Cupcakes and Killing: A Cozy Mystery (Sweet Shoppe Mysteries - Book 2)

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CUPCAKES & KILLING

 

A COZY MURDER MYSTERY SHORT (Book 2)

 

 

 

 

 

© 
2015 by Cora Wilkins

 

 

COPYRIGHT

Please respect the work of this author. No part of this book may be reproduced or copied without permission. This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any similarities to events or situations is also coincidental.

                            © 
2015 Cora Wilkins

All Rights Reserved

Cupcakes and Killing

Looking outside at the blue sky, I took a deep breath and inhaled the clean fresh air that was coming through the door to the Sweet Shoppe. I’d picked up the habit of leaving it open most of the day now just to let the spring breezes in. The start of spring in the country had always been my favorite time of the year; newly-blooming flowers, crisp green grass everywhere, days that weren’t too hot or too cold.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting too much time to go out and smell the roses and enjoy the weather at the moment. In the last ten months, I’d been utterly swamped with work. Since I’d met with Fudgy Frobisher’s current owner, the late Mr. Frank Frobisher’s son, I’d sold my fudge recipes to him and made a tidy sum. I’d then invested that tidy sum into setting up a cupcake bakery across the street from the Sweet Shoppe, and now I split my time between the two stores.

My best friend Kaye helped me out as she always had, and I currently had six other staff members working for me across the two locations. It was hectic, but totally worth it. Since I’d always loved making sweets, it had only been a matter of time before I became interested in baking as well. Cupcakes had been trendy for the last few years, and I’d finally had the means to bring that trend to York, our sleepy New England hometown.

For the most part, York had returned to normal after Mr. Frobisher’s murder the previous summer, and while some still gossiped about it, the majority of the town’s residents had written it off as a singular tragic event that would never occur again. After all, how many cold-blooded killers could there possibly be in one town?

After the whole tumultuous incident, it was nice to be back to normal…serving customers in either one of the stores, listening to their stories and filling them up with sweet morsels. Right now I was at the Sweet Shoppe, filling up the candy jars on the shelves and listening to a table of little old ladies discussing the latest fundraising effort for the local fire station.

“Sorry I’m late!” Kaye panted as she burst into the shop a moment later. She dumped her handbag down behind the counter and looked over at me. “I overslept. Let’s just say Daniel and I enjoyed that new red wine we tried last night a little too much.”

“It’s okay,” I replied with a grin. Her husband Daniel worked a lot, so it was nice to see them spending quality time together whenever they could.

“Anyway, guess what I heard from Linda Davis at the grocery store?” she said, marching over to the shelf with a duster.

“What?”

“Well, remember how Mrs. Barnaby and Mr. Armstrong have been seeing each other?”

“Uh-huh.”

Mrs. Barnaby owned the local beauty parlor. She’d been dating Mr. Frobisher not long before his untimely death, and while she’d been broken up over the whole incident, she had eventually moved on with the help of her affectionate neighbor, Mr. Armstrong. He’d always had a crush on her, and when he’d helped her through the difficult time, she’d developed feelings for him too.

“They’re getting married!” Kaye said, her eyes sparkling. “Isn’t that so sweet?”

I clapped a hand to my mouth. “Oh, that’s wonderful!”

“Sure is. I almost fainted from happiness when I heard the news; they’re so adorable. What time are we heading over to the bakery today, by the way?”

“Tori’s opened up for me, but I’ll head over there soon,” I replied.

Tori was one of my new employees who alternated between working at either one of my shops. Out of all the new workers I’d hired, she was my favorite. A young, petite blonde with innocent blue eyes and a shy yet friendly demeanor, she was always punctual and customers loved her. Fingers crossed she didn’t turn out the same way one of my last employees had. Rosie was still in prison for killing Mr. Frobisher, and she’d be there for a very long time.

“I’ll try to help you frost the cupcakes if the shop isn’t too busy,” Kaye said. “I need practice for Daniel’s birthday cake in a few weeks. I’ve always been so messy with frosting. Hmm... or maybe I’ll just get you to do it for me.”

Her eyes crinkled up around the corners with mirth, and I chuckled. The bell tinkled as the little old ladies left, and three more customers entered.

“Oh, Theodore, you’re right….this place is just darling!”

I turned to see Deputy Ted with an elderly woman and another dark-haired woman who appeared to be around his age, and I smiled. “Deputy Ted! How are you?”

“Hello, ladies,” he said. “Anne, Kaye…this is my mother Amelia and my sister Evie. They’re visiting town for a while.”

“Nice to meet you both,” Kaye and I said in unison.

Amelia stretched out her right hand for us to shake and simpered. “My Theodore has been raving about your candy store for such a long time. I finally decided I had to come and see for myself. Do you have any orange sherbet?”

“Sure, right over there,” I said, pointing to the lower left shelf on the side of the store.

Ted’s cheeks looked slightly pink, and his sister Evie leaned in and whispered conspiratorially as Amelia inspected our sweets.

“He always gets so embarrassed by her insistence on calling him by his proper name,” she said with a grin. “But sometimes she calls him ‘Teddy Bear’, which is even worse.”

Kaye snickered. “Poor Ted. So how long are you in town for?”

“A couple of weeks,” Evie replied. “I have some time off work, so my mother and I decided to come visit our favorite policeman.”

“Yes, our favorite
single
policeman,” Amelia crowed as she inserted herself into our conversation. “Can you ladies believe my Teddy Bear still isn’t married?”

Ted’s face grew even redder, and I stifled a giggle. The poor man. “Oh, Amelia, I think he’s just so busy serving our town that he doesn’t have a whole lot of time to meet Mrs. Right.”

She pursed her thin lips. “Well, he better meet someone soon, or I’ll be taking matters into my own hands. There’s a lovely girl in my book club back home. Perhaps I’ll bring her here.”

“Mom, that isn’t necessary. I’m actually seeing someone at the moment,” Ted replied, putting a hand up to shush her. “Anne, can I get some coffees to go?”

“Sure.”

Evie followed me to the coffee machine as Kaye kept Ted and Amelia entertained, and she leaned forward over the counter.

“I don’t think he’s really seeing anyone,” she said. “He always says that just to keep her off his back. Can I get two sugars in my coffee, by the way?”

“Of course. And you’re probably right, I haven’t heard anything about him dating anyone. And as you can imagine, I hear a lot of gossip in this shop.”

She smiled and shrugged. “He’ll meet someone when the time is right. I didn’t meet my husband until I was thirty-five, can you believe it?”

The trio eventually left with their coffees in takeout cups, and Kaye and I looked at each other for all of three seconds before almost collapsing with laughter.

“Oh, my poor little Teddy Bear!” Kaye said in a perfect imitation of Amelia. “Won’t someone marry him? Anyone?”

I snickered, trying to contain my giggles. “Oh, I feel bad for laughing. He’s such a nice man. But boy am I glad I don’t have a mother who pesters me like that!”

“My mother was a bit like that when I was younger. Thank God I married Daniel so she had to stop harassing me. Speaking of getting married, how are you and Chris going?”

I waved her away. “Oh, don’t be silly. We’re not getting married, at least not anytime soon. We’ve only been dating for what…ten months now?”

Chris was the owner of Candyland, the wholesale distributor I purchased most of the sweets for the Sweet Shoppe from. We’d met last year, just before Mr. Frobisher’s murder, and after a rocky start we were finally happy. He’d been accused of the murder at the time and even charged with it, so that had thrown a bit of a spanner in the works, but it had been smooth sailing since then. He still lived in Boston, where his company was located, but he spent as much time here with me in York as possible….Except for this last week, come to think of it.

He’d blown off our last two dates, saying something had come up at work. Seeing as I now ran two businesses of my own, I understood how hectic things could get, but it still stung a little that I’d gone from seeing him every couple of days to not seeing him at all for almost a week.

I filled Kaye in on it, and she wrinkled her nose. “Hmm. Well, he’s probably just really busy with work, like he said. I wouldn’t think too much of it.”

“Yeah, I hope so.”

A while later, we left the Sweet Shoppe in the hands of two of our other new employees and then headed across the street to the cupcake store. I’d named it Kaye’s Cupcakes after Kaye seeing as she’d helped so much in running my first shop, and she’d certainly been thrilled at that. The store was painted a cream color on the inside, and we’d decorated it with white French-style tables and chairs along with pretty pink, red and purple flowers in pots along the windowsill.

The cupcakes were especially popular amongst the younger crowd, and today I had several orders to fill for birthday parties and other such events. A lot of people I knew thought baking was just as easy as cooking a simple casserole; slap in the ingredients, give them a stir and maybe add in some extra sugar or salt if it tasted a little dull…and then they wondered why their cakes turned out flat in the middle or crumbled all around the edges.

Baking was more like chemistry than anything else. The ingredients all worked together to create the perfect textures and tastes, as long as they were added in the right order and in the right amount. There was no guesswork or estimating like you could easily do when cooking dinner. It was a delicate balance getting everything right, and it took some trial and error to learn, but the scrumptious end results were always worth it.

Today was busier than we had expected, so Kaye served customers out in the front end of the store while Tori helped me with all the baking in the kitchen, and a few hours later I was exhausted.

“I’m about to collapse,” I said to Tori after frosting what felt like my millionth cupcake for the day. “I swear I’m getting repetitive strain injury from stirring so much of this frosting mixture.”

Tori smiled and held up a pink spatula. “Go take a break! I can finish these. They’re for little Timmy Allen’s party, aren’t they?”

“Yep. You’re a doll. I’ll be back in a bit.”

I went out to the front of the store, where Kaye was finishing up serving two young ladies who’d ordered some of the cupcakes from the display case, complete with pale pink frosting and silver cachous.

“Want to share a vanilla cupcake?” she asked, glancing at me as I sat down. “These ones at the front are going to go stale if they aren’t sold or eaten soon, and there’s still a few left.”

“I won’t say no to that,” I said with a grin. “Ooh, grab the one with lavender frosting.”

You’d think I’d get sick of eating sweet things after making them all day, but I had a sweet tooth that never quit.

A few minutes later, we were both licking frosting off our halves when the bell tinkled.

“Hello, dearies!”

I looked up to see Mrs. Barnaby entering the store.

“Mrs. Barnaby! I heard your news. Congratulations!” I said.

She smiled, her cheeks glowing. “Oh, thank you…I’m so happy. And so lucky. Look at the size of this ring! Isn’t it just beautiful?”

Kaye and I admired her sparkling diamond ring as she beamed.

“Oh, wow. It’s lovely! So how did the whole proposal happen? Give us all the details!” Kaye said.

“It was all so sudden. We went to Chez Pierre last night, and one minute we’re eating soufflé, and the next he’s down on one knee! I’ve barely had a chance to tell anyone yet,” she said. “Anyway, I have something I wanted to ask you two ladies.”

“Yes?”

“Well, Brian and I are no spring chickens,” she began before waving her hands at our expressions. “Oh, don’t give me those looks. We all know how old I am. No point pretending. So, we figured there’s no sense in having some big long engagement like all the young folks these days do. So we’re getting married on the Saturday nine days from now.”

My eyes widened. “Wow, it really is all very sudden!”

“Yes, well, of course you two are welcome to come. Bring your husband along, Kaye, and Anne…why don’t you invite that lovely young gentleman you’ve been seeing? Anyone can come. I’ve already had a traditional wedding once with my first husband, so this one will be much more casual. We’ll be married at the church, and then our reception will be in the park.”

“Sounds great.”

“Anyway, I was wondering if you could help with something. Like I said, I’ve already had the big white wedding with the big cake before. This time I was thinking I could have one of those big cupcake tier things that I’ve been seeing everywhere in the magazines.”

Kaye clapped her hands together. “Oh, I love those things! They look so simple but so elegant.”

“They do, don’t they?” Mrs. Barnaby replied. “I realize this is incredibly short notice, but could you do that for me?”

I nodded. “Of course, we’d be happy to. Any ideas for what flavor cake you want? Or frosting?”

Her eyebrows furrowed in thought. “Hmm…I was thinking red velvet cupcakes with a buttercream frosting. I hear red velvet is very ‘in’ at the moment.”

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