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Authors: Isis Crawford

A Catered Wedding

BOOK: A Catered Wedding
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WEDDING DAY MURDER
When Libby glanced down at Leeza Sharp her first thought was: this is a practical joke. Her second thought was: I don't have time for this nonsense. Her third thought was: Amber and Bernie are dead meat.
“Not funny,” she said, whirling around to face Bernie. Then she saw the horrified expression on Bernie's face and Libby's stomach lurched.
Oh, please God, not again,
Libby prayed.
Not another murder.
Libby took another look at the body sprawled out on the floor. Leeza's eyes were staring straight up. Her mouth was opened in an expression of surprise. An arrow was protruding from her chest. And then there was the blood. It was everywhere. On the floor. On Leeza Sharp's no longer white robe. On her nightgown.
No, Libby told herself. This isn't a joke. Leeza was definitely dead. Not mostly dead. Not nearly dead. Dead dead. No doubt about that. No one could survive an arrow through the heart. At least not in real life.
Libby heard the words, “And on her wedding day too,” coming out of her mouth.
What a stupid thing to say,
she told herself as Bernie turned towards her. Like it would have been better if it had happened the day after. Well, in a sense it would have been because then they wouldn't have been here . . .
Books by Isis Crawford
 
 
A CATERED MURDER
 
A CATERED WEDDING
 
A CATERED CHRISTMAS
 
 
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
A Mystery with Recipes
A CATERED WEDDING
ISIS CRAWFORD
KENSINGTON BOOKS
www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
For Dan,
Angels come in strange disguises.
Acknowledgments
I'd like to thank DJM for his help when I needed it. It's not often one runs across someone who knows a lot and has the imagination to put it together.
 
Once again I'd like to thank Hank Nielsen for her help in the recipe department.
 
Thank you Sarah Saulson for introducing me to the pleasures of dark chocolate.
 
And I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Juno Wright and Tori Evans who have helped me redo my office. It's been an amazing experience.
A SIMPLE BUT ELEGANT MENU FOR LEEZA SHARP'S AND JURA RAID'S WEDDING RECEPTION
Beluga caviar in carved ice sculptures
Foie Gras
Champagne
 
 
First course:
Marinated Grilled Quail on mesclun greens
with cranberry chutney
 
Second course:
Estate-grown asparagus tips with
sauce mousseline
 
Third course:
Line-caught wild Copper River salmon
served in a reduced champagne sauce on a bed of
hand-harvested wild river rice
 
Wedding Cake:
Croquembouche decorated with candied
almonds and white roses
 
Wild strawberries with crème chantilly
 
Coffee and liqueurs
Prologue
L
eeza Sharp inclined her head over the roses the butler had just handed her and inhaled. Not very strongly scented, she decided as she kicked the door shut behind her with the heel of her foot. She strode across the room, pulling the clear wrapping paper and bow off the dozen long-stemmed white roses as she went. She deposited the paper in the trash can, laid the flowers down on the table by the window, and inspected them.
A frown crossed her brow. “Hmm,” she said as she reached into the top of the dresser drawer and took out a ruler.
She tapped it against her teeth before lowering it and carefully placed the stem of one of the flowers against the measuring stick. The stem was eleven inches, an inch too short. She'd been right.
Stems of traditional long stemmed roses were supposed to be exactly twelve inches—no more and no less. Leeza gathered up the flowers, wincing as a thorn pricked her. Those should have been removed as well she thought as she threw the flowers in the trash. Altogether an inferior product. This was her big day and she had no use for something that wasn't perfect.
Leeza sucked the side of her finger for a moment. Then, when it had stopped hurting, she reknotted the sash on her white-silk, hand-embroidered robe, took a sip of tea out of the Limoges cup, and nibbled on a piece of brioche. She could hear the rain drumming on the drainpipe as she carefully replaced the cup on the saucer, wiped her hands on the linen napkin, and strolled across her bedroom to stand by the windows.
Even the rain didn't upset her. She wouldn't let it or anything else dent her composure. In three hours her bridesmaids would be descending on her and everything would start. These were the last private hours she would have as Miss Leeza Sharp and she intended to enjoy every single second of them.
From the window she could just see the top of the large tent the workmen had erected yesterday afternoon. Originally she'd pictured the material as sky blue silk with a sprinkling of stars, possibly with a cascade of cobalt crystal beads decorating the entranceway.
She'd wanted her wedding to have an exotic Arabian Nights feel to it. She'd even planned to have Oriental carpets and rose petals scattered over the floor; actually she was still going to do that even though she'd had to rethink the tent.
According to Wedding Planner Number One there'd been a problem with the silk pulling at the seams, something about the tension of the fabric, something the wedding planner hadn't noticed until the last minute, although for the life of her Leeza couldn't imagine why the planner hadn't checked on it before—after all she was being paid to take care of the details. And this had happened one week before the wedding!
Ohmygod.
Leeza put her hand to her heart. Just thinking about the tent fiasco—even now—gave her
agita.
And the wedding planner actually had had the nerve to suggest using tape—tape!—to reinforce the seams. This was the planner's idea of problem solving? The whole idea of the tent, of her vision would have been lost.
The planner had been totally useless. The woman hadn't even been able to get an assurance from the editor that the announcement of the wedding would run in the Sunday
New York Times.
It had taken the PR person Leeza had hired to do that.
Thank heavens for the caterers. At least they had come through. Leeza hadn't known where to turn about the tent. She'd been in absolute tears when Libby Simmons had approached her and told her she thought she could find a local company to make the tent for her. Of course it had been extremely expensive. Four people had worked three twelve-hour days to sew it, but getting one of those ready-made ones from a rental company was unthinkable for her wedding.
Yes, she knew that those places stocked a multitude of styles these days, but that wasn't the issue. The issue was that she wanted a tent that had been made especially for her, for this day. She wanted . . . what had the other Simmons girl called it? . . . A talisman? No. A memento.
Originally Leeza had been upset about the color options available to her. Nothing that she saw captured her attention, but the other sister, Bernie, had assured her that the cream with the very thin pale, yellow stripes running through the material, would look smashing when it was made up. Leeza hadn't really believed her but, because of the time constraints involved in weather-coating the material, she'd finally acquiesced.
But now looking at the tent Leeza decided that Bernie had been right. As she'd promised, the material had held up well. She rather liked the effect of the white against the green of the willows lining the creek. The tent looked like something that would house a medieval gathering and as far as Leeza was concerned it looked festive even in this weather. So did the white rose bushes she'd had planted specially for her wedding day, white being her signature color. The only thing missing were the pennants, but hopefully it would stop raining by twelve so they could be put up before the reception.
Leeza was glad she hadn't acceded to Libby Simmons's initial suggestion to relocate the reception to the house. They were having the ceremony there and that was enough. As she'd explained to her, yes, she knew outdoor wedding receptions were risky, but she'd had her heart set on an outdoor celebration by the water ever since she could remember, and to Libby's credit she had understood. Of course, if Libby hadn't she wouldn't have gotten the job. So what if the weather made the logistics a little more difficult. After all, facilitating her desires was what the Simmons girls were getting paid for.
And at this point they certainly had come through. In fact, they were the only people who had. Wedding Planner Number Two—or was it Wedding Planner Number One? Leeza was beginning to get them mixed up—they'd both looked the same to her with their Palms and titanium covered Macs and their black suits and pulled-back blond hair. Anyway, one of them had suggested another caterer but Eunice and Gertrude Walker, her mother's old friends, had insisted that she try the Simmons girls—and they'd been right. For once.
The sample meal Bernie and Libby had cooked her had been wonderful, especially the béarnaise sauce for the filet mignon, and she couldn't quibble with the menu—simple, elegant, and drop-dead expensive. Bernie, the better dressed sister, had understood exactly what she'd wanted to give her guests—a unique experience that they would talk about for the rest of their lives. Which was why each detail, no matter how small, counted.
Individually the details were nothing, but together they made up the totality of experience she wanted to convey. Leeza had even thought about releasing Monarch butterflies after the ceremony as a symbol of her and Jura's union after one of her friends had told her she'd heard from her friend out in L.A. that that's what all the Hollywood people were doing.
She'd almost ordered them—one hundred butterflies for a little under eight hundred dollars—but Bernie had pointed out that it would be very depressing if the release went wrong, and you had butterflies dying all over the place. Which was certainly true.
For a while she'd toyed with releasing a flock of white doves, but she really didn't like birds—they crapped all over everything—and so she'd dropped that idea as well. Especially since Jura's brother Joe had started talking about marching down the aisle with one of his falcons sitting on his shoulder. Falcons! How ridiculous was that, Leeza thought as she inspected her nails.
She still liked the deep burgundy she'd chosen. It was a nice foil for the gleam of her nine-carat diamond engagement ring. She'd gotten a manicure and pedicure yesterday afternoon but she had a manicurist on standby just in case she or one of her bridesmaids needed a touch-up.
After all this was her day and she didn't want it to be ruined by something like a chipped nail. Jura hadn't even complained about the cost of that. Actually he hadn't complained about any of the bills. He'd just written the checks, which was one of things she loved about him. Okay. It was the only thing she loved about him.
He certainly left her cold in the sex department. Even with Viagra. Just because he could get it up didn't mean he knew what to do with it. He hadn't heard about G-spots let alone erogenous zones and had no desire to learn about them, but, hey, she could get sex anytime she wanted. She had that base covered.
As she saw it, the advantage of marrying an older, rich man was that he would do anything to keep her happy. Well, almost anything. Like this wedding. If it had been up to his brothers, she and Jura would be getting married by a justice of the peace and having coffee and cake afterwards or some sort of Estonian food—whatever that was. Leeza snorted at the ridiculousness of the idea. Why were some rich people so cheap? Before she came along Jura, Ditas, and Joe used to do their shopping at Sam's Club which was absurd considering what they sold. But not anymore.
Take the salmon they were serving. It was all wild, all troll- (meaning line) caught, not netted, because as Bernie had explained to her netting bruised the fish. And it was all from the Copper River in Alaska. Bernie had explained that this salmon was the best in the world although for the life of her Leeza couldn't remember exactly why.
She thought it had something to do with the Copper River being so long that the salmon were fatter when they started their journey upstream, but she wasn't sure. The real point though was that they weren't serving any of that farm-raised trash which, Bernie had carefully explained to Jura when he had questioned the expense, didn't taste as good. And, of course, it was bad for the environment.
The asparagus they were using were all grown right here on Jura's estate, as were the wild strawberries. And Leeza wasn't even going to mention the ice sculptures or the bowls of beluga caviar they were serving. Personally she really didn't like the stuff, but everyone else did.
If her mother could see her now, Leeza thought she'd be so proud of her. Not for nothing had she scrubbed out other people's toilets so Leeza could have braces and a nose job and good clothes. Leeza could still see her mom beaming when she'd been crowned Miss Butternut Squash. What would she think of her wedding dress? Leeza went over and ran her finger down the boned bodice.
Now some people might think twenty-five-thousand dollars was too much to spend on a dress, but not Leeza. It was clear to her that if you were going to get married on an estate to someone who was worth easily one hundred million, then twenty-five thousand for a dress was nothing percentage wise. And if she did say so herself the white satin and handmade French lace were perfection, as was the veil shot through with real gold and seed pearls.
Leeza studied her reflection in the mirror—not bad for a girl from Missouri—not bad at all. All that work and plastic surgery had paid off: she was marrying rich, which in her humble opinion was what it was all about. In her humble opinion, anyone who said money didn't matter was a fool.
She glanced at the clock on the wall. It was nine o'clock. Where the hell were the Simmons girls anyway? Even though they had brought the tables down last night they still had to set them up. Leeza gently tapped the nails on her left hand on her cheek. It suddenly occurred to her that maybe she should talk to Jura about getting some of his security people to guard the tent before everyone arrived—after all the caterers
were
using thousands of dollars worth of gold rimmed Lenox bone china and Waterford crystal, not to mention the Tiffany silver.
But then guards would look so out of place, and Jura did have them at the gate. He'd added another two, so there would be five altogether checking invitations. No one who wasn't invited would be getting in. Absolutely no one. She didn't mind being gossiped about, but she wanted to control who gossiped about her and where. That's why she'd hired her own public relations person, another thing Jura's brothers couldn't understand.
“A needless expense,” both Ditas and Joe had said.
Well, it was too bad that they couldn't understand the importance of being media savvy, but there it was.
No point in thinking about the disagreement—well really more of an argument—they'd had, Leeza told herself. She'd won it like she'd won all the others. What was so bad about wanting everything to be perfect she wanted to know? And speaking of perfect, the hair stylist and her make-up person should be here in another three hours. But what would happen if the plane couldn't land? What would happen if the flight was delayed at LAX? If the limo that was supposed to bring them out from JFK had a flat tire? A wave of panic ran through Leeza.
She should have used someone from the city, but these people were absolute geniuses. Everyone said so. That's why they did all the Hollywood stars. Leeza took a deep breath and calmed herself. No. She'd done the right thing getting them, which was a feat in itself. These people were the best in their field and as her mother liked to say, “you could never have too much of a good thing.” Then after the stylist and the make-up artist were done, the dresser would help her maid of honor and bridesmaid into their dresses and everyone would pose for photos.
As she was thinking about the color eye shadow she'd picked out and whether she should change it to something a little bronzier she walked over to the table and reread the wedding announcement that was running in today's
Times.
The paper was creased from being handled but that was all right. She'd made the maid go out and buy three extra copies, which she intended to have laminated. Leeza's lips moved as she read the announcement. Not that she needed to. She could have recited it by heart at this point. It read:
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