Authors: K. P. Hilton
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Amateur Sleuths, #Cozy, #Animals, #Women Sleuths, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Literature & Fiction
(A Yellow Rose Cozy Mystery – Book 3)
K. P. Hilton
A working vacation, a handsome millionaire chef, and trouble on the beach...
Betty Hitchens and daughter Brianna are on their way to Tampa, Florida to attend a seminar by famous cooking personality Johnny Dunbar. Though the hotel she booked herself into isn't exactly top notch, a fun trio of young attendees make up for the lack of comfort amenities.
Unfortunately, Brianna gets in over her head with one of the locals at a popular night spot. The next morning, she can't remember what happened and the police think she may be tied to a murder that happened the previous evening.
Find out what happens when Betty tries piecing together events leading up to a tragic death between rounds of fending off a would-be romantic suitor.
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2015.
All rights reserved by the author. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblances to any persons, living, or dead, are completely coincidental.
Betty Hitchens stood next to the taxi cab that had pulled up to the curb in front of her house, doing her best to not yell at her daughter.
She failed. “Hurry up, or we'll miss our flight!” she called out. She tried remembering that her daughter was twenty-one, an adult, and not a kid anymore. Still, she did live with her mother, and Betty thought that meant she needed to respect the rules of being under her roof. Her daughter, Brianna, frequently acted as though she deserved free reign. So there Betty was, daily trying to strike a balance between the two of them.
“We have a plane to catch,” Betty said, a little less loudly but with more emphasis. Brianna stood with her boyfriend, Ethan, who had his arms wrapped around her short, slight frame as though she were about to embark to Antarctica for six months instead of Florida for a week.
“You have to call me and text me,” Ethan was saying. Betty could hear them, and she was surprised at how much it seemed as though Ethan was going to miss Brianna. He was usually a laid back, take-everything-as-it-comes sort of guy. He got and lost jobs, didn’t stress overdue bills, and really only ever seemed to concentrate on Mud Hole Jones, the rock band he played in. The musical group was starting to get known in and around Yellow Rose, the small Texas town Betty lived in. She always got a kick out of seeing the band's orange and white bumper stickers, which seemed to be plastered on the back of every car owned by anyone under twenty-five in town.
“Okay, really, I have to go,” Brianna said, kissing her boyfriend one last time and untangling herself from his lanky limbs. She bent and grabbed her purse, the last thing she needed since all of her and her mom’s luggage was in the trunk of the yellow cab. The driver sat behind the wheel, looking as impatient as Betty felt. He was a sloppy looking man of about sixty and he wore a Dallas Cowboys hat pulled low over his eyes. His window was down and Betty heard him mumble, “Finally,” under his breath. Despite the stress, she couldn't help but smile.
When they were both in the back seat of the cab and it had pulled away from curb, Betty looked at her daughter.
“Ethan is really going to miss you.”
Brianna shrugged. “I think he’s more worried that I’m going to meet a guy in Florida who gets up before noon and is actually focused on getting a steady job.”
Betty looked to her daughter. “Are you?”
Brianna smirked and shook her head. “Sorry for you, but no. I love Ethan, and he loves me.”
Betty nodded and didn’t say anything else. She and Brianna had argued enough times about Ethan, and she had learned that every time they fought Brianna just dug her heels in deeper. Deep down Betty knew there were worst people for her daughter to be involved in. He was a slacker, but Betty knew he would never physically harm her, or cheat on her, or a million other things worse than maybe not being able to afford dinner every now and then.
It was an hour long trip to the airport and Betty started to wish she had driven and parked her car in the long term lot about the same time the taxi driver lit up a cigar. She leaned forward and asked if it would be okay if he didn’t smoke, but the guy just grunted and rolled his window down an inch further.
Brianna had always been a worrier, a trait she had inherited from her father. She started early on the ride, looking to her mother with wide eyes. Betty sighed, bracing herself for the barrage of questions.
“We left the flat iron at home, and I think it’s plugged in.”
Betty laughed and shook her head. “We didn’t, and it’s not. I packed it up with the rest of the bathroom stuff this morning.”
“Okay.” Brianna nodded, momentarily satisfied.
“What else?” Betty asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I know you’ve got more worries floating around that pretty little head of yours. Let’s hear them.”
“I don’t worry that much,” Brianna said, annoyed.
“Sweetie, in sixth grade you wouldn’t sleep in your bedroom because you saw a spider in there who crawled under the door and into your closet. For six weeks you slept on the couch.”
“Some of the most poisonous spiders in America live in Texas, Mom. It’s not my fault you chose to live here.”
“You know, my brother-in-law was bit by one of them – what you call ems – that Brown recluse,” the driver said from the front seat, turning his head so his eyes were off the road. The smoke from his cigar traveled more easily into the faces of the women in the back seat. “Had to get his finger taken off. I’m not kidding. Rotted right away; they had to save the hand by getting rid of the finger.”
“See!” Brianna practically screamed at her mother, her voice almost comically high pitched.
“Great, now you’re going to sleep on the couch when we get home,” Betty teased.
“And the only other thing I was thinking,” Brianna said, “was I don’t remember locking the door to the shop, and I was the last one out yesterday.
The shop was Betty’s Cakes, the store Betty owned and worked with a pair of helpers, plus Brianna, who often lent a hand. Betty had always loved baking, and when her husband had passed away five years earlier, she had found ways to pay the bills until opening the cake shop months earlier, as baking was something she loved and was passionate about.
She had done okay so far, developing a loyal customer base. And Fred, one of her employers, was working on an online site where she could get orders from all over the country for smaller specialty items. Baked goods that she could freeze, then send along in customized packaging, where her clients just needed to warm the product in their ovens.
“I was last out, remember?” Betty said. “Fred and George with run the shop just fine without us for a week.”
“You cook?” the driver asked, turning again.
“Yes, I own a bakery,” Betty said.
“Whatya make?” the driver asked. “Them cupcakes?”
Betty didn’t know what cupcakes he was referring to exactly, but she nodded and the man saw her in the rear view mirror. She was amazed by the fact that they hadn’t yet slammed into another car, considering the man seemed to never watch the road.
“Man, them cupcakes are the best. You got any of them pink ones? Pink ones with white sprinkles?”
“Well, we make a lot of cupcakes,” Betty said, and she glanced at her daughter, who was trying to hold in her laughter.
“But the pink ones with white sprinkles, those are the best, let me tell you.”
Eventually they made it to the airport, though not before learning about five other desserts the cab driver liked to eat. The man pulled their luggage out of the trunk and left it on the walkway in front of the main entrance, and Betty paid him before turning and grabbing her two bags. That had been her rule, two bags for each of them. One small enough to be a carry on, because she knew if her daughter had free reign she was probably going to bring half her wardrobe. Brianna had her own closet, a large chifforobe, and half of her mother’s closet. Not to mention she had a bad habit of borrowing clothes and losing them in her own sea of outfits.
“Oh no,” Betty said as she turned to her daughter. “I forgot the tickets.”
Brianna’s eyes went wide. “I knew it!” she said. “See? This is why I worry all of the time!”
Betty laughed and fished an envelope holding two plane tickets to Florida out of her pocket. Brianna knit her brow and shook her head, a short light brown ponytail swinging as she did so. “That’s not funny,” she said.
“It was pretty funny,” Betty said, turning and leading the way into the airport. Ninety minutes later, Betty and Brianna were seated and their plane was rolling slowly toward the runway.
Betty’s knuckles were as white as bed sheets as she gripped the edge of her armrests. She had never enjoyed flying. She would have preferred driving to Florida, but her Explorer was having mechanical issues and she simply couldn’t afford a breakdown right now. There was simply no way she was going to miss a three-day cooking seminar with Johnny Dunbar, a man she had been watching on television for years. He was handsome, near her age, and one of the most popular celebrity chefs in the world. And when Brianna had heard her mother was going, of course she had convinced her to make it a week long trip, so they could take a vacation and hit the beach afterwards.
The truth was, Betty needed a vacation. She worked every day of the week except for Sunday, and hadn’t had a vacation in over three years. She was really looking forward to the trip. There was just the matter of getting there in one piece.
The plane reached the runway and turned slowly, and then it began to pick up speed.
“It’s okay, Mom,” Brianna said, taking note of her mother’s face. Betty was biting her bottom lip, and her eyes were squeezed shut.
“I know,” Betty said, repeating the phrase to herself quietly, just a whisper slipping past her lips. “I know, I know, I know.”
The plane was speeding along now. Without warning, it tilted up and the wheels left the ground.
“It’s just a cooking seminar,” Betty said to her daughter. “I don’t need to go. They can let me off.”
Brianna laughed and looked to her left, gazing out of the window. “Uh, don’t look now, Mom, but we’re at least a hundred feet in the air, and not getting any closer to the ground.”
Betty couldn’t look. She wouldn’t. Instead she reached over across her daughter and pulled the plastic blind down over the window.
“Hey, I like to look out!” Brianna complained.
“Keep it shut or you're walking to Florida,” Betty said. Her voice was enough to let Brianna know that there was at least a chance her mother would throw her out of the plane if she dared to open the blind again.
“Fine,” Brianna said grumpily. She arched her brows in surprise and gripped her mom’s arm. “Oh no!” she said.
“What?” Betty asked, opening one eye to look at her daughter.
“I’m sure I left the water running in the bathroom.”
Betty sighed. She knew her daughter had not left the water running, and it was just another thing for the poor girl to worry about. Between her daughter and the general notion that the plane could fall out of the sky at any moment, it was going to be a long flight.