Best friends Tallie Graver and Gina Laudermilch both seem to spend a lot of time around urns. For Tallie, they're part and parcel of the family business, Graver's Funeral Home. Even though she's traded ashes for dusting with her own cleaning business, she still works part-time for her folks and lives above the funeral parlor. For Gina, they're the vessels that contain her heavenly brew at her coffee shop, Bean There, Done That. And both women are learning that owning a business can make finding time for romance challenging.
But when Gina's new beau turns out to have a wife, who barges into the coffee shop to take him home, she can't contain her bitterness and loudly threatens to poison his cup or boil him in a vat of coffee. So when Mr. Wrong turns up dead at the bottom of a staircase inside Gina's locked home, she finds herself at the top of the police's suspect list. Tallie needs to sweep in to save her friend. But she'll need to watch her step, or she may go from being a funeral home employee to becoming their next client . . .
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I did not trust the man sitting at Table Four. I wanted to, I really did, especially since he was my best friend Gina Laudermilch's new boyfriend. Despite the want, though, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. There was something shifty about him. He was too perfect. The hair, the clothes, the manners. The way he brought her a rose for every date, and added an extra one each time, special multicolored ones that Monty the florist only created upon request. My checkbook knew for a fact that they cost the moon and stars.
Gina had asked me to fill in at her coffee shop, Bean There, Done That, while she got ready for the date. I did my best since this was not my normal job, but I definitely kept my eye on the guy.
This was date four. Sure enough, he had four rainbow-colored roses, the colors bleeding like a watercolor canvas, in his manicured hands. For a guy who ran a company that upgraded houses — from new roofs to redesigning the interior and outside makeovers — I was surprised and suspicious about the fact that his hands looked so smooth.
And as perfect as he was, I still couldn't figure out why he'd posted himself on the Internet dating site Gina swore by. Why would he need to? Especially with the way every female, single or not, stared at him as if he were a fallen angel. His name was Craig Johnson, and there was something off about him. I would hold my opinions in check, though, until I could figure out what it was.
Tallie Graver, best friend extraordinaire and superb at keeping my mouth shut in the interest of peace. That was me.
The downtown coffee shop teamed with patrons. The donuts flew while Gina's mom, Mama Shirley, poured the coffee. I might be a whiz with the vacuum cleaner, but I didn't have the panache to pour coffee like Mama. She could start with the carafe at the cup and raise the coffeepot up in a very impressive stream of liquid goodness without spilling a drop. Me, not so much. I tended to slosh it over the side, and most customers wanted their coffee in their cup, not in their laps.
That left me in charge of wiping off the counters and collecting dishes until Gina made an appearance.
Gina, who was five minutes late in coming down. But Craig still smiled at everyone as if it didn't bother him at all. Which left me continuing to keep an eagle eye on this cyberspace Lothario. I wasn't sure how I felt about this whole Internet dating thing and had never tried it myself. Now that I had Max Bennett, the Taxinator, as I affectionately called him, I hoped to not be looking again anytime soon.
While this guy looked nice enough on paper, I couldn't shake my gut feeling. And ever since I'd left my ex-husband, and had been right to do so, I tried to trust my guts.
But I knew how much this meant to Gina. And no matter how I felt, I intended to let it unfold as it would. Of course, if he was a troll, then all bets were off, but I didn't know anything about his character yet.
Laura, the new girl Gina had hired for the afternoon rush, whisked across the floor of the Bean, pouring coffee and scooting cups onto the tables along with pastries and sandwiches and muffins. As she delivered a cup of steaming coffee to Craig, he gave her a twinkling smile. She said something to him that I couldn't hear over the din in the busy café, then pointed behind her. With an even brighter smile, he lifted a hand and waved to the person who'd sent the coffee his way.
It wasn't easy, but I leaned over the counter to get a look at whom he was waving at. I only succeeded in almost falling head over heels onto the floor. That, and hurting my sternum. And then I had to straighten back up because a woman came to the counter asking for a pastry.
As soon as Laura came back behind the counter, I was going to snag her and grill her. I had a feeling that Craig the Magnificent would not have waved and smiled the way he had if a guy friend had sent him a cup of coffee. ...
Time to get Gina down here before he did something that would make me jump over the counter instead of just leaning over it. After taking out my phone, I texted her to let her know the Lothario was here and she should get her ass downstairs, pronto.
She texted back with one of those overly long strings of emoticons involving all kinds of hearts and little yellow faces blowing kisses, clapping hands, and a cupid. God, I hoped this guy was not going to end up being a loser.
I was half tempted to walk over to his table just to block him from any other admiring female eyes when Gina burst through the swinging door at the back, cutting off that thought. She practically floated to the table with a beaming smile on her face. Her black hair was perfectly coiffed, red lipstick shone on her lips, and she was dressed in her best outfit.
My hope that this guy was not a jerk, and that my intuition was off, rose exponentially. She was invested, and as her best friend, I was then invested, too.
Scooting his chair back, he stood, taking her in from head to toe in a way that spoke volumes. She was lovely, and he'd better appreciate that, along with her good heart and her generous ways. Or I'd tackle him to the ground myself.
After walking around the table to kiss her on the cheek, he moved her chair out and motioned her into it. Only then did he hand her the roses. Nicely done, in my opinion.
I deliberately let my bad feelings dissipate as I headed back to Mama Shirley and her stellar coffee-pouring skills.
"Think this one's a keeper?" I grabbed the rag on the end of the counter and pretended to clean a spot that was already shiny. This was Gina's fourth guy in as many months. The rest had been wrong for her in one way or another. I had my doubts that this one was any better.
He was a smooth talker, though. I was close enough to hear what Gina and Craig cooed at each other. Some of his lines were definitely swoon-worthy, I'd give him that. I wouldn't have fallen for them, of course, but he did have good delivery and perfect timing. I'd give him that, too.
"I don't know." Mama Shirley interrupted my critique of Craig's game. She scrunched up her face and my stomach clenched.
"Should I have told her to stay upstairs?" I whispered.
"I don't know that, either. I can't quite get a bead on this one, and I'm usually pretty good with that kind of thing. Something might be off, or I might just not be ready to lose my baby to a man."
"Well, it's early days, right?" I leaned back against the counter so Gina couldn't see my face. "I'm just not sure, though."
Mama looked at me out of the corner of her eye and barely moved her mouth when she said, "Time will tell."
"Fair enough." I tossed the rag into the sink and reached for the nearest napkin dispenser when the front door crashed open.
I spun around to find out who was making such an entrance and whom she was directing it at.
A flurry of brown hair and flying elbows came across the polished wood floor as the woman went after Gina, tipping her chair back and going for the eyes. In a flash, I was behind my best friend and saved her from falling over completely and crashing to the floor. But it took precious seconds, and I wasn't able to stop whoever this was from grabbing Gina by her perfectly coiffed hair.
Mama Shirley was faster than she'd probably ever been. Rolling pin in hand and the hounds of fury in her eyes, she wedged herself between the woman and Gina, practically sitting in Gina's lap. Mama brandished her rolling pin at the woman and yelled what sounded like a war cry.
My ears hurt and I winced. Gina came by her volume honestly.
"You'd better back off," I chimed in, trying to get the woman's hand to loosen in Gina's hair.
"I will bean you so hard, you're gonna see stars," Mama Shirley added.
That was apparently enough to get the woman to let go. She took a few steps back, her double Ds heaving and her nostrils flaring.
Who was this person?
"You keep your filthy hands off my husband." She pointed her finger at Gina from about three feet away, which had Mama Shirley raising the rolling pin.
She stood down again, backing away to rest a hand on Craig's shoulder. "Come home with Michelle. I need you, my sweet, sweet husband," she crooned to the man who sat stupefied in the chair across from Gina. Or maybe not so stupefied. On closer inspection, his ears were burning bright red but his face was far more sheepish than it was horrified — or even confused as to who this demon woman was.
I cast a quick glance at his hands as they lay flat on the table, but there was no ring. Not even an indentation where one should have been.
He was married? Married and his wife had come to pick him up like an errant child who'd wandered out of the yard?
This was not going to be pretty.
"You're married?" Gina said, her voice low, which was always a precursor to it going up not only in octaves but in decibels, too. When she jerked to her feet, her chair shot out behind her, bumping the person at Table Three. "Married! You ass! I would never have even clicked on your message if I had known you were married. You cheating son of a bitch!"
Decibels at max pitch, an octave that dogs could probably hear across town. I had to get her calmed down before she truly went ballistic.
"Now, Gina ..."
"Don't even, Tallie." She looked over her shoulder at me. "Don't even tell me to calm down. No one has ever calmed down just by being told to do so, and it's not going to happen now." She whipped back around to the man. "Get out of my shop now, and take your wife with you."
"Gina, let's be reasonable." He actually tried to talk with her. The man must have had a death wish.
Her hands clenched at her sides, and her own modest Bs heaved with her every breath. "Get. Out. Now. I swear I will kill you for doing this to me if I ever see you again. Maiming you would not be enough to satisfy me. I will poison your drink, boil you in a vat of coffee, shove hot pokers in your eyes. My imagination knows no limits. Do not ever come near me again."
He seemed to finally understand that this was not a situation he should be calmly sitting in. He rose gracefully from his chair, his wife clinging to his arm like she was afraid he might step toward Gina. I really hoped he didn't make that fatal mistake or he might get his eyes scratched out. And as much as I wished harm on him for hurting my friend, it wouldn't be good for business or for Gina.
He did stretch his hand out to her as if she might brush fingertips with him. Honest to God, was this guy an idiot or what?
But then the wife pulled him away and they left Bean There, Done That in a hurry. He cast one last look back over his shoulder, making Gina hiss like a cornered snake.
"Calm down, girl." Mama Shirley smacked her daughter in the arm. "This is not the place or the time. Don't make yourself a spectacle."
Gina took a deep breath, then blew it out hard enough to ruffle the bangs she'd meticulously styled for what was supposed to be a big date with a fabulous guy and ended up being a tragedy.
"Right," she said. "Time later for being pissed. Now I have to serve coffee." She turned to me, her eyes slightly watery, and I knew I was not going to leave her alone this evening. Max was coming into town, but he could hang out by himself or with my brother for a few hours while I let my best friend vent.
"Are you going to be okay?" I asked.
She shot me a look with raised eyebrows and haughty lips pursed.
I was not going to be deterred. "I'm serious. Are you going to be okay?"
"Yes, I'll be fine. I have things to do, and I don't need you for the afternoon now that this ..." She trailed off and my heart clenched for her. She always was the fun one, the one who didn't take life seriously. But lately that had switched as she'd told me she'd started feeling like she was missing out on life. Hence the Internet dating. She had gone on to several dating sites in hopes of finding Mr. Right. All she had managed to do was dig up every single Mr. Wrong.
"Call me later, if you need me." I put my arm around her shoulders and hugged her to me. Even if she didn't call, I'd be there.
"I will. Thanks, Tallie." She stepped back and smiled, a crumpled one with her lips quivering, but it was still a smile. "He's scum, and I hope I never see him again. I'd better never see him again or I will come up with the most heinous way to end his miserable, cheating, asinine life."
* * *
Hours later, I watched from my third-story apartment across the street from the Bean for Gina to turn the sign to CLOSED. Max had called to say he was held up in traffic, so as soon as she flipped the sign, I texted Gina that I was coming over.
Opening the exterior door on the side of the Bean that led to the stairs straight up to her apartment, I braced myself for what I would find. Gina was resilient, but at the beginning it could be a train wreck. After walking up the staircase, I knocked on the door on the landing. She yanked it open and I couldn't miss the way her eyes were red and her hair in a messy bun on top of her head. Her nose was red, too, and it was as if several boxes of tissues had exploded over the room in an avalanche of epic proportions.
This might take a little longer than I had originally thought.
While she went to put on a pot of tea, I sent a quick text to Max letting him know where I was and to come up as soon as he got into town.
I didn't know if having him here would help or hinder, but it might be good for Gina to see that not all men were jerks.
The kettle whistled in Gina's large kitchen and nearly drowned out the sound of her first sob. Jumping up from the couch, I ran for her. I found her with her head bowed and her shoulders hunched, leaning into the breakfast bar my brother had put up here for her a few years ago. Gina had the top two floors as her living space, so it looked more like a house on top of a shop than a simple apartment like mine, above the funeral parlor across the street.
I pulled her to me by putting an arm around her shoulders. "Was he really that good that it's worth this kind of crying?" I asked.
She shook her head, then sniffed. "No, it's just that I really thought I had found a good one. And he turned out to be even worse than that guy who said he was an engineer when really he was out of a job altogether and simply engineering ways to not have to go to work ever again."
Holding her hands in mine, I chuckled softly. "I remember that one. He was convinced you made enough money that he could be a kept man and move out of his mother's basement. I wasn't surprised when he didn't make it to date number two."
She sniffed. "And there was the one who swore he was in the market for a real relationship and tired of all the games." She stepped away to pour the hot water into a ceramic pot covered in hand-painted ivy. After filtering it through a tea ball filled with fragrant loose-leaf tea, she set it aside to allow it to steep. I loved my lattes and my mochas, but there was something incredibly soothing about a well-made cup of tea. I normally just heated water in the microwave and plunked a tea bag in the cup. Gina made it an art.
"I remember him, too," I said after I pulled my nose out of the steam rising from the pot. Earl Grey, one of my favorites.
"He didn't amount to anything since he wouldn't stop pawing me and got pissed when I told him to keep his hands to himself." Taking the pot to the square table in the middle of the kitchen, Gina set it on a trivet, then dug in the cabinet for something. Out she came with butter cookies, my favorite kind, after my mother's snickerdoodles, of course. I loved to dip these in my tea.
"Then there was the one who left you with the tab and made you drive him to his friend's so he could play pool because you were too boring."
She snorted. "All because I wasn't willing to battle him in some game on his phone."
"And why did you continue to use the same site? It sounds like there weren't many good ones on there." I placed my hands around the teapot, loving the warmth of it and anticipating the slight zing Earl Grey with sugar and lots of cream would bring to my tongue.
"Because all the other ones weren't that great and Melanie swore by it. It's how she met Brett. I want a Brett." The plate of cookies appeared on the table, perfectly arranged and scrumptious looking.
I dug in to the cookies and glanced at the microwave clock to see if the steeping process might be done.
"You can pour." Gina pulled two delicate teacups from the cupboard above the stove and placed them in front of me.
"I just don't know if you're going to find a Brett on this site. Why not try the old-fashioned way?"
"Go to a bar? Blind dates? No, thanks. Can I have Max?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grounds for Remorse"
Copyright © 2018 Misty Simon.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gina Laudermilch and Tallie Graver are good friends but they are learning that having your own business makes getting close to someone a bit hard. Gina has been having a tough time dating and thinks she has found the one until his wife comes into her coffee shop to take him home. Of course Gina is pissed and threatens him on the way out. But then his body is discovered in her house and Gina is the prime suspect. It’s going to be up to Talli to clear her friend’s name. Talli is back and has her hands full. I loved Gina and felt for her when she discovered her new guy already had a wife. Thank Goodness Talli is there to help solve this mystery. Of course there are more than one suspects and you will tromp through a great mystery trying to figure out who and why Mr. Perfect ended up Mr. Dead. I love this series. It’s so easy to get into and it keeps you on the edge of your seat with all the twists and turns. Talli is a wonderful, strong character that clearly cares for Gina. I love how she finds out clues as she cleans. This is a great series and I recommend checking it out if you live cozy mysteries. I see that there is a third book and I can’t wait to read more of Talli’s adventures. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
When Tallie Graver’s best friend Gina meets what seems to be the perfect man, Tallie has some reservations about just how wonderful he is. When his wife shows up, Gina tosses his him out, but he turns up dead outside her door and Gina is the prime suspect. Even though Tallie’s boyfriend Max is visiting for a week, clearing Gina is a top priority too. Along the way another wife and many other women pop up and it looks like people may have been lined up to kill Mr. Not So Wonderful. This is the second book in the Tallie Graver series, but the first I have read. I’ll be reading the first book and look forward to the next book in the series too.
Grounds for Remorse is book 2 in the Tallie Graver series. This book was just as exciting as the first. Tallie is a strong character and I was happy to see she was still portrayed that same way. We all know Tallie is a dedicated bff to Gina- so when Tallie has a "feeling in her gut" about Gina's newest beau- she regrets not following her instinct. The story was so well told that I read it in one sitting. The story line was easy to follow and the background story kept me interested. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. I volunteered to read and review a copy of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.