Authors: Krista Davis
PRAISE FOR THE
NEW YORK TIMES
“The Domestic Diva series is always worth readingÂ .Â .Â . Ms. Davis just keeps getting better.”
“DavisÂ .Â .Â . again combines food and felonies in this tasty whodunit, which keeps the reader fascinated until the killer is iced.”
“The quirky characters are well developed, the story line is as crisp as a fall apple, and the twists and turns are as tight as a corkscrew.”
“Davis finely blends mystery and comedy, keeping
The Diva Haunts the House
entertaining and alluring.”
“Raucous humor, affectionate characters, and delectable recipes highlight this unpredictable mystery that entertains during any season.”
âKings River Life Magazine
“Reader alert: Tasty descriptions may spark intense cupcake cravings.”
The Washington Post
“[A] fun romp through the world of chocolate.”
âLesa's Book Critiques
“[A] delightful seriesÂ .Â .Â .
The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss
is full of murder, secret identities, poison, missing persons, and chocolate treats.”
âOpen Book Society
“Loaded with atmosphere and charm.”
“Davis plates up another delectable whodunit, complete with recipes. Indeed, her novels are every bit as good as Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Schulz mysteries.”
“A mouthwatering mix of murder, mirth, and mayhem.”
âMary Jane Maffini, author of
The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder
Domestic Diva Mysteries
THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME
THE DIVA TAKES THE CAKE
THE DIVA PAINTS THE TOWN
THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE
THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE
THE DIVA DIGS UP THE DIRT
THE DIVA FROSTS A CUPCAKE
THE DIVA WRAPS IT UP
THE DIVA STEALS A CHOCOLATE KISS
THE DIVA SERVES HIGH TEA
Paws & Claws Mysteries
MURDER, SHE BARKED
THE GHOST AND MRS. MEWER
MURDER MOST HOWL
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
THE DIVA SERVES HIGH TEA
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2016 by Cristina Ryplansky.
by Krista Davis copyright Â© 2016 by Cristina Ryplansky.
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eBook ISBN: 9780698406148
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / June 2016
Cover illustration by Teresa Fasolino.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
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.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
To Sandra Harding,
with appreciation and
Readers often ask me if I do research for my books. Of course I do! I learn fascinating things with every book I write. As the theme of this book is tea, I did quite a bit of reading online and off about tea. It has a long history with some fascinating stories. I found
The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea
by Michael Harney, master tea blender, to be most helpful. Given to me as a gift some years ago because I am a self-confessed tea addict, it has a treasured spot on my bookshelf. I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to learn more about tea. As always, any errors are my own.
While I discussed the concept of this book with Sandra Harding, it was edited by my new editor, Julie Mianecki. I am so grateful to both of them for their help. My agent, Jessica Faust, has been my rock this past year. I honestly don't know what I would have done without her.
Thanks also go to Jody Schwoerer, who gave me the idea for a specific scene. No spoilers here, but thank you, Jody!
As always, I have to thank my mother, and my friends Betsy Strickland, Susan Erba, and Amy Wheeler for their support. They make me laugh, keep me grounded, and cheer me
Natasha, a domestic diva with a local TV show
Mars Winston, Sophie's ex-husband, now Natasha's significant other
Nina Reid Norwood, Sophie's best friend
Bernie, restaurant manager and best man at Sophie and Mars's wedding
Francie Vanderhoosen, Sophie's neighbor
Velma Klontz, Francie's friend
Robert Johnson, Velma's widowed brother-in-law
Martha Carter, owner of The Parlour
Callie Evans, works at The Parlour
Alex German, is dating Sophie
Elise Donovan, Alex's old friend
My new boyfriend's mother loves to garden. She keeps offering me cups of home grown comfrey tea, but I'm a little nervous about drinking tea made from some weed. Do you think her herbal teas are safe to drink?
âUneasy in Tea Kettle Corner, Maine
Many herbal teas, like chamomile, have been safely consumed for centuries. However, comfrey tea is not one of them. It sounds like she wants you to find a new boyfriend.
At three in the morning, the world was simultaneously peaceful and a little bit spooky. No cars rumbled by on my street. No warm yellow glow shone in the windows of my neighbors' homes. Of course, it didn't help that Natasha
had awakened me from a deep sleep by texting the word
Who sends a message like that? I had phoned her to ask if she called 911, but she didn't answer. She didn't respond to my return text, either.
My ex-husband, Mars, who now happened to be Natasha's significant other, was out of town at a political event. I had known Natasha since we were kids in tiny Berrysville, Virginia. We competed at everything except the beauty pageants she loved so much. Familiar with her predilection for drama, I hadn't hurried over. I slid my feet into sandals and threw on a fluffy white bathrobe, attached a leash to my hound mix, Daisy, and crossed the street at a leisurely pace in the warm fall night.
Nevertheless, I shrieked when a cat streaked out of the shadows and across the sidewalk right in front of us. Daisy barked once at the inconsiderate cat.
Natasha's front door was locked. I rapped on it and called, “Natasha!” I banged the knocker, which sounded unbelievably loud in the night. No response at all. I was beginning to get worried. Why wasn't she answering the door? I tried the handle again but the door was definitely locked.
“Let's go around back,” I said to Daisy.
I opened the gate to the passage that ran along the side of the house. In Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the historic homes were situated close together, often with only a narrow service passage between buildings. Daisy led the way in the darkness.
We hurried up the stairs to the deck, where I pounded on the kitchen door. “Natasha?”
Still nothing. There were no lights on in the house, either.
Daisy pulled on her leash.
“Not now, Daisy.” Why hadn't I brought the key to Natasha's house? I considered smashing a window. Should I go home and look for the key or break the glass to save time?
Daisy yelped, startling me. She tugged toward the side of the deck.
I heard a soft
. Following Daisy's lead, I tiptoed over to the railing and looked down just in time to see a person dressed in black and wearing a hood close the sliding glass door and sneak around the side of the house.
I scrambled down the stairs but he or she had already vanished. I stopped short of following him or her into the dark passage along the side of the house. That seemed incredibly stupid. The intruder could be lurking there. Besides, Natasha might be hurt and need help.
“C'mon, Daisy,” I whispered. We ran to the basement door. I slid it open. Where were the light switches? “Natasha?” I yelled.
Walking cautiously, and looking around in case another intruder remained behind, I made my way to the back of the room, where stairs led to the main floor. I found a panel of light switches, flicked them all on, and the room blazed. I took a quick look to be sure no one hid behind the bar before racing upstairs, calling Natasha's name. I turned on the lights in the foyer and the stairwell. Nothing seemed out of place. “Natasha!”
I wasn't sure where to start. She had probably been asleep when the intruder came in. I rushed up the stairs, hoping Daisy, who wasn't much of a watchdog, would alert me if she smelled someone lurking in the house. At the top of the stairs, I turned right, toward Natasha and Mars's bedroom, flicking on overhead lights as I went. “Natasha!”
In the master bedroom, decorated in shades of gray from the walls to the bedding, it was clear that her bed had been slept in. But she was nowhere to be seen. “Natasha!”
Daisy pulled me toward the bathroom door. I grabbed the doorknob and twisted, but it didn't budge. It was locked tight. I knocked, which seemed somewhat silly under the circumstances. “Natasha? Are you in there? It's Sophie.”
Nothing. No response. Not a sound in the house.
I jiggled the doorknob, which accomplished nothing. I
backed up a step and banged my shoulder into the door. Oww. It looked a lot easier in the movies.
The thud of the doorknocker boomed through the house. When I was dashing down the stairs, I heard, “Natasha? It's Officer Wong.”
I recognized Wong's voice, so I unlocked the door and threw it open.
Wong enjoyed surprising people who expected an Asian officer. Her surname was the last vestige of marrying the wrong man, but she hadn't bothered to change it. Wong wasn't much taller than my five feet. Her uniform strained against her ample curves. She was African American, and wore her hair short in the back but let a sassy curl fall over her forehead. “Sophie! I didn't expect to see
. Everything okay?”
“I think Natasha is locked in the bathroom upstairs. But she's not responding when I call her name.”
“We had a report of an intruder.”
I nodded. “Someone was in the house. I saw him leave.”
“Or her. I don't know. Someone dressed in black.”
Wong frowned. “Wait here.”
“What about Natasha?”
“Stay right where you are. We don't know if there's someone else in the house.”
Wong had proven herself logical and reliable in the past. I followed her instructions and waited by the front door with Daisy. I could hear her moving through the rooms on the main floor and the basement, checking them out.
Wong made her way back to the foyer. “I don't see anything unusual. How'd you get in?”
“Through the basement.”
Wong started up the stairs.
I hated waiting by the door. I guessed I could be in the way if I followed her and she found someone hiding in the house. Still, I couldn't help feeling time might be of the essence. What if the intruder had hurt Natasha and locked her in the
bathroom? I ran up the stairs as quietly as I could, but Daisy's paws hit the stairs like thunder.
I tried the doorknob to the bathroom again. It was still locked. Who put a key lock on a bathroom door? “Natasha! Natasha!”
Wong walked up beside me. “What part of
stay right where you are
wasn't clear to you?”
“What if she's bleeding or unconscious?” I jiggled the knob in frustration.
Wong looked around, opened the drawers of a dressing table, and withdrew something.
“What are you doing?”
“Stand aside, Sophie.”
She took two hairpins, pried one open and bent the other at a slight angle. She inserted them in the lock and opened the door in a matter of seconds.
Natasha sprawled on the floor, facedown.