Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Cream of Sweet (EBOOK)
Chocolate Cozy Mystery Book 1

Cream of Sweet (EBOOK)

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Hazelnut pralines, coffee crèmes, strawberry mousse delights and chocolate drops – little bits of heaven that Olivia makes at the Block-a-Choc Shoppe; scrumptious. Could anything ever dampen these yummy treats? Maybe one thing.

Murder…

When Lizzy Couture, a less than liked member of the community, is found murdered, Olivia is a suspect. After one of her chocolate drops, with just a dash of arsenic was found to be what killed Lizzy, Olivia knows she must get to the bottom of this. Olivia is not a killer!

Olivia teams up with a P.I. for help, and on the way, they realise just how many people disliked Lizzy and were capable of killing her. Will they ever find the murderer? Will Olivia remain wrongfully accused? You’ll be guessing until the very, very end…

Chapter One

Olivia stood off to the side of the town square, admiring the banner the young people had hung between two brick-faced buildings. 

Chester Fall Festival!

The banner was as enthusiastic as she felt about the event. In a small town like Chester, it was pretty difficult to make a name as a chocolatier, even if the confections were little drops of heaven. The festival would give her a chance to showcase her chocolates, maybe bring in a few more customers to her budding business. 

“Woohoo!” Jana said, appearing beside her. “Looks like this is going to be one heck of a party!” She pumped her fist into the air, beads rattling on her arm. Jana Jujube was the newest addition to their town and the least likely of its inhabitants. She didn’t exactly fit in with the whole mid-west vibe, but she was likable enough. 

If Olivia had learned anything in her forty-three years, it was not to judge a chocolate’s filling by its smooth—or crunchy, for that matter—exterior. 

“It’ll be great,” Olivia replied at last, “but it’s only three days to the start. We’d better get to work.” 

“As long as I get to work with you. I know Lizzy will be furious with anything I set up,” admitted Jana.

“Are you still putting up a cuddle booth?” It was the strangest concept to the Chester dwellers—a booth to hand out hugs. Folks in these parts weren’t much for showing that kind of affection. 

“You bet I am. These people need hugs,” Jana said, jabbing her finger at a few of the passersby. “And I’m convinced enough cuddles will change their attitudes.” 

“That’s how I feel about my chocolates,” Olivia chuckled. 

They strode over to the other side of the square and began opening boxes. Dodger, Olivia’s pet Labrador, bounded around them, barking excitedly and making himself a genuine nuisance. 

“Dodger, stop that,” Olivia said, but there wasn’t any real heat in her scolding. He loved the outside, the brisk fall breeze and the happy sounds of people going about their business. She didn’t begrudge him that one bit, as long as he didn’t pull down any of the decorations. Dodger had a terrible habit of getting into messes and leaving Olivia to clean up after him. 

Jana stood with her hands on her hips, surveying the spot she’d put up her booth. 

Dodger rushed towards her and snuffled at her loose, tie-dyed pants, knocking her sideways a step. Jana giggled and rubbed the soft fur between his ears. 

“Dodger,” Olivia called, “don’t bother people.” 

“If you can’t keep that hound under control, why did you even bring him?” A sharp voice rang out from across the street. 

Olivia’s insides atrophied. Oh boy, this was it. The grand Lizzy Couture had arrived on the scene, wrath in tow, as usual.

She rose and turned to face the head of the town council and reporter extraordinaire. 

Lizzy Couture had bright orange hair cut into a wicked bob. It looked as sharp as a knife at the ends, reminding Olivia of that Vogue editor. What was her name? “Anna Wintour,” she murmured. 

“Pardon?” Lizzy snapped, brushing hair from her eyes with bejeweled fingers. 

“Dodger isn’t bothering anyone,” Olivia replied. 

Dodger waggled his tail so hard his entire bottom moved from side to side. Jana petted him, shooting frantic smiles between Lizzy and Olivia. 

“Yet,” Lizzy snapped. “And what’s going on here? Why haven’t you set up any booths yet? The festival is three days away, Olivia Cloud. I expected better. Not from the likes of you, though, I’ll admit,” she said, folding her twig-thin arms. 

“From ‘the likes of me’? What’s that supposed to mean?” How rude! Olivia had done nothing but try to help. 

“It means you seem to be doing nothing to help, and I have absolutely no idea why you’re even here.” Lizzy glanced over her shoulder, checked that there weren’t any listeners, then stepped in closer and lowered her voice. “Your chocolates are garbage, anyway. They taste horrible.” 

“They do not,” Jana said loyally, frowning from nearby. 

Lizzy shot the hippy-wannabe a withering look, but Jana didn’t back down. “Do you really think that bossing people around is the best way to organize this event?” Jana asked. 

“I have no interest in your opinion,” Lizzy replied, brushing her hair again, rings sparkling. “No interest at all, especially from an outsider.” 

“What is this? The eighteenth century?” 

“That’s enough,” Olivia said quietly. Even Dodger stopped his frolicking and trotted over to stand at her side. He sat down on her foot, and she grimaced. “If there’s something you need, Lizzy, tell me, otherwise please stop wasting my time and let me get back to work.” 

“Wasting your time?” Lizzy asked, raising her voice. “Wasting your time?! How dare you?” 

“Calm down,” Olivia replied. Lizzy seemed unusually on edge today. Granted, she wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine on other days. 

“Calm down?! You’ve insulted me. I’ll speak to the council about this. There will be retribution.” 

“Eighteenth century,” Jana whispered under her breath, then jumped and hurried off to avoid Lizzy’s dagger-tipped glare. 

A crowd had gathered to watch the confrontation. This was exactly the kind of attention Olivia did not want. She’d barely set up the chocolate shop; it’d only been a year since her divorce, for heaven’s sake, and now this. An argument in the middle of town with a prominent citizen. 

“You are nothing but a… a…” Lizzy struggled for a word, which was surprising, given her vitriolic rants in the newspaper. 

“I believe this is our cue to leave, Dodger,” Olivia said. She clicked her fingers once, then headed through an alley between two buildings and out the other side. Lizzy’s furious shrieks followed her. 

Dodger pressed his ears flat, his golden eyebrows wriggling. “It’s all right,” Olivia said. “She’s obviously had a rough day.” 

Another shriek pierced the air. Make that a rough life. 

Olivia hurried back to her store, the Block-a-Choc Shoppe, and pushed open the wood-paneled front door, inset with glass panes. 

Alberta, her oldest assistant and good friend, stood behind the counter, serving cups of coffee and preparing chocolate treats. “There you are,” she said the minute Olivia and Dodger came through the door. Olivia strode; Dodger bounded. “How was the meeting?” 

Olivia walked to the counter and stood beside her, admiring the array of chocolates she’d whipped up that morning. “It was less a meeting and more a total breakdown in communications.” 

“Ah,” Alberta said, tapping the side of her nose. “Lizzy’s up to her usual nonsense?” 

“Oh, you could say that. Shrieking, swishing her hair around. I wouldn’t be surprised if she started setting up stakes or pyres or whatever it was they used to burn witches.” 

“Hmmph,” Alberta said, “there’s only one witch in Chester, and we all know who that is.” Alberta dusted off her hands and wriggled her eyebrows. “I’ve got just the thing to take your mind off that business, and Lizzy for that matter.” 

“Oh, no you don’t, Albie!” she replied, “I am not going on another one of your dates.” 

“Suit yourself,” Alberta said with a small smile—the same one she’d worn after she’d been proven right about the popularity of hazelnut pralines. 

“I’m going to get started on the drops for the festival. You stay out here and serve the customers. And if I catch you anywhere near my personal planner, scheduling in ‘handsome’ dates, I’ll…” Olivia trailed off, then chuckled. “I’ll ban you from free coffee.” 

Alberta’s mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ of surprise. “That’s a little bit harsh, dear.”

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