Authors: Patti Benning
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Book One in the Darling Deli Series
Copyright 2016 Summer Prescott Books
All Rights Reserved
. No part of this publication nor any of the information herein may be quoted from, nor reproduced, in any form, including but not limited to: printing, scanning, photocopying or any other printed, digital, or audio formats, without prior express written consent of the copyright holder.
**This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons, living or dead, places of business, or situations past or present, is completely unintentional.
Book One in the Darling Deli Series
Moira Darling breathed a sigh of relief as she turned the deadbolt on the front door of Darling’s DELIcious Delights. When she first opened the deli, she had thought that the winter season would be slow. Not many tourists would brave the cold and snowy western Michigan winters just to visit the small town of Maple Creek for a bowl of hot soup. What she hadn’t counted on was how popular her warm, freshly made soups and sandwiches would be with the locals.
“Well, we survived another Friday evening,” said Moira’s daughter, Candice, as she plopped down into a chair with a yawn.
“Thanks for helping out on such short notice, sweetie,” Moira said. “I know Danielle feels bad about having to take time off with so little warning. At least she’ll be taking your shift tomorrow, so you’ll be able to have some fun this weekend.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway.” Candice wrinkled her nose. “Chad canceled our date, and I haven’t heard from him since. Apparently I don’t have a social life anymore.” Moira felt a stab of pity as her daughter groaned and buried her face in her hands, blond hair cascading around her face.
Candice was twenty years old, and had moved back to Maple Creek after getting her associate’s degree in business at a small college two hours away. Moira couldn’t help but worry about her daughter; besides the endless bad luck she seemed to have when it came to men, Candice also seemed to have no plans for her future. While Moira was more than happy to have her daughter around to help out at the deli, she hoped that Candice would find a dream to follow sometime soon. Maple Creek was just too quiet for the vibrant twenty-year-old.
Moira ducked into the back of the deli to shrug her coat on and grab the white paper bag that held the sandwiches that would be their dinner. She took one last look around to make sure everything was put away that needed to be put away. The deli was like a second child to her, and she knew that its success was partially due to her careful tending. Of course, her brilliant employees and the delicious food also went a long way towards making Darling’s DELIcious Delights a hit.
“Are we going, Mom?” Candice called from the front. “I’m starving.”
“I’m coming, sweetheart.” Moira gave the deli’s kitchen one last quick glance, and then shut off the lights.
The deli didn’t open until after noon on weekends, but Moira always got to work at ten. While she had faith that her employees could make great sandwiches, she preferred to do the soup of the day herself when she could. Saturday’s soup of the day was one of her favorites, Leeky Soup. It was based on an old potato and leek soup recipe that her grandmother had made on cold winter nights. Moira had spiced the recipe up a bit, adding a pinch of chili powder and just a dash of nutmeg. Since the temperature would be far below freezing today, Moira thought her customers might enjoy the extra heat.
She was just putting the finishing touches on the huge pot of soup that she hoped would see them through the day when she heard the deli’s front door open. A moment later, Danielle peeked her face around the door to the kitchen.
“Do you ever do anything but work, Ms. D?” she asked. “You know I’m perfectly capable of following a recipe myself.”
“I know,” Moira said, giving her employee a reassuring smile. Danielle had been working for her for almost six months, and Moira had yet to regret her decision to hire the young woman, even though Danielle had recently been fired from another restaurant. “I just don’t want to get too wrapped up in the business side of running the deli and forget what this is all about—making good food and making people happy.”
“Well, this place does both those things on a daily basis.” Danielle came the rest of the way into the kitchen and made her way over to the sink to wash her hands. “We’re one of the most popular places in town.”
“If only it wasn’t for the Soup Shoppe.” Moira made a face. “Ever since Henry franchised, and started producing those new TV ads, we’ve been losing customers.” She saw Danielle’s face tighten, and felt bad for mentioning Henry Devou—Danielle had worked for him before she worked for Moira, and Moira knew that Danielle still disliked her previous boss. “Though I can’t complain,” she added quickly. “We’re still doing well enough… much better than I expected, in fact.” When she had decided to open Darling’s DELIcious Delights two years ago, she had only intended the business to be a hobby—something to keep her busy while Candice was in college. She had been shocked at the success that her soups and sandwiches had found in the small town.
“Hopefully—” Danielle began, but she was cut off by the arrival of Darrin, the assistant manager, the first employee that Moira had hired after the deli had become too much to handle on her own. He was a young man, a few years older than Candice, with shoulder-length black hair and a winning smile. Her customers loved him, and even better, he knew his way around the kitchen like a pro. As Darrin walked into the kitchen, he gave both of the women a quick grin, and then inhaled deeply.
“Wow, something smells good,” her employee said.
“It’s Leeky Soup,” Moira told him. “Both of you, grab a bowl. You can be my taste testers. See if you think I added too much chili powder to this batch.”
Moira only stayed at the deli for a few hours. Once she made sure that her employees had everything running smoothly, she waved and left, deciding to do some grocery shopping before heading home and starting dinner for herself and Candice.
She was surprised to find the house empty when she got home. She put the grocery bags down in the kitchen and then called out “Candice?” even though she could tell that the house was empty. A moment later, she saw the quickly scrawled note on the fridge.
Out with Samantha. I’ll be home later. XOXOXO
Moira was glad that Candice had gotten over her boyfriend troubles so quickly, and was having fun with one of her friends, but couldn’t help feeling slightly sorry for herself. As a divorced woman in her early forties, her own dating pool was quite small. Moira knew that she looked good for her age: she had a petite frame, with light brown hair that hadn’t really begun to go gray, and what her husband had described as mischievous green eyes… at least during the early years of their marriage. Even though she thought of herself as an attractive, intelligent go-getter, her dates always seemed to fizzle out before the end of the evening. In fact, she couldn’t even remember the last time she had been on a date with a guy that she really liked.
I really need to get out there more
, she thought.
As much as I love my job, I need more in my life than work.
Moira shook her head to clear her mind. She had never found self-pity attractive. Besides, she had a lot to live for; a wonderful daughter, a thriving business and… well, that was enough, wasn’t it? With a sigh, she began putting away the groceries. She would make a nice dinner another night, when Candice was home. For now, she could eat leftovers. In fact, leftovers and a TV marathon were starting to sound like a pretty good way to spend her Saturday evening.
Moira woke up to her cell phone ringing. She felt around for it on her bedside table, slid her finger across the screen, and then brought the phone to her ear.
“Hello?” she said, feeling groggy.
“Have you seen the news yet, Ms. D?” Darrin’s voice came over the phone.
“No… why? What time is it?” Moira sat up in bed, feeling disoriented. She glanced at the clock, and saw that it was shortly after ten. She had stayed up late the night before, eating leftovers, drinking wine, and watching reruns of her favorite show. She realized that she hadn’t heard Candice come in at any point during the night. Suddenly worried, Moira slid out of bed and pulled her bathrobe on, keeping the phone pressed between her shoulder and her ear.
“Is something going on?”
“Henry Devou, you know, the guy that owns the Soup Shoppe… he’s dead.” Darrin told her.
“Oh my goodness, what happened?” Moira asked. She couldn’t help feeling relieved that it wasn’t something to do with Candice—where was that girl, anyway?—but she felt terrible for Mr. Devou. Even though he hadn’t been very nice the few times that she had spoken to him, he definitely didn’t deserve whatever fate had befallen him.
“They don’t know yet. I guess his sister was staying with him, and she found his body early this morning. I just thought you should know… people are going to be talking about it all day,” he told her. Henry Devou was the richest man in Maple Creek, thanks to his thriving Soup Shoppe. Moira knew that Darrin was right—not much happened in Maple Creek, so this would probably be the talk of the town for the whole week.
“Thanks for letting me know, Darrin. Did you call Danielle yet? She’s working with me today, and I’d rather her hear it from one of us than one of the customers. She used to work for him, you know,” Moira said.
“Yeah, I remember. I tried calling her, but she didn’t answer. I’ll try again a bit later. She might still be sleeping.” Darrin chuckled. “Oh, and sorry for waking you up, Ms. D.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Moira told him. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll try calling Danielle too pretty soon. Poor girl. I know that she and Henry had their differences, but it will still be a shock to her.”
Moira got off the phone with Darrin and began her search for Candice. She peeked into her daughter’s room, but saw the bed still made. A quick check around the rest of the house showed that her daughter indeed wasn’t home. Concerned, Moira dialed Candice’s number. She was relieved when her daughter answered on the third ring.
“Mom, I’m so sorry; I forgot to tell you I decided to stay the night at Samantha’s,” Candice said immediately. “I know you want me to let you know if I’m not coming home for the night… are you mad?”
“No,” Moira told her. “I was just worried. I’m glad you’re all right. Have fun, and we’ll talk later.” After hanging up the phone, Moira sank into a kitchen chair and leaned back, closing her eyes. Of course Candice was with Samantha—what else had Moira thought? Why did she feel so uneasy, like something bad was about to happen?
Moira got to the deli early again, since she hadn’t been able to get in touch with Danielle. She was concerned about her young employee. Had she already heard the news? It was with relief that she recognized the small dark blue sedan parked in the deli’s lot. Danielle was already there, and Moira would have a chance to talk to her before they opened up for lunch.
As soon as she saw the young woman, she knew that Danielle had already heard the news about Henry Devou’s death. Danielle’s face was pale and her hands were shaking as she greeted Moira. Even though Moira wasn’t as close to Danielle as she was to Darrin, she didn’t hesitate to take her employee into a comforting hug.