Authors: Josi S. Kilpack
Tags: #Cozy Mystery
© 2010 Josi S. Kilpack
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Deseret Book Company, P. O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130. This work is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church or of Deseret Book Company.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kilpack, Josi S.
Key lime pie / Josi S. Kilpack.
Summary: Part-time detective and full-time food lover Sadie Hoffmiller has traveled to the Florida Keys to help her new friend, Eric, track down the whereabouts of his missing daughter, Megan.
ISBN 978-1-60641-813-0 (paperbound)
1. Hoffmiller, Sadie (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Cooks—Fiction. 3. Missing persons—Investigation—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
Worzalla Publishing Co., Stevens Point, WI
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Lee—the best decision I ever made
Table of Contents
Sadie Hoffmiller looked up from where she was planting marigolds in the courthouse flower beds—part of the community service she’d been sentenced to after an unfortunate situation she’d been involved in a few months earlier. The sun blinded her, forcing her to lift a gloved hand to shield her eyes even though she knew the voice. Eric Burton had received the same sentence for the same reason—co-conspirators is what they’d been called.
“Hi there,” Sadie responded, sitting back on her heels and attempting to smooth her hair before realizing her glove was covered in dirt and therefore made whatever state her hair was in even worse. “I thought you’d finished your community service on Monday.”
The judge could have been much harder on both of them. As it was, Eric had made short work of his three hundred hours, sometimes doing up to twenty hours a week in addition to running his locksmith business. Sadie had tried to keep up with him, but she still had a few days left.
“And how would you know that?” Eric asked, giving her a playful smile. “Or have you been asking about me?”
Sadie felt her cheeks heat up for no good reason at all and went back to her flowers. “Actually I was excited to have a little peace and quiet around here. I’ve been counting down your hours more than I’ve been counting down my own.”
Eric laughed out loud, making it impossible for Sadie to feign offense at their banter. He lowered himself to the grass beside her, and Sadie found herself watching him out of the corner of her eye. Spring had just come out of hiding in Colorado and the grass was still a mottled green and brown. It was warm for April, mid-sixties, and the citizens of Garrison were taking full advantage of it.
Eric lay on his back, supporting his weight with his elbows while lifting his face to the sun that was almost directly overhead. His long hair was pulled into his usual ponytail at the base of his neck, and he wore jeans and a gray, long-sleeved T-shirt with a green alien head on the front.
Sadie watched him a little too long before going back to her marigolds. Sometimes he was flirty, and now and again he was downright brazen in his attention to her, and yet he backpedaled quickly when those moments came around, leaving a bewildered Sadie in his wake.
“I told Tami I’d keep helping with Wednesday’s food delivery until someone else breaks the law and takes my place,” Eric said, interrupting her thoughts. “Apparently Garrison doesn’t have enough of us fringe citizens.”
He wasn’t calling Sadie a fringe citizen, was he? She glanced at him quickly and realized he probably was. He probably thought it was a compliment. “It’s generous of you to keep helping her out,” she said.
“It was generous of you to give her the cookies. She insisted I have one,” Eric said after a few seconds. She could feel him looking at her, and she imagined his blue eyes were even brighter than usual, thanks to the sun. But she didn’t allow herself to look at him and instead became even more intent on the flower she was patting into place.
When she didn’t answer, Eric spoke again. “What kind of cookies are they?”
She still didn’t answer.
“I’m not leaving till you tell me, so you may as well fess up.”
Sadie squinted at him as she once again sat back on her heels and let out a breath. “No one was supposed to know they were from me,” she said quietly, embarrassed to be found out. “They were an anonymous thank-you gift. I didn’t want Tami to feel indebted.”
“If it makes you feel better, she hasn’t figured it out yet,” Eric said with a wry grin. “I’ll keep your secret if you give me the recipe.”
Not since Sadie’s late husband, Neil, had she met a man who preferred the kitchen to the La-Z-Boy, and while Eric insisted that he loved to cook, Sadie had seen his house and had a hard time believing he could cook in such a mess. She didn’t like to doubt him, but there were so many ways that Eric confused her. Cooking was only one of them.
Sadie looked up at him. “So? What?”
“The recipe,” Eric said, shaking his head slightly. “Are you going to give it to me, or do I have to tell Tami she’s got to find a way to thank you for the thank-you.”
“You’re impossible.” In some ways he was like a younger brother, teasing and goading her all the time, and yet . . . in other ways he was nothing like a brother at all. Not one little bit.
“They’re my Kickin’ Craisin cookies,” Sadie said in surrender.
“Kickin’ Craisin, huh?” Eric said, squinting thoughtfully. “Where’s the kick come from?”
“Cayenne pepper,” Sadie said, unable to hide a smile. She loved people’s reactions when she told them the secret ingredient.
Eric’s eyebrows shot up. “In a cookie?”
Sadie smiled even wider. “Just a little. You want zing not zoinks.”
Eric threw his head back and laughed before sobering instantly.
“Am I interrupting something?”
Sadie looked up. Pete Cunningham, her sorta-kinda-boyfriend-maybe, was blocking the sun. She smiled, but felt as though she’d been caught doing something she oughtn’t. “Pete,” she said, hoping that by making her voice sound lighter she could cover up her discomfort. “Is it four o’clock already?”
“Almost,” Pete said. He was dressed in black slacks and a royal blue shirt that looked quite striking beneath his black overcoat. He cut a very different figure than Eric did, and he didn’t look all that happy to find them talking together. He turned to Eric. “Mr. Burton,” he said with a polite nod. Too polite.
“Detective,” Eric said just as coolly. He pushed himself up to a sitting position while Sadie patted another flower into place.
“I’ve only got a few more flowers to get in the ground,” Sadie said. “It’s going to get cold again tomorrow, and I want to get these planted before the weather turns. I didn’t realize it was so late.”
Pete put his hands in his pockets. “It’s all right. We’ve got a few minutes.”
“I can finish this for you, if you’d like,” Eric said, his tone suspiciously formal.
Sadie turned to look at him in surprise.
“If I hadn’t been distracting you, you wouldn’t be running late.”
Sadie sighed and gave him a reproachful look. His gallantry was only a ploy to make the point that
been distracting her from the date she had with
He was so not worth the thoughts she couldn’t seem to get out of her head about him. However, she chose to take him at his word. To do anything else would allow him an opportunity to make even more uncomfortable comments.
“That would be great,” she said, brushing off her gloves before removing them and handing them to Eric. He frowned slightly, betraying the fact that he’d hoped to draw this out a little longer. He took the proffered gloves as Sadie pushed herself up, wincing at the cramps in her knees from kneeling so long. Pete reached down to help her, and she raised her left hand toward him.
Eric put a hand on her arm. “Your shoulder?”
“Oh, right.” Sadie lifted her right hand instead. As part of the unfortunate situation that had landed her with the community service in the first place, she’d torn a ligament in her shoulder. It had made remarkable progress over the last several weeks but it was still tender. Why was it Eric had remembered and Pete hadn’t?
“Give me a couple minutes to clean up and I’ll be ready,” she said, untying the apron she’d worn to protect her clothes. She and Pete were going to Baxter’s for an early dinner and then planned to catch a movie at the Capitol Theatre, which played classics on Wednesday nights. Tonight they were featuring
Out of Africa
and Sadie’s best friend, Gayle, had dropped Sadie off at the courthouse for her community service so that Pete could pick her up and they wouldn’t have to worry about Sadie’s car.
“No need to rush,” Pete said, smiling at her with those hazel eyes she liked so much. Pete was wonderful—kind, smart, supportive, and stable—everything she wanted. And yet, there was something that was either too much or too little. Because of . . . whatever it was, their relationship hadn’t progressed much over the last few months. But they were in a comfortable place and for now they both seemed okay with that. “I’ve got a few phone calls to make,” Pete continued, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek. “I’ll wait for you in the car if that’s okay.”
Sadie nodded her agreement and looked down at a quiet Eric while Pete headed toward the parking lot. “I appreciate your help finishing up,” she said to Eric, feeling bad he was digging in the dirt even though it wasn’t her fault exactly. He had chosen not to wear the gloves; they were next to him on the ground while he worked bare-handed.