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Hospitality and Homicide (Tourist Trap Mystery Series #8)

Hospitality and Homicide (Tourist Trap Mystery Series #8)

by Lynn Cahoon

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Overview

New York Times-Bestselling Author: A writer checks in at a California B&B to work on a murder mystery—but the plot is all too real…
 
A visit to the serene coastal town of South Cove, California, could make anybody feel refreshed and inspired. But as Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—discovers, some folks won’t live to tell about it . . .

Mystery author Nathan Pike checked into South Cove Bed & Breakfast to compose a compelling novel, not commit murder. But things get real when a rival B&B owner ends up exactly like the victim in his draft—undeniably dead. As Nathan prepares to complete his magnum opus behind bars, Jill’s the only one who can prove his innocence and deconstruct the plot of a twisted killer!

Praise for The Tourist Trap Mysteries

“Murder, dirty politics, pirate lore, and a hot police detective: Guidebook to Murder has it all! A cozy lover’s dream come true.” —Susan McBride, author of The Debutante Dropout Mysteries

“Lynn Cahoon has created an absorbing, good fun mystery in Mission to Murder.” —Fresh Fiction


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601836335
Publisher: Lyrical Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/16/2017
Series: Tourist Trap Mystery Series , #8
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 196
Sales rank: 35,532
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho expat. She grew up living the small town life she now loves to write about. Currently, she’s living with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap series, won the 2015 Reader’s Crown award for Mystery Fiction. Visit her at www.lynncahoon.com

Read an Excerpt

Hospitality and Homicide


By LYNN CAHOON

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2017 Lynn Cahoon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-633-5


CHAPTER 1

Sometimes the best thing you can do to welcome someone to town is to throw a party.

And sometimes, that's exactly the worst thing you can do. As the owner and manager of South Cove's Coffee, Books, and More, I'd been a reluctant participant in the Friday night get-together to welcome Nathan Pike back to South Cove. Nathan is a mystery author who had launched one of his recent books at the store during Aunt Jackie's Guess the Author contest.

Apparently from his letter he'd sent her to set-up a visit to our book club meeting next week, he liked the town so much that, a few months ago, he'd written Mayor Baylor an e-mail requesting a favor. A favor that had Greg King, South Cove's police detective and my boyfriend, in a foul mood.

"I don't know why I'm even here. Marvin's made it clear that Mr. Pike will have full run of the police station while he's visiting. I'm going to be sick of the guy in a few hours." Greg stood next to me, leaning against the wall of Bill and Mary Sullivan's South Cove Bed and Breakfast main living room. "The mayor must not think I do anything during the day. Now, I have to babysit?"

"It's not babysitting. Besides, he'll probably be happy just listening to your stories about your cases." Across the room, Walter Knicely stood looking at the room like it held the secrets to Fort Knox. Walter ran Beal Street Bed and Breakfast a few blocks from Main Street. I'd stayed there my first ever trip to South Cove and even being generous, I had to admit, Bill and Mary had the better place. He met my gaze and flushed so I waved.

Greg caught the moment, then raised his hand as well. "Walter looks like he's measuring the place for new drapes."

"I thought he was taking samples to replicate Bill and Mary's gathering room. The Beal Street place could use some updating." When Greg turned to look at me, I shrugged. "Or at least it could have five years ago. I don't think I've been over there since my original visit to South Cove."

"Nice catch. I was beginning to wonder why you were spending time over at Walter's place." Greg grinned, his first real smile all night. Maybe this wouldn't be as painful as I'd imagined.

"You know I only have eyes for you." Well, and the book boyfriend I'd discovered in the romance novel I had started reading that morning. Boy, the hero was hot in that bad boy way I loved. Shaking the image out of my head, I looked at my watch. Seven thirty. The plan had been for Nathan to arrive at six. The party attendees had been milling about the room since six thirty waiting for the man of the hour to arrive. "Maybe he's changed his mind about coming."

As soon as I'd said the words, the mayor and his new friend walked in the front door. "Sorry, the plane ran late." Mayor Baylor waved to the crowd. Of course, no one was really here to see him. To his credit, the mayor seemed to acknowledge that reality. He held out his hand and said, "Please welcome Nathan Pike back to South Cove. I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot of him around town."

Cheers of "Welcome back." And "Glad to see you in South Cove," echoed through the room. Standing next to me, Greg snorted.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Greg whispered in my ear. Not quite the rousing welcome that the rest of the town gave the author. I figured it could have been worse. At least I'd been able to talk him into attending the party in the first place. He'd wanted to take off early for tomorrow's wine country mini-vacation we'd planned. Instead, the weekend getaway had turned into a day trip and tonight, we were here. Greg was getting more and more agitated.

However, Nathan Pike looked just as pleased to be surrounded by fifty of his closest South Cove friends as Greg was being in the room. He shot Mayor Baylor a sideways glance, but the mayor slapped him on the back, urging him toward the front of the fireplace where Bill Sullivan and his wife, Mary, stood, waving him closer. Bill held an oversized cardboard key and Mary a glass of champagne. Nathan took the wine and gulped it down, handing the empty glass back to her.

I watched as Mary refilled the flute, taking her time as Bill presented Nathan with the key to the city.

"We're so happy you chose South Cove as the place to write your next book." He held out the key. When Nathan didn't reach for it, Bill strategically placed it in front of the author. "South Cove would like to present you with the key to the city. If you need anything, all you have to do is ask, and we'll find it for you."

Nathan took the key and realized it was his turn to speak. He looked at Mary, who'd returned to his side with a second glass of champagne and handed it to him. This time, he sipped instead of downing it all in one lift. After clearing his throat, he took a deep breath before he talked. "I wasn't expecting this. Honestly, all I want is peace and privacy to write. I'll be the best town guest you've ever had, since you won't see much of me."

The crowd chuckled.

Nathan seemed to relax at their acceptance. "Anyway, thanks for this lovely welcome." He held his glass up in a toast and then walked away from the fireplace, handing the ceremonial key back to Bill.

Mayor Baylor stood next to Greg. "I hope you're ready to entertain Nathan this month. If he gives South Cove a glowing recommendation to his writers' groups, we may just be an author destination spot."

"I don't think it works that way," I mumbled. Greg shot me a look that appeared to be a cross between, "I totally agree with you," and "don't fight with the crazy." Either way, I got his meaning, be quiet. "I'm just going to go over and talk to Nathan about his signing at the shop."

Sometimes being the girlfriend of the local police detective was challenging. Although the position wasn't elected, it had more public awareness of any other job in South Cove. Greg served at the pleasure of the town council, which meant, for now, Mayor Baylor had to put up with him. But the two didn't get along.

Nathan stood by the open bar and had exchanged his champagne flute for a bottle of beer. He tipped the bartender, who I knew was a rabid fan of Pike's work, then smiled at me as I held out a hand.

"I don't know if you remember me. I'm Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More." We shook hands as I ordered a beer of my own. The mayor's office was footing the bill for the party and I was going to get as many free drinks from his honor the mayor as possible. As we walked away from the bar area, I turned back to nod toward the young man standing watching us. "I think Jeff might have preferred a signed napkin over a tip. He's a devoted fan."

Nathan snorted. "I kind of got that feeling. Most bartenders know how to small talk. I barely got a nod from the kid."

"He's in awe. I'm sure you've seen it before." The other authors that I'd met on Pike's level were total fame hogs. Nathan seemed to shrink from the spotlight rather than suck it into himself, as our mayor liked to do. I saw Sherry King, Greg's ex-wife and current owner of Designer Duds, a high-end consignment shop, heading our way. I moved Nathan closer to the kitchen. Maybe she hadn't seen us.

Nathan shook his head. "Only on road trips, which is why I don't do many book signings anymore. My publisher and agent are always harping on me to get out there, but I'm selling at a comfortable level. They just want more."

"I hope our signing won't be too much of a bother." I could see the weariness in his eyes. The guy didn't like crowds, that was a definite.

He put a hand on my arm. "Present company excepted. Look at me, whining about having to talk to my fan base. What an ungrateful fellow you must think I am."

"I wouldn't say ungrateful." I paused, then smiled back. "At least not to your face. Anyway, tell me about the new story. Is it a mystery?"

Nathan started talking about his most recent release, the one we'd be signing at the store. I let him go on for a while, and then when he slowed down, I jumped into the conversation. "Actually, I was wondering about the new book. The one you're writing now?"

He shook his head. "I try not to talk about works in progress. They tend to lose some of their power if I'm talking about the plot or characters."

I'd run out of things to say. A silent grandfather clock stood nearby. I touched its wood case. "I just love these old beauties. Are you an antique fan?"

Nathan chuckled. "I'm more of a modern design guy. You should see my loft. All glass and metal. My girlfriend says it looks more like a hospital than a home. I think she's seriously rethinking our relationship now that she spends more time at my place."

"I'm all about the country. Old wood, antiques, comfort settings." I pointed toward Greg. "His place seems to be decorated in early yard sale."

"We've all had that bachelor pad." Nathan opened the glass door and peered inside the clock. "I've always wanted to learn how these things work."

"We have a new clockmaker in town. Maybe you can interview him while you're here." I listened to Nathan talk about the house he grew up in and how his folks were always bringing home broken throwaways, hoping to fix them. He grew quiet and sipped on his beer.

As the local bookseller, I felt like I should keep the conversation going, so I started grasping at straws, I started talking about the tour Greg and I were taking tomorrow of a local organic farm. As I rambled, I could see the light brightening in Nathan's eyes.

"Would you mind if I tagged along?" He was almost dancing on his toes as he asked. "I can't go into details, but the setting should be perfect."

"Umm ..." I stalled, looking for a gentle way to get out of saying yes, and then Aunt Jackie appeared by my side.

"Tagged along for what, dear?" She stood on her tippy toes and kissed Nathan's cheek like they were best friends, not just book seller and book author. "So lovely to see you again, Nathan."

"Miss Jackie, so nice to see you. Your niece was telling me about the organic farm they are visiting tomorrow. I'd love to go with them on the tour." Nathan and Aunt Jackie turned to look at me.

"We're leaving kind of early." Well, for a Saturday, nine was early, at least in my book.

"No worries. I'm an early riser. Habit from when I had to write before I went to the law office for the day job." He looked at Aunt Jackie. "So are you going too?"

"I believe we will. My beau, Harrold, has been talking about going on a field trip. It will be good for all of us to get out of town for a bit." Aunt Jackie turned toward me. "Pick me up at the apartment. Harrold will meet us there."

Then the two of them walked away, chatting about the upcoming trip. A trip that Greg had pulled together so him and I could have some alone couple time. And now, we'd probably have to rent a bus to make it to the farm.

Greg was going to kill me.


* * *

We sat on my front porch later that evening. Greg threw his arm around me and pulled me close. "You're not cold, are you?"

"I'm good." And it was the truth. Greg's body radiated enough heat to keep us both warm, even on chilly evenings like tonight. I pointed across the street. "Esmeralda's lights are all still on. Is she doing a reading tonight?"

"That's what I hear."

Greg's voice held some emotion that I couldn't place. I turned to look at him. "What's wrong?"

He leaned forward and put his forearms on his knees. Then after looking across the street at the house again, he turned to me. "You remember that kid that was swept away by a sneaker wave a few days ago?"

"It was awful. They never found the kid's body, right?" Sneaker waves were impossible to predict and surged high on the beach with deadly force. I watched Emma closely when she ran the beach loose. I rubbed my bare arms with my hands, not cold, but chilled from the memory. "So what does that have to do with Esmeralda's reading?"

"It's his parents that she's reading or talking to or whatever she does. I tried to talk her out of doing it, but you know Esmeralda. I even told her it was a conflict of interest." Greg rolled his shoulders and I placed my hand on his back, rubbing lightly.

"You don't believe she's really talking to the dead. How can it be a conflict of interest?" Jill tried to make out the shapes of the vehicles parked in front of the house. "Is one of those cars a Rolls Royce? How wealthy are the kid's parents?"

"Very. And that's what worries me about Esmeralda getting involved. If she helps them find the body, how did she know where it was? If she doesn't, maybe she's hiding something from the family and my station comes into question." He shook his head. "No matter what, the South Cove police look like fools or worse."

"I don't think that's true." Of course, I knew it was. Darla, our cub reporter for the local weekly paper and winery owner, would see the activity as a way to get an expose on the lack of a solid police force in South Cove. A great story for the newspaper she worked for, but a black mark against Greg.

"You're too nice sometimes." He kissed me. "I better get home if I'm going to get any sleep tonight. See you at nine?"

I grabbed his hand and pulled him closer. "About tomorrow ..."

Even in the dark, I could see his eyes close, girding himself from the news. "What now?"

"I kind of invited Nathan and Aunt Jackie and Harrold to come along." I said it really quickly, hoping he may not hear all the words.

"Then we need to take your Jeep instead of the truck." He kissed me on the top of my head and started down the stairs.

I walked to the edge of the porch. "That's it? You're not mad?"

He turned around, walking backward. "Don't get me wrong. I'm mad. There's just nothing we can do about it. I know how your aunt can be. And you're just too much of a softy to say no."

"You make me sound like a wimp." I leaned on the porch rail watching him.

He climbed into his truck and rolled down the window. "Honey, I don't have to make you sound like a wimp. When it comes to other people, you are a pushover. Everyone in town knows that. Now go inside and get some of that homework done so we can play hooky on Sunday and have a No Work Day for both of us."

The truck slowly backed out of the driveway.

"Maybe I don't have homework." I called after him.

The truck stopped and Greg popped his head out of the window opening. "Honey, you always have homework."

I watched as he drove away toward his apartment. We'd been dating for over two years and we still had our own places. Maybe if he was around more, I could finally break down and say those three little words.

Who was I kidding? My dog, Emma, stood beside me, watching the tail lights disappear. The sound of the engine must have woken her. Greg was her favorite person. At least after me. Or that was what I told myself. The golden retriever leaned into me.

"Come on girl, let's go inside. I need to finish reading a chapter in the business basics text." I opened the door, and Emma ran to her food dish. She put her paw in the empty bowl and scooted it toward me.

"Fine, I'll read as soon as I feed you. Again. Seriously, dude, you must have a hollow leg." As I filled her dish with dry food, I could almost hear her response. "Just a growing puppy, Jill." Except my dog wasn't a puppy anymore and of course, she didn't talk.

I curled up on the couch and opened the large textbook. I'd thought law school was boring. This business stuff made the law look like a frat brother's first semester party. I looked at the advance reader's copy of the latest Robyn Carr release I'd brought home from the bookstore and sighed.

Then I went back to the text. Two more years of this and I'd have my degree. If I didn't die of boredom before graduation. Talking about numbers and statistics just made me shiver. And not in a good way.

Finished with my chapter, I closed the book and went to the front door to make sure it was locked before heading up to bed. People were leaving Esmeralda's and I could see my neighbor standing in the light of her front door, watching them. She looked drained, even from this distance in the dark. As if she could see me watching her, her head raised and she looked over at my house. If I could be certain in the darkening light, I would have said the hard-as-nails police dispatcher and part-time fortuneteller was crying.

CHAPTER 2

The next morning, I was still working on my-way-too long reading list for school when Greg came in through the kitchen door. He put a bag of groceries on the counter and started unloading.

"You could kiss me first." I leaned my head back so I could see him working.

He stopped what he was doing, walked over to the table, and planted a smacker on my lips. Then he went back to unpacking the groceries. "I didn't want to disturb you while you were reading. I picked up some stuff for dinner. I figure you'll want to eat at home to increase your study time." He wagged the packages of steak near my nose. "I'll even cook."

Now, I smelled a rat. Well, I smelled beef, but also, a rat. "So, what do you want in return?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Hospitality and Homicide by LYNN CAHOON. Copyright © 2017 Lynn Cahoon. 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.

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