of the resort hotel. Senator Winston and his daughter Bethany were supposed to meet to go over her wedding plans and make arrangements with Angie for the cake and other desserts for the reception, discuss the choice of treats for the gift bags from Courtney and Finch’s confectioner store, review jewelry designs with Jenna for the wedding party, and talk about retaining Ellie as a wedding consultant to assist in the orchestration of the quickly approaching event.
“The Winstons haven’t started off by making a very good impression.” Angie shook her head. She couldn’t help but smile at the behavior of the Winston father and daughter. She was more amused than annoyed about the meeting being blown off and she wondered if she wasn’t bothered because she was now in such lovely air-conditioned surroundings with handsome Josh Williams by her side.
The group walked through the elegantly decorated lobby and into the café where they settled into comfortable chairs around a table set next to floor-to-ceiling windows which afforded a beautiful view of the grounds and out over the ocean. A waiter brought cold drinks and a variety of appetizers to snack on.
“I’m starving.” Courtney transferred some stuffed mushrooms, triangles of spanakopita, and several wedges of cheese to her appetizer plate.
“No one is surprised at that.” Jenna’s blue eyes sparkled as she kidded her youngest sister, but then she followed Courtney’s example by reaching for some of the tasty treats.
“What can you tell us about the Winstons and their expectations for the wedding?” Ellie sipped sparkling water from her glass.
Josh put his fork on his plate. “Senator Winston served in government for several years representing a Midwestern state. I can’t remember which one at the moment. He worked as an investment banker prior to running for the Senate seat. He claimed to miss the business and so, retired from Congress to return to banking. They are a very wealthy family. I was surprised to hear that they wanted to hold the wedding in Sweet Cove. I’m pleased, of course, but its all so last minute that it will cause some problems, what with shifting guests around and planning the entire event so quickly.” Josh took a swallow of his iced tea. “As you probably gathered, Senator Winston is quite demanding and doesn’t handle disappointment well. We’ll have to be on our toes so everything goes the way he wants it.”
“What about the daughter?” Angie asked. “Has she voiced her preferences?”
Josh didn’t answer right away which sent a little skitter of unease over Angie’s skin.
“She never says much. She acts, sort of bored by the whole thing.”
Ellie narrowed her eyes. “How very odd.”
“Do you get any sense of why she is so reserved about the planning?” Jenna wondered what the reason could be for Bethany Winston’s reticence.
Courtney held her fork suspended over her plate. “I think it would be fun to plan my wedding.” She grinned. “I’d have all kinds of opinions about how things should be.”
“Is the young lady’s mother giving input about the wedding plans?” Mr. Finch looked thoughtful.
“Mrs. Winston passed away when Bethany was a little girl.” Josh glanced at the waiter and called him over to replenish the drinks and snacks. “The Senator told me that it’s just himself and his daughter, no other relatives.”
The Roseland sisters lost their father when they were small and their mother passed away from an accident just a few years ago. Angie offered, “Maybe the man just wants to make everything perfect for his daughter.”
“And, maybe he’s smothering her.” Jenna shrugged her shoulder. “Maybe the Senator needs to back off a little.”
“What about the groom?” Ellie questioned Josh. “Have you met him?”
Josh shook his head. “His name is Nelson Rider. They told me he is on a business trip to Asia. They don’t have a firm date for his return.”
“It will be
the wedding, though, right?” Courtney joked.
Josh grinned. “I didn’t think to ask that question.”
“Well.” Mr. Finch clasped his hands. “If nothing else, this business arrangement is going to prove interesting.”
“Working with the Winstons probably isn’t going to be all sweetness and light,” Ellie noted, brushing her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “But considering everything else we’ve dealt with since moving to Sweet Cove, I think we can handle them.”
A flicker of discomfort shivered down Angie’s spine. She certainly hoped they could.
Angie and Jenna hunched over the jewelry desks in the shop at the back of the Victorian. Jenna was finishing the last sketch of several necklace ideas that she’d come up with for the Winston wedding party. She held it up for her sister to see. “What do you think?”
Angie oohed. “I love it. It’s my favorite of all the designs you’ve done to show Bethany Winston.” She bent to finish the bracelet she was working on. “Don’t give away your best designs. Save some for my wedding.”
“I might be an old woman by the time you get married.” Jenna chuckled.
Angie ignored her.
Jenna rubbed at a kink in her neck and watched her sister. “You’ve gotten faster making the jewelry.”
“I am a production machine.” Angie lifted a tool from the desk to clamp a bead.
Jenna eyed the bracelet. “And the quality?”
“Well, the quality has slipped with my increasing speed.” Angie teased.
“I might have to fire you.” Jenna rested her chin in her hand.
“You mean I’ll go from working for you for no pay, to
working for you for no pay? I sure wouldn’t want that to happen.” Angie smiled and eyed her fraternal twin sister. “Don’t worry. The quality remains high.”
Ellie came into the room carrying a tray with three lattes on it. She put one on each desk and took the third cup with her to the sofa where she took a seat in between the two cats. She had to push Euclid’s huge orange plume of a tail to the side so she could sit.
“So, what do you think of the Winston wedding?” Ellie sipped her beverage.
Angie sighed. “I don’t know what to think.” She’d told her sisters and Mr. Finch that she’d felt some pangs of anxiety when Josh was telling them about Senator Winston and his daughter. “I hope this isn’t going to be a pain. They are probably going to be very demanding clients.”
“Well, one of them will be.” Jenna was not looking forward to the father and his stipulations. “But maybe I’ll only be dealing with Bethany since I’m handling the jewelry side of things.”
Ellie grunted. “Oh, I’m sure daddy dear will have plenty of opinions about what sort of baubles will be adorning the wedding party.”
Angie strung a few stones onto the beading wire. “We didn’t learn much about Bethany.” She peered over at Jenna and smiled. “Since you’re not doing anything, Sis, why don’t you look her up on the internet?”
Jenna tapped on her laptop. “I’m going to look up Senator Winston first. Why didn’t I think to do this before?” She clicked on one of the entries that came up in the search and after reading a few lines, she let out a little yelp. “This guy is loaded.” She eyed her sisters with a sly grin. “The prices that we’re going to charge Senator Winston for our services have just quadrupled.”