Table of Contents
One dead mother . . .
Drew knocked on the door.
“Mom? You in there?”
Drew turned the knob and pushed the door open wide. He and Linda stepped into the room. One of them gasped but I wasn't sure which one. The rest of us hurried into horror.
Madeline Forsyth was on her back on her bed, a black-and-white checkered scarf pulled tight around her neck. One hand was dipped in a puddle of blood on the bed and the other hand hung over the side, dripping blood from what looked like wounds on her palm. Her grey face and vacant eyes told the rest of the story: she was way dead.
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Paige Shelton
FARM FRESH MURDER FRUIT Of ALL EVIL
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
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FRUIT OF ALL EVIL
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2011
Copyright Â© 2011 by Paige Shelton-Ferrell.
All rights reserved.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-47739-7
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to:
My agent, Jessica Faust, for being nothing less than extraordinary. My editor, Michelle Vega, whose vision is in tune with mineâI am so fortunate. Dan Craig, Berkley cover artist, who has twice now made me cry happy tears. Kristin del Rosario, interior designerâthe roosters are the best. Publicists Megan Schwartz and Kaitlyn Kennedy for spreading the word.
Paula Brog for her unbridled enthusiasm and her promotional expertise, but mostly for her friendship. Jacquelyn Orton, Kourtney Heintz, and Rob Kvidt for doing everything in their power to make sure the whole world knows about my books.
Patrick Baschnagel for his military expertise. I hope the liberties I took with military procedures and rules are forgiven. All mistakes are solely mine.
Heidi Baschnagel for her wisdom and sense of humor.
Marilyn Peterson for the Peach Delight recipe and the amazing letter I will keep forever.
Sisters-in-law, Astrid Ferrell, Carole Garcia, Katherine Ferrell, and Francis McCorkel, for their enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge. Oh, and for one day saying, “Lavender is like sage, but with class.”
Krista Diez, for reading and offering such smart guidance.
Wendy Leigh, Anne Hollman, and everyone at The King's English Book Shoppe. Your support of local authors is phenomenal.
My cousin Lisa Light and her friend Adrienne Burgoyne, for knowing what needed to be done and doing it.
Chris Martin at Fat Spike Lavender Company, for answering questions and making sure Ian's cookie recipe had the right flower.
My parents, Chuck and Beverly Shelton. They tell everyone about their daughter's books. They've always been my biggest cheerleaders. That's pretty terrific.
My husband, Charlie, and my son, Tyler. I love you, and you supply me with amazing stories every day!
Visions of strung-together cherry tomatoes danced in my
head; corn kernels tossed in celebration and then strewn across a dirt floor. Then, a gigantic pumpkin carved into the shape of Cinderella's carriage, but with seeds mistakenly left inside. And finally, I'm in my favorite overalls that have been mysteriously Bedazzled.
It was a waking nightmare.
But that was just a state of horror taking over. I couldn't believe what I had agreed to do. A wedding? What was I thinking? Why had I said yes so quickly?
I'd had plenty of practice, of course. Twice in front of the justice of the peace made me an old pro at commitments of the heart, temporary though they might have been. But this time it was going to be with a pastor and a walk down an aisle; something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, something differentâfor me at least, and something that was going to require a farmers' market theme.
The only good news: it wasn't my wedding. Phew!
Instead, I'd agreed to be my good friend, Linda McMahon's, twice-divorced maid/matron of honor (we'd simplified the title and decided to call me her “Number One”) when she married Superman look-alike Drew Forsyth. In five short days.
The nuptials were on the fast track because of a surprise, but not the old-fashioned kind. Though I'd only recently learned exactly what Drew's job was, I'd always guessed it was something mysterious and important. When I'd first met him, he and Linda never quite answered the question “What does Drew do for a living?” But as time went on and we became closer, and Drew seemed to be a more permanent part of Linda's life, I learned that Super Drew was in the
(said in hushed tones). For a while, that was all I knew, but about a month ago I'd learned that he was part of a “military special operations” group. I still didn't have the specifics, but I was terribly impressed. It was only within the last twenty-four hours that Linda had confided in me that Drew was a Navy SEAL. My level of impressed shot even higher.
It wasn't so much that Drew's job was a secret; it was that what he did when he was performing his job was usually a top top top secret. People who did those sorts of things just didn't go about sharing the details of their duties, so it was easier to keep everything about it close to the flak jacket, so to speak.
Drew had been called to duty, which for the rest of us meant Drew would be leaving for some time to go places we couldn't know about, to do things we couldn't know about. He'd been preparing Linda for his certain departure, but it still was a surprise when the call came.
And when it did, it solidified for Drew that he didn't want to leave without first making Linda his wife. She agreed.
Yes, it was very romantic and the stuff of movies with heart-wrenching symphony music, but five days wasn't a lot of time to pull off a wedding.
Their “I do's” could have been handled easily with a quick trip to the justice of the peaceâI knew the address by heartâbut Linda wanted a real wedding, with guests and all the trimmings. Considering the short amount of time available to plan and prepare, the ceremony wasn't expected to be lavish by any means. But as her Number One, I was responsible for helping make her dream day . . . well, dreamy.
Of course, the ceremony would take place at Bailey's, the farmers' market where we both worked. And the other vendors would help, so it might not be too terrible. But still, being in charge of someone else's “happiest day of her life” is a big job; one I wasn't so sure I'd be able to handle successfully.
I hadn't even been in my fraternal twin sister's wedding. Allison and her husband, Tom Reynolds, had, in deference to our hippie parents, gotten married on a South Carolina beach as the sun rose over the ocean horizon. We'd gathered together, but no one had to do anything beforehandâlike plan things, decorate, or help pick out dresses and the like.
I was ill-equipped for such duty. When Linda told me she wanted all food, flowers, and other decorations for the wedding to come from Bailey's, my first thought was
Shoot, I don't even know what she means by “other decorations