Read the first 2 chapters of STRANGER DANGER here!

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

It’s been three days since my best friend Will Cunningham kissed me, then turned right around and lied to my face. Three days and I haven’t said squat to anyone. Not about the lie. And most certainly not about the kiss. I’m ready to explode. Worse, I’m ready to confess everything to my older brother, Sebastian, who, luckily, or unluckily, happens to be a Catholic priest.

I drive to the office at St. Perpetua’s, where my brother is pastor. Paco, that’s my little rescue dog, and I walk through the door where I’m greeted by Shirley Dombrowski, the church secretary. “Hi, Lucy.” She stops typing and bends over to scratch Paco behind the ears. He shows his appreciation by wagging his tail. “Aren’t you the cutest?” she coos.

Paco looks back at me as if to say, Doesn’t Shirley have good taste?

Paco is a tan-colored chihuahua terrier mix with a talent for discovering dead people. Before he came to live with me, his name was Cornelius. His former owner set up a Facebook page for him, and he has, like, a gazillion followers, so he’s kind of famous among the woo-woo crowd. The Sunshine Ghost Society, a local group that claims to commune with the dead, has been after me to allow Paco to participate in a séance. I told them I’d think about it.

Which means no.

I know it’s selfish of me, but I can’t help it. What if something happens to him during the séance? Some rogue ghost could decide to take over his body, which sounds dramatic, but you never know.

“I don’t think Father McGuffin is expecting you,” says Shirley.

“No worries. I’ll just be a minute.” I go to walk past her, but Shirley jumps up from her chair and blocks me like she’s trying out for a position in the NFL. Pretty impressive considering she had a hip replacement a few months ago. Shirley is in her late sixties and has been widowed for a few years now. She’s worked at St. Perpetua’s since before I was born and is fiercely loyal to my brother. I thought by now she’d be retired, but Sebastian confided to me once that her late husband left her with a mountain of debt.

“I’m sorry, Lucy, but Father McGuffin left strict instructions that he wasn’t to be disturbed. He’s working on his Sunday sermon.” A sheen of sweat forms on her upper lip. Shirley is either nervous or she’s lying.

It just so happens that’s it both.

Pretty much anyone would be able to tell that Shirley is nervous. Her demeanor and that glistening upper lip are a sure tell. But the lie about my brother working on his sermon? For the most part, she should have gotten away with it. But I’m not like everyone else. I’m a human lie detector, something that just my family and a handful of friends know about me.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been able to tell if someone is lying. Call it a gift. Call it a curse. It all depends on your point of view. Lately, it’s been more gift than curse because my ability to sniff out deception has helped me solve a few murders around town.

The fact that Shirley is lying about my brother working on his sermon has me more than curious. It seems like such a silly thing to lie about. I absolutely have to know what he’s doing.

“Since this is Wednesday, he still has plenty of time,” I tell Shirley as Paco and I wiggle past her. Before she can stop me, I fling open the door to my brother’s office.

Sebastian looks up from his computer screen and frowns. “Lucy, what are you doing here? Did we have a lunch date?”

Shirley begins sputtering about how she tried to stop me, but my brother puts up a hand to silence her. “No worries,” he says, smiling kindly.

She tosses me a disgruntled look before going back to the reception area.

“Don’t blame Shirley. She nearly sacrificed her new hip in an attempt to keep me out of here.” I flop down on the chair across from the big oak desk where my brother appears to be hard at work. Sebastian is five years older than me, and everyone who’s ever seen us together automatically knows that we’re brother and sister. We have the same dark, unruly hair, same brown eyes, and same fair skin with freckles. The only difference is I wear glasses and am six inches shorter than him.

Today, he’s dressed casually in dark pants and a white shirt and, most importantly, he’s minus his collar, which evens out the playing field between us a little. Sure, he’s a priest, but right now, I need him to be my older brother.

“Will lied to me,” I say. Will Cunningham has been Sebastian’s best friend since grade school. When Sebastian went away to the seminary to become a priest, Will slid into my friend zone, except I’ve been in love with him ever since I was seven. First, he was my brother’s best friend, then he became my secret crush, then he became my best friend too.

Sebastian snaps shut his laptop screen. “Oh?” That one simple word reeks of collusion. Sebastian clears his throat in what’s clearly a stall tactic. “What did he lie about?”

“I asked Will if he was J.W. Quicksilver.”

J.W. Quicksilver is the pen name of a wildly popular author of thriller espionage novels. Everyone in Whispering Bay is crazy about his books, including Betty Jean Collins, the town’s bigmouth. Betty Jean runs a weekly book club meeting at her home, and she’s going around town bragging to anyone who will listen that she’s nabbed J.W. Quicksilver as a guest for her book club meeting tomorrow night.

How Betty Jean was able to convince a national best-selling, highly reclusive author to come to little old Whispering Bay, Florida, for a book club meeting is beyond me. The man is an enigma. He has no photo on his website, and a thorough scan of the Internet produces exactly zip pictures.

I’m ashamed to admit it took me forever to figure out that Will and J.W. Quicksilver were the same person. Will is the head librarian here in town, and he’s a huge literary snob. Whenever anyone even mentions the name J.W. Quicksilver, Will starts smirking. It occurred to me a few days ago that maybe Will doth protest too much.

On his days off, Will goes completely offline. Probably because that’s when he’s writing his novels. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s been secretly learning how to play pool. I discovered this when we went to visit a pool hall in nearby Panama City. The visit resulted in learning an essential clue that helped me solve a murder, but it also revealed a side to Will I never knew existed. Imagine my shock when I discovered the latest J.W. Quicksilver thriller had a pool shark as a character.

Will tried to brush the whole thing off, telling me that playing pool was his way to relieve tension, but I don’t buy it. He was totally doing research for one of his novels.

“Why on earth would you think that Will is J.W. Quicksilver?” Sebastian asks.

Oh boy, the little hairs on the back of my neck start to tickle. Whenever someone lies to me or speaks deceptively, I get a physical reaction. Neck tingles being the most common.

“Well, is he?” I persist.

Sebastian chuckles nervously. “I have work to do—”

“Stop avoiding. Is Will J.W. Quicksilver or not?” Paco barks as if to punctuate my question.

Sebastian looks miserable. “I can’t answer that.”

And that is my answer.

I sit back in my chair, stunned. Even though I knew I was right, now that my brother has basically confirmed it, I’m speechless. But only for a second. “Will is the one who donated the money for the new roof on the church, isn’t he? He must be raking in the dough with all those bestselling books of his.”

“The church roof came from an anonymous donation. I can’t reveal—”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I can’t believe how blind I’ve been.” My tummy feels like I’ve eaten too much raw muffin batter. I thought Will and I were best friends. I thought I was important to him. I thought … never mind what I thought. What a chump I’ve been. “Now that the cat’s out of the bag, you can stop playacting.”

At the word “cat,” Paco sits up in attention. “It’s just a matter of speech,” I tell my dog. His ears relax, and he slumps back to the ground.

Sebastian sighs heavily. “Can I ask you a question? With your gift, why has it taken you so long to figure it out?”

“Honestly? I’m not sure. Except … ” I hesitate, because this is something I’ve never told anyone, but what the heck. “I’ve never been able to catch Will in a lie. Until now.”

“Never? But Lucy, he’s been lying to you about being J.W. Quicksilver all this time. I don’t get it.”

“I used to think that the reason I couldn’t tell if Will was lying or not was because I kind of have feelings for him, and I thought maybe it messed with my radar.”

“Feelings?” Sebastian rolls his head from side to side like he’s uncomfortable. “I see.”

Poor Sebastian. It must be weird to hear about your best friend and your little sister being linked romantically.

“You never suspected?”

“Not really.”

Huh. Neither did Will. Or so he claims. I must be better at hiding my feelings than I thought. I might as well tell Sebastian everything. That is, if Will hasn’t told him already.

“The other night at the house during Sunday dinner, Will and I kissed.” I study him carefully to gauge his reaction.

“You kissed Will?” Sebastian looks truly surprised. “I thought you and Travis were dating. Isn’t that what you told mom and dad?”

Travis Fontaine is the other side of my unexpected love triangle. He’s a cop with the Whispering Bay Police force and, if I’m being honest, mighty cute. In a very Ryan Reynolds kind of way. He’s also a know-it-all and, despite being shown the evidence, doesn’t believe that I’m a lie detector or that Paco is a ghost whisperer, so add extremely stubborn to his resume.

“Correction. Will kissed me. And Travis and I are only fake-dating on account of him covering for me because of my lying to Mom about being a member of Young Catholic Singles.”

Sebastian shakes his head at me. “Lucy, you need to get your life together.”

Tell me about it.

“If Will is J.W. Quicksilver, then who’s this mysterious person going to Betty Jean’s book club tomorrow night?” I ask.

“That’s the big question.”

“Will must be beside himself.”

“It’s a delicate situation,” admits Sebastian. “He can’t come out and directly ask Betty Jean too many questions about this impostor without outing himself as the real J.W.”

“Poor baby. I feel so sorry for him.” I might need a hankie to wipe the sarcasm that’s practically dripping from my nose.

“Lucy, he wanted to tell you. He really did.”

“So what was stopping him?” Sebastian opens his mouth to say something, but I interrupt, “Never mind. It doesn’t matter. There’s no reason that’s good enough to keep something this big from your supposed best friend. He told you, didn’t he?”

“Just don’t be too quick to judge until you know the whole story.”

“Is that a line from your sermon?”

“What—oh, um, not this week.” The guilty look on my brother’s face reminds me of Shirley’s deception. If Sebastian isn’t working on his sermon, what is he working on? And more importantly, why don’t he and Shirley want me to see it?

I stand up and stretch my arms over my head, trying to see what’s on his desk. All I can make out is a bunch of flyers with the words JOIN US on the top. The rest of the words are hidden beneath a stapler and a bowl of paper clips. Sebastian follows my gaze. His cheeks turn pink. It’s clear he doesn’t want me to see what’s written on the flyer, which makes me want to see it even more.

“What’s that?” I ask, pointing to the flyers.

Sebastian picks up the stack of papers and clutches them against his chest. “Nothing.”

Right.

I glance down at Paco, and we lock eyes. I swear, sometimes I think that dog can read my mind because suddenly Paco jumps onto my brother’s lap, taking him off guard. The flyers scatter to the floor. I scoop one up. In big letters at the top of the sheet it says, JOIN US TUESDAY NIGHT FOR JESUS AND DONUTS.

“Lucy—” my brother starts, but it’s too late. I’ve already quickly perused the rest of the flyer.

“You’re serving donuts from Heidi’s Bakery at a church social?”

Heidi’s Bakery is located in downtown Whispering Bay, just a couple of miles from The Bistro by the Beach, the café I co-own with my friend Sarah Powers. We serve breakfast and lunch and the best muffins you’ll ever taste. Not that I would say that about my own muffins, but others have, so who am I to argue?

Recently my café was involved in a reality TV show that pitted six restaurants in our little town against one another for the title of Best Beach Eats. But then Tara Bell, the show’s producer, was murdered, and filming shut down, which was a major bummer because I really think The Bistro had a good shot to win. Plus, I could have really used the prize money.

With the help of Paco and my “gift,” I was able to solve Tara’s murder, but not before making a few enemies around town. Like Heidi Burrows. During a meeting of all the show’s participants, I outed her bakery for not disclosing the nutritional values of the food she serves (believe me, if I served food with the crazy calorie and fat counts that she does, I wouldn’t disclose it either).

“What’s wrong with serving donuts from Heidi’s?” Sebastian asks defensively. “We always serve donuts and coffee after mass in the parish hall. Lucy, you have to get over this irrational jealousy you have of Heidi’s Bakery.”

“First off, I’m not jealous of Heidi and her overpriced donuts. But this isn’t mass, and you never serve premium donuts from Heidi’s. So what is this?” I wave the flyer in his face.

Paco barks as if to say, Yeah, what is this?

“It’s a one-time program. We’re having a speaker come from the diocese, and Heidi offered to provide free refreshments. What was I supposed to do? Turn her down?”

“No, Judas Iscariot, you were supposed to ask your sister. I could have comped the muffins. Which, by the way, are lots healthier than donuts. First Will, now you.” I look at Paco. “C’mon, boy, at least you’re still loyal to me.”

Paco lifts his chin in the air, then turns his back on Sebastian. Good dog.

My brother frowns. “Don’t you think you’re blowing this out of proportion?”

“I hope you’re current on your CPR because those donuts of Heidi’s are loaded with enough fat to give the entire congregation a heart attack.”

“Lucy—” he pleads.

But I don’t hear the rest of what he’s saying because I’m already out the door with Paco on my heels. I sit in my car, too agitated to turn on the ignition.

My best friend has been lying to me for years, and my brother is in cahoots with the enemy (aka Heidi). And if that wasn’t enough, some … con man is running around impersonating J.W. Quicksilver, for what reasons, no one knows. I’m fake-dating the new cop in town, and if my mother finds out I’ve been lying to her about it, she’ll make me join Young Catholic Singles. Well, technically, since I’m twenty-six and financially independent, she can’t make me do anything, but she’ll guilt me into joining because I don’t have the guts to stand up to her.

My brother is right. My life is a mess.

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

I get back to The Bistro by the Beach just in time to help with the last-minute lunch crowd. “Thanks for letting me sneak out for a few minutes,” I tell Sarah.

“No problem.” Sarah is a few years older than me, blonde, blue-eyed, gorgeous, calm, cool, and collected. She also makes the best macaroni and cheese you’ve ever tasted. Her husband, Luke, owns an environmental engineering firm and does quite well for himself. Besides being my business partner, she’s a good friend and my role model. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. Something I’m not doing a very good job with, considering how I stormed out of my brother’s office.

The last customer in line picks up his order. “What did you need to talk to Sebastian about? Or is it none of my business?” asks Sarah.

Since Sebastian was a bust, I might as well confide in her. Which is probably what I should have done from the beginning. Sarah is one of the few people who know both about my gift and about my feelings for Will. She’s been after me to come clean with him for some time now.

“You’ll be happy to know that Will and I finally had the talk.”

Her mouth hangs open for a second, then snaps back shut. “And?”

“And he said he felt the same way. Then he kissed me.”

She squeals, which draws the attention of a few of our seated customers, as well as Paco, who looks up at me from his place behind the counter. “Was it fabulous?”

“The kiss? I mean, sure, it was great.”

“Great?” She makes a face. “Girl, I want to hear that you saw fireworks and … oh, does this mean you liked Travis’s kiss better?”

Travis Fontaine, my fake boyfriend, kissed me a couple of weeks ago. He wants us to date for real but not until I sort out my feelings for Will.

“It’s not a case of better. They were just … different.” Even though I don’t have a lot of experience in this department, both kisses were pretty good. I thought that once I kissed Will, any feelings I had for Travis would disappear, but that isn’t the case, which means I’m still confused. “Right after Will kissed me, he lied to me.”

Sarah’s eyes widen. “What about?”

I wince. “Sorry, I can’t tell you. It’s complicated.”

“It’s probably better that I don’t know, but Lucy, what are you going to do about Travis and Will?”

“I have no idea.”

She mulls this over a few seconds. “I was thinking, I know how much you hate owing Will money. That sort of thing always mucks up a relationship, so if it makes things easier, I could cover the loan. That way you’d owe me and not Will.”

When Sarah and I bought The Bistro earlier this year, I was ten thousand dollars short on my half of the down payment to qualify for the bank loan, so Will lent it to me. I’ve been trying like crazy to pay him back, but between my culinary school student loans and Paco’s vet bill when he was poisoned by a crazy killer (that’s another story), I haven’t been able to come up with the dough. Will told me he was in no hurry to get paid back. At first, I was skeptical, because how much could he save as a small-town librarian? Now that I know he’s a world-famous author who goes around donating church roofs without blinking an eye, it makes sense. But Sarah is right. I want to pay him that money back ASAP because it doesn’t feel right between us until I do.

“That’s awful sweet of you, but it’s a lot of money. I already have the benefit of a free apartment.” The Bistro’s previous owners lived above the café in a two-bedroom, one-thousand-square-foot apartment that they renovated shortly before selling to us. Since Sarah’s husband, Luke, already had a house on the beach, they had no interest in moving here, so it only made sense that I’d be the one to get the apartment.

“And I have a husband who makes a lot of money,” says Sarah. “Besides, I saved up more for this place than what I ended up using, so it’s not a problem. Just say the word.”

This is tempting. And yeah, owing Sarah is better than owing Will, especially since she and I are already business partners. Ideally, though, I wouldn’t owe anyone money. Except the bank. We’ll be paying the mortgage on this place until we’re gray.

“I don’t know how long it might take me to pay you back in full.”

“No worries,” she says. “I actually have a few ideas about that.”

Before I can ask her what those ideas might be, the door to The Bistro opens, and Betty Jean Collins walks in, followed by Brittany Kelly. Brittany is the PR person for the chamber of commerce and my former nemesis. We went to high school together, but we were never friends until recently. Sometimes she can be a royal pain in my gluteus maximus, but she has some great qualities. She’s feisty and loyal, and if you’re ever being held hostage by a madman, you can totally count on her. The only problem is she’s got a crush on Will. In her defense, she has no idea how I feel about him, which complicates things to no end.

“Well, hello, Lucy.” Betty Jean saunters to the counter with the most self-satisfied smile I’ve ever seen, which is saying a lot because she generally walks around town like she owns the place.

Betty Jean is eighty, but she’s not the kind of eighty-year-old who shows you pictures of her grandchildren and offers to make you chicken noodle soup when you get sick. She’s originally from Boston and has been married and divorced four times. There are three things Betty Jean loves most in the world: the Red Sox. Prepping for any kind of natural disaster. And younger men. She’s a prominent member of the Gray Flamingos, a local senior citizens activist group, and if she feels like she’s been slighted in any way, no one at the AARP is getting any rest until the issue has been resolved.

“Aren’t you excited about my book club meeting tomorrow night?” she asks. “I told you I’d get J.W. Quicksilver.”

I wonder just how smug Betty Jean would be if she knew that whoever she has coming to her book club meeting is nothing but a big fat impostor. I should warn her, but I can’t do that without exposing Will.

“Well—”

“Oh, c’mon, Lucy. Say it. You didn’t think I could get him here, did you?” she crows, only there’s something off about her expression. It’s like that smirk has been frozen on her face.

“Betty Jean, did you get Botox?”

She lifts her chin in the air and turns her face from side to side. “I look twenty years younger, don’t I?”

“Well … sure. Whatever you say. Um, so I take it you’ve met this J.W. in person?”

“Not yet,” admits Betty Jean. “But I’ve spoken to him over the phone.” She exchanges a sly look with Brittany.

“I’ve spoken to him too.” Brittany giggles like she and Betty Jean share a secret joke. How irritating.

“And?” I ask impatiently.

“Tonight, all will be revealed,” Betty Jean says mysteriously.

“What will be revealed?”

“The reason why J.W. Quicksilver is such a recluse. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter.”

“Are you sure I can’t torture it out of you?” I ask, only half-joking.

“My lips are sealed. Let me just say that you won’t be disappointed.”

Her lips aren’t exactly sealed, but the Botox is making them—wait. “Why will all be revealed tonight? I thought the book club meeting was tomorrow.”

“Oh, it is,” says Brittany, “but that’s what we came to tell you. I’ve arranged for J.W. to do a reading and a private signing tonight.”

Private signing? “I don’t understand. When did all this happen?”

“After J.W. got in touch with Betty Jean, she gave me his information and I was able to put together this fabulous event at Daddy’s restaurant. It sold out in less than an hour, but that was to be expected since J.W. is a literary genius.”

“I thought you didn’t like his books.” Just the other night at my parents’ house, Brittany was dogging on the latest J.W Quicksilver novel. I think she was doing it to score points with Will, who openly disdains anything the man writes. If only Brittany knew the truth.

She flushes. “Did I say that? You must have heard wrong because I love his books! He’ll be doing a reading, and there will be hors d’oeuvres and champagne. It’s like nothing Whispering Bay has ever seen before. It’s a huge PR coup for me … I mean, for the town. Once word spreads that J.W. Quicksilver has come to Whispering Bay, then I expect other big-name authors to follow.”

“I’ve already extended an invitation to Lee Child,” says Betty Jean. “Hopefully, I’ll hear from him soon.”

“I just hope Lee Child gives us more advance notice than J.W. Quicksilver,” says Brittany. “Do you know how hard it is to plan an event like the one at Daddy’s restaurant in less than twenty-four hours? Good thing I have all those years of experience putting together sorority mixers.”

“Lee Child?” I sputter. “As in the Lee Child who writes the Jack Reacher books?”

Betty Jean looks amused. “If I can get J.W. Quicksilver, why can’t I get Lee Child?”

I take a deep breath and try to reason with her. “Betty Jean, have you asked yourself why a highly popular reclusive author that no one has ever seen before is going to come out to the world here in Whispering Bay, Florida? Why isn’t he making his first public appearance on Good Morning America or on Oprah?”

“Honestly, Lucy, my book club has much more clout than you’re giving it credit for. Do you know that I’ve had to turn down a dozen people wanting to join just in the past few days? Besides, Oprah only picks books that no reads on their own. J.W. doesn’t need her endorsement.”

“Plus, I’m pretty sure Oprah doesn’t have a show anymore,” adds Brittany.

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. “I was just using that as an example.”

“Let’s not argue about how all this happened,” says Brittany. “The important thing is that J.W.’s visit will make Whispering Bay the new literary capital of the Southeast.” She reaches out and gives Betty Jean a hug. “And we owe it all to Betty Jean and her persistence!”

The only explanation I can come up with is that the Botox has seeped into Betty Jean’s brain and spilled over into Brittany’s as well.

Brittany looks at me and frowns. “What’s wrong, Lucy? You don’t look happy. Just think of what all this could potentially mean for The Bistro. All that tourist money! I’m thinking of setting up a book festival next spring. What do you think? Or maybe we should do it in the winter, when all the snowbirds are here.”

This is going too far. I don’t want to give Will away, but I can’t let the entire town make fools of themselves. “Look, there’s something important I need to tell you—”

“Is this pouty face because you think you’re going to miss out on tonight’s big event?” asks Brittany. “No way was I going to let that happen to my best friend! I was going to set aside a ticket for you, but Travis took care of it.”

I still. “What does Travis Fontaine have to do with this?”

“He’s your boyfriend, silly. Who else would you go with? I stopped by the police station to arrange security for tonight, and when he found out about the event, he immediately bought two tickets.” She blinks. “Shoot. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Maybe he wants it to be a surprise.”

Betty Jean checks her watch. “Considering it starts in four hours, he’d better unsurprise her fast.”

“What are you going to wear?” asks Brittany.

“Since I just found out about this, I have no idea.”

“It’s not fancy, but it is cocktail attire, so don’t wear your sneakers. Or any of those T-shirts with those goofy sayings.”

I glance down at my shirt, which says MUCH ADO ABOUT MUFFIN.  “What’s wrong with my shirt?”

“Nothing, if you’re trying to get a date with the Pillsbury Dough Boy, but you’ve managed to snag Whispering Bay’s newest eligible bachelor. You need to wear something sexy.”

Betty Jean manages to break through the Botox to snort. “Lucy? Sexy? Let’s not ask for miracles.” She gives me a thorough look-over. “How she managed to get that hottie Travis Fontaine interested in her is beyond me.”

“I’ll tell you how Lucy snagged Travis,” says Brittany. “Not only is she pretty and smart and makes the best muffins in the world, she’s wonderfully witty. That’s how.”

Wow. “Gosh, Brittany, I’m really touched.”

“Wear a dress. Better yet, text me a picture of what you plan to wear so I can approve it.”

Right. “So, by any chance, do you know if Will got a ticket?” I ask.

Brittany beams. “As a matter of fact, I just asked him to go with me, and he said yes.”

Oh, he did, did he?

Betty Jean taps her watch. “That’s enough chitchat. We need to go make sure everything is set up perfectly for tonight. Oh, and Lucy, don’t forget you’re making the muffins for the book club meeting tomorrow night.”

Rats. I’d forgotten about that. The situation is getting stickier by the minute. First, there’s this reading tonight, then the book club meeting. Will absolutely has to tell everyone the truth. But until he does, I need to play along. “Sure, I’ll bring muffins. What kind do you want?”

“Your best, naturally. And don’t try to pawn off any of your leftovers either. They have to be fresh. We can’t have a world-renowned celebrity like J.W. Quicksilver eating day-old muffins.”

I slap my hand over my forehead like I’m about to faint. “Goodness, no. We couldn’t allow a day-old muffin to pass through J.W.’s sacred lips. The entire literary world might collapse.”

Betty Jean tries to narrow her eyes at me (at least I think that’s what she’s doing). “If it’s too much of an imposition to provide the muffins, just let me know. Heidi offered me freshly made donuts. Lots of them. I can call her if—”

“I’ll make the muffins.”

“That’s what I thought you’d say. Have them at the house no later than six. And wear your work apron.”

“I thought the book club meeting started at seven.” Wait. Why would she want me to wear my apron, unless … “Betty Jean, are you expecting me to act as a server during your meeting?”

She sniffs. “You did miss the last meeting you were invited to. Consider yourself a probationary member of the club. You can serve during this meeting, and if you don’t mess anything up, you can come to the next meeting as a regular member.”

Of all the …  I can practically feel the steam coming out of my ears. “I missed the last meeting because I found a dead body in the park. Remember?”

“So you say. Really, Lucy, if you don’t want to do it, just say the word and I’ll call Heidi.”

Unbelievable. I wish I could tell Betty Jean where she could stuff my muffins, but instead I force a smile. “Fresh-baked muffins at six. Me and my apron will be there.”

“I’m glad that’s settled.” She snaps her fingers at Brittany. “Let’s go.”

“Bye, Lucy!” Brittany yells on her way out. “Don’t forget, text me a picture of your outfit!”

I turn to Sarah. “Did you know about this big shindig at The Harbor House tonight?”

Sarah nods. “The customers have been talking about it. Apparently, it’s easier to get Hamilton tickets on Broadway than it is to this reading tonight.”

I bite my tongue. I wish I could tell Sarah how this big event is nothing but a ruse. I can’t put this off any longer. Will has got to set this whole thing straight. I pull off my apron. “I know I ducked out earlier, but I really have to talk to someone, and it can’t wait.”

“Will?” she asks with a knowing smile. “We’re about to close anyway. I’ll do final cleanup.”

I hug her. “Thanks. I owe you one.”

“Are you really going to text Brittany a picture of your outfit for her approval?” Sarah asks.

“If I don’t, I’ll never hear the end of it.” It occurs to me that maybe I can have a little fun with this. Brittany wants sexy? I’ll give her sexy. “I think I have just the outfit.”

 

STRANGER DANGER, the 4th book in the Whispering Bay mystery series coming November 21!

To pre-order your copy click HERE