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A Killer Latte

Book 6 in the Killer Coffee Cozy Mystery Series

Light, camera, lattes!

A film production crew is wrapping up a major movie filming in Honey Springs, Kentucky.
Everyone is excited. The production crew has brought the bright lights to the tourist town and The Bean Hive has been supplying the production crew with unlimited treats and coffee.

When film actress Daisy Lemon comes in for a taste of the Star Studded Latte being served at the Bean Hive, Roxy Bloom is excited to serve her one. It would be good for promotion for Roxy to get a photo of the famous actress drinking her creation, only Roxy is witness to Daisy’s kidnapping.

The Star Studded Latte is now know as the Kidnap Latte, bringing national attention to the Bean Hive, attention that’s not necessarily welcome.

With production on hold and Stephen Lemon, Daisy’s husband, as the number one suspect, Roxy puts back on her law hat to help Stephen not only clear his name, but find Daisy before Honey Springs is no longer known for the cute, southern, lake tourist town due to the sudden spotlight on the cozy town.

A Killer Latte

Excerpt

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Chapter One

“Quiet on the set!” yelled the man in the director’s chair, Oscar-winning producer Stephen Lemon.

Actress Daisy Lemon in all her Hollywood glamour was standing right in front of the Bean Hive Coffeehouse, located on the renovated Lake Honey Springs boardwalk in Honey Springs, Kentucky.

My coffeehouse.

The pride swelled in my heart as I watched Daisy deliver the last lines of the big-screen movie they’d been filming over the past three weeks.

Everyone had come out to watch the final scene being taped before the big production company left town. They stood behind the police line, gasping with excitement as soon as Stephen Lemon yelled, “That’s a wrap!”

“Who knew?” my aunt Maxine Bloom asked in her long Southern drawl. “This has turned out to be such a great experience for not only Honey Springs but the entire state.”

Aunt Maxi’s short, now bleached-blond hair was sticking straight up. I was sure she used a full can of Aqua Net hairspray. She had a hot-pink feather boa draped around her neck, and it waved in the air from the big fans used on the set and blowing our way. I tucked a stray strand of my curly black hair back in the low-ponytail hairstyle I’d chosen today for my unruly locks.

Aunt Maxi was the editor in chief of Sticky Situation, the gossip column in the Honey Springs newspaper. There was no better place to get some good hot gossip than right here on the boardwalk, where they were filming the last scene on Lake Honey Springs. Aunt Maxi was ripe for some good gossip.

“People magazine?” I asked when I read a piece of paper, taped to her chest, which read, “People magazine.”

“People magazine tweeted me back after I hashtagged them when I posted a photo of the movie set.” Aunt Maxi was pretty tech savvy, better than any mid-sixty-year-old I’d ever come across. “Writing an article for them.”

She picked up the camera, dangling from the strap hanging around her neck. She held it up to her eyes. Using her free hand, she twisted the lens until she pushed the capture button. The bangles from her elbow to her wrist jingled and jangled. “That’s gonna be a good shot.”

She dropped the camera from her eyes and looked over at Daisy Lemon, the lead actress playing the heroine in the latest Sicholas Narks romance novel. The backdrop of Lake Honey Springs, and the small town of Honey Springs, was a perfect character all on its own that would play well on the big screen. “I’ve got thousands of photos already. Gonna be hard to pick a handful.”

“That’s great.” I couldn’t have been more pleased for her and Honey Springs. It gave us a break from reading all the gossip she stuck in her piece, mostly filled with half-truths.

“Great working with all of you and my beloved Daisy.” Stephen turned around and addressed the crew.

His words caused a flurry of activity, from the key grip putting the equipment down and the extras taking a break, to Daisy’s makeup artist patting her face, to our very own Crissy Lane making sure Daisy’s hair was perfect. Everyone rushed over to fan Daisy from the heat.

We were in full-blown spring in Kentucky. It wasn’t the normal season most of the country experienced. One day we could have summer temperatures and the next have snow. Today was a hot day.

“Daisy! Daisy!” Penney Bloom, my mother, screamed from behind the police line across from me. She was waving something in the air. “Daisy!”

Crissy shuffled a little to Daisy’s left, glancing over her shoulder at Mom, giving her a little scowl. The red freckles on Crissy’s face reddened. Crissy’s sun-washed blond hair was pulled up in a topknot. Hints of her natural red hair were apparent at the roots.

I sucked in a deep breath and headed toward my mom. I could see a storm brewing on her face. Don’t get me wrong. Penney would never have a hissy fit in public, but she would with me on the phone.

“Did you see what that Crissy Lane just did to me?” Mom snarled. “She just gave me the cold shoulder. Well, when all of this”—Mom circled her finger around, suggesting the movie set—“when all of this is all gone and Crissy still has to work at Touched By An Angel, she’ll be thinking twice about shunning me today, because I am one of her best customers. Not to mention, I did a lot of fancy paperwork to get her that loan for her house.”

“Mom.” I greeted her with a hug. “What are you waving around?” I didn’t even acknowledge what Crissy had done. But Mom was right. When all the fancy movie folks left town and took Daisy, poor Crissy would be left with all the fried, dried, and oily hair left in Honey Springs to dig her fingers into.

“Me and the Southern Women’s Club have put together a musical CD, and if anyone knows how to get it in the stores, it’s for sure got to be Daisy Lemon.” Mom was serious. “Maxine!” Mom screamed over my head and waved the CD in the air. “If you get an interview, you give her our CD.”

“You and Aunt Maxi?” That about took my breath away. My mom and Aunt Maxi weren’t the best of friends.

“Don’t talk out of turn.” Mom didn’t even look at me when she was telling me to mind my own business in her own colorful language. “Besides, Maxine and I have come to somewhat of terms since I’ve been here.”

“Mom, I had to get married by the justice of the peace so I wouldn’t hurt your feelings or Aunt Maxi’s feelings when the preacher asked who gives away the bride.” I recalled my Halloween wedding and how I couldn’t take another fight from the two of them.

“We aren’t talking about that.” Mom threw her hand up in the air and waved the CD.

Across from us, at the other police line, a lot of people were yelling, “Daisy! Daisy!”

Other women I’d recognized, who belonged to the Southern Women’s Club, were in a collective quest to get Daisy’s attention, all of them waving the CD in their hands.

“Y’all’ve been busy,” I said with a sigh. No wonder Mom and the usual gossipy women of Honey Springs hadn’t been driving me nuts at the coffeehouse all winter. “I thought it was too cold for you to visit me at the Bean Hive during the winter months, when all along you’ve been breaking into showbiz,” I teased and scanned the police line that was blocking off this part of the boardwalk area.

“The real estate market was slow, so I used my extra time coming up with music, because I knew if I could get it in Daisy’s hands…” She abruptly stopped and pointed the CD at the far side of the police line. “Look, there’s Patrick.” She pointed to my husband.

The big wrap party the movie crew bragged about not missing was tonight. No one wanted to miss it, including me, though I was working it. Camey Montgomery, owner of the Cocoon Hotel, where the wrap party was going to be taking place, had me serving some sweet treats and specialty coffees I’d created at the Bean Hive.

Patrick and I waved at each other across the boardwalk. He was talking to a pregnant woman and a man I didn’t recognize. Daisy walked into the very small trailer the Honey Springs Beautification Committee had placed on the boardwalk for Daisy to hang out in between takes, causing the spectators to quiet down.

“Mom,” I tsked, turning back to her. “You have the Southern Women’s Club all over this boardwalk.”

“You can give it to her.” She smacked the CD on the Bean Hive logo embroidered on the front of my apron. Daisy and Stephen Lemon had paid me handsomely to keep the production crew in coffee and sweets.

“You give it to her at the wrap party.” I pushed the CD back to her.

“You mean…” Penney gasped, gripping the CD to her chest. “You’re inviting me?”

“I do have an extra pass. Patrick has his own pass. So you might as well go with me.” I smiled.

“I know you, Roxy Bloom.” Penney shook her finger at me. “What gives?”

“Nothing.” I gave a little shrug. “Can’t I just do something nice?”

Mom squealed, bounced, and beamed.

The crowd erupted when Daisy’s trailer door opened, and she came out with a flowing maxi dress with big sunflowers all over it. The wig she’d worn to look like the heroine from the novel the movie was based on was long gone, and her long blond mane fell in curls around her face and down her back. Pale skin and red lips looked really good on her. I even caught Patrick gawking at her when she walked by him. She stopped and had her photo taken with the pregnant woman and the man Patrick had been talking to.

“What’s she handing out?” James Farley, owner of the Buzz In-N-Out Diner, had his heated-food pushcart filled with all sorts of greasy food.

“I have no idea, but we need one.” It amazed me how Daisy had these people in a trance.

James had landed a contract with the production company to feed them breakfast, dinner, and supper.

We watched in awe at how Daisy made everyone around her melt into her hands like putty. The closer Daisy got to our side of the boardwalk, I could see she was handing out manila envelopes.

“You grab us one of those envelopes,” I told James. “I’ve got to go set up for the production’s final town meeting at All About the Details now that they aren’t filming in front of the coffeehouse. Then get stuff down to the Cocoon Hotel for the wrap party.”

“What’s the meeting about?” James asked. He didn’t take his eyes off Daisy. “She sure is pretty.”

“From what I gathered, Daisy is going to talk to the beautification committee and mayor about the production company presenting the town with a bust or something.” I ignored his comment about Daisy’s beauty.

“Is that what they are doing in Central Park?” He asked about the park located in downtown Honey Springs.

“Yeah. I think it’s going to be near the gazebo.” I watched as everyone gushed over Daisy.

As the coffeehouse owner, I’d come up with a specialty latte that I’d concocted just for the time they were in Honey Springs to film the movie. I called it the Star-Studded Latte.

The day of wrapping up had finally come, and soon my very busy life would return to my morning routine of getting up at four a.m., getting to the coffeehouse, and getting freshly baked goods made and coffee brewed before the six a.m. morning rush.

Plus, my sweet Pepper and Sassy, my and Patrick’s fur babies, who were used to coming to work with us, had been holed up in our cabin during the three weeks. With the production company filming the scenes on the boardwalk in front of the coffeehouse, it was hard to try to keep the dogs from barking, not to mention the times I needed to take them on a quick walk or to go potty. It was best for everyone that they stayed home. But I missed them terribly and really was looking forward to the production company leaving town, though it had been fun to watch how they made movies.

“Excuse me.” The faint voice was followed up by a gentle tap on my shoulder.

I turned around and was face-to-face with Daisy Lemon. James was right. Her beauty was even more stunning up close.

“Are you the one who is making those fabulous lattes?” she asked in a romantic voice that I couldn’t wait to try when she wasn’t around. “The entire crew is raving about them.”

“Yes, Mrs. Lemon.” I felt like she was a princess and I needed to curtsy or something. “Is there a problem?”

She lifted her fingers to the diamond necklace around her neck and gently fondled it with her fingertips. She leaned in and whispered, “I will come see you in a few minutes when my husband goes to the meeting.”

“Sure.” My eyes popped open. What on earth could Daisy Lemon want with me?

“Shhh.” She moved her finger from her diamonds to my lips. “It’s a secret, darling.”

 

Chapter Two

 

“Roxy.” Camey Montgomery, the owner of the Cocoon Hotel, the only hotel on Lake Honey Springs, called my name when I was about to walk into the coffeehouse.

I turned around and held the door for her.

Her almond-shaped brown eyes held concern. She had her scarlet hair pulled back at the nape of her neck, and her thick bangs hung perfectly across her forehead.

“Hey, Camey. I was just about to start on some of the items for tonight’s party. I’ve got to get some things over to All About the Details for the last production meeting.” I shut the door behind her and flipped the Closed sign hanging on the door to Open. “But I’m planning to come down shortly.”

“I’m not worried about that right now.” She waved her hand in the air. “My phone books are missing,” she said with a straight face, making her way past me. “I need a strong coffee.” She headed over to the coffeehouse’s freestanding coffee bar.

“Phone books?” I asked and walked over to the coatrack next to the register, where I hung the aprons.

“Yeah. Phone books. Books that have people’s addresses and phone numbers in them.” She mocked me.

I gave her a funny look while I hung my cross-body bag on the coat tree and grabbed the apron to tie around my waist. “I’m sorry. I know it sounds weird, but I keep them in the room just in case tourists need to get around.”

“And you looked all over the hotel for them?” I questioned, walking around the counter to see what I needed to replace in all the glass display cases.

“I’ve looked everywhere. My staff has too. Nothing. Nada. Gone!”

She sure was passionate about these phone books.

“What am I going to do?

The bell over the door dinged, signaling Patrick’s entrance. Our eyes caught, and we smiled at each other.

“I’ll be right back.” I glanced over Patrick’s shoulder when the bell dinged again. It was Spencer Shepard, our town sheriff.

“Spencer!” Camey hollered and stirred the sugar in her coffee. She stuck the coffee stirrer in her mouth and waved him over.

“What’s up with Camey?” Patrick asked. “Something wrong with the party?” he asked when we met halfway inside the house.

“Something about phone books missing or something.” I lifted my hand and ran it through his short hair. “How’s my husband?” I asked. A tickle ran from my toes to my heart, making it flutter with delight.

I was standing here with the man of my dreams. I’d met him almost fourteen years ago when I was a teenager visiting Aunt Maxi for the summer like I always did. Fast-forward and here we were, standing in the middle of my coffeehouse. I still couldn’t believe I was the owner.

Both of my worlds had collided into a wonderful adventure that I was really enjoying.

The Bean Hive Coffeehouse was located in the middle of the boardwalk, right across from the pier on Lake Honey Springs. It was a perfect spot, and I was beyond thrilled with the exposed brick walls and wooden ceiling beams that I didn’t have to touch. Luckily, Aunt Maxi owned the place. The rent was a little steep, but I’d watched a few DIY videos on YouTube to figure out how to make the necessary repairs for inspection. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the shiplap wall I’d created myself out of plywood painted white to make it look like real shiplap.

Instead of investing in a fancy menu or even menu boards that attached to the wall, I’d bought four large chalkboards that hung down from the ceiling over the L-shaped glass countertop.

The first chalkboard menu hung over the pie counter and listed the pies and cookies with their prices. The second menu hung over the tortes and quiches. The third menu to appear before the L-shaped counter curved listed the breakfast casseroles and drinks. Over the top of the other counter, the chalkboard listed lunch options, including soups, and catering information.

On each side of the counter was a drink stand. One was a coffee bar with six industrial thermoses with different blends of my specialty coffees as well as one filled with a decaffeinated blend, even though I clearly never understood the concept of that. But Aunt Maxi made sure I understood some people drank only the unleaded stuff. The coffee bar had everything you needed to take a coffee with you, even an honor system where you could pay and go.

The drink bar on the opposite end of the counter was a tea bar. Hot tea, cold tea. There was a nice selection of gourmet teas and loose leaf teas along with cold teas. I’d even gotten a few antique teapots from Wild and Whimsy antique shop, which happened to be the first shop on the boardwalk. If a customer came in and wanted a pot of hot tea, I could fix it for them, or they could fix their own to their taste.

A few café tables dotted the inside along with two long window tables with barstools butted up to them on each side of the front door. It was a perfect spot to sit, enjoy beautiful Lake Honey Springs, and sip on your favorite beverage.

“You mean that you can’t do anything now?” Camey cried, bringing me out of my own head.

“Is there anything else missing? Of value?” Spencer asked her, looking down at her with his big green eyes. His jaw was hard.

“There is no real value to them. But I’m at a loss to why someone would go around and steal them out of the rooms. It means someone has broken into each room.” She did have a valid point.

“Here is what I need you to do.” Spencer held up a fingers before he began to make his coffee. He turned his thick neck to look at her. His sandy-blond hair lay in wavy curls over his ears. He was in need of a haircut, like most of us, but Crissy was too busy playing personal beautician to Daisy Lemon to even take appointments over at Touched By An Angel.  “I want you to go back and check with all of your guests. Make sure nothing else is missing. I know a lot of these crew members are staying at the Cocoon Hotel. Maybe they played a prank or something. Second, I want you to check your video cameras. See if anyone is suspicious or not supposed to be in the Cocoon Hotel. Then, I’ll stop by today between the town council meeting and the wrap party to see if you’ve found out anything new other than just that someone stole the phone books.” He stopped when she shifted side to side. “We can definitely get someone for breaking and entering into each room. But I’m going to need more to go on than just ‘someone stole your phone books.’”

“Fine.” She sucked in a deep breath, not happy with his suggestions.

She turned around on the balls of her feet and stormed off with her fists down at her side. She turned around right as she was leaving the coffee shop. “Roxy, I’ll see you soon.” She huffed out the door.

“What was that about?” Patrick asked Spencer, even though I’d already told him.

We walked back toward the counter where Spencer was standing.

I had to get busy and get some of my signature red velvet cookies on a fancy platter with a doily on it along with more of the blueberry crumb cake.

“Someone has stolen all the phone books at Cocoon Hotel.” It was too hard for Spencer to say without breaking out into a big smile. I started to laugh as I watched his face process what he’d said.

“Phone books?” Patrick asked, his brows furrowed.

While Patrick and Spencer continued their phone-book-scandal talk, I headed over to the industrial coffeepots and flipped them on to brew fresh coffee to take over to All About the Details for the big meeting. The shop was only two doors down from the coffeehouse, so I had some time to kill. After I heard the coffee start the brewing cycle, I grabbed the milk glass platter I’d gotten from Wild and Whimsy antique shop, located on the far right side of the boardwalk.

The round milk glass platter was the perfect size for the treats I was going to serve.

The Teagardens, the owners of Wild and Whimsy, had gotten to know me well since I was always stopping in their shop, looking for pieces to add to the coffeehouse. Some of my mugs had the Bean Hive logo on them, but most of my mugs were antiques I’d picked up from their shop along with the cute cow creamers and sterling silverware. It was all a bit mismatched, but it was cozy and made every customer feel like they were at home chatting with good friends while they hung out in the coffeehouse, the exact feel I was going for when I’d made the business plan.

“Who were the man and pregnant woman you were talking to?” I asked since I’d never seen them in the coffeehouse, which was strange. Almost everyone in Honey Springs stopped by at one time or the other.

I opened the glass display door to get out the red velvet cookies and arranged them on the platter. The steam from the industrial coffee makers puffed out the fresh bean aroma into the air. It was the best fragrance ever.

“They are a sweet couple that live in the old Ellis place down in Clover Bottom. He’s also a big hunter with a remote cabin in the wooded area. They are just good ole hillbillies.” Patrick grew up in Honey Springs, and he knew everyone. “I’d done some free structural work for them when they bought the Ellis place. It needs a lot more fixing up, but they don’t have the cash to do that.”

“Why am I not surprised you helped them?” I reached out and squeezed his arm. “You are so good to everyone. I’m a lucky gal.” I winked and put the last cookie on the platter before I rearranged a few of them to make it look perfect.

“Those look good.” Spencer had moseyed over to the counter and put a five-dollar bill next to the cash register. “Everything all good here before I go check on the rest of the boardwalk as things start to get back to normal?”

“Nope. Honey Springs is in danger,” I said with a straight face.

“What happened?” Spencer’s jaw tensed, his brows furrowed.

“There’s a phone book thief on the loose.” I burst out laughing.

 

Chapter Three

“Lordy bee, I’ll be so glad tomorrow when all this riffraff is gone.” Bunny Bowowski, my elderly employee, waddled into the door of the coffeehouse.

She had on a pink pillbox hat, a pink shawl draped over her shoulders, a brown pair of comfort shoes, and a brown pocketbook dangling from the crook of her arm. It swung back and forth as she took the shawl off her shoulder.

“Mm-hmm.” Mae Belle Donovan, her best friend and equally as old, wasn’t too far behind her. “Preach it, girl.”

Mae Belle was a little older than Bunny, but they looked like twins, even down to their rolled-down knee-high stockings.

“She wishes she could preach it.” Aunt Maxi pushed her way from the outside in and shoved past them.

“Watch it,” Mae Belle snarled at Aunt Maxi.

Bunny pushed a piece of her chin-length gray hair behind her ear and glared at Aunt Maxi. After a few seconds of the standoff, the three women gave each other the Baptist nod, where they didn’t wish ill will but not necessarily goodwill either. It was a Southern woman’s way around good manners.

“Now, ladies, we don’t need another crime around Honey Springs. At least not a murder between three old friends.” I laughed and took the coffeepots off the industrial maker. It was easiest to unscrew the lid and put the self-push lids on them so people could help themselves to how much they wanted.

“Forget old friends. What do you mean by crime?” Bunny hung her shawl up on the coatrack, along with her pillbox hat and purse. She grabbed an apron.

“Someone has stolen all the phone books at the Cocoon Hotel.” I grabbed the carafes and handed one to Aunt Maxi. “Can you take that over to All About the Details for me? I’m assuming you’re going to cover the gossip for the meeting.”

“Pishposh on the meeting.” Aunt Maxi put the carafe down and grabbed her phone. She tapped on the screen before bringing the phone up to her mouth. “Case of the missing phone books. Who was the thief dialing?”

I gave her a cross look.

“What? I use my phone memos now to keep notes for my articles.”

“Article?” Mae Belle scoffed on her way over to the coffee bar. “You mean smut rag?”

“You’ve plumb near lost your mind, Mae Belle. Get with the times.” Aunt Maxi took her job very seriously.

“The times? You have a gossip column in the newspaper. That’s no different than Ask Ann Landers.” Mae Belle grabbed a mug and filled it.

“I’m the modern-day version.” Aunt Maxi ran the tips of her fingers through her spiky hair, making it stand up even more.

“Whatever.” Mae Belle sighed. She used a stir straw to mix up all the ingredients she used to doctor up her coffee.

“Do you have it all under control?” I asked Bunny when she walked up next to me at the counter.

“Does it look like it?” She truly didn’t need any instructions. She took care of the coffeehouse just like she did her own kitchen.

“I don’t think you’ll have many customers since everyone is probably going to the meeting, then the wrap party.” I wasn’t ever worried with Bunny here.

Before I could grab the other carafe, Bunny had already gone back to the kitchen and brought out more red velvet cookies to refill the ones I’d taken from the display case.

“Come on.” I nodded my head toward Aunt Maxi to follow me.

The sunshine covered us as soon as we walked out of the coffeehouse. It was a beautiful day, but the excited vibe of the townsfolk was truly what was making this day vibrate.

The filming had really brought all of us together over the last three weeks. Everyone was eager to help out everyone, and the spotlight was on Honey Springs. Now that Aunt Maxi was doing a piece for People, I was confident our upcoming tourist season would explode.

“Do you have a lot for your People piece?” I asked her.

“I’m excited. I have some good photos, but I’d kill to get something more personal or an interview with Daisy.” Aunt Maxi jiggled her shoulders. “I wonder who I can bribe?”

“I’m sure you’ll find someone.” I teased her on the way into All About the Details.

It was a cute blue clapboard house with two stories that had been completely gutted and transformed with an open-concept floor plan. The boardwalk had had a facelift almost two years ago, the same time I’d opened the Bean Hive, and they were able to keep the cute exterior of the building with a remodeled and updated inside.

The double doors opened into an entryway decorated with seasonal items. This time, Babette had decorated with a movie theme, no doubt on purpose for the occasion. There was a hallway leading to the back of the building and a large ballroom addition with round tables covered in white linens and ten chairs around each. It was a perfect place to host a wedding reception during the winter months or in the heat of the summer since most weddings in Honey Springs took place outside. Or even a movie screening, and we were hoping Stephen Lemon would let us preview the movie.

“Over here.” Babette Cliff waved me over. Her messy blond bun on top of her head shook with each flail of her arm. She gestured to the table, where there were some more refreshments set up.

I put the sweets right next to Emily Rich’s Kentucky bourbon balls. It was one of her biggest sellers at the Bees Knees Bakery, also located on the boardwalk. I was very proud to say that I had a hand in getting the bakery up and running after I’d let Emily intern at the coffeehouse. She was a fabulous baker, far exceeding any culinary skills I had in that area, and I was a bit envious of her, though very proud of her success.

“Afternoon, Low-retta.” I sat down next to Loretta Bebe in the back row. It was a perfect spot in case I needed to skedaddle if the meeting ran long.

I couldn’t stop my smile when I said Low-retta’s name the way she said it, even though it was Loretta. Her deep Southern drawl drew out her name even more. She and Aunt Maxi gave each other a tight smile and lift of the chin.

“Sure is a big crowd today.” Loretta was owner of Diamonds, the only jewelry store in Honey Springs located downtown, and the wealthiest woman in town. “I’ve got my boxes. I need to get my jewels back ASAP.”

She patted a sack and opened it for me to look inside. It was filled with different-sized jewelry boxes. She had on a pair of skinny black jeans with a bright purple shirt tucked in, her toes perfectly manicured in her short-heeled black strappy sandals. Her short, very-much-from- a-bottle black hair was sprayed stiff. If a really big lake wind rushed past, everything would be skewed, all but Low-retta’s hair.

Several strands of bright-red golf-ball-sized beads hung tight to her neck then cascaded down to her belly. She had on four or five red bangles. Her dark skin was kissed by the tanning bed in Lisa Stalh’s garage, but to hear Loretta tell it, she was Cherokee Indian, denying any sort of tanning bed usage.

She was definitely one of the most Southern women in Honey Springs, down to her monogramming on everything she owned.

“It was awfully nice of you to let them use your jewelry for the film,” I told her. Loretta was one of Aunt Maxi’s gossipy friends. Like all the other women in their group, she loved compliments. They all had a love-hate relationship with each other.

The citizens trickled through the door. They immediately walked over to the refreshment table and filled small plates with delicious goodies.

The mayor, along with the main production crew—meaning Stephen Lemon, their agents, and a few of the women of the beautification committee, which included Babette Cliff as well as Spencer Shepard—had taken seats up on the stage behind the podium. There was an empty chair next to Stephen Lemon that I guessed was for Daisy.

“I’ve got to go,” I leaned over and told Aunt Maxi when the empty chair made me think about Daisy. I’d forgotten Daisy wanted to come to the coffeehouse. I sure hoped I hadn’t missed her.

“Where are you going?” Loretta asked. “They are putting my name in the ending credits. I’m sure they’re going to announce it right now.” There was excitement on her face as her ego grew larger than life.

“That’s wonderful,” I said, patting her. “Hopefully, people will be able to read them,” I muttered under my breath, because the credits were generally so small and rolled so fast up the screen at the end that you had to be a speed reader to even follow them, if you stayed that long after the movie. But who was I to rain on her parade?

I got up and headed right back out the door then hurried down the boardwalk.

“What are you doing back here?” Bunny Bowowski looked up from the barstool that was butted up to the outside window. There were crumbs on the corners of her mouth, and she was looking at a copy of the CD that I was sure Aunt Maxi had left at the coffeehouse to see if anyone would pick it up.

“I thought you would like to go see what your committee has done. I don’t need to see it, and you might get them to put your name in the credits.” I knew I was reaching for a reason to get her to leave before Daisy showed up.

“Do you think?” She brushed the crumbs off her mouth and patted her hair as though she was making sure it was in place.

“Maybe. Low-retta said something about it, and I’d sure hate for you to miss it.” Just mentioning Loretta put a spring in Bunny’s you-know-what.

“I’ll be back.” She wagged her finger and scurried out the door.

I stood in the middle of the coffeehouse and took a deep breath. There was a sense of accomplishment in my soul. Everything was going so well.

I straightened the tables on my way back, making sure the little cow creamers were in the middle with the salt-and-pepper shakers. If Daisy did show up, I didn’t want the place to look a mess. I headed back to the counter, where I plucked my apron from the hook and put the CD in the front pocket.

I looked up when the bell over the door dinged. Daisy Lemon stood there like an angel as the sun’s rays surrounded her. I gulped and tried to hide any nervousness from the butterflies in my stomach.

“Roxy Bloom and her famous latte.” Her voice was like a dream. I felt myself being swept into her spell as she floated across the floor. I meant, literally looked as if she were floating. “I’m here undercover.” She waved a gold-beaded change purse in the air.

“You are?” I questioned, then I wanted to point out that she had barely anything that resembled “undercover,” not even all the jewels around her neck, which stopped shy of her bosoms, which were definitely not undercover.

“Yes. I have to have one of those lattes. But if Stephen finds out, he’ll die. It takes a lot to keep this body in tip-top form.” She tossed her hair over her shoulders.

“These are definitely high in calories and fat.” I wasn’t going to lie to her. “I can make you something fat-free and sugar-free.”

“Darling.” Daisy smiled, drawing me in even more. “One itsy-bitsy one will be our little secret. Don’t you like the idea that we have a little secret?”

“Only if…” I gnawed my lip and decided to just go for it. “Well, my aunt Maxi is doing a piece for People magazine. She is in charge of the gossip column in our local paper.” I didn’t want to lie to Daisy in case something I didn’t say came back to haunt me. “She’d love to have a photo of you with this CD she and her friends have put together. I only have to give it to you.” I took it out of my pocket. “It’s her and my mom’s dream for you to have a copy.”

“What exactly are you asking me to do?” she asked.

“If I make you a Star-Studded Latte, can I get a photo of you holding it and the CD?” I asked, crossing my fingers behind my back. Aunt Maxi and Mom would absolutely die.

“Yes!” She squealed and bounced up and down. The diamonds made little crystal prisms all over the coffeehouse. It was like a little fairy was flying around with a magic wand with all the sparkles Daisy’s necklaces were letting off. “But you have to wait until the production crew is out of town before you show the photo, because it’ll give enough time to show Stephen I didn’t gain an ounce.”

“Deal.” I stuck my hand out, and we shook on it. Then, I went to work on making the best Star-Studded Latte ever.

The oohs and aahs that came out of Daisy’s mouth as she watched me make the latte made me feel like a superstar. I couldn’t help but notice her eyes would grow really big before she would lick her lips.

“It must be hard to be in the spotlight all the time.” I grabbed the caramel syrup bottle and drizzled it over the finished product.

“It’s fine. I enjoy the attention.” She wagged her finger at the bottle. “Add a little more of that.”

I did what she said then grabbed the whipped cream.

“Oh, yeah. A bunch of that.” She bit the edge of her lip and leaned on the counter next to the cash register, her little gold change purse under her hand. “I’m going to go down to the lake and enjoy this before I have to show up to the meeting.”

“What is the gift the production company’s giving Honey Springs?” I asked and drizzled some extra caramel on top. I wanted to know if what I’d heard about a statue was true.

“A stupid bust of Stephen.” She rolled her eyes, and I couldn’t help but notice the sarcasm in her voice. She pushed off the counter. “He loves to give them his face forever.”

“You don’t sound so happy about it.” I carefully put the latte down in front of her without a lid.

“I keep telling him that the bust is from years ago and he needs to add all the wrinkles this business has given him.” She dragged her hand across her forehead. “He’s got millions of worry lines. Honey, movie producers are even more conceited than the stars.” She couldn’t take her eyes off the latte. “I’m pretty conceited.”

“You deserve this.” I tapped the side of the cup. “You’ve made a lot of people happy in Honey Springs.”

“Thank you.” She slowly walked down the front of all of the display cases and stopped at the food. “I’ll have one of those ham-and-cheese quiches.”

“That’ll help soak up all the sugar.” I didn’t dare tell her about the fat content in that baby.

“What do I owe you?” she asked.

“Just a photo.” I picked up my phone and pushed the camera icon. “Say ‘latte.’”

“Latte!” Daisy squealed with a big smile on her face, with the latte in one hand and the CD in the other.

There was no greater feeling I got than seeing someone enjoy my coffees. The specialty food items were just a bonus. It was a far cry from my last job as a lawyer. I still had my law license and practiced here and there. Usually, people needed things looked over or notarized, but being a lawyer took away a part of my soul that the Bean Hive had given back to me. But that was another conversation for a different time.

“You’re a doll.” She walked toward the door. “Sugar, remember, not a peep until the production crew is far out of town.” She winked, and off she went.

As soon as I felt like she was far enough down the boardwalk and about to enjoy her latte in peace, I ran to the door and opened it. I had to see her take the first sip. I had to see the look on her face.

She was hurrying past All About the Details, and everyone in there was anticipating her arrival.  She didn’t slow down. The closer she got to the end of the boardwalk and near the grassy trail down at the shore of Lake Honey Springs near the Cocoon Hotel, I got my phone camera ready to capture her taking the first drink. Not that I would share it, but I sure did want to have it for my own personal pleasure. After all, when would another Hollywood celebrity come to the Bean Hive or even Honey Springs, for that matter?

The sound of screeching tires coming from the boardwalk parking lot made me move the phone away from my face. When I looked up, there was diesel smoke from here to high heaven, and the Bean Hive coffee cup was lying on the ground along with the ham-and-cheese quiche.

My mind tried to wrap around what was happening before my eyes, which were fixed on Daisy’s face squished up against the rear window of an old red pickup truck that’d seen much better days.

There was a look of fright and fear on her face, her eyes haunting. I ran to All About the Details as fast as my legs could carry me.

“Daisy! She’s been kidnapped!” I screamed in a shrill and scared voice once I opened the doors to the event facility.

Everyone jerked around. Spencer had jumped off of the stage in the front of the room and rushed toward me.

“Daisy! Someone just took her!” I yelled, nearly fainting.

“No! Not my Daisy!”

I looked up at the front of the room when I heard Stephen Lemon yelling, his cell phone in his hand. “Help!” He held his phone out with a photo. “My Daisy! She’s been kidnapped!”

“Roxy, stay there!” Spencer instructed me and ran back to the stage, where Stephen Lemon appeared to be having a meltdown.  Spencer took Stephen’s phone. His face pasty white, he said, “Everyone line up while I go check out the scene. The boardwalk is now a kidnapping scene.”

Everyone did exactly as Spencer had told us to do.

Spencer was busy already, making calls on his sheriff’s phone, calling out APBs on any car going in and out of Honey Springs. He called in reinforcements. On his way out the door, he grabbed me by my hand, getting ready to drag me out with him.

“Wait! Where is everyone going?” the mayor begged. “We’ve not unveiled the bust at Central Park!”

“Bust?” Loretta bolted out of her seat. “What about my jewels?”

“Bust? Jewels? My dear sweet Daisy has been taken, and all you care about is the bust?” Stephen Lemon lunged for the mayor.

Spencer dropped my arm and bolted to the front of the room, where he’d peeled a very upset Stephen Lemon off of our poor mayor.

Now, everyone had lost their minds.

 

end of excerpt

A Killer Latte

is available in the following formats:

Apr 23, 2019

ISBN-13: 978-1799143536

Digital:

Print: