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Authors: Melissa F. Miller

Rosemary's Gravy

BOOK: Rosemary's Gravy
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Rosemary's Gravy
Rosemary's Gravy
Melissa F. Miller
Brown Street Books

Rosemary’s Gravy

A We Sisters Three Mystery

Bestselling Author

Melissa F. Miller

For more information about Melissa or to sign up for new release emails,

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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 Melissa F. Miller

All rights reserved.

Published by Brown Street Books.

Brown Street Books eBook ISBN: 978-1-940759-09-8


s always
, I’m grateful to my editing team—in particular, Louis Maconi and Trevor Furrer. Several good friends read early drafts of this book and held my hand through the ‘Oh no, why did I decide to start a new series?’ moments. Heartfelt thanks go to my husband and kids for once again fending for themselves around deadlines. Thanks to Andy Brown for his fantastic cover design.

For my Dave


he day
I was framed for the murder of a movie star started out like an ordinary day.

I was up to my elbows in pomegranate seeds when Felix, my client’s impossibly hot stepson, strolled into the kitchen and flashed me a toothpaste-commercial-white grin. As usual, he was coming straight from swimming his morning laps in the infinity pool, which sat right at the edge of the canyons separating the Hollywood Hills from the commoners below. Also as usual, he hadn’t bothered to towel off, let alone get dressed. So he was basically naked and dripping water all over the terrazzo floor.

“Morning, Rosemary.”

I pinned my eyes on his to avoid letting my gaze travel down his tanned, muscled body. It wasn’t easy. “You’re wet, Felix. Careful you don’t slip on your way out.”

I consider myself to be a generally friendly person, particularly for a scientist, but something in Felix Patrick’s frequent, mostly-naked appearances in my place of work turned me into a flustered mess. I resisted the urge to push my glasses up on the bridge of my nose. Considering I haven’t worn glasses since I traded my coke-bottles for contacts in high school, it wasn’t too hard to ignore the old urge. But the impulse took me right back to a time when I was an awkward geek girl. Felix had that effect on me.

“Trying to get rid of me already?” He reached his long arms above his head, interlaced his fingers, then engaged his core in a deep stretch that set his muscles rippling and would have made even my youngest sister Thyme, the yoga master, jealous.

I coughed to cover a stupid giggle that was trying to escape my mouth. “No, I’m just busy. You know, working. Do you need something?”

“I’d love a glass of your awesome tangerine juice.”

I stifled a groan and wiped my stained hands on my apron. The entire Patrick family was hooked on the citrus juice that I laboriously hand squeezed every morning. Sure, it was deliciously sweet, with depth and just a hint of tangy goodness. But it took a mountain of tangerines and nearly an hour to yield a single pitcher. It had gotten so that my hands started to cramp and ache whenever I saw the color orange.

Stop whining,
I ordered myself as I reached into the refrigerator and pulled out the heavy crystal pitcher full of juice. Romantic comedy sensation Amber Patrick and her family could drink a river of the stuff if they wanted to. After all, the demanding movie star was paying me two hundred and fifty dollars an hour to whip up whatever meals her organic, vegan, gluten-free heart desired. She was my ticket out of debt and the holistic private chef business and back into the chemistry lab where I belonged. I should have been spending long hours researching the feasibility of creating metallic hydrogen, not wringing every last drop of juice out of a pile of tangerines.

I poured a scant shot of the liquid gold into a juice glass and handed it across the vast marble island to Felix.

He gulped it down so quickly that I doubt he even tasted it. Then he slammed the glass onto the counter with a satisfied sigh. “Ah, sweet and juicy. Just like someone I know.”

There was no way I was going to respond to
comment, so I returned my attention to the translucent, ruby-colored gems in the bowl in front of me.

“What’s that?” he asked, leaning in to look.

He was so close I could smell the pool chemicals mixing with his coconut-scented sunscreen.

“Pomegranate seeds. They’re for the appetizer for your mother’s dinner party tonight.” Locally harvested organic mushroom caps stuffed with pomegranate seeds and spinach. They were delicious. They’d be even better if Amber would let me add the goat cheese needed for just a hint of creamy richness, but that was a non-starter. Her frequent dinner guests had the dubious pleasure of following her restrictive diet.

“She’s not my mother,” Felix said stiffly, all his flirtation instantly vanishing. His face clouded.

“Right, sorry. I meant stepmother.”

He didn’t bother to respond. Instead he bolted from the kitchen without a backward glance, leaving a trail of water for the maid, Alayna, to mop up.

Relieved to have the distraction of Felix out of the kitchen, if not my mind, I turned to roasting the white sesame seeds for the chili garlic sauce that I planned to pair with the adorable baby eggplant I’d picked up at the market the day before. My cell phone chirped. I dumped the seeds into the bowl with the dried chilies and checked the display:

Yes, my middle sister’s name is Sage. My aging hippie parents went for the trifecta and named their three daughters Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme in homage to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”

“Hey, Sage,” I said as I checked the time. Nearly eight-thirty, so it was almost eleven-thirty in South Carolina. Her charges were probably sitting down to lunch.

Sage was working as a nanny – excuse me, attachment parenting consultant – for a well-heeled Hilton Head Island society family. Muffy Moore, wife of PGA golfer Chip Moore, was a true believer in the attachment parenting philosophy. The problem was that all that baby wearing, co-sleeping, and playing with Waldorf-approved cloth dolls really ate into her Junior League meetings and charity circuit galas in neighboring Charleston. Enter Sage. For a cool one hundred dollars an hour (plus room and board in the guest house), she did everything short of breast-feeding the Moore brood while their mama kept up her appearances and made the society page every week.

“Can you talk?” she asked.

“Literally just for a minute. Amber’s having a dinner party tonight.”

“Oh, too bad. Guess you can’t sneak out for your Five Guys burgers, huh?”

“Shut up!” I hissed, as if someone might hear her end of the conversation and discover my dark, fast food, meat-eating secret.

As a chemist turned holistic chef, I can make a compelling argument for eating a locally sourced, plant-based diet. Having been raised on a strict regime of tempeh, homemade yogurt, and very crunchy granola, I can also make a compelling argument for all things in moderation, including the occasional bacon cheeseburger with jalapeños and mushrooms. And by “occasional,” I mean daily.

Sage ignored my freak-out. “Tell me about the soirée. Is Hottie McSonny Boy going to be there?”

The scene in the kitchen flashed through my mind. “His name is Felix. I’m not sure he and Amber have the closest stepmother-stepson relationship.”

“Weird. Given how close they are in age, you’d think they’d be besties.”

I tried to hold back a snort of laughter. Felix was twenty-two, the same age as our baby sister, and Amber was twenty-five. Just a few months younger than me. His dad, of course, was in his fifties; I’d say the age difference was stark, but, you know, Hollywood.

“She’s having the cast from
Kiss Me, You Fool
over to celebrate. The movie wrapped last week.”
Hearing myself spout Hollywood lingo so casually made me want to gag.

Sage gasped sharply. “You mean you’re making that gross vegan food for
Clay Carlson?

I ignored the suggestion that my cooking might not be good enough for America’s heartthrob
du jour.
Even if being a chef wasn’t my calling, my food was good – really good, despite all the limitations posed by Amber’s dietary restrictions.

“Actors don’t eat anyway. They nibble. In extreme cases, they just inhale deeply.” As I shared this sad nugget of information, I reminded myself to contact the inner-city homeless shelters to find one willing to take the obscene quantities of uneaten food that would no doubt be left when the party ended.

“Still. How lucky are you to get to hang out with all those celebrities?”

If she only knew. I envied her, spending her days laughing and giggling with two adorable little kids. Whatever else you could say about the Moores, they seem to be a fairly well-adjusted and loving family considering how filthy rich they were. And unlike
some parents
they didn’t force-feed their children a diet of fruit-based cookie substitutes and daily meditation rituals. Yeah, it’s possible I’m still bitter about my childhood.

“Anyway, I only have a second. What’s up?” I asked, pushing aside the navel-gazing thoughts.

“How’d you like a visit from your favorite sister?” Her voice rose with excitement.

“Thyme’s coming to Los Angeles? When?” I needled her. The truth is that all three of us are pretty tight – probably a result of our being so close in age and having been homeschooled with no other available playmates.

“Har har. Seriously. Chip is playing in the Hollywood Celebrity Pro-Am this weekend. He’s already out there playing practice rounds. Muffy decided this morning she wants to fly out to watch the event and hit Rodeo Drive for some shopping. Skyler and Dylan asked to come, too, so we’re all coming.”

“That’s awesome.” I felt a smile spreading across my face.

“I know, right? I miss you.”

I missed her, too. I missed both of my sisters. We used to get together every other weekend, rotating among our apartments in Boston, DC, and New York. But last spring, our parents’ luxury eco-resort ran into financial trouble. Their response? They “gifted” the three of us the business and sailed off on their catamaran into international waters out of the reach of their creditors. Now my sisters and I were scrambling to pay the bills and facing a five-hundred-thousand-dollar balloon payment that would come due at the end of the year. It was enough to make a girl wish for diamonds in the soles of her footwear.

Thyme had been able to find a gig in Manhattan, but Sage and I had both had to say goodbye to our cute single girl pads and pull up stakes. The logical move would have been to walk away, but despite all the weirdness of our childhood, something about the seaside compound had a pull over all three of us. Out of some strange mixture of obligation and nostalgia, we’d agreed to save the resort. I’m sure Thyme, our resident psychologist, could tell me what that said about us. I made a mental note to be sure to never ask her.

Now instead of biweekly girls’ nights, we met once a quarter for a funereal conference with our grim-faced accountant and a quick tour of the resort to make sure the managers we hired weren’t stealing
much from the nearly empty coffers. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as trying new cocktail recipes and watching 90s movie marathons, let me assure you. But it was what we’d committed to do.

“Hey, do you want to meet Amber while you’re out here?”

She squealed. “Do you mean it? Yes!”

“Consider it done,” I promised. Of course, as it turned out, Sage would never get to meet her Hollywood idol. By the next morning, Amber would be dead. And I’d be the prime suspect in her murder.


was slicing
an eggplant into perfect rounds when Felix reappeared. He was fully clothed, which somehow managed to be a simultaneous relief and disappointment.

“Hey, I want to apologize for losing my temper earlier,” he said, giving me an easy smile.

“Feel free.” I kept my eyes on the cutting board and maintained my slicing rhythm.

“Feel free to what?”

I paused mid-cut and stared right into his emerald green eyes. “To apologize. You said you want to apologize, so go ahead.”

He laughed uncertainly. “I thought I just did.”

I felt my eyebrows shoot up my forehead and my mouth twist itself into a knot. My sisters call that my ‘cut the crap’ face. “Felix. Come on.”

He threw up his hands in mock surrender. “Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I’m really, truly,
sorry that I snapped at you, Rosemary.”

I tried to suppress my smile, but my mouth had its own ideas. “Apology accepted.”

“Good. I just hate it when people call that whore my mother.”

Did he just call Amber a whore?


He must have realized that I was completely flustered by his character assassination of my boss because he quickly said, “Listen, let’s just change the subject.”

“Let’s,” I agreed.

He flashed me another bazillion-watt grin. Then he leaned over the counter and pointed at the bowl of salted water sitting to my left. “Are you soaking the eggplant?” He furrowed his tanned brow in apparent confusion.

I wanted to tell him to stop that before it wrinkled his skin. Instead I said, “Yes. If you add salt to the water, it draws out some of the bitterness.” I dumped a handful of rounds into the cold water.

“Interesting.” He nodded somberly, like a first-year chemistry student at a lecture.

I half-expected him to whip out a notebook and jot down the cooking tip. Maybe he was a closet foodie. “Do you like to cook?”

“Me? Have you ever seen me cook?”

I thought for a moment. “I believe you popped some popcorn. Once.”

He leaned toward me, laughter in his eyes, and whispered, “Only because you told me to make my own damn snack.”

I flushed. It’s possible I may have said something like that early on in my employment, before I’d grown accustomed to a gorgeous, rich boy hanging around my kitchen.

“That’s not ringing any bells,” I lied before hurrying to change the subject. “Anyway, you seem really interested in food.”

His eyes darkened with intensity and he lowered his voice an octave, almost to a growl. “I’m not interested in food. I’m interested in

I almost dropped my knife. My heart started to gallop around my chest like a gerbil going full tilt on one of those exercise wheels. I stared at him and tried to breathe. He leaned closer, so close I could feel the soft cashmere of his v-neck sweater brushing against my bare arm, and then …

Roland “Pat” Patrick strode into the room like he owned the place, which was probably appropriate seeing how he did, in fact, own the place.

Felix jumped back from the counter like it was on fire. “Dad, hi.”

Pat glanced at his son and frowned. “For Chrissake, Felix, why aren’t you at the studio doing something productive instead of loafing around here bothering the help?”

The help?
I swallowed hard and smoothed my face into a neutral mask, but my grip on the eight-inch knife in my hand tightened.

Felix’s eyes flashed.

On the one hand, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that Felix was prepared to defend me. On the other, more realistic, hand, I couldn’t afford to lose this job because of some misguided chivalry or whatever Felix had in mind. I had to defuse the situation, and fast.

I turned toward Pat, gave him a big, cheesy grin, and used my most solicitous tone of voice. “Do you need something, Mr. Patrick? A snack? Or maybe a cocktail? I could make you a gin rickey the way you like them.”

For the record, the way he liked them was straight Hendrick’s gin poured into a glass. No ice. No fresh lime juice. No club soda. But I guess for the sake of appearance we couldn’t just call it a ‘big old tumbler of gin.’

He declined the offer with a curt headshake. “Amber said to change the menu for tonight.”

“She did?”

“No. I just thought it would be a good use of my time to make a pretend menu modification because I don’t have anything better to do.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Felix balling his hands into fists.

“I’m sorry,” I said in a hurry, “I’m just surprised. Amber and I went over the menu again last night and she seemed pretty set on it.” I smiled apologetically.

He dialed his irritation down all the way from eleven to ten and a half. “She changed her mind. Shocking, I know. She wants to make those roasted vegetable things with the gravy.”

I blinked. “The squash boats?”

“Whatever you made for Thanksgiving. Make that.”

“The whole Thanksgiving menu?”

“Did I stutter?”

He strode out of the kitchen with Felix on his heels without waiting for my response, which was a good thing because once they were out of earshot I let loose a string of invective that would have made George Carlin roll over in his grave. I was still standing there in shock, trying to figure out how the devil I was supposed to pull off this switch on such short notice, when Alayna hurried by with a stack of freshly pressed linens in her arms.

She stopped and gaped at me in amazement. “Was that you I heard cursing?”

“Uh, yeah, sorry about that.” I gave an embarrassed half-laugh and tried to arrange my face into a serene and spiritual expression befitting a holistic chef. I apparently failed because her concern only increased.

“Are you okay?” She scanned the counter, probably looking for a detached finger or a spider crawling in the fruit bowl. Something to explain the meltdown.

“Amber decided to make some last-minute adjustments to the menu,” I explained, adopting the breeziest tone I could muster. “As in, she scrapped the whole thing, and I’m starting over with a new one.”

Her eyes widened and she looked down in horror at the mountain of celadon green tablecloths and napkins she’d spent her morning ironing. “Oh, for the love of … Please tell me she didn’t change her color scheme.”

I wish I could ease her mind, but this was our nightmare to share. “I have no idea. I’m sorry. You should ask her.”

Alayna threw me a look that said ‘yeah, I’ll get right on that’ and raced off in the direction of the dining room, clutching the linens to her chest and muttering in rapid-fire Spanish. I guess her plan was to hurry up and get the tables set, as if that would prevent Amber from changing her mind.

I really couldn’t believe what Amber had done. Who goes from a tapas-based menu to a formal sit-down meal for forty people on the morning of the event? A vapid, self-absorbed twit, that’s who. I had half a mind to track her down and try to convince her to stick with the original menu, but a glance at the iPad displaying her schedule revealed she had a busy day of primping ahead.

Besides, I really didn’t have time to corner her between her facial and her manicure to plead what I knew would be a futile case. Amber wanted what Amber wanted. And she always got it. It was as simple as that. I set aside the eggplant, returned to the iPad to pull up the shopping list I’d used for the Patricks’ Thanksgiving dinner, and started multiplying all the quantities by ten. My stomach growled to let me know it was time to sneak out for my fast food fix.

Forget the burger. I needed one of Pat’s gin rickeys.

BOOK: Rosemary's Gravy
9.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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