Chocolate Chip Cookie Conundrum – Addison Moore

Jjust made a deal with the devil. Manny Moretti? Really? That’s how low I had to stoop? The halls of Honey Hollow General Hospital hum at this early morning hour, just a little after four in the morning, but it might as well be high noon with the adrenaline coursing through my veins. Lemon asked for a snack, so I ran down and drained the vending machines of all their offerings—right after I sold my soul to Manny Moretti. I try to push it out of my mind for now. It’s an ungodly hour, and Lemon just had the baby. That’s where my focus needs to be. She needs rest. With me in the room, Lemon can finally get some sleep while I watch over the baby—my baby. Even though the jury is still out on that one, either way, that sweet little girl is mine. But the fact I was forced to fork over some cold, hard cash to a mobster in the parking lot just now? That’s all Noah’s doing. If he hadn’t talked Lemon into moving that body from the morgue— A heavy sigh comes from me. Fine. Noah may have gotten the ball rolling, but I was free to remove myself from the situation at any given point. But I couldn’t. Because Lemon wouldn’t.

And I’d move the planet right out of the solar system if she wanted me to do it. That night—because Noah damn well instructed Lemon to go ahead with the corpse heist—we found ourselves in a morgue stealing Florenza Canelli’s body. Of course, you could argue that technically Florenza herself was to blame. She did come back from the other side and pitched a fit about the potential color of her casket, threatened to have my judicial career yanked from underneath me, pin me for a moneylaundering scheme that involved Lemon’s bakery, and keep Noah and the rest of the Ashford County Sheriff’s Department in the dark about an upcoming mob war. So I get it. Noah wanted to do the right thing and stop the bloodbath that was about to ensue. And Lemon told Flo we’d comply. But regardless, that mob bloodbath happened, and it almost took out Noah in the process. The bakery came out unscathed, but I sure as heck had my judicial seat yanked from underneath me. And now I’m walking into another trial —not as the judge, but as the defendant—all because I happened to stare right into a hidden camera that night at the morgue.

Let’s hope that little sleepwalking defense Noah dreamed up actually works. If not, my days with Lemon, along with both of my daughters, are numbered. From my chambers to a prison cell. My, how the mighty have fallen. I make the final turn down the corridor and freeze at the sight before me. Lemon stands outside of her room, one hand pressed against the door as if she were shutting it while trying to be discreet. She’s fully dressed in a wool coat, jeans peering out from underneath, and I inch my head back as I try to make sense of it all. Did Noah come back with those clothes? Is she leaving with the baby? Is she leaving without the baby? Her hair looks darker, a little longer—and then it hits me. It’s that woman we’ve been seeing everywhere—the one stalking us at every turn. I drop the armload of snacks and speed in her direction.

The woman jumps back with a look of horror as she turns my way. Same face and same eyes as Lemon. She turns to bolt, and I catch her by the wrist. “You’re not going anywhere.” She takes a sharp breath, her eyes bulging wide with fear. A rustling sound emits from my left before I can ask the woman a single question. “Hang on, Sexy!” Carlotta shouts as she barrels down the hall, nearly tripping over what looks to be a pile of clothes in her arms. “I tried to get you to slow down out in front of the lobby!” she shouts as she staggers this way. “I’ve got Lot Lot’s clothes. Foxy’s taking a quick shower, and I just had to get one more sneak peek of that little whippersnap—” The woman gasps as soon as she spots Carlotta, and Carlotta stops dead in her tracks about fifteen feet from ground zero.

“What the hell is going on?” I thunder as I look back at Carlotta. The woman slips her wrist from my grip and bolts down the hall then right down the stairs like a jag of lightning. Carlotta’s mouth falls open as she staggers backward. “Who is she?” My voice is loud and rough as I stare, wild-eyed, at this older version of Lemon. “That look on your face, on hers. You know each other. Is she a sister? A cousin?” And then it hits me. “My God, she’s your kid, isn’t she?” Carlotta sets the clothes in her arms down on a chair nearby and bolts for the stairs just like the woman did before her. My heart thumps out of control as I try to wrap my mind around what’s just happened, what’s still happening. I pick up the clothes and a couple of bags of cookies that happened to land on the chair as well.

My feet carry me right back to the door to Lemon’s room and I pause. There’s no way I’m mentioning anything that just transpired to Lemon. There’s no reason for her to worry about the Morettis, that woman who almost stepped into her room and did God knows what, or the fact Carlotta has been apprised of exactly who that mystery woman has been this entire time. Nope. The only thing Lemon needs to worry about is keeping our sweet little Lyla Nell comfortable. I’ll keep them safe. My upcoming trial wanders through my mind and I wonder if I’m capable of keeping anyone safe, least of all myself. I take a deep breath before opening the door and heading on in. Right now, I’m glad to take the spotlight off myself and put it where it belongs, over Lemon and Lyla Nell. LOT T IE My 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 who have come back from the other side to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom. But right now, the only thing I’m seeing is my sweet little sugar cookie who finally made her debut, precious Lyla Nell. It’s just been a few hours since I’ve given birth—in the middle of the conservatory of my mother’s B&B of all places, or at least what used to be my mother’s B&B before she foolishly sold it to a couple of airheads and promptly gave all the money to her con artist of a boyfriend. But here we are, this little dark-haired cutie and me. Her skin glows a bright pink, and her features are dainty with a tiny button nose and perfectly shaped bowtie lips. Her eyebrows are neatly feathered and her chin comes to a slight point. I can’t stop gazing at her as she sleeps bundled in my arms. She is perfect. The door to the room slowly opens as my handsome husband steps in apprehensively.

I had sent Everett down to get us some snacks, but my appetite seems to have tempered itself since then. “Hey.” I sit up as best I can, happy to see him. “Thank God it’s you. I find it unnerving that they don’t have locks on the doors to these rooms. Any nutcase could just wander right in here while I’m sleeping and try to make off with Lyla Nell.” Okay, so that was most likely totally unwarranted, but I’m right regardless. Everett’s jaw redefines itself as if the idea made him livid. “I’m here now. Nobody is going to hurt you or Lyla Nell.

I can promise you that. Happy birthday, Lemon.” Everett has almost always called me by my surname, and I don’t mind it one bit. It’s sort of our thing. “Thank you.” I wince. “I almost forgot all about my birthday. But now that I have a birthday buddy to share it with forever, I will never forget anything about this precious day ever again.” I land a sweet kiss to the baby’s forehead. “She’s still sleeping,” I whisper with a tiny giggle in my voice.

“Oh, Everett, I’m over the moon.” “I’m right there with you.” A heavy breath presses out of him as he takes in the tiny peanut with nothing but love in his cobalt blue eyes. “She’s beautiful, Lemon. Just like her mother.” He lands a pile of clothes onto the chair in the corner, and I recognize my sweater and a robe in the jumble. “Did you go home?” I ask. “No wonder it took you forever.” “No.” He looks pained at the idea as he brandishes a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

“I ran into Carlotta out in the hall. I guess she wanted to drop them off herself. I think she said something about Noah taking a shower.” “That’s fine,” I say as Everett moves the recliner right next to the bed and takes a seat. “Both Nell and my father dropped by while you were gone. Can you believe it? I got to see my dad!” Tears fill my eyes at the thought of it. Both Nell and my father have been dead for a good long while, but I’ve seen them both several times since they’ve crossed the veil. Although, Nell has appeared to me more than my father has. “I guess seeing the dead does have its perks.” He lands a warm kiss to my lips and I take a moment to take in his warm cologne.

“It sure does.” But not in the way one would think. It’s not like I see dead people everywhere I go. The only ghosts I see regularly are the ones taking up residence in my mother’s old B&B, a happy family of four—if you include the ghostly cat. Other than that, the only time I see the disembodied as of late is if someone has been killed—and I’m not talking about the deceased. The dead in question is typically someone or some creature that the deceased truly loved. They generally come back to help solve the crime of a person who was near and dear to their hearts. That probably explains why so many of the dearly departed that come back to help are animals. It makes perfect sense; loving a pet is the purest love of all. “Unbutton your shirt,” I whisper to Everett.

“I want you to bond with the baby.” “You don’t have to ask me twice.” Everett does just that and I carefully unwrap Lyla Nell and hand her over to him. Everett lays the sleeping babe over his chest and covers her back with the blanket. “Get some rest, Lemon.” He drops a kiss to the top of Lyla Nell’s head, and if I’m not mistaken, he’s just shed the softest smile. “I’ll keep an eye on her.” But I don’t sleep. I plow my way through that bag of cookies and all the while I try my best to soak in the sight of this gorgeous man holding our daughter. And she is Everett’s daughter no matter if Noah turns out to be the father.

The door cracks open slowly and in strides Noah with a baby bag in his arms that looks to be overloaded with far too many things, and I giggle at the sight. I probably should have packed a bag for the hospital months ago, but there never seemed to be any time. And now she’s here and it feels as if everything in my life before her didn’t really exist. “Hey, beautiful.” Noah comes over and lands a kiss to my cheek before pulling over the other recliner in the room. The three of us catch maybe an hour of sleep. And even in that narrow window I manage to fall in and out of fevered dreams. When I wake up, Noah has the baby on his chest with his shirt unbuttoned so he can get that precious skin-on-skin contact with her, too. I look from Everett to Noah and marvel at how wonderful they’ve been through all of this, how very civil they’ve been to one another, and I wonder if they’ll remain civil once we find out the paternity results—on live TV no less. Why does everything always have to be so complicated? But on the bright side, maybe this paternity nightmare will be the very last complicated thing in my life.

I’ve got Lyla Nell to think about now. I can’t land myself in hot water the way I’ve been prone to do these last few years. No, it’s time for the chaos that my life has devolved into to come to an end. It’s time for peace and calmness, just like the way it is now in this room with a tiny angelic being lighting up our world with all her sugar cookie glory. But deep down, I wonder exactly how long this peaceful moment will last. Something tells me, it’s just the calm before the storm.

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