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Katherine’s wedding day has arrived and she and Lars make their vows. When she notices one of her best friends hasn’t arrived, she begins to worry. Her friend owns a shop where tea and accompaniments are sold. Her friend’s partner is a micromanager. Katherine’s friend has wanted to dissolve the partnership. A call to the New England town brings the dreadful news of a murder. Kate’s protectiveness factor takes hold and she leaves a note for Lars and heads to rescue her friend. Though she has promised to leave murders alone, she feels she has no choice. Lars follows to help her solve another murder.
Long-time beau Lars has finally convinced Katherine Miller to become Katherine Claybourne. But fans won't be surprised that even on her honeymoon, Kate can't stop herself. She's a magnet for murder. ~ Writer Gail Roughton
I spent Thursday night at Lars’ home. After dinner we drove there in separate cars since we were both leaving in the morning. Since my bedroom has two antique sleigh beds, it makes spending the night at my apartment impossible.
Friday morning Lars walked me to my car. I turned in his arms and kissed him. “See you Monday evening.”
“Always. Have a good golf weekend.”
He chuckled. “The boys think you’re wonderful for letting me go away.”
“Then don’t tell them I’m the fugitive.”
Several kisses later, I slid behind the wheel and headed for the Tappan Zee Bridge, Vermont and Herbal Haven. My friend’s shop specialized in mint tea blends, fresh and dried herbs and spices plus related items.
The drive was long and tedious but the day was sunny. I had a stack of classical CDs and a thermos of my favorite beverage. I had thought of bringing Robespierre but the cat hates riding in a car. That’s one time he yowls and carries on. I think he suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome caused by trips to the vets for shots or the repair of assorted damages from fights with other cats.
Six hours later I pulled into the parking lot beside Herbal Haven. Two pit stops had refreshed me. My stomach growled and I hoped Joyce could leave early. I never stop to eat when I’m the driver. Food makes me sleepy.
As I entered the converted farmhouse, now a shop, a bell clanged. I cringed. The new addition had me wondering why a nice tinkling sound hadn’t been selected. This one sounded like one of those on harbor buoys but more brassy. That was new. I inhaled the aromas of mint, herbs and spices flavoring the air. Joyce came from behind the counter.
Her light brown hair had a few streaks of gray. She grasped my hands. “Kate, it’s so good to see you.” Warmth infused her brown eyes. “Did you really run away?”
“Absolutely. So did Lars. You have no idea how many people are trying to manage every moment of my life.”
She laughed. “Might be better than one micro-manager wanting control.” Her whispered remark made me glance around the store to focus on the many changes. Everything was arranged in orderly fashion. The place was less inviting than two years ago. Brenda, I thought.
Pictures on the wall hung in such perfect precision I felt sure a level had been used to hang them. The glaring slashes and blotches of color had no relationship to herbs and mint tea. They added nothing to the ambiance.
I walked to one of the shelves where tea sets were arranged in stiff formations. The cups looked like soldiers standing at attention before the teapot generals. I moved several to bring from the shadows pottery pots like the one I used at home. They showed a screaming man or woman hanging from the rim as if trying to escape the boiling water.
Joyce finger combed her short hair. “Brave woman. Just wait.”
Moments later, Brenda, blonde, tall, elegantly clad with enough bling on her arms and fingers to finance a war, strode toward us. Her smile revealed perfect teeth. My stomach roiled. The woman headed my least favorite list. “Brenda.”
“Katherine.” She air kissed my cheek. “Mustn’t disturb the décor. I’ve worked for months to create the perfect ambiance.” She returned the teapots and moved the cups to their original place.
“What if I wanted to buy one of the hidden pots?”
Her lower lip curled. “Why? Joyce told me you’re marrying Lars Claybourne. Surely a man of his wealth wouldn’t want one of those ugly things in his house.”
“He has one, though instead of a man there is a woman escaping. Says the woman is me climbing out of hot water.”
Her false laughter disturbed me. “The decorative touches here at Herbal Haven are mine. I’ve arranged the tea sets so nothing can be broken by accident.” She turned to Joyce. “Are the mail orders complete?”
Joyce shook her head. “I stopped when Kate arrived.”
“They must be ready ASAP. I’ve already called the delivery service. You know how the driver hates to wait.”
Did she think she was the sole owner and Joyce her employee? Words I wanted to say remained unspoken. Why wouldn’t she help pack the boxes? Was she afraid of ruining her perfect appearance?
“Thanks.” Joyce hurried to a table in the kitchen where boxes sat. “I’ll call the items and you hand them to me. I think I found them all."
Brenda wheeled and returned to the office that had once been a small parlor. Joyce and I worked steadily and had just sealed and labeled the last box when the deliveryman arrived. The grandfather’s clock struck five times.
“That’s new,” I said.
Joyce grinned. “And keeps perfect time so we’ll remain on schedule.”
Brenda emerged from her office and paused in the kitchen doorway. “Why don’t you two run along? I’m sure Katherine is tired from her trip.” She smiled that plastic one she had perfected.
“I don’t mind waiting until six,” I said.
“No, no, no. Go, go., go” Brenda waved her hand as though sweeping us out the door.
Joyce reached for your purse. “If the deposit’s ready I’ll take it to the bank.”
Brenda shook her head. “Not finished yet. I’ll take it the way I always do.’
Joyce and I walked to the door. Was Brenda getting rid of us for some reason? As I stepped outside I saw her applying lipstick.
“You’ll have to drive,” Joyce said. “My car’s in the shop. Dana dropped me off on her way to the college.”
“Why not call her to meet us?”
“Not today. She’s teaching an evening class for aspiring writers.”
As we pulled onto the road a bright red car turned into the lot. A fleeting glimpse of the driver showed dark hair and youth. “I know why we were dismissed. Is he her latest?”
“I believe so.”
“From what I saw he seems young enough to be her son. College student?”
“Don’t think so but I haven’t met him. Calls him her teddy bear.”
We reached a diner just outside town where we’d eaten before. After ordering our meal, Joyce bombarded me with questions about Lars and the wedding. I regaled her with the story of the prenuptial meeting with Lars’ attorney. She laughed heartily. Then I added tales of the other people who wanted to manage my life.
Joyce looked up. “Might be better having a group. One micro-manager who wants everything her way can be impossible.”
“Aren’t you partners?” I had noticed Brenda how had pushed Joyce into following her orders.
“Actually she only has a third interest.”
“Why do you let her get away with changing everything?”
“Easier than fighting for every new idea.” She sighed. “Brenda has a temper. She scares me sometimes. I know you warned me about having her for a partner and I didn’t listen. In the beginning things were smooth. The past two years have been hell.”
“Why don’t you buy her out? Imagine an offer of cash would interest her.”“Wish I could.”