Juliet’s personal and professional lives have recently received an extra jolt of energy. Her romance with the hunky detective Ryder Hamilton continues to simmer, and business at Java Jive has never been better. But her good mood quickly turns as stale as day-old espresso when she finds out that Ryder has been promoted to his precinct’s homicide division. With him risking his life to catch the worst kind of criminals, Juliet’s growing sense of unease ignites when a local college student goes missing.
Suddenly every Nashville resident is on high alert, especially Juliet’s neighbor Chelsea. Juliet does her best to calm the girl’s nerves, but her worst fears are confirmed when she finds Chelsea dead. Even though she tries her best to stay out of it, Juliet’s involvement puts a strain on Ryder’s first homicide case. The situation soon becomes even more personal for Juliet and her best friend Pete Bennett when one of their employees disappears during her shift. As a killer lurks in the shadows, Juliet, Pete, and Ryder seek out a double shot of justice.
Praise for A Whole Latte Murder
“How Ms. Fardig comes up with these story lines is the true mystery and I am captivated by her imagination and ability to bring the reader into the story. This book has it all—a murder, devilish handsome men, great women friends, wonderful humor and a whole lot of action. If you’re looking for a companion to curl up by the fire with, A Whole Latte Murder can’t be beat.”—Linda Thompson, The Authors Show
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Sinclair’s? Wow. I certainly wasn’t expecting this,” I said as Ryder opened the passenger door and helped me out of the car.
He smiled. “Nothing but the best for my lady.”
I slapped him on his rock-solid biceps. “Don’t call me that.”
“Oh, right. I meant to say, nothing but the best for the independent woman I’m lucky enough to be sleeping with.”
Ryder Hamilton and I had been officially dating for only about three months, and I didn’t want to take things any more seriously than we were. After the epic failure of my engagement last year, a new steady relationship was not what I had been looking for. But Ryder was exactly what I needed. I couldn’t remember when I’d ever had so much fun dating someone, mostly because what we had was casual and low-key and did not in any way resemble a traditional relationship. I let him call himself my boyfriend to simplify things, but we weren’t hung up on labels. In short, what we had was perfect.
Placing his hand on the small of my back, he steered me toward the front door of the posh downtown restaurant. In a city like Nashville, there were a lot of loud, touristy honky-tonks in the heart of the city, but Sinclair’s was one of the understated little gems most tourists didn’t bother with. That didn’t keep the place from having a wait list for reservations every night of the week.
I still didn’t understand why we were here. “Why did you choose Sinclair’s for dinner? It’s a random Monday at the end of February. Not exactly a special occasion.”
The corner of his mouth turned up as he opened the door for me. “You never know when a day can turn into a special occasion, Juliet.”
Now he was beginning to worry me.
Ryder had been secretive as to where we were going tonight, only telling me that I should “dress nicely,” though I had no idea where that fell between clean jeans and black tie apparel. I opted for a little black dress, figuring that could go anywhere. He insisted on picking me up at my apartment rather than our normal hasty plans of simply meeting somewhere or him dropping by Java Jive unannounced to see me at work.
He’d come all the way up the steps to my apartment door to get me, which also struck me as odd—usually he honked from his car or texted me when he got to the parking lot. We were not ones for formality. However, tonight he was wearing a suit and tie of all things, instead of the tight T-shirts and jeans that were the staples of his wardrobe. Not that I was complaining, because he looked crazy handsome, but I was wary of the sudden change.
I didn’t get a chance to voice my concern, because the maître d’ immediately whisked us off to our table, weaving us through a sea of canoodling couples all apparently celebrating something, evidenced by the notable presence of a silver champagne bucket at every table. The moment we sat down, a young woman shrieked two tables away from us and I nearly jumped back out of my chair. I whipped my head in her direction only to find the young man with her down on one knee, placing a big sparkling ring on her left hand. The girl began weeping, and a collective “aww . . .” went up from around the room. When I glanced over at Ryder, I noticed him smiling as he watched the aftermath.
I was more than a little uncomfortable.
Not that I wasn’t happy for the newly engaged couple, but the whole scene was rather disconcerting given the out-of-the-ordinary nature of our date tonight. I waved down a waiter and ordered a double vodka collins, hoping to medicate my increasingly manic state.
After the waiter left, Ryder raised one eyebrow at me. “A double? Hard day at the office?”
“Something like that.”
In reality, I’d had a relatively easy day, as food service goes. Java Jive, the coffeehouse I managed, had run more smoothly lately than I ever could have imagined. My staff, which had been a bit of a nightmare to keep and train a few months back, now worked well together. The place was making money, and the owner, my best friend, Pete, was pleased with how I’d been able to breathe life back into the place after all of the hardship and loss over the past year or so. Just like my love life, my work life was very nearly perfect.
“Did you even hear what I said?”
Ryder narrowed his eyes at me. When would I learn that there was no point in lying to a detective? “I said, there’s been a lot of shuffling around within the MNPD. Several old-timers are retiring, so the rest of us have had the chance to put in for transfers to different departments and promotions and things like that.”
“Is my friend Detective Cromwell among the retirees?” I asked hopefully. Cromwell, one of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department’s seasoned homicide detectives, had been a thorn in my side on a couple of occasions since I’d moved back to town. He was a good detective, but I couldn’t say I’d be sad to see him go.
Ryder chuckled. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I don’t think he’ll ever retire.”
“Figures,” I muttered, catching a glimpse of yet another marriage proposal a few tables away, this one between an older man and woman, and much less theatrical. The man reached into his coat pocket and produced a little box, which he opened and gave to the woman. She smiled warmly and nodded her head, taking out the ring and placing it on her own finger. These two appeared to have worked out the details beforehand, because it didn’t seem like much of a surprise. I took a big swig of my drink.
“That’s why I brought you here tonight.”
I snapped my head back to face Ryder, my heart thudding in my chest. “You . . . what?” This could not be happening. We had such a good thing going—why would he ruin it by moving too quickly?
“Are you okay? You’re being weird.” He seemed concerned, but I detected a definite hint of exasperation.
I took another drink before answering. “I’m okay. Just . . . this place isn’t . . . I mean . . .” Sweat began to bead on my forehead. I wasn’t ready for this.
“Juliet, I was hoping—”
“No, don’t!” I cried, hopping up from the table. “Just . . . whatever you were going to say—don’t.”
Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing to stare at me. I felt my cheeks flame with embarrassment. I slowly sank back into my chair, wishing I could disappear.
Ryder gave me one of his trademark condescending looks. “I brought you here to celebrate my promotion, not ask you to marry me, Juliet.”
I heaved an enormous sigh of relief and chugged the rest of my drink.
“You don’t have to be so relieved about it.” Yep. Definitely exasperation, and more than a hint.
“Sorry.” I changed the subject, genuinely happy for his news. “So congratulations on your promotion. That’s fantastic! Are you the chief now, or what?”
He laughed. “No, not quite.”
“Well, do you at least have enough clout to fork over get-out-of-jail-free cards?”
“I think I’ve already given you one of those,” he said with a smile. “I guess it isn’t a promotion in the literal sense, but to me it is. I’m going to be working homicide.”
I felt like all the air had been sucked from the room. “Homicide?” I choked out.
“Yes. And don’t laugh, but I’ll be shadowing Cromwell on the first case that pops up.”
It was bad enough that Ryder had to deal with criminals on a daily basis, but at least I could sleep at night knowing he only worked white-collar crimes. Embezzlers and con men didn’t want to get caught, so they generally steered clear of the police and tried not to cause too much trouble. On the whole, they were relatively nonviolent. Now he was going to be chasing crazy psychopaths around.
My hands began trembling, so I stuck them on my lap to hide them. There was nothing that could be done about my shaky voice. “You . . . you want to work with dead bodies and . . . catch killers?”
“Yeah. You know I’ve always had an interest in it.”
Ryder’s wife, Amanda, had been murdered years ago, and the case remained unsolved. It wasn’t for lack of trying on his part—he’d been investigating it on the side for the better part of ten years.
Grinning, he continued, “And thanks to you I’ve gotten a little taste of what working homicide is like. I think I’d be a great fit.”
“Hey!” I snapped, obviously a little too loudly judging from the disdainful looks I got from a few people at neighboring tables. “Don’t put this on me. I don’t want you working homicide.”
His smile faded, and he studied me for a moment. “So it’s okay for you, an amateur without a damn clue what she’s doing, to run around after killers, but I, a professional with a gun and years of experience and training, cannot?”
He was pissed now. I could tell by the set of his jaw. “That is absolutely the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said, and that’s really saying something.”
I crossed my arms. “Well, excuse me for caring about your safety.”
“I’m a cop. My safety is on the line every day.” He shook his head. “I guess I was wrong to think my girlfriend would be happy for me.”
I rolled my eyes at his blatant attempt to shame me. “Oh, boo-frickedy-hoo.”
Poor choice of words, since I could have sworn I saw steam coming out of his ears.
“Maybe this dinner was a mistake,” he growled.