Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Sugar and Price (EBOOK)
Chocolate Cozy Mystery Book 5

Sugar and Price (EBOOK)

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 In the quaint town of Chester Falls, life is usually as sweet as chocolate. But when another resident bites the dust, amateur sleuth Olivia Cloud and Detective Jake Morgan find themselves in the middle of a perplexing murder investigation.

This time, the case hits close to home for Jake. After his beloved great aunt Gracie passes away, her sizable estate draws in Jake's younger sister Lacy, cousin Kieran, and their mysterious friend. However, the family reunion takes a dark turn when Kieran turns up dead.

As Olivia and Jake work to uncover the truth, more suspects emerge, and their budding romance heats up. But with the bumbling Detective Keane interfering, the duo must tread carefully to solve the case before Lacy is wrongfully accused.

With twists and turns around every corner, "Sugar and Spice" is a deliciously entertaining murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Dive into this captivating small-town saga and discover that not everything is as it seems when it comes to cases, kisses, and kin.

Chapter One

“Good morning, Miss Daisy,” Olivia said, and offered the elderly woman, one of Chester’s retirees, a plate of her newest chocolate. “I thought you might enjoy these.” 

Miss Daisy clasped her slender pale hands together. “What are they?” 

“They’re Creamy Fudge Delights. Creamy fudge balls dipped in smooth milk chocolate. Try one.” 

Miss Daisy made pincher fingers and lifted one of those treats off the plate. She inserted it between her lips and chewed. She squeezed her eyes closed and let out a reverent sigh. “Delicious,” she said. “Just delicious. You know, Miss Cloud, you’re really making Chester look good.” 

“What do you mean?” Olivia asked. 

“This town is in need of a facelift almost as much as I am,” Miss Daisy said, with a chuckle. “We need to uphold our sterling reputation.”

“I’m glad I can be a part of that.” 

Miss Daisy grabbed the plate and scurried off to one of the tables nearby. Alphonsine swept toward her carrying the coffee pot and a tray of mugs. It was their goal in the store to make sure everyone who needed coffee had it, even if it meant carting around the mugs as well as the pot. 

Olivia rubbed her palms together. Everything was back to normal in a sense. The glass in her front window was fixed, as was her air conditioning unit. Alberta was up to her usual quirkiness in the kitchen. Alvira made the most perfect batch of chocolate for the morning sales and Jake… oh goodness, she blushed at the thought of him. 

They’d shared the sweetest kiss last week and planned a date. 

“You’re pink as a peach.” 

Olivia jumped – Alberta had appeared beside her. “Yeah, I’m just happy. Things are looking up.” 

“Oh, you can say that again,” Albie replied, and wiggled her eyebrows at Olivia. She scanned the interior of the Shoppe, then jerked. “Oh, boy.” 

“What is it?” Olivia asked. 

“Miss Daisy,” Alberta replied. “She’s over there in the corner snacking on chocolates.” 

“Yeah, what about her?” 

“Let’s just say Miss Daisy and I don’t get along. We played bingo at the Seniors Club a few nights ago and she disputed my win. Can you believe she accused me of cheating? As if I would cheat at something as silly as that.” Alberta clicked her tongue and Miss Daisy just happened to look up and spot her at that very moment. The other woman narrowed her eyes to slits. 

“I’m sure it was a misunderstanding,” Olivia said. “She’s been nothing but sweet this morning.” 

“Look at her,” Alberta said, out of the corner of her mouth. “She’s going to rage in a minute. I’d, uh, I’d better get back in that kitchen. Those chocolates won’t make themselves.” She scooted off with two backward glances and a grimace. 

Miss Daisy settled again. 

“Goodness,” Olivia muttered. “Tensions run high in the senior community, don’t they?” Usually, Alberta was carefree and the light of the party in the Block-A-Choc Shoppe. It was strange to see her upset by one of their customers. 

The front door opened and Jake Morgan entered the store. 

Olivia grinned at him, but he didn’t return it. He remained somber and, shoot, his cheeks were paler than usual. Nerves bubbled up – had something happened that she didn’t know about? Had he changed his mind about their date this week? 

Olivia forced her fears aside. She’d never let them control her before, so why start now? “Morning,” she said, but her voice came out high and forced. “How are you?” 

“Not good,” Jake said, in a low voice. “I’ve just come back from my Great Aunt Gracie’s house.” 

Jake’s Great Aunt was one of the richest women in Chester. She had a gorgeous mansion on the outskirts of town, surrounded by trees and bordered by sprawling gardens and rose bushes. Olivia had heard tales of her wealth – some of the gossips in the store said it came from an Arabian prince, others a jewel heist and another said Gracie had obtained it through solid investment planning. 

The latter came from the mouths of bankers and accountants. 

“How is she doing?” Olivia asked, and busied herself with two coffee mugs. 

“She’s dead.” 

Olivia clanged one of the cups into the grate. It slipped from her fingers, hit the floor and shattered. Several of the customers cheered and applauded, but Olivia ignored them. “She’s what?”

“Yeah,” Jake said. “She passed this morning. Sorry, I didn’t mean to drop that on you. I’m just a bit shaken. She was always so good to me and I’m frankly shocked that she’s just… gone.” 

“I’m sorry, Jake,” Olivia said, and stepped over the broken cutlery. She squeezed his hand. “How did it happen?” 

“She was old.” Jake squeezed back, and stroked his thumb over her knuckles. “They’re calling it natural causes. They say she passed peacefully in the night which is good. If there’s a good way to go, that’s it, right?” 

It sure beat all the other ways, some of which Olivia had witnessed in the past few months. “Right,” she said. “Let me clean this up and I’ll get you a cup of coffee and some chocolates on the house.” 

“That would be awesome,” Jake said. “And now that she’s gone, I have to deal with the fallout. All her last living relatives do.” 

“You sound dubious.” Olivia lifted a dustpan from the cupboard underneath the register and set to work. 

“That’s because I am. I’ve just gotten a call from my sister, Lacy. She’s flying down from Chicago to help me deal with the dissemination of Gracie’s estate.” 

“That’s good. You’ll have some help.” 

“Lacy is all hindrance. She’s ten years younger than me and she’s got some strange ideas about the world and the difference between right and wrong. I’m afraid she’s only coming down here because of the potential for payoff. And heaven knows, she’ll bring my cousin Kieran with her, too. He’s always been money-minded.” 

“I’m sorry,” Olivia said, again. She dumped the shards of glass in the trash receptacle beside the counter, stowed the brush and pan, then rose. “I’m sure everything will go smoothly.” 

“I’m glad you are,” he replied, and massaged his temples. “Whenever my sister is involved, there’s bound to be trouble. You’ll see.” 

“I’ll see?” 

“Well, I hoped you’d be able to come with me to the memorial service tomorrow. I’ve already contacted most of the folks involved. The family will be arriving this evening.” Jake hesitated. “I could use the support, but if you’re busy I’ll understand.” 

“No, I’m not busy. I’m sure most everyone will be at the service. I can afford to close the store for the day.” Olivia knew that the As would want to pay their respects too.

“Thanks,” Jake said. “I really appreciate that.” 

“Don’t mention it.” Olivia busied herself with the coffee machine to hide another blush. Gosh, if she didn’t get ahold of herself she’d come off as a star struck teen. There were far more important matters to attend to now. 

Jake’s family, Gracie’s service, and the potential for that trouble he’d mentioned. Hopefully he’d exaggerated about that. Then again, this was Chester – anything could happen.

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