Country Cousins Mysteries Book 7
Meanwhile, in a local support group for people with control issues…
Hi! I’m Joey, and I’m learning to cope with not having control over any aspect of my life.
Really, I am.
So what if my boyfriend’s parents are here for a visit. I can deal with that, right? They probably won’t completely hate me. I’m sure they won’t judge me for being an unrepentant bumpkin.
Oh, and somebody's trying to kill my mom. There's no way that can end badly.
But, surely I can find the villain before he accomplishes his deadly task, right? Right???
At least Hal's parents are here to watch me completely meltdown and lose my mind. Sooo, that's cool.Sigh… Stick a pitchfork in me. I’m dung.
5 Stars! "I love this series and this author."
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Read an Excerpt
I glanced at my cell again, checking the time. “They’re late. Are you sure they wanted to meet here?”
Hal gave me a patient smile. “My response hasn’t changed from the last five times you’ve asked that question.”
I deflated, feeling guilty. “Sorry. It’s just not like Felly to be late.”
“Cal might have been late getting out of the office. Fridays can be a bit hairy there. Everybody seems to think they can hire a PI on Friday afternoon to have somebody followed on Saturday morning.” He shook his dark head, seemingly disgusted with the human race. But a smile twitched on his lips. “Or, maybe Felly had trouble picking out the right purse for the visit.”
I smacked him on the arm. “Neanderthal!”
He chuckled warmly, snaking an arm over the back of the booth and tugging me close. “Have I ever told you you’re cute when you’re annoyed?”
“No. But that means I’m probably adorable most of the time we’re together.”
He hissed, wincing. “Ouch.”
A horn blared from the curb, and my gaze jerked around to find my cousin hopping out of her boyfriend’s big truck before he could come around to open the door for her. She waved excitedly when she spotted us through the window, then promptly tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and stumbled toward us, arms windmilling and beaded alligator purse swinging in a deadly arc as she tried to regain her balance.
Looking like he was accustomed to seeing his girlfriend flailing away, Cal calmly reached out and grabbed one slender arm, tugging her to an ordered stop. He shifted away from the attack-purse and snagged it in one big hand before it could clock him in the head.
Felly’s lips curved in what I recognized as an embarrassed laugh, judging by the fresh pink in her cheeks. Cal grinned back at her, then tugged her in for a quick kiss.
“Now, that’s adorable,” I told Hal.
He blew air through his lips, but I could tell he was pleased to see his brother happy.
Hal slid from the booth as his brother opened the door to Sonny’s Diner. I slid out behind him, running to greet Felly with a squeal that made heads all through the diner turn in our direction. “I’m so glad to see you!” I threw myself into her arms, and she squealed too. Unfortunately, her squeal was one of alarm as I overbalanced us, and she fell into the door. Our combined weight shoved the door open again, and there was a soft grunt as it smacked into a large body trying to enter the diner behind Felly and Cal.
With only the merest tightening around his Sapphire blue eyes, Cal reached out and snagged one of Felly’s arms, gently tugging us both away from the door.
A heavyset man in a well-worn flannel shirt came through the door, glaring at me. “Sorry, Bobo.” I gave him a sheepish smile as he shook his head.
“Let me guess, this girl’s related to you?” he asked.
The smile felt tight on my lips. “How’d you know?”
“She shares the same graceful demeanor.” Bobo Biddens was a local farmer whose real name was Pete, but everybody called him Bobo because his last name was reminiscent of a hobbit’s. That, and his propensity for dual breakfasts and over-achieving hair follicles on his big feet pretty much ensured he’d evermore be Deer Hollow’s Hobbit in residence.
“Very funny,” I told the big man as he chuckled. He nodded at Cal and then did a double-take as he spotted Hal. “Oh,” said Bobo. “I thought you were…” He scanned a look between the two brothers, an understanding light slowly filling his eyes. “You must be twins.”
Cal offered Bobo a hand. “Cal Amity. It’s nice to meet you.”
Bobo shook his hand and nodded at Hal before lumbering toward his usual spot at the counter. He dropped onto a spinning stool and turned to me, poking two fingers in a vee toward his eyes and then toward the pie cooler behind the counter.
I bristled, shooting Max a panicked look. She saw me and shook her head. “Already put some back,” she called across the busy diner.
I relaxed and returned the “I’ll be watching you” gesture to Bobo.
He chuckled good-naturedly.
We sat down. Max came over with her order pad, sliding two glasses of water in front of Felly and Cal. “I didn’t know you had a twin, Hal.”
Hal smiled at her. “You think he looks like me?”
Max laughed as if she thought he was joking. To her eye, they were clearly twins.
Except they weren’t. Cal was actually ten months older than Hal and had blue eyes to Hal’s forest green ones, but they certainly looked enough alike to pass. Both men had hair that was black enough to give off blue highlights in the right lighting, and both wore it longish, the thick, slightly wavy pelts swept back from well-formed, masculine faces. Both had dense black lashes that would make any woman besotted as well as jealous. Both men were over six feet tall, but seeing them side by side, I realized Hal was an inch taller than his older brother. Both men were strongly built and had perfect Greek noses above lushly-formed mouths. Though, I noticed Cal’s bottom lip was maybe a skosh fuller than Hal’s.
“I’ll be back in a few to take your orders.”
Tucking a long, wavy strand of light brown hair behind one ear. Felly reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “I’m so happy to be here.” The sparkle in her turquoise eyes proved the truth in her words.
I couldn’t help grinning back. “I can’t remember when we saw each other last.”
“It was last March,” Felly said. “For that wine tasting thing.”
Ah, yes. How could I forget? We’d gone to Felly’s favorite local winery in Indianapolis and had worked our way through most of the available inventory. Then we’d staggered to a nearby hotel rather than climb back into my Jeep and endanger the driving public around Indy.
The rest of the night was fuzzy in my memory, but I had a vague and shadowy recollection of wearing a bed sheet and chanting, “Toga, toga, toga” while dancing the chicken dance with open bottles of wine in our hands.
The hangover the next morning had been monumental, and I’d sworn never to go to another wine tasting with my cousin.
I’d meant it with every fiber of my wine-saturated being.
“That was so much fun,” Felly said. “We should do it again.”
“Absolutely!” my traitorous lips said before my brain had time to object.
“Judging by the look on your face,” Hal said, grinning, “I need details.”
Felly shook her head. “What happens at the post-wine-tasting toga party, stays at the post-wine-tasting toga party.”
Cal’s eyes widened. “Now I’m intrigued. You know you’re going to have to spill.”
Felly held the beaded alligator monstrosity up between them. “Talk to the alligator.”
I snorted out a laugh.
“Nice purse,” Max said, eying Felly’s treasure.
Felly’s eyes sparkled with pleasure. “I know, right?”
“Where’d you get it?”
Felly sighed. “Bilksville, Alabama.” She sighed, looking misty-eyed. “Good times.”
“She brought me back a frog clutch,” I told Max with a grin.
Felly laughed. “So cute.” She nudged Cal in the arm. “We need to go back sometime.”
He shook his head. “Unless Lena Borne can make them from jail, I doubt there will be any more beaded reptile purses.”
She deflated, pouting. “Such a shame.”
“Jail?” Max asked, her dark brows lifting. “Do tell.”
“Long story,” Felly said with a grin.
Sensing she wasn’t going to hear it, Max nodded. “What are you folks havin’ tonight?”
“Aside from banana cream pie?” I said with a look toward the mountain sitting at the counter. As if sensing my gaze burning through his flannel, Bobo turned and winked.
Max rolled her eyes. “Your slices are safe. Are you having dinner? Or just dessert?”
I was tempted to say just dessert, but the Greek god and his brother, the Greek deity, were giving me the “you have to eat your vegetables before you have dessert” look.
“I’ll have the pork chop dinner,” I told Max.
“Me too,” Felly agreed. The look she threw me was clear. We were just getting dinner over with, so we could get to the good stuff. We shared a knowing smile. Felicity Chance and I were cousins, but our family connection was only the smallest part of why we loved each other. We’d have been best friends even if we weren’t related. We shared a love of mystery-solving; tall, dark, and handsome men; and a lifelong passion for sweets and carbs.
That she had nary an inch of extra flesh on her svelte, five-foot-five-inch frame was the only bug in the ointment of our mutual admiration.
I would admit that my bumpkin eating ways had added curves to my five-foot-four-inch physique. I’d have to step up my walks with Caphy to offset the calories because there was no way I was giving up pie.
The two immortals ordered vegetable omelets and dry wheat toast, earning dual scowls from the less persnickety eaters at the table.
They didn’t even seem to notice. “Tell us about this case that brings you to Deer Hollow,” Hal said to his brother. “I wasn’t aware of any cases with a connection.”
Cal nodded, wiping his lips after taking a long drink of water. “This is something new.” His gaze slid to me, and I got the distinct impression he didn’t want to talk in front of me.
I zipped my lips. “I won’t spill. Hal and I work on cases together all the time.”
Cal sighed. “It’s not that. I trust you as much as I trust Hal.” He frowned, his long, perfectly-manicured fingers shoving at his water-spotted utensils.
Yet he wouldn’t tell me.
“What?” I scowled at him. “Tell me, Cal. Whatever it is, it’s better if I know.”
When he still hesitated, Hal said, “She’s right, bro. Tell us.”
Cal’s gaze lifted to his brother’s, hesitated, and then swung to me. “It’s Garland Medford. We think he might still be alive.”