Former musician Juliet Langley has barely had a day off since taking over management of the coffeehouse owned by her best friend, Pete Bennett. But there’s always more to be done—such as prepping for the annual Holiday 5K Race organized by Pete’s snobby socialite girlfriend, Cecilia Hollingsworth. This year, Java Jive has a booth right at the finish line, and since Juliet and Cecilia don’t always see eye to eye, everything has to be perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing . . . like Juliet stumbling over Cecilia’s dead body on the morning of the race.
When Pete is arrested for Cecilia’s murder, Juliet sets out to clear his name. She’ll do whatever it takes—even if it means standing up to the police, her ex-boyfriend, and the grande dames of Nashville. But there isn’t enough espresso in the world for the greatest challenge in her path: infiltrating Nashville’s high society to uncover the hidden hotbed of scandal without running afoul of the law herself. With her last dime staked on Pete’s bail bond and her staff growing jittery, the last thing Juliet needs is for her trademark temper to land her behind bars. As time drips away, Juliet needs to crack this case before the killer comes back for another shot.
Praise for Mug Shot
“The humorous and witty dialogue, mixed with romantic tension and a puzzling mystery is a fresh and unique combination. Juliet’s first-person narrative is humorous at times and poignant at others, making her a loveable character I can’t help but cheer on. . . . The mystery-suspense elements are truly tense on an emotional level. . . . This series is delightful, well written, and wildly entertaining.”—Suspense Magazine
“The story is fast-paced and keeps you guessing to the very end. This author comes up with some very interesting ways to kill someone, and her injection of humor at just the right time is perfect. On its own, Mug Shot is a really good read, but if you follow the series, it will be even better.”—Linda Thompson, host of The Authors Show
“Another winner . . . Just like the first book, this one is peppered with funny scenes. . . . This is a good series and I highly suggest reading.”—Storeybook Reviews
“Once you start, you’ll want to finish it. Can’t wait for more caffeine-driven escapades.”—Sweet Mystery Books
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Jules, do you think anyone would notice if we left?”
I smiled at my best friend, Pete Bennett, who was looking at me with his big, brown, pleading eyes. “Yes, Pete, your girlfriend would notice if we left her grandmother’s funeral repast before it even started. And then you’d get your ass whooped.”
A playful grin crept across his face. “Are you kidding me? I’m like a black belt in boxing now. No one can whoop my ass.”
To my dismay, Pete demonstrated a few of his boxing moves, as he had been doing way too much lately. A post-funeral meal for an old-money Nashville matriarch was certainly not the place to show off one’s shadowboxing skills. Luckily, we were alone out on the patio in the crisp December air.
“A ‘black belt in boxing’ is not a thing, Pete. And stop that! You’re going to hurt somebody, and it’s probably going to be me.” I swatted his hands away from my face.
“You’re just jealous. I told you that you should have signed up for classes with me.”
Pete had decided to take up boxing at his gym after he’d punched a guy while coming to my rescue a few months back. Normally, Pete’s as mild-mannered as they come, but it seemed like his little dustup had knocked loose some testosterone or something. He’d been insufferable with his boxing nonsense lately.
“Just give it a rest while we’re here, would you? These high-society types don’t appreciate our kind anyway, and we’ll both get in big trouble with Cecilia if you cause a scene. I’m sure she’d find a way to make it my fault.”
Cecilia Hollingsworth, Pete’s snooty, Southern, socialite girlfriend, had no use for me. The feeling was mutual. Pete always tried to run interference between the two of us, as evidenced by the fact that when he picked me up for the funeral earlier today, he made me go back and change clothes twice so I’d be “presentable” enough. Evidently, pants are unacceptable attire for a lady attending a funeral here in the South. I ended up in a rather low-cut, red wrap dress, which would have been frowned upon at a funeral back in Indiana. However, he was right—I was dressed properly for this event.
“That’s brilliant, Jules. I’ll get us thrown out of here, and then we’ll have a good excuse to leave. You don’t want to be here, either.”
I managed to grab one of his flying fists and held on. “You’re right, I don’t. But Stan asked me to come, so here I am. I should probably be hanging with him instead of you.”
I’d met Cecilia’s brother, Stan—the black sheep of the Hollingsworth family—a month ago at a fundraiser Pete had dragged me to. Cecilia, ever the philanthropist, was in charge of the event, and Pete had whined to me about how boring it would be for him to suffer through it alone, until I agreed to go. He introduced me to Stan and we hit it off, sharing a mutual indifference to Cecilia’s distaste for us both.
Pete grinned down at me, not trying terribly hard to extract his fist from my grip. “Yeah, but you’d rather hang out with me. I’m more fun than Stan.” That was true. I’d rather hang out with Pete than anyone else on earth.
Suddenly, Pete jerked his hand back while I was still pressing against it. I lost my balance and stumbled into him. Laughing, he caught me around the waist, our faces inches apart. When our eyes locked we sobered immediately, the intensity of his gaze causing my breath to catch in my throat. Neither of us made a move to disentangle from the other.
“Pete,” Cecilia said icily from beside us.
We jumped apart guiltily—at least on my part. Pete and I had an unusual relationship. We’d been best friends since we met in college over a decade ago. He recently hired me to be the manager of Java Jive, the coffeehouse he’d inherited from his father, so now he was also my boss. There had always been a bit of a spark between us, and we briefly entertained the idea of being more than friends. However, in the interest of Java Jive, we’d agreed to keep our relationship firmly in the friend zone. That didn’t stop us from having the occasional awkward moment, though.
“Hey, honey, how’s the party going?” Pete asked, trying to lighten the palpable tension hanging in the air.
“It’s a funeral repast, not a cocktail party,” Cecilia snapped. You could have fooled me. Cecilia’s high-society friends were inside laughing and gossiping, dripping with diamonds and sipping champagne. Personally, I didn’t see the difference between what was going on in the house and a cocktail party. She continued, “It’s time for you to come inside and do your duty as my boyfriend.” Looking at me pointedly as she said “my boyfriend,” Cecilia then whirled on her heel and stalked back into the house.
I waited until she was out of earshot before I chortled, “She said ‘doody.’”
Never one to pass up a chance to kid around, Pete laughed. “Now who’s going to get us thrown out of here? You and your shitty jokes.”
We took a moment to compose ourselves and then headed into the house. The repast was being held at Cecilia’s grandmother’s home, a gorgeous mansion in a ritzy area of Belle Meade, just south of town. It had everything: a large parcel of land, a tennis court, a pool, countless bedrooms and bathrooms, and even a small servants’ house on the edge of the property. Word was that Cecilia’s sister, Abigail—who had just inherited the place when their grandmother passed—was packed and ready to move in this weekend.
Their father, Grandmother Hollingsworth’s only child, had died last year, so the Hollingsworth grandchildren had inherited all of her holdings. Cecilia got the profitable family business, and evidently Stan had received the leftovers. According to Pete, Cecilia was beside herself with glee over her new acquisition. I wasn’t seeing much glee out of her, because she was even more bitchy and uptight than usual—and that was saying something. Maybe it was her way of dealing with her grandmother’s death, but truth be told, no one around here was doing much mourning. Grandmother Hollingsworth was about 754 years old and had been at death’s door several times this year, so her passing was more of a given than a shock.
Cecilia and Stan were speaking to an older lady in the living room, and Cecilia waved us over. Stan saw me approaching and broke into that radiant smile of his. I sighed. Stan was a beautiful man—like, movie-star pretty. The black pinstripe three-piece suit he was wearing today fit him like a glove. His wardrobe made me jealous, and so far, I’d never seen him in the same suit twice. Aside from his good looks, he was fun-loving and polite, but deep down he was kind of a spoiled little rich boy, which I didn’t particularly like. He seemed to be a nice enough guy, but I had the feeling that he wouldn’t think twice about stabbing someone in the back to get ahead. Every man had his flaws, though. I certainly didn’t mind Stan’s gallant manners, flattering attention, and the fancy dates he liked to take me on—or the way it irked Pete and Cecilia when Stan and I hung around together.
Stan put his arm around my waist and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Hello, Juliet. I wondered where you went.”
He addressed the older lady that he and Cecilia had been talking to. “Mother, I’d like you to meet my friend, Juliet Langley. Juliet, this is my mother, Delta Hollingsworth.”
Stan’s mother wore an enormous diamond-encrusted ring on each hand and a sapphire necklace rivaling the one from Titanic. Every hair was in place, and her pale pink dress had to be made of pure silk. Too bad her face looked like she was in a constant state of surprise. She must have had a bit of work done recently.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Mrs. Hollingsworth,” I said, holding out my hand.
“You certainly don’t sound like a Southern girl,” Stan’s mother said disdainfully, in an odd combination of Southern drawl and drunken slur. Mommy Dearest was wasted. “Stanley, you didn’t tell me you were courting a Yankee.”
“Mother, the Civil War is over,” Stan pointed out dryly.
I dropped my unshaken hand back down to my side. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Pete biting his lip and trying not to crack a smile. I honestly couldn’t understand how he put up with the nonsense of Cecilia and her family.
“I need another drink” was Mrs. Hollingsworth’s reply as she tottered off toward the bar.
Smiling apologetically at me, Stan said, “Mother is an acquired taste. She’ll come around.”
I nodded. Truthfully, I couldn’t give two shits whether Stan’s mom approved of me or not. I wasn’t going to marry the guy, after all. Luckily the uncomfortable silence didn’t linger too long, because my favorite Southern belle, Savannah Worthington, and her husband, Carl, joined our group.
“Hey, y’all!” she greeted us, her perfect smile gleaming. Savannah was as Southern as one could get—polite, sweet, and beautiful, with big, beauty-queen hair. She barely came up to my shoulder, but she made up for her small stature with her huge personality. She was like Kristin Chenoweth on crystal meth. “Lovely gathering, Cecilia. Your grandmother would have approved.”
Cecilia smiled and swept what looked like a real tear from her eye. “Thank you for saying that.”
“She certainly had a beautiful home. Your sister is a lucky woman,” Carl commented to Cecilia. He winked at Savannah. “The décor is top-notch.”
Savannah giggled. “Oh, go on.” Savannah, who was a fabulous interior designer, had redone the house only a few months ago. Her work was stunning.
“It’s true,” Cecilia agreed. “Savannah, I need to have you come out and try to do something with my new office. It could use a lot of work.”
Cecilia’s new inheritance, Hollingsworth Industries, was a high-end furniture manufacturing business that had been in the family for over fifty years. When Grandmother Hollingsworth fell ill a few weeks ago and wasn’t expected to make it, Cecilia took the reins. She could have kept the CEO her grandmother had hired to run the place and sat back and enjoyed the profits like her grandmother had. However, Cecilia always had to be in charge, so she fired the CEO and decided to run it herself. To be honest, I’ve always been secretly impressed by her hard work and determination, but still, some jobs are better left to the professionals. Case in point: Stan had been a VP at Hollingsworth Industries for a good while and had already been passed over for the CEO’s job once. Now his inexperienced sister was his new boss. Awkward.
Carl clapped Stan on the back. “Well, Stan, are you going to give up your VP status at Hollingsworth Industries to run your new acquisition?”
I felt Stan’s grip on my waist tighten slightly. If we weren’t careful, this conversation could turn downright ugly in a matter of seconds. His voice a little strained, Stan replied, “I don’t think that overseeing a group of run-down rental warehouses will take much of my time. I’ll be keeping my old job for now.”
“As long as I don’t fire you, little brother.” Cecilia laughed, but her eyes were as cold and calculating as her veiled threat.
I felt Stan stiffen beside me as Carl chuckled awkwardly, his gaze shifting between the tense siblings. Cecilia’s “joke” wasn’t cool. She had crossed a line there, and I felt like she needed a reality check.