A Lime To Kill: A Key West Culinary Cozy - Book 1

BOOK: A Lime To Kill: A Key West Culinary Cozy - Book 1
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Disclaimer:
This is a work of fiction.
Names,
characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of
the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Copyright
2015 by Maven Publishing - All rights reserved.

All rights Reserved. No part of this publication or the
information in it may be quoted from or reproduced in any form by means such as
printing, scanning, photocopying or otherwise without prior written permission
of the copyright holder

Chapter 1

 

There was a
resounding crack as a bright red ledger flew across the room and thumped
against the wall.

 

Marilyn looked
at the wounded notebook with satisfaction.

 

“And you can
stay there until you’ve learned your lesson,” She said into the empty living
room of her turquoise bungalow.

 

“Mom?” her
21-year old daughter peeked in the front door. Tiara looked around and frowned.
 “What was that all about?” she asked, flopping down on her mother’s velvety
couch.

 

“I was just
disciplining the numbers,” Marilyn extended her arm toward the ledger and
grimaced.

 

“I told you I
would balance your books for you,” the lovely young lady reminded her.

 

“You have your
own work to do,” Marilyn said. “I’ve decided that I’m definitely going to have
a professional take a look at them this time. I’m a baker
not
an
accountant.”

 

“Mom, why
would you pay a stranger to do the books when you could just pay me?” Tiara walked
over and picked up the ledger that was the bane of her mother’s existence.  “It
won’t take that long and I can be back on the job search in no time.”

 

“You make a
valid argument. Let me chew on it a bit,” she nodded.

 

Gazing at her
daughter, she didn’t know how she’d raised such an amazing woman. Tiara was
intelligent, talented, and newly graduated with honors. How was it that she
hadn’t been snapped up by some engineering firm by now? It would be bittersweet
for Marilyn when she did accept a job though, because when Tiara did find
something, it most likely wouldn’t be in Key West. She had just come back from
UCF, it would be painful to let her go again so soon.

 

“Have we
thought about dinner?” Marilyn asked.

 

“I don’t know
if
we
have but
I
brought home El Meson de Pepe,” her daughter
lifted a bag that she had carried in with her and set on the coffee table. Now
that it had been mentioned the savory smell of Cuban food wafting from the bag
was undeniable.

 

“My genius
daughter thinks of everything. Just grab some cash from the Conch.”

 

“I already
did,” Tiara said, heading to the kitchen.

 

“That’s my
girl!” Marilyn got up to follow her daughter, the unmistakeable scent of arroz
con pollo compelling her.

 

Marilyn rubbed
her temples, hungry but distracted, while Tiara reached for the plates and
silverware that Marilyn would have ignored if she were on her own.

 

“There, now isn’t
that nice?” Tiara lit an ocean scented candle in the middle of the table. 
Marilyn smiled at the irony of having anything “ocean scented” when the actual
ocean was only a block away…they could just as easily open the doors. Her
daughter was a bit of the homemaker that Marilyn, after forty-five years on the
planet, still wasn’t. Last week they had gone shopping and Tiara had firmly
insisted that Marilyn buy a set of seashell napkin rings, which had seemed at
the time like a superficial waste of money, but which actually did brighten
things up a bit.

 

“Have you
talked to your dad lately?” Marilyn asked, always curious about Tiara’s
relationship with her father.

 

“No, not
recently…I mean he called a few days ago but I forgot to call him back…” her
voice trailed off while she pretended to concentrate on ladling food onto her
mother’s plate.

 

Marilyn’s
ex-husband had been unfaithful before he left her and her young daughter many
years ago. She had processed her grief and moved on but Tiara apparently could
not. Having the business helped, SUBLIME SWEETS was what kept Marilyn getting
up every morning. She held firmly to the belief that one of her pies could change
a person’s life. They had certainly changed her life and she never looked back.
Just thinking about one of her key lime pie’s made her mouth water.

 

“Do you think
we should have dessert before, during, or after dinner?” she asked with a grin,
hoping her daughter would find it fun and carefree to indulge.

 

“Mother,” she
scolded, raising an eyebrow, but smiling.

 

“Thank you for
bringing home dinner,  sweetie. It was really thoughtful of you.”

 

“Yep, I’m just
awesome like that,” she teased, sitting down at the table.

 

Tiara promised
to go into the shop with her mother the next day and begin her mother’s
financial accounts. Business was good, better than good, actually, closer to
great. Key West was small but there were always so many tourists that Marilyn
was pleased to see new faces every day. She played music from The Beach Boys, Rolling
Stones, Journey, and Springsteen to set a carefree, festive mood, and loved the
sheer nostalgia of it.

Creating new
and inventive recipes was her passion. She’d tested out key lime pie squares,
pie on a stick, pie in a jar, mini pies, key lime pie stuffed strawberries, and
key lime pie sandwich cookies. She’d tried making a key lime fudge but that hadn’t
turned out as well as she had hoped.  

 

“So,” Tiara
looked across the table at her mother. “Have you noticed any particularly
handsome gentlemen lately?”

 

“Funny, I was about
to ask you the same thing,” her mother responded lightly.

 

Tiara had been
prodding Marilyn to date for quite some time, but she always managed to come up
with a good excuse why it was out of the question.  The thought gave her a
chill and she shook her shoulders a little.

 

“So, that’s a
no,” she observed dryly.

 

“You know how it
goes. If you’re so interested in the topic, do you have something you’re dying
to share…?” Marilyn inquired, hopefully. If Tiara had found a beau in the Keys,
perhaps she’d consider staying closer to home in her job search.

 

“Nope, nada,”
she shrugged, munching a spicy bite of chicken. “ I’m just your sweet little
baby girl with no one to love me but my mama.”

 

Marilyn looked
at her daughter, concerned.  “You know your father loves you very much, right?”
she asked softly.

 

“Yes, mom, I
was just joking, geez.”

 

“—and nana?”
she persisted.

 

“Yes, yes,
yes…everybody loves me. Your food is getting cold,” she eyed her mother’s plate
pointedly, deliberately changing the subject.

 

Marilyn took a
large bite, with mocking flourish, and, much to her daughter’s relief, moved on
to safer topics.

 

Chapter 2

 

Marilyn woke
up early, to a glorious Spring morning in paradise. Birds were singing, the sun
was shining, and the scent of the ocean blew breezily through the gossamer
fabric covering the window. She didn’t have to keep normal baker’s hours since
there was a large segment of the population that thought key lime pie wasn’t a
breakfast food, so on mornings like this, she allowed herself the luxury of
coffee on the patio, with a good book, or the morning paper. She worked long
hours when she did make it into her cozy little shop, and while12 hour days
were not her favorite thing, she was doing what she loved and had a continual
supply of luscious, dreamy pie.

 

Tiara would be
sleeping for a few more hours and this time of the day, so this exceptional
morning time was all hers. Pouring herself a steaming mug of coffee with rich
vanilla cream, she grabbed the paper from the front porch, headed for the
patio, and curled up on a lounger, with her feet tucked under her, enjoying the
scents and sounds of the morning. When she drained the last few precious drops
of coffee from her mug, she stretched out her legs and curled through her toes.
Today was going to be a great day, she could feel it in the air.

 

Marilyn’s shop
was her pride and joy. Six years ago when her marriage with Daniel blew up,
she’d packed her bags and moved her daughter here, to paradise, where the sun
shone brightly and pasts could be forgotten. They’d been scrunched into a one
bedroom apartment and Marilyn began doing the only thing she really knew how to
do - she made key lime pies in their tiny kitchen. She’d bring a pie to every
school meeting, church service and community event that she could find, setting
her pies out, with business cards next to them. In almost no time at all, she
was struggling to meet the demand and opened her shop.

 

Taking the
biggest gamble of her adult life, she pulled every last dime of her savings and
rented a tiny space near the beach. In one short year, she’d generated enough
of a profit to move to a bigger, better space where she paid a mortgage instead
of rent. Her very own little “piece of the pie” was on the corner of Duval
street, sharing a block with such institutions as Fury Surf Shack, The Old
Customs House Inn, Hogs Breath Saloon, and Sloppy Joe’s Bar.  

 

When SubLime
Sweets opened at 10am Marilyn would pull open the large accordion windows that
let the smells of her morning work drift out to passersby, luring them in to
sample her delights. The scent of her shop was so incredibly powerful and
delicious, she wondered about the possibility of launching a fragrance line out
of it.

 

There were
bistro tables set up outside, facing the beach, for people who wanted to sit
down and enjoy their treats immediately. For the “chillier” days, December
through March, she also kept a fresh pot of coffee on and gourmet hot chocolate
fixings because sometimes it was nice to enjoy “bad weather.”

 

Walking up the
block, Marilyn took great pleasure in seeing the bright yellow façade of her
building coming into view. Although she was more than a bit biased, she truly
believed her shop to be the cutest she’d ever seen. Tiara and Marilyn’s mother
had helped with the interior, which was whimsically mermaid-themed. She’d had sculptures
and 3-D wall art of mermaids with iridescent, mosaic tiled tails. Their tops
were a bright lime green, much like the pies each mermaid was held, each in a
different position, with looks of rapture on their faces. The ceiling was
covered in a huge mural of lime trees, palm trees, ocean, seaweed, mermaids,
and key lime pie…it was heavenly. Tiara had a young friend at the time, whose
older brother was trying to be an artist. Marilyn made him a deal for a
custom-painted ceiling, providing the enterprising young man with commercial experience
and a lifetime supply of pie.

 

It wasn’t unusual
for Marilyn to sit down with customers, particularly the locals who were her
weekly regulars, to have a slice of her delightful creations. She’d also been
known to drop off pies to customers who were ill or infirm and couldn’t leave
the house. 

 

She had just
unlocked and opened the front door when she heard a sound that gave her pause.
There seemed to have been a movement from somewhere inside the shop.

 

“Hello?”
Marilyn called, from the relative safety of the open front door. She tried
heroically to keep any sound of panic from her voice.

 

Another
movement.  Her mind searched frantically for an explanation or reason for the
noise.
Police might be investigating a break in, a break could be going on
right now, someone with a crazy sweet tooth couldn’t wait until 10...
Thoughts
that ranged from plausible to bizarre whirled in rapid succession.

 

“Mom?” 

 

“Heavens to
Betsy!” Marilyn sagged with relief.

 

“Did you
seriously just say that?” her daughter grinned, mocking her.

 

“I thought you
were at home asleep. I nearly came in swinging.”

 

Mother and
daughter broke into giggles as they imagined vivid scenarios where Marilyn came
in swinging.  

 

“What are you
doing here so early?” Marilyn came in, locking the door behind her.

 

“I couldn’t
sleep last night so I stayed up doing some of your paperwork, then I still
couldn’t sleep so I did more paperwork and eventually I needed to see the
records you keep here.  So I came over,” Tiara explained, stifling a yawn.

 

“You haven’t
been to sleep yet?” A concerned tickle scratched at Marilyn’s mind.

 

“It’s fine, I’m
taking these new diet pills and they’re like fifty percent caffeine so they
just kept me up.” she shrugged, like it was no big thing. Marilyn couldn’t ever
remember Tiara worrying about her weight or size, she’d never mentioned it
before.

 

“Why in the
world would you be taking diet pills?” she asked, concerned.  “You’re gorgeous.
You have a beautiful body.”

 

“I don’t know,
I guess I just want to get a little better that’s all,” she said, seemingly
nonchalant.  

 

“You mean
skinnier
they are not the same,” her mother raised an eyebrow.

 

“Anyway, what
I found out—”

 

“Honey, I’d
like to talk about this. I don’t like the idea of you taking potentially
harmful substances…and when did this all start?” Marilyn refused to let it
drop.

 

“Mom this is
not a big deal, I am an adult now and I can make my own decisions, end of
story,” her headstrong daughter insisted. “Right now I want to talk about you
and your finances.”

 

Marilyn took a
deep breath. She needed to detach temporarily so she could think through this
with a clear mind, and address it later. Forcing a smile, she allowed the
change of subject…for now.  “Ok, let me have it.”

 

“It’s amazing,
mom. You are doing really, really well…your profits are solid,” she grinned her
approval. “And just so you know, you are never allowed to crunch numbers again,”
her daughter said. “You’ve just hired me to do it for you.”

 

“What do you
mean?” Marilyn was puzzled.

 

Tiara’s face
flushed with color the way it had when she was a little girl. For a minute
Marilyn saw her baby as the precious child that she had been…and now she was
‘an adult who could make her own decisions.’”

 

 

“What I mean
is that you really need to hire some extra help, based on all of this,” Tiara
held up a packet of papers and the red ledger. “Your business is ready to
expand.”

 

“But, what did
you mean about hiring you?” her mother asked, cautiously excited.

 

“Well,” she
looked to the floor then back up at her mother. “I’ve been thinking…I think
maybe it’s a good thing that I haven’t been picked up by one of my dream
companies yet. It would be fun to spend a few months here, before I accept some
great opportunity that will take me away from you.”

 

Marilyn felt
her eyes begin to well, but blinked a few times to avoid an overly emotional
display. Tiara hated it when her sensitive mother choked up about life events
that made it obvious that her little girl was growing up.

 

“You want to
come to work for me?” she asked in disbelief.

 

“Well, when
you say it like that…” her daughter made a face.

 

Marilyn
laughed, completely understanding. She had done everything she could to get as
far out of reach from her parents as possible when she was Tiara’s age.

 

“You don’t
have to, you know. I understand that 21-year-old girls aren’t always dying to
work for their mom…but if you wanted to…” she left it open-ended, concealing
her excitement.

 

“What I want
is for you to stop trying to talk me out of it,” her daughter laughed. “I’ve
already posted an ad for another baker.”

 

Marilyn
followed her when she headed to the tiny administrative office in the back of
the shop. “I don’t know if I want another baker around. What if they want to
change things? Or what if they’re terrible? I don’t want to be responsible for
firing someone,” she worried, frowning.

 

“Ok, I can’t
possibly keep up with all of your roadblocks on so little sleep. I’ll go home
and go to bed and we can talk about it later. I’m heading out. Love you, mom,”
she breezed by, jangling her keys as she went.

 

“Love you to,”
Marilyn said to her daughter’s retreating back. She didn’t quite know what to
think about what had just happened, but it was evident that life was about to
become very interesting.

 

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