Unlucky Bumpkin

Country Cousins Mysteries Book 5

She's just a country girl who loves her dog…and her cat…and her pig. But protecting them from a killer might suck the sweet right out of her bucolic little world.

Pence Lucklin has always had the luck of the Irish, though he’s about as far from Irish as you can get. It is, after all, how he got his nickname, Lucky Lucklin. But it appears that his luck has run out in a big way. That’s putting it mildly, I guess. Since Lucky just turned up dead, hanging from a tool hook at my family’s auction business.

Was Lucky’s death meant as a warning for me? Could this mean the return of an old villain? Will Hal and I be called on to help the local Deer Hollow police find a killer?

In the end, luck probably won’t have much to do with the outcome. Luck can be made. And as death stalks the people I love, I’m fully prepared to force the hand of fate and create my own luck. Or die trying.

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Praise for Unlucky Bumpkin

Darlene Riggs - Booksprout Reviewer

"I really enjoy a good, clean, well-told, romantic mystery. There are a few red herrings in this entertaining whodunit. I was stumped to name the murderer until the reveal at the end and that is always fun. I like the romance interlaced into the story. Hal and Joey are such a cute couple that have each other’s back. I can imagine that a romance between two of the other characters in this story may be written into future books in this series. At least I girl can hope. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to delve into a good murder mystery with a bit of romance woven into the story."

Jen  - Booksprout Reviewer

"I loved Unlucky Bumpkin! This book is entertaining and fun. I love the characters. The plot is fast paced and exciting. I did not want to put the book down. There are so many twists and turns that you are kept guessing until the very end. I highly recommend this book."

Read an Excerpt

I stood in the gravel and stared past the high metal fence, topped with double rows of razor wire. The buildings in the distance were half shrouded in fog, their familiar lines softened in the mist. Somewhere inside the ten-foot-high fence, lost in the thick mist, the squat stone ranch house that had served as an office waited for me to step through the door and begin the process of closing down what had once been an integral part of my life. Shutting a door I’d never be able to open again, except through memories made less distinct by the passage of time.

The sign attached to the wide gates proclaimed the hundred-acre space as Fulle-Proof Auctions. The auction had been my family’s business for decades, until my parents had been believed killed in the crash of a private plane at the back of our property. I’d since learned I hadn’t lost them both, but the past the acres of gravel and assortment of metal buildings represented had died along with my father in that small plane.

Beside me, Caphy whined softly, no doubt sensing my sadness. It had been a tough decision to sell the place. My dad had loved the auction. He’d built it from a tiny farm auction to a business that took in equipment of all sizes from around the country and brought top dollar for quality offerings.

Selling it now would be like severing the final link with my dad. To me, it felt like cutting off a limb, leaving me bloodied, my memories set adrift in a mist not unlike the one surrounding Caphy and me at that moment.

But after much discussion, my mom and I had finally come to the only decision we could. The auction needed to be sold. My father wasn’t coming back, and neither my mom nor I would be running the business. Sitting empty, it was just a liability. Besides, I’d been receiving nearly daily calls from people who wondered when the auction would live again.

There were people who’d counted on the service my father had once provided. It was time to let someone else provide it.

I shoved my heavy blonde hair off my face, fighting tears. “It’s okay, Caphy girl. I’m just feeling a little sad.”

She swiped a wide wet tongue over my hand and gave her muscular tail a quick wag along the ground. But her green gaze told me she wasn’t buying it. She always had been able to read me like a book.

Headlights flashed through the mist and skimmed over us, followed by the soft rumble of a car engine. A big car.

Tears burned my eyes. I bit back a sob.

He’d come.

Somewhere down deep, I’d known he would. Though he had to have driven most of the night to get there in time.

The big SUV pulled up next to my car and stopped, the lights flaring into the dense mist as the Greek god behind the wheel extinguished the engine. The door opened and he stepped out, hurrying around the car to wrap me in strong arms that were filled with the comfort he’d known I’d need. Despite my assurances that I was fine.

“Hey,” he said, his voice rumbly against my ear as I pressed into him. He felt warm and solid in my arms. At six four, he was a foot taller than me and dark where I was light. His Greek heritage had given him thick shiny black hair that was swept straight back from a wide, unlined brow and curled softly at the top of his muscular neck. Even in the light of the SUV’s headlights, his dark green gaze and wide, sensual mouth showed weariness.

I reached up and ran a finger gently over the razor-thin scar that ran from just in front of his left ear to the corner of his eye. “Hey,” I responded. “You came.”

“Of course.”

Hal had been on special assignment in Tennessee when I’d told him what I’d planned. He’d asked me to wait, but I knew I had to do it fast, like yanking off a band-aid, or I might not have the will to do it at all. As it was, I’d been awake most of the night, wavering back and forth about my decision. I’d nearly called my realtor Madge Watson to cancel our appointment several times.

For more than one reason, she wouldn’t have thanked me. The biggest one being the fact that it had been the wee hours of the morning when I’d plucked my cell off the bedside table and fought with myself not to dial.

“Is Madge here yet?” Hal asked. It was like he’d read my mind.

I shook my head. “She’s not coming for a few hours. She needs to take pictures so she wants light.” I wrinkled my nose. “And hopefully less fog.”

He chuckled, one big hand rubbing my back in slow circles. “Did you bring boxes?”

“Some…”

He must have heard the struggle in my voice because he kissed the top of my head. “I brought some.”

He knew me too well. Deep, deep down inside I was pretty sure I was indulging in a bit of self-sabotage. I’d brought far fewer boxes than I knew I’d need. Reluctant to take the final step of boxing up my dad’s stuff.

I sighed, nodding.

“You have the key?”

I dug into the pocket of my jeans and handed it to him. “I’ll see you inside.” Suddenly unwilling to watch him unlock the gate, I hurried around my car and slid inside after Caphy. The strange reluctance made me wonder how long I’d have stood there if Hal hadn’t shown up.

I was thinking it would have been a while.

Headlights cutting pale circles over the empty gravel between the gate and the low-slung brick building, I drove slowly into the complex and parked in front of the office. I forced myself to climb out of the car as Hal parked beside me. Caphy disappeared into the fog, tail happily wagging. She’d always loved the auction lot, no doubt finding it a delicious abundance of scents and small skittering critters to harass.

Hal unlocked the door to the office as I stood staring off into the cloaking miasma, rubbing my arms. Sadness filled me at the sound of the door opening with a soft whoosh, stale air tumbling out to greet me.

It was really going to happen.

I was going to sell Fulle-Proof Auctions.

I’d be severing a huge chunk of my memories and my childhood along with it.

And I was pretty sure I’d be slicing off a chunk of my heart too.

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