Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes (Culinary Competition Mysteries Book 3)

BOOK: Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes (Culinary Competition Mysteries Book 3)
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DOUGHNUTS & DEADLY SCHEMES

 

by

 

JANEL GRADOWSKI

 

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Janel Gradowski

Cover design by Lyndsey Lewellen

Gemma Halliday Publishing

http://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

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CHAPTER ONE

 

"These are so good," Carla said as she broke off a chunk of the cinnamon maple doughnut. She popped the pastry in her mouth and washed it down with a sip of coffee. "I want a mountain of doughnuts instead of a fancy wedding cake."

Carla had said the
W
word—wedding. Amy sighed as she turned back to her work. She plunged her latex-gloved hand into the bowl of blueberry glaze to retrieve the warm doughnut she had dropped during the moment of shock. The cake rings were supposed to only be dipped halfway into the lavender-colored glaze, not released to sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Her fingers closed around the wayward doughnut as she reached with her other hand to free a square of waxed paper from the dispenser box at the back of the counter. She turned to look at her best friend as she let the excess glaze drip back into the bowl. "You're thinking about wedding cakes…or at least a version of one. Does that mean you've set a date?"

Detective Bruce Shepler had asked Carla to marry him at the beginning of the year. It was a huge milestone for her formerly commitment-phobic friend, who had asked Amy to help plan the wedding right after the glittering engagement ring landed on her finger. Great. Wonderful. She would love to help. But since then the couple had refused to actually plan the wedding, saying they were too busy or hadn't figured out what they wanted. Until now.

The quip about doughnuts instead of cake was the first time Carla had mentioned the big day on her own without being prompted by Amy.

Carla grinned. "June 15."

Amy plopped the overly glazed blueberry doughnut onto the square of waxed paper and set the extra-gooey baked good on the metal-topped table in front of Carla. They were in the smaller, original kitchen of Riverbend Café that housed the doughnut makers and a pastry decorating area. Carla had stopped in for breakfast, as she often did after she finished a night shift at the hospital. She ate and chatted while Amy worked through her morning baking tasks.

"So we have a year to plan? That should be enough time to come up with a fabulous wedding," Amy said as she resumed her icing duties. She needed to catch up. Sophie, the café's owner, had been quietly churning out doughnuts while Amy was distracted by the big wedding announcement. She deposited two perfectly glazed doughnuts onto a cooling rack and turned to look at Carla as she grabbed two more naked doughnuts. Her friend was pretending to be completely engrossed in studying the newly delivered sweet treat. Amy cleared her throat.

"Not a year." Carla looked up and met her gaze. "About three weeks from now."

This time both of the unusually slippery doughnuts escaped from Amy's grasp. They ricocheted off the edge of the stainless steel worktable then rolled across the white tile floor before ending their journey in front of the convection oven. Her mind would likely follow suit with all of her mental marbles rolling away, possibly never to be found again.

"We can't coordinate a wedding in less than three weeks! It would take an army of people working around the clock to pull that off."

"Awesome! Congrats," Sophie said as she used a chopstick to transfer a hot doughnut onto the cooling rack that was positioned on the counter between her and Amy. "You are a brave woman to put together a wedding that quickly. Heroically brave to spring this on the Over-Planning Queen."

Amy narrowed her eyes at her boss and second best friend who knew that she liked to plan things out, step-by-step, every last detail orchestrated to the minute. It was just the way her mind worked, and the propensity to plan ahead had served her well in many cooking contests. Amy grunted as she stooped to pick up the well-traveled doughnuts.

"Do we have time to take a break and try to talk some sense into her?" she asked Sophie as she tossed the doughnuts into the closest trash can and peeled off her latex gloves.

"Sure, but I have to say, Carla is the most sensible person I have ever met. I'll be right back," Sophie said as she scooted out of the kitchen. Amy just blinked at Carla. For once, she had no idea what to say. The wedding revelation was still pinging around her mind, most likely taking out brain cells on its chaotic journey.

Sophie returned to the room with her laptop tucked under her arm. "We might need this," she said as she settled onto a stool across the table from Carla.

Amy retreated to the corner of the kitchen to refill her coffee mug. As she spooned sugar into the steaming, dark liquid she wondered how Carla could possibly think of pulling off a wedding so quickly. Amy carried her mug to the rectangular table and hopped onto the stool at the end, next to her suddenly delusional friend. She scrunched her face into what she hoped was a stern, serious expression and said, "Having a wedding in less than a month from now is impossible."

"Anything is possible, but you'll never know if you don't try." Carla held her hands up in front of her as if she was trying to block a dodge ball. "Besides, we're only having a couple dozen guests, and I've already told them to save the date. Too late to turn back now."

Argh. If Amy was the Queen of Planning, then Carla was the Queen of Reasoning. Usually her cool common sense paired nicely with Amy's sometimes out-of-control exuberance. Now the tables were turned. Not only was Carla thinking outside the box, she had locked the room the box was in and thrown away the key by inviting guests already. Like it or not, they seemed to be trapped in the wedding room. Amy hoped the walls were padded.

"I'll help in any way I can, but I can't pull off the ceremony and reception I had envisioned when you first told me you were engaged."

Carla pointed the plastic spork she was using to eat the too-sticky-to-pick-up doughnut at Amy's nose. "You and I are total opposites. Your idea of the perfect wedding is different from mine. Bruce and I have decided that what comes after the wedding, our marriage, is more important than a fancy church ceremony and expensive reception. We want to
be
married. A-S-A-P. So we're going to get the wedding over with, like ripping off a bandage instead of slowly prolonging the torture. But I could really use some help from you and Sophie."

Amy nodded while Sophie clapped her hands in delight. "That's a great attitude to have. Who wants to start their marriage in debt from a $50,000 wedding? Plus, I used to work in a bakery that made wedding cakes. Brides were the worst customers to deal with. Extensive wedding planning leads to grumpy Bridezillas."

"Exactly. We just want something small and simple with as little stress as possible. Given the planning time, it will inevitably be a bit quirky too. And I'm fine with that. So…people do cupcakes instead of a big wedding cake all the time. Why can't I serve doughnuts?" Carla asked. "It's different and informal, just the way I want the wedding to be."

Amy ground her fist into her right eye to try to stop the involuntary muscle twitches that had set in. The routine visit from Carla had brought a surprise that was the Mount Everest of unexpected announcements. Helping plan a wedding in less than a month took mind-boggling to new heights. Amy had gone from glazing doughnuts to being designated as frantic co-wedding planner before she'd even finished her third cup of coffee. The abrupt job change set loose a tension headache that was creeping up the back of her head. She wasn't quite ready to give in to Carla's demands and start making to-do lists.

"But if you took three
months
instead of weeks to plan everything, the wedding could be more traditional and elegant."

"Traditional is overrated," Carla said as she ran her fingers through her toffee-colored hair, making the short layers on top stand on end. "I'm far from normal, so why should I have a normal wedding? Besides there's that thing about cops eating doughnuts…Bruce is a cop. So it's perfect."

Amy opened her mouth and snapped it shut again. She couldn't argue with that reasoning.
Abnormal
wasn't the perfect word to describe Carla, but she definitely marched through life to the rhythm of a unique drumbeat. Like a few weeks earlier, when she'd insisted on trimming her already short hair into an even shorter, spunky pixie cut. The former hairdresser in Amy had begged Carla to think the change through for a few days, but in the end she had relented and got out her scissors. Once again she couldn't argue with the reasoning that the busy ER nurse wanted a no-fuss, short hairstyle for the upcoming warm summer weather. But Amy
could
argue that a handful of weeks was not enough time to put together a decent wedding and reception.

"Unique is great. Charmingly quirky on short notice is sketchy. I'm afraid the most unique trait will be how poorly planned the wedding is."

"Like you would let that happen," Sophie said as she tapped her finger on the touchpad of her laptop. She spun the computer around so Amy and Carla could see the images of decorated doughnuts on the screen. "Look at these with edible gold flakes in the glaze and sugar pearls. They would work for a wedding, don't you think?"

Carla leaned forward to study the image. "I love them! Those would be perfect." She twisted to look at Amy and raised an eyebrow. "Sophie has the right spirit. Now to get Miss Doubtful on board. Don't you think a mound of gold and pearl decorated doughnuts would be beautiful?"

"Yes, it would. I'm sure Sophie can make the prettiest doughnuts Kellerton has ever seen." Amy took a deep breath. The doughnuts
were
quite elegant looking. She was outnumbered. Time to quit fretting and jump on the wedding-in-a-hurry bandwagon before she got trampled in the enthusiasm stampede. "And I suppose they would be easier to produce than an elaborate cake."

"Exactly!" Carla said as she snatched another doughnut off the cooling rack sitting behind her. "If you want to make them even more unique, you could come up with a special flavor for the wedding. Although I love every variety you guys have made so far, so that certainly isn't mandatory."

The healthier versions of the classic partner to coffee were baked in special heated molds, like waffle irons, that Sophie had found at a culinary trade show. Thanks to flavors like French toast with bacon, rum raisin, and green tea with goji berries, the doughnuts sold out every morning to eager customers. All of the café's chefs and bakers were having fun inventing with new flavor combinations. Amy had come up with a few hits already, what was one more new recipe for her friend?

"I can do that. Pulling off the rest of the wedding is going to be the hard part. You'll need somewhere for the service, a reception space, dresses and suits for the wedding party, a menu beyond doughnuts…and probably a hundred other things that I haven't thought of yet. How can you look so calm? I'm brewing up an anxiety attack just thinking of everything that needs to be done. All I can say is, you had better make time to come to the bridal expo with me this weekend. We may have to D-I-Y everything, but at least we can get some decorating ideas."

"I think it's pointless, but if it makes you happy I'll go to the expo." Carla smiled like a cat that was hiding a parakeet in its kitty condo. "By the way, you mentioned clothes for the wedding party. You already agreed to be my matron of honor when I got engaged, so you should be happy to know that you will be my only bridesmaid. That will make shopping easier since we only have to get one dress that looks good on you and not five other women, too."

"You can take as much time off as you need this month," Sophie said as she scrolled through more pictures on her computer. "It's not every day that your friend gets married. I'll keep searching for more wedding doughnut ideas. Why don't you two leave now and do some brainstorming? I have faith in both of you. If Carla wants to get married in a few weeks I'm sure you guys will pull it off with style and grace to spare."

"Thanks. I'm glad you're confident. Now could you make the confidence contagious, because I'm not really feeling it yet." Amy slid off the stool. She retrieved her purse from the bank of small lockers stacked in the corner then leaned on the table next to Carla. "Since we're downtown why don't we check out the bridal shop on the next block? If you get a sample off the rack, they may be able to do alterations in time for the wedding."

"We'll see. I actually had other plans." Carla nodded at the wall of the kitchen that faced Main Street. "Since Finley & Crowe is right across the street, I figured we could look at suits for Bruce first."

"Tell Matt I said hi," Sophie called as Amy pushed open the swinging kitchen door with her hip. Matt Finley, the co-owner of Finley & Crowe Menswear, was Sophie's boyfriend. They had hit it off at the Parade of Desserts charity event in January. The romance began that night and was still going strong five months later.

"Will do," Amy said as she crossed her fingers. "Wish us luck!"

"It feels so good to get out of that hot kitchen," Carla said as they walked along the sidewalk toward the crosswalk in the middle of the block a couple minutes later. "I couldn't stand working in there every day."

Amy had noticed that it was cooler outside. Early June in Michigan usually brought chilly mornings, but she didn't think it was very warm in the café's kitchen, especially when only the doughnut irons were giving off heat. The small oven wasn't even turned on since the baking for the café was primarily done in the larger kitchen on the other side of the dining room. "It's not bad once you get used to it. Probably didn't help that you were drinking hot coffee and eating warm doughnuts."

BOOK: Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes (Culinary Competition Mysteries Book 3)
13.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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