Cake Pop Casualties – Addison Moore

M y name is Lottie Lemon, and I see dead people. Okay, so rarely do I see dead people. Mostly I see furry creatures of the dearly departed variety, aka dead pets, who have come back from the other side to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom. But right now, I’m not seeing a dead anything but a couple of inhumanely handsome men who have stopped by my shop, the Cutie Pie Bakery and Cakery, for breakfast. Noah moans, “Lottie, adding pancakes to the menu is brilliant.” Everett’s chest gives an insolent huff. “She doesn’t have a menu. That’s the point.” He lifts those cobalt blue eyes my way and nods. “This is an innovated effort, Lemon, and I wholeheartedly approve.” Everett has only ever called me by my surname and I wholeheartedly approve. “You approve?” Noah balks at Everett. “Hear that, Lottie? Lock yourself into a matrimonial agreement with this guy and you’ll be forced to seek his approval for the rest of your life.” A tiny laugh trembles in my chest, but I don’t dare give it. To say the relationship I have with these two men is complicated would be an understatement.

Noah and I have been friends, lovers, spouses, and have gone right back to plain ol’ dating. We even own the Maple Meadows Lodge up in Hollyhock together, so technically, we’re business partners, too. Our marriage was sort of accidental, but Noah would like to get back to that matrimonial agreement as he so eloquently called it. Noah is tall with dark hair that picks up red highlights in the sun, has dimples for days, and eyes the color of a Granny Smith apple. He’s caustically handsome, arrestingly so—a perfect metaphor considering the fact he happens to be the lead homicide detective down in Ashford County. And then there’s Mr. Sexy. That alone sums up Judge Essex Everett Baxter in a nutshell. He too is tall, jet-black hair, bluest eyes known to man, and his presence is enough to command the attention of every living and nonliving woman on Earth. His body is put together in the exact way God intended, and he’s slow to give the hint of a smile.

We might be currently tangled in our own matrimonial agreement, but it’s strictly on paper only. Everett needed to get married to qualify for the rest of his trust fund, and I was happy to help. And that nickname, Mr. Sexy? It was gifted to him by a barista the day we met. Everett refused to give me his name, and my scheme of seeing what was written on the side of his coffee cup was quickly foiled by the barista in question. In truth, his formal name is Essex, but he’s not keen on it for whatever reason. And the only people, other than his mother and sister, who get the privilege of utilizing it on the regular are women he’s bedded. It’s long been considered a door prize of sorts given to those lucky women who have danced between the sheets with the good judge. And even though I more than qualify, I still call him Everett, along with everyone else. Noah and Everett are just a few years older than me, in their early to mid-thirties.

And both of them are in on my deepest, some might say darkest, secret. I just so happen to be transmundane—further classified as supersensual, which means I have the ability to see the dead. Mostly it’s creatures of the furry variety who have come back to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom. But sometimes I see people, too. Last month the three of us took a trip to Cider Cove, Maine, where, interestingly enough, I met a woman named Bizzy Baker who shares my unique abilities—not the same ability but close enough. It was the trip of a lifetime. It turns out, Bizzy is transmundane as well, but her classification is telesensual—the most invasive classification of all, meaning she can read minds. Needless to say, Bizzy and I have bonded for life. Keelie, my blonde bestie, bops up to the counter with her belly swaying heavy as she waddles on over. Keelie is getting married to the love of her life, Bear Fisher, later this month, and in two months from now they’ll be welcoming their first child into the world.

She shoots Noah and Everett a disparaging look. “Can’t you two ever get along? I can feel the tension all the way over in the Honey Pot.” She refills their coffee for me. “You were brothers once.” “Stepbrothers,” Noah corrects. “And we didn’t get along that great then either.” Everett grunts as he looks to his former stepbrother. “What do you expect when you steal someone’s girlfriend?” Noah glowers at him. “And you’ve spent the last couple of years making up for it by trying to steal Lottie.” “How about stealing some delicious fluffy pancakes?” I shove the giant tower of pancakes between the two of them.

“Only neither of you will be stealing because this breakfast is on me. Thanks for coming down and being the first to try out my new breakfast offering.” I glance to the glass bakery shelves brimming with croissants, Danishes, cream puffs, and every cookie and every brownie known to man. I probably didn’t need another breakfast offering, but that’s never stopped me before. “And thank you, Keelie, for suggesting it.” Keelie manages the Honey Pot Diner next door. Actually, we’re conjoined by a connecting walkway through a shared wall. The Honey Pot was our grandmother, Nell Sawyer’s, baby before she passed away. It’s as magical as she was with its large resin oak tree in the center of the restaurant that bleeds out its twinkle light wrapped branches right through the walkway that leads into my shop. The sparkling branches extend all across the ceiling of my café as well.

The bell on the door chimes and in stream three women that I care for deeply, my mother, Carlotta—my birth mother—and Evie, the fifteen-year-old daughter I share with Everett. Evie’s birth mother is actually Cressida Bentley, a psychopath of an ex-girlfriend of Everett’s if ever there was one. Cressida essentially hid Evie from Everett up until a few months ago, but now that she’s in our lives we’re never letting her go. And seeing that she doesn’t have a real mother, I’ve gladly stepped into that role, and Evie is glad about it, too. The three of them hit the counter and put in their orders just as the bell chimes again, and this time Scarlet Sage strides in. Scarlet just so happens to own a ritzy clothing boutique down the street, aptly named after herself. “Just the woman I was hoping to see,” I say as she heads this way. “Keelie is getting married in less than a month and she doesn’t have a dress.” My mother gasps. “What?” she snips so loud you’d think an egregious offense has transpired and, truthfully, this might just qualify.

Miranda Lemon is the woman that I call my mother. She and Joseph Lemon adopted me right after my father found me squirming on the floor of the firehouse where he worked. My mother has creamy blonde shoulder-length hair and a pretty face that seemingly forgot to age. She’s wearing a low-cut hot pink sundress on this balmy June morning and looks every bit as sassy and brassy as she is. “Keelie, say it isn’t so.” Keelie shrugs. “I can’t help it. I didn’t think I’d be sporting a paunch this size during my wedding. Nothing fits me.” I look to Scarlet.

“You have to help. You’re our only hope.” “Let me see.” Scarlet gives a cheeky wink as if she were up to something. Scarlet has long black hair and mesmerizing lavender eyes. She also has a history with Everett that I don’t care to know about. Come to think of it, Everett has a history with just about every woman in Honey Hollow—and perhaps all of Vermont that I don’t care to know about. He was a bit of a playboy before he hung up his one-night stand routine in my honor. She lifts a finger in the air. “You’re in luck.

That’s actually why I’m here. There’s a private bridal boutique going on this afternoon at Pemberley by the Water.” Both Keelie and I gasp. Pemberley by the Water is one of the many mansions owned by Norman Pemberley, a billionaire who made most of his money in oil. I don’t know much else about him other than the fact he’s a lot older than my mother. Growing up, she used to regale us with the story of him offering to purchase her as his wife. She said he was teasing but, needless to say, my father was not amused. “I’m going with you.” Carlotta is quick to extend the invite to herself. Carlotta, my aforementioned birth mother, is essentially my twin if you were to age me with a few stray gray hairs and wrinkles.

We share the same caramel-colored hair and hazel eyes. She came into my life a little over a year ago, and after she trashed Nell’s old place, she came to live with me. (Okay, so Nell’s old place may have had some plumbing issues, which led to the discovery of black mold. And perhaps neither of those things is directly Carlotta’s fault, but I can’t be sure entirely.) Anyway, she’s been holing up in my back bedroom for months and it’s been regret city ever since. Let’s just say, Carlotta has a special way of keeping me on my toes. “Bridal boutique?” Evie balks. “I’m in.” Everett leans back. “It’s a bridal boutique.

Wouldn’t you rather hang out with your friends? Or you can start that summer internship down at the courthouse if you want.” “Internship? Hard pass.” Evie doesn’t mind shutting down her daddy. There’s no denying she’s his. Evie has the same jet-black hair, albeit long and wavy, same demanding cobalt blue eyes, and same curtness in her demeanor that tells those around her she is fiercely in charge. She’s all of fifteen going on twenty-one. A scary thought if ever there was one. “I need some major gowns, Dad, and unfortunately for you, Cressi-duh has cut me off at the credit card knees. I always knew she was a witch, but I never thought she’d stoop this low. Anyway, I’ve got to start shopping before all the good stuff is snatched up.

” Scarlet nods. “She’s right. Girls are already coming in for homecoming gowns even though summer break has hardly started. And don’t worry, Everly. They’ll have those kinds of dresses at the bridal boutique, too.” Evie shoots her a look. “It’s Evie. Nobody calls me Everly. Sort of the way nobody calls my dad Essex unless they’ve—” “Okay,” I say, taking a big breath. “I guess I’ll ask Lily to run the bakery for me this afternoon.

” Lily Swanson grunts somewhere from behind. Lily is a stunning brunette who hasn’t always been all that fond of me until I started signing her paychecks, but I’d like to think we’ve become friends at this point. Mom waves a hand in the air. “Oh, I’m coming, too. I’ve got a feeling I need to start shopping for wedding attire myself.” Carlotta smacks her on the arm. “Don’t get your hopes up. Lot Lot here is already hitched. In fact, she’s gotten hitched twice and hasn’t invited you once.” “Carlotta.

” A laugh gets trapped in my throat. She’s not wrong, but technically she’s not right either. “Mom”—I look to my mother—“when I get married…again, and I will, I plan on having you right there in the room with me.” Mom waves it off. “Of course, dear, but I’m not holding my breath. Besides, I might have a rather big announcement of my own on the horizon.” She gives a tight smile to Noah and Everett as I gag on what that announcement might be. “You, Lottie, have a special arrangement most women would kill to have. Now, if one of you gentlemen would please give Evie a little brother or sister, that would just make my year.” Good Lord, I’d better shove a cookie into her mouth.

I quickly land a blondie bar in front of her and she does the dirty work herself. Keelie sighs as she rubs her belly. “I guess today’s my lucky day.” The words come out as if she were about to face her certain doom. Noah’s dimples invert as he sheds a sorrowful smile my way. “It could be your lucky day, too, Lottie. You might just fall in love with a dress.” His phone buzzes and he glances at the screen. “And that’s my cue. Duty calls.

Thanks for the pancakes, Lottie. They were delicious.” Noah finishes up one last bite and I walk him to the door. He gently hitches my hair behind my ear. “I meant what I said to you a few weeks back. I’m okay with you exploring your relationship with Everett. I think it’s only fair. He’s done the same for us for months. Your happiness is all I care about, Lottie.” He presses a warm kiss to my forehead.

“And my love for you will never change, no matter what you eventually decide. You deserve to wear a wedding dress yourself one day, and hopefully, I’ll be the groom you choose to be by your side.” He takes off and takes my broken heart right along with him. Everett strides up and pulls me into a warm embrace. “I can pick up dinner if you want?” I nod. “That would be great.” “If you need me, I’ll keep my phone on just for you. Have fun dress shopping. If you find anything you like, it’s on me.” He dots a kiss to the top of my head before taking off.

A tiny little creature that sort of resembles a dog skips in front of the glass door and I do a double take because I’ve never seen anything so small and dainty. He could hardly come up to my knees and has a delicate head and long floppy ears. I lean in, trying to get a better look at the tawny little creature, but before it can turn my way, it up and disappears into thin air. Oh my stars above Honey Hollow. My heart thumps wildly and my adrenaline picks up. Thank goodness Everett will have his phone on just for me. Thank goodness Noah is just a phone call away himself. If that supernatural little beast means anything at all, it most certainly means something sinister is afoot. Now to head off to the Pemberley mansion to enjoy a little dress shopping with my bestie. Hopefully, shopping for Keelie’s wedding dress won’t be murder.

“L CHAPTER 2 ook!” Keelie gives my sleeve a tug. “There’s the original Mrs. Pemberley. I remember her from way back when she and my mom used to do charity work together.” The original Mrs. Pemberley stands before a heavily lacquered snow-white grand piano, tipping her strawberry blond curls back as she shares a laugh with a group of women. Keelie is right. That’s her. I remember her too and she looks as if she hasn’t aged a day. Although I suspect some major self-induced facial paralysis can be thanked for the wrinkle-free feat.

Her face looks stiff as concrete. The Pemberley mansion is as exquisite inside as it is outside with its marble floors and walls. Its floor-to-ceiling windows face Honey Lake and extend the length of the stately structure. And the entire place holds the floral scent of fresh gardenias. I’ve just set a platter of my delicious cake pops in every shade of pastel down onto the dessert table. Scarlet suggested I bring them and leave a few cards since my cake pops are not only Keelie’s unorthodox version of a wedding cake, but they’re a great way to showcase different cake flavors to the brides-to-be at the present event. Scarlet called ahead to the waitstaff and they more than loved the idea. Keelie, Mom, Carlotta, Evie, and I haven’t stopped marveling at the opulence of this place. Carlotta winces at the woman. “Looks as if her face has been ironed out real good.

Nothing but top-notch work. She doesn’t look a day over twenty, and you know she’s on the heavy end of a million.” “Would you hush?” I whisper-hiss at the woman who bore me. “I don’t want us to get kicked out before Keelie has the chance to snap up a gown.” “Or me,” Evie says as she takes a look around. “I see a bunch of short black dresses. I think I’ll start there.” Mom groans, “No, no. A beautiful young girl like you would look much better in pink. I’ll help you find something suitable.

” Mom links arms with Evie before she can protest and they’re off in an entirely different direction. The palatial ballroom before us has been transformed into a wedding boutique with a flurry of white dresses everywhere you look, ranging from satin to sumptuous lace. A handful of bridesmaid dresses and dresses for the mother-of-the bride are strewn about, and there are waiters and waitresses in formal attire walking around with platters of crystal champagne flutes brimming with bubbly. Nothing but the best, I’m sure. There’s a live pianist strumming away a classical ditty, and the only sound competing with it is the din of conversation and the occasional burst of laughter. Carlotta leans in. “Don’t worry, Lot Lot. I’ll make sure Evie finds a hot little number that puts every boy in Honey Hollow on high alert.” “Are you nuts? She’s fifteen. She doesn’t need to put the boys on high alert.

” “Why not? I did.” Carlotta lifts her chin as if daring me to contest her. “In fact, I was just about the same ripe old age as Evie when I brought you into this world.” “My point exactly,” I say. “Get off your high horse, Lot. I’m perfectly capable of raising Evie to be an upstanding citizen. In fact, I’ve taken it upon myself to teach her the ways of the world. You and Mr. Sexy can thank me later.” My mouth opens and closes.

“I think I can speak for Everett when I say that’s not necessary.” Carlotta squints over at something just past my left shoulder. “Do rich people let baby goats wander around their homes willy-nilly?” “I doubt it,” I say as I watch Keelie embrace her mother. Keelie looks like a princess in that pale yellow flowing gown she’s donned, and I’m half-afraid if she doesn’t pick something out this afternoon, it just might have to double as her wedding dress. Before we left the bakery, she invited both her mother and her twin sister, Naomi, to join the frock-laden festivities. “Goats aren’t exactly easily housebroken.” And neither is Naomi, I muse as I examine her. Naomi dyes her blonde locks jet-black and it looks great on her. But that feathery lime green dress, that looks more like a baggy sweater dripping down to her thighs, does not. Naomi has pretty much disliked me from the get-go when Keelie and I decided to cement our BFF bond back in preschool.

Naomi and I have been on a downward descent ever since. “No pet goats, huh? Well then”—Carlotta shakes her head—“it looks as if we’ve got a ghostly guest. I’d better go meet the tiny little spook.” She takes off before I can stop her. I’ve known from a young age that I could see creatures and people that others around me couldn’t. And I quickly put together the fact their presence meant trouble for whoever they were once near and dear to. But not until lately has it imminently meant death. And not until just before my grandma Nell passed away did I know what my gift, or curse as it were, was called. It turns out, I’m something labeled as transmundane, further classified as supersensual. There are many supernatural abilities that fall under the umbrella of transmundane, and my supersensual powers are one of them.

I narrow my gaze in the direction Carlotta took off in. A baby goat, huh? I bet that means some poor soul holed up in this building isn’t getting out alive. That also must mean a killer lurks among us. The thought alone makes me wish I had brought Ethel with me. Ethel is the name I gave to the Glock handgun that Noah and Everett bought for me a while back. I may have promised them I’d take her with me wherever I go and, much to my detriment, that’s one promise I can’t seem to keep. Keelie scuttles over, holding her baby belly as she shifts from side to side. “Where did your mom and sister go?” I ask, craning my neck past her. “My mom went to find your mom, and Naomi is talking to friends.” She glances back, and I follow her gaze to Naomi laughing it up with a girl who looks to be a little younger than Keelie and me.

We’re both in our late twenties, and that girl looks as if she’s hardly crested her teens. Her hair is dark with thick chunky blonde highlights, and she’s wearing a tight red dress that looks as if it’s made from some stretchy fabric designed to cling to your skin. “Who is that?” I whisper. Keelie huffs, “That’s Analise Johansson, AKA the woman in line to become the next Mrs. Pemberley.” “What?” I squawk so loud a hush falls over our quadrant of the room. I lean in. “She looks like a kid, and Mr. Pemberley must be ancient by now.” Keelie’s eyes double in size as she looks at something behind me in horror.

I glance back and scream before ducking behind my bestie. “Mr. Pemberley.” Keelie lifts her chin to the older—much, much older—and yet strangely handsome man with his dark hair graying at the roots as if it were in need of a touch-up, his thick skin, his cut and paste smile—no, really, I’d bet my bakery this man has surgically enhanced his lips and not in any good way. Think Joker from Batman. “Afternoon, ladies.” He gives an amicable nod before heading for his child bride-to-be. “Wow,” I say as I walk Keelie over to a puddle of white dresses taking up a majority of the center of the room. “We should run from that fire and stay focused on the task at hand.” “But think of all the entertainment they could provide.

” She glances back in their direction. “His daughter Debbie is here, too.” “Does she really go by Debbie?” I’ve met enough socialites to know they don’t dare share names with commoners like us. “It’s actually Dolce, or is it Gabbana? Anywho, I could never get it right, so I’ve resorted to calling her Debbie.” A small laugh bounces through me. “And has she resorted to calling the cops?” “Not yet.” Keelie cranes her neck back toward drama central. “But as soon as Debbie spots Analise, she might just do that.” A couple of older women bristle their way next to us as they pluck and gawk at the lush dresses before us. “Am I ever glad my husband is dead,” bleats the older of the two with her short red hair and chunky neck jewelry.

“No more sharing the remote. No more hostile opinions I have to pretend to go along with. No more holidays spent with people who aren’t worth an ounce of my time.” The shorter, seemingly younger looking of the two chortles. “If only my husband would have taken his mother with him when he left. But I suppose it’s frowned upon to bury the living.” They break out into a sharp cackle. The shorter one waves it off. “William was a cheat. He deserved exactly what he got.

” “Oh please, May. Nobody deserves to be chopped in half by the garage door of all things.” She squints over at her friend. “Not everyone lines their door with razors, you know. I’m shocked the sheriff’s department hasn’t arrested you yet.” “As long as I keep donating to the sheriff’s ball, they’re more than happy with me.” They move along to the next row of dresses and I gasp at Keelie. “That woman all but confessed to killing her husband! Do you think that’s the murder I’ll have to solve?” My fingers clamp over my mouth. Keelie might be my best friend, but she doesn’t have a clue about my supersensual status. Outside of Noah and Everett, the only other person in town who knows of my supernatural quirk is Carlotta, because we happen to share the same unnatural abilities.

Keelie slumps. “Lottie, those women sounded miserable. You don’t think I’ll be moved to kill Bear in a few years, do you?” “Why wait a few years?” I tease. “Kidding.” Sort of. Otis Bear Fisher isn’t exactly the easiest person to get along with. I should know. We dated all through high school and I foolishly gave him my virginity. Actually, he’s the real reason Naomi took such a vitriolic dislike toward me. Naomi was the only girl that Bear wouldn’t cheat on me with.

Well, with the exception of Keelie. And I’m betting right about now he’s pretty glad about it, too. But he’s cleaned up his cheating act. He owns his own construction company now. And, in fact, I’ve hired him to fix Nell’s old place. The wonky plumbing was just the tip of the disastrous iceberg, but the mold took the cake. He’s basically taking the place down to the studs, all on my unfortunate dime. When Nell died, she left me half of Honey Hollow and her home was part of the haul. “You’re not killing Bear,” I say, picking up her hand. “You’re building a family with him.

Your little baby bear is due in just a couple months. So let’s find a beautiful dress so the three of you can start your happily ever after.” “Fine.” Keelie takes a breath as she starts plucking at the wall full of dresses before us.

.

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