Peach Cobbler Confessions – Addison Moore

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, 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. Instead, I’m seeing Noah Fox, my longtime boyfriend—I’m loath to use the word ex when it comes to Noah, but I suppose that’s where we’ve landed. Noah has dark hair with red highlights, bold green eyes, and dimples for days. He’s got a face that demands the attention of every woman with a pair of functioning ovaries and a body built for speed. His navy suit is in motion as he takes his place up at the podium here at the Salute to Our Heroes awards ceremony. It’s Saturday evening and it seems all of Honey Hollow has made the trek to Ashford County, where the city is hosting an event that pays homage to its public servants right here at the civic center. My very pregnant sister, Lainey, is seated to my right, just waiting in anticipation for her husband, my hero of a brother-in-law, Forest Donovan, to be recognized as well. Noah clears his throat as he accepts the triangular crystal award and leans into the microphone. “Thank you to the city, and to the people of Ashford for participating in this event tonight.” Noah’s verdant green eyes narrow over mine and a warm sensation radiates through me. Noah and I may be off again, but that doesn’t mean I can just turn off my feelings for him. “I want to especially thank the love of my life, Lottie Lemon, for giving me the strength each day to do what I do.

Thank you, Lottie. And thank you, all.” A round of applause erupts and it seems the entire row of people I’m sitting with coos and moans at Noah’s sweet words. “Hear that, Lot?” Carlotta elbows me in the ribs from my left. Carlotta is my biological mother, who had the good sense to abandon me on the floor of the Honey Hollow Fire Department when I was an infant. And believe you me, there was no sarcasm whatsoever in that statement. I was raised by Joseph Lemon, the fireman who found me, and his wife, Miranda, a couple of decent, loving people who I will cherish forever as my parents. Carlotta just recently made her way back into my life. She’s an older version of myself, same caramel-blonde hair, same hazel eyes, more wrinkles, less good sense, and more than her fair share of mischievous bones in her body. “Good old Foxy is still hot-to-trot for you.

” Mom spins around and nods. “You don’t make a public proclamation like that to a married woman unless you’re still very interested.” Miranda Lemon has shoulder-length creamy-blonde hair with sparkling blue eyes, and when you get right down to it, she can be just as mischievous as Carlotta when she wants to. Mom wags a finger my way. “He’s still gunning for you, Lottie. This isn’t over.” She spins back in her seat, and I turn to my sister. “Why did that sound like a threat?” I whisper. Lainey hugs her belly. “Everything that woman says as of late comes across as a threat.

” Lainey, too, shares my caramel tresses and hazel eyes. She was the reason that as a child I was convinced it wasn’t me who was adopted but my other sister, Meg. Lainey is married to the love of her life, the aforementioned fireman, and they’re due to have their first child in less than three weeks. I, for one, cannot wait. My best friend, Keelie, is due at precisely the same time. But since she doesn’t have a dog in tonight’s fight—her words, not mine—she decided to stay home and watch TV with her new husband. Speaking of husbands, I crane my neck toward the right-hand side of the room, where they’ve lined up the recipients of the awards, but I don’t see any sign of my handsome hubby. Judge Essex Everett Baxter is actually far more than just handsome to a fault. He’s darn right arresting with that shock of black hair, cobalt blue eyes, face that was sculpted by the masters, and a body put together in just the right way by the Almighty Himself. He’s slow to smile, and quick to attract the attention of every woman in a ten-mile vicinity.

He can’t help it. When they were doling out animal attraction, Everett was hit with a double portion. And just about everyone calls him Everett. Outside of his mother and sister, the only people who have the privilege of calling him by his proper moniker are the women who have tangoed naked with him. Even though I more than qualify, I still call him by the name I’m used to. Everett was the king of all playboys when we first met, but he’s since abdicated his lewd throne and has honed all of his hormonal and emotional affection toward yours truly. I scan the right-hand side of the room once again but come up empty a second time. I’m not sure why I’ve had an awful feeling of foreboding the second I stepped into this cavernous infrastructure. A shiver runs through me, because for one, it’s a bit too chilly in here despite the fact it’s a hot and humid August evening. Okay, so I might have some inkling why I’m having this awful feeling of apprehensiveness.

Everett announced last week that he has some big, dark secret he’s been sitting on for a while now. He asked for some time to formulate his thoughts on the subject before we have a discussion, and I told him not to worry about it until after tonight’s ceremony, or longer if need be. I trust Everett with everything in me. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s fine. I do a quick scan of the men and women seated in the two front rows then back to the right, near the dessert table. My bakery, the Cutie Pie Bakery and Cakery, provided all of the desserts for tonight’s ceremony. Both Everett and Noah thought it would be a great way to showcase my goodies to those who live outside of Honey Hollow as well, and I quickly jumped on the chance once they asked. My assistant, Lily Swanson, and I hauled down platters full of rocky road brownies, blondies, blueberry hand pies, cookies in every assortment—especially the chocolate chip cookies Noah lives for—pretzel cookies, mini cheesecake bites, double chocolate cupcakes, vanilla bean cupcakes, a smattering of thumbprints, and individual peach cobblers set in cupcake parchment. The local orchard just so happened to have a bumper crop of luscious, sweet, organic peaches, and the bakery has been the lucky recipient. My attention gravitates toward a couple of men having a rather intense conversation.

One is stockier than the other, bald with salt and pepper scruff over his cheeks. The other man has dark wavy hair, a heavily chiseled face, high cheekbones, and a flat forehead. He’s handsome in a conventional way. His face turns pink as he says something to the stockier man. He takes off and a svelte brunette with long glossy hair takes his place, and by the looks of it, she, too, is having an animated conversation with the bald man. She gives him a shove to the chest before stalking off. Looks as if someone is having a lousy night. I wonder what the poor guy did? A blonde strides his way and slows down as she approaches him. She says something short and not so sweet by the looks of it, offers him a crisp slap over the face, and keeps on walking as if it were no big deal. Wow.

Does that man unwittingly have a sign taped to his shirt that reads kick me? Okay, so no one kicked him, but they have emotionally. The poor guy has to feel beat down. Lainey gasps as she tugs at my arm. “He’s next! He’s next!” The announcer calls out, “Firefighter Forest Donovan,” and Lainey leaps right out of her chair, screaming wildly as if she were at a rock concert. Forest graciously accepts his award and my sister flops back in her seat, holding her oversized belly and weeping as if he just received a purple heart, and seeing that Forest has risked his life a time or two in the line of duty, it’s just as sweet a reward. I glance back toward the dessert table, but the unlucky John Doe has done a disappearing act. Probably for the better. Odd, though. The ceremony drones on and finally we’re onto the judicial branch of public servants. Carlotta elbows me in the ribs once again.

“The mister is up next, Lot. Try not to distract him with your va-va-bakery-voom.” I crane my neck and, sure enough, I see Everett toward the end of the line. I happen to glance back to the dessert table and, lo and behold, the lonesome loser is back to loafing around my sweet treats. I just have to know his name at least, before he disappears for good. A part of me wonders if he has anything to do with this heavy feeling of dread that I can’t seem to shake tonight. I lean toward Carlotta. “I’ll be right back,” I whisper as I quickly trot over to the dessert table where the heady scent of vanilla and sugar infiltrates my senses. There are very few scents that can give me an instant high, and those just so happen to be two of them. But even with all that culinary positivity coursing through me, I still can’t shake the feeling that something wicked is among us.

An overall odd feeling, though, I know. The blonde I saw slapping the bald man earlier steps between me and my peach cobblers just as the poor man himself steps over. She holds one of my cobblers out to him, and I’m not sure why, but I have a feeling he’ll be wearing it in less than ten seconds. This isn’t a stretch. The entire trajectory of his night is going in this direction. “Why thank you,” I say, taking it from her and indulging in a bite. The woman makes a face my way as the man belts out a laugh. She has wide-set baby blue eyes, a broad nose, and full lips. She’s just as pretty as she is angry. “Ah, come on, Sammy,” the stalky man chides her.

“Go ahead and hand me one, too. Passing out desserts is a much better way to make a living than what you’ve got going on.” The stalky man is actually pretty tall, with what my father used to call laughing eyes. He looks as if he’s mocking the poor girl without even trying, and now I regret wasting any time feeling sorry for him. But it does beg the question, what does Sammy do for a living? I gobble down my cobbler in haste, contemplating just that. “Up next.” The presenter up on stage leans into the microphone. “Judge Essex Everett Baxter.” “Thank you for the cobbler,” I say to the woman as I whoop my way all the back to my seat. Everett takes the stage in that black suit that matches his hair and the women in the room lose their minds as if a deity just strode in among us.

In all fairness, they sort of reacted this very same way when Noah was accepting his award, too. Everett scans the crowd briefly before his eyes land onto mine and his lips curl in response. “I want to thank everyone in the public service department who is responsible for giving these awards, and to the public servants who are receiving them as well. Thank you for all you do. And last, but never least, thank you to my beautiful daughter and my beautiful wife. I love you both more than words could ever convey. You are everything to me.” Everly—Evie Baxter, the daughter I share with Everett, jumps to her feet. “That’s my dad!” she shouts with pride. “He’s the best in the West! The East Coast, too!” she sings and the crowd breaks out in laughter.

Evie is fifteen but looks every bit of twenty-one. She’s taller than me by a few inches and has the same shock of dark hair as her father—although hers is nearly down to her waist. She also shares his sparkling blue eyes and wry sense of humor. Evie’s biological mother is Cressida Bentley, one of Everett’s old socialite girlfriends who decided to keep Evie a deep, dark secret up until a few months ago. Cressida has since been, more or less, out of the picture. She’s deranged as can be and stalked both Everett and me last spring. So when Evie asked if I would be her mother, I couldn’t, wouldn’t say no. And just like that, I became a mother to a teenager with more hormones and sass than I had at that age. Well, maybe my hormones could give her a run for her teenage money. With Noah and Everett around, who could blame me? “Aww!” Lainey’s coo sounds more like the moan of an injured animal.

“Who knew Everett could be such a softie?” I’m just about to join her cooing efforts when a woman in a tight red dress, ruched on both sides, strides up to Everett and lands a kiss to his cheek. I gasp at the sight. Her crimson locks are pulled back into a sleek bun and she sheds a blood red smile right in my direction as if she were trying her best to antagonize me. The woman wraps her arms around Everett and proceeds to make out with his cheek, getting dangerously close to his lips. “The nerve!” I stand up and half the room looks my way. Lainey tugs at my arm as she struggles to contain me. “Lottie, sit down.” “I’m not sitting down. Where is security? Why is that woman accosting my husband?” More to the point, why does she suddenly look vaguely familiar? Lainey squints toward the front. “What woman?” Everett gives me a quizzical look as he walks off the stage with that woman hanging onto him as if she were an appendage that miraculously sprouted.

Carlotta stands next to me. “Lot Lot? I have a feeling that woman is for our eyes only.” I take in another quick breath. This time with far more vigor. Carlotta and I happen to share strange abilities that fall under the umbrella of transmundane, further classified as supersensual. The long and short of it? We can see the dead. “Then that must mean…” I swallow hard in lieu of finishing my sentence. “That’s right, Lot.” Carlotta leans in close. “That woman is a ghost.

And you really know what that means.” I sure do. It means murder.

.

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