As the co-owners of Bread and Batter Bakery in Destiny, New York, Molly Tyler and Olivia Williams have plenty on their plates. Molly is recently divorced and looking for a place to live, but they’re also both preparing for Destiny’s annual Apple Harvest Fair. The bakery has a booth where they’ll be selling not only delicious cupcakes and cider doughnuts, but also tote bags and t-shirts emblazoned with the bakery’s logo.
Tensions rise at the fair when local orchard owner Calista Danforth discovers organizers have assigned her usual booth to Bread and Batter. Although a heated argument ensues between her and Molly, the bakery manages to rake in lots of dough. But when Calista is found strangled to death with one of their t-shirts, Molly is named the prime suspect. Now these two friends must whip up some answers quickly before the future of their business crumbles...
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About the Author
“Did you hear what I said?”
I turned my attention to my ex-husband. “No.” I leaned across the table we were sharing at Daphne’s Trattoria, careful not to get eggplant parmigiana all over my new hot pink cashmere sweater. I dropped my voice to a whisper. “I’m trying to figure out what Calista and Trey are talking about. Can you believe they’re dating?”
“Molly, right now I don’t care if Justin Bieber is dating Madonna.”
Neither did I. I was more interested in the aforementioned couple four tables away. I cut my eyes back in their direction. Calista Danforth-Brody and Trey Hamilton were well known to the residents of Destiny, New York, because their families have feuded over orchard land for a couple of centuries. Them dating would be bizarre, to put it lightly. They don’t get along. At all. Ever. They’re like the Hatfields and McCoys, or rival mafia families—minus the killings, of course. They’re genetically predisposed to dislike each other.
But there they sat, Trey actually in a suit and tie and Calista in a stunning navy blue dress, which I was pretty sure didn’t come off the rack at Plum’s Dress Shop in downtown Destiny. They were staring into each other’s eyes like two teenagers in love. In reality, they’re both six years into AARP membership. I wasn’t the only one in the restaurant gawking at, and whispering about, them. Destiny is a small town, so everyone is interested in what everyone else is doing. Especially when it’s Calista and Trey. The happy couple seemed oblivious to the interest they were generating.
I twirled my spaghetti around my fork while I pondered whether Trey’s interest in Calista might have something to do with the new apple variety coming out of Danforth Orchards. I doubted if he could convince Calista to merge her orchard with his, if that was his goal. Unless he planned on marrying her. Wouldn’t they be a pair from God, as my great-grandmother used to say.
“Can you at least try to focus?”
Brian’s voice, louder this time, forced me to shelve my curiosity about Calista and Trey for the time being. “I’m sorry. What were you saying?”
“I said I asked you to dinner for a reason.”
It wasn’t unusual for Brian and me to get together maybe three or four times a year. We were one of those friendly divorced couples who still talked to each other. I’d known him since grade school, after all, but tonight’s invitation came out of the blue. Plus, he seemed distracted. Very un-Brian-like. “I’ll pay attention, I promise. Go ahead.”
“Our living arrangement. I hate asking, but would you mind moving out?”
Now he had my attention. Besides being my dark-haired, blue-eyed, handsome ex-husband, Brian Addair, owner of the Addair Funeral Home, is also my landlord. I used to rent a beautiful cottage on the Destiny Lake shore. A year ago, the owner died. His kids decided to sell, but I couldn’t afford to buy it. Being on the lake, it sold before the FOR SALE sign’s spindly wire legs were planted firmly in the ground.
I was scrambling to find a place to move when Brian offered me the apartment over the garage at the funeral home. It was cozy, the perfect size, and, most important, the right price.
“Move out?” I repeated. I hadn’t seen this coming. “Why? Since when isn’t it working?”
“Lola doesn’t like that your apartment is only feet from my bedroom. She thinks you have an ulterior motive; that you’re living there because you want me back.”
My stomach did a free fall as my yearning for spumoni vanished, and believe me, the spumoni at Daphne’s is pure bliss on a little round plate. Lola Lipinski is Brian’s significant other. She’d moved to town about a year earlier and opened up a combination flower shop, tanning salon, and yoga studio named appropriately, although unimaginatively, Lola’s. She and Brian had begun seeing each other almost as soon as she came to town.
The flowers are the only things in her shop that interest me, but the combination works for her. I reluctantly abandoned my spaghetti. “Ulterior motive? I don’t have any motives, ulterior or otherwise. Nothing’s going on between us.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. She’s a little insecure, that’s all.”
“So why doesn’t she move in with you?”
He took a rather large drink of his wine. “I’m good with things the way they are for now. She has her place. I have mine. That may change soon, but not right now.”
“If you’re letting her kick me out, then your relationship must be serious.”
He played with his fork and gave the tablecloth serious contemplation. Cream damask, in case you’re interested. He looked back up at me. “Maybe. I know you think she’s stupid, but she’s not. She reads tons of books, she’s a caring person, and her business is very successful. She’s been through a lot in her life. She’s sweet, and crazy about me. I want to make her happy.”
One could read a lot of books, be caring and successful, yet still be stupid, but I refrained from pointing that out. It would be nitpicky of me to do so. I’d have to take his word about Lola’s sweetness. She wasn’t crazy about me, obviously.
“I’ll owe you one if you try to understand. She feels . . . she feels . . .”
“Threatened because you and I are still close?” I finished for him. “For the record, I do not think she’s stupid, Bri.” Flaky, maybe. She’s into crystals, wind chimes, weird kinds of yoga, and meditation. She probably carries tarot cards in her purse. I suppose she’s pretty if you liked harsh platinum blondes with tattoos. Okay, her hair’s natural, and it’s one little discreet tattoo on her ankle of a flower. She wore enough perfume to choke a horse—that I am not exaggerating. Someone should really tell her less is more, but she probably wouldn’t hug me and declare us BFFs forever if I clued her in.
“Not that it’s my business, but she doesn’t look like your type,” I continued. “She doesn’t look . . . I don’t know . . . funereal.”
His lips curved into an amused half smile, deepening the dimples that bracketed his mouth. “‘Funereal’? You do know that means melancholy and depressing?”
This whole conversation was making me funereal. “I mean, she doesn’t look . . . I don’t know . . . proper, or whatever. Forget it. If you’re happy, then that’s all that matters.”
He reached over and covered my hand with his. “I’m very happy. Don’t worry. I’ll find you a place. We’ll look tomorrow.”
I withdrew my hand. The last thing I wanted was him feeling sorry for me. “I’ll find my own place, thank you very much. Give me a couple of weeks. So who’s going to move in after I’m gone?”
“Take your time.” He sat back, noticeably more relaxed now that he’d gotten that off his chest. I was glad one of us felt better. “I haven’t thought about who’s going to move in. I’ll put an ad in the paper.”
When Brian and I were married we lived in the big main house behind the funeral home. Now he lives there by himself. Our living quarters are hardly feet from each other, as Lola accused. I could move back in with my parents, but that seemed a step backward. Not to mention funereal. We got along fine, but I definitely didn’t want to go back to sleeping in my childhood bedroom.
“I really am sorry. I want—”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, cutting him off. “No big deal.”
He nodded, then picked up the bill the waitress had dropped off. “I’ll get it.”
He got no argument from me. I watched Calista and Trey walk past our table, shoulders touching; she was almost as tall as he was. Little did I, or, more importantly, Calista, know their budding romance was about to be cut off at its rootstock.
* * *
I drove my blue Prius into the public parking lot behind Bread and Batter Bakery. Olivia Williams, my best friend practically since we were born a day apart twenty-eight years ago, and I opened Bread and Batter three years previously. We’d planned this since we were seniors in high school.
For me, baking is more than throwing ingredients together and hoping for the best. It’s an art form. I’ve baked for my family and friends since my mother introduced me to a spatula and measuring cups. What’s better on a rainy day than filling the house with homemade baking smells? Now, Olivia and I make a living doing what we love, even though it meant starting at the ridiculous hour of four a.m., so we’d be ready at seven for the breakfast crowd looking for their bagels and doughnuts. We usually take turns coming in early to do that. The cupcakes and bread we do throughout the day.
We have a blast experimenting with new recipes and using fresh ingredients from the farms that surround Destiny. There’s nothing more satisfying for us than creating our cakes, breads, bagels, cupcakes, and doughnuts from scratch. There’s nothing more rewarding than the smiles on the faces of our customers.
Olivia and I had recently had a red and white striped awning installed over the large window in front of our bakery. Last week, I put out two planters full of gorgeous asters and decorative red kale. The next thing we want to do is put a couple of tables with some chairs outside during the warmer months.
Our bakery is on Lacey Street, just off Main Street. Like in many small towns, Main Street is Destiny’s busiest street. Destiny is a bucolic town on Destiny Lake, with a population of about three thousand people. It’s surrounded by farms, apple orchards, vineyards, and a small Amish community. Between the lake, wine trails, people curious about the Amish, and our picturesque streets and shops, Destiny draws a lot of tourists.
Olivia and I were lucky to have snagged such a prime place for our bakery. It fits well with the other shops on the tree-lined street with brick sidewalks. Besides Bread and Batter, Lacey Street is home to a jewelry store owned by a local jewelry designer, a nail place, an art store, a retro hardware store favoring the fifties, sixties, and seventies, an antique store, a kitschy craft store, a quaint grocery store run by Mennonites, and a bookstore run by mine and Olivia’s other best friend, Emily Garrett. Despite rumors that books—the kind with pages and spines—are dead, Barking Mad Books was booming, which was also good for Bread and Batter. People loved to come get a doughnut, bagel, or cupcake with a coffee or tea, then wander through the bookstore. It doesn’t hurt that we have a retired best-selling author who had just moved to town and does programs at the bookstore. When she can be pried out of the big gated house she’s renting on the lake, that is.
I parked, leaving my windows open a little since there was no rain predicted. Despite the autumn chill in the air, it was a little early for snow yet, thank goodness. I hadn’t done anything about looking for a place to move into since Brian and I had had dinner a week and a half before. I promised him that morning when I was getting in my car and he was retrieving the morning paper it would be soon. I wondered if he and Lola would get married. No, there was nothing going on with Brian and me, but I admit to occasionally falling in love with him all over again. I had thought the feeling might be mutual. Hmmm . . . apparently not.
I pulled open the door to Bread and Batter and breathed in the sweet aroma of chocolate fudge cupcakes. Olivia pounced on me before I’d taken two steps. “Molly! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to call you.”
“Sorry. I must have left my phone off.”
She rolled her eyes. “As if you ever leave it on. I don’t know why you even have one. I bet you don’t even know where it is.”
I overlooked her remark. Besides, she was right. I had no idea where it was. “I’m here now. What’s the big emergency?”
“Did you see the paper this morning?”
I shook my head. “Why?”
“Wait right there,” she ordered, holding up an index finger. She marched over to the counter, auburn curls bouncing, and snatched up the paper.
Our small town newspaper, The Destiny Trumpet, God bless it, is more like a gossip rag than actual newspaper. If you want “real” news, you’ll have to go buy a paper that comes out of one of the bigger cities nearby. That’s because the articles in the Trumpet are written by locals who aren’t journalists, and who also have full-time jobs.
If you want to know who’s visiting from out of town, who’s checking out racy paperbacks, or books about serial killers from the library, or whose husband was seen buying multiple pairs of hot pink and lime green panties from Victoria’s Secret at the outlet mall, plus some local news thrown in if there’s room, this is your paper.
She came back and thrust it at me. “First page. Read.”
I did as I was told.
Orchard Owner Taken into Police Custody
Orchard owner Trey Hamilton was taken into custody yesterday by one of Destiny’s finest. Mr. Hamilton was accused of first bribing, then threatening, Jacob and Sharona Jandella, owners of Jandella Nursery over in Clydesmore. Mr. Hamilton showed up at their nursery yesterday causing mayhem and pandemonium by shouting at the Jandellas that the Calista Sugar Pink, the new apple breed they were propagating and preparing for distribution for Danforth Orchards, belongs to him.
He insisted it had been found on the land the Danforths had stolen from the Hamiltons back when this area was first settled, and he could prove it. After frightened customers headed for their cars, Mr. Hamilton threatened to sue the Jandellas when they refused his bribe of several thousand dollars to stop the propagating and distribution of the Calista Sugar Pink.
Mr. and Mrs. Jandella got the police involved when Mr. Hamilton showed up later that evening on the doorstep of their home with a gun, threatening to kill them and destroy their nursery if they didn’t investigate his claim that he was the true owner of the new apple.
The Jandellas pressed charges despite, according to them, Mr. Hamilton seeming sufficiently sorry for his deeds once the officer arrived, and the gun being fake. A court date has not been set.
Ms. Calista Danforth-Brody, owner of Danforth Orchards, declined to comment, except to say she is no longer dating Mr. Hamilton.
When the Jandellas were asked if they would entertain Mr. Hamilton’s claims that he had proof the apple came from his land, they replied they were satisfied that it came from Danforth land and planned to take out a restraining order against him. Mr. Hamilton said he wasn’t through. Restraining order or not, he was going to prove the apple belonged to his family.
I gasped. “Oh my God! He threatened to kill them?” Looks like I’d been right; Trey’s interest in Calista did have to do with her new apple. He always seemed nice enough. What had gotten into him? The article went on to say that Calista claimed she had found the chance seedling right inside the border of her orchard while she was riding one of her horses. An extension agent from the nearby state university had the university’s genetics lab confirm the parents of the apple most likely to be Macoun and Cripps Pink. Calista got a patent on the Calista Sugar Pink, then licensed it to Jandella Nursery for breeding and distribution.
Why Calista had fallen under Trey’s romantic spell, and what she’d seen in him, weren’t addressed in the article, and I wasn’t about to go knock on her front door and ask. Their romance appeared to be over, so what did it matter now?
Trey and his family would kill to be the center of attention like Calista was because of the Calista Sugar Pink. The Danforth Orchards had always been larger, more popular, and more profitable than the Hamilton Orchards. The Hamiltons were jealous not only of the Danforths’ successful orchard, but of all their wealth. Not that the Hamiltons were poor by any stretch of your, or my, imagination.
Calista’s new apple was making its official debut at the Apple Harvest Fair in a couple of weeks. It would be the first time anyone in the public had seen or tasted it, and our town was all abuzz about it. Even major New York City newspapers had picked up stories about it.
“I know! I can’t believe Trey would do something like that,” Olivia declared. “I think I’d be more than a little nervous if I were Calista or the Jandellas. What if Trey decides to carry out his threats? Next time it could be a real gun.”
I nodded. “My thoughts exactly. Sounds like he’s losing it, that’s for sure. This won’t be good for his business, or his reputation.” I tossed the paper down. Soon, Olivia and I were busy with customers. I forgot all about Trey and Calista.
Three weeks later, Olivia and I were in the back of Bread and Batter getting our doughnuts and cupcakes ready for the Apple Harvest Fair when the bell on the front door jingled.
“I should have locked the door. Guess the CLOSED sign isn’t clear enough. I thought everyone would be at the fair by now.” Olivia stopped packing the last box of jumbo-sized cider doughnuts—a favorite among the fair people.
“You would think, wouldn’t you?” I motioned for her to keep packing. “I’ll see who it is.” I made my way out to the front.
Calista Danforth-Brody stood in the middle of the floor, arms akimbo, looking like she wanted to skin someone alive. “I was just about to yell for someone. I’m glad you’re still here. I have something important to discuss.”
“Hi, Calista. We won’t be here for long, and we’re closed, as you can see.” I pointed at the sign in the window. “If you want a doughnut come over to our booth. We’ll be over there in a few minutes. We’re boxing up all the doughnuts and cupcakes now. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for the fair yourself? Congratulations on the Calista Sugar Pink, by the way.”
“I am not here for doughnuts,” she informed me in a haughty voice, ignoring my congratulations. No one does haughty like she does, I’ll give her that. “I’m here about your booth.”
“What about it?” I couldn’t imagine what she had to say about our booth.
She blinked, then ogled me as if I were the town dunce. “Really? It’s set up right in the middle of Main. That’s always been the Danforth Orchards space, Molly. You know that. I want it back. Everyone that comes to the fair stops by. It’s been tradition since the fair’s existed. You can’t move my location. Would you move the Liberty Bell? The Statue of Liberty? The Grand Canyon?”
I bit down on my tongue before I laughed at her drama. Don’t get me started on her clipped boarding school accent. I don’t know where that came from, since she’s lived here her entire life.
I started to reply, but she kept on going, her arms now gesturing wildly. “I can’t believe I had to stuff all my gorgeous apples, my homemade jams in their cute little jars, and my delicious pies into that tiny booth—excuse me, box—I was given. The Calista Sugar Pink is debuting today.”
I waited until I was sure she was finished. “I’m aware of that, as you know, but what can I do?” With considerable effort, I flashed my friendliest smile. “I didn’t move your location; that’s the space I was assigned. And Olivia and I already have our booth filled with mugs, souvenir tote bags, and T-shirts. I’m sure you’ll be fine where you are.”
“I’m sure you find this très amusing. You know very well there’s been some mistake. My space is in front of Bootleg Sam’s, for God’s sake,” she huffed. “The people going in there are not interested in apples, or my jams and pies, believe me. Whatever it is that you’ve got in your booth, I’ll help you move it.” Understanding dawned in her eyes. “Or do you want to keep it because Brian’s booth is right next door?”
“Uh . . . no,” I replied, my heartbeat kicking up a notch. “That has nothing to do with it.”
Except for six months when I studied in London while in my senior year of college, I’ve lived in this town my entire life. I know almost everyone and they know me, which can be terrifying or comforting; it can go either way. That includes Calista. She and I also belong to the same Destiny Women’s Book Club, whose name should really be changed to Relationship Therapy and Maybe-We’ll-Read-a-Book Club. We all spend as much time discussing relationships we used to be in, wanted to be in, or wanted to be out of as we do on the books we picked to read.
So of course that means Calista knows all about my marriage and divorce from Brian, as well as my on-and-off feelings for him. I should really learn to be less open about my life. Hard to do in a small town.
I gave Calista what I hoped was an intimidating glare, so she realized I had no intention of backing down. “The Apple Harvest Fair Committee assigned the booth spaces months ago, as you know. Why didn’t you complain then? Why would you wait until today?”
“I didn’t think I had anything to complain about. I just found out a little while ago that my booth wasn’t where it’s always been.”
I wasn’t backing down. “I happen to like my space; it’ll be great PR for the bakery. If you’d said something before now maybe I’d have agreed to switch. But I’m sorry, Calista, I’m not moving.”
She threw her hands in the air. “Fine. Keep your space. I cannot believe you’re being so unreasonable. Nobody cares about your silly T-shirts. That space is mine. I’m telling all my friends to stay away from here.” She smiled and looked down her aristocratic nose at me.
“I think I saw a mouse scurry across your dirty floor. Or maybe it was a rat. I’ll have to call the Department of Health. They’ll close you right down, and I’ll make sure it’s for good. You can’t do this to me and get away with it.” She marched over to where our T-shirts and mugs were displayed and snatched up a red T-shirt. “I can use another dust rag.” She stalked to the door and yanked it opened, almost colliding with a man who was reaching for the doorknob on the other side. Not bothering to excuse herself, or to move aside so he could come in, she took off, her long legs eating up the sidewalk.
I was right behind her. What nerve! Stealing one of our T-shirts. “There aren’t mice in here! You could eat off this floor! Dirty, my . . . You shouldn’t have waited so long to figure out you didn’t like where your booth was being set up!” I yelled at her retreating back, but my retort was mostly blocked by the guy who was still in the doorway, intently listening to our exchange.
“What’s going on out here?” Olivia appeared from the back. “Who are you yelling at?”
“Calista,” I explained, sounding calmer than I felt. “She’s bent out of shape about our booth space being better than hers. She’ll get over it. And she stole a T-shirt!”
Olivia made a face. “Oh, honestly, that woman! Yeah, she’ll get over it. Let her have the T-shirt. I’m just glad she’s gone.”
I fixated on the man, whom I didn’t recognize, and who apparently didn’t understand what the word CLOSED on our sign meant, either. I stepped back, took a deep breath, and managed a smile. “I’m sorry, we’re closed.”
He came in anyway. I clearly needed to work on my skill at projecting authority. “I saw activity through the window and thought maybe you forgot to flip the sign to OPEN. I guess getting a cup of coffee to go is out of the question. Everything okay here?” He jutted his chin toward the front door. “That woman seemed pretty upset with you.”
I dismissed his concern with a wave of my hand. “Oh, she’ll be fine. She hates not getting her way, that’s all. I’ll get your coffee, but then you’ll have to go, sorry. The fair is officially starting in a half hour. We still need to get our doughnuts and cupcakes there.”
“It looks like the fair is a big deal.” He took the cup I offered him.
I was surprised he’d never heard of our town’s fair. People came from all over to visit it on Halloween. “It is. I take it you aren’t from around here.”
“Not originally. I moved to town last week.”
“Ah. That explains it. The Apple Harvest Fair takes up all of Main Street. I think you’ll like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, we really need to go.”
He put his cup down on the counter and stuck a hand in one of the pockets of his jeans. “How much do I owe you?”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it. Welcome to Destiny. Enjoy the fair, and make sure you come by our booth for some doughnuts, or a souvenir.” I smiled at him. “But they won’t be free. Look for the Bread and Batter Bakery banner.”
He nodded without smiling back. “Thanks for the coffee. Maybe I will.”
I watched as he ambled out the door, then made his way down the sidewalk. I turned toward Olivia. “We’d better . . . What’s wrong with you? Close your mouth.”
“Oh. My. God.”
“What? What is it?” I twirled in a circle, my eyes fastening on our red and white square tiled floor, thinking Olivia had truly seen a mouse.
“That guy. He was gorgeous. Wow. Wonder what his story is?”
I was so upset with Calista, I hadn’t really thought about what he looked like. Now that Olivia mentioned it, he had been rather nice-looking. Medium height; muscular, broad shoulders; sun-lightened, short, spikey-ish brown hair; masculine, square jaw with maybe a day’s worth of stubble.
I guess I had noticed after all. Hard to see his eyes, though—he never took his sunglasses off. “Who knows? I do know we need to get moving to our booth. I want to make sure Calista hasn’t hijacked it out from under us.”
Calista wasn’t a bad person, and I actually didn’t dislike her (too much), despite what you just heard. I knew she wasn’t going to tell her friends to stay away. And I was mostly sure she wasn’t going to call the Department of Health.
“I hope we have enough,” Olivia said.
I glanced at the boxes of cupcakes and doughnuts that we had brought out earlier surrounding our feet. I stifled a yawn. We’d both been baking since three in the morning. “We have plenty for at least a few hours. One of us can come back for more later if we have to. Let’s get going, I don’t want to miss the parade.”
Our booth would be right next to the corn dogs and tiny-taters-on-a-stick booth (no, I’m not kidding), so we were in good shape; people could pick up their corn dogs and tiny taters, then come to us for dessert and a commemorative Destiny, New York, item.
Contrary to what Calista thought, I was not too thrilled about the booth on our left being the Addair Funeral Home booth. Not only because I have no idea why a funeral home needs a booth at a fair—being the only funeral home in town, it’s not like they have to drum up business—but because I was still a little miffed that Brian was kicking me out because Lola didn’t like us being so close.
What next? Was she going to hire a posse to run me out of town altogether? Never mind the fact that I was in one of my I-think-I-love-Brian periods again.
Olivia and I loaded the boxes of our baked goods into the backseat and trunk of my car. It was a gorgeous, sunny fall day, with the kind of sky that’s so clear and blue it almost hurts your eyes to look at it. I loved the mingled red, oranges, and yellows of the fall leaves. I drove the couple of blocks to Main Street and parked behind Chambers Furniture Store, the assigned lot for those of us with booths.
By the time Olivia and I had finished arranging everything in our booth, there was already a big crowd gathering behind the barricades at either end of Main Street, eager for the festivities to begin. In a few minutes, the barricades would be gone and people would line the sidewalks waiting for the parade. We opened up the beach chairs we’d brought along, but God willing, we’d be too busy to do much sitting.
I peeked into Brian’s stand and was glad not to see any gleaming caskets, designer cremation urns, cremation jewelry, or the latest embalming equipment on display. The colorful brochures he had out on burial versus cremation and prepaying for your funeral were depressing enough. What was I to say to my customers? “Beautiful day, isn’t it? Have a cupcake with sprinkles, then let’s go next door and plan your funeral!”
He also had an assortment of free pens, key chains, and jar openers, which were just a little less macabre than the brochures. The tote bags with the Addair Funeral Home name and logo on them in bright, bold, yellow letters I thought were a little over-the-top.
People began buying our doughnuts and cupcakes, then hurrying to their posts on the sidewalk to watch the starting ceremonies. Olivia and I leaned out toward the street as far as we could when we heard the drums start.
First came the high school bands, then the police and fire departments, the Elks (or Masons; I couldn’t tell which), then the military bands. Next came people on horseback, men on tractors, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the bed races, and the coffin races—complete with T-shirts proclaiming the Fourth Annual Coffin Races, Destiny, NY. I’d have to buy one later.
Finally, the floats from various businesses, each more outrageous and colorful than the previous. My favorite parade participant was the Destiny Kilts Pipe and Drum Band, which had nothing to do with Brian being in it playing his bagpipes. It did, however, have everything to do with him being in it wearing one of his kilts.
Today his choice was his red Royal Stewart. Despite the fact that we were divorced, and he had Lola in his life, the sight of him in a kilt, heavy white knee socks, and black combat boots still made me weak. Nothing says sexy like a man confident enough to wear a kilt. With knee socks. Great legs don’t hurt, and Brian definitely had those. He never looked more masculine than when he wore a kilt. He wore one on our wedding day. And our wedding night, but that’s another story.
Olivia and I were busy for most of the parade selling our wares. I loved seeing everyone in town coming together for this event. Every year it’s pretty much the same food, crafts, parade, and rides, but I never tire of it.
The best part is the crowning of the Apple Harvest Fair Queen and her princesses, which takes place as the last float disappears. It was no surprise that Calista was crowned Queen, because of the Calista Sugar Pink. I had to admit she looked regal giving the royal wave while sitting on the backseat of Blake Ellsworth’s pride and joy: a fully restored, gleaming turquoise 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible.
Oh yes, Blake was Calista’s current boyfriend, or so the Destiny rumor mill proclaimed. Another What’s up with that? Maybe she was just ready to jump in the dating pool. Her husband had been dead for over a year. Or maybe my What’s up with that? stemmed from a little jealousy because I didn’t have men knocking my door down to go out with me. At least no one worth discussing here, or showing off in public during daylight.
After Blake’s car came the Jandella Orchard truck, bushel baskets on its flatbed filled with Calista Sugar Pink apples. It was quite exciting. How often can you say you know someone who discovered a new variety of apple? Even if it is Calista; I’m not one to be petty. Our little town would be semi-famous. At least in upstate New York. I was looking forward to sampling one of her new apples myself.
I realized Olivia and I hadn’t seen Trey all day. I couldn’t exactly blame him for not showing up at the fair. People had been giving him a wide berth after hearing about his tirade against the Jandellas. He was lucky we had all been so forgiving, or too scared out of our wits to call him on his boorish behavior. His brothers had manned their orchard’s booth, and it looked like they had had plenty of customers regardless. I glanced up, hoping Trey wasn’t perched in a tree with a slingshot or, God forbid, a real gun aimed at the Jandellas or Calista. Or Olivia and me, for some reason.
My eyes quickly scanned the happy crowd, but I still didn’t see him. I did see the guy who had been at my bakery earlier. “Look.” I nudged Olivia. “There’s that guy. Who comes to a fair alone?”
“Didn’t he say he just moved here? He probably doesn’t know anyone yet. I thought he’d come by our booth.”
I nodded. “Me too.” I was about to wave to him, but when I looked back to where I’d seen him, he was gone.
The appearance of Calista’s apple was a huge success, judging from the crowd’s roaring reaction as Blake’s car and the Jandella Orchard truck passed by. You’d have thought Prince William and Kate Middleton were prancing down Main Street. And in the end, Olivia and I didn’t do so badly, either. We sold every cupcake, doughnut, tote bag, T-shirt, and mug we had brought. Once our booth was cleaned up so the committee could dismantle it, we walked to Calista’s booth, then had to stand in line for forty-five minutes just to buy a bag of Calista Sugar Pinks from one of her orchard’s employees.
I felt a little guilty now about not letting her have our booth space, but she had a huge crowd anyway, so I pushed the guilt aside. As Olivia and I walked back to my car, I took a bite of one of the apples. It was like biting into sweet heaven. Blemish-free pink skin, firm white flesh, juicier than an orange, and sweeter than honey. Calista had really hit the jackpot. I’d never tasted anything so good. I’d have to congratulate her again.
Sadly, I’d never have the chance. Two weeks later, our Apple Harvest Fair Queen was found dead.
The afternoon of the day on which Calista died, I came home from the bakery to find a man in my bedroom. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with a head full of wavy hair. I put him at about eighty-five or so (all that hair was snow white), which is why I didn’t immediately scream and take off running for my life. He was holding my pink lace curtains up and away from the window. I cleared my throat.
He whipped around, then, after a few seconds, gave me a wide smile. “Hello there. Ed McCray. You must be Molly Tyler. Mr. Addair . . . Brian told me you’d be here soon.”
I shook his hand and smiled back. “Yes, I’m Molly. Pleased to meet you.”
“Sorry to intrude like this; hope you’ll forgive me being in your bedroom. Brian said I could look at this apartment since you’ll be moving. He’s below, in the garage.” He looked puzzled. “Not sure why you’d want to move. It’s very nice.”
He didn’t seem the type to have pawed through my underwear drawer, so I decided not to be too upset at Brian for giving him free reign of my living quarters. “It is. I’ve loved living here. I just need a bigger place,” I lied, silently asking God to forgive me. I couldn’t tell him the real reason I had to move. It sounded ridiculous.
“You’ll be taking these curtains?”
I chuckled at the look on his face. “Yes. Don’t worry. All the furniture’s mine, and it’s all going.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good. A little frilly and ladylike for my taste. I’ve already decided to take the apartment. At my age, living above a funeral home’s garage has its advantages.” He sobered. “My wife died a couple of years ago, and our house is just too big for me. I’ve got it up for sale. Realtor thinks it’ll go fast.”
“I’m so sorry about your wife,” I said sympathetically. “Good luck with your house.”
“Thank you. We had a good life. She gave me five sons. They all said I could move in with them, but I told them, ‘Hell no.’ Last thing I want is to be someone’s responsibility. They’ve got their own lives. I still have mine.” His eyes twinkled. “I may even get remarried one day. They have matchmaking organizations for seniors now.”
I grinned at him. “I’m sure any woman would be lucky to have you, Mr. McCray.”
He laughed. “You can call me Ed. Don’t know about lucky, I’m pretty set in my ways. But I’m easy to get along with and not too fussy about what I eat. I’ve even been known to pick up a dust rag now and then, or wash a dish. Don’t care for vacuuming or ironing, though.”
“I avoid ironing at all costs.”
He laughed. “Then we wouldn’t make a good pair, but you’re too young anyhow. Nothing more asinine than an old man out with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. Enough of my jabbering. You got a date you’re moving out yet? So we can coordinate. Not trying to rush you, but this place is perfect for me. I’m telling Brian to pull his ad, I’m moving in.”
“I have an appointment to look at a place early this evening. Hopefully, it’s in move-in shape and I can get in right away. It’s on the side of town where the college is, so I pray the other tenants aren’t rowdy, partying college kids. I need my eight hours of sleep.”
He peered at me through wire-rimmed glasses. “You can’t be more than college-age yourself.”
I smiled. What a charmer. “Thanks. I’m twenty-eight.”
He threw his head back and guffawed. “I’ve got shoes older than you. Maybe some shirts, too, that I managed to hide from my wife during one of her I’m-getting-rid-of-everything binges. Good luck, Molly. I hope it’s just what you want.”
* * *
I pulled into the driveway of the sprawling, dark brick Victorian. It was partially hidden behind two giant fir trees, but I could see lots of windows and a couple of turret roofs. There was even a small stained glass window on the second floor. I loved Victorians. This was my dream house. At least from the outside. I stepped out of my car, went up to the front door, and knocked.
“Hello there,” the woman who answered a few minutes later greeted me. She was on the thin side and maybe an inch shorter than my five feet six. She wore her gray hair like a cap of curls on her head. “You must be Molly. I’m Dorothy Rose Brand. Dottie, to everyone. Come in, come in.”
She stepped aside so I could enter. The smell of apples and cinnamon filled my nose. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Brand. Smells delicious in here. Apple pie?”
She wiped her hands on her apron and beamed. “I insist you call me Dottie. Yes. I got some of those new Calista Sugar Pink apples at the fair. Still got plenty left. Pure perfection. I’ll have to get more. Would you like some pie and a glass of milk? I’ve got vanilla ice cream, too.”
I smiled and opened my mouth to say “bring it on,” then wavered, thinking of my snug size six jeans. “No, but thank you.”
She patted my arm. “Let me know if you change your mind. Now, you called about the apartment. When do you want to move? It’s empty, and I’ve been eager to have a tenant move in to it. It’s all ready for you.”
“Saturday? Right now, I’m living in the garage apartment over Addair Funeral Home.”
“That would be wonderful.” Her face clouded over. “Oh, yes. Jane Addair and I used to be close friends before her dementia set in. She was always my partner in our bridge club. I miss her. I used to visit her occasionally, but it was so hard. Most days she didn’t even know who I was. I’ll start again. I don’t want to desert her.”
“I know. It’s really sad. I was married to her grandson, Brian.”
“I know you! Or at least, of you. Jane adored you. Your mom’s the library director, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she is.”
“I’m at the library every week. I’m so glad they’ll be expanding it. Come. Let me show you the apartment. It’s simply darling. Hardwood floors, two big bedrooms, tiled bathroom, and a nice new stove and refrigerator. I live here, as you can see.” She grabbed a set of keys from a bowl sitting on a table in the hallway. “The house is really too big for me, but I can’t give it up. I decided to section it off, so I’d have two apartments to rent. We’ll have to go outside and in one of the doors at the side of the house in order for me to show you the apartment. It’s upstairs. You are okay with stairs, aren’t you?”
“I’m fine with stairs,” I replied, then followed Dottie out the front door and around the corner of the house. I waited as she unlocked a door facing the side lawn. I loved the quaint wraparound porch with its Gingerbread trim.
“The gentleman in the other apartment moved in recently himself,” she explained. “He has a separate entrance, right there.” She nodded to a door to our right, which faced the street. His apartment is upstairs, too. Don’t worry, these walls are thick, you won’t hear him at all.”
I followed her up a set of stairs and waited as she unlocked the door at the top and pushed it open. “He’s a very nice man, and a sharp dresser. Not one of those guys whose pants are sagging off their rear ends so you can see their unmentionables. Underwear, I mean. Not their private parts.”
I tried to keep up with her chatter and laughed at the picture she painted. “That’s a good thing.”
“He’s quiet. Keeps to himself. He won’t bother you.” A smile crinkled her eyes. “Unless you want him to. He’s handsome, if you’re in the market. I didn’t see a wedding ring and he moved in alone.”
I grinned at her report. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“I don’t think he’s had any female visitors. Of course, it’s not my business if he did. As long as it’s legal, and the apartments are kept clean, it’s none of my business what my tenants do.”
I nodded my head in agreement, following Dottie her as she gave me a tour of the apartment. There were two large bedrooms, as she said, with both dormer ceilings and large closets. I was thrilled to see the stained glass window I’d noticed outside was in my bathroom. Woo-hoo! Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to move. I could picture all my shabby chic furniture here already. It would fit perfectly. Maybe I’d get a cat. “Are pets allowed?”
“Yes, but just one. As long as you’re responsible and look after it. The man I was telling you about? He has a basset hound named Beau. He pays me an extra hundred a month to babysit. I just love him.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mystery and romance combo. Excellent !
Murder mystery, surrounded by good family and great friends.
This book had me waffling back and forth on how I was going to rate it. When I started it I wasn't too crazy about Molly, she seemed obsessed with her ex. Once the murder happened I liked her much better. Later she started getting pushy telling the police what to do, but then she really came through and became totally likable. This book really took me for a ride. I ended up really liking Molly and I love Sean with whom she has mixed emotions about through the book. I love his dry sense of humor, he gave me many laugh out loud moments. I adore Dottie, I would love to have a Dottie in my life and Jane who suffers from dementia but is so lovable. The mystery was excellent and you are lead through it along with Molly, it kept me guessing. I will continue on with this series. * I won a copy of this book from the author and this is my honest opinion
I loved this! Being a lover of basset hounds, that's what caught my eye on the cover. Lots of smiles at the end!!! Can't wait to read the next book.
Once you begin reading Bun for Your Life you are going to want to move to Destiny, New York. How can you not fall in love with Molly and her one best friend, Olivia, who co-own a bakery which is right on the main street with all the other quaint shops ? A few doors down from Bread & Batter Bakery is their other best friend Emily's bookstore, Barking Mad Books.They even have a famous author taking up residence in Destiny who gives talks regularly at the bookstore and the library. Molly's mother runs the library, Molly is still friends with her ex-husband, Brian, and his parents and grandmother. Molly even moves into an apartment in an old Victoria style house with a wonderful land lady, Dottie, who treats her like shes family. And Molly finds out that the new, hot detective, Sean, is also a tenant of Dottie's. Everyone knows everybody and things are usually nice and quiet. That is until Calista, owner of one of the local apple orchard's is found murdered and one of Bread & Batter Bakery's t-shirt was used in the murder. Molly knows that neither Olivia or herself murdered Calista even though Detective Sean keeps questioning her. There were other people that she can think of that would have wanted Calista out of the way. But once Molly starts doing her own research and she is determined that she knows who the murderer is, she keeps getting deeper and deeper into the research and cannot believe what she uncovers. You must read Bun for Your Life ! Even though there is a murderer on the loose, you will still fall in love with the quaint little town and the people. And when Molly discovers who murdered Calista and why it will blow your mind !!!!
A tasty treat! The Bread & Batter mysteries have a permanent place on my must read list! Author Karoline Barrett has penned a fantastic story! BUN FOR YOUR LIFE has all the elements that make up a great mystery. A wonderful cast of characters that include Molly and Olivia, best friends and business partners in the Bread and Batter Bakery, Molly’s ex-husband, a new guy in town, Sean, and more, have me wanting to move to Destiny and work at the Bread and Batter. Extremely well written, the descriptions became solid scenes in my mind making me feel a part of the story. With twists getting twistier, and the intrigue as hot as cupcake in an oven, I was breathless by the time of the reveal. If you’re looking for a great mystery, and/or want to start a new series, BUN FOR YOUR LIFE is a must have! April 2016 can’t get here fast enough with Book two in the series, RAISIN THE DEAD!
Snappy dialogue, humor, a lovable Bassett hound, and great characters make this a tasty cozy debut.
Dollycas’s Thoughts This series is off to a spectacular start! Molly Tyler and Olivia Williams own and operate the Bread and Batter Bakery. It is time for Destiny, New York’s, Apple Harvest Fair and the girls are excited to have a prime spot for their booth. They had no idea the spot had always belonged to Calista Danforth. Calista was in quite a tizzy when she learned she would not be premiering her new Calista Sugar Pink apple in her usual space. She and Molly have quite an argument that happens to be witnessed by the wrong person. It isn’t until after Calista’s body is found strangled by a Bread and Batter t-shirt that Molly learns he is Detective Sean Corsino and he has just been hired by the Destiny Police Department, She also learns she is his prime suspect. The characters are fleshed out and real. Molly and her ex are still friends, in fact they have moments when they still love each other except not at the same time, and he already has a new girlfriend. Molly is still close with his family. Olivia holds things together at the Bakery while Molly blazes a trail to find the killer. Detective Sean Corsino knows she’s investigating and tries to keep her out of trouble but when he needs to leave town for a few days things go to hell in a hand basket and a very unsuspected person saves the day. Sean also has an adorable basset hound named Beau. This story was action from start to finish. I easily read it all in one sitting. There were many suspects, not just Molly, which the good detective soon realized. The final twist was so great. Love, Love, Loved it! A perfect recipe for a cozy mystery – picturesque small town, entertaining characters, and doughnuts! Bun for Your Life was truly a fun read. A “dramedy” with just a little romantic tension. I can’t wait for book #2.
a pleasurable first entry Bun for Your Life by Karoline Barrett The First Bread and Batter Mystery Molly Tyler and her best friend, Olivia Williams, own the Bread and Batter Bakery in central New York. Molly gets into an argument with local orchard owner Calista Danforth over booth location for the local apple festival; a nasty argument witnessed by a good looking newcomer to town. When Calista is later found murdered, strangled with a Bread and Batter t-shirt, the good looking newcomer comes back. Turns out he's the town's new homicide detective! Molly is determined to "help" the detective. Whether she's getting involved to save herself from a murder charge or distract herself from her ex-husband's actions, remains to be seen. Bun for Your Life is a lighthearted mystery set in a wonderful locale. Molly starts the series with more thoughts to the past than the future. Through the book she grows and realizes the past is just that, nice, but the past and there's much more to Molly's life. The search to clear her name of the murder charge leads Molly to much more, including relationships, new and old, history, and above all, new beginnings. Filled with humor, Barrett creates a pleasurable first entry in a promising new series. FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a digital ARC provided through NetGalley, in the hopes I would review it.
Review of "Bun For Your Life" by Booth Talks Books I was shaking my head during this entire book. Oh Molly, you are such a trouble maker and I like it. From the beginning, Molly Tyler of the small town of Destiny New York was determined to do her own thing in her nervous, hyperactive way. Bun For your Life by Karoline Barrett was a fast-paced romp through the life of baker and co-owner of "Bread and Batter", Molly Tyler as she tries to solve the murder of the town's wealthy apple orchard heiress. With her own involvement in the murder being questioned by the new detective in down, Sean Corsino, Molly sets out on her own quest to find the killer while putting her and the people around her in danger. This book was not only entertaining and fun to read, but the characters were well-rounded and the humor thrown in was fantastic. Molly is witty even if she doesn't mean to be and that is what makes this main character so fantastic. With that being said, her reactions are often times over the top and campy. As they say, they broke the mold when they made that gal. I would recommend "Bun For Your Life" to anyone who likes trying to solve a murder, but also doesn't want something heavy and gruesome. There are plenty of chuckles and quite the twist at the end of the book that no one sees coming. I was happily surprised by the book's ending and how the "bad guy" was found out. Genius! I look forward to visiting Destiny in the next book and seeing Molly and the gang again. There is no telling what that lady will get in to next time.
He padded in.