Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Mocha Motives (EBOOK)

Mocha Motives (EBOOK)

Mocha Motives (EBOOK)

Brown's Grounds Mystery Book 2

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When Monica Brown swaps city chaos for the quaint charm of Millpond and her cozy coffee truck, she never imagines serving up a side of murder with her morning coffee. But that's exactly what happens when she discovers the body of reclusive author Priscilla Montegrove, thrusting Monica into the role of Millpond's newest—and most reluctant—amateur detective.

With the help of the enigmatic Sheriff Nathan Thomas, Monica brews her way through a maze of clues, secrets, and betrayals that run deeper than the town's roots. As they unravel the mystery together, Monica learns that solving Priscilla's murder involves more than just her detective instincts—it challenges her heart and soul. Millpond, with its picturesque facade, harbors dark secrets, and Monica is determined to bring them to light.

Join Monica on her journey to solve Millpond's most perplexing case—before the killer decides her next pour is her last.

Chapter One

“Oh, Sebastian, you’re a cruel yet enticing lover. How can you treat Costanza that way?” Monica uttered aloud as she sat behind the order window reading her book. She looked at the cover, which depicted a handsome, shirtless knave holding a red-headed beauty in his strong, muscular arms. The title, Another Knight, was prominent across the top in gold letters. 

It wasn’t Shakespeare, but Monica didn’t care. She’d read all the books in the Cold Knight series. They were an easy distraction from her former life in the city, which had been devoid of any romance, intrigue, or fancy gowns made of silk and velvet that required three people to help get on. Now that she was in the country, she realized Cold Knight had become an addiction she wasn’t willing to quit.

“How do you read that stuff?” 

Monica jolted. When she looked up, she saw her neighbor and friend Carol Hamilton, toting her youngest baby under her arm like a football. He looked like he was enjoying himself. 

“You guys on your own today?” Monica asked with a smile, happy to see a familiar face.

“Yup,” Carol replied. “Kids at school. Husband at work. If this guy goes down for his nap, I might be able to enjoy a shower. I’ll take a coffee, though.” Carol smiled as she opened her purse and pulled out exact change, all while balancing her boy in the other hand.

“It’s on the house,” Monica said, sliding a small cup of steaming coffee across the counter. 

“Come on. How are you going to pay your electric bill if you give away your coffee?” Carol asked with a grin. 

“I’ll manage. Besides, business is going pretty well. As long as you don’t tell anyone you get yours for free.” Monica smiled. “I’m thinking of adding a few simple pastries to the mix. Nothing fancy. Maybe a few cookies or donuts for starters.”

“That’s a great idea,” Carol said as she stuffed her money back in her purse and picked up the cup of coffee. “Let me know when you’re ready to read a good book. I’m sure I’ve got something. Do you like horror novels?”

“Eww. No.” Monica wrinkled her nose.

“I didn’t ask if you liked Ebola, I asked if you like horror stories. Sheesh.” Carol chuckled. 

“I live alone. Reading horror stories at night by myself might cause more harm than good.” 

“Right. I’ve got a house full of people. I never have a minute alone to be scared. Nope. Never a moment alone. Ever. That makes me very jealous of you, Monica. Very jealous indeed.” Just then the baby in Carol’s arms started to fuss and rub his eyes. “Uh-oh. See what I mean? Not yet, buddy, we’ve got to go to the bank.” She pulled the baby up, holding him under his bottom while she kissed his head. He giggled, then whined. 

“Wow. Is that a new pretty for mommy?” Monica pointed to the shiny gold bracelet adorning Carol’s wrist.

“Oh, this old thing?” She waved her hand like the Queen of England. “It’s a set. I’ve got the necklace and earrings. They were a gift for our nineteenth anniversary. Maybe it was eighteenth, I don’t remember. The years blend together after a while.” 

“It’s beautiful.” 

“Thanks.” Just then, Carol’s son caught sight of the sparkling jewelry and reached to tug on it. “Every once in a while, the hubby gets it right.”

“I should say so.”

“I think I’m due for an upgrade. Gifts, I mean, not husbands.” She smirked. “But instead of jewelry, I think a two-week stay at a hotel somewhere with room service and without the kids might be in order.” She laughed.

“You’d be missing your brood in five minutes,” Monica teased.

“You need to step out of that truck a few times,” Carol joked. “The coffee bean fumes are getting to you.” 

“Enjoy that coffee.” Monica waved as she watched Carol bounce the baby while walking toward the bank. Now she could get back to her book and find out what Sebastian was plotting against Costanza’s other admirer, Lysander. 

It was a beautiful gray day, and the chill of fall was becoming more and more frequent. Somewhere nearby, someone was burning leaves. Monica took a deep breath, savoring the smoky smell that brought along thoughts of campfires and hayrides and, of course, trick-or-treaters. 

But it didn’t take long for her to get sucked back into her novel. So much so, that she didn’t realize a small line of people had appeared in the order window. 

“I’m so sorry!” she gushed, quickly filling the order for a large coffee with cream, no sugar. The next was a small coffee with a shot of hazelnut. One woman had a work meeting and needed four large coffees, each with something different in them. 

Monica’s hands flew around the tiny truck like she was conducting an orchestra. There was a place for everything and everything in its place. Never once did she let her smile leave her face, and by the time the last person in line had ordered, Monica was fairly sure she’d gotten all the orders correct.

“I’m sorry about the wait,” she joked with the woman at the window. “I should leave my novels at home.” 

“What are you reading?” the woman asked. “I’m always looking for a good book. I haven’t broken into the digital age yet. Still like to dog-ear the pages and crack the binding.” She was a robust lady with a distinct face that wasn’t exactly pretty but still attractive. She smiled broadly, and her nose, although exceptionally large, gave her a handsome and distinct appearance, like she might have stepped out of a Dickens story.

“I’m almost embarrassed to say,” Monica said, rolling her eyes as she held up the floppy paperback.

“That explains everything,” the woman said with a titter. “I’ve read Priscilla Montegrove.”

“Really?” Monica gasped. 

“I felt I should since she’s a local author.” The woman shrugged. “I had the chance to meet her at one of those romance writers conventions in Bangor. I waited in line for almost an hour to have her sign one of my books. When I got to her and told her we lived in the same town, you know what she said?” 

Monica shook her head.

“She said—with this little sneer on her face—I don’t socialize with the folks in town. Then she scribbled her name—didn’t even personalize it—handed it back to me, and looked at her watch.”

“That’s terrible,” Monica said, frowning. 

“It is. But she only hurt herself. I really enjoy reading her books, but now I don’t buy them. I just wait for them to come to the library. Why should I put money in her pocket if she’s going to be rude?” The woman continued. “The same thing happened when I went to get Amy Lemont’s autograph, too. I’d sent her a couple emails and letters because I just loved her young adult series about the girl who could talk to birds. But when I went to meet her, she was standoffish and actually had security called.”

“Yikes.” Monica was starting to wonder if it wasn’t the authors but maybe this lady who was the problem. There’s always that “number one fan” who takes a hobby and turns it into an obsession that includes stalking. 

“Gosh, you must think I’m a real pill,” the woman said, smiling. “My name is Maryanne. I don’t normally air my grievances this way.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Maryanne,” Monica said. “No need to apologize. Sometimes, you just have to get it out. Especially when you haven’t had your coffee yet.” Monica handed Maryanne her large caramel-flavored coffee and a couple napkins.

“You’re absolutely right about that.” Maryanne took the coffee, wished Monica happy reading, and headed off, as she told Monica, to City Hall, just three blocks away.

Monica chuckled to herself. If her grandfather were alive, he probably would have said something like, “No wonder she’s a little off. She works for the government.”

It was a busy day, even after the morning rush, and Monica didn’t have a chance to learn what was going to happen between Sebastian and Lysander. Just as she was about to dump out the last grounds of the day, one straggler cleared his throat and asked if it was too late for a coffee. When she turned around, she smiled, but quickly bit back her “Yes, it is” reply.

“Hi, Sheriff.” She shook her head and let out a deep sigh. “I’m afraid you’ll be getting the burnt stuff at the bottom of the pot. But that’s what happens when people wait until the last minute.” 

“That’s okay. It’s still better than what’s at the station,” he replied.

Monica hated how nice Sheriff Nathan Thomas looked in his blue jeans and flannel shirt. He didn’t look like a sheriff at all. Monica thought he should be wearing a brown uniform, or at least displaying his badge like Andy Griffith did. His cologne smelled spicy, like some exotic flower wafting up through the order window. And he had just the slightest shadow along his jaw that made him look more like an outdoorsman, the kind of guy who chopped his own wood without wearing a shirt, working up a sweat and showing off his muscles. 

Monica suddenly decided she was reading too much of the Cold Knight series and vowed to cut back once she finished this last book.

“So, did you catch any bad guys today?” she asked as she handed him the coffee in a paper cup. 

“No, pretty quiet today.” Nathan took a sip of coffee and looked up at Monica. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to move your truck tomorrow.”

“What?” Monica suddenly switched gears, no longer chitchatting with the local hunky constable. She was in businesswoman mode now. “Why? I’ve got all my permits, and they’re current. I am allowed to park here.”

“Technically, you are. But the Edgewater Community Council says your truck is blocking the Mariam and Roland Leech Memorial Garden,” Nathan said tiredly. 

“The what? The who?”

“Some folks who did a lot for Millpond…I guess.” Nathan shook his head. “Look, you just need to back up thirty or forty feet. No harm in that.”

“Really?” Monica stomped out of the truck and looked where Nathan was pointing. “Oh, I see. Just park my truck next to the dumpster over there? Absolutely not. The city approved my permit and my place to park.”

Nathan thought for a minute. “What if you parked Brown’s Grounds in front of the entrance to the Promenade?” he suggested. “There is a lot of foot traffic there. It might be good for business.” 

“But I’ve been here for several weeks,” Monica protested. “People know I’m here. If I’m suddenly on the other end of the square, it’ll be like starting over.” She shook her head. “You are going to have to tell the Hellswatters Community Council that I followed the rules and all my papers are in order. I have a right to be here. I’m not moving.” Monica didn’t like this at all. The last thing she needed was a dispute with some locals, the very people she was trying to do business with. 

“I understand, Monica, and between you and me, I’ve always thought the Edgewater Community Council was nothing but a bunch of busybodies. However, they’ve got the alderman’s ear. They could make things difficult for you.” 

Monica put her hands on her hips. “Are you really telling me that this tiny town of Millpond has dirty politicians and this Hedgefodder Community—”

Edgewater,” Nathan interrupted.

“Whatever. You’re telling me that they can change the laws on a whim? I paid my fees. I have all my permits. But that isn’t good enough? Is that what you’re saying?” Monica was beside herself. She was not the kind of person to take on City Hall, but this was ridiculous. “Nathan, you can tell them I’m not moving.”

“I’m telling you, Monica, you won’t be out anything if you just move. It’s not a big deal.” Nathan tried to soothe Monica’s temper, but he only came off as condescending.

“Not to you, but this is my livelihood,” Monica said, walking back to her truck. “I’m not moving because I was told I could be here. Tell them they can move their garden.”

“Monica, you know that isn’t possible,” Nathan called after her, but she drove her point home by slamming the thin door shut and doing the same with the grate that covered the order window. Nathan rolled his eyes. “You’re a stubborn woman, Monica Brown!”

She stood in the semi-darkness of the truck, her chest heaving and her eyes stinging from tears. Part of her wondered if maybe she should just move a little toward the garbage dumpster. But it was cool out now. What about in the summer, when that thing was baking heaven knows what kinds of gunk inside it? Besides, she’d done what she was supposed to. She’d followed the rules. There was no reason except vanity for the Ledgewalker Community Council to try and pull this stunt. 

Nope. She might not have the best coffee ever brewed. She may never do more than break even. But this was her business, and it was in the perfect spot in the town square on Main Street between the park bench and the giant lark sculpture.

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