Before long the neighborhood dogs are escaping their yards to show up at Stan's doorstep, begging for the kinds of special homemade treats her Maine coon cat Nutty loves so much. And Stan's pet-loving neighbors are thrilled with the new organic options available to their furry family members. But not everyone loves Stan and her newfangled organic ways. . .
It seems Carole Morganwick, the town vet, is from the old school of pet care. But when Stan swallows her pride and brings a very unwilling Nutty in for a checkup, she not only finds Carole dead under a pile of kibble. . .but also that she's in the dog house as the prime suspect! Finding the real killer and clearing her name will require some seriously surreptitious sniffing around. . .and hopefully, curiosity won't kill this innocent cat!
Includes Gourmet Pet Food Recipes!
"Like the goodies Stan makes for her Maine coon kitty Nutty, Kneading To Die is a treat! Liz Mugavero weaves animal knowledge into a fun and frisky whodunit, with plenty of lively pet action." --Clea Simon, author of Cats Can't Shoot
About the Author
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Kneading To Die
By Liz Mugavero
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013Liz Mugavero
All rights reserved.
"You, missy, are a two-bit hack."
The harsh words, shouted from next door, broke the stillness of the small-town Saturday and startled Stan Connor enough that she dropped her last moving box. The one full of things she didn't trust the movers or Richard to handle. Miraculously, Richard leaped over and saved it, right before it almost hit the pavement in her new driveway.
"And I'll make sure everyone in town knows it." The shouting continued, creeping closer.
Stan and Richard turned to see a woman with long white hair storm down the driveway to their left, jabbing a finger at someone they couldn't see.
"Oh, try it," another voice yelled back. "Everyone will see who's really the hack. You're not the star you think you are around here!"
The white-haired woman said something else Stan couldn't hear and stormed over to a green SUV. She got in, revved the engine and roared down the road. A thirtyish woman, with a golden retriever by her side, appeared. She watched the truck disappear. When she realized she had onlookers she turned abruptly, called the dog and vanished into the house.
Stan glanced over at Richard, who watched the scene with interest.
"So much for peace, love and harmony in a small town," Richard said with a smirk. "You sure you don't want to rethink the condo in the city?"
Stan shook her head. "Not a chance. See? You thought I'd be bored, but now I have front-row seats for the neighborhood brawls. They were too proper for that in West Hartford." Stan closed the car door. "I wonder what that was about."
Richard precariously balanced his last two boxes, hefting them higher into his arms. "Who knows? Maybe she didn't milk the cow right."
"I don't see cows in the yard. But there's a dairy farm two houses down."
"Yeah, I can smell it."
"Oh, hush." Stan held the heavy oak front door, with the beveled glass sidelights, open for him, forgetting all about the argument as she stepped into her new home. Victorian. Bright. Happy. And all hers.
"Can you put those on the kitchen table? Carefully? My Vitamix is in that box."
He grunted at her as he moved inside, trying not to trip with his cargo. Stan stood on her new porch and surveyed her surroundings. Her yard. Her driveway. Her town green—didn't it belong to everyone, after all?—directly across from her house, its grass lush and inviting in the summer sun. Her neighbors. Cows, arguments and all.
She loved Frog Ledge already.
She followed Richard into her new tangerine-colored kitchen, wincing as he dropped the box on the table. She heard a clatter from within the heavy cardboard and sighed.
"Have you seen Nutty?" Her Maine coon cat didn't like upheaval and hadn't been thrilled with the move. He'd been hiding since she'd let him out of his carrier.
Richard opened the box and began pulling out kitchen paraphernalia. "The Vitamix looks fine," he said, pulling out the beloved machine she used for everything from soup to smoothies to frozen drinks. "And no, I haven't seen the cat."
"I hope he didn't sneak out in the last-box frenzy." Stan hip-checked Richard out of the way and finished unpacking the box herself. "You can unpack dishes. Or better yet, how about basement stuff?" She turned, waiting for his response, and caught him glancing at his watch.
"What? Oh. Sure. I have a little more time. I told Carl I'd meet him for drinks tonight. You're welcome to join us."
"For drinks. With Carl. Gee, that sounds great, but I'll have to pass. Got a little bit of work to do." Work that my boyfriend should volunteer to help with.
"Oh. Well, next time," Richard said, completely missing her sarcasm. "Unless you find really cool things to do around here. In Frog Ledge." His tone suggested she would be more likely to find a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end of it during her morning run.
"Is it necessary to be so derogatory? This town is beautiful. This house is beautiful." Stan swept an arm around her colorful, empty kitchen, already imagining what treasures she could find to make it her own. "Just because it isn't the city doesn't mean you have to shoot it down."
He was raining on her parade, and she didn't have many parades these days. But today she'd woken up excited about the move—so excited, in fact, that she'd chosen a theme song for the day. Something she hadn't done since "The Elimination." And even though it was the cheesy eighties song "I'm So Excited," heck, it was still a theme song. She was getting back on track.
"Come on, Stan. You're angry about your position being eliminated. I get it." Richard took the empty box out of her hand, collapsed it for recycling. "I wish you'd thought more about it before up and moving out here. I mean, who even comes to this side of Connecticut? Except to go to the casinos. And who lives in a town called Frog Ledge? We could've figured something else out."
Nutty chose that moment to slink around the corner. Stan ran her hand down his back to the tip of his tail as he proceeded cautiously by her to investigate the unpacking. And probably look for his homemade treats, which she was running low on.
"Who's 'we'? Like you pointed out, I'm the one who lost my job." She yanked open a drawer and threw utensils in it. "You're still Richard Ruse, vice president, fancy-pants sales guy. Your life didn't change much, aside from having to drive a half hour to my house instead of ten minutes."
Richard still worked at Warner Insurance, the financial giant where Stan had ruled the media spotlight. Until two months ago. Losing her beloved public relations job—and corresponding expense account—gave her the right to be a little cranky, didn't it? She was trying to make the best of having her professional life and most of her social life yanked away. Not dwell on the past, and all that. And moving had seemed the most appropriate way to do that.
"Of course this changes things for me," Richard said patiently. "We were a great power couple in the company."
Her face must have said it all. He had the decency to flush. "You know what I mean. Look, all I'm saying, Stan, is you didn't have to move to the other side of nowhere. And financially, staying in the condo would've been better. Smarter."
She turned, eyes narrowed. "Don't play that card with me. We both know I'm in better financial shape unemployed than most people are working. I paid for this house in cash. I'm good with investments, to put it mildly. And I'm getting severance for almost two years. Money is not the driver here. Changing my scenery was. Now, can we not argue? I'd like to unpack and enjoy my new house. And I wish you would enjoy it with me." She hefted the next box onto the counter and began pulling out dishes, piling them in cabinets.
"I am enjoying it with you," he said, his voice soothing. "Want me to hang some of your pictures in here? I brought my tools." He picked one up from the pile the movers had leaned against the wall. It was a depiction of a Paris café, only the backs of the patrons visible as they faced the city street.
"Sure. I think there." She pointed above her two-seater bistro table.
Richard picked up his tool bag and pulled out a level, hammer and nails. He held the picture against the wall. "Tell me where."
"A little higher. Over to the left." Stan stood back, cocked her head to determine if the picture was straight. "That's good."
She watched as he marked the wall and banged in the nails. Handsome, no doubt about it, with wavy brown hair and big blue eyes. Tall too. She could always wear whatever size heels she wanted when they went out.
Excerpted from Kneading To Die by Liz Mugavero. Copyright © 2013 by Liz Mugavero. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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