Scene of the Grind
Book 1 in the Killer Coffee Cozy Mystery Series
Roxanne Bloom (her friends, though few call her Roxie) quit her job as a lawyer, divorced her cheating husband, and moved to the quaint town of Honey Springs, Kentucky where she’d spent many of her teenage summers visiting her eccentric and fun-loving Aunt Maxi.
Roxy follows her dream and opens The Bean Hive, Honey Springs first coffee house on the town’s newly revitalized boardwalk. that opens just in time for Honey Springs annual Honey Festival.
Roxy’s life couldn’t be better. Business was booming, she’s reconnected with special people from her past, including her first teenage love, and visits The Crooked Cat book store, which is still her favorite shop in Honey Springs.
One problem, Aunt Maxi and Alexis Roarke, owner of Crooked Cat, aren’t on the best of terms. Alexis leases the book store’s building from Aunt Maxi and the rent is going up.
Roxy takes Alexis a fresh cup of coffee from The Bean Hive and a tasty pastry as a peace offering between the two women, but discovers the beloved book store owner murdered and Aunt Maxi is the number one suspect.
Gossip in Honey Springs is as hot as the coffee served at the Bean Hive and Roxy has to uncover who is behind the murder not only to save her shop, her aunt, but her life.
Scene of the Grind
Book 1 in the Killer Coffee Cozy Mystery Series
Scene of the Grind
Drip, drip, drip.
There is something about coffee that brings people together. And they don’t even have to like coffee. Is it the smell? Is it the comforting sound of the drip? I don’t know. All I did know was that my new coffee shop in the touristy lake town of Honey Springs, Kentucky, The Bean Hive, was opened for business.
“Seven a.m.,” I muttered after I’d glanced up at the clock and drew my eyes back out the front doors of the coffeehouse located in the best spot on the boardwalk that ran along Lake Honey Springs.
The boardwalk held fond memories for me since I used to spend my summers here with my Aunt Maxine. Maxi for short. For the past year my life was stalled in a little bit of what I’d call a fork in the road, so after hearing Aunt Maxi talk about all the revitalization of the boardwalk and not really knowing what to do, it sounded like a splendid idea to open a shop. At the time.
The annual Honey Festival was in a couple of days and all the vendors and the new shops on the boardwalk were holding a grand opening. I’d already had the coffeehouse ready to open since when I moved to Honey Springs a few weeks ago, I made it a point to no longer sit around resting on my laurels, so I opened the shop a few days early. Which might not’ve been the best business plan since my only customers had been a few stragglers here and there. Mainly construction workers who were working day and night to get the shops ready for the big festival.
The Bean Hive was located in the middle of the boardwalk, right across from the pier. 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 be 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 before the L-shaped counter curved listed the breakfast casseroles and drinks. Over top 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 only drink 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 tea pots 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 stools butted up to them on each side of the front door. It was a perfect spot to sit, enjoy the beautiful Lake Honey Springs and sip on your favorite beverage.
Which just so happened to be where I was sitting this morning enjoying the view until I realized I’d been here since four a.m. to get the casseroles made and coffees brewed before the opening time of seven a.m. and no one was here.
“You did open a little early,” I said to make myself feel better and hooked my finger in the mug of freshly brewed coffee.
Curling both hands around the mug, I leaned my hip up against the counter and took a sip. Even if no one showed up today, it was better than where I was a year ago. My chin lifted as the first rays of sunshine popped through the large front windows. I closed my eyes and let the breaking of the dawn fill my soul.
It was spring in Kentucky and the leaves were starting to get their deep green color back, filling in the tree line along the lake. A few fishing boats had trolled by since it was a no wake zone. Good fishing started around five a.m. around here and they were usually back by seven. At the far end of the pier was a marina with boat slips and a really neat little restaurant, The Watershed. It was probably the fanciest restaurant in Honey Springs.
With my mug in my hands, I decided to get a whiff of the fresh air.
The bell dinged over the front door when I opened it. Cool air swept in reminding me that spring in Kentucky was cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. Dressing was always a problem, but with the few uniform pieces I’d picked to go with my black pants and sensible shoes I’d handle the change easily. Besides, the black apron with The Bean Hive logo was amazing and I’d gotten several of those.
Today I’d decided on the thin long-sleeved crew neck and had tied the apron over it.
Since there wasn’t anyone in the coffeehouse, I’d decided to stroll to the right of the coffeehouse on the boardwalk and do a little window shopping, even though most of them weren’t opening until the grand opening this weekend. I walked all the way to the end and looked as I made my way back, enjoying my cup of coffee and the morning sunrise as it dripped in many colors in the lake. It was funny how water could turn the orange and yellow rays different colors as it mirrored in the lake.
The shops were really coming along. All the shops were butted next to each other with a different awning to boast the name of the shop. Every few feet there were a couple of café tables where visitors could shop and stop to enjoy each other or just the view the boardwalk gave.
Wild and Whimsy was the first shop on the boardwalk. It was an eclectic shop of antiques and repurposed furniture. Beverly and Dan Teagarden were the owners. Their two grown children, Savannah and Melanie helped them run it. Instead of the regular shingled roof, Dan had paid extra to put on a rusty tin roof to go with the store’s theme. They’d kept the awning a red color but without the name. The Wild and Whimsy sign dangled down from the awning.
Honey Comb Salon & Spa was located next and it was a fancy, for Honey Springs, salon. Alice Dee Spicer was the owner and from what I’d overheard through the gossip line Alice had really gotten some new techniques from a fancy school.
Next to Honey Comb Salon & Spa was the Buzz In and Out Diner owned by James Farley. Honey Springs’s very first tattoo parlor, Odd Ink, was next to the diner. I wasn’t sure who owned that. In fact, I didn’t know any of the owners. It was all just idle gossip from Mae Belle and Bunny’s morning coffee run that kept me in the know. They’d also said All About The Details, a new event center, was going in next to the tattoo place along with a bridal shop, Queen For The Day. Then there was me.
The Bean Hive.
The bait and tackle shop was the only shop that was on the pier. It was perfect for the tourists who wanted to fish for the day off the pier. They’d never closed like most of the past shops since the lake always had fishermen. This year was different.
The annual Honey Festival was also in a couple of days, hence the grand opening of the shops, and it did bring visitors far and wide to get a good sampling of our fine Kentucky honey and festival activities. This year the town council, of which my Aunt Maxi sits on the board, decided to move the festival from Central Park in downtown Honey Springs to the boardwalk. Vendors were going to be setting up along the boardwalk across from the shops. I was especially excited to purchase some fresh honey and honeycombs for the coffeehouse.
I’d yet to venture past my shop, but I did know there was some sort of clothing boutique, a knick-knack shop, a spa, a bar and at the very end was Crooked Cat Bookstore, which was an independent bookstore I’d spent many hours in during my summer visits. I fondly remembered a cat that snuggled up to me in the bean bag.
The smell of fresh coffee drifted out of the coffeehouse exactly how I’d envisioned it would. The warm scent filled me with joy where I wasn’t sure I could have joy anymore.
When I opened the door to head back in, I smiled. The Bean Hive was a dream only a year ago and now a reality; I’d created it in my head and had worked hard to make the dream become real. After I filled my cup again, I walked back into the kitchen to check the casseroles I’d put in the oven for the afternoon lunch. I only cooked one thing a day for breakfast and lunch. I baked several things for the customers to enjoy and take home. The Bean Hive was a coffeehouse, not a restaurant, but we all know that food goes well with teas and coffee. It was my way of offering something for everyone.
Today’s special was a sausage casserole that paired great with any flavor coffee or tea. Everything was made fresh, which made the coffeehouse fill with amazing, stomach rumbling aromas no one could refuse.
The bell over the door dinged. I rushed back in the dining area to greet the customer.
“I’m telling you something is wrong,” Bunny Bowowski waddled into The Bean Hive with her brown pocketbook hung in the croak of her arm. “She didn’t answer her phone all night last night.”
“You know, I was by there just around eight o’clock and I did notice the strangest thing.” Mae Belle Donovan stopped just inside the door and put her hand on Bunny’s forearm. “You know those little plug-in candles that are in each one of her windows?”
“Do I?” Bunny rolled her eyes. “We downright got into a fight over them candles. In July of last year I told her that it was not Christmas and she needed to take them things down. In fact, it was hotter than a firecracker, not nary a thought of snow. She said it was decoration.”
“Good morning, ladies.” I greeted them like I’d done the past two mornings around this time.
According to Aunt Maxi, Bunny Bowowski and Mae Belle Donovan never left the house unless they were dressed in a dress, a shawl or coat (depending on the weather) and some sort of hat that sat on their heads like a bow as if it were completing the package.
They’d been friends for so long, they even resembled each other. Both had the exact same haircut, their grey hair was parted to the side and cut at chin length. They both carried a brown pocketbook that was perfectly held in the crook of their right elbow. Both were on the beautification committee. They came down every morning to get a look at the boardwalk to make sure everything was progressing right on schedule.
“Good morning to you.” Bunny nodded and began to walk up to the counter. “Those are lovely daffodils.”
“Thank you.” I scooted them over to the right a little more so I could get a good view of my two customers. “Aren’t they the most vibrant yellow you’ve ever seen?”
“Mmhmmm.” Her brows formed a V.
“I got them at the farmer’s market when I picked out my fresh produce and fruit. And this,” I tapped the vase, very proud of my find, “I found this for one dollar at Wild and Whimsy.”
“They do have some steals for an antique store.” She rotated the clear hourglass vase that had a tin top and a round hole where the flowers went. She ran her finger along etched flowers in the glass. “You certainly got a bargain.”
“Yes. I was very pleased.” I pushed back a strand of my wavy black hair.
Wavy was a loose term for the springy naturally curly hair my head seemed to sprout as soon as water touched it. No matter how much I had it straightened, tried to straighten or even hide in a ponytail, a stray strand of hair sprung out from somewhere.
I glanced toward Mae Belle.
They weren’t the spriest of women, but they certainly got around just fine.
“Hi do.” Mae Belle gave a slight bow. “Something smells delicious.”
“You are just in time for my country sausage casserole.” I pointed to the glass pan I’d just taken out of the oven.
The melted cheese was still bubbling around the edges where it’d not cooled off yet.
“I’m letting it cool off so I can cut nice thick slices.” I found it was best to let a dish cool for around ten minutes to not only set the casserole, but to let the flavors deepen and simmer within the ingredients. “If you’d like to have a cup of coffee while you wait for a slice of the casserole, I’d love to get you some.”
“Oh, Roxanne, you do know us don’t you.” Bunny gave a theatrical wink. She pointed to one of the few café tables I had provided for the customers. “We’ll go on over there.”
I leaned way over the counter and whispered like I had a grand secret, “You can call me Roxy. All my friends do.”
“Roxy with the amazing eyes.” Bunny winked. “You do have beautiful blue eyes.”
“Thank you.” I smiled, grateful for the comment.
I poured two ceramic coffee mugs with The Bean Hive’s own highlander grog and set them on a small round tray along with one of the silver cow cream pitchers I’d gotten on sale at Wild and Whimsy. Most of the china and silver I’d bought for The Bean Hive was from there, since the old things go great with the exposed brick walls, wood pallet furniture and big comfy chairs I’d used to decorate the shop, as well as the old tin signs and the chalkboard menus that hung above the counter.
“Roxy.” A big smile curled up on her face. “Now that’s a name with character.”
“That’s what I hear.” I chuckled and excused myself where I retreated into the kitchen.
For the last year, I’d gotten up way before the rooster crowed, so to speak, which was about four a.m. around these parts. Only I hadn’t been in these parts. Only recently had I moved back to Honey Springs. I’m not sure if it was to get away from the life I’d left behind due to my divorce or if I needed a little bit of familiarity or comfort. Regardless, I’m what I’d like to call a retired lawyer even at the young age of thirty. Retired because after my divorce, I hated lawyers. It was then that I’d listened to all that junk about following your passion. Doing what you love. Life is too short, yada-yada. One four a.m. morning, I couldn’t sleep and fixed myself a cup of coffee. It was then and there that I decided I wanted to go to barista school and I’ve never looked back.
“The shops are looking great,” I called over my shoulder on the way back to the kitchen to check the rest of the casseroles before I stuck the lunch ones in.
“We are pleased as peaches on how Cane Contractors has really stayed on schedule.” I heard Bunny say after I walked through the door into the kitchen.
Cane Contractors. A lump formed in my throat at the sound of the name. It was very hard to swallow. I shook my head to make the thought go away.
“What on earth?” I looked at the convection oven with the morning sausage casseroles in it and noticed the digital buttons weren’t lit up.
I hit the oven button and nothing. I opened the oven door. The casseroles were still running and lumpy. I stuck my hand in the oven and it was cold. Not a lick of heat.
“Great,” I groaned and hurriedly took out a couple of the four casseroles I had in there and moved them to the other convection oven next to it where I crammed them in with the lunch quiches. “This is going to have to work.” I gulped knowing it probably wasn’t going to work since both of them required different cooking temperatures.
I headed back out to the shop and grabbed my cell phone out of the pocket of my apron and dialed my aunt Maxine.
“Aunt Maxi, I’m so glad you answered.” My rapidly beating heart settled down after I’d heard the comforting sound of her voice.
“This better be good,” the tone in her voice wasn’t happiness. “I need my beauty sleep. I’m on the prowl ya know.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Prowl. My aunt was in her mid-sixties and widowed. Widowed at a young age too. But as far as I knew, she was happily single. “Listen, can you hurry down to the shop and grab some of the lunch quiches for me and put them in your oven to bake?” I asked.
“You didn’t call a handyman yet?” She let me know that she’d warned me several times after I’d bought the place how the previous owner of the restaurant had undercooked food and eventually got shut down by the Health Department.
“No,” I muttered, knowing I really should’ve listened to her but the cost was something I wasn’t able to afford right now. “I was trying to wait until this first week was open and then I’d hire one.”
“I’m going to say I told you so, just because I can say I told you so and you won’t give no sass back. I told you so,” she said in a playful voice. “I’ll be right over.”
“Thank you so much. I love you and I know you love me.” A sigh of relief escaped me.
There weren’t too many times Aunt Maxi didn’t save me. In fact, the reason I’d come back to Honey Springs was due to her. I love my mom but she seemed to hover around me when I’d gone home to Lexington after my divorce. Aunt Maxi had lived in Honey Springs all her life and she was my dad’s sister. Unfortunately, he’d died of cancer years ago. I’d spend summers here with Aunt Maxi and the cozy town had become a second home to me.
I loved the small shops scattered throughout the town. But the boardwalk and pier were my favorite spots in Honey Springs. Aunt Maxi owned a few rental properties, The Bean Hive being one as well as Crooked Cat Bookstore plus a couple residential places. Unfortunately for me, she didn’t have any houses available, so I bought a pretty run-down cabin alongside the lake and only a four-minute bike ride from the coffeehouse.
It was a perfect place to live, but needed a few upgrades. Still, it was mine and I loved every part of it, even the broken ones.
“Are you ladies ready for your slice of country sausage casserole?” I asked and sliced into the warm casserole, plating two nice sized pieces on two lattice, milk glass plates. “Here you go.” I set a plate down in front of each of them.
“This looks amazing, Roxy.” Bunny leaned over the plate. She closed her eyes and inhaled. “And smells delicious.”
There was nothing as satisfying to me as seeing someone who enjoyed something I’d made with my hands.
“Thank you.” I took a step back and put my hands in a prayer position up in front of my face. “I’m honored. I hope you enjoy the taste too.”
“I’m sure we will,” she said.
Mae Belle didn’t have to say anything. She’d already dug in and was on her third bite.
I walked over to the door not only to see if Aunt Maxi was on her way, but to see if there was anyone walking along the boardwalk who I could offer a free coffee to. Even if some of the construction workers were employed by Cane, there was a lot of construction going on and even they had to eat or at least warm up with a coffee. My eyes scanned the workers to make sure I didn’t see anyone I knew from my past summers here. There was a bit of satisfaction and a bit of sadness when I didn’t recognize any of them. It was probably a good thing.
“You’ve outdone yourself with this one,” Mae Belle called from behind me and forced me to come back out of my memories that were good and bad.
“Thank you so much.” I stared down the boardwalk where a tall, lean man with a yellow hardhat on was standing next to the new beauty salon and spa.
He had a set of plans rolled out in front of him. A couple of men on each side of him were looking at the plans. They nodded and spoke with each other. The early morning chill had yet to give way to the spring afternoon weather. I knew the spa was going to open along with most of the other shops before the annual spring Honey Festival in hopes that’d bring the tourists we needed to revitalize the sleepy town. That was one of the reasons I’d moved back. The fond memories of lazy days spent on the pier and watching all the people going in and out of the shops outweighed the only bad memory I’d had. Those days had been long gone and now I was going to do my part to help bring it back.
Not only did the Honey Springs economy need it, I needed it to help restore my soul.
“Are you two okay?” I asked on my way back to the counter.
They nodded and went back to discussing their friend who apparently hadn’t shown up for a meeting or something.
I grabbed a thermos that could hold six cups of coffee and stuck it under the Bunn Industrial coffee maker to fill. While it filled up, I grabbed a few to-go cups. I ran a finger over the cute The Bean Hive logo I’d designed. It was fun to see the bee that had a coffee bean for a body come to life on the materials I’d had printed for merchandise as well as on marketing materials.
The bell over the door dinged and I looked up.
“Alexis Roarke,” Bunny greeted the petite blonde. “We were just discussing where you’ve been.”
“You have,” Alexis Roarke wore her blond hair in a conservative nature with a bob cut just beneath her ears and straight across bangs. She had on pair of tennis shoes, khakis, and a pull over hoodie with the Honey Springs logo on it.
“I even went by your house and your decorative candles weren’t even lit up.” Mae Belle eyed her suspiciously.
“Why, Mae Belle Donovan,” Alexis drew her hands up to her chest. “You do care about me.”
“Of course, we do.” Bunny pushed back the only extra chair at their café table. “Sit.” She patted the seat. “Where have you been?”
Alexis waved her off and was content standing next to the table.
“I don’t have time to sit. I’ve got to open the shop. Maxine Bloom is at it again,” she said my aunt’s name with exhaustion. “Raising the rent on the bookstore. I’m gonna have to stop volunteering at the Pet Palace.”
“Why? Because you volunteer with Maxine?” Bunny asked and sipped on her coffee.
“No. So I can keep the bookstore open an extra day. I close early on Fridays so I can go volunteer. No more.” She shook her head. She pointed at me and shook her finger. “I hear you are Maxine’s niece.”
“You hear right.” I offered a warm smile in hopes she didn’t hold it against me that my aunt Maxine was her landlord. “Did I also hear you say that you are the owner of Crooked Cat Bookstore?”
“I am.” Her eyes narrowed as though she was sizing me up.
“I have fond memories of your bookstore when I used to come visit during the summer.” A happy sigh escaped me. “I remember sitting in that big purple bean bag that was in the front window next to the cat tree. You had that little grey cat and that amazing banned book section.”
“I’ll be. I remember your eyes.” A smile formed and reached her eyes. They twinkled as though the memory was bright. “That’s when Maxine and I got along. She’d bring you in there while she was doing her property rounds and tell you to read books. I knew I was watching you.”
“I believe my love of reading stems from you and all the time I spent in your store.” I pointed to the coffee maker. “Can I get you a cup of coffee? On the house.”
“Ours wasn’t,” Mae Belle grumbled under her breath.
“I’d love one to go. And give me one of them cake doughnuts.” She pulled her chin to the side, and tilted her eyes over her shoulder as she enjoyed the look on Mae Belle’s face.
With the to-go cup of coffee and The Bean Hive bag filled with a doughnut, she bid her friends goodbye.
“I’ll see y’all at the town council meeting tomorrow. I’ve got a few things to say about this zoning thing and Maxine Bloom.” She skirted out of the shop.
Mae Belle and Bunny put their heads together and both tried to whisper above the other. I figured it was a good time to take the workers the coffee.
“I’ll be right back. I’m going to run some coffee down to the workers.” I held the thermos up along with the cups.
The sun was popping up over the trees that stood along the lake like soldiers and filtered over the calm water of the lake. There were a couple of small bass boats running side-by-side with a couple of men in them, probably looking for a good inlet to bass fish.
The wood boards of the boardwalk groaned underneath each step I took as I got closer to the group of men.
“Good morning,” I greeted them. “I’m Roxanne Bloom, owner of The Bean Hive.” I gestured toward the coffee shop. “I’ve made all this coffee and only a few customers have come in.” I left out the fact that I’d only had the same two customers all week long. “And I’d hate to see this fresh coffee go to waste, so I thought I’d bring it to y’all.”
“That’s mighty nice of you.” The tall man grinned from under the hardhat. He kept his eyes on the thermos.
One of the men took the cups out of my hand while another one took the thermos.
“We appreciate that, don’t we boys?” The man’s deep voice echoed off the limestone banks of the lake. The glare of the sun reflecting off the lake made it difficult to see his face.
The men thanked me.
“If y’all get hungry, I also serve food.” I smiled and clasped my hands in front of me. I was definitely trying to use the old saying that a way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Not that I was trying to get into any of their hearts, I wasn’t, but I was trying to get to their stomachs and their wallets. “Enjoy.”
“We will. And we will return your thermos,” the man said before he went back to pointing out things about the spa.
It was my cue to head on back. They had work to do and so did I.
“Hello, honey.” Aunt Maxi was leaning her bike up against the outside of the shop. She pulled off her knit cap. She tucked the hat in the purse that was strapped across her body and pulled out a can of hairspray. She raked her hand upward through her hair and used her other hand to spray it to high heaven. “You know, you need to get a bike rack.”
“I do need a bike rack, but I also need to get a new oven or have this one looked at.” I opened the door for her and let her walk in before me. “New hair color since yesterday?”
She gave the newly blond-colored hair another good spray before she stuck the can back in her purse and started toward the door.
“Alice Dee down at the Honey Comb says it’s all the rage. Makes me feel young as a whippersnapper.” She turned to me. The morning sun sprinkled down upon her.
I shook my head and realized having her bike up against the coffeehouse was probably not a good place for it to lean in case someone tripped over it.
Most of the community rode bikes everywhere since Honey Springs was a small, compact town that took pride in their landscape and Kentucky bluegrass that made the entire town look like a fancy landscape painting.
“You look a little like Phyllis Diller.” And it wasn’t just the hair. Aunt Maxi had put on a little too much makeup
“Well, well. If it’s not Maxine Bloom.” Bunny Bowowski didn’t seem all that happy to see Aunt Maxi. “And with a new hairdo.”
“You’ll serve just about anybody.” Aunt Maxi curled her nose at me.
“You two know each other?” I asked, hoping to bring a little peace between us.
“Know her?” Bunny scoffed. “She’s been down at the Moose trying to get her claws into Floyd, my man.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Bunny. I want a man that can walk without stopping every two feet so he can get his footing up under him so he don’t fall.” Aunt Maxi drew her chin in the air and looked down her nose. “Besides, that’s not what’s got you all worked up.”
“Aunt Maxi is why I’ve come to Honey Springs.” I patted my aunt on the back. “I used to come here when I was a child and spent many summers here. Right here in this very spot when it was the diner. I loved being here so much, that I decided to move here and open The Bean Hive.”
I hoped that their mutual like for me would at least bring them together. The last thing I needed was my only two paying customers to boycott me because of Aunt Maxi.
“We will see you tomorrow, Roxy.” Bunny stood up and motioned for Mae Belle to follow. “We’ve got committee stuff to do.”
The three women gave each other the Baptist nod where they didn’t wish ill-will but not necessarily success. The southern woman’s way around good manners.
“Glad they’re gone.” Aunt Maxi spouted out and walked to the back of the shop. She put her hands on her hips and looked around. “This looks good,” she said in approval. “Many customers?”
“Nope, you just ran off the only two I’ve had since I opened.” I gave her a wry look. “Cup of coffee?”
“I can’t. I’ve got to get your casseroles and head to a meeting. It’s hard being a councilwoman.” Aunt Maxi had held the office for over thirty years and was very proud of it. “That’s why old Bunny is all mad. She and her group of cronies think that just because we are in craft group together that I’ll just let them do whatever they want regarding the festivals and the beautification committee.”
Apparently Aunt Maxi didn’t agree on something in their meeting. Didn’t surprise me. Aunt Maxi wasn’t one to go along with the crowd when she was passionate about something. There were two things I knew not to get into with others: Politics and religion. Around here both were just as important as a new born baby, wedding, or a funeral. “They aren’t too worried about whatever it is that you’ve made them mad about. They are worried about one of their friends.”
“Who?” Aunt Maxi perked up and walked on my heels on our way back to the kitchen.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember her name. She actually came in.” I grabbed the two lunch quiches I’d taken out of the oven earlier and wrapped them in tinfoil, pinching the sides as tight as I could. “She owns Crooked Cat.”
“Alexis Roarke.” Aunt Maxi groaned.
I laughed and stacked the two quiches. “She said that you two are fond of each other.”
“Don’t get me started on her because I don’t come with brakes.” Aunt Maxi picked up the quiches. “You know those left-over doughnuts you gave me yesterday?”
“Yes. What about them?” I asked.
“I took them to her last night. Sort of a peace offering,” Aunt Maxi said. “She was just fine. So there’s no need to worry about her. Those women love to worry. If they aren’t gossiping or worried about someone, they’re dead.”
“They were happy to see her and that she was okay.” I was just about to ask her about Alexis’s claim that Aunt Maxi was going to raise the rent, but the bell over the shop door dinged, alerting me that someone had come in.
Aunt Maxi and I looked.
“Good morning, Maxine.” The man I’d taken coffee to took off his hardhat with his left hand, his right gripped the thermos.
“Good to see you.” Aunt Maxi’s joy of seeing the man was evident all over her face. Even her eyes tipped up in the corners with giddiness.
“I wanted to thank you for the coffee. My men appreciate your kindness.” His features were familiar. His big brown eyes were warm and matched the tender smile.
“I’m glad to see the two of you have mended ways. You know I believe everything happens for a reason.” Aunt Maxi walked over to the door as she recited her favorite saying. “I’ll have these back to you in a couple of hours. See you later, Patrick.”
Patrick? I took a deeper look at the man standing in front of me. Patrick Cane? I looked a little deeper. Patrick Cane.
My heart sank.
“I’ve got to get on my way,” Aunt Maxi had always been good at removing herself from sticky situations and coming face-to-face with Patrick Cane was a very sticky situation. “Oh, Patrick is more than capable to look at your stove while he’s here.”
“Excuse me for one second.” I held up a finger at Patrick and tried not to make eye contact, rushing out the door like a lunatic after Aunt Maxi. I grabbed the handle of her bike before she could pedal off. “What was that?”
“That is your answer to a lot of things.” She turned with a quick snap of her shoulders and jerked the bike handle back. The quiches jiggled in the iron basket on the front of the bike. “Your heart and your electrical issues.”
“Electrical issues maybe,” I whispered between my gritted teeth. “Heart. I don’t think so.”
My grip loosened, my hand fell to the side.
“Mmmhmmm.” A twinkle lurked in her eyes. “I’ve never been wrong.” She balanced the bike before she pedaled off down the boardwalk. “I’ll be back before lunch,” she called over her shoulder.
I stood there for a second, trying to gather my wits. Patrick Cane never crossed my mind when I decided to move to Honey Springs. Never might be a bit of a lie, but hardly ever. Um…rarely. Okay, he might’ve crossed my mind a couple of times when I moved to the cabin and realized the place still had knob and tube wiring that wasn’t up to code. Something I knew when I bought the place, but it was affordable, probably because of the electrical upgrades needed, but it was mine.
“I guess you wouldn’t’ve brought the coffee if you’d known it was me,” Patrick’s voice came from the door of the shop.
I turned around and walked back in, leaving him still standing at the door.
“Thanks again, Roxy,” he said with his hand still curled around the door knob.
Hearing my name coming out of his mouth brought back so many memories for me. Memories that I’d tried hard to forget and when I got married I did forget them. The only problem it seems was that forgetting those memories was only temporary.
“Yeah,” I gave a slight wave and was a little embarrassed that the only word I seemed to get out was yeah.
“Or I can take a look at that stove your aunt was talking about.” He nodded to the back of the shop. “I used to come in here and do service calls for the last owner.”
The door pushed open, causing Patrick to drop his hand off the knob.
“Hey, you about ready?” the man asked Patrick when he saw him.
“Roxy, this is Steve Arpel. Steve this is Roxy Bloom, a longtime friend of mine,” Patrick did the introduction.
Apparently not longtime enough. He had my pulse and heart beating so fast I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.
“Nice to meet you,” Steve said. “Thank you for the coffee this morning. It really hit the spot.”
“Steve works for me. He’s new to Honey Springs,” Patrick said.
When Patrick spoke, I couldn’t help but notice the man he’d become and the chiseled cheekbones he had.
“I’m new to Honey Springs as well.” I made sure to take a sudden interest in Steve to take my mind off Patrick. “Are you an electrician?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Steve said with pride.
“Do you do work on the side?” I asked.
“I can, but I’m just now getting my feet wet around here so I don’t know many people,” he said.
I slipped my hand in the crook of his arm and squeezed him. “You know me and I need an electrician.”
I dragged him through the shop and he stumbled as he looked back over his shoulder at Patrick.
“You can’t do that Roxy,” Patrick warned. “He’s on my dime right now.”
“Fine, you pay him and I’ll pay you, but I want Steve to look at it,” I answered over my shoulder on our way back to the kitchen. “For some reason the stove was working yesterday just fine. This morning it baked a couple of my breakfast casseroles while I had my lunch quiche in the other oven and when I went to check on the breakfast casseroles, they were still runny and the oven wasn’t hot.”
“Okay, let me take a look,” he said.
I pointed to the broken stove and rushed over to the other one. I’d completely forgotten about the breakfast casseroles and they were clearly too done when I noticed the browning around the edges were a little too black. Let me make something very clear. I didn’t forget, Patrick Cane made me forget. See, I reminded myself, bad news. Patrick Cane had always been bad news.
Steve pulled the oven out. The bell over the shop door dinged and I walked back out to see if I had another customer. Unfortunately no one was there and I could see out the window that Patrick had walked outside. Being a tad bit nosy, I walked over to the window, hiding in the corner. I pulled back the curtain and peeked so he couldn’t see me.
There was a woman and a young boy. The woman had shoulder-length blond hair that hung in waves. She had a bright smile. She stood about five-foot-six, mainly legs that were covered in a pair of knee-high boots, skinny khakis and a long cream sweater. Perfect outfit for the early spring day we were having.
I pulled back a little when the little boy with brown hair and brown eyes like Patrick’s curled his arms around Patrick’s legs. Patrick picked him up and the boy squeezed Patrick’s neck, giving him a big kiss on the cheek.
I let go of the curtain. As it fell back in place, I leaned back and let my heart fall back in place.
“Good news.” Steve caused me to jump when he walked into the shop. Luckily it didn’t seem like he noticed me snooping because he didn’t skip a beat. “There is a short in the plug of the stove. I’ll tell Patrick and he can get you worked into the schedule.”
“So you can’t do it?” I asked.
“You heard the boss. Right now he’s keeping me busy with all the shops here on the boardwalk.” Steve shrugged. “But it’s a quick fix and you’ll be back up and running in no time.”
“Okay.” I forced a smile. “I guess it’s good I don’t have a lot of customers.”
“You will.” Steve put his hand on the door knob and turned around. “I have a feeling this entire town is about to turn around with all the new development going on. I even heard a strip mall is going up on the outskirts of town.”
“Really?” My brows furrowed. His words made my heart dip.
The one thing I loved about this town was the fact that there wasn’t a mall or any big-named stores.
“Patrick will be in touch.” Steve shut the door behind him.
When I noticed that Steve, Patrick, the woman and the boy were walking away from the shop and down the boardwalk, I scurried back over to the window and swung the curtain open.
The little boy’s hand was entwined with Patrick’s. The silence of The Bean Hive was far from what I’d envisioned. I stood there trying to figure out if the hole in my heart was from the fact my coffee shop didn’t have the crowd I’d anticipated or the fact that the little piece of my heart that had Patrick Cane’s name on it seemed to realize someone else had already claimed his.
Roxy’s Favorite Breakfast Casserole
· 1 package (16 oz.) of bulk ground sausage. I like a little spice to mine so I get a mild or hot sausage.
· 1 onion (chopped or you can buy a bag of the frozen already chopped)
· 1 red pepper (chopped or you can buy a bag of the frozen already chopped)
· 3-4 cups frozen square hash browns
· 2 cups cheddar cheese
· 3/4 cups Bisquick (I use gluten free Bisquick because Eddy is gluten free and it’s the same measurements)
· 2 cups of milk
· 6 eggs
· Optional black pepper
I preheat my oven to 400
Spray a 3 quart baking dish (13 x 9 inches) with cooking spray
Over medium heat, cook the chopped onion and red pepper along with the sausage until the sausage is cooked with no pink. Drain the meat. Add the meat mixture, frozen hash browns, and 1.5 cups of the cheese in the baking dish.
In a bowl, combine the milk, Bisquick, eggs, and pepper (optional). Pour over the sausage mix in the baking dish
Bake for around 30-35 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over top and bake another five minutes or until the cheese has melted. I’m a big believer in letting the food stand for 5-10 minutes after taken out of the oven. Enjoy!
Most of the day I spent leaned over the counter and staring out the window at the lake. Every once and a while someone would walk by, but didn’t bother coming in. What was left of one of the quiches was in the scalloped platter with my fork still in it.
“Why so doom and gloom. The grand opening isn’t for a couple of days. Then you’ll be wishin’ for a break like this.” A lady with a long-sleeved denim dress that hit just above her knees and had the cutest ruffled ending on the sleeves walked into The Bean Hive. Her chin-length silver bob with blunt bangs looked great against the blue and the silver accessories. “I’ll take a basic chai and I don’t want it out of one of those machines.” She wagged her pointer finger. The turquoise silver ring took up half of her finger. “At least that’s what I hear you do best.”
“Ahh.” I pushed myself up to standing. I pushed the half-eaten quiche toward her and pulled out a fork and napkin from underneath the counter. “You must know my aunt Maxi.”
“I do, Roxanne. Louise Carlton.” She eased herself down on one of the two stools I had at the counter and picked up the fork. She carefully chose the bite she wanted and put it in her mouth. “Mmm, mmmm” She licked her lips. “Goat cheese and spinach?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I instantly liked her. Anyone who loves my food, I instantly love. Everyone but Patrick Cane. “With a little sundried tomato.”
“Magnificent.” She smacked her lips together. “What about that tea?”
“You got it.” I snapped my fingers and headed back to the kitchen. “It’s going to be a minute or five,” I warned.
My chai tea wasn’t like most coffeehouses. I actually boiled it on the stove. I used cardamom. The leafy tea came from the ginger family and went perfectly with some cinnamon powder, star anise, fennel seed, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and peppercorns.
“That smells heavenly.” Louise walked back into the kitchen. “It’s a little lonely out there.”
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know.” I stirred the boiling mixture, letting the aroma fill the kitchen. “But it’s much better than where I was a year ago. I’ll take the loneliness.”
“Oh, honey. You aren’t lonely.” She walked with grace. There was a sense of maturity about her that I really liked. A friendly sort. “Lonely is when no one cares. You have a lot of people who care for you. And I just might have the perfect thing to cure your loneliness.”
“You aren’t here to play matchmaker are you?” I asked Louise and poured the milk into the boiling pot.
“If you mean with the four-legged kind,” she shrugged, “maybe.” She winked. “I run the Pet Palace. It’s what some towns call the SPCA but since we don’t have funds or run it like an SPCA we all chip in and find homes, clean, and volunteer where needed. I have the perfect four-legged companion to cure that loneliness.”
“I can barely take care of me and all these repairs I’m going to have to do in the cabin and in here.” I pointed to the other stove where the oven was broken. I took out the strainer and put the tea in the water, bringing the temperature down to simmer.
“Why don’t you just come by and look after you close.” She pulled the sleeve up on her left arm and looked at her silver watch. “Which is about now.”
“Now?” I laughed. “I’m not supposed to close until later.”
“Honey, there isn’t anyone coming down here right now.” She told me something that I already knew. “But if you have another slice of quiche, I’ll take it to go. I’d like to take it to Alexis Roarke.”
“She came in here today.” The fond memories of Alexis and Crooked Cat warmed me. “But not without hearing from Bunny and Mae Belle about her candles.”
“I see you’ve already been introduced to the gossip.” Louise patted my back and she looked into the pot. “That smells so good. Why don’t we put that in a to-go cup and check out some four-legged companions?”
Roxanne Bloom’s Famous Chai Tea
· 3 cups water
· 5 green cardamom pods (crushed)
· ½ tsp cinnamon powder
· 3 pieces star anise
· 2 tsp fennel seed
· ¼ tsp ground nutmeg (or 5 shaves of fresh grated)
· ¼ tsp ground ginger (or 1 tbsp fresh grated)
· ¼ tsp ground cloves (or 1 tbsp whole cloves)
· 8 black peppercorns
· 1 ½ cups milk
· 6 tsp Assam loose leaf tea
· sugar (to taste)
· cinnamon stick and star anise (for serving)
1. Bring water, cardamom pods, cinnamon powder, star anise, fennel seed, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and peppercorns to a boil over medium high heat.
2. Add milk and return to a boil.
3. Add tea and simmer for 2 minutes.
4. Strain, sweeten with sugar (to taste). Serve with cinnamon stick and star anise.