Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Coconut Chocolate Murder (EBOOK)
Maple Hills Mystery Book 7

Coconut Chocolate Murder (EBOOK)

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Maybe--just maybe--Hawk will admit to Nikki that he's ready to go a step further by giving her a ring? But until he can, Nikki has to figure out who slipped poison in her chocolate peppermint and poisoned a customer. Lidia and Tori are the prime suspects, but the real killer is out there, watching and waiting!

Maybe--just maybe--Hawk will admit to Nikki that he's ready to go a step further by giving her a ring? But until he can, Nikki has to figure out who slipped poison in her chocolate peppermint and poisoned a customer. Lidia and Tori are the prime suspects, but the real killer is out there, watching and waiting!

Chapter One

Nikki hummed sweetly as she took inventory of the chocolates resting in the front display case. Feeling pretty in the blue autumn dress she had purchased the day before, she hoped that Hawk would pay her a compliment when he dropped in for lunch. “This is lovely,” Nikki murmured, smiling and hugging a wooden clipboard to her chest as she admired the window display. Walking away from the front counter, she made her way to the front door and looked outside. Autumn leaves were playing in a crisp, cold wind. The days were getting shorter and colder. The landscape surrounding the town was blossoming with bright colors falling from the eyes of a sleepy autumn morning. Nikki was in love. 

Drawing a deep breath of chocolate, peppermint, and coffee, she smiled and watched the leaves dance across the empty street. Glad to be at the store before Lidia and Nikki arrived, Nikki cherished the time alone. She loved her new family very deeply—but standing alone in her store, she watched the autumn morning whisper gentle promises of days filled with strolls in warm sweaters and chilly nights huddled around a campfire with hot cocoa. Nikki also cherished this solitary, quiet time. “So lovely,” she whispered.

Closing her eyes, Nikki walked ahead in time until she arrived in a snowy, cozy little Vermont town covered with icicles and children building snowmen. She imagined smoke coming from warm fireplaces attached to cozy homes filled with laughter and love; she saw the smoke rising up into a winter sky dropping strange and wonderful snow down onto the world. Then Nikki saw herself walking with Hawk, hand in hand, down the sidewalk toward her store, sipping hot cocoa, talking, and laughing. “Time to rest,” Nikki told herself. “No more cases. Time to work on my book, spend time in my store, and rest.”

Opening her eyes, Nikki smiled. Outside she saw a grumpy Mr. Wipinski stroll past her store toward his own shop. The old man was holding a brown cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other. “Good thing I declined the job at the paper,” Nikki giggled sweetly. “Mr. Wipinski isn't one of my biggest fans.”

Sighing, she returned to the front counter and continued with her inventory. As she worked, the autumn winds outside filled her store with music. Outside, two vicious eyes appeared across the street and looked at Nikki's store. Two furious hands tugged on a gray coat, whispered a low threat, and walked away just as Lidia pulled down the Main Street and swung her car into a parking space next to Nikki's SUV. 

“Morning, dear,” Lidia said, walking into the store wearing a thick, heavy, brown coat.

Nikki turned and took a look at Lidia’s coat. “My, you look like you're ready to go explore the North Pole in that!”

Lidia locked the front door behind her and then turned to Nikki. “I'm not a cold-weather person,” she replied, smelling the coffee roaming through the air like a warm, welcoming friend. “The Farmer's Almanac is calling for penetrating cold and blizzard-like conditions this winter.”

“How cozy,” Nikki beamed. “We didn't get much snow in Georgia.”

Lidia took off her coat, revealing a yellow sweater hanging over a thick, gray, woolen dress, and placed it on a wooden coat rack next to the front door. “Dear, let me explain something very carefully to you. Winters in Vermont, especially northern Vermont, are nothing to sneeze at. The windchill factor alone can steal a person's body heat within minutes. And as far as the snow is concerned, let me tell you, it's pretty at first, but then it becomes a serious hazard. You have to continually dig out your car in the morning, be careful on the roads...and the children and their snowballs!”

Nikki giggled at the frown on Lidia's face. “That bad, huh?”

“Little rascals love to ambush you,” Lidia fussed and hurried away to the back office. After making herself a cup of coffee, she joined Nikki at the front counter. “Our business will cool down this winter, too. Not many people in the market for chocolate when it's freezing outside. Autumn is our last drizzle to bring in some dough.”

Nikki bit her bottom lip. “I've been thinking, partner.”

Lidia calmly sipped her coffee. “I figured as much,” she told Nikki. “You want to run a hot chocolate shop during the winter, right? You want to offer different flavors of chocolate—Nikki Bates’ homemade versions, of course—and even toss in a bookshelf or two and a couple of cozy reading chairs and café tables.”

Nikki's eyes grew wide. “How did you know that, Lidia?”

Lidia smiled. “Because I've been thinking the same thing. Listen, partner, if we move some of the display shelves into storage during the winter, we'll have just enough room to transform the main floor into a cozy seating area. The back counter is perfect for making hot cocoa. We can even make some pastries. I was thinking we could offer—prepare yourself—chocolate muffins.”

Nikki loved the idea and hugged Lidia happily. 

“When the snow arrives, we'll be ready,” Lidia promised with a warm smile.  

“I can't wait for the snow,” Nikki said excitedly. “I may even throw a snowball of my own.” She winked. 

“I thought as much,” Lidia winked back at her. “Oh, speaking of children, here comes our dear little Tori.”

Tori unlocked the front door and stepped inside the warm shop. “Good morning,” she said sweetly. Taking off a thin, pink coat, Tori quickly pirouetted in the pink and white polka-dotted dress she was wearing. “I know the dress is old fashioned,” she blushed, “but I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.”

Nikki gently brushed Tori's bangs away from her eyes. “You look beautiful, honey.”

“Like a princess,” Lidia chimed in. 

Tori blushed some more. Smelling the coffee in the air, she looked toward the back office. “I think I will have some coffee.”

Nikki and Lidia watched Tori walk away. “Too bad Zach put the lodge up for sale and moved to Minnesota,” Nikki said. “Those two made a sweet couple.”

Lidia sighed. “There's a good man out there waiting for our Tori. We have to work on her self-esteem more, though. Still, I think she's much stronger now.”

Nikki agreed. “Tori is no push-over. She's not going to be sweet-talked by any two-cent loser, that's for sure.”

“Speaking of romance,” Lidia turned to Nikki and grinned, “when is Hawk going to place a ring on your finger?”

Now it was time for Nikki to blush. “Oh, Lidia,” she said and hurried away to finish her inventory.


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