Death of a Cupcake Queen

BOOK: Death of a Cupcake Queen
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DEATH OF A CUPCAKE QUEEN
Suddenly rising above the din of the dogs barking was a man's anguished cry.
It was coming from the kitchen.
The swinging doors burst open and Charles McNally, his arms raised in the air, his face a frozen mask of grief and horror, stumbled out.
He could barely speak.
He just pointed toward the kitchen.
Leading the charge, Hayley dashed across the room with Liddy, Nykki and Sabrina close on her heels. They were followed by a swarm of other startled and curious classmates. They all poured into the kitchen and stopped short at the grisly sight.
Ivy Foster was lying face down on the floor surrounded by her signature butter cream cupcakes as her devoted pack of tiny toy poodles named after the seven dwarves danced around her body yipping and yapping and howling in a panicked frenzy . . .
Books by Lee Hollis
DEATH OF A KITCHEN DIVA
 
DEATH OF A COUNTRY FRIED REDNECK
 
DEATH OF A COUPON CLIPPER
 
DEATH OF A CHOCOHOLIC
 
DEATH OF A CHRISTMAS CATERER
 
DEATH OF A CUPCAKE QUEEN
 
 
 
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
A Hayley Powell
Food & Cocktails Mystery
DEATH OF A CUPCAKE QUEEN
LEE HOLLIS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Chapter 1
Sabrina Merryweather was not the kind of woman you kept waiting for long. And Hayley was panic-stricken that she was already a half-hour late meeting her for an after work cocktail. Which explained how the back left tire of Hayley's Kia had just run up over the curb as she tried to quickly parallel park outside her brother Randy's bar, Drinks Like a Fish.
Hayley had been delayed at the office by an irate caller complaining about his name being misspelled in today's
Island Times
Police Beat column.
Seriously?
You want accuracy in the report of your Driving Under the Influence conviction?
Unbelievable.
Hayley checked her watch as she jumped out of the car and slammed the door shut. She dashed forward but was slung back suddenly by something snagging against her shoulder blade. She had been in such a hurry she didn't notice she had shut her bag inside the car.
The leather strap attached to the bag nearly dislocated her shoulder.
Hayley lost her balance and landed butt first on the pavement, her arm still dangling from the now limp strap.
She composed herself and casually glanced around to make sure no one had seen her embarrassing pratfall.
No such luck.
A couple of gum-chewing skateboarders in shorts hanging low enough to see the label of their Jockey underwear, nudged each other with their elbows and guffawed at Hayley, who was now using the strap to haul herself up on her feet.
She hit the unlock button on her remote, slowly opened the car door, and daintily removed her faux Fendi bag that had been trapped inside.
As the snickers and giggles a few feet away persisted, Hayley brushed herself off, locked her car again, and marched inside the bar, head held high.
God, it was only Monday.
She found Sabrina sitting alone at a table next to the wall, sipping a cocktail, a bright smile on her face.
Whatever happy pill she was on, Hayley wanted a prescription.
Pronto.
Sabrina had left her post as county coroner months ago after her husband filed for divorce in order to reassess her life and figure out where she wanted to go from here. Since that time, Hayley hadn't seen much of her at all, which to be truthful, wasn't such a bad thing considering Hayley had never been all that fond of her former high school nemesis Sabrina in the first place. Although Sabrina's memory of her astonishingly bad behavior back then was fuzzy at best, Hayley had a far more clear-eyed picture of Sabrina's past cruelties. But after seeing a self-help segment on the
Today Show
about how letting go of grudges helped you live longer, Hayley tried her best to forgive and forget.
Or at least forgive.
Forget?
Never.
When Sabrina called Hayley earlier in the day to suggest they meet for a drink and catch up after she got off work, Hayley just didn't have the energy to come up with an excuse not to go.
So she just said,
yes
.
One drink.
After all, she'd be lying if she said she wasn't at least a little bit curious to know what Sabrina had been up to all these months.
She had heard rumors.
One person told her that Sabrina took a trip to see the Seven Wonders of the World but got waylaid in Machu Picchu with a stomach virus before giving up and coming home only having seen one wonder.
Another said she was launching her own medical practice again in Bangor, which was one hour north of the island.
There was also the Debbie Downer who insisted Sabrina had never fully recovered from her divorce and was holed up in her house crying over her leftover frozen wedding cake like some demented, haggard, jilted bride from an old Charles Dickens novel.
Hayley knew that last one was an outright lie because the Sabrina who was beaming from ear to ear as she sat down across from her at a corner table was a far cry from the emotional car wreck some of her detractors were making her out to be.
“Hayley, you
must
have a sip of this Peanut Butter Cup Martini. It is so decadently delicious, you will just die!” Sabrina cooed as she pushed the glass by its stem over in front of Hayley.
“Let's hope not,” Hayley said, lifting the glass and taking a tiny sip.
There was no arguing her point.
The drink was orgasmic.
“Kudos to your brother for another to-die-for cocktail recipe,” Sabrina said, retrieving the glass back from Hayley and downing another gulp as she closed her eyes and savored the taste.
Hayley noticed a half-empty bottle of Sam Adams on the table. “Is someone else joining us?”
Sabrina popped her eyes back open and nodded, excited. “Yes. A friend. He's in the men's room.”
“I see. And he's just a
friend
?”
A spurt of giggles escaped Sabrina's lips. She turned her face slightly away like an embarrassed school girl. Hayley couldn't remember Sabrina being so coquettish and demure.
She had suddenly gone from Dickens to a full-fledged Bronte heroine.
“Well, now you've certainly gotten my attention,” Hayley said, smiling as she signaled to her brother behind the bar to bring over her usual Jack and Coke.
Randy gave her a wave and then grabbed a bottle of whiskey off the shelf.
“Is he local? Is it someone I know?” Hayley asked Sabrina, who was now dragging her fingertip across the rim of her martini glass gathering up the chocolate that lined it and then sliding her finger into her mouth and licking it off.
“No. I met him when I was visiting my sister in San Diego a few months ago. We were having lunch at an outdoor cafe in the Gas Lamp district and he jogged by. Our eyes met. But he kept going. It was a fleeting fantasy on my part. How could this strapping hunk of pure masculinity ever be interested in
me
? But then, without warning, he doubled back and introduced himself. My sister asked him to join us and he did! We've been inseparable ever since!”
Hayley glanced up to see a young man, not far past the legal drinking age, walking from the restrooms back toward their table.
This couldn't be him.
He was striking.
Black hair.
Gorgeous smile.
And he was covered in tattoos.
His arms.
The back of his hands.
And what Hayley could see of his smooth bronzed chest through his open silk white shirt that he wore with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
He wore thick black glasses and had two perfectly round holes in his ear lobe.
He was a sight to behold.
Hayley normally wasn't a big fan of body art and piercings. But this kid, this lean yet muscled Adonis, wore it so well.
When he smiled, it was as if the whole bar was suddenly bathed in a heavenly light.
Hayley's heart fluttered.
Not because she was attracted to him.
This was male beauty in its finest form and she was just appreciating it.
Oh, who was she kidding?
Of course she was attracted to him.
But he was almost young enough to be her son.
He stopped at the table and massaged Sabrina's shoulders. She melted at his touch. Her face turned crimson and out came another girlish giggle.
“You must be Hayley. I've been anxious to meet you. Mason Cassidy,” the Adonis said in a deep baritone voice.
Hayley stood up and held out her hand, but Mason brushed it away and enveloped her in a tight hug. She could feel his rock hard chest as he squeezed her body tightly into his.
After releasing her from his iron grip, Mason gave her a playful wink. “Sorry. I'm a big hugger.”
Oh, this kid was good.
Hayley suddenly found herself giggling.
It was contagious.
They both took a seat at the table.
His bright smile still blinded both of them.
Randy nearly walked into an adjacent table as he delivered Hayley's cocktail, his eyes glued to the handsome stranger. Somehow he managed to set it down in front of her without spilling too much of it.
“Thank you, Randy,” Hayley said.
Randy never once looked at her. He was staring at the painted god with a laserlike focus. “Can I get you another beer?”
Mason picked up the bottle and examined it. “I'm not even halfway through this one yet. Are you trying to get me drunk?”
He winked at Randy, whose knees nearly buckled.
“Why? What would happen if I got you drunk?”
“Thank you, Randy. I think we're fine for now,” Hayley said, placing a hand on his hip and giving him a subtle yet forceful send off.
“Just yell if you need anything, and I do mean
anything
!” he called out as he walked back behind the bar.
“For heaven's sake, Randy, you have a husband!” Hayley called after him.
“I may be happily married, but that doesn't mean I'm dead! There's no harm in window shopping even if I'm not going to buy anything!”
“So you two met in San Diego?” Hayley asked.
“Yes, she swept me off my feet,” Mason said, cupping the back of Sabrina's neck and pulling her close so he could plant a soft, sweet kiss on her cheek.
“Mason works as a high diver at Sea World. He swims with porpoises. How sexy is that?” Sabrina said, squealing so high Hayley was surprised their glasses didn't shatter.
“Wow, that's very impressive,” Hayley said.
Truly impressed.
“Yes, he trained as an acrobat and even worked in a couple of those Cirque Du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. So you can just imagine how limber he is when it comes to you know what!” Sabrina said, now lowering her voice to the point where it was almost Kathleen Turner husky in order to make her point.
“Yes, I can. So there's no need to explain . . .”
“Neither of my fuddy-duddy former husbands had the tactile grace that Mason brings to the bedroom. Hell, Jerry sprained his back just coming from the toilet to the dresser where he keeps his condoms. We hadn't even started yet!”
Mason nuzzled Sabrina's neck with the tip of his nose. “You are so cute.”
“You know, Hayley, I never would have met Mason if I hadn't quit my job as county coroner. That was the best decision I have ever made.”
“I'm so happy for you, Sabrina. Really, I am.”
Hayley had to remind herself she, too, was blissfully happy dating the handsome town vet, Dr. Aaron Palmer.
Aaron was certainly a keeper.
Her relationship with him was an unexpected gift that she treasured.
But like her brother said, she wasn't dead.
Mason Cassidy, with his caramel complexion, suave manner, and lovely features, was certainly fun to look at and admire.
Good for Sabrina.
She deserved a little happiness after two ugly divorces.
Sabrina clasped Mason's hand and turned to Hayley. “You know, I seriously considered skipping out on our high school reunion this year even though I've been on the planning committee. I just couldn't bear the thought of my former classmates judging me and whispering behind my back about my two failed marriages and collapsed career. But now, with Mason by my side, I think I'm ready to face anyone. Even those mean bitches who were so rotten to us during high school. Am I right, Hayley?”
Hayley was speechless.
Rotten to
us
?
Sabrina was the kind of ultimate mean girl who literally inspired the best-selling guide to adolescent torture,
Queen Bees and Wannabes
!
Hayley nodded, deciding it was best not to poke a hole in Sabrina's happy mood.
“I am ready to introduce the new Sabrina Merryweather to the world in all her glory! I can just feel it! This reunion is going to be history-making!”
Sabrina had no idea just how on the mark she was with her comment.
Their twentieth high school reunion was certainly going to make history.
Only not in the way she imagined.
Showing off her hot new young boyfriend was soon going to take a back seat to a dead body turning up even before the class president's welcome speech was over.
BOOK: Death of a Cupcake Queen
9.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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