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Brides, Bribes, & Bombs

Part of the Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery Series

Mae West has been kidnapped…BY THE LAUNDRY CLUB LADIES for a spa retreat bachelorette party like no other.

Dottie’s screaming at the stripper to put it back on instead of keep taking off, fun bride games, and spa activities don’t keep these sleuthing friends off the tracks of a killer when one of the other brides ends up dead!

Put a group of nervous brides and slew of prissy brides maids together, meddling along with jealousy brings out a bridezilla who will do anything to make her day more special than anyone, even Mae!

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Brides, Bribes, & Bombs


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Something fishy was going on. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it was something. The signs were all there. Hank hadn’t taken any of my phone calls, Dottie insisted she take the day off, which meant I had to work at the office of Happy Trails Campground and couldn’t drive into town to see what on earth Hank was up to, Henry the handyman seemed too busy to even take any sort of requests for what I needed done today, and the text thread for the Laundry Club Ladies was silent.

I should have been more bothered by Hank, my fiancé, not taking my calls. Wasn’t he, as the love of my life, my better half, supposed to take all my calls? Heck, we weren’t even married yet. What was it going to be like then? Would he not come home? Leave me at the RV to take care of the kids, even if the kids had four paws each?

No way.


Speaking of kids. I eased back in my office chair to look out at the campground through the window. Happy Trails was full, which should have come as no surprise since we had a waitlist going on two years.

Happy Trails Campground was a very desirable camping spot in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest. We had all the things, like full hook-up, which meant water and electric. The RV lots had their one concrete pad, which made it easy to back in, picnic table, fire ring fully stacked with wood, and s’mores-making kit, along with a nice wooded backdrop and views of the lake, where people could enjoy swimming, paddle boats, and fishing.

We also offered tent spots and bungalow-style cabins with all the amenities. Plus, we had a recreational building filled with games and morning coffee from Trails Coffee and donuts from Cookie Crumble.

If those weren’t enough extras for campers, there were multiple trailheads for the best hiking, the trails starting here in Happy Trails. Just to sweeten the pot, Red Fox Trail had a nice stream big enough for me to offer water sports like kayaking, river rafting, and canoeing as well as just floating along.

We had it all, and it all ran fairly smoothly when people were doing what they were supposed to be doing. That included Hank, Henry, and Dottie.

“Mae!” Hank frantically called for me after he busted through the office door. His jaw tensed when his intense green eyes locked on me. “You’ve got to come quick.” There was urgency in his voice. “It’s Fifi.”

“Fifi?” I took off in a dead sprint and nearly knocked him over when I pushed past him on the way out the office door.

Fifi was my baby, my fur baby, my four-paw baby, a poodle.

“Fifi!” I took off down the road of the campground, not noticing anything going on around me. My eyes were set on my little yellow campervan we called home.

My heart pounded to the rhythm of my breath and the stomp of each tennis shoe with each stride. The noises from my body moving as quickly as possible were mixed in with the jumbled thoughts of what was wrong with Fifi.

Without even thinking, I grabbed the metal handle of the campervan door and jerked it open. I leapt inside, not taking the step between the van and the ground.

“Surprise!” The voices all mixed together along with the twirly whirl of a strobe light. Blue, red, yellow, and green circles swirled inside of the camper.

The lights were all out except for the strobe light.

“Happy bachelorette party!” The voices continued to whoop it up just as someone put something over my head.

“We got you! I knew it!” Dottie Swaggert snorted and put a princess crown on my head right before she flipped the switch on the ceiling attached to the campervan light, exposing the transformation from home to bachelorette party central. “Go on. Git!” Dottie said in her southern twang, shooing Hank out. “Me and the Laundry Club Ladies are takin’ over now.”

Hank stood at the door with a perfectly fine Fifi in his arms and Chester, his dog, next to them.

Betts Hager, Abby Fawn Bond, Queenie French, and Dottie Swaggert had pulled off the ultimate surprise. By the way they were all standing there with big goofy smiles, they knew it.

“You’re shocked. I can see it on your face.” Betts Hager shoved her bangs to the side to mix them in with her wavy shoulder-length brown hair. “I told them you’d be surprised if Hank said something was wrong with Fifi.”

“Yep.” Abby’s brown ponytail swung from side to side as she continued to hold her phone up in front of me. No doubt she had been filming the entire time. “You are in for a special girls’ weekend!”

“Of course, we have to do some sort of exercise.” Queenie French’s short blond hair swayed back and forth when she jiggled her jazz hands in front of her. She wore her typical neon-colored spandex exercise pants, but she had on a button-down shirt that wasn’t typical of her outfit but styled with a knot right above her fanny pack clipped around her waist.

She looked more like she was going to go teach one of her Jazzercise classes than going to a girls’ weekend.

“Don’t you be going and worrying your little mind about work.” Dottie’s red hair was curled tight to her head. “Hank has got it all taken care of for Fifi. Henry is going to take care of the campground, since it’s only a couple of days, and we got the campervan all ready to go with all the supplies we need.”

By supplies she meant the black tank emptied and the gas tank full, as well as the water tank. We had everything we needed to spend a couple of days somewhere without all the amenity hookups.

“Where are we going?” I asked cautiously.

“Don’t you worry about it.” Dottie tossed a T-shirt at me. “You put that on and say goodbye to your husband-to-be.” She tossed a finger at Hank in a gesture. “Go on. Kiss him goodbye.”

I held the tee out in front of me. It was a white tee with “Bride To Be” bedazzled in colorful gems and a big diamond ring bedazzled in gold.

“Ta-da!” all four of them screamed and ripped open the button-down shirts they had on. Something I would’ve normally questioned if I wasn’t so shocked.

They had on their own bedazzled shirts with the word “Bridesmaid” on them.

“Oh my stars.” My jaw dropped as my eyes shifted from one to the other.

“I told y’all, didn’t I?” Dottie was taking credit. “I told y’all May-bell-ine was gonna be surprised, and I was right. Yes, siree, I was right.” She proudly rocked back on her heels to take all the glory.

“I don’t even know what to say.” This was not what I’d expected or even had in mind. I’d told them no party, and that included a bachelorette. I pulled the T-shirt over my hand and tucked the front into my capri jeans. If I had to wear the awful thing, I might as well try to style it.

“Go on. Make kissy-face and say goodbye now.” Dottie practically shoved me into Hank’s arms, who was still standing behind me at the door. I’d yet to venture into the bachelorette lair they’d transformed my home into.

I stepped out of the campervan and looked at Hank.

“I know. I know.” He shook his head with a slight grin. “I tried to tell. I even encouraged them not to do anything, but they insisted.”

I took Fifi from him and listened to his poor explanation. She kissed all over my face and wiggled around, wanting down. I put her on the ground, and she darted off toward the lake, where the ducks were enjoying the bright sun.

Chester barked low, as though he were tracking something. He was following Fifi to see what she’d found.

“It’s only the weekend. I told Jerry I couldn’t work this weekend because I’m going to be here the entire time to make sure everything is great.” He tugged me into his arms when I put on a fake frown. He held me tight and laid his cheek on the top of my head. “They are so excited. I couldn’t take it away from them.”

“Fine.” I sighed, pulled back, and looked up at him. “But we don’t even have a wedding date yet. I thought you were supposed to have a bachelorette party the weekend before the wedding.”

“And when have your friends ever done anything normal?” He made a great point and leaned down to kiss me. “Go have a great time. You deserve it.”

“You’re right.” The excitement of them pulling it started to trickle in my veins. My heart did a little lift, and I smiled. “You know what? I am going to have a great time. But you’re not going to tell me where I’m going?”

“Nope. It’s a surprise that you’re really going to love.” He took me by the shoulders, twisted me around, and gave me a little push toward the campervan to encourage me to go. “I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

“Nothing good has ever come out of the five of us going on a trip.” I probably shouldn’t’ve put that out into the universe, because it kinda predicted what was in store for us over the next few days. “Plus Mary Elizabeth’s big birthday celebration is in two days.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll be back in time.” Hank gave me another hug.

Those were some famous last words.

end of excerpt

Brides, Bribes, & Bombs

is available in the following formats:

Tonya Kappes Books

Oct 12, 2023



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