Groomed for Murder (Going to the Dogs)

 

Groomed for Murder

Book #2

Going to the Dogs Series

 

By Zoe Dawson

 

Published by Blue Moon Creative, LLC

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright 2012 by Blue Moon Creative, LLC

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Mercedes, Louboutins, Black Shack Burger

 

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Find Zoe Dawson on the web!

Website:
www.zoedawson.com/

Twitter:
www.twitter.com/ZoeDawsonAuthor

Facebook:
www.facebook.com/zoe.dawsonauthor1

Goodreads:
www.goodreads.com/zoedawson

Blog:
http://zoedawsonauthor.blogspot.com/

Cover Design by Robin Ludwig Design, Inc.

http://www.rldprint.com/

 

Acknowledgments

I'd like to thank Gail Barrett and Dare Cook for all their many, many sessions of reading this book over and over again. Thank you, also, to Faith Freewoman for her excellent advice and editing skills.

Dedication

To the one and only Pink. I will love you forever. I’ll see you again at the Rainbow Bridge.

Chapter One

“You stupid cow!”

Brooke yanked her gaze away from the computer screen, her heart plummeting to her toes like a stone. Kristen Wright-Davis.
Not again.
With a surge of adrenaline, she raced out of the office toward the grooming room, where her nemesis shrieked in short, staccato blasts, punctuated by the yapping of her hyper toy poodle, Mimi.

“I have asked you repeatedly to sedate Mimi, Mrs. Wright-Davis.” Her groomer’s voice wobbled and Brooke moved faster to stave off disaster.

Pushing the door open, Brooke wasn’t surprised to find that Kristen—a life-sized, hard-gloss, Barbie-zilla—had backed poor, disheveled, worn out Rachel into a corner physically as well as verbally. Her groomer was buckling under the pressure and looked like she was about to burst into tears. Kristen loomed over Rachel, her tanned, pampered skin in stark contrast to the groomer’s pale face.

The hair on the back of Brooke’s neck popped up like porcupine quills. How dare that self-absorbed witch attack poor Rachel!

“Kristen—”

"Don't talk back to me, dog groomer girl. You are nothing but a service provider, and you aren’t entitled to an opinion!" Kristen snapped, wagging her head like Mick Jagger on steroids. “Look what you have done to my Mimi!” She pointed a trembling finger at her noisy dog for emphasis. “This is outrageous! She has a show this weekend! You have ruined any chance she had to win. You stupid, stupid cow.”

Brooke stepped forward, summoning her most soothing manner. “Kristen, why don’t you and I discuss how we might solve this problem to your satisfaction?”

The woman’s head snapped around and homed in on the new target, just as Brooke hoped she would. As smooth as silk, Brooke maneuvered herself between Kristen and a cowed Rachel, squeezing her groomer’s shoulder reassuringly as she ushered her out of the room with a quick whisper. “Go hide in my office.”

“Look at what she’s done to my baby. It-it-it’s intolerable,” Kristen screeched, pointing again with a blood red-tipped finger, then settling her fists at the waist of her tight leather pants with a huff. Her collagen-puffed lips evolved from a pout to a nasty snarl.

Brooke looked down at the spoiled furball that still yapped and growled and snapped the air, straining to reach Brooke and sink in her needle teeth. The tension inside the small room scraped against Brooke’s skin. Obviously Mimi was simply reacting to the tension and to her owner’s state of mind.

And then Brooke finally took a close look at the poodle’s cut. What a disaster. Fur was missing in clumps scattered throughout her otherwise precise and professional show cut.

Brooke mentally threw up her hands. Half of this animal’s problem was that she had such an indulgent, spoiled, pretentious woman for an owner. The other half was she had an indulgent, spoiled, pretentious woman for an owner. Maybe Kristen should be the one to take a sedative before coming into Pawlish.

“I’m so sorry this happened just before a show.” Brooke cleared her throat, reaching for a more mollifying tone. “I sympathize with your disappointment. I would be happy to offer you six months of grooming for free, and I’ll refund the full amount of the entrance fee as compensation.”

Kristen’s eyes narrowed and her face darkened. “Six months free? Entrance fee? My baby looks like this, and…and you
insult
me with six months of grooming free and money? That’s a slap in the face. I will never use your cut-rate joint again.”

She grabbed Mimi and stuffed the yapping, snarling bundle into her Louis Vuitton dog carrier. Mimi shoved her head up over the zipped closure and snapped at Brooke again as Kristen swept past her toward the door.

Brooke’s first line of defense and strongest skill was her ability to defuse tense situations, to turn snarling lions into pussycats. It was definitely time to put her lifetime of practice to work as skillfully as she could. Fast.

As the young wife of an older, wealthy, and prominent lawyer, Kristen had a great deal of influence in New York City, especially in the social circles where Brooke found most of her clientele. It would be all too easy for this woman to bad-mouth Pawlish to all her friends and sabotage the business Brooke had made successful by providing unparalleled and skillful service.

Staying calm and thinking creatively should do the trick. “Kristen, my policy is that no client leaves Pawlish unhappy. Let’s work together to make that happen.”

Kristen turned around and stared over Brooke’s shoulder. Brooke looked behind her, frowning. What was she looking at? Rachel stood at the office door, tear tracks marking her face. She was the sweetest, most helpful girl, and was the only one at Pawlish who would work with Kristen’s unruly poodle. Brooke’s heart turned over, and she wanted to go comfort her, but she had to deal with Kristen first.

With a hard-edged, steady gaze at Rachel, Kristen snarled, “Fire that stupid cow.”

Brooke’s head whipped around, her face stiff with shock, her jaw slack. Rachel’s sobbing and the slam of the office door struck her heart with a hard, painful thump. Was this woman serious? Fire Rachel, an employee who had been with her since she’d started her business, who took on any task that was asked of her, who worked so hard that Brooke had to shoo her home to her kids? Brooke had no words—well, she did, but those words weren’t professional. Kristen’s callousness was simply mind-boggling.

Fire exploded in the pit of her stomach and flashed up her torso, heating her face. It wasn’t enough that Kristen insisted on bringing her nasty, fidgety, contrary little dog for grooming without sedating her first. Noooo, this woman—who had more money than she could spend—wanted Brooke to fire a hard-working, very competent employee just to satisfy her spiteful whim. Kristen’s smug look only fanned the flames of Brooke’s determination. Rachel wasn’t going anywhere.

For the first time since she’d opened her doors, Brooke decided this particular customer was
not
right.

“Oh, Kristen, there’s no need for such drastic action.” Brooke waved her hand in dismissal. “We can come up with something much more palatable. Like a yummy basket of homemade, totally organic doggie treats for sweet Mimi? How does that sound?” She needed to unclench her jaw so the next words she spoke sounded more calm and self-assured.

Kristen tilted her head. “Ahhhh…you’re placating me, and usually I’m all for that. A little groveling always makes my day. But in this case, no. I insist you give me what I want. And I
always
get what I want.” Her smile was full of sunny, self-satisfied condemnation.

“I’m trying to make amends. Please, let’s put this behind us.” Brooke smiled, too, trying to extend an olive branch without wishing at the same time that Kristen would choke on it.

Kristen wrinkled her nose in mock cheer, but her eyes projected just plain mean girl. “Ooooh, you’re so cute when you’re insolent.” Kristen took a step closer, getting right into Brooke’s face. Her eyes narrowed, her voice low with a steely calm. “You’ve made a big mistake, Brooke. I’ll ruin you any way I can. Just wait and see if I won’t.” With that, she flipped her unnatural blonde hair and flounced out.

Oh, shit, that chick was scary.

Brooke took a deep breath to calm her pounding heart. Surely she could find a way to win Kristen over. She’d been able to convert cranky old Mr. Witherspoon into a fan when she was a kid. If she could do that, Kristen should be easy. It was just a matter of time.

Brooke dragged her hands through her hair, rolling her eyes. Turning to her receptionist, she said, "Really, can a dog have a bad hair day?"

"Maybe," her receptionist laughed softly, “but I'd wager that poor Mr. Wright-Davis didn't get the first place trophy with that wife."

#

Two days later Brooke carefully backed herself and her armload of goodies in through the front door of Stunning, a West Village boutique that featured indie wedding dress designers. A burst of chill October wind followed her into the shop, reminding her that Thanksgiving and Christmas were mere weeks away.

She somehow managed not to drop the container of mini bacon and mushroom quiches she’d baked that morning, or the bottle of champagne and container of orange juice for the mimosas. Thank goodness she’d stashed the white-with-silver-wedding-bells-wrapped box in one of her canvas totes to protect the cheery homemade bow, and the champagne flutes and small plates in the other.

An attendant greeted her with a cheery smile and offered to carry something. Brooke flashed her a grateful grin, handed over the box of quiches and one tote, and followed the woman into a fitting room salon where one of her best friends, Callie Lassiter, would spend the next hour searching for the perfect wedding gown.

Callie was part of Brooke’s circle of dog park friends. Callie had finally met her next door neighbor, popular nightclub owner and sex god Owen McKay, when her Great Dane Jack had gotten Owen’s Great Dane Jill pregnant last year. After an eight-month engagement, Callie and Owen had set the date for the beginning of August, eleven months away, and the whirlwind of planning and preparation for The Event was just beginning.

Setting down her array of mouthwatering breakfast goodies, Brooke shifted out of her warm wool coat and set it on the hook near the door. Then she carefully created an elegant display on the sideboard with the morning hors d’oeuvres, bubbly, and juice.

As she worked, excitement built until the happiness for her friend spilled over the top. She relished again the hours she’d spent putting Callie’s gift together. She’d stayed up late last night to finish it and had fallen into bed exhausted at about 2 am. But it had been worth it. It was for her best friend, after all.

But this morning she couldn’t quite understand why she had this…unsettled feeling. In spite of their wildly differing tastes, she and her circle of friends would unite in their love for Callie to help find the perfect wedding gown.

But still, in spite of these inner reassurances, her heart tightened, her chest ached, and her eyes watered as a lump formed in her throat. She brushed it all away like cobwebs in the rafters. She was just being emotional, that was all.

She rubbed the back of her neck and sighed. She could attribute the unwelcome emotions to the hellish week at Pawlish and the hullabaloo over Kristen Wright-Davis and her yappy, cantankerous, high-strung toy poodle.

Thankfully, the incident with Wright-Davis appeared to have blown over. At least she hadn’t heard from her, and everything at Pawlish had gone back to normal. She'd sent Kristen a very expensive dog basket with her favorite designer goodies, with an extra helping of her famous homemade dog biscuits and a note of apology. She resented having to placate the woman, but with the expansion of her doggie spa and the extra financial burden it had generated, Brooke couldn’t afford to have Kristen denigrating Pawlish to her rich friends. Word of mouth was a powerful force.

Brooke sighed and revisited a favorite fantasy, of a world where everyone got along with everyone else, and there was no need for stress and discord.

Kristen had asked too much. Brooke would easily sacrifice her very soul to mend the situation, but she wasn’t going to throw Rachel to the wolves for that harpy.

She made herself a mimosa and sipped the fruity drink, enjoying how the bubbles fizzed under her nose. She was determined to enjoy every minute of this day, and quit thinking about problems that had solved themselves.

As she folded down wearily onto one of the comfortable benches that lined the room she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her dark hair had lost some of its shine, there were dark circles under her eyes, and her mouth looked a bit pinched. Suddenly the exhaustion surged over her, leaving her a bit dizzy as the lack of sleep abruptly caught up with her.

“Oh, Brooke,” Callie said as she slipped off her coat and took in the elegant display of treats. “It looks delicious! But…you’re so busy. You shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble.”

“It was no trouble at all.”

“I’ll have one of those, too,” Callie’s mother, Kate said as Brooke rose, gave Callie a quick hug, and began to make the mimosas. Kate’s eyes twinkled at Brooke while she took Callie’s coat, hanging them both on a hook by the door.

“You ready to try on wedding gowns?” Brooke asked as she handed mimosas to both her fresh-faced friend and her lovely mother.

“As ready as I’ll ever be. You know I don’t usually get dolled up. I just hope I don’t let Owen down.”

Brooke laughed. “Oh, men don’t care about weddings. They just want it over with.”

Callie looked nonplussed for a moment.

“Oh, not in a bad way,” Brooke bit her lip, feeling like an idiot. She waved her hand to erase the comment.

“They just want to get to the good stuff,” Harper added as she playfully shouldered Brooke aside and made herself a mimosa. She hugged Kate and Callie and lifted her glass in a salute to Brooke.

Harper Sinclair was the dog park group’s socialite. She enjoyed doing charity work, judging dog shows, and showing her gorgeous standard poodle, Blue.

“Speaking of the good stuff…” Poe spoke from the doorway as she whipped out a bottle of champagne, and Brooke laughed and gestured to the one she’d brought, saying “Great minds, Poe!”

“Awww, Brooke, you’re always prepared. Oh, well, now we have double the champagne for double the fun.” She gave Callie a hug and traded the bottle for a sunny orange mimosa.

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