Authors: Susan Gillard
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright 2016 by
Guardian Publishing Group
- All rights reserved.
All rights Reserved. No part of this publication or the information in it may be quoted from or reproduced in any form by means such as printing, scanning, photocopying or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright
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Table of Contents
Heather opened the door to Flighty Florists and held it for Amy. Her bestie marched on inside, clutching a box of Cinnamon Crunch Donuts – Heather’s finest creation if she did say so herself.
“The donuts have arrived,” Amy announced, sweeping into the center of the room like a dancer from the Ziegfeld Follies.
“I told you she’d be here soon,” Eva said, to a young girl behind the counter.
“Hi,” the young lady said, rising from her seat. She extended a hand, and Heather hurried forward to take it.
They shook, a firm shake – the best kind – and Heather smiled, easily. “I’m Heather.”
“And these are her donuts,” Amy said, sliding the box onto the counter. “Can we open them? I’m practically drooling, here.”
“We can, but may we? That’s another question entirely.” Heather grinned.
“Such a Grammar Queen.” Amy scoffed. Her fingers itched towards the sides of the box.
“I’m sorry,” Heather said, “I didn’t catch your name.”
The lady behind the counter gave a warm smile. “I’m Tara. You know my dad, actually.”
Heather exchanged a glance with Eva since Amy was too busy delicately unwrapping the box of Cinnamon Crunches. “I do?” Heather asked.
“Yeah,” Tara replied. “He’s told me a lot about you.” She chuckled behind her hand, and then dropped it. “Sorry, it’s just; my dad’s a little bit egotistical at the best of times. I think he’s threatened by you.”
“Color me intrigued,” Heather said.
Amy removed a donut from the box and licked her lips. “Color me cinnamon.”
“I think 'greedy' is the word you’re looking for there.” Heather nudged Amy gently, but let her friend get on with her donut scoffing. “He’s threatened by me. Gosh, who is your father?”
“Detective Davidson,” Tara said, and then opened her arms wide. “Oh, don’t worry; I’m not on his side. I moved out of the house ages ago. My mom did too when I was a kid. She couldn’t stand being around him anymore. He means well, but he just doesn’t say the right things.”
Heather blinked. That was a lot of information to process within five minutes of meeting the new assistant at Flighty Florists.
“I’m, uh, I don’t know what to say,” Heather replied.
“I think ‘awkward’ would be a poignant turn of phrase,” Amy said, and received another, firmer, nudge in the ribs.
“Sorry,” Tara said, lowering her gaze and blinking at the counter top. “I just got excited to meet you. I get like that around new people.”
“Tara has a real zest for life.” Eva reached over and patted the young woman on the forearm. “Don’t you worry, dear; no one here will ever judge you.” She followed that up with a look sharp enough to spear in Amy’s direction.
Amy shrugged and reached for another donut, the cinnamon crumbles dropping from her fingertips.
“It’s great to meet you,” Heather said. “I didn’t expect to come down here, any time soon. I’m not the flowers kinda gal.”
“Yeah, we don’t get that many women in here,” Tara replied, “unless they’re buying flowers for their moms on mother’s day.”
“Speaking of which, I should send a bouquet to Hillside Manor. It was Leila’s birthday the other day. I sent donuts, but I wanted to give her something else, as well.” Heather didn’t speak to anyone in particular, but the room in general.
Her detective cogs clicked and whirred, even though there wasn’t a murder to solve.
Detective Davidson was threatened by her? What did that even mean?
Heather hummed Strawberry Fields by The Beatles.
“I love that song,” Amy said, between mouthfuls. “Terrible rendition, though. You’re out of key or whatever it’s called.”
Heather ignored her bestie and leaned in to sniff a vibrant bouquet of Lilies. “These will be fine,” she said, pointing them out to Tara. “And I’d like to make out a card, as well.”
“Those are the flowers that got me down here, in the first place.” Eva slid off the chair behind the counter and shuffled around to stand next to Heather.
Eva had panicked on the phone to Heather earlier because she’d received a bouquet from a mystery admirer. Usually, that kinda thing would cheer a gal up, but it’d had the opposite effect on the elderly woman.
“Did you figure it out?” Heather asked.
The door to Flighty Florists slapped open before Eva could get a word out.
All four women turned to the front, Amy with a donut wedged between her fingertips and cinnamon crumbles on her chin.
Geoff Lawless strode into the store, nose in the air, beard wiggling in the slight draft which followed him in.
Heather narrowed her eyes. Amy’s chewing slowed, and Eva drew in a sharp breath. She still hadn’t forgiven him for forcing donuts on her on Heather’s home turf.
Geoff took one step towards the counter, gaze flitting across their faces. He froze, readjusted his belt, and took another step.
Heather resisted the urge to whistle the tune from a Spaghetti Western.
“Hi there,” Tara said, oblivious to the tension. “How may I help you?”
Geoff didn’t reply, choosing to stare at Heather instead. “Shouldn’t you be working?” He asked.
She should’ve been studying. She had a test coming up, and she’d taken to working on the course in her office in Donut Delights.
“Shouldn’t you be working?” Amy snapped. She placed her half-eaten donut back in the box and kept close to it.
“Don’t engage with him,” Heather said. “He’s not worth your time. If you’ll excuse me, Tara, I think Amy and me, Eva too for that matter, will be on our way.”
“Yes,” Eva and Amy said, in unison.
Amy grabbed the box off the counter and marched for the door. Geoff moved out of her way, a swift motion, and folded his arms.
Heather did her best not to look at him on the way out. Nervous laughter bubbled behind her lips, threatening to burst out at a moment’s notice.
She couldn’t help it. There was just something about the massive, muscular, bald guy that got her laughing. Perhaps it was the surly expression or worse, his determination to bring her down, even if it meant following her to a florist.
Heather turned her face to the sun, linked her arm through Eva’s and headed off down the road.
“She was a lovely girl,” Eva said, settling at the small kitchen table in her home. “I don’t know what go into her when you arrived. She seemed…” The elderly woman trailed off, searching for the right word.
“Tense?” Heather suggested.
“It was seriously weird,” Amy said, scoffing down another donut from the open box, which she’d placed in the center of the cherry wood table.
“I don’t understand what she meant by her father being threatened by me.” Heather took a seat beside Eva and picked up a donut for herself. She picked at the cinnamon crunch crumble on the top and inserted the crispy goodness between her teeth.
She’d used waffle for the crisp, double baked them in a cinnamon glaze to get them perfectly crunchy, then crumbled and scattered to her heart’s content. They were probably her favorite donuts so far – though, she thought that about all her donuts.
“It’s probably because you’re a strong woman and businesswoman, for that matter,” Eva said. “It’s in my experience that most men are threatened by that. Especially those who are, how do I put it?”
“Old school?” Amy put in, between chews.
“Yes, that’s the phrase.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, dear, Tara was already on edge when you arrived,” Eva said. She hadn’t taken a donut yet, but eyed a bouquet of white flowers from afar, pursing her lips, and then relaxing into a small smile.
“Why was she on edge?” Heather’s sleuthin’ gene danced around at the prospect of a mystery.
“Oh, she had a fight with some blonde girl before you arrived. Something about a young man and staying away from him. I didn’t pay much attention at the time.” Eva fanned herself, then finally took a donut and tore off a piece with two fingers.
“A fight, eh? The plot thickens.” Amy dusted off her hands.
“There isn’t a plot to thicken,” Heather replied, “but there are about twenty online orders for donuts which I have to fill. Gotta get back to the –”
Heather’s phone trilled to life, and she flinched. She drew it out of the pocket of her jeans, and then smiled at the name flashing on the screen.
Her husband. She should probably change his contact name to something cutesy, but she was a stickler for keeping it formal.
Heather swiped her finger across the screen, and then lifted the phone to her ear.
“Hey,” she said and pushed up from the table. She walked through the space and into the living room, and then went to stand by the window. “I didn’t expect to hear from you until later.”
“This isn’t a personal call. Well, it is, and it isn’t,” Ryan said, gravely.
“Oh no, what’s happened now?” Another murder, no doubt. Another reason to investigate instead of studying, which would be counter-productive, of course. Nerves frolicked behind her bellybutton. “Ryan?”
“Sorry, he was close to my desk. I didn’t want to get busted.”
“You’re a cop, who could bust you?” Heather asked, injecting mirth into her tone. It faded at the lack of laughter on Ryan’s end.
“You need to get back to Donut Delights, immediately. Davidson left two seconds ago. He’s on his way there now, and if he finds out you’re not in, he’s going to use it against you, somehow.”
Ryan clicked his tongue. “Tara Davidson’s been murdered, and you’re the prime suspect.”
“No,” Heather whispered. “I saw her ten minutes ago. She can’t be dead.”
“That’s why you’re the prime suspect. Now, get to the store before he does or he’ll have more ammunition. He’s kicked me off the case, Heather, there’s nothing I can do to help you on this.”
“Go!” And then he hung up.
Heather dropped the phone from her ear and stared at it for a few seconds. The screen went blank, and she blinked. “Amy,” she yelled. “We’ve got to go. Like now.”
“What happened?” Amy hurried through to her, concern hopping behind her bright, blue eyes.