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Chocolate Dipped Death

BOOK: Chocolate Dipped Death
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Table of Contents
The Sweet Bye-and-Good-Bye
“Paradise isn’t the sleepy little farm town it used to be,” I agreed.
“But people still don’t want me around,” said Savannah.
“It’s not easy to come back,” I admitted. “I wasn’t exactly welcomed, either.”
Savannah let out a reedy laugh. “They’d probably keel over dead if I moved back. They can hardly stand to be in the same room with me.”
Reminding her that she’d earned her reputation wouldn’t accomplish anything, so I went for a less confrontational response. “People are curious, especially about why you’ve entered the contest. Obviously, you don’t need the prize money. Some people wonder if there’s another reason.”
Savannah laughed as if the thought of being mysterious delighted her. With her long, dark hair and striking coloring, she looked beautiful even in the dim glow of the streetlamp. Not surprisingly, I felt like a lump of clay beside her—but, then, I always had.
“You know how it is. You’ll be big news for a few days, and then they’ll find something new to talk about.”
“As long as I don’t give them something new to sink their teeth into, right?”
Candy Shop Mysteries by Sammi Carter
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2006
Copyright © 2006 by The Berkley Publishing Group.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
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375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01058-7
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks
belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To the Women of the Weekend . . .
Jo Ann, Vanessa, and Paige
Chapter 1
“I can’t
she had the nerve to show up.”
My cousin Karen kept her eyes riveted on the dark-haired woman across the room and shoved an empty tray in my general direction. It teetered precariously on the edge of the table and would have fallen if I hadn’t snatched it away from her. “What is she doing here, anyway?”
I slid the tray onto a shelf beneath the flowing white tablecloth that hid extra containers of candy, score sheets, programs, and the other necessary but unattractive supplies for running a three-day candy-making competition. I’d been up since five that morning and running nonstop all day as I dealt with a litany of questions, complaints, and problems. I was in no mood for trouble now.
Somehow we’d managed to turn the drab second-floor meeting room of Divinity into a thing of beauty. Swaths of flowing fabric draped the walls. Crisp white cloths covered tables in the judging and staging areas. Silver trays loaded with specialty candies nestled among pine boughs and the burgundy velvet bows Karen and I had stayed awake most of one night to make. I was proud of what we’d achieved.
Even the weather was cooperating. Snow falling outside the windows added just the right touch on a January night. I just hoped no one snooped around behind the scenes where piles of raw wood and construction equipment had been left behind by my brother and his friends after they rebuilt the stairs to my third-floor apartment.
The look on Karen’s face made nervous tension knot between my shoulders and shot a big fat hole in my satisfaction with a job well done. This might be the Tenth Annual Confectionary Competition for Divinity, the candy store I’d inherited a few months earlier, but it was the first time around the block for me. I was nervous as a cat and desperate for the weekend to go well. Karen was my only help, the one person who could provide the continuity and history the contest needed. I needed her to stay focused.
I gazed around the room, checking the judges, heads together as they debated their final decision, then moving on to the contestants, who waited anxiously for the announcement. The winner of tonight’s round would be one-third of the way toward scoring the grand prize on the final night: five hundred dollars in prize money and a month in the featured candy spot at Divinity, not to mention a lovely engraved plaque. It wasn’t the largest or most prestigious prize in the world, but the ladies who entered the contest every year competed for it fiercely.
Satisfied that everything was going well, I tried to divert Karen’s attention away from the woman she’d been glaring at all night. “Does everyone know what time to be here tomorrow?”
“Of course.” Karen brushed an auburn curl from her forehead, but it fell right back into place. “I told everybody—even people I shouldn’t have.”
There was no mistaking who she meant, but I ignored the bait and arranged a few pieces of almond bark on a silver tray. “Good. Just as long as every one of the contestants knows, I’m happy.”
“Well, I’m not.” Karen shoved her hands into the pocket of her apron and planted herself directly in front of me. Karen’s a few years younger than my own thirty-nine, and she’s never been afraid of a fight. She’s also skinny as a rail—something I think is unnatural on a candymaker. “You shouldn’t have let Savannah Vance enter the contest, Abby. There’s going to be trouble.”
I’d gone to high school with Savannah way back when. She’d been Vance then, but her married name was Horne, and she’d made it very clear that she wanted me to use it. I’ll admit she’s never been my favorite person. But twenty years have passed since we knew each other, so I gave a casual shrug and looked away. “Her registration fee is as good as anyone else’s.”
“Yeah. Right.” Karen laughed through her nose and narrowed her eyes. “Savannah doesn’t compete. She just takes whatever she wants. She’s up to no good, Abby. Mark my words.”
“Let’s not borrow trouble, okay?” I smiled and turned away to continue my inventory. To my relief, most of the silver candy trays were still reasonably full, and the candy bouquets I’d settled in strategic spots, hoping to convince people that they were an acceptable alternative to traditional flowers on special occasions, seemed to be generating some interest.
So far, so good.
When I turned back, it was painfully obvious that Karen wasn’t going to give up, so I reluctantly dragged myself back to the conversation. “Maybe Savannah was like that in school,” I said, “but that was twenty years ago. People change.”
Karen ran a judgmental glance across Savannah’s tall, willowy figure and scooped a peppermint crunch from the candy dish at her side. “No they don’t. Especially not people like her.”
It wasn’t like Karen to be so negative. “How can you be so sure?” I asked. “You haven’t even seen her in how long?”
“Not long enough.”
“And you told me yourself that you didn’t even speak to her last time she was in town.”
Karen’s brows knit in a deep scowl. “So what’s your point?”
“That maybe she’s doing exactly what she told us she’s doing. Maybe she came to see her sister and settle her mother’s estate, and maybe she just wants a diversion while she’s in town. Can we please stay focused on what’s important here?”
important,” Karen said with a curl of her lip. “It’s the middle of ski season. There are plenty of other diversions Savannah could find if that’s what she wanted.”
Her bitterness surprised me. “What do you have against Savannah, anyway?”
Karen rolled her gaze toward me. “You want the whole list, or just the top ten things?”
“One would do.”
“Okay. Fine. I don’t like her because she’s selfish. She always has been. No matter what’s going on, no matter who else is involved, it’s
all about her. What could she possibly want from this competition?”
BOOK: Chocolate Dipped Death
4.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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