Event planner Pepper Pomeroy is making the most of her current unemployment by arranging a surprise for her sister, Felicity. Warren, Felicity’s boyfriend, plans to lure his lovely lady into a private jet, propose, and whisk her away on a romantic vacation. He just needs Pepper to handle all the fine details in order to make it the perfect proposal—and it is. Everything goes so well when Warren pops the question that he suggests Pepper do this sort of thing professionally.
But before she can get her new business off the ground, there are some disturbing questions. Like who’s the dead guy Pepper finds in the ladies’ room of the jet hangar? Is it possible Felicity’s high-flying fiancé has been hiding more than the engagement ring? Pepper’s not married to the idea of having a criminal in the family, so in order to protect her sister, she takes off in pursuit of a killer…
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PRAISE FOR THE BAKER’S TREAT MYSTERIES
I try to be perfect. Really, I do. In fact, I absolutely believe I could be perfect if things didn’t have a way of getting between me and my ideal self. Perfectly Proper Pepper Pomeroy—that’s what they called me in school. I was quite proud of the nickname until I realized that they were poking fun at me. You see, try as I may, I’m neither perfect nor proper. My hair is far too red and frizzy. I’m a tad too tall and too skinny. Not thin enough to be a supermodel and not curvy enough to catch a man’s eye.
Unlike my baby sister, Felicity, who is blond, petite, and curvy in all the right places. She caught Warren Evans’s eye from the moment they met at a walkathon to raise money for Lurie Children’s Hospital. The two had been dating ever since, and Warren was serious. Serious enough to beg, plead, and cajole me into helping him create the perfect marriage proposal.
“You know Felicity best,” he pointed out. “At least when it comes to things like her dream proposal. I want this to be something she’ll always remember. I know you can see that it is.”
He was right, of course. A girl never told the man she loved about her dream proposal. I mean if he really knew her, then he’d know just what to do. Right? Except men didn’t know, poor slobs. So for my baby sister I planned to create a scene that was intimate, joyful, and personalized. What she always dreamed of when she dreamed of the day her Prince Charming proposed.
Besides, I liked Warren. He seemed like a great guy, and when he was with Felicity . . . well, let’s say he looked at her like no man has ever looked at me.
When he asked me to help him, how could I refuse? This was my baby sister we were talking about. If I had a chance to make her happy, I wasn’t going to say no. Besides, I was currently unemployed, and coming up with things for the proposal gave me something to think about besides the fact that I was perilously close to being broke—the kind of broke that meant moving back in with my parents.
I was thirty years old. The last thing I wanted was to admit defeat and move back into my old bedroom. Besides, Mom used it for her belly dancing room. Trust me, you didn’t want to bunk in there, especially while she practiced.
Warren wanted to whisk Felicity away on an exotic weekend. He’d rented a private plane and asked me to create a special atmosphere inside. It’d taken some thinking, but I’d managed to design some really good decorations. I had pictures blown-up from Felicity’s Facebook page. Warren had given me one he’d snapped on their first date near the Lake Michigan waterfront. Then there was the photo they had taken of them both leaping on the skydeck windows in Willis Tower. The all-glass enclosure made it look like they were flying over the city hand in hand. It was one of my favorites.
I pulled up to the tiny Executive Airport off Milwaukee Avenue in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The place was mostly used by businesses for their corporate jets to avoid the traffic in and around O’Hare or Midway. I’d been by the airport many times, but I’d never actually entered its grounds. Now my backseat was full of decorations and the twin palm plants I’d bought. The plants blocked most of my view, so I had to wing it.
I drove into the entrance, stopped at the security shack, and rolled down my car window. Yes, I had to hand crank it because my car was my Grandma Mary’s and was nearly twenty years old. The Oldsmobile still ran smooth as butter even if it was big enough to rival the yachts out in the Chicago Harbor.
“Can I help you?” The guard was a young guy who looked bored out of his mind.
“I’m looking for hangar number four. I’m supposed to decorate a plane.”
He squinted his blue eyes at me. A lock of blond hair fell in front of his face, and he forced it back. “You need to what?”
“Decorate a plane.” I pointed my thumb at my full backseat. “It’s for Warren Evans.”
“You can’t decorate a plane.” He sounded as if he were talking to a small child. “They need to be aerodynamic to leave the ground.”
“Oh, no, no, you’re misunderstanding. I’m decorating the inside of a plane.”
“Don’t make no sense,” he muttered and eyeballed the two potted palms. “Do you have any idea how big the inside of a plane is? I mean, we don’t have no seven-forty-sevens taking off from this airport.”
“Look, call Warren Evans. He’ll straighten everything out.”
“Hold on.” The kid whose shirt had JIMMY embroidered above the pocket closed his window and made a phone call. He glanced at me twice as if I were a terrorist of some sort. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel and tried not to look at the dashboard clock. The last thing I wanted was to be late and ruin Felicity’s proposal.
A big man in a khaki uniform stepped out from behind the hut and leaned into my car window. “Good afternoon, miss. I’m Jeb Donaldson, airport security chief. I need to see some ID, please.”
“I’m Pepper Pomeroy. I’m supposed to be at hangar number four. Warren Evans asked me to decorate a plane.” I pulled out my wallet and showed him my driver’s license. Why was it that whenever I had to face an officer of the law, or in this case security, I got nervous? Then to make matters worse, anytime I got nervous, I tended to talk too much. “He’s going to propose to my little sister and he asked me to decorate the interior of the jet he rented. As you can see, I have several mementoes in my backseat.” I pointed over my shoulder and then looked up at him with what I hoped were innocent eyes. Which I didn’t need because I was innocent, but I did it anyway.
Jeb did not seem too impressed. The man had a square jaw, a full mouth, and a straight nose. His brown eyes appeared skeptical under bushy eyebrows. His hair was cut very close to the sides and flat on top. Maybe he was ex-military. He certainly had the bearing for it.
“Mr. Evans is on the phone, boss.” The young security man popped his head out of the shack and handed the security chief a phone receiver.
The muscular man took it and listened while he eyed my license and then me. “I see,” he said. “Yes, sir, we’ll get her there.” He handed the phone back to Jimmy and turned to me.
I reached out for my license. After all, he couldn’t keep it hostage, could he? My fingers sort of fluttered close to him as he inspected the card.
“This card is expired.”
“No, it’s not,” I retorted. He turned his flat stare back on me and I swallowed, hard. “Um, the sticker on the back shows it’s good for another four years. See, if you have a good driving record, they merely send you a sticker when you pay to renew. That way you don’t have to go down to the DMV and wait for hours. So see, it’s fine. Turn it over. You’ll see the sticker.” I forced myself to shut up. It meant I had to bite the inside of my cheek, but I knew I had to be quiet. I had a feeling all my talking only made things worse.
He did not fill the awkward silence. It seemed he was content to draw it out as long as possible. I waited and tried to remember to breathe. It was important that I get inside the airport and to the hangar in enough time to decorate and hide before Felicity got there.
Finally, the security chief handed me back my ID.
“Hangar four is down this drive and then to your right. You’ll see the numbers on top. Step inside the door and wait for Daniel Frasier, he’s the pilot, or Laura Snow, she’s the flight attendant.” He raised his right eyebrow and studied me. “Don’t go looking around unescorted or I’ll have you kicked out as a safety and security risk.”
“Yes, sir.” I stuffed my ID back into my purse, rolled up my window, and eased through the security gate. Finding hangar number four was easy since there were only six hangars in the airport. I parked as close as possible, unlocked my car doors, and grabbed two huge bags of decorations and one of the potted palms.
The plants were bigger than I’d thought in the store, and I struggled as I tried to position the palm so that I could see around the fronds and not stumble through the door of the hangar.
“Do you need some help?” A deep baritone voice came from the general direction of the door. I hitched the tote up on my shoulder and peered through the fronds.
“Yes, I was told to ask for Daniel Frasier or Laura Snow. I’m here to decorate a plane for Warren Evans.” The last few words rose up in tone. The plant was so big and unwieldy that it was all I could do not to drop it.
“Here, let me help you with that.” Two large square hands grasped the handles of the black plastic bucket I had repotted the palm in to make it easier to move. Once I was free of the plant, I could see that those hands and that voice belonged to a six-foot-tall, wide-shouldered hunk of a man with green eyes and caramel-colored hair. “I’m Daniel Frasier.”
“Oh, hello,” I managed to squeak out as he held the door open with his foot and handled the palm with the ease of a man who lifted heavier items on a regular basis.
“I take it you’re working for Mr. Evans?”
“What? Oh, no.” I adjusted the strap on the tote. “He’s going to propose to my sister and he asked me to decorate his plane for their big trip this weekend.” I leaned in toward him. He smelled good. You know, like a man who wears the perfect amount of expensive cologne. He wore tan flight pants and a tan buttoned shirt with shoulder flaps that held stripes to show rank of some sort. When I realized that I had quit talking and begun staring, I leaned back. “That’s why I’ve got these decorations.”
The pilot’s green eyes twinkled. “I know. Come on in, I’ll show you around the plane.”
“Great.” I followed him through the door. His backside was as nice as his front side. Inside the hangar was dim. Large lights hung from the ceiling near the sides. Above them were skylights that let the sunlight in during the day. By now the sun had faded, leaving the large hanging lights to fill in the darkness. The space smelled of dust and grease and what I assumed was jet fuel.
“The plane is over here.” He carried the plant toward one of two airplanes in the hangar. The one he walked toward was a sleek jet painted white with a blue stripe along the side. The stairs were down, allowing us access to the inside. “Watch your head as you enter.”
I followed his lovely backside up and into the plane. Warren had clearly gone all out in renting a private jet. Standing in the service area was a pretty, petite brunette with blue eyes and a blue uniform. “Welcome aboard,” she said in that perfect tone trained flight attendants used.
“Oh, hi,” I muttered. “I’m not flying tonight. I’m only here to decorate.” I lifted the bags in my hands as if I had to prove my point.
“I know,” the attendant said. “I’m Laura Snow.” She held out her well-groomed hand. I fumbled the bags until I got them both in one hand, reached to take her hand, and noticed that dirt had somehow gotten from the potted plant to my fingers.
“Sorry,” I sighed and sort of waved at her outstretched fingers. “I’m Pepper Pomeroy.”
“Don’t worry, Pepper, we’ve been expecting you.” She pulled her hand back and smiled as if she were in a toothpaste advertisement. Yes, her teeth were gleaming white and super straight. I all but expected her to run her tongue over them to prove they were clean.
“Where do you want the palm?” Daniel asked as he did a little circle of the interior of the plane, drawing my attention. The inside of the jet had polished wood and chrome accents. A butter yellow leather couch in the rear was tucked between a door for what I assumed was a bathroom and a complete entertainment unit with movie screen and game console. The jet had a thick blue carpet and portal windows trimmed in chrome. There were two wide darker brown leather seats that faced each other between an intimate table of polished wood. I imagined it covered in a crisp white cloth and personalized with my grandmother’s china. “Pepper? Where do you want the palm?”
Daniel’s inquiry brought me back to the problem at hand. It seemed I had sadly overestimated the size of the aircraft. There was no way two palms were going to fit inside. Well, that was fine. One would do. “Put it in the corner behind that captain’s chair.” I pointed to the spot between the dark leather chair back and the small bathroom door.
Daniel placed the plant, and I set down my bags of decorations. Laura put a soft hand on my forearm.
“I’m going to step out for a bit. Let me know if you need anything.”
“I’m pretty sure I have everything I need.” I circled my hands over the bags. “In fact, I probably have too much, but it’s always better to have too much of something than to run out, right?”
“Right.” She stepped out, leaving me with Daniel and a couch that looked so soft I wanted to sit on it and see.
“How about I show you around?” Daniel offered. “It might help you get a better idea how to decorate.” His green eyes sparkled, and I glanced at my watch. I might be cutting it close, but he was right. It wouldn’t hurt to have a look around before I figured out where to put things. Still I needed enough time left over to do a final edit. “Always take away one item” was the rule of thumb. It had served me well so far. I wasn’t about to stop now.
“That would be great as long as it doesn’t take too long.”
“Oh, trust me, I can be quick when I need to be.” He winked.
I felt the heat of a blush rush up my neck and into my cheeks. Being a redhead, I couldn’t hide a blush if I tried. I did my best to ignore the fact that my cheeks had to be as red as my hair. “I bet you can,” I muttered and followed him around the interior.
Daniel pointed out the features of the fuselage, then walked back toward the cockpit. “Here is the service area where Laura will make dinner and store the champagne and coffee. In here is where I’ll be.” He opened a door and waved at the tiny space full of instruments. The large windows reminded me of a minivan. The actual pilot’s seat appeared to be far less comfortable than the ones in the back, but then I suppose that is all part of the job.
He sent me a sideways grin. “I know. I fold myself up inside every time I fly, but I love the open air.” He waved me toward the door and the gangway stairs. “Let’s take a quick tour of the hangar so you know where the important things are, like the bathroom and how to stay safe. We wouldn’t want you walking too close to the jet engines when we fire them up during our preflight test.”
My eyes grew wide at the thought of accidentally being sucked into an engine. “Probably a good idea,” I said and rushed by him on my way down the small set of stairs. Warren walked into the hangar as Daniel stepped down.
“Hi, Daniel.” Warren strode over to us. I was so happy for Felicity. Warren was a lovely man, over six feet tall and even fitter than the pilot. Today he wore what I considered the work suit of your average accountant—a starched white shirt, black slacks, thin red tie, and a currently unbuttoned matching black suit coat. His shoes were always polished and his nails buffed. I could admire a man who knew how to pay attention to detail and still be all male.
I think Felicity loved him for his warmth, straight teeth, and the small crinkles around his dark brown eyes. Warren was the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. Yes, my sister had every reason to gush over him.
In high school my boyfriend, Bobby, had that tall, dark, and handsome thing going for him. I remember how he used to smuggle small presents into school for me—a flower, a stuffed animal he’d won from one of those claw machines, or something as sweet as a candy kiss. It had been a while since he’d brought me gifts. I may have forgotten how to gush.
“Pepper, thanks for doing this.” Warren’s words pulled me from my thoughts as he brushed a dark brown hair out of his eyes.
“Have you heard from Felicity yet?” I asked.
“Yes, she called to let me know she left work and would be here in about thirty minutes.”
“That doesn’t give me much time.” I worried my bottom lip. “Daniel needs to show me the safe areas of the hangar and where the bathrooms are so I can hide without getting hurt. Oh, did you give the gate guy Cesar’s name?”
“Yes, the videographer I hired to film the entire thing.”
“Is he going to film inside the plane?”
I glanced over at the plane, thought through the small interior, and winced. “Yes?”
“No worries,” Daniel said. “I know right where to stash a body, er . . . I mean man with a camera.”
“Really?” I tilted my head, trying to decide if he was kidding or not.
“Really.” Daniel winked at me and I decided he was teasing.
Warren nodded. A look passed between the men, and Daniel took me by the arm. “Come on, I’ll show you around.”
“Wait!” I turned my head back to Warren. “Felicity still thinks that your car is busted and you need a ride, right? I mean, you don’t think she suspects anything, do you?”
“I don’t think she suspects anything,” Warren reassured me. “Go, your time is running out.”
I let Daniel take me away from Warren. “I’m not used to being in a hangar. It’s not like I have my own airplane. Please be specific on the safety stuff. I’m a bit of a klutz and I don’t want to spoil Felicity’s surprise by accident.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be specific.” He pointed out the thick heavy pods under each wing. “Those are the engines. You’ll be safe if you stay in the front of the plane.” He walked me around the nose. “So from the stairs to about here.” He stopped at the edge of the plane’s window on the side opposite the stairs.
“What about that door back there?” I asked as I craned my neck to peer down the length of the plane. “Why would they put a door in the danger zone?”
Daniel laughed, showing white teeth. “That’s for the pros. Trust me, you don’t need to go any farther than I showed you.”
“The bathrooms must be over here, then?” I waved at the cinder block area near the mouth of the hangar. It was almost straight across from the plane’s window. Which meant it was in the safe zone.
“That’s right, smart girl.” He took my elbow and led me back toward the steps and the interior of the plane. “Now, let’s go inside and I’ll show you where to hide your videographer.”
I paused and batted my lashes at him. “Is that a line?”
He tilted his head. “Why, Miss Pomeroy, whatever do you mean?”
“It sort of sounded like you were asking me inside to look at your sketches.”
He laughed and waggled his eyebrows. “Maybe I was. Why don’t you come in and see?”
This time I laughed as well. “Thank you for the invitation, but I have a boyfriend. Besides I really have to get to work. My sister will be here in twenty-five minutes.”
“No harm done, I hope.” He raised both hands in innocent defeat. “I’ll show you where to hide a man and let you get to it.”
I shook my head at his double entendre and followed him up the stairs. As he touched the railing, I noticed the wedding ring on his finger and shook my head. My boyfriend, Bobby, wasn’t the greatest guy, but at least his presence kept the married flirts an arm’s distance from me.
“You want to put the videographer where?”
“The toilet is perfect,” Daniel insisted. “He can set up his camera here.” He patted the built-in end table beside the couch. “Then he can stow himself in here until after Mr. Ev—I mean, Warren, proposes.”
I peered into the bathroom. It was twice the size of a normal plane toilet. The fixtures were sumptuous yet efficient. “Is it safe?”
“Safer than standing behind the potted plant.” Daniel pointed at my palm tree. He did have a point.
“Maybe if I brought in the second palm . . .”
“Don’t you think that would look really suspicious?”
I tightened my lips and raised a corner of my mouth. “No more suspicious than having him hide behind red velvet curtains with only his shoes showing.”
He looked at me with drawn together eyebrows. “There aren’t any curtains on board . . .”
“Pink Panther movies?”
“I’ve never heard of them . . .”
“Oh, well, then we can’t be friends,” I said. “If you don’t know the movies where the assistant/butler jumps out and tries to kill the inspector, you’ll never get my sense of humor.”
“Oh, I get your sense of humor.” There was a smile in his eye that warmed my heart.
I held out my hand like a stop sign. “Fine, we’ll put Cesar in the toilet. Thanks for your help, but I can take it from here.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” I gave him my best smile and looked knowingly from his wedding ring back to his face. I think he blushed a bit or maybe I’d like to think he blushed. Either way he was nearly to the door before I remembered that I needed to chill the champagne. “Wait!”
He turned, his eyes wide and eyebrows up.
“I forgot to ask where the mini fridge is.” I held up the champagne and bakery box filled with my sister’s favorite mini cream puffs.
“Sure you did.” He gave me a slow wink. “You’ll find the mini fridge built in beside the couch.” He pointed behind me to the table where we planned to stash the hidden camera. “If you think of anything else you need, I’ll be right outside.”
“No, I’ve got it from here, thanks.” I waved him off and told myself not to admire his backside. Time was running out. I found the handle on the end table and opened it. Daniel hadn’t lied. This really was a mini fridge. Popping the things that needed to be cool inside, I quickly unpacked the bags I’d dragged in.
I placed a conch shell on the table with a replica of the lei Felicity had worn when they took a trip to Hawaii. It had taken them a full year to save up for that trip, but it was all Felicity talked about. Then there were the posters of the picnic in Grant Park, where they had had their second date. I put a video from the comedy club where they hung out on Friday nights into the plane’s DVR.
By the time I was done, the place was tastefully decorated to reflect the timeline of Felicity and Warren’s dating history. I had done a bang-up job, if I had to say so myself, and I did since no one else was around.
I glanced at my watch. The videographer had to be here soon if he was going to get candid shots of Felicity coming in and then hide in the bathroom to await the big moment when Warren popped the question.
The air smelled of sunset and wine, Felicity’s treasured candles. The soft sounds of the couple’s favorite band played through the sound system. I loved to plan parties. In fact, Mom always said I had thrown my first party at the age of three, complete with hand-picked wildflowers beside my pretend tea and crumbling cookies. It had been so much fun that I had made my baby sister sit through event after carefully planned event our entire childhood.
Mom liked to say I went overboard, but then again she always knew she could count on me when she needed something important planned. It didn’t matter how busy I was. I loved to come to the rescue and coordinate the event.
I sighed at the perfection in front of me, making sure that it pleased all the senses. There was a banging near the door and I realized the time. I gathered up the remaining bags and wadded them all into one. I then adjusted the silver metal ice bucket, took one last look, and exited the plane.
Warren and Daniel chatted about flight details. I scooted around the front of the plane in the safety zone as the cameraman entered the building. Happy to see he was on time, I rushed to him. “Cesar! I’m so glad you’re here. You had me worried.”
“I’m so sorry. I got stuck in traffic. There was some kind of accident on the Stevenson. Then the guy at the gate had to check my ID.”
“You’re here now. Let me show you what to do inside the plane and then, if there is time, you can take some candid shots as my sister arrives.”
“Sure thing.” His dark brown eyes glittered in the light. Cesar was a young guy I’d met a few months ago at a family event. He’d filmed my cousin’s wedding and the video was edited so well I knew I had to have him for Felicity’s proposal.
I took his smallest case from him and put my arm through his. “Come on. She could be here any moment.” Cesar was about five feet nine inches tall and slender. His light brown skin and soft black hair spoke of his Latin heritage. His camera bag was bigger than the overnight case I’d packed for Felicity, which spoke of his true love—film. He wore jeans and a dark blue T-shirt underneath a dark green, long-sleeved shirt.
The plan was for Cesar to tape until Warren popped the question, then depart before the flight took off to whatever secret destination Warren had planned for the weekend. It was all hush-hush. But I deduced that it was somewhere warm yet upscale since Warren had asked me to pack Felicity’s swimsuit and a cocktail dress.
Once I got Cesar all squared away, I exited the plane in search of the flight attendant. It never hurt to give a few tips on how to serve the champagne and the treats I had stowed away in the service area of the plane.
I was careful to go around the front of the plane and avoid the engines. Daniel was in the cockpit working on his preflight checks. It was best to stay in the safety zone, where he could see me. He looked up and we locked gazes. He winked and I blushed and scurried toward the restrooms. Thank goodness Laura was no longer at the back of the plane. I didn’t want to have to make either one of us cross in front of the engines.
The rest of the hangar was empty so I figured she was in the ladies’ room. I know it’s where I would be before a flight. I hurried down the tiny cinder block hallway and knocked on the door. When no one answered, I grabbed the handle and turned. It opened with ease. “Laura? It’s me, Pepper. I need to give you a few last-minute tips. Laura?”
I thought I heard a noise so I stepped farther inside the room. It was all tile with three stalls and three sinks. The lights were fluorescent and buzzed, then dimmed and brightened in random patterns. A glance in the mirror told me that my hair had frizzed up in the humidity. I tried to plaster it down. The last thing I wanted was to look embarrassingly unkempt whenever Felicity showed people the video of her big moment.
The room was quiet except for the buzzing. I ducked down to see if there were any feet showing under the stall. “Laura?” Two of the stalls had nothing. The third stall was blocked by what looked like feet, except they were large like a man’s and pointed the wrong direction.
Of course I never believe anything that seems oddly out of place unless I double-check it. “Laura?” I pushed on the stall door and it knocked halfway open. Something large and firm was inside the stall between me and the wall.
It wasn’t easy but I squeezed my head and shoulders through the opening to get a better look. It was the third stall and outfitted for the disabled so it was two and a half times the size of the other two stalls. That way a person could get a wheelchair in and out of it with ease.
Instead of a wheelchair, there was a large metal bucket with a mop sticking out between me and the rest of the space. The air in the stall smelled of pine-scented cleaner, most likely from the mop. Clearly it wasn’t Laura in the stall. How did I explain the shoes I thought I saw? I wrestled the mop and bucket out of the way and saw what looked like a pile of men’s clothing until I got to the brown hair sticking through.
Startled, I might have screamed a little. Then things became a bit of a blur as my heart raced and my adrenaline kicked in. “You can’t be in here!” I was firm and yanked the brown suit coat off the man’s face. He didn’t respond.
The guy was too well dressed to be homeless. He was fully clothed in a blue shirt and brown slacks and wedged up in the corner half on and mostly off the toilet seat. His limp hand hung down into the toilet water. His head rested against the wall, his mouth slack-jawed.
I’d seen passed-out guys before, but none of them had gone out this much. Should I shake him? Wake him and force him out?
I glanced at his feet. He was large, and if I got too forceful, he might wake up a mad and crazy drunk. My wild imagination had him backhanding me by accident, knocking me against the wall. The last thing I wanted was to get accidentally beaten up by a drunk moments before Felicity’s proposal.
“Hello? Um, wake up!” My words echoed through the bathroom or at least I think they echoed. Maybe my thoughts echoed. I mean, how close could you get to a guy who was passed out without getting hurt?
I realized I had the mop beside me. It would make a good weapon and a good poker. I yanked it out of the bucket, not surprised that the noise didn’t wake this guy. At this point I figured he was probably deaf, which meant no matter how loudly I yelled, he would sleep on.
So instead of yelling, I poked him on the shoulder with the mop handle. “Hey, mister, wake up. You can’t be in here.”
It was then someone decided it was a good idea to pound on the bathroom door. I jumped, startled, and screamed, turning the mop handle toward the door. “What?”
“Hey, Pepper, get out here. Felicity’s at the gate.” Warren’s voice shot through my shock.
“Coming!” All my thoughts turned to my sister and her impending proposal. I stepped out of the stall and away from the strange drunk inside it. The mop went back into the bucket and I pushed it out of the way in case the drunk decided to leave on his own.
One glance back at the man and I had to wonder. Should I say something and ruin Felicity’s big moment, or should I wait until my sister said yes before I mention the drunken man in the ladies’ room?
Of course, I could call the cops on the drunk. But as I stood in the hallway with my cell phone in hand, I saw my lovely sister rush into the hangar. She looked flushed with excitement. Her long hair gleamed in the sunset. She wore a navy suit, which consisted of a navy pencil skirt and matching jacket with three-quarter-length sleeves. On her left wrist sparkled the diamond bracelet Warren had given her for Christmas the year before. She wore navy and white spectator pumps that showed off her legs.
Felicity gave Warren a kiss on the mouth hello. He dipped her and my heart stopped. It was a real-life movie moment. How could I spoil it with police cars and questions?
I glanced at the bathroom door. The drunk guy, whoever he was, wasn’t going anywhere. I decided right then and there to wait until after Felicity said yes and Warren whisked her away. After all, what could it hurt? No one would ever know but me, and even better, the guy might wake up and leave while Warren proposed. Then I wouldn’t have to call anyone.
A movement on the right caught my eye, and a jolt of fear went through me. Was the drunk man going to wake up and spoil Felicity’s moment? A second later I was relieved to identify the movement as the flight attendant, Laura. She nodded at me and put her finger to her lips as Felicity’s voice drifted into range.
“Warren, are you okay?” Felicity placed her hands on either side of his face and studied him.
“Yes, of course,” he replied with a smile. “Come on.” He took her hand and wrapped it in the crook of his arm. “Let’s go inside. You can meet my friend Daniel and check out his plane.”
“Are you going to tell me why I’m here?” Felicity asked as he helped her up the gangway.
“I’m working on Daniel’s accounts. Once I’m done, we can go to dinner.” Warren told the lie smoothly. The thought crossed my mind that he lied almost too smoothly—as if he had a lot of practice. Laura and I waited just out of sight until Felicity and Warren disappeared into the jet. Then I caught a tear in Laura’s eye at the romance of the moment, and I found myself crossing into the hangar without another thought.
I ducked under the nose of the plane and glanced above it to see Daniel give a thumbs-up. I suddenly heard a squeal come from inside the plane, and I could picture Felicity throwing herself into Warren’s arms.
Daniel stuck his head out of the plane. “Come on in, guys. She said yes!!”
My heart leapt for the second time in a matter of minutes. This time for joy, rather than terror. I put the face of the drunk out of my head as I climbed into the plane.
Felicity and Warren sat on the soft leather couch. Laura poured champagne in thin flutes and passed the crystal glasses to the happy couple. Then she gave one to me and one to Daniel. I glanced at him. “Are you supposed to drink and fly?” I asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“Your sister will be safe,” he assured me. “I’ll only take a sip for good luck.” He raised his glass. “To the happy couple!”
“To the happy couple!” we all repeated and I took a sip of the champagne.
“You knew about this all along, didn’t you?” Felicity pointed her finger at me.
I smiled and shrugged. “Maybe . . .”
“Pepper planned the entire thing.” Warren raised his glass to me in a mini toast. “Your sister is a gem.”
Felicity got up and flung her arms around me and hugged me tightly. “Thank you! This is the best proposal setting ever.”
I hugged her back. “I’m so glad you think so. I wanted it to be perfect for you.”
She kissed my cheek. “It’s perfect.” Her beautiful blue eyes sparkled with tears of joy. “Thank you!”
Warren came over and wrapped his arm around her waist. “Yes, Pepper, thank you. You made us both very happy people.”
A tear formed in my eye as warmth spread through my heart. I dashed the tear away with a finger and raised my glass. “To a lifetime of joy for Felicity and Warren.”
Everyone toasted again.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Laura said with a laugh as she snatched the glass out of Daniel’s hand. “We still have a plane to fly.”
“Fly?” Felicity looked up at Warren. “You mean we’re really going somewhere? But I don’t have anything packed.”
“Don’t worry, Pepper packed for you.” Warren nodded at me.
“I raided your closet,” I admitted. “Oh, and we got the entire proposal on tape. Cesar, come on out.”
I waved at the bathroom door and Cesar popped out with the camera on his shoulder. The light was a bit blinding.
Excerpted from "Engaged in Murder"
Copyright © 2014 Nancy J. Parra.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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