Spooky Spice Cake Curse – 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 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 a Halloween extravaganza unfold at the old Hearst Estate tucked in the hills of Honey Hollow. The Hearsts are one of this country’s most famous families, and they’re not only known for their wealth, they’re equally known for their familial curse as well. It’s early October and fall has descended on our little corner of Vermont. The maple and oak leaves have transformed to brilliant shades of citrine, in a rainbow of orange, yellow, and fiery red. It’s well into the evening, the sky is covered with dark purple clouds, and the grounds outside of the old Hearst mansion are brimming with bodies. Some of them are dressed in Halloween costumes and some of them are simply dressed to tackle this crisp fall weather. The sound of spooky mood music filters through a series of unseen speakers overhead, and twinkle lights shed a soft enchanted glow over the vicinity. There are picnic tables set out over the grounds, a midway with games and pumpkins dotting every free space. A large orange banner stretches across the front of that old stately mansion that reads Welcome to the first Hearst Halloween Haunt! The Halloween Haunt is turning out to be the fall festival to be at, and seeing that everyone in Honey Hollow seems to have shown up for opening night, I think the rest of the month is going to be quite a hit as well. Outside of the tall white structure with its many columns and glowing windows, a festival atmosphere is taking place where caramel apples and hot apple cider abound. And, of course, my dessert platters abound as well.

I’ve provided sugar cookies in the shape of pumpkins, orange and purple frosted cupcakes, brownies, raspberry and chocolate thumbprints, snowballs with sprinkles, my new favorite sweet treat—spice cake both sliced and in cupcake form—and, last but not least, my rather infamous fried pickles. I’ve stationed my sweet treats right next to the refreshments, and on the next table over there’s a dinner buffet provided by the Honey Pot Diner for those looking for a heartier meal. I snap up a couple of fried pickles as I take in the scene, and what I see is a lethally handsome man if ever there was one. “Lemon, let me make you a plate.” Everett wraps his arms around me. “You’ve been on your feet all day, and you haven’t had dinner. They’ve got some great food here.” I can’t help but bite down on a smile as I look up at him. Everett is tall with jet-black hair, commanding blue eyes, mid-thirties, hardly ever smiles himself, but really knows how to put a smile on a woman’s face—namely mine. He’s got the face and body of a deity, which explains why every ovary-bearing female in the vicinity is craning her neck to get a better look at him.

There isn’t a woman on the planet who can resist his dark charm. He’s an unstoppable testosterone-based force of nature, and he happens to be all mine. “A plate sounds wonderful,” I say, giving his tie a flirtatious tug. “But just a big heap of mashed potatoes is all I’m craving.” I spot my bestie across the way, noshing on a caramel apple, and just like that, a brilliant idea hits me. “Ooh—and instead of gravy, would you head over to the caramel apple stand and ask the girl behind the counter to pour some hot caramel sauce over my potatoes? That will really hit the spot,” I say, warming my belly with my hand. Everett’s eyes widen a notch. Judge Essex Everett Baxter is technically my husband—I say “technically” because we got married last December so that he could meet the requirements of the trust fund his father left him. It was more or less a business transaction. Almost no one refers to him by his proper moniker, Essex, with the exception of the multitude of women he’s danced with in the sheets—it’s sort of a naughty door prize.

And even though I qualify, I prefer to call him by the name I’ve grown comfortable with, Everett. Before we were married, Everett and I used to date way back when. But before that— and after, I had an on-again, off-again relationship with Detective Noah Fox. And well, Noah and I are off-again and Everett and I are on-again. A dark laugh rumbles from his chest. “All right, Lemon.” Everett steals a kiss from my lips. He’s only ever called me by my surname, but I’ll be the last to protest. “Anything for you.” He gives a suspicious glance around at the throngs of people pouring onto the grounds.

“Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.” He bears those blue eyes into mine. “Remember what Nell said.” He nods. “No matter what happens, we need you to stay safe.” He lands another heated kiss to my lips—one that holds much more promise of heated things to come before taking off. Lucky for me, Everett is one man who knows how to keep a promiscuous promise. Nell, the woman he referred to, would be my grandmother. Her spirit appeared to me a few weeks back and essentially warned me that something wicked was headed to Honey Hollow, and that under no circumstances should I get involved, especially if there was another homicide to investigate.

We thought that was rather poignant, especially since I’ve sort of found myself embroiled in one homicide investigation after another as of late. And I’ve sort of found myself in the family way as of late, too. In fact, I’m four months pregnant, and I’m not entirely sure who the father is. And believe me, I know exactly how dicey that sounds. Of course, my “husband” is in the running, but the coital deed happened right around the time I broke it off with Noah and we shared a little heated goodbye that could have just as easily resulted in this little sugar cookie being his. Nevertheless, my jeans no longer fit, I puke like it’s my new favorite hobby, and I nosh on weird things now like fried pickles. And have I mentioned that I have to know the proximity of every bathroom in the vicinity at all given times? Everything so far has been a challenge, but one worth the effort. I just can’t wait to hold my bundle of joy come next spring. I just pray I know what to do with it once it arrives. “Lottie,” a deep voice calls from behind and I turn to see Noah Corbin Fox, the other baby daddy in question, and by his side straggles Carlotta Sawyer, my birth mother.

Noah lands a kiss to my cheek before pulling back to admire me. “Lot, you look beautiful. You’re glowing.” Noah offers a pained smile. Noah, too, is tall, unfairly handsome with dark hair that turns red in the sun, sea green eyes, and dimples for days. We dated seriously for almost a year, and I would have married him if that wife he conveniently forgot to tell me about didn’t show up. Suffice it to say, that little matrimonial detail threw a wrench into our relationship and we’ve wobbled and hobbled ever since. He takes up my hand in haste. “Did you eat? Do you need water? Can I get you a seat?” “I’m fine. Everett went to make me a plate.

Besides, I’ve got my dessert platters right behind me, and don’t think I haven’t been gobbling up my cookies and my fried pickles. Actually, I’ve been gobbling up my spice cake, too. There’s something about the combination of ginger, cloves, and nutmeg that actually soothes my nausea, so it’s practically medicinal for me to have as much as I want.” Carlotta chuckles. “Don’t worry, Lot. This is the one time in your life where you can eat with wild abandon. When you were lodged in my belly, I turned into a human trash can. You know that old saying, sugar and spice and everything nice? Well, that’s not what you’re made of. You’re more anchovies, liverwurst, and pimiento loaf.” A hard groan comes from me as I quickly cover my mouth.

Carlotta is essentially an older, questionably wiser version of myself. We share the same caramel wavy hair—hers is heavily peppered with gray—same hazel eyes, and more or less the same face. Carlotta has more wrinkles, more attitude, and less good sense. Although, to be fair, she was one hundred percent positive who her baby daddy was when she was knocked up with me at the tender age of sixteen. Carlotta elbows me. “Check this place out, Lot. It’s pretty snazzy, don’t you think?” “It’s a haunted house, Carlotta. I think that’s about as unsnazzy as you can get.” “Oh, come on, Lot Lot.” Carlotta makes a face.

“You and I both know this place isn’t haunted. If there was a bona fide ghost here, we’d be the first to know.” It’s true. Both Carlotta and I share the supernatural ability to see the dead. Our talent falls under the name transmundane. There are many supernatural abilities under the transmundane umbrella, and ours is further classified as supersensual. Noah’s chest expands. “You don’t see any ghosts, do you, Lot?” Both Noah and Everett are in on my supersensual secret, and they were there when my Grandma Nell warned me to stay away from whatever evil was coming this way. Even though Noah and Everett couldn’t see Grandma Nell, they could hear her as clear as day because I just so happened to be holding their hands. I’m a natural conduit, and anyone holding onto my flesh can hear clear to the other side—sort of like a supernatural game of telephone.

“No, I don’t,” I’m quick to assure him. “I just see a lot of people here having a wholesome good time.” No sooner do I say the words than Evie struts by wearing nothing but short shorts and a top that exposes half her midriff. Evie, Everly, is the sixteen-year-old teenage daughter I share with Everett. She’s his through and through, and I’m honored to be her stepmother. But since her biological mother was such a dud, I’m the only mother she’s got—and needs. “Evie!” I navigate her away from the thicket of boys clamoring to stand next to her. “Are you nuts?” Evie shares Everett’s long, dark hair and stunning blue eyes. She’s taller than me when she’s flat-footed, but with these three-inch stacked dark suede go-go boots on, she’s towering over me. “You’re going to catch your death.

Carlotta will take you home so you can get some clothes on.” “Mom”—she yanks herself free—“I think you need glasses. I’m wearing clothes.” She plucks a piece of hay out of her pocket and begins to chew on it. “This is my Halloween costume. I’m a country girl.” “You’ll be a pneumonia girl if you don’t get a jacket on.” I quickly pull off my thick maroon cardigan and hand it to her. “Here. It’s still warm from my body.

” “Eww.” She shudders while jumping back to her circle of friends—mostly male friends. “I would rather set my hair on fire than wear that thing. Nice try, Mom. Hey, look”—she points behind me—“someone’s hogging all your fried pickles.” “What?” I squawk in horror as I turn around, but there’s not a living soul near my fried pickles. “Evie!” I call out, but it’s too late. She’s laughing her head off as she scampers away from me. Noah chuckles. “Don’t worry, Lot.

It’s so crowded here, there will be plenty of body heat to keep her warm.” “That’s what I’m afraid of.” He steps in close, and his woodsy cologne engulfs me. “How about later you and I head into that haunted house?” “I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of things that go bump in the night. Besides, I won’t be able to sleep after that.” Carlotta grunts, “Judging by that baby brewing in your belly, you’re a huge fan of things that go bump in the night. Ain’t that right, Foxy?” She nudges him in the ribs. Noah tweaks his brows my way playfully. “If you can’t sleep, I’ll be the first to volunteer to come over and comfort you.

” Noah is still vying for my heart—and that empty slot in my bed. Carlotta slaps her hands together. “And just like that, we’re right back to things that go bump in the night. I won’t tell the good judge if you won’t. Besides, the man has a bed of his own. He’ll be none the wiser.” The part about separate beds is true. Everett and I live next door to one another, and since our marriage started out as an arrangement, we never expected to move in with one another. Right now, we’re more or less dating. And it’s clear Noah would like to be dating me, too, among other things.

“Aw, come on, Lot.” Carlotta slings an arm around Noah’s shoulders. “You gotta give Foxy here a little lovin’. He really misses you. In fact, I see him out on his front porch every morning at six a.m. drooling over a cup of coffee while he looks across the street.” “Carlotta.” I roll my eyes. Noah does live across the way from me.

Country Cottage Road has been a rather fortuitous street for my love life. But there are a few details she’s overlooking. “I happen to know it’s not me he’s drooling over. I’m already at the bakery by six.” It’s true, but I don’t have to be at the bakery that early anymore. Noah and Everett helped me hire a morning staff so that I didn’t have to get to the bakery and open it all alone, the way I’ve been doing for years. I was actually arriving at about four-thirty or five to fire up my ovens and ensure fresh baked goods for the people of Honey Hollow. Strolling in at six in the morning makes it feel as if half the day is over. I give Noah the stink eye. “You’re drooling over Too Hot to Handle Hannah, aren’t you?” “What?” Noah’s eyes bulge.

“I am not. Carlotta, you take that back.” Last month, the rental that sat vacant next door to mine for nearly a year was finally filled by a woman about my age, late twenties, who teaches some obscene booty enhancing version of yoga out on her front lawn every morning once the sun cracks the horizon. There are about fifty women who show up for her booty-ful butt lift class, and believe me, they put on quite the show. And from Noah’s vantage point, I’m sure he gets quite a behind-the-scenes expo. To make matters worse, Hot Hannah has taken to having all-nighter parties as well. Every night, about nine, the music starts thumping so loud I can feel the backbeat in my chest while I lie in bed. The woman is a public nuisance—only I’m too nice to issue a single complaint. But I suspect sooner or later my hangry hormones will override my urge to be nice, and personally I’m rooting for sooner than later. Carlotta’s mouth falls open as she looks at something in the crowd to our left.

“Well, hubba hubba,” she says, practically drooling on herself in the process. “Check out that tall, dark, and handsome hoochy poochy strutting around like he owns the place. That obnoxious gleam in his eyes looks as if he’s ready to teach every girl here a lusty lesson. And don’t you think for one moment I’m not signing up for his master class on sass. It’s time to dust off my title as teacher’s pet and let him put my body to whatever test he likes.” I have a feeling that spiel was pretty much on par with how most of Carlotta’s colorful, albeit short-lived, scholastic career went down. “Which one is he?” I ask, craning my neck in that general direction, but I don’t see a tall, handsome man in the bunch. Instead, I see an entire swarm of hormonal teenagers and some unusually tall dog, with short dark gray fur and long pointed ears—looks like a Great Dane. “Wait, are you really talking about a hoochy poochy?” “Well, of course, I am.” She runs her fingers through her hair and fluffs out her tresses.

“Look at him, Lot. He’s the size of a Quarter Horse. I’m feeling like a lucky jockey tonight. I think I’m going to go over and introduce myself. Wish me luck. I’m off to the races.” She heads that way and Noah wraps an arm around me. “I think she’s about to do some heavy flirting with a dog, Lot,” he whispers it hot in my ear, and I do believe Noah is doing some heavy flirting with yours truly. “Should we warn Mayor Nash?” “No, we should arrest her.” Honestly, Carlotta should have been arrested for her shenanigans—of which there’s a plethora of—a long time ago.

Flirting with a handsome dog is just another crime against nature that she’s far too willing to perpetuate. As it turns out, Mayor Harry Nash is my biological father. He was cheating on his wife way back when I was still a gleam in his eye, and now that he’s divorced, and Carlotta is back in town, they’ve been dating for months. Even though we’ve made strides in our somewhat new relationship as father-daughter, I’ve yet to stop calling him Mayor Nash. It’s more or less out of habit at this point. “Come to think of it, Mayor Nash probably won’t mind,” I say. “They have a twisted open relationship. I’m pretty sure there’s room for a handsome dog in the equation.” The stately dog in question struts by with his broad shoulders and muscular build just as Carlotta cuts him off at the pass and begins to scratch his back. “Boy, he really is the size of a Quarter Horse.

Well, a quarter of a horse, but still. I mean, his head practically comes up to Carlotta’s chest.” Noah shakes his head. “I see Carlotta, but I can’t see the dog. Maybe she lost him in the crowd?” “Noah’s, she’s petting…” I gasp in lieu of finishing the sentence. I’m about to confirm to Noah that I all but see a creature that may very well not be among the living, just as the master of ceremonies, Ichabod Hearst, steps up with his warm blue eyes and that equally warm smile that never leaves his face. He’s older but has a boyishness about him, a thick head of light brown hair, and heavy laugh lines that signify he knows how to have a good time. I’ll admit, I was a bit starstruck when I first met him. The Hearsts were once regarded as American royalty. And by his side stand two women, a young blonde with an upturned nose and a woman with dark shoulder-length hair and adorable dark button eyes to match.

The brunette is pretty and petite, and has on a pair of black sequin cat ears over her head. “Lottie Lemon”—Ichabod pulls the blonde in close—“this is my wife, Cordelia Hamilton.” He winks when he says it. “I just had to introduce her to the woman who made that delicious spice cake.” Cordelia gives a furtive nod. “Oh, it’s my favorite. I must get the recipe.” “You bet.” A laugh trembles from me. “And it’s a pleasure to meet you.

” She slings an arm around the brunette next to her. “Lottie, this is Trixie Pearce. She’s my right-hand gal. In fact, she’s the one who’s responsible for putting together every last detail of tonight’s festivities.” Trixie, the petite brunette, laughs. “I’ll be managing the event from start to finish.” She holds up a clipboard in her hand. “I’m a stickler for details.” Ichabod nods. “First night is free, but we’ve already sold out of tickets for the rest of the month.

People are coming in from all over the state just to experience this little haunted treasure we’ve got on our hands. I came up with the idea a couple of months ago when I read about a haunted B&B right here in Honey Hollow making money, hand over fist. Why, all they do is walk a group of poor shmucks through their haunted halls and charge them eighty bucks a person to do it. I figured we could charge double and genuinely give the people a scare.” My lips invert to keep from saying anything. I happen to know for a fact the B&B in question belongs to Miranda Lemon, aka my mother. When Carlotta left me on the floor of the Honey Hollow Fire Department to fend for myself as an infant, it was the Lemons who adopted me. And I also know for a fact my mother’s B&B is genuinely haunted by an entire family of ghosts and their little black cat, too. “Well, it was a wonderful idea,” I say. Trixie’s mouth opens.

“It is wonderful. You should both head on into the house. I think you’ll be surprised how much fun it is.” She glances to her phone. “I’m needed there now.” She nods to Ichabod. “You’re on in half an hour.” She takes off and Ichabod leans in. “I’m playing the part of the headless horseman. It’s a play on my name, of course.

” Cordelia giggles as she wraps herself around him. “I thought of that myself.” Ichabod nods. “And believe me, I’m already worried about losing my head night after night.” He gives a little wink as they take off. Everett shows up with a plate full of mashed potatoes and enough caramel sauce to ensure a sugared up bliss. “Oh, Everett.” A hard moan evicts from me at the sight. “You really do love me.” I take the plate from him and dive right in.

.

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