When Laurel Inwood features Italian cuisine on the Terminal at the Tracks menu, she knows she'll need to stock the shelves, the fridge, and the freezer with plenty of wonderful delicacies. She just never expected one of them to be her former employer, Hollywood superstar Meghan Cohan.
And one day, when Laurel is at the restaurant early to get ready for the regular rush of customers, that's exactly what she finds--Meghan dead in the Terminal freezer.
What's a Hollywood A-lister doing in Hubbard, Ohio?
For Laurel, that's the real question, because the first question she'd ask in any other murder investigation--who would want the victim dead?--seems pretty much a no-brainer in this case.
Who would want Meghan dead?
Just about anybody who had ever met her.
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The sound didn't make any sense.
Plink. Plink, plink.
I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself to go back to sleep, reminding myself that tomorrow (which was technically today, because before I could tell myself not to, I glanced at the clock and saw it was four in the morning) was the first day we'd feature Italian foods on the menu at Sophie's Terminal at the Tracks. Italian food is always popular. We'd be slammed, and I needed to be at the top of my restaurant manager/menu planner/staff cheerleader game.
I would be, too, I told myself.
If only I could get back to sleep.
Plink. Plink, plink.
I groaned, but not too loudly. At my side, Declan Fury, he of the overwhelming Irish family, with the sometimes annoying tendency to try and do my thinking for me and-not coincidentally-the sexiest guy I'd met in as long as I could remember, slept quietly, his breaths even, that chipped-from-granite chest of his rising and falling to a rhythm so relaxing, it was hard to imagine that just a few hours ago, he'd made my blood sing, my temperature soar, and every inch of me glad that I'd gone out on the proverbial limb (not an easy thing for a woman who'd grown up in the foster system) and let him know that I was as crazy about him as he was about me. I can't say if it's true that Declan's family was involved in the local Irish mob, but I do know one thing-he's something of a thief himself. In the year since I'd arrived in Hubbard, Ohio, he'd stolen a heart I wasn't sure I had before I arrived.
Plink. Plink, plink.
I propped myself up on my elbows and cocked my head, listening at the same time I tried to make sense of the noise.
The tapping sound wasn't inside Pacifique, the house I'd recently inherited from a dear friend. It was outside, rapping on the windows, each little knock sounding like something quick and hard against the glass.
Plink. Plink, plink.
Reality hit and just like that, I sat up like a shot and I was already out of bed and reaching for my clothes when Declan rolled to his side.
"What's going on?" He didn't look like an attorney, or like the manager of his family's Irish gift shop, for that matter. His hair was always a little too shaggy, and now it drooped over his forehead. He pushed it back with the same hand he used to rub the sleep out of his eyes. "Laurel, what are you doing?"
"I have to get outside!" Well, at least that's what I meant to say. The fact that I was jumping up and down on one foot then the other, tugging on my jeans, made it come out sounding more like, "Ihatogetside!"
To Declan's eternal credit, this did not stop him from sitting up and swinging his long legs over the side of the bed. "What wrong?"
I had already tugged a sweatshirt over my head and poked my feet into my slippers and I darted out into the hallway. "Ice! There's an ice storm!"
I wasn't surprised that by the time I got down to the kitchen, he was right beside me. When it came to loyalty, love, and offering a helping hand, Declan could move pretty fast.
He finished tugging his sweater over his head, peered over my shoulder, and saw the same thing I'd seen when I looked out the window of the back door: there was already a thin sheen of ice covering the glass, and more pellets plinked down by the second. Plink. Plink, plink. Like rifle shot.
It had been a warm spring, and hey, I was a California girl. Though I'd been warned by Sophie, Declan, and everyone else who'd seen me in my aqua Windbreaker the past week that spring in Ohio could be fickle, I'd already sent my heavy winter coat to the cleaners. With no choice, I shrugged into the Windbreaker and frantically searched the floor, my voice bumping to the same staccato tempo as my heart.
"My boots! What did I do with my boots?"
I didn't wait for my brain to kick in and provide the answer. I grabbed a pile of newspapers that I'd set on the kitchen table, ready to put in the recycling bin, and raced out the back door in my slippers.
A wicked wind slapped my face. Insult to injury, because cold seeped through my jacket, mud spurted around my slippers with every step I took, and the relentless, icy pellets tapped against my cheeks and hair. I squinted against the onslaught and raced toward the barn.
A little background and geography might be in order.
Pacifique was an idyllic farm and once the home of Raquel Arnaud-Rocky, as her friends called her-a woman who had built a reputation as the area's purveyor of the finest produce. Rocky grew vegetables and herbs and provided them to restaurants and discerning chefs all over northern and eastern Ohio, and when she was murdered the fall before, I had inherited the house and the farm. My background? I was once the personal chef of Meghan Cohan, Hollywood superstar. I knew plenty about cooking food, and nothing about growing it, but in Rocky's name and in honor of her memory, I was sure going to try.
Which explains the order of tomato plants that had arrived just the day before.
Which explains why, in my gardening na•vet and my belief that mild temperatures meant that winter was over for good, I'd never thought to haul them under cover, but left them out in the pool of sunshine against the side of the barn.
Yeah, that golden pool of sunshine.
The one that was now a quagmire of mud and icy slush.
I slogged through it, cold mud seeping through my slippers and squishing between my toes, and I closed in on the three dozen heirloom tomato plants that I'd been so proud of such a short while before.
Then, they'd been tall and leafy.
Then, they were the perfect fresh green that held the promise of spring and a summer to follow.
Then, each and every plant was a sign, at least to me. They reminded me of my commitment to Pacifique. They were living proof of the dream I had to provide fresh vegetables for the restaurant, just as Rocky had, food I'd worked to bring alive with my own two hands.
I took one look at those tomatoes now getting flogged by the ice and I swear, I heard each and every one of them scream in pain.
"I've got to save them!" I wailed, and I would not be deterred, even when behind me, Declan said something that sounded way too much like too late. Like the deranged, determined farming maniac I'd suddenly become, I grabbed the sheets of newspaper, one after the other, and laid them over the plants.
"It's not going to help." Declan took my arm, but I was not about to be put off. I pulled away from him and peeled off sheet after sheet of newspaper, each page quickly turning the consistency of oatmeal as the sleet rained down, and laid them over the tops of the plants.
"That's what they say to do," I said, and I'm not sure if I was trying to convince Declan or myself that it might actually help. "In all the gardening articles online. That's what they say to do if there's going to be frost. You have to cover the plants with newspaper."
"You had to cover the plants with newspaper." I did not fail to miss his use of the past tense. "And that only applies to frost, anyway. Even if you had the plants covered, that wouldn't have protected them from this. Now that they're already covered with ice-"
"They'll be fine, as soon as the sun comes up, they'll warm right up and perk right up, and-"
Who was I kidding?
I blinked away the icy drops that clouded my vision and stared down at the blanket of newspapers quickly turning to mush.
As fate would have it, Meghan Cohan's face stared back at me.
For a moment, I forgot the cold and the ice and even the tomato plants. Here I was in the middle of the night, muddy and defeated. And there was Meghan's picture on the front page of the Entertainment section. She looked like a million bucks (make that two, because Meghan never did anything small) in a gown cut up to here and down to there, on the red carpet at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"Laurel?" When Declan put an arm around my shoulders, I jumped.
"Sorry." I tried not to, but I couldn't help myself. In spite of the heat of Declan's body against mine, I shivered. With one trembling finger, I pointed toward Meghan's picture. "The face that launched a thousand career disappointments."
"You're going to launch a thousand cold germs if we don't get out of the cold and inside quick."
I wasn't about to argue with him.
I'd like to say we raced back to the house, but by this time, racing was out of the question. Wet through to the skin, mud up to our ankles, frozen to the bone, we plodded back to the house through a curtain of ice. I kicked off my slippers at the door and dropped them right in the trash and it wasn't until I dragged into the kitchen that I realized the wetness on my cheeks wasn't ice, it was tears.
I sobbed. "I took all the time to do my research. I ordered the tomatoes I thought would do best in our climate and our soil. I found recipes that I can use them in. I was so proud of them when they arrived. They were perfect. And now . . ." I burst into tears. "I killed them!"
Declan pulled me into a quick hug. Since he was as soaked as I was, I didn't even flinch when his wet jacket pressed against mine. "Hey, you've never been a farmer before. You didn't know."
I sniffled. "I should have. I did my homework. I read that the last frost date around here is in the middle of May. But it's been so beautiful, I just figured winter was over. And no one warned me about ice storms."
"See? That proves it."
I wasn't sure what it proved, but that would have to wait since Declan slipped off my jacket, took off his own, and disappeared upstairs. He came back to the kitchen carrying my terry cloth robe and a change of clothes for himself.
"Come on." He urged me with a wave of one finger. "Get out of those wet clothes before you catch your death."
Sure, I was feeling like a drowned rat, but that didn't erase the memory of everything we'd done since Declan arrived at Pacifique: I made dinner, we shared a bottle of wine and more than a few laughs, and-
Tomato killer that I was, I still somehow managed a smile. "If I get out of my wet clothes, will you keep me warm?"
He'd already peeled out of his sweater and jeans and tossed them into the kitchen sink and he poked his feet into the legs of flannel lounge pants and pulled a sweatshirt over his head. Declan didn't live at Pacifique with me; he had a house in Hubbard near the gift shop he managed and the Terminal at the Tracks, where I worked. But he kept some things at the farm, things like a shaving kit and clothes, for just-in-case times like this.
He gave me a lopsided smile. "I will not keep you warm. Not like I did last night, anyway. Because it's nearly five and if we start what you want to start-what I want to start-you're going to be late getting to the restaurant." He motioned again for me to disrobe. "But I will make coffee. How does that sound?"
Not nearly as good as what I had in mind, but I knew he was right. I was too wet and too cold and feeling too guilty to do anything but give up without a fight.
While Declan made coffee and popped English muffins into the toaster, I got out of my clothes and into my robe.
The warmth was heavenly, not to mention therapeutic. By the time I sank down into a kitchen chair, I felt better. Not a lot better, but better.
At least until Declan sat down in the chair across from mine.
"So did you mean that?" he asked. "Are you really disappointed Meghan Cohan ruined your brilliant Hollywood cooking career and you ended up here?"
I was just taking a swallow of coffee and it stuck behind the lump in my throat. "That's not what I said."
"It's what you implied."
"Stop acting like a lawyer." Across the table I made a face at him, hoping it would lighten the mood. Since he jumped up to fetch the English muffins along with the butter and raspberry jam that were in the fridge, I wasn't sure it worked.
"You know what I meant," I told him after he sat down, but not until I'd taken a bite of my muffin. "When I first got here, yeah, I was plenty disappointed that Meghan accused me of leaking gossip to the paparazzi when it wasn't true. I was devastated when she fired me and used her chops to make sure no other celebrity would hire me."
I reached across the table and folded a hand over his. "You know how I feel now. Pacifique . . ." I glanced around the kitchen. When Rocky lived there, the house was a combination of museum, showroom, and carnival. Rocky was a firm believer that if she saw something she liked, she had to own it. And if she liked it and owned it, she needed to enjoy it. And if she was going to enjoy it, she had to have it out on display. All the time.
Rocky had eclectic tastes, and many beautiful and interesting things, but back when she was in residence at Pacifique, I sometimes found it hard to breathe in a house chockablock with porcelain figurines, paintings, fabric draped over furniture, silk flowers, and peacock feathers.
Over the last months, I'd pared down most of the clutter. I'd given some of Rocky's mementos to Sophie, the sister of my foster mother and the owner of the Terminal at the Tracks, because Rocky and Sophie had been friends since college and I knew no one treasured Rocky's memory like Sophie did. Other things-mountains of lace tablecloths, piles of linen napkins, stacks of floral handkerchiefs-I'd offered to Inez and Dolly, the waitresses over at the Terminal, and to Declan's various sisters, sisters-in-law, and cousins because really, there was only so much I needed and I figured I might as well spread the beauty. The parlor where Rocky had died I'd completely redone; I'd bought new furniture, painted the walls, switched out the area rug Rocky loved so much-one with a white background decorated with huge pink and blue roses-for a tasteful Oriental in shades of maroon, tobacco, and sage. The bedrooms that had been packed with gorgeous things, artsy things, whimsical things, were pared down to the essentials. The kitchen . . .
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the 3rd book in the Ethnic Eats Mystery series by author Kylie Logan. You do not have to read them in order and will not feel confused if you read this as a stand-alone. Ms. Logan n-e-v-e-r disappoints. This "cozy" is fast-paced with a well-plotted mystery, a bit of romance, and some great dialogue that will make you laugh and cheer the characters on. The small town charm and quirky/lovable characters really shine! Since I love to eat Italian meals, the recipes and foods served in the novel's restaurant were of special interest to me. I highly recommend this author because the mysteries are creative and not easily solved before you get to the final chapters. The characters and their names are different enough to make following the story-line easy for all ages.
Typical to the other Kylie Logan books I have read,Italian Iced is a page turning cozy mystery infused with humor and charm. It was the first book in the series I have read, but I didn’t feel left behind. It drew me in and kept me engaged in both the characters and the mystery. If you are a fan of culinary cozies packed full of humor and small town charm, then check out Italian Iced by Kylie Logan. If you are anything like me, it will leave you craving more from this talented author!
Dollycas’s Thoughts I really love this series. Growing up in a family that owned and operated a restaurant much like the Terminal at the Tracks before Laurel arrived I know the author’s depiction of how hard it is to keep an eatery open with enough customers to turn a profit is true. My mother sold the restaurant not long after my father passed and no one else has been able to take it over and replicate the success she had. I love Laurel’s idea of a different type of cuisine every month while still keeping customer favorite’s on the menu. It keeps the menu fresh and fun both for the customers and the cooks. By this third book in the series, Laurel has decided to stay in Hubbard and Sophia is back to work. A new waitress adds a bit of drama, but the staff works together like a well-oiled machine. The characters this author has created are so realistic. I feel like I could take a little trip to Ohio and walk right into the Terminal at the Tracks. The dialogue rings true. The relationships have developed naturally. This cast has worked their way right into my heart. The idea of Hollywood superstar Meghan Cohan, Laurel’s former employer showing up in Hubbard would never have crossed my mind. I was totally surprised at how she made her appearance. To have her be the victim brought a wonderful new group of characters to the story. Her assistant, her son, her ex-husband and more. So many likely suspects all with the motive to cause her icy demise. Ms. Logan plotted this story out with knife-like precision. Twists and turns with a real mystery not only of “whodunit” but why they “dunit”. Laurel has a heck of a time figuring this one out even after she ends up out cold and headed to the hospital. I was totally in the dark until the very end. I love the way all the suspects were brought together for the grand reveal. I did enjoy how the events in the story allowed Laurel to look back at her life in California and even back to being a foster child. This made it possible to really open herself up to opportunities that were staring her right in the face. This is an excellent addition to this series. The way the final pages are written I am sad to say I think this is the last book in this series which really upsets me. These are characters I am not ready to say goodbye to and there are so many more countries to visit for ethnic eats. I really hope I am wrong. I highly recommend all three books in this series!
The Terminal at the Tracks diner is featuring Italian food this month, and Laurel is thrilled with how popular the choice has been on the first night. However, she returns home to find that it has been trashed. Nothing appears to be taken, but someone was searching for something. Before she can figure out what they were looking for, she makes an even worse discovery, the body of mega movie star Meghan in the freezer down at the diner. Laurel has had no contact with Meghan for the past year since Meghan fired her. What was she doing in town? And how did she come to die in the freezer? The mystery is great with a steady stream of clues, surprises, and red herrings to keep us guessing until the end. Laurel also gets a chance to reflect on her life then versus now, and the growth we see in her is wonderful. There are only a few series regulars, but it is fun to spend time with them again. The suspects are strong and do a great job of keeping us guessing until the end.