Mango Madness Murder: A Frosted Love Cozy Mystery - Book 15 (Frosted Love Cozy Mysteries)

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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

Melissa
Gladstone, vivacious owner of
Missy’s Muffins and More
, in LaChance, LA,
and
Crème de la Cupcake
in nearby Dellville, sat across from her best
friend, Echo, in her Dellville store, her hands wrapped around a mug of coffee.

“I
can’t believe that Mr. Wonderful finally proposed,” Echo, the free-spirited
former Californian remarked, popping a bite of Morning Glory muffin in her
mouth. She owned the vegan ice cream shop across the street from
Crème de la
Cupcake,
and often meandered over to catch up on the news of the day. She’d
been in attendance at Missy’s incredibly romantic surprise proposal and was
ecstatic, (and more than a tad envious), for her friend.

“Believe
me, I was more shocked than you were,” Missy confessed, smiling and blushing a
bit, remembering her normally reserved fiance’s grand gesture. “I’m still
trying to process the whole thing.”

“I
thought you two weren’t interested in a long-term relationship,” the happy
hippy teased, taking another huge bite of her muffin.

“And
yet, here we are, over a year later…” Missy laughed softly.

“Well,
I’m sure there are quite a few people who go into something fully armed,
emotionally, and determined to protect themselves, then find out that they’re
with someone safe,” Echo observed, gazing at her friend fondly. “Personally,
the last guy that I dated, turned out to be a serial killer,” she made a face.

“Get
a dog, they’re more loyal anyhow,” her friend winked.

“Says
the girl who just got engaged,” she shot back wryly.

“Before
I ever met Chas, I had Toffee and Bitsy,” Missy pointed out. Her love for her
gentle golden retriever and spunky little malti-poo was well known, and Echo
suspected that if it came down to a choice between the dogs and the fiancé, her
friend would have to think long and hard about her choice.

“Hey,
Ms. G.,” Ben Radigan, the young manager of her Dellville store, called out from
behind the counter. Ben had been working with her for years, and was about to
finish up his doctorate in Criminal Justice at the university. His job at the
cupcake shop was an easy way to earn a living while going to school and doing
his research, and now he was almost done. He’d met his wife, Cheryl, when she
came to work for Missy, married her, and now their baby girl, Cammie, who was
Missy’s god-daughter, was nearly a year old. 

“What’s
up, Ben?”

“The
mayor is on the phone for you,” he replied, holding the store’s cordless
handset out to her.

“Oh!
Okay, put him on hold for a second, I’ll take it in my office,” she instructed,
pushing back her chair. “Sorry, duty calls,” she said to Echo, giving her a
hug.

“Let’s
just hope his daughter isn’t engaged again,” her friend laughed, referring to
the mayor’s spoiled little socialite. Several months ago, he’d convinced a more
than reluctant Missy to plan his precious Priscilla’s wedding, and it hadn’t
gone well, even before the groom-to-be was busted for art theft and murder.

“Fingers
crossed,” Missy nodded, disappearing through the swinging doors that led into
the kitchen and heading for her cramped but spotless office.

“Mayor
Chadwick,” she answered with a smile, settling into her worn, but beautiful,
“baseball glove” leather chair. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Well,
Melissa Gladstone, it’s been quite some time since I’ve had the pleasure of
speaking with you,” the mayor responded. There was no such thing as getting
straight to business in the South, there was always a preamble of socialization
required.

Missy
smiled. “Indeed, far too long,” she agreed. “How’s your family?” she asked the
required question.

“Healthy
and happy,” the jolly man replied. “And I hear you have some exciting news of
your own. Congratulations! It’s about time that detective of yours put a
diamond on that pretty little finger.”

“Yes,
we’re both very excited,” Missy agreed, glad he couldn’t see that she was
blushing to the roots of her hair. The old-fashioned notion that a woman needed
to be married in order to be fulfilled, stuck in her craw, but she understood
that most of the folks that she knew felt differently. “So what can I do for
you today, Mr. Mayor?”

“Mr.
Mayor, pish-posh, I told you darlin,’ call me Felton,” he insisted with a
chuckle.

“Yes,
of course, Felton. How can I help you?” Missy corrected.

“Well,
as I’m sure you’re aware, we are in the heart of the mayoral election race here
in LaChance,” he began.

“Of
course,” Missy lied. The truth was, she generally ignored the yard signs,
bumper stickers and patriotically-colored advertising that shouted out for each
candidate during election season. Before voting, she would spend some time
delving into issues that were most important to her and her businesses, and if
she had any questions, she’d generally seek out the candidates and ask them
personally.

“I’d
like to see some of your work represented at the reception that takes place
right after the mayoral debate, if that’s possible. Maybe some cupcakes in red,
white and blue?” he requested, as though he were already assuming the answer.

“I’m
sure that we can make that happen, Felton, just have your secretary send me the
specifics and I’ll take care of it,” Missy assured him, relieved that his
request had been so simple.

“I
want you to really outdo yourself on this one, little lady,” he directed. “I’m
hosting this shindig, and I want it to be remembered long after the debate is
over.”

“They’ll
be the best cupcakes that LaChance has ever tasted, I assure you,” she smiled.
After another round of pleasantries and promises to stay in touch, they hung up
and Missy sighed. Projects done for the mayor were never as easy as they
seemed, and she wondered what would be the catch this time.

 

Chapter 2

Missy
rang the doorbell at Ben and Cheryl’s comfy little blue and white cottage,
looking forward to spending some time with the young family that she regarded
as her own. They’d invited her to dinner, and her stomach growled in
anticipation of Cheryl’s homemade sour cream potato salad.

Cheryl
answered the door with little Cammie balanced on her hip. “Hi! Come in, it’s
great to see you outside of the shop,” she teased, giving her boss a big hug.
Cammie reached her chubby little arms out and waggled her fingers, wanting her
godmother to pick her up, and no second invitation was needed, Missy swooped
her away from her mother gladly.

“Hey
little one,” she kissed her favorite cherub on the nose.

“I’m
so glad you’re here,” Cheryl called over her shoulder, heading into the kitchen.
“Ben is on BBQ duty and I need to pull my biscuits out of the oven.”

“It
smells heavenly,” Missy inhaled appreciatively.

Having
grown up in the South, Cheryl’s fresh baked biscuits were like fluffy, buttery
clouds of perfection. There were various bowls and pans of food simmering,
cooling and waiting to be attended to in the cozy little green and white
kitchen, and Missy sat on a bar stool with Cammie after peering into the many
containers.

“How
can I help?” she asked as the young mother put biscuits on the cooling rack and
took a short break to stir a crockpot of honey BBQ beans.

“Do
exactly what you’re doing,” Cheryl instructed, turning off the oven and moving
to the cutting board to chop dill for her amazing potato salad. “Having the
little one entertained while I do nothing but cook is quite a treat,” she
grinned.

“Perfect,”
Missy cooed, looking into the warm chocolate eyes of the adorable child in her
lap.

Ben
came in, resplendent in his chef’s apron, with a platter of fork-tender ribs.
He’d basted them with just the right amount of his special homemade grilling
sauce, and the aroma in the kitchen grew even more delicious.

“What
should I do with this?” he asked, kissing his wife on the cheek.

“Just
set them on the dining room table, it’s a little bit too chilly to eat
outside,” she instructed, pointing her chef’s knife in the direction of the
dining room.

Ben
set the platter on the table and came back to grab a heaping bowl of cole slaw
and a pitcher of sweet tea, returning shortly, only to be handed a basket of fresh
biscuits and the bowl of his wife’s locally-famous potato salad. She ladled the
beans into a serving dish and carried it to the table, beckoning Missy to
follow her. After setting the beans on a pot holder, she took the baby from her
boss and fastened the giggling child snugly into her high chair. The adults
chattered gaily while helping themselves to the bounty before them, and Cammie
tapped on her white plastic tray with a child-sized spoon.

“This
is such a treat,” Missy exclaimed, dabbing her biscuit in bean sauce. “My
favorite foods and my favorite people, it doesn’t get better than this,” she
smiled.

Ben
and Cheryl exchanged a glance.

“Well,
we actually had ulterior motives for inviting you over,” Ben began, seeming as
though he was trying to think carefully about what he wanted to say.

“Oh?”
Missy put a forkful of potato salad in her mouth and set down her fork,
blotting her lips with a napkin. “Is everything okay?” she frowned.

Cheryl
smiled reassuringly. “No, we’re fine…we just have some news, that’s all,” she
looked pointedly at her husband.

Missy
gasped. “Another baby?” she asked, her face aglow.

The
young couple laughed at her immediate assumption.

“No,”
Ben replied, smiling when her face fell in obvious disappointment. “Not that,
at least not yet,” he glanced fondly at his wife. “So…you know I’ll be
receiving my doctorate in May,” he said, waiting for her nod. “Well, I’ve
already received multiple job offers.”

“Oh,
Ben, congratulations, that’s wonderful! I knew that would happen for you,” she
interrupted, gushing enthusiasm. She was as proud of him as if he was her own
son, which for all practical purposes, he had been for the last few years.

“…and
we’ve narrowed down the options and decided which one I’m going to take,” he
announced, letting his breath out in a rush.

“And?”

“And…I’ve
been offered a position at UC Irvine. I’ll be teaching a couple of classes and
they’re going to fund the research so that I can continue. It’s the chance of a
lifetime for a new post doc,” he added.

“Oh
Ben, that’s wonderf…wait…did you say UC Irvine? As in California?” she asked,
her eyes widening with realization.

Cheryl
nodded, her eyes welling with tears.

Missy
was stunned. She knew that Ben would be graduating soon, but the thought that
they’d be leaving her hadn’t quite sunk in yet. It wasn’t so much that she’d be
losing both of her store managers, but that she’d be losing her family. The
thought of not seeing these incredible people every day, and not being there
while Cammie was growing up, hurt her heart, but she knew that she should
encourage the young family to spread their wings and fly.

“Congratulations,
sweetheart, I’m so proud of you,” she reached over and squeezed Ben’s hand, tears
running freely down her face.

“We
know that our move is going to affect your shops, but we’ll be able to help you
with hiring and training,” Ben assured her.

“Oh,
Ben, I’m not worried about all of that. I’m just going to miss you all so much.
I’m happy for you, but sad for me,” she admitted wiping her tears and trying
desperately not to smear her mascara. Cammie, sensing the change of mood in the
room, stuck out her lower lip, and lowered her spoon, looking at the adults
wide-eyed, with tears threatening.

“Oh,
honey,” Missy cooed, plucking her out of the high chair and crushing her to her
chest. “It’s okay, Nana’s happy. It’s okay, lovebug,” she kissed the confused
child’s downy hair.

“I’m
sorry to spring it on you like this,” Cheryl said, wiping her own tears. “It’s
taken us a while to adjust to the idea too. I’m s-c-a-r-e-d to move away from
Louisiana, I’ve never been further away than Florida, and that was only for my
senior trip,” she shrugged, looking young and helpless, but Missy knew better.

“You’ll
love it, I just know you will,” she said as Cammie snuggled into her shoulder,
sucking on two fingers. “You two are strong and smart and brave, and they’ll be
lucky to have you at UC Irvine,” she promised, her own tears starting again.

Cheryl
nodded and tried to smile, unable to speak past the lump in her throat. Ben
reached for her hand.

“We’ll
definitely stay in touch,” he said. “That little girl is going to grow up
knowing who her Nana is,” he nodded, getting a bit choked up himself.

As
often happened to Missy in times of extreme emotion, she began to giggle. “Just
look at the three of us,” she shook her head. “You tell me some of the happiest
news of your lives, and we sit here boo-hooing about it. We are going to stop
this right now,” she slapped her hand on the table with finality. “I’m going to
call that wonderful fiancé of mine and tell him to pick me up from here after
he gets out of work because I’m planning on being too tipsy to drive,” she
declared. “We’re going to celebrate! Ben, you go grab us some wine,” she
ordered, and Ben got up immediately, grateful for being able to count on his
effervescent boss to make lemonade out of whatever lemons life threw her way.

 

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