Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Three Sweets to the Wind (EBOOK)

Three Sweets to the Wind (EBOOK)

Three Sweets to the Wind (EBOOK)

Sweet Shop Mystery Book 10
Regular price $3.99 Sale price $2.99 Save 25%
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A summer rush. A secluded swimming cove. Another dead body.

This cozy mystery is a clean read. No graphic violence, sex, or strong language.

A summer rush. A secluded swimming cove. Another dead body.

It just wouldn’t be West End without Margaret Nichols trying to solve a murder. This time, the mystery is more perplexing and personal than ever. Who could have killed a florist and why?

Suspects abound, the summer crowd intensifies, and decisions are made that will affect everyone’s future. Can Margaret fend off a killer and live to see those futures? Or is this her last summer in West End?

Chapter One

I hold out a platter of chocolates shaped like fairies, pixies, and gnomes. “Would you like to try a free sample?”

An elderly man squints and studies the designs in great detail. His fingers dangle over the selection and he twirls them in a subconscious pantomime doing his level best to pick the best one. “My, they all look so good!”

He chooses a tubby elf. Pointed ears stick out under his tall hat. The customer bites off the poor creature’s legs and cocks his head at the ceiling while he chews. “This is excellent chocolate. I should know. I’m a buyer for several five-star hotels in New York. I don’t think I’ve tasted chocolate this good in years.”

My cheeks color and I put the plate back on the counter. “It’s my own proprietary blend.”

His eyes pop. “You made these?”

“Yep. I made all the chocolates in that display over there. See the label on the boxes?”

I wave toward a glass cabinet against the candy store’s eastern wall. Four plexiglass tiers display blue satin boxes topped done up in fancy ribbon bows. Each box bears a tag printed with gold italics: Nichols’ Candy.

He blinks at the sight and whispers under his breath. “I had no idea! These look so….so…..Excuse me for saying so, Ms. Nichols, but these look so professional. They look like they came from one of the biggest chocolate empires of Europe, not a single-front store in West End.”

I can’t stop blushing. “Kathy Nielson at the craft shop does the packaging. She’s a whiz with stuff like that. I just make the chocolate.”

He licks his lips and swallows before putting the rest of the elf in his mouth. “The chocolate caps it all! The packaging only represents the first barrier to entry. The chocolate itself seals the deal.”

“I’m glad you like it.” I concentrate on the register to finish ringing up his order. I really need to get back to work. Patty, Zack, and Gilly all work like mad, serving customers crowding the shop. 

Since the busy summer season hit, the store needs us all working together just to stay ahead of the mobs. I spend every morning making up chocolates while Patty and Gilly handle the counter. Zack works a milkshake bar against the western wall. A large sign overhead advertises that we use Olde Tyme Ice Cream from the ice cream parlor across the street.

Between the chocolate display and the shake bar, that doesn’t leave much space for customers. People have to stand in line waiting for a chance to get through the door.

The man gets my attention again by handing something across the counter. “Take this, Ms. Nichols. It’s my business card. I’d like to negotiate a supply contract for you. I could arrange for some of the bigger hotels to carry your chocolate.”

I gape at the card and then at him. The card says his name is Paul Dickerson. “Are you serious?”

“Absolutely serious,” he replies. “I never joke about business. I would love to get you on board with our supply chain. Would you mind if I contact you later this week?”

“Uh…okay,” I stammer.

He dips a firm nod and smiles before he picks up his candy stash and wanders out. A tall woman in a pink tank top takes his place. “I want half a pound of those large Tootsie Rolls.”

I get caught up in the rush. The constant press of customers doesn’t stop until we close the doors at night. When I take the keys to lock up, a bunch of people still block the sidewalk.

“Hey!” a young man complains. “I’ve been waiting here for an hour and a half.”

“Sorry,” I tell him. “We’ve been on our feet for over twelve hours and we’re out of ice cream. You’ll have to come back first thing tomorrow morning.”

He sticks his foot against the door frame so I can’t shut it. “I can’t come back tomorrow morning. I’m leaving to go home to Minnesota on the eight o’clock bus.”

I try again to pull the door closed. “Sorry. I wish I could help you, but we’re closed.”

He reluctantly removes his foot. He walks away still grumbling. My spirit soars with relief. I’m finally going to sit down after working since seven o’clock this morning. It’s after eight at night now.

As I shut the door, David Graham and Ariel Dunroy come hurrying down the street. They approach the candy store and I open the door to let them in.

The young man whips around bristling. “Hey! You’re letting them in and not me?”

I slam the door double-quick and flip the lock. Ariel passes her knuckles across her forehead. “Phew! That was a close one.”

“Let’s not do that again,” I tell her. “You might start a riot out there.”

David glances around at the store. “I’m guessing you aren’t ready to go yet.”

I cast a rueful grimace at the ice cream stains on the bar and the scuff marks on the floor. “Not by a mile.”

“Oh, well.” He pulls me against him. “The good news it doesn’t get dark until late, so we’ve got plenty of time. Where is everybody?”

“They’re in the office.” I turn to Ariel. “How’s summer vacation going for you, sweetie? Life isn’t too boring, I hope.”

She laughs. “I’m participating in an academic challenge at the Boy Scout Camp outside of town. It’s an obstacle course that combines academic problems. You overcome one obstacle and run to the next. When you get there, you have to solve the problem before you can move on and tackle the next challenge.”

“That sounds fun.”

“It is.” Her eyes sparkle. “It’s the most fun ever, and I’m making a bunch of new friends. I can’t believe I never knew stuff like this existed before. I’ve had my nose stuck in a book for too long.”

She races off to the office. A moment later, I hear her joining the conversation between Patty, Gilly, and Zack. 

I steal a peek up at David. “She’s a new child. What did you do to her?”

He chuckles under his breath. “I got her out of the classroom. I’m starting to suspect Pauline made her do homework through every vacation.”

“It’s wonderful to see Ariel glowing like that,” I murmur. “This last winter was hard on her.”

“I know. She needs constant reinforcement that she’s still just a kid. She’s not in college yet, but she sure drives herself like she is. I want her to enjoy herself a little more and get some fresh air and exercise.”

“Not to mention building relationships with other kids,” I add. “This camp sounds awesome. Do they take adults?”

He laughs out loud. “I wish.”

Zack interrupts us by hollering from the office. “Cedric Johnson is on the phone, Mom. He wants to know how much ice cream we need for tomorrow. We ran out today. Do you want to increase our order?”

I scurry to the office. Ariel perches on the edge of the desk. Zack sits in the big chair holding his hand over his phone. “Keep the order the same,” I tell him. “We ran out today exactly at closing time and we’ve never run out before. Leave it the way it is.”

Zack presses the phone to his ear. “She wants to keep it the same, Cedric. Thanks. See you tomorrow.”

He hangs up and leans back. I take the chair next to Patty and groan when I lift my weight off my feet. “Is summer over yet?”

“We’re just getting started.” Zack thumbs through the receipts and stuffs them in a bank bag before dropping it into the floor safe. “We broke our profit record again today.”

“It’s just as well,” I counter. “I’m going to need the money to take on another employee when you start business school in the fall.”

“You might need two,” Gilly adds. “I’m starting my Masters program at Wesleyan in the fall, too. I won’t be around to help out.”

I slap my forehead and howl. “Oh, no! Is everyone deserting me just when I need them the most?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Patty chimes in. “These crowds will die off when the weather turns cold. You won’t get anywhere near as many customers. You might be able to get away with running the store on your own again.”

I scan the faces around me. “I don’t want to run the store without all of you. It wouldn’t be the same. You all make it so enjoyable. I don’t want to give that up.”

Zack snorts. “You make it sound like we’re dying or something. None of us is leaving, Mom. I’ll still be around to help out on the weekends. Gilly will still live at home with her parents and commuting to Hartford. You’re going to be seeing enough of all of us to make yourself sick.”

“That could never happen.” I touch his hand. “I want as much of all of you as I can get.”

“Well, you’ll have to do without me and Gilly tonight.” He shuts his laptop. “We’ve got a date.”

I get to my feet along with him. “I’m happy for you both because I’ve got a date, too.”

Zack gasps and his head shoots up. “You? I don’t believe it.”

“Yep.” I slip my arm around David. “We’re going to the beach.”

Zack carries his laptop to the door. “Are you taking Ariel?”

“Of course we’re taking Ariel,” I retort. “What did you think—that we would put her in a footlocker somewhere so we could go to the beach alone? Of course we’re taking her.”

“Then it’s not a real date, is it? I thought you meant you were going out just the two of you.”

“It is so a real date,” I argue. “I can go on a date with David and Ariel together. It’s just as much a date if she comes along.”

Zack shakes his head. “I’m not buying it. Next you’ll be telling me you’re dating Ariel.”

The whole room erupts in laughter—all except Ariel. She slams her fist into Zack’s bicep. “Shut up. She is not.”

I hug Ariel with my other arm. “Don’t pay any attention to him, sweetie. Come on. We’ve got a date.”

The six of us leave by the back door. Zack and Gilly get in Zack’s car and head for my house. Patty walks away toward her own house. David, Ariel, and I drive in David’s car.

We park on the hill overlooking the beach. Ariel sprints onto the sand and leaves us far behind. David and I hold hands surveying hundreds of holiday-goers. They lie, play, walk, and build sandcastles as far as the eye can see.

I sigh to myself. “Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.”

“Fiddlesticks.” He tugs my arm. “Come on. Let’s take a walk.”

I can’t see Ariel anywhere now. Then I spot her helping a little boy and a little girl build their sandcastle. As I watch, a few teenage boys playing frisbee nearby accidentally blunder into their construction zone. One of them smashes it underfoot.

Ariel rears back. “Watch it!”

“Sorry,” he mutters before going back to his game.

David steers me the opposite way. He makes me turn my back on the scene. When I do, I get lost in the dreamy romanticism of the beach. All the people everywhere can’t make it any less beautiful.

A few yards away, Paul Dickerson passes going the other direction. He shoots me a significant grin. “Good evening, Ms. Nichols.”

I nod, but I can’t stop my cheeks burning. “Good evening, Paul. Good to see you again.”

We wander further before David breaks in on my thoughts. “Who was that guy?”

“What guy?”

He jerks his thumb over his shoulder. “That guy who said hello to you. He acted awfully suggestive.”

I spin around with a gasp. “Suggestive! No, he wasn’t.”

“He acted like you two planned a secret rendezvous or something. He sounded like you were having an affair with him.”

I burst out laughing. Have an affair with Paul Dickerson? The whole idea sounds too comic to take seriously.

David doesn’t laugh, though. He doesn’t even smile. “Who was he?”

His reaction makes me straighten up in a hurry. I hand him Paul’s business card. “He’s a food buyer for a bunch of big-shot hotels in New York. He liked my chocolate. He said he might like to contract me to supply the hotels with chocolate to sell.”

He frowns at the card. “Is that all?”

I burst into a smirk. “Sorry to disappoint you. You’re the only man I’ll be having an affair with anytime soon.”

He dips his chin once. “See to it.”

We link arms and keep walking. I get lost in thought, but I can’t help saying, “You’re the only man who would want to have an affair with me.”

“I don’t think so,” he snaps. “I can think of a lot of men who would be lucky to get you to look sideways at them.”

I can’t help teasing him. “Really? Who?”

“Don’t start that,” he counters. “If you decide you want to play the field, you better tell me first.”

I hug him tighter. “I have no intention of playing the field. You’re the only one I want. I don’t need anyone else.”

He covers my hand with his and kisses the top of my head. “Congratulations on the offer. I’m sure you’re tickled pink. You deserve it. You put a lot of work into those chocolates and they taste outstanding.”

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