Donut Disaster – Addison Moore

I  see dead people. Mostly I see the furry dearly departed variety, aka dead pets, and on the rare occasion I do see a dearly departed human, but right now, my gaze is locked over a pair of emerald-colored eyes that shine bright in this murky light as we stand at the edge of the woods overlooking Honey Lake. “You look beautiful tonight, Lottie.” Noah takes up my hand and brushes a gentle kiss to the back of it. “How about a walk along the shore?” “That sounds like a plan.” And it is indeed a part of the plan, but I have so much more planned for Noah—and so does everyone I’ve invited to his surprise party. It’s just the beginning of August and the air is humid, pressing against us like a hot wet towel. There’s not a breeze in sight, and how I would love to steal a moment to run my bare feet along the shoreline with him. It’s evening at Honey Lake, the Honey Festival is in full swing, and you can hear the live band rioting into the sky all the way up by the evergreen belt where Noah and I are standing. The Honey Festival is sort of a big deal in this cozy corner of Vermont. The lake is huge, seven miles east to west and two and half miles at its widest. And you can bet that every last inch of this magnificent sparkling body of water is brimming with people. All of the local beekeepers have congregated to show off their wares and every soul in Honey Hollow, along with every tourist in the eastern part of the country, seems to have shown up for the festivities. Not to mention every food truck known to man has shown up to cater the affair, and all of the local businesses have booths set up near the water. During the day, it’s a family extravaganza—and as evening draws near, the atmosphere takes on a romantic appeal as the vendors and musicians alike seem to cater toward couples.

The fact that the night will end in a fireworks spectacular certainly lends to the romantic appeal. And I’m afraid that’s exactly what Noah thinks this is about—a romantic night carved out just for the two of us. It breaks my heart as much as it thrills me. Detective Noah Corbin Fox was once my boyfriend. We were pretty hot and heavy right up until I found out he had a wife. It turns out, Noah was separated, and I had assumed he was divorced. Let’s just say as a girl who was cheated on and had her heart stomped on twice before, I wasn’t in the mood to watch it get pulverized again. His wife barreled into town and demanded to have him back, so I quickly broke it off with him. And as fate, and his alarmingly attractive older stepbrother, would have it, I found myself another boyfriend—Judge Essex Everett Baxter. But, once Everett heard that Noah’s wife finally agreed to the divorce after an eternity of dragging it out—and that it will be final sometime this month—Everett thought it best if we take a step back so that my heart could explore its options.

Okay, so those weren’t his exact words. It was something more to the effect that he didn’t want to hold me back in the event I had very real feelings for Noah. He thought it was time to shut that door forever before we could move on to the next phase in our relationship—he touched my ring finger for effect. He said he wanted me to be certain— to have no regrets. Both Noah and Everett are in their early to mid-thirties, just a few years older than myself, and I will admit, I would love to settle down and share my life with someone, building a family with someone, trading my hatchback for a minivan, having an entire gaggle of children with that special someone. But, as it stands, I’m pretty busy running the Cutie Pie Bakery and Cakery—my very own bakery—and the fact I’ve accidentally fallen in love with two men and can’t seem to turn off my affections for either one, that minivan with a gaggle of children seems like a faraway dream. “Lottie”—Noah’s voice is deep and husky—“let’s head to the left.” He nods to the dark side of the lake where there is an abundance of privacy. And judging by his heavily hooded lids, Noah would love to have some privacy with me right about now. “You don’t know how much I’ve missed you.

” He secures his hand over mine, warm and strong. “It was killing me, all those months that you were with Everett. Every time I saw the two of you together, I died a little inside.” “Noah.” My gut wrenches just hearing it. “I’m so sorry. I promise I didn’t set out to break your heart. I was simply trying to nurse mine back to life,” I say, nodding him to the right instead, straight for the party. “And I get it.” He boldly lands a kiss to my cheek, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it spurred my stomach to bisect with heat.

Noah is a looker, and his dark hair that has a tendency to turn red in the sun, those lime green eyes, and adorable dimples combined have the power to garner attention from every female in the vicinity—namely me. And it might have been his dangerous good looks that caught my eye initially, but it was his charm and golden heart that won me in the end. “Lottie, I can’t convey how thrilled I was when you asked me to head down to the Honey Festival tonight.” He pulls me in, a greedy grin budding on his face as he rocks us to the music filtering through the air. The scent of the bonfires blooming all around us in combination of the magical navy sky pressing over the lake like a lid makes this moment feel otherworldly, something dreamlike that has no place in reality. But I didn’t bring Noah to the Honey Festival in hopes to get him alone in the woods, or steal a kiss under the moon that hangs in the sky like a silver platter—it’s my job to walk him right into the surprise birthday party his brother, Alex, is throwing him. Okay, so I’ve had more than a hand in orchestrating this endeavor myself—and so did Cormack Featherby, the woman who staunchly believes she’s engaged to this gorgeous man. It’s a long, horrible story. “Lottie?” The smile glides off his face as his eyes dart to the side of my face. Noah glances back as a pinhole of green light shakily dances on the trunk of the evergreen behind us.

“Lottie, get down!” Noah lands me on my back, his body covering mine like a shield. A light giggle bounces from me. “Excuse me, detective.” I hike up on my elbows as pine needles dig into my clothes. “Are you trying to frost my cookies right here in the woods?” That was one of our favorite double entendres while we were hot and heavy, and judging by his frisky position, Noah would very much like to be hot and heavy. His breathing becomes erratic as he glances down at the crowd by the lake. “Lottie, that was a laser sight. Someone had a gun trained on us. Who the hell would want to kill us?” “Kill us?” I groan as I roll over, and sure enough from a distance I spot everyone expected to arrive at Noah’s surprise party already there. “Nobody is going to kill us tonight.

Believe me, that’s the farthest thing from anyone’s mind. Help me up.” Noah pulls me to my feet as I dust the back of my legs off. God forbid Everett witnessed that indelicate maneuver. He’ll for sure suspect that Noah is trying to frost my cookies. “Noah, there has to be at least a thousand people at the lake,” I say, taking his hand and leading him down the dirt trail that will inevitably lead to ground zero. “It was probably a laser pen. This place is crawling with teenagers up to no good. It’s the end of summer. They’re just cutting loose a little before getting back to the books.

” “With a gun, Lottie?” He gives my hand a squeeze. “All right, I’ll drop it. Tonight is about you and me and not another single soul. I have waited so long to have you all to myself, and what better place to celebrate the start of our second chance than Honey Lake?” In the not too far distance I spot Cormack shushing everyone while luring them into the middle of the picnic area we cordoned off for the party. The twinkle lights that are strewn overhead are off, and once we step within feet of the mob waiting to greet us, my sister, Meg, said she would plug the lights back in for dramatic effect. “Lottie?” “Oh yeah, the lake is perfect. We’re going to have a great time.” My adrenaline kicks in as I lead us toward the big event. We’re just about twenty feet away from the crowd, and I can hardly stand the excitement. We get close and Noah stops dead in his tracks before curling me into him in one svelte move as if we were seasoned ballroom dancers, seasoned lovers for that matter— and we were once.

“Lottie”—Noah’s eyes burn into mine as a smile flirts with his lips—“I’m in love with you.” He presses the words out sweetly, lower than a whisper. “I don’t want there to be anyone between us anymore. You don’t need to say anything—just kiss me. I’ve missed your kisses as much as I’ve missed your body and soul.” A panic sets in. More people are listening in than he realizes, so I give Meg the signal and the entire area lights up as the crowd screams SURPRISE! in unison. Noah takes a staggering step back as he glances around at the party decorations — black and gold foil banners, and party tinsel that flickers like flames under the duress of the gorgeous twinkle lights. Cormack, the aforementioned delusional woman who believes she’s engaged to Noah, hired an event planner for the occasion. I didn’t mind too much because I happen to know Amanda Wellington, and I also know she really could use the money.

And since the money being ponied up for fancy tinsel belonged to Cormack, I gave it my blessing. “What in the heck?” Noah laughs as an entire cast of characters from his past steps up to wish him a happy birthday, starting with his brother. “Alex?” Alex Fox is exactly the same height as Noah, same dark hair, same winning smile, but his dimples are more comma-like and he looks like a hulk in spite of Noah’s muscular frame. I’ve yet to officially meet this mysterious brother. We’ve been texting for the last couple of weeks, shoring up details and making sure Noah knew nothing of the party. Noah knew Alex would be coming out at some point this month to celebrate his big day, but since his official birthday isn’t for a few weeks, I’m sure we caught him off guard. Everett comes up with a naughty grin blooming on his lips. “You did good, Lemon. You don’t need to say anything. Just kiss me,” he teases as his arms swivel around my waist and he lands a kiss to my lips.

Everett might be open to me exploring my feelings for Noah, but it’s clear who he wants the winner of my heart to be. Everett is drop-dead gorgeous, and I mean that in the literal sense. Even now, half the women in the vicinity are craning their necks just to get a better look at him. Everett has black hair, eyes the color of a stormy sky, and a face that makes just about any woman hope he’ll dole out a delicious punishment her way. Everett is slow to smile, serious as a bullet, and is always the smartest person in the room—with the exception of whenever Noah is around. At that point, it’s pretty much tied. I feel very lucky to have two handsome, brilliant men pining after me, but in all honesty, I’m terrified at what will become of us. Someone’s heart is destined to be broken, and I can’t stand the thought of breaking anyone’s heart. “Lottie, Everett!” Noah waves us over as he pulls his brother in. “Lottie, this is my brother Alex, ex-Marine turned investment banker.

” Noah’s doppelgänger takes a step back as he appraises me. “So this is the famous Lottie Lemon.” “Best baker in town,” Noah adds. “Most beautiful baker on the planet,” Everett offers. Alex laughs and sets his hand out. “Nice to finally meet you. You are as sweet as Noah said you’d be—and as beautiful as Everett suggests. Full disclosure”—he looks to his brother—“Lottie helped me plan the whole thing.” Cormack jumps into our small circle with her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and her flawless face looking a bit too ironed out as if she just had her wrinkles paralyzed into submission and I’m betting she did. “Lies, lies! All lies!” Cormack wraps herself around Alex like a viper around a tree trunk.

“Alex, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last saw your handsome face.” She pulls back with her cheeks piqued with color, and for a moment I’m hoping Cupid has struck again and she’ll finally set her sexual sights elsewhere. “Did you hear the news?” She shoves that rock on her left hand in Alex’s face. “I’m about to join the family!” The ring on Cormack’s finger is a replica she had made of the one that she found in Noah’s closet—the very one that was meant for me. But since there is no stopping Cormack’s delusions, I choose not to debate her upcoming nuptials. That’s Noah’s problem, not mine. He swears he’s set her straight but that things keep going sideways and she doesn’t believe his protests. Before Alex can congratulate the unlucky couple, a tall man with a familiar grin enters our midst and both Alex and Noah lose their minds. Everett is the first to greet him by way of a manly half-hug. “Morgan!” the brothers chime in unison before slapping their way through a manly hug-fest of their own.

Noah looks my way. “Lottie, you remember Dr. Dawson from Everett’s brief stay in the hospital last month?” How can I forget? A loon abducted Everett, and Noah and I took him to the ER ourselves. “Of course,” I say, giving the good doctor a quick wave. “So glad you could make it.” Dr. Morgan Dawson is a striking man. There’s a boyishness about him in general, but he has an affable aura that draws people to him. I can tell he’s one of those people who has an easy time in life just because he’s so well-received. “Wouldn’t miss it.

” He slaps Everett on the back. “How are you holding up, buddy?” “Alive, just the way I like it.” I give Everett’s hand a tug. “The way we all like it. Hey, did you grow up with Morgan, too?” He nods. “We played b-ball back in the day.” A couple more people join us, and Morgan is quick to introduce them. “Noah, I hope you don’t mind a couple of party crashers,” he teases. “This is Dr. Colin Drake.

We’re both up for chief of surgery.” He mock socks the lanky man with glasses. Dr. Drake is tall, sinewy like a bicyclist, has dark expressive eyes that squint heavily from his smile, and has a gaunt face. There’s sort of a rock star appeal to him in general. “And since I’ll be beating him out, I thought he could grab a bite out of that donut cake to make him feel better.” Dr. Drake shakes his head our way as if to contest Morgan’s theory. Morgan holds a hand out toward an older woman, about my mother’s age, silver pixie cut hair, stylishly dressed in a white jean jacket and matching capris. “And this is the lovely Sandra Bristol.

” He comes shy of winking as the older woman giggles like a schoolgirl. “She’s a celebrated nurse, and Honey Hollow General Hospital is lucky to have her working in our labor and delivery unit.” He holds up a finger. “And she singlehandedly takes care of her ill sister. And if any of you think you’re going to nominate her for sainthood, you can’t. I’ve already beat you to it.” She’s quick to wave him off with a laugh. “It’s very nice to meet you all. I just bumped into Colin at the festival, and the next thing I know we’re standing here. Happy birthday to you.

” She nods to Noah with a hot pink grin. Morgan shoots Colin with his finger. “Just keep this guy in line, would you? On second thought—shove him into the deep end of the lake.” A warm laugh erupts between us as they begin in on a conversation of their own. “Lottie”—Noah comes over—“I have to see this cake everyone is raving about.” Everett growls at him. “Too late, I ate it.” He pats his stomach and I swat him. “Come on, birthday boy. It’s right over here.

” Everett heads over to Alex while I take Noah to a picnic table laden with a feast that I purchased from the Honey Pot Diner. The Honey Pot is a restaurant that is conjoined with the Cutie Pie Bakery and Cakery—and that happens to be the bakery I own and run. Well, own might be a strong word. My grandmother, Nell Turner, technically owned the land and the building and almost every other piece of land and quite possibly structure in Honey Hollow. When she died, she left the lion’s share of her estate to yours truly, but my Uncle Will has been contesting the will ever since Nell died back in January. That entire mess seems to be locked up in legal red tape for the better part of eternity. We come upon the cake—a tower of glazed donuts with swirls of white frosting strewn throughout to give it a festive appeal. Next to it I’ve brought a variety of donuts to spice things up, double chocolate, sprinkles and confetti, raspberry and lemon filled, custard filled, bear claws, French twists, crullers, and apple fritters. You name it, I’ve spent the last few days frying up a storm. “Lottie.

” Noah ticks his head back as if he were bowled over. “It’s official. You’re my favorite everything.” He wraps his arms around me, and just as it looks as if he’s about to brazenly go in for a kiss, my best friend, Keelie Nell Sawyer, pops up, squealing with delight. Keelie’s blonde locks look almost white under the peachy glow of the twinkle lights. She’s holding hands with her new beau, my long-time ex, Otis Bear Fisher. Bear is a sandy-haired, burly man who happens to work in construction. Keelie is one of the perkiest people I know, and ever since I found out who my birth mother was last winter, it turns out not only is she my bestie, but Keelie is my cousin, too. We’ve been friends since preschool, and I’d trust her with just about anything. Ironic since I’ve never let it slip that I can see the dead.

I’ve only told Noah and Everett about my transmundane status, further classified as supersensual. My birth mother, Carlotta, knows, of course, but outside of that, it’s a deep, dark secret I don’t plan on letting loose on society anytime soon. Keelie and Bear get to the business of wishing Noah a happy birthday just as a giant black dog with droopy jowls and dark serious eyes bounds up. He looks sort of like a black Golden Retriever, but he’s built heavier with longer fur and a wider frame. “Oh my goodness!” I say, bending over to give his head a quick scratch. “Aren’t you handsome tonight?” He gives a jovial bark as he butts his head against my knees and I laugh as I hug him. My goodness, he looks like a miniature black bear. “Lottie?” Keelie sounds worried for me, and I turn so they can see my new furry little friend. “It looks like we have another party crasher,” I tease. “I’m certain that someone at the lake is looking for him.

” “Looking for who?” Bear leans in and squints. It’s clear he’s been spending his fair share of time outside this summer, judging by his sun-kissed face and the blond streaks in his hair. Bear helped put my bakery together last fall. We dated in high school, and he was the first to cheat on me in a long line of cheats. Okay, so there were three, and Noah didn’t technically cheat, but it felt that way. But, believe you me, three is plenty of cheats for one lifetime. I’ve caught my limit. “The dog,” I say, chipper, as I run my fingers through his luxurious fur. Keelie’s eyes enlarge as Noah shakes his head frantically. “This”—I glance down at the furry beast just as he leaps right through Bear and then right through the donut tower on the picnic table without disrupting it—“fake dog.

” I shrug up at Keelie and Bear, and they’re quick to shrug off my behavior. “Donut anyone?” Both Keelie and Bear head off to make their selections just as Everett joins Noah and me. Noah nods his way. “She just saw another one.” “Another idiot?” Everett’s brows hike as if he were amused. “Be nice to Bear. And you shouldn’t call yourself names on your birthday.” He gives a sly wink my way. “Another dead creature.” Noah steps in close.

“Lottie, did you say you saw a dog?” I give an apprehensive nod as I glance around the vicinity in search of the perky poltergeist. Noah catches my gaze. “Does that mean…?” “Yes,” I say breathlessly. “Someone at the lake is going to die.” Everett takes a breath. “And it will be murder.” M C H A P T E R 2 urder. My blood runs cold as soon as the words leave Everett’s lips. It’s true. I’ve seen the ghosts of the dearly departed for as far back as when I was a child, usually pets that have come back to warn of some horrible event that’s about to strike their old owner, but on occasion I’ve seen a deceased human or two as well.

It used to mean something simple—a scraped knee, a twisted ankle—but as of late, it most definitely means a homicide is afoot. Noah takes off to find Ivy. Detective Ivy Fairbanks is his partner in the homicide division down at the Ashford Sheriff’s Department. Of course, I invited her. I had to. Ivy isn’t my favorite person nor am I hers. She’s condescending and a bit snide, and I’m pretty sure she has a mean crush on Noah. She’s a redheaded beauty that makes busting crime in four-inch stilettos look as effortless as breathing. Everett leans in. “Who do you think it is, Lemon? Where’s the dog? What kind of dog was it?” Everett has called me by my surname for as long as I can remember.

We met last September when I was a defendant in his courtroom and he wisely sided with me. He was a notorious playboy who danced the mattress mambo with more women than there are that populate the great state of Vermont. And for whatever reason, those women who have landed horizontally with him all walk away with a unique door prize—the ability to call him by his first name. I’m not sure why Everett is mostly abhorrent to being called Essex—his mother and sister are exempt from this rule since they’ve been calling him Essex since birth. But he made it clear when we met that I was to call him Everett, and even though we’ve mamboed on mattresses, showers, and sofas alike, I’ve stuck to the moniker I’ve grown accustomed to. “I don’t know where he went. He’s huge, though, and he has black shiny fur. He was friendly, I guess. But he didn’t say anything.” Oddly enough, my powers have been growing.

A few months back, my dead granny Nell came to help me solve a murder and she told me in no uncertain terms that my powers would indeed be flourishing. She also mentioned that I might see her again on this side of the celestial divide and, believe you me, nothing would make me happier. For a very long while, Nell was the only one who knew I could see the dead. Little did I know that whole time she could see them, too. “All right. Don’t worry.” Everett takes a breath. “I have a feeling this is going to play itself out one way or another. Maybe you should stay put? That way at least you won’t find another body.” I cringe at the thought.

It’s true. I’ve found eleven bodies in eleven months. All of Honey Hollow is beginning to think I’m cursed. Everett cranes his neck into the crowd just as Meg and her boyfriend Hook come up. Meg has dyed her blonde locks jet-black and it looks stunning juxtaposed against her ice-blue eyes. She used to be in the female wrestling circuit down in Vegas but came back to Honey Hollow last spring. Hook is a good-looking cast-off from Wall Street who now runs his father’s real estate empire, Redwood Realty. “What’s this?” Meg cackles. “Did I hear you say she’s about to find another body?” Meg thinks my talent for stumbling upon the dead is hilarious. Side note: I am not laughing.

Hook socks Everett on the arm. “Dude, I hear you’ve got some competition. Britney just told us she’s ready to sign the divorce papers, and Noah said the first thing he’s going to do is take back Lottie.” I scoff at the thought. “I’m not a possession. Nobody is going to take me.” Although, Noah was pretty proficient in taking me in the bedroom. I’m more than certain that’s exactly what he would like most for his birthday—a pizza from Mangias and me standing naked in his living room. Meg leans in. “What about the killer?” “They’re not taking me either.

” For one, I never owned a large black dog. I may have wanted one, but right about now, I’m thankful that little childhood dream never came true. “Have you heard from Lainey?” My older sister, Lainey, got married last month and she’s on the tail end of her honeymoon. Every now and again she’ll send a text, but they are few and far between, separated by long bouts of silence. “Nope. But guess what? Their new house just closed this afternoon, and I’ve got the keys.” A sharp gasp erupts behind her as Mom and Pastor Gaines join us. Mom is a bouncy blonde who looks twenty years younger than her true age. She bought a run-down B&B after my adoptive father, Joseph Lemon, died way back when, and she’s nurtured it into a successful business. I’d say she did it all on her own, but she had the help of a couple of ghosts—Greer Giles, a girl about my age who was murdered a few months back, and her two-hundred-year-old boy toy, Winslow Decker.

They’ve adopted a cute little poltergeist as of late, so the B&B is really shaking and quaking these days. My mother, being the astute businesswoman she is, has put together what she calls the Haunted Honey Hollow Bed and Breakfast Tour, and she sells tickets at eighty dollars a pop. And after the tourists have the socks frightened right off them, she sends the tour bus down to my bakery for what she likes to call the Last Thing They Ate Tour. It’s true. The bodies I find often have the remnants of one of my sweet treats on their person. It’s morbid, and terrible, and sadly, it’s boosted business through the roof. Whatever the deceased last noshed on becomes an instant sensation overnight, and I have to amp up production just to keep up with the demand. Meg nods at my mother. “Amanda Wellington just gave me the keys to Lainey and Forest’s new house.” Amanda Wellington as in the party planner who Cormack handed her American Express Black Card to in honor of Noah’s big birthday bash.

Amanda also works for Redwood Realty. She’s hoping her event business will take off and be enough to sustain her one day. Meg gets a devilish gleam in her eye. “I say we TP the place and dump concrete in the toilets.” “Meg.” I roll my eyes to Everett. “Of course, she’s teasing—I hope.” “Nonsense.” Mom looks to Pastor Gaines. Pastor Stephen Gaines is relatively new in Honey Hollow—and definitely a new addition to my mother’s boyfriend collection.

Up until a few weeks ago, she was seeing my biological father, Mayor Harry Nash. We just learned about his paternity a little over a month ago, so you can see where their relationship got a little weird, fast. Currently, Mayor Nash is dating my biological mother, Carlotta Sawyer. She’s a character, a peach, and a pill all rolled into one. Come to think of it, so is he. Honestly, I can’t see that good time lasting too much longer. The two of them might just be too similar in their naughty nature. “Stephen”—my mother flirts with her throaty tone—“if you’re free tomorrow, I’d love for you to come by and say a blessing over the house.” “Of course.” He broadens that perpetual grin of his.

Pastor Gaines is a relatively attractive older gentleman with half-moons for eyes and a calm air about him. There’s just something I can’t pinpoint with him, something that makes you feel as if he knows more than he’s letting on, and it unnerves me a bit. But I’m sure once I get to know him better, I’ll think he’s the best guy ever for my sweet mom. My mother has had all sorts of boyfriends since my father passed away, from kinky to kooky, and secretly I’m wondering where this one falls in the mix. “How about early evening?” he asks. “I have a few counseling sessions I’m bound to until six.” “Six is perfect.” Mom looks to Meg and me. “Be there at six o’clock sharp. Bring friends.

We’ll make a party of it! Lottie, why don’t you bring a platter of baked goods? I’ll get up early and load all their things that I’m storing in my garage and bring them over to their new house.” “I’ll help.” Noah comes up from behind. “I’ve got a truck. I can help you load it.” Everett grunts, “And I’ll show up at the house and help unload it. I have a full day at court tomorrow, but it would be my pleasure.” Mom’s shoulders shimmy—an action not uncommon to her when she’s unusually excited. “I do love to be surrounded by handsome strong men. Hook, you can come, too, if you’d like.

Lainey and Forest are due back in a few days, and I want to surprise them by having most of their belongings in place.” Someone calls Noah from behind and he excuses himself. “Excuse us, too,” I say, tipping my head in that direction as I take up Everett’s hand. “Rumor has it, there’s a lost puppy out here somewhere.” Everett and I are quick to find Noah surrounded by friends. Alex, Morgan, and Colin—although it doesn’t feel right not referencing them as Dr. Dawson and Dr. Drake. And next to Morgan stand a couple of girls, early twenties, I would guess, both stunning brunettes. One has long hair and light eyes that look as if they glow, and the shorter one has a razor cut bob with her hair curling under just around her jawline.

Her eyes are large and wide-set, which makes her look all the more youthful, and she’s wearing cut-offs and a bikini top with her arm staked through Morgan’s. She must be the girlfriend. “Hi, ladies,” I say just to be polite as we break into their circle. Morgan lifts a finger our way. “Everett, Lottie, this is Anika Bram, a friend of mine.” He nods to the girl with short hair who looks as if she’s laid claim to him for the night. She has a fuchsia smile and looks friendly as can be. “And that’s Cassie Montgomery, another friend of mine.” He motions to the long-haired girl before winking at Everett as if he were giving him the go-ahead with her, and I get a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Hi, Anika, Cassie.

” I give a halfhearted wave. “I own the bakery down the street, and I happen to have brought all the sweet treats tonight. So please, help yourselves to as much as you like. I’m afraid I might have overdone it.” A grin twitches over Noah’s face. “That’s because Lottie loves me.” “That I do.” I cringe a little because I happen to be holding Everett’s hand while saying it. Alex and Morgan start a conversation about lake fishing, and soon Everett and Noah are chiming in, too. I step in close to the girls now that Anika has dislodged herself from the good doctor.

“So, what keeps you girls busy? Are you from the area?” I ask in my cheeriest voice. Believe you me, it took everything I had not to ask them if either of them once owned a big black dog about yea big, black soulful eyes, dead as a doornail. Cassie’s chest bucks as she scoffs at Anika, and I can’t help but note a bit of tension between the two. “I’m a banker.” Cassie holds out her hand and I shake it. There’s something about her, something wicked and vindictive that oozes from her very being, and a tiny part of me likes her all the more because of it. I have no idea why. Maybe because I’ve always been drawn to the villains in Disney movies, and there’s something about those dark heavily arched eyebrows she’s penciled in within an inch of her life that reminds me of just that. Her lively dark hair makes her eyes glow all the more. She reminds me so much of Greer.

Greer Giles—the one that haunts my mother’s B&B was gunned down last March. We had met just before that, and she has the same arrogant mean girl vibe about her. “A banker?” I ask. “Here in town?” “Leeds.” She lifts her chin as if daring me to think one bad thought about that seedy little town that borders just south of us. Dear Lord, I have trekked to Leeds during many investigations and not once has anything kosher happened. There are more strip clubs and underground casinos in that smarmy town than a mobster or a prostitute can shake a stick at. “Leeds is lovely this time of year.” I turn to Anika once I spew the lie. “And how about you?” “Fallbrook.

” She giggles when she says it. “Fallbrook” Thank my unlucky stars I don’t have to shed a half-truth about that place. “I’m more than familiar with Fallbrook. My boyfriend grew up there—one of them, anyway.” Did I just say that out loud? “In fact, his mother still lives there—Everett, that is. She’s got this ridiculously large international airport of a house that you could drop Zimbabwe into and it would still feel empty.” I laugh as if it were funny, but they’re joining me in the endeavor regardless. Cassie pulls forth my left hand and bounces her thumb off the rock on my ring finger. “You mean your fiancé.” “Oh, actually.” I pull my hand back and examine the glorious chucky diamond myself. “We’re not really engaged. He told his mother we were and she gave me her own mother’s ring because my finger was a little bare. I’m too afraid to leave this at home, so I wear it everywhere I go. And trust me, it doesn’t thrill Noah.” True story. Everett seems to enjoy perpetuating the lie, but, in truth, he told his mother and sister he was engaged before he ever met me to quell their constant bickering about it. Anika’s mouth falls open. “Are you dating Noah, too?” Cassie smacks her on the arm. “Weren’t you listening? She’s got two of them.” “Oh no, I mean, we used to. Everett wants me to shore up my feelings for him, so I’m sort of accidentally dating both.” The words felt both foreign and wrong coming from my lips. “Like us.” Anika blinks my way. “I mean, I’m dating Morgan, and Cassie is sort of dating Morgan, too. I get Sunday through Wednesday, and she gets the rest of the week.” Now it’s my mouth falling open. Cassie averts her gaze. Her demeanor is far curter. “I’m dating Morgan. I’m the one who knew Morgan first. You’re the one who’s trying to steal him. Get it straight.” She looks my way, her jaw sharpening with definition. “I’m not interested in sharing. But Morgan and I broke up for a while last fall, and that’s when this ditz jumped into the picture. Morgan and I are feeling our way back to one another, and soon she’ll be out of the picture once again.” “We’ll see.” Anika stiffens, her eyes slitting to nothing. Gone is the perky young girl, replaced with someone who looks as if she doesn’t take no for an answer. “I think I’ll try your cookies now, Lottie.” She takes off and Cassie steps in. “Anika is a brat. Don’t let her questionable pedigree woo you like it has Morgan.” “Oh, I get it. She comes from money?” Of course, she does. Fallbrook should have tipped me off. “You could say that. Her mother is Jane Lloyd, the blonde bimbo who climbed to fame via a sex tape, and her dad is rocker Jimmy Love. I think she’s met her parents once or twice between her long stints in boarding school. She thinks she’s going to end up with Morgan because she always gets what she wants. She’s wrong. I can promise both you and her, she’ll never have Morgan. Excuse me.” She takes off into the crowd and my heart breaks for her. In a strange way, our lives are reflective of one another. They’re basically experiencing the same love triangle with reversed genders. Cormack screams and hollers and does her best to haul everyone over to the picnic table so we can sing to Noah in front of his decadent donut cake, but just as the crowd starts to migrate that way, the first few fireworks of the night explode overhead. “Go ahead and grab a donut everyone,” Noah shouts. “Enjoy the show!” He comes over and wraps an arm around my waist. I can’t help but note that Everett is shooting him a hard look that clearly says he disapproves, but it’s Noah’s birthday and the sky has our attention at the moment, so both Everett and I let it go. Not that I mind it. A part of me is very much hungry for Noah’s touch. The fireworks go off in a parade of pinks and blues, greens and purples. Giant flowery blooms and sparkling umbrellas as big as Honey Lake itself. The sky goes black and a loud sonic boom erupts, shaking the ground beneath our feet. The crowd gasps with approval, but Noah stiffens as he looks around. “Everett, keep an eye on Lottie. I’ll be right back.” He darts past the sand and into the woods that line the outer banks of the lake. “Nobody keeps an eye on me,” I say, chasing after him. “Noah?” “Lemon,” Everett barks as he catches up. I pause, out of breath, as I look around the dark thicket before us. “We’ve lost him.” I marvel at Noah’s ability to turn into the invisible man. An ethereal glow lights up the woods to my left, and every muscle in my body stiffens. Everett steps in close. “What is it, Lottie?” “I don’t know.” I take off in that direction, the moonlight as my guide as the grand finale begins to detonate overhead. A spray of glittering stars erupts from the base of an evergreen, and then I see it. The large black beast of a dog is setting off fireworks of his own, albeit of the otherworldly variety. “Everett!” I pant as I jog on over. One of my glazed crullers lies half-eaten on the ground and next to it lies a hand. A strangled cry comes from my throat as Everett and I spot Morgan lying on his back with a crimson stain over his chest. Dr. Morgan Dawson won’t need to choose between girlfriends anymore. Dr. Morgan Dawson is dead.


PDF | Download

PDF | Read

Buy me a coffee (;

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

PDF Kitap İndir | Pdf Libros Gratis

Forum.Pictures © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x