Authors: Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Praise for the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries
Remnants of Murder
“Eccentric characters, small-town quirks, and southern charm . . . this book is a winner.”
“A well-written, character-driven, and definitely cozy mystery.”
Let It Sew
“Elizabeth Lynn Casey has created wonderful, caring characters and placed them in a beautiful place . . . Whether it be a book fair or a crafting session, you will be inspired.”
Escape with Dollycas
“A definite page-turner . . . Casey always keeps me guessing . . . Warmth, good ole southern comfort, with a dose of small-town, friendly chatter gossip.”
Cozy Mystery Book Review
“The best book yet in this wonderfully crafted series.”
Dru’s Book Musings
Reap What You Sew
“The Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries are full of down-home fun and charm and a group of ladies readers will look forward to visiting with again and again.”
The Mystery Reader
“Tori is fun, sassy, smart, and crafty in more ways than one. I loved her wit, humor, and the small-town-girl feel I got from her . . . I like feeling the connection to the characters, like they are old friends coming into my home for the night to sew and solve mysteries together.”
Two Lips Reviews
“I always look forward to seeing what disaster of the criminal vein befalls Tori and the sewing circle. And why not? This series has its own brand of charm, intrigue, and unique characters.”
Once Upon a Romance
“Elizabeth Lynn Casey keeps her readers entertained with
through her wonderful storytelling skills that feature light humor, gentle romance, and always an intriguing, suspenseful mystery to be solved. What more could you ask for in a cozy mystery?”
“I always enjoy visiting Tori and her friends in Sweet Briar. They are their own band of sisters who squabble and pick at each other yet will drop most anything to lend a hand.”
Once Upon a Romance
“A perfect addition to the Southern Sewing Circle series. With strong personalities vibrating off each page, the twists and turns of the story line, and the exceptionally exciting ending, this one will please them all!”
The Romance Readers Connection
Pinned for Murder
“[Mixes] a suspenseful story with a dash of down-home flavor . . . Visiting with the charmingly eccentric folks of Sweet Briar is like taking a trip back home.”
“A relaxing and pleasurable read. Ms. Casey has sewn together a finely crafted cozy mystery series.”
Once Upon a Romance
“An excellent read for crafters and mystery lovers alike. Elizabeth Casey has a knack for threading together great story lines, likable characters, and surprises in every page. The women in the Southern Sewing Circle are friends we all wish we had. This book was terrific from beginning to end.”
The Romance Readers Connection
“A light, fun mystery with southern charm and an energetic heroine.”
The Mystery Reader
“Filled with fun, folksy characters and southern charm.”
—Maggie Sefton, national bestselling author
“Sweet and charming . . . The bewitching women of the Southern Sewing Circle will win your heart in this debut mystery.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Elizabeth Lynn Casey
PINNED FOR MURDER
REAP WHAT YOU SEW
LET IT SEW
REMNANTS OF MURDER
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China
A Penguin Random House Company
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63758-6
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / August 2014
Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher. Cover design by Judith Lagerman.
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.
For the friends I’ve made along my writing journey—thank you. You’ve made each step sweeter than I could have ever imagined.
A big thank-you to my friend Lynn Deardorff, whose suggestion of Flower Zipper Pins turned out to be the perfect project for the Sweet Briar crew during their trip to the Big Apple.
A heartfelt thank-you also goes to my beloved Aunt Mary, who has passed her love of the city on to me in so many ways.
And finally, a thank-you to my parents. Not only do they remember the day I came home from a friend’s house (at the age of ten) determined to be a writer, but they also saved those first few writing attempts as if they never had any doubt I’d succeed.
Life’s memorable moments tended to offer their share of distinct sounds.
A well-earned promotion brought the clink of glasses and a heartfelt round of congratulations . . .
A broken heart brought crying jags and bewildered moans . . .
A marriage proposal brought squeals of delight, a few sniffles, and sometimes even a combination of the two . . .
And while Tori Sinclair had never been hours away from embarking on an all-expense-paid trip to New York City with six of her best friends before, she expected it to sound differently than it did as she stepped into Margaret Louise Davis’s home with her suitcase in one hand and her airline ticket in the other.
Tilting her head to the side, Tori strained to pick out the thump of luggage against stairs, the gasp over an almost-forgotten toiletry item, even a verbal claiming of the always-coveted window seat from some distant corner of her friend’s home. Yet no matter how far she leaned or how utterly still she stood, she heard nothing more than the tick tock of the kitchen clock and the faintest hint of a sporadic tapping.
“Hello?” she called out as she set her powder blue carry-on beside a floral soft side bag and an ancient-looking maroon hard side suitcase tucked beneath Margaret Louise’s foyer table. A quick peek at the luggage tag on each let her know that at least Rose Winters and Beatrice Tharrington had arrived. “Margaret Louise? Are you here?”
The creek of a door toward the back of the house was followed by a never-before-heard hushed version of a voice that always made her happy. “We’re in here, Victoria . . . in my sewin’ room. But come quick. There ain’t much time.”
Her mouth froze mid-smile as an image of Rose’s eighty-year-old body, slumped atop Margaret Louise’s sewing machine, sent her sprinting across the house with nary a thought to the brightly colored obstacles that littered her path with the promise of a sprained ankle if she misnavigated. “Is Rose okay? Did she fall? Is she sick?” she managed to ask as she skidded to a stop beside her friend.
“Rose is fine, Victoria.” Margaret Louise rested a plump and reassuring hand on Tori’s shoulder while simultaneously guiding her gaze toward the beloved matriarch of their sewing circle. Sure enough, leaning toward the screen of Margaret Louise’s desktop computer was the diminutive white-haired woman that reminded Tori of her own late great-grandmother in everything from strength of spirit to shared tidbits of wisdom. “She’s havin’ a hootenanny in here lendin’ her smarts to Operation Dixie.”
Tori worked to steady her breath as she took in Beatrice’s typing, Rose’s fevered dictation, and the handsome gray-haired gentleman that smiled out at them from the nearly monitor-sized snapshot. “Operation Dixie?”
Dixie Dunn was, well, Dixie Dunn. Stout in mind and body, Dixie had served as head librarian of Sweet Briar Public Library for more than four decades. Her job, as she liked to remind everyone within a fifty-mile radius, was unceremoniously snatched from her still-able hands when she was forced into retirement by the library board. The fact that Tori’s hiring came
the board’s decision mattered naught to the seventy-something, who’d spent the next year or so glaring at the same newcomer the rest of her sewing circle had embraced with open arms.
Fortunately, time and a handful of olive branch offerings—including riding to Dixie’s rescue after both a fire and a dead body—had eased virtually all of Dixie’s resentment toward Tori and the two had become friends. Still, mention of the woman’s name tended to give her pause. Especially when it was said in conjunction with the mischievous glint Tori now saw in Margaret Louise’s eyes. “We”—Margaret Louise pulled her hand from Tori’s shoulder and waved it toward Rose and Beatrice—“think most of Dixie’s bellyachin’ comes from bein’ lonely. When Nina came back from maternity leave, Dixie’s volunteerin’ at the library wasn’t needed no more. And as much as she likes to toot her horn ’bout her involvement with Home Fare and the shut-ins, she still ain’t happy. Not like she
“That’s why she needs a bloke.” Beatrice glanced over her shoulder at Tori, the hint of crimson on her pale skin a perfect accompaniment to the shy smile that flickered across the young nanny’s face. Employed by a wealthy Sweet Briar family, the British girl’s departure from her teen years four years ago gave her the honor of being Rose’s opposing bookend when it came to the age range within the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle.
Tori inched her way into the small, eight-by-eight-foot room until she was close enough to see that the man on the computer screen had brilliant blue eyes, was listed as seventy-two years old, and had the kind of face stubble that instantly elevated his appeal into the alluring category. “I really think you should leave the whole notion of dating up to Dixie. Maybe she doesn’t
a man in her life right now. Or maybe her tastes are different than yours.”
Margaret Louise unzipped the jacket of her polyester jogging suit halfway down her rounded stomach, shaking her head emphatically as she did. “Don’t you worry that pretty head of yours none, Victoria. Dixie already knows ’bout John Dreyer. In fact, they’re gonna meet face-to-face over breakfast tomorrow mornin’.”
Her focus ricocheted off the man and landed squarely on Margaret Louise. “But we’ll be in the city tomorrow, remember?”
“And so will John, on account of that’s where he’s livin’.” Margaret Louise rocked back on the soles of her Keds and clapped her hands with glee. “Why, it’s hard to think this is anything but a match made in heaven, ain’t it?”
Tori looked at the screen again, the incessant tapping of Beatrice’s fingers against the keyboard making it difficult to think, let alone truly process the situation. “Okay, so what are the three of you doing in here with his profile and picture on
“Makin’ sure Dixie’s got the best bait on her hook, that’s what.” Margaret Louise nudged her chin in Rose’s direction. “Rose is Dixie’s smarts. Beatrice is Dixie’s quiet charm. And me? I make it sound as if she’s a pro in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, yeah . . . that’s good,” Rose said, grabbing hold of Beatrice’s upper arm with one hand while gesturing toward the screen with her other. “Now, tell him I backpacked through Europe as a teenager and that I’m considering doing it again!”
Tori watched in horror as Beatrice nodded then typed Rose’s words into the rapidly scrolling text box in the bottom-left-hand corner of the screen.
“Oh! Oh! And be sure to add that I’ll pack my backpack with an array of healthy homemade treats to share with other backpackers.” Margaret Louise beamed as Beatrice made the addition. “That way he gets domestic and charmin’ all at the same time!”
“Are you guys crazy? You can’t do that! Dixie would be—”
“Hello? Where is everybody?” Dixie’s voice rang out from the front of the house, kicking off a flurry of activity that had John’s breathtaking blue eyes disappearing from the computer screen in a single blink of Tori’s eye. Gone was the keyboard, the notebook with Dixie’s user name and password for the senior online dating site, and the self-satisfied smiles from the faces of Tori’s meddling friends.
A final check of the room for any remaining evidence of their misdeeds was followed by the scraping sound of Rose’s chair as she pushed back and struggled to her feet with a rare burst of speed usually reserved for dessert time at the group’s weekly sewing meeting.
“We’re comin’,” Margaret Louise bellowed. Then, lowering her voice for the benefit of those in her study, she spoke around the side of her index finger. “Now remember. Don’t breathe a word.”
For the second time in as many minutes, Tori opened her mouth to protest, only to have her second attempt at the same sentiment ripped from the air by Rose’s bony elbow. “You’re young, Victoria. You’re in love with a wonderful man. You don’t know what it’s like to be old and alone.”
“Come tomorrow, when they finally meet over tea and scones, Dixie will be on her own,” Beatrice whispered. “This just gets them started.”
“Started in lies, you mean,” Tori murmured before bringing up the rear of the parade that was now crossing the same toy-strewn room she’d navigated like a world-class skier less than ten minutes earlier. What Rose, Beatrice, and Margaret Louise were doing was wrong. Setting Dixie up to meet John under such false pretenses was handicapping any chance the woman had at something real.
But any and all thoughts of calling the trio on the carpet disappeared the second Dixie came into view. She was standing beside her awkwardly large black carry-on with the most genuine look of childlike joy Tori had ever seen on her face.
Sure, she’d seen Dixie smile while talking about books.
And yes, she’d seen Dixie smile when lavished with praise for just about anything.
But the smile on her friend’s face at that exact moment was different. It started with her mouth but it kept on going—claiming the woman’s eyes, cheeks, and virtually every other part of her five-foot-four, linebacker-like frame.
Was it really so terrible for Rose, Beatrice, and Margaret Louise to help Dixie along in an area where she’d had no experience since losing her husband fifteen years earlier?
Yes. Because it’s not real . . .
“Oh, shut up.”
Four sets of eyes beneath four sets of elevated eyebrows turned in Tori’s direction.
She waved her hands back and forth. “I—I wasn’t talking to any of you.”
Rose scowled. “No one else is here, Victoria.”
A succession of loud thumps from just outside the front door saved her from having to admit she’d been arguing with herself, and she was grateful. Right or wrong, Dixie’s exuberant mood would make the flight to New York City easier on whoever pulled duty as her seatmate.
“Would it be too much trouble for any of you to stop your endless chitchat long enough to assist me with my bags?” Leona’s perfectly made-up brown eyes peered through her stylish glasses at them from the other side of the screen door, an irritated expression marring her otherwise beautiful face.
She felt the weight of Leona’s irritation as it moved across each and every face before landing squarely on hers. With a shot, Tori sprang into action. “Oh. Sure. I can help.” She stepped around her friends and through the door Leona held open with a bored hand, only to come to a statue-like freeze at the mountain of luggage atop Margaret Louise’s front porch.
Her mouth gaped open.
Margaret Louise’s fraternal twin shook her head of salon-softened gray hair. “How many times have I told you not to let your jaw slack like that, dear? It’s a very unbecoming look for anyone, let alone someone who does so little to enhance their features—positive or otherwise.”
She knew she should say something to defend herself, or at the very least, wait a beat or two until Rose could jump in and begin trading barbs with her biggest adversary, but she didn’t. All she could focus on at that moment was the luggage.
Three bulging bags to be checked.
Four questionable-sized carry-ons.
And one very pampered garden-variety bunny with a bejeweled bow around her neck.
For a three-day trip.
“Leona, you can’t bring all those bags!”
Instantly, Leona’s chin rose into the air above Paris’s soft, velvety ears. “And why not?”
“Because we want the plane to actually get off the runway?” Rose quipped from her spot in the doorway between Beatrice and Margaret Louise.
Ever the mediator, Beatrice’s voice, quiet and sweet, rushed to smooth the fight-inducing words. “You look so lovely in everything you wear, Leona, I’m most certain you don’t need all of the things you packed.”
Leona’s anger-filled eyes left Rose just long enough to take in the British girl with a knowing nod before returning to her nemesis with flaring nostrils. “I figured at least
of the two of us should dress like something other than a housecoat-wearing, feet-shuffling, backwoods-living bumpkin.”
Silence permeated the air for all of about two seconds before Rose returned the volley. “And you think a teeny-bopper-clothes-wearing, street-walking, man-hungry floozy is better?”
Leona’s mouth gaped, then recovered, then gaped again.
“Pssst, Twin?” Margaret Louise mock-whispered. “I can see your partials when you do that.”
Unable to hold it back any longer, Tori laughed, the tension brought on by her friends’ shenanigans regarding Dixie all but a distant memory against the promise of three fun-filled days in the Big Apple. The fact that the trip coincided with their appearance tomorrow on the nationally syndicated morning television sensation,
Taped with Melly and Kenneth
, only made it more exciting.
The death glare that had been aimed solely at Rose until that moment grew to include Tori as well. But before Leona could give words to her anger, Margaret Louise waved off the negative vibes. “I got a call from Zelman this mornin’.”
“Who’s Zelman?” Beatrice asked.
“He’s the guy who makes sure that Melly and Kenneth’s show goes off without a hitch each day.” Margaret Louise pushed off the door frame and motioned everyone back inside. “He said a limo will pick us up at the hotel at one o’clock tomorrow afternoon and bring us to the studio.”