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Authors: Amanda Lee

Wicked Stitch

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PRAISE FOR AMANDA LEE’S EMBROIDERY MYSTERIES

Thread End

“This great cozy has a lively cast. . . . The pace is fast and the puns are amusing.”


RT Book Reviews
(4½ stars, top pick)

“Amanda Lee weaves an excellent cozy mystery that will keep the reader hooked from beginning to end.”


Affaire de Coeur

Cross-Stitch Before Dying

“There’s never a dull moment . . . with . . . touches of humor and a hint of sensual romance.”

—Once Upon a Romance

“Marcy’s character is full of humor and intelligence, and she shines in this cozy.”

—Fresh Fiction

“Well paced and a real page-turner . . . a great cozy mystery.”

—MyShelf.com

Thread on Arrival

“Lee is clearly a story wizard.”

—Blogcritics

“A great series with enough suspense and smart sleuthing to hook readers every time.”


RT Book Reviews

“A fun, fast-paced mystery that will be hard to put down.”

—The Mystery Reader

“Entertaining. . . . Readers will enjoy spending time
with the friendly folks of Tallulah Falls as well as Marcy’s adorable Irish wolfhound.”


Publishers Weekly

“Fun, full of suspense, and . . . a satisfying conclusion—readers can hardly ask for more!”

—Fresh Fiction

The Long Stitch Good Night

“Lee’s fourth Embroidery Mystery is well planned and executed. . . . Marcy’s keen sleuthing and tenacious personality allow her to solve this solid mystery with smart thinking and style.”


RT Book Reviews

“Smart and interesting, well patterned, and deftly sewn together.”

—Once Upon a Romance

Thread Reckoning

“Lee’s latest Embroidery Mystery will hook readers with its charming setting and appealing characters. Plenty of spunk and attitude follow Marcy as she solves this well-crafted mystery in a close-knit town full of colorful characters.”


RT Book Review
s

“A fun mystery with compelling characters.”

—Fresh Fiction

Stitch Me Deadly

“The writing is lively, and the pop culture references abundant . . . a smartly written cozy that neatly ties up all the loose ends surrounding the murder but leaves the reader wanting to know more about the amateur detective, her friends, her life, and her future.”

—Fresh Fiction

“A well-thought-out, free-flowing story that
captures your attention and keeps you interested from beginning to end. The comfort of being in a craft store seeps through the pages as Marcy shows her sleuthing side to figure out the town’s newest murders.”

—The Romance Readers Connection

“There are plenty of threads for readers to pick up, and those who pick up the right thread will have the mystery sewn up in short order.”

—The Mystery Reader

The Quick and the Thread

“Lee kicks off a cozy, promising mystery series . . . a fast, pleasant read with prose full of pop culture references and, of course, sharp needlework puns.”


Publishers Weekly

“Lee gives her Embroidery Mystery series a rousing start with a fast-paced, intriguing who-done-it that will delight fans of the cozy mystery genre.”

—Fresh Fiction

“Stands out with its likable characters and polished plot.”

—The Mystery Reader

“If her debut here is any indication, Lee’s new series is going to be fun, spunky, and educational. . . . Marcy Singer is young, fun, sharp, and likable. Readers will be looking forward to her future adventures.”


RT Book Reviews

Also by Amanda Lee

Thread End

Cross-Stitch Before Dying

Thread on Arrival

The Long Stitch Good Night

Thread Reckoning

Stitch Me Deadly

The Quick and the Thread

OBSIDIAN

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

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2015

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

ISBN 978-0-698-14045-5

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

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.

Version_1

Contents

Praise

Also by Amanda Lee

Title page

Copyright pag
e

Dedication

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Epilogue

 

Excerpt from
THE STITCHING HOUR

About the Author

To Tim, Lianna, and Nicholas

Chapter One

I
was sitting at the sewing machine in my office working on a Renaissance costume for my best friend, Sadie MacKenzie. My dog, Angus, an Irish wolfhound, was lying in the hall. The office was a bit cramped for him. Plus, he liked to be able to see what was happening in the main part of the embroidery shop I own . . . which wasn’t much that day.

The shop is called the Seven-Year Stitch, and in fact it was Sadie who had urged me to leave San Francisco and move to the Oregon coast to open the shop. Sadie and her husband, Blake, own MacKenzies’ Mochas, a coffee shop just down the street from the Stitch.

It was mid-September, which meant that all the kids were back at school and there weren’t as many vacationers visiting the coast. Also, everyone was busy preparing for the upcoming Renaissance Faire.

The festival was starting this weekend and would be going on for the next two weeks. The theme
was
Macbeth
, so, of course, someone dressed up as William Shakespeare would be on hand. There would be a king and a queen; Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; Hecate, Queen of the Witches; and the three creepy soothsayers who foretold Duncan’s doom would be there to tell Faire-goers their fortunes. There would be jousting, human chess games, minstrels, faeries, pirates, and all manner of merchants. The Faire was to culminate with Macbeth murdering the king and then being killed by Macduff.

Every merchant I knew—as well as many others—in Tallulah Falls and the outlying region was planning to take part in the Ren Faire. Julie, a woman who took embroidery classes from me, would be coming in Friday to cover for me so I could go get my booth set up. She and her teenage daughter, Amber, would be taking care of the store on Saturday, and then Julie herself would be in charge for the next two weeks while I sold supplies and embroidery pieces at the festival.

Sadie and Blake were taking turns manning a booth and running their shop. Todd Calloway, of the Brew Crew, was setting up a booth, and Captain Moe—he of the delicious burgers and shakes—would be making all our corsets too tight.

I was really looking forward to the event. My mom was a costume designer, so she’d sent patterns for the outfits I’d been making for Sadie and myself. Since Sadie and I would be simple merchants, our costumes weren’t all that fancy. But
they were still beautiful. I loved the feeling of going back in time.

I had both a red and a blue jacquard skirt, a black velvet corset vest, and two cream-colored off-the-shoulder peasant blouses. I also had a very simple square-necked green velvet floor-length gown with gold brocade trim. I figured I might be pushing the “merchant” envelope a little with that last dress, but I didn’t want to wear the same thing every day.

Sadie’s outfits leaned more toward tavern wench costumes. Like me, she had two peasant blouses and two skirts—one brown and one yellow. She also had a black vest, but hers had laces and tied at the bottom. Since Blake—who said he’d go as a pirate or not dressed up at all—would be alternating days with Sadie, she wanted only the two outfits.

I was finishing up her yellow skirt when the bells over the door jingled and Angus leapt to his feet.

“I’ll be right there!” I called. I quickly finished sewing the seam I was working on, then walked out into the shop.

It was Sadie.

“Hi! You’re just in time to try on your yellow skirt,” I said. My smile faded as I noticed the scowl on Sadie’s lovely face.

“What?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m so mad I could spit!” She ran both hands through her long dark hair and paced in front of the window. “I cannot believe the nerve of that woman!”

“Who? What’s going on?” I went over and took
her by the shoulders. “Calm down and tell me about it.”

“Nellie Davis was in the coffee shop just now,” said Sadie.

“Oh, no.”

Nellie Davis had been a thorn in my side ever since I’d moved to Tallulah Falls. Her sister had wanted to lease the space the Stitch was now in, but Sadie had snapped it up for me before anyone else could lay claim to it. Then, after I’d found the former tenant dead in my storeroom, Nellie had said the Seven-Year Stitch was bad for everyone else’s business and had gone on to say all kinds of other mean things about me and my shop. I hated to think that Sadie’s friendship with me had turned the shrewish Nellie against her as well.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “What did she do to you?”

“It’s not what
she
did . . . and she didn’t do it to
me
.” Sadie uttered a growl of frustration. “She said her sister, Clara, is leasing the now-vacant shop between Nellie’s shop and yours.”

“Great. Now I’ll have
two
neighbors to hate on me and the Stitch.”

I’d met Nellie’s sister a couple of months before when she’d angrily accused me of spreading gossip about Nellie. I’d done no such thing, but Clara had refused to believe me.

“That’s not the half of it,” Sadie said. “Clara is planning on selling knitting, crochet, and quilting supplies!”

I gasped. “She can’t do that! Can she? That puts her in direct competition with me!”

“I don’t know if she’s within her legal rights or not, but the very idea of it makes me so angry I can hardly stand it!”

“She and Nellie are trying to put me out of business, aren’t they?” I asked softly.

“I don’t care what they’re trying to do. They will
not
put you out of business. The people of Tallulah Falls are loyal to you. Your customers won’t stand for this.”

I nodded, carefully keeping my eyes on the floor.

Sadie pulled me into a hug. “Are you all right?”

I nodded again, patted Sadie’s back, and then disengaged from the hug. “So . . . you wanna try on that skirt?”

“I have to get back,” she said. “I’ll come check it out in a little while.”

“Okay.” I managed a smile as Sadie left.

I turned and glanced at Angus, who was lying with his head on his paws, looking up at me apprehensively. Something was upsetting me, so he was upset, too.

“Everything’s fine,” I told him.

But he wasn’t easily fooled. As I sank onto the navy blue sofa facing away from the window, he came and placed his wiry gray head on my thigh. I stroked his fur and let my eyes wander around the shop.

I’d opened the Seven-Year Stitch a little less than a year ago, and I was proud of the progress I’d made. It was a beautiful space. To the right of the front door was the sit-and-stitch square. In
addition to the sofa on which I was sitting, its twin faced me across a maple oval coffee table. Beneath the table was a cozy red and blue braided rug. The other two sides of the “square” were made up of red club chairs and matching ottomans.

The left side of the shop was filled with embroidery supplies: flosses, needles, pattern books, hoops, frames, and canvas. I also sold yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks, and cotton batting for quilts, since the Stitch was—or, at least, had been—the only shop of its kind in Tallulah Falls.

On the walls were embroidery projects I’d completed—some in frames, some in hoops. I’d also made candlewick pillows and placed them on the sofas, and I’d embellished outfits for Jill, the mannequin who bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe and stands near the cash register.

Today Jill wore a Juliet-inspired empire-waist gown of light blue velvet with gold trim, a white lace inset at the bodice, and white lace–and-gold trim on the sleeves. She had a matching velvet headpiece wrapped with gold cord, and a sheer tulle veil spilled down her back.

I sighed. I was all for free enterprise, but Nellie’s sister was going to be directly competing with the Seven-Year Stitch right next door!

I picked up my cell phone and called my attorney friend, Riley Kendall. Riley’s mom, Camille, was her administrative assistant, and she answered the phone.

“Good morning, Ms. Patrick,” I said. “This is Marcy Singer. Is Riley available?”

“No, Marcy, dear. She’s in a meeting at the moment. May I have her return your call?”

“Please . . . Well, actually, you might be able to answer my question.” I quickly told her about Clara’s plans for the shop next door to mine and how I thought—hoped—there might be some noncompete clause that would force her to pursue some other retail avenue.

She paused, and I heard regret in her voice when she finally answered. “Noncompete clauses are made between companies and their employees or between corporations and their subsidiaries.”

“So she’s acting within her rights,” I said flatly.

“I’m afraid so,” said Ms. Patrick. “I’ll still have Riley call you when she’s free, though. She might be able to work around this some other way.”

I thanked Ms. Patrick and ended the call. I’d appreciate hearing from Riley, but I seriously doubted there was anything I could do to keep Clara from setting up shop, rallying her troops, and trying to destroy my business.

I supposed I
could
take the high road and welcome Clara to the neighborhood when her shop opened. Maybe she would learn to like me and we could find a way to work together. And maybe—somehow, somewhere—pigs could fly.

Still, moping wasn’t going to solve anything. I got up and went back to the office to finish Sadie’s skirt.

*   *   *

Detective Ted Nash, my boyfriend extraordinaire, brought lunch at around one o’clock. Angus and I
had spotted him walking up the street and could see that he was carrying a bag from MacKenzies’ Mochas. Sadie and Blake made the best chicken salad croissants, and I had a feeling that was what Ted and I would be having for lunch.

Ted was gorgeous. A good foot and two inches taller than my towering height of five feet, he was broad and muscular and had thick dark hair that was wonderful to run your fingers through . . . well,
my
fingers through. He had the most intensely beautiful blue eyes ever. He would have made my heart soar even if he’d been carrying a sack of snakes. But food from MacKenzies’ Mochas was way better than snakes.

When he walked through the door, he was accosted by both Angus and me. Angus was sniffing at the bag.

I giggled. “Please tell me you brought the chicken salad.”

“I did. Sadie texted me earlier and said she thought you might be in need of your favorite comfort food today.” He held the bag out of Angus’s reach and dropped a quick kiss on my lips.

I led the way into my office. “Water, soda, or juice?”

“I’ll take water, please,” he said. “You want to talk about it, or are we avoiding the subject?”

“We’re avoiding the subject,” I said firmly, as I took a diet soda and a bottle of water from the minifridge. I handed Ted the water and unscrewed the cap on my soda. I took a sip and sat down at the desk across from Ted. “I just think Nellie and
her sister have a lot of nerve, that’s all. I know they schemed this up together to try to run me out of Tallulah Falls. But they won’t succeed. And that’s all I have to say on the matter. You don’t think they’ll succeed, do you?”

“I know they won’t.” Ted took the croissants out of the bag and placed them on the desk. “Oh, Sadie sent brownies, too.” He set the brownies beside the croissants.

“That was very thoughtful of her,” I said. “At least I have good neighbors to offset the bad ones . . . the ones who
despise
me. And what have I ever done to Nellie Davis? Or her sister, for that matter?”

Ted carefully avoided my eyes and opened the box containing his croissant. “I don’t know, babe.”

“We are so not talking about this and letting it spoil our lunch,” I said. “How has your day been?”

“Fairly uneventful so far,” he said. “I’m going through a cold case from five years ago, since—thankfully—there’s not an open case I’m working on at the moment.”

“That
is
good. Is it a murder case?” I bit into my croissant.

Ted nodded. “Hopefully, I’ll find some new evidence, and either we’ll be able to convict the person who was our main suspect or we’ll discover that it was someone else.”

“It must be hard to try to uncover anything new in a five-year-old case,” I said.

“It can be. But sometimes people are more
willing to talk because they aren’t as afraid of suffering any repercussions as they are right after a crime has been committed.”

“That makes sense.” I tore off a piece of my croissant for Angus. “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.” I knew there wasn’t, but I wanted to be polite and offer. “And if you come in here and find me dead, that case won’t have time to get cold. If they’re not still standing over my corpse, just run next door, where Nellie and Clara will probably be dancing with joy—and the murder weapons.”

“I’m really glad we decided not to talk about the situation with Nellie’s sister,” Ted said with a grin. “I think it would’ve really brought us down.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m trying so hard not to think about it . . . but I can’t help but think about it!”

He chuckled. “I know, sweetheart. I’m just teasing you. Want me to go over and arrest Clara?”

“Yes. Do you have any grounds?”

He thought a moment. “No. I’m afraid
upsetting the woman I love
isn’t a crime, although it certainly should be.”

I smiled. “I love you, too. And I know everything will be okay. We’ve weathered worse storms than this, right?”

“Exactly. This is nothing my Inch-High Private Eye can’t handle.”

“So stop worrying about it already and tell me what we’re doing tonight,” I said.

He gave a big, dramatic sigh. “All right, I’ll do
my best. As for tonight, let’s make dinner together and then watch a movie.”

“Sounds wonderful to me.”

I resolved then and there not to give Clara’s shop another thought. Unfortunately, I knew it would be like a New Year’s resolution—I’d start out strong and then cave by the next day.

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