Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Raspberry Truffle Murder (EBOOK)
Maple Hills Mystery Book 1

Raspberry Truffle Murder (EBOOK)

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A new chocolate shop owner in a cozy Vermont town, a hit and run leaves a man dead, and unexpected twists no one saw coming...

A new chocolate shop owner in a cozy Vermont town, a hit and run leaves a man dead, and unexpected twists no one saw coming...

When Nikki’s husband of 20 years decided that he wanted a different life in Los Angeles it spawns a new life for her as well. Leaving behind Atlanta and her Journalism career there, she and her college bound son move to the small and tightknit town of Maple Hills, Vermont. With a bustling tourist season, the thriving community seems the perfect place to set up her new Chocolate Shop… yet opening day proves more deadly than profitable.

A hit and run right outside her shop door leaves a man dead and questions swirling. When the victim is identified as Steven Denforth, the most hated and reviled man in town, it resurrects the fissures that had recently torn Maple Hills apart.

Now he is dead and everyone is a suspect, including Nikki. As both a former reporter and an FBI Consultant, Nikki instinctively knows the dirt in Maple Hills is piled high and if she doesn’t get to the bottom of it, and to the murder, then her stay in the quaint Northern Town may very well be short lived.

Chapter One

Dipping her right index finger down into a glass bowl, Nikki Bates swooped up a small amount of freshly stirred dark chocolate mix and nervously sampled the taste. "Relax, Mom," Seth Bates told his mother, setting his backpack down at his feet. Leaning against the kitchen counter lined with bowls of different chocolate mixes, he shook his head. "Here I am off to college, and here you are making delicious chocolate. Now tell me again why I'm about to waste my youth slaving over books when I could help you run your store?"

Allowing the taste of the chocolate to settle in her mouth like a child deciding if she liked the taste of a new candy or not, Nikki studied her son's young and innocent face. Seth came later in life than she'd expected. Here she was, a forty-two-year-old woman, divorced after twenty years of marriage, starting her life fresh and new in a small town in Vermont. And there stood her son, a skinny, nervous and shy young man who was terrified at the idea of leaving home and venturing off into the powerful tides of college. Wiping her black bangs off her forehead, she sighed. Glancing down at the plain, light blue dress, she felt depressed and bland. Although she had once won the beauty pageant in her hometown in Georgia when she was twenty-one, those years now seemed far away, replaced by crow's feet and sadness. "Seth, you have a wonderful scholarship. It's not every day a young man gets a scholarship to one of the most prestigious colleges in the country."

Watching his mother examine her outward appearance like a tired bird wondering which feather to pluck next, Seth lowered his eyes. He didn't like to see his mother so sad, but what could he do? His dad had deserted them for a new life in Los Angeles. Looking down at the jeans he was wearing, he felt helpless. "Will you be okay, Mom? I mean...being alone?"

"Oh, sure," Nikki promised, putting on a brave voice. "Tomorrow is the grand opening of my store, just in time for tourist season. I'm scared, but excited. It's good for me to be here, Seth. I needed away from Georgia...from the memories."

Raising his head, Seth swung his eyes around the kitchen. The kitchen was small but nice, all hardwood. A wooden island with a stove stood in the middle of the kitchen like a welcoming beacon shining from a tall lighthouse. At the end of the kitchen, an oval window hung over the kitchen sink, offering a view to a broad backyard with a wide duck pond. The cabin his mother had purchased, Seth thought, was actually kinda cool. He especially liked the stone fireplace in the living room and the smell of pine emanating from the wood. Maybe his mother would be all right? Maybe college wouldn't be all that bad? Maybe life would go on after all. "Well, my bus leaves in an hour. I guess you better drive me into town, huh?"

"I'm so very proud of you," Nikki told her son. Walking to him, she embraced him. "Someday you're going to become a fine doctor, you just wait and see."

"I might become a dentist instead. With all of this chocolate around, this town might need one," Seth joked. 

"Maybe," Nikki joked back, feeling her spirits lift. "Okay, come on, Mr. College-Man, let's get you into town. Today begins the first step of the rest of your life."

* * *

After dropping off her son in town, Nikki drove back to her cabin, bawling her eyes out. She had been able to withhold her tears in front of Seth, but as soon as his bus pulled away, the floodgates opened. Her baby boy was grown up. Memories of feedings and diaper changes, smiles that were actually gas, first words, first tooth, whispered in Nikki's mind. She knew from what other mothers told her that the day she sent her son off to college she would cry an ocean of tears. Now that day had come, and here she was, driving down a beautiful country road, crying her ocean of tears. Nikki knew, though, that she was crying over other things. Her divorce had been messy and cruel. Leaving Georgia to begin a new life in Vermont had been extremely difficult. She felt lost and somehow trapped in a strange new world that she had been thrust into unwillingly. Watching rain begin to tap at the windshield of her white SUV, she clicked on the windshield wipers. "I'll go home and read a book. That's what I'll do," she promised herself. "I'll make myself some hot chocolate and read a good mystery. Tomorrow will be a better day. Life will get back to normal...it has to."

Overhead, dark gray storm clouds settled in over Nikki's cabin and remained until morning.


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