MASKED TO DEATH

MASKED TO DEATH

by Christina Freeburn

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Overview

“Faith Hunter is a delightful amateur sleuth and the quirky characters that inhabit the town of Eden are the perfect complement to her overly inquisitive ways.” – Jenn McKinlay, New York Times Bestselling Author of Copy Cap Murder

A Caribbean cruise is the perfect setting for a Roget wedding, and Faith meeting Ted’s family. She also hopes the vacation gets their stalled romance moving, but it doesn’t take long for that dream to capsize. Ted’s daughter hates her. The ex-wife is adored. Odessa Roget is surly. And the banned father of a groom, John Roget, requests Faith’s assistance in bringing down a jewel theft ring masterminded by his ex-wife.

Having had a man she loved accuse her of a crime, Faith won’t let Odessa travel down the same path and agrees to help. Faith sets her course on uncovering the true criminals—which might be a groom’s best friend. The romantic week turns disastrous as a wedding is interrupted, suspicious deaths point to murders, and Ted’s daughter schemes to reunite her parents. Instead of diamonds being a girl’s best friend, Faith finds they’re cruising toward Davy Jones’ Locker.

“Christina’s characters shine, her knowledge of scrapbooking is spot on, and she weaves a mystery that simply cries out to be read in one delicious sitting!” – Pam Hanson, Author of Faith, Fireworks, and Fir

“A fast-paced crafting cozy that will keep you turning pages as you try to figure out which one of the attendees is an identity thief and which one is a murderer.” — Lois Winston, Author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series (on Embellished to Death)

Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), amateur sleuth books, craft and hobby mysteries, small town mysteries, book club recommendations.

Books in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Cozy Mystery Series:

  • CROPPED TO DEATH (#1)
  • DESIGNED TO DEATH (#2)
  • EMBELLISHED TO DEATH (#3)
  • FRAMED TO DEATH (#4)
  • MASKED TO DEATH (#5)

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...

Author Bio:

The Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series brings together Christina Freeburn's love of mysteries, scrapbooking, and West Virginia. When not writing or reading, she can be found in her scrapbook room or at a crop. Alas, none of the real-life crops have had a sexy male prosecutor or a handsome police officer attending. Christina served in the JAG Corps of the US Army and has also worked as a paralegal, librarian, and church secretary. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, children, a dog, and a rarely seen cat except by those who are afraid or allergic to felines.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635111378
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 11/09/2016
Series: A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery , #5
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Shoving the keycard into the slot on the cabin room door, I hoisted the straps of my carry-on and camera bag onto my shoulder. For seven days, this room would be my home away from home. Away from my grandmothers. My friends. My community. Sadness bubbled up in me. Stop it. I was a grown-up. There was no need to feel homesick. I was going on a cruise. Sun. Sand. Relaxation. I had traveled away from home before, so why was I feeling out of sorts this time?

Ted. Or more precisely his family. I adored his brother, Bob, who I sleuthed with over a year ago, and loved hanging out with Bob's betrothed, Garrison, but I hadn't met his mother, nor had Ted formally introduced me to his ex-wife or daughter, Claire. I had seen the pair around town a few times a month when Elizabeth dropped Claire off for visitation. Ted and I hadn't been dating long, so we agreed it was best to wait as we were still navigating our relationship. This trip was a huge step in our romance, even with him rooming with his mom and daughter.

I slipped into the stateroom and pressed the door closed. Sweat coated my hand. This cruise practically counted as our first date. The last ninety days had both of us helping put Scrap This, and Eden, West Virginia, back together after a member of our community decided arson was a profitable business — basically making Ted and I have a long-distance relationship even though we lived ten minutes apart. So far, our romance was less exciting than our friendship. Now, we had seven promising days where we could explore our new relationship without having to worry about interference from my grandmothers, his job, or my ability to find a wayward soul to help.

My heart pitter-pattered at the thought of being able to have a face-to-face conversation with Ted and a real first kiss. Quick pecks didn't count. It was hard to even hold hands when we couldn't be in the same area for more than ten seconds. I had thought our flight from Baltimore to Orlando would be perfect for quality time, but Ted had slept from the minute the tires lifted to the moment the pilot brought them down.

The curtains covering the veranda were drawn back, giving me a glimpse of my window to the world for the next week. Right now, all I saw was the cruise ship next to us, a huge one that dwarfed our ship, the Serenade. After we left Port Canaveral, I knew I'd be treated to sights I'd once only dreamed of. I'd have coffee out on the small balcony and watch the sunrise, a glass of wine in the evening to watch the sunset. A fantastic week lay before me.

I dropped my carry-on onto the queen bed. There was enough space under the bed for me to tuck my suitcases underneath. End tables bracketed the bed. The sleeping area took up half the cabin space. Not a problem, since I wasn't planning on spending much time in the room. My schedule was pretty filled with wedding events. The remainder of my free time I was using to take advantage of the amenities on the ship, not hole up in my room.

This was a special trip. In a few hours, Bob and Garrison would say "I do" as the ship sailed away from Port Canaveral and sailed to the Eastern Caribbean. Odessa, Ted and Bob's mom, had arranged the wedding on the liner she worked on, and I was here to join in their joyous event and indulge in my own romance.

I sat on the bed and drew out my brand new travel journal, running my hand across the smooth leather. The first page was a list of the events I'd been invited to attend: wedding, family dinner, portrait session tomorrow during formal night, the Mardi Gras ball the following evening. Odessa Roget hadn't just arranged for one night to celebrate Bob and Garrison's nuptials but a whole week. Of course, it helped when she convinced the grooms the Mardi Gras cruise was the perfect one for holding a wedding.

There was a light rap on my door. I cracked it open.

A good-looking man in dress whites held a bedazzled black garment bag and a small hat box. The extra weight in his midsection stretched his coat to its maximum ability. "Odessa Roget asked me to deliver your wedding attire. The rest of your luggage is here as well." He made a small sound, a cross between a snort and a cough as he focused on the coworker next to him. "Make it quick. I have a fitting to conduct."

I held the door open and stepped aside. The steward wheeled in my large bag, the other hand holding up my own lackluster fabric garment bag. For one person, I sure brought a lot of luggage. I'd never been on a cruise before and had watched An Affair to Remember as research. The women and men were dressed impeccably. I wanted to look like a world-class traveler, not like a — well, not like I had lived in a small town all my life. I packed enough dressy clothes so I wouldn't be wearing the same outfit every night for dinner. A whole new wardrobe. My stomach did its little flip flop again. I wasn't sure if I was more excited about Ted seeing me in the sexy dresses or just wearing the new-to-me fabulous clothes.

"Where would you like your luggage?" the steward asked.

"On the bed," I said.

"Goodness, can't you see I'm waiting?" The other man had entered the room and tapped his foot on the carpet. "Odessa is expecting this wedding attendant to be perfection. I must start her fitting now."

I wasn't sure if the strain in the man's voice was at having to turn me into perfection or pleasing Odessa. I had heard mutterings from Ted and Bob about their mother turning the wedding into a Broadway show, including having the ship's costume designer make the outfits the women would wear to the ceremony. I wasn't too happy about not choosing my own outfit, but I kept quiet. One, I didn't want my first interaction with Odessa to be a fight over a dress I'd wear for two events. Two, I had enough trouble finding dresses for the formal and semi-formal dinners scheduled on the cruise.

The steward placed my quilted garment bag onto the bed.

I dug around in my carry-on and pulled out some dollar bills. "Thanks for your help."

He discreetly pocketed the tip and scurried out of the room, fixing an evil eye on the other man's back.

"Let's get this started." The other man whirled me around and yanked my jacket off.

I swatted at his hands. "What are you doing?"

"Did you hear me? Odessa sent your dress. Dress patterns are never a good match for a woman's body. One size does not fit all."

"I can dress myself."

"I can't let anything happen to my creation."

"What can happen between here and the bathroom?" I pointed to the room that was six feet away from us.

Delicately, he placed the bag on the bed and unzipped it. He scooped the dress up and placed it in my arms as if the garment was a newborn. It was made from a gauzy off-white fabric with a sheer fabric underneath. Tiny rhinestones on the hem and straps of the dress made it sparkle. "Don't. Ruin. The. Dress."

I stepped into the bathroom and flipped on the light. The door slammed closed behind me. A hand slapped over my mouth and I was pressed into the corner between the wall and sink. The dress squished tightly against my body. My heart pounded, draining all thoughts from my head.

"Quiet," a voice whispered in my ear.

Help. I needed help. The scream I tried letting loose was muffled by my attacker's hand. Doing my best to keep the dress protected — I wasn't sure whose wrath I feared most: the designer, Odessa, or whoever was holding me captive — I rescued myself. I flung my body to the side, throwing the attacker against the sink. There was something to be said for small bathrooms. I ground the tip of my heel into his foot, then brought my foot up to kick him, letting out another muffled scream.

"Stop," the man said. "He can't know I'm in here."

He can't know? What about the fact a man shouldn't be in my bathroom?

"You sound like an elephant charging through the jungle, not a lady getting ready. You better not be ruining the dress," the designer said.

Now I wanted to kick another man.

"Odessa found a male version of herself," my captor whispered.

I broke free and spun around, finding myself looking into a familiar pair of green eyes. I blinked. Once. Twice. The third time was a charm and the image clicked. The man before me was Ted in about thirty years. His hair was a faded red, worry lines around his mouth and eyes. Why was John Roget hiding in my bathroom?

His face relaxed and he drew closer. "We don't have much time. Pay attention." No wonder Ted was so bossy; it was in his mother and father's genes. The poor guy hadn't stood a chance. Did I want to know what John had to say? Of course I did. It wasn't every day you found your boyfriend's father skulking in the bathroom of your stateroom.

John pulled out a grainy photograph of an attractive man. "I have reason to believe this man, William Hastings, is involved in a diamond scam."

"And that made you hide in my bathroom?"

The look he centered on me was a cross between annoyance and thinking I was an idiot. I asked a reasonable question. It wasn't my fault his explanation was lacking critical details.

"I've heard about your helpful nature when it comes to Ted's cases, and I thought you might be interested in doing the same for me."

Was Ted's dad serious? He was hired for a job and waited to pick a partner for the mission once he was onboard? The man had been an FBI agent, he should plan better. Then again, maybe that was the reason he had been an agent and wasn't now, and not from reaching retirement age. "You should've worked it out before today. I'm not getting involved."

"Hastings's sister, Ronnie, is Garrison's best friend. She has a delicate nature. If she's wrapped up in this or Garrison sees me, he'll explode. If he does, I won't have a chance of making amends with Bob. And I might lose Ted."

John looked so forlorn. It plucked at my sympathy. I bit my lip. This was a celebration for Garrison and Bob. I didn't want their wedding and honeymoon ruined, nor could I stand by while a deeper wedge was driven between John and his sons. I knew Ted hoped for reconciliation between his dad and Bob, though I didn't know why they were estranged.

"The captain and cruise line want this done quietly. If the public knew a jewel thief was targeting passengers, it would bankrupt the line," John said.

"People are going to find out."

"It wouldn't linger as long in the news if it's solved."

True. "Why don't you ask one of your sons?"

A loud rap startled me. "What are you doing in there? The muster drill starts soon. I need time."

"You said be careful," I shouted back, pulling back the curtain of the small shower. "It takes time to change."

"Hurry up, and treat the dress delicately," the bossy designer said.

I pointed at the shower. "Get in."

"We're not done," John said.

"I need privacy to change."

"Ted and Bob can't know what I'm doing."

"Why?"

He stepped into the shower. "I was banned from the wedding, and their mother is one of the suspects." With those words, he drew the curtain closed.

"I've called for reinforcements. You're in for it now."

Please not Odessa. The last thing I wanted was for her to find her ex-husband, who she didn't invite to the wedding, hiding in my room. I had tons of questions for John, but first I needed to show the designer the dress before he beat the door down.

I shimmied into the dress. The fabric skimmed my body; the hem was irregular, like small scarves had been added to the skirt. It flowed around my calves in some places, grazing the bottom of my knees in others. The tiny mirror in the bathroom didn't allow me to see how I looked in the dress. I slipped out of the bathroom and caught my reflection in the full-length mirror beside the couch.

The dress hugged my body perfectly. It showed my shape without being skintight, and the gauzy material gave the dress an elegant feel. I twisted. The fabric danced with me, swishing and gliding, the rhinestones winking when the light hit them. If Odessa wanted me to look like I stepped out of a fairy tale, she nailed it.

"Quinn, Quinn, Quinn." He waltzed around me, delight making his eyes glow.

"You have outdone yourself this time. The lines are beautiful. Fabric choice exquisite. This is a masterpiece. And to think it's wasted ..."

I shot him a glare. "Thanks a lot."

"Just a small adjustment here ..." Quinn pinched a centimeter of fabric at my waist.

I scooted away from him, feeling very protective of my dress and wanting Quinn gone so John could leave my room. "If you take the dress in, I might not be able to move freely."

"Odessa has a look she is going after."

"I doubt a smidgen of loose fabric will ruin her look."

Quinn crossed his arms and gave me a haughty look. "I am the designer. I am the one whose head will roll if your appearance isn't perfect. I expect you to cooperate while I make adjustments to the wedding outfit." Quinn tugged out a small box of pins from his coat pocket. "No more arguments from you, Missy."

"That's not my name." I edged toward the middle of the room, not wanting to box myself into a corner. From the look in Quinn's eyes, I knew the only thing stopping him from wrestling me to the ground to complete the alternations was fear of ruining the dress — and Odessa.

"Get over here so I can finish. I need time to make the corrections. The muster drill will be announced soon. You need to know where were lifeboat station is located."

I kind of hoped I wouldn't need to know where it was, though I knew the ship wouldn't leave port until every passenger checked into their muster station.

"There's nothing to fix."

"You have given me no choice." He pulled out a cell phone, fingers flying over the virtual keyboard.

I needed him out of my room. I was sure he was tattling to Odessa that I was an unreasonable wedding guest. "You made a perfect dress. Beautiful."

There was a knock on the door. Quinn yanked it open. "Your attendant is not cooperating with me."

Garrison stepped into the room, sending me an apologetic smile. Relief flowed through me. He was better than Odessa or Bob showing up.

"I'm sure Faith is just overwhelmed. She's meeting Odessa Roget for the first time, a woman who could potentially be her own future mother-in-law. That has to be nerve-racking."

Quinn's expression softened. "Odessa is a force to be reckoned with."

Garrison took hold of my hand and twirled me. "Faith looks absolutely beautiful. I must concede, Odessa was right insisting you make the dresses, Quinn. We'd never have found something off the rack with this quality and attention to detail."

Quinn blushed. "I am known for my beading. With the fairy wings I designed, this lovely gown will transform instantly into a costume for the ball."

Fairy wings. I pressed my lips together. Starting an argument wouldn't get either man out of my room. There was plenty of time to plead my case on why an almost thirty-year-old woman was too old for wings.

"The tiara," Garrison said. "I want to see the whole look."

Quinn let out a shocked gasp. "How could I have forgotten the crowning touch?"

A tiara. And fairy wings. What in the world had Odessa created and the grooms gone along with?

Quinn rushed over to the bed, took off the lid of the black box, and reverently reached inside and pulled out a sparkling tiara fit for a seven-year-old. Rainbow-colored crystals trimmed the headpiece, and sticking up an inch from the base of the tiara was a very large gold filigree heart with three round crystals. I liked bling. I liked glitter. But more than that, I wanted to look like a grown-up, not a little girl playing dress-up. A fairy princess outfit didn't bring out the temptress in a woman. When Ted saw me, he should want to secret me away, not hand me a lollipop.

"Speechless. I know. It's magnificent. Odessa wants everyone in the wedding party to wear one." Quinn's voice told me he was getting miffed with me. His phone buzzed. He looked down and blanched. He thrust the tiara at Garrison. "Odessa wants me. Now."

"Go on." Garrison shooed him out of my room. "We all know Odessa comes first."

A frazzled Quinn scurried out of my room.

Garrison gave me a one-armed hug. "A little tip for you, honey. It's easier to go along with Odessa. She's a great lady, but doesn't understand the word no when it's used on her."

"Wonderful." And the man she banned from the wedding was hiding in my bathroom.

Garrison squeezed me tighter. "I didn't mean to worry you."

"I'm not worried."

"You can't fool me. I didn't mean to give you the wrong impression of Ted's mom. She's an opinionated lady. Had to be considering she was married to an unyielding man." A darkness crossed Garrison's face. "When Bob told his parents he was gay, his dad disowned him. Immediately. They haven't talked to each other for fifteen years."

"That's horrible." What a louse. How could a parent turn away their child just because of who they loved? I definitely had no interest in helping the man.

"He refused to allow Bob in his house. Odessa told John either he accepted and loved Bob or she'd leave. John pointed at the door and said, 'There's the exit,' so she left."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Masked to Death"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Christina Freeburn.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
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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