Babbling Brooke: A Grace Texas Murder Mystery
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Small-town reporter, Jessica Hart is excited to interview country music legend, Cotton Knox. Cotton has a bad reputation with women. He even tries to steal a kiss from Jess. After his gig at the local dance hall, gunshots are heard, and Cotton is found shot dead in his dressing room!
Grace Texas is in an uproar. Suspects abound, including Cotton's ex-wife, his new girlfriend, or maybe a crazed fan.
It seems everyone has a secret from the past, including good-looking Detective Chris Connor. Even Brooke, the town gossip, has a story she’s not telling.
Can Jess and her feline friend Sweet Tea get to the bottom of this case before the killer strikes again?
Release date: May 15, 2021
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Babbling Brooke: A Grace Texas Murder Mystery
Chapter 1 – Sunday, March 18, 6:15 p.m.
Tonight’s the night, Jess thought as she stepped out of the shower. She was getting ready for her dinner with Detective Chris Connor. They had been dating for a few weeks and had lunch together almost every day. When they weren’t together, they were always texting or talking on the phone. There was no doubt in her mind. It’s going to be tonight.
She wiped the fog off the mirror in her steamy bathroom and looked herself in the eyes. “You are ready for this,” she told herself out loud. Her heart did a flip, and she took a deep breath. “Pull yourself together, Jess!”
Chris had invited her over to his house. He was making lasagna for her. Dinner at his house could only mean one thing … sex.
Jess opened the bathroom door and stepped into the bedroom. There, laid out on the bed was her underwear, especially chosen for this occasion. Silky, new, lacey, black matching bra and panties bought at the mall in Juniper. At that shop she almost never went into. Jess regarded the underwear dubiously. Who am I kidding, I can’t pull this off, she thought. Another deep breath and Jess forced herself to get into her new skivvies. Maybe I can’t pull them off, she thought, but Chris can.
As she blew her honey-colored hair dry, Jess considered her relationship with Chris. She had learned a lot about him in the last few weeks. Over their many dinners, lunches and time spent hanging out she had discovered that, like her, he was divorced. For him, it was very recent. His ex lived in nearby Juniper and when they separated, he moved to Grace.
She and Chris had a lot in common. They both liked the quaint small-town atmosphere in Grace. They both enjoyed movies. They both appreciated good music and had been to see a few live bands at Franklin Hall. That’s where Jess discovered what a good dancer Chris was. She thought about slow dancing with him, her head on his chest. She thought about his broad shoulders. Her heart did another flip and she turned off the dryer.
An hour later, Jess was knocking on Chris’s front door. Her new lavender dress had a sweetheart neckline and a full, swinging skirt. She had opted for a bit more makeup than her usual mascara and pale lip gloss. Her shoulder length hair was perfect.
He answered the door with a smile. “Howdy, stranger,” he drawled playfully as he ushered her in. He was wearing a blue oxford shirt, paired with jeans. He did look great in jeans. “You look very nice this evening.” He leaned down to give Jess a quick hello kiss. Chris Connor was unnervingly good looking, with his wavy sandy blonde hair and striking green eyes.
"Hi,” Jess said, smiling to hide her nervousness.
“Come on into the kitchen. I’m about to put the lasagna in,” he said, leading the way. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
“Sure,” Jess said. She set her small clutch bag on the sofa and followed him into the kitchen.
He poured her a glass of cabernet sauvignon. He had a Corning Ware baking dish on the counter with the lasagna, assembled and ready to go. “I’ve been working on this for an hour,” he admitted with a laugh. “It’s my mom’s recipe. I hope it comes out okay.”
“Well, it looks good,” Jess said. She glanced around the kitchen, noticing how clean it looked. Where were the utensils and the ingredients? “Usually when I cook, I make a big mess of the kitchen,” she said before taking a sip of her wine.
Chris shrugged and held his hands out. “My mama taught me well. I clean up as I go along,” he said. He then opened the oven, took the lasagna, and slid it in. “Now, we have forty-five minutes. Time to make the salad.”
“Can I help?” Jess asked.
“No need. You just have a seat.” Chris indicated the high stools on the other side of his kitchen bar.
“Wow. I could get used to this,” she said. She twirled her dress as she turned to take her seat.
Chris took out romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and several fresh vegetables. “I hope you like a basic green salad. I’m not a big fan of Caesar,” he said.
“Et tu Brute,” Jess quipped.
They laughed and talked and sipped their wine as Chris chopped the veggies. Before long, Jess’s nervousness melted away.
“The least I can do is set the table,” Jess said.
“It’s already done, go take a look,” Chris said. He waved his hand toward the dining room with a flourish.
Jess went in to find the table had been set with china, candles, and stemmed water glasses. There was even a linen tablecloth. “Nice,” Jess called out. He’s a smooth operator, she thought.
“Why don’t I put some music on,” Chris suggested as he brought the salad bowl to the table.
“Do you have a special playlist for a romantic dinner?” she asked.
Chris smiled. He went into the kitchen and a moment later soft piano music filled the room. He came back into the dining room and slipped his arms around her waist. “Is that romantic enough for you?”
She looked up at him. “It’s lovely.” Having him so close felt amazingly good. She gazed into his gorgeous eyes as she tilted her face up. He came in closer and then ….
Ding! Ding! Ding! The timer in the kitchen began going off.
“That’s the lasagna,” Chris announced. He rushed back to the kitchen.
The dinner was delicious. They ate and talked and had just half a glass more wine. The lasagna was so good, in fact, Jess had to stop herself from getting a second helping. She remembered it would not do to get too full. Not for what she had in mind.
After they ate, Jess insisted on helping with the dishes. Chris relented and they cleaned up together.
Once the dishes were done, they retreated to the living room and took a seat on the sofa. Jess inched closer. “Now, where were we?” she asked.
“Where were we when?” Chris asked.
Jess moved over closer and put her hand on his shoulder. “When the timer went off. I think we were right about here,” she said as she leaned in and kissed the corner of his mouth, softly. “Or maybe we were here,” she said as she teasingly kissed the other corner.
Chris could stand it no longer. He put his arms around her and pulled her toward him. She could feel the brush of his whiskers on her lips. He kissed her deeply, with an intensity that seemed to light her on fire.
Without thinking, Jess moved onto his lap. She kissed him again, twirling her fingers through his hair, devouring his lips. Her mouth moved to his earlobe. She nibbled it gently as she began unbuttoning his shirt.
Suddenly Chris broke away. “Wait, we have to stop,” he said.
She looked at him with desire in her eyes. “Shall we take this into the bedroom?” she asked in a sultry voice.
Chris closed his eyes and pursed his lips, shaking his head. He took a breath. “We need to talk,” he said.
What? We need to talk? Everyone knows that’s code for breaking up. Jess was confused. “What’s wrong?” she asked. She noticed that she was basically sitting on top of him, and she got to her feet awkwardly.
“Nothing is wrong. I just have to tell you something.”
Jess looked at him with concern. “What is it?” She took her seat next to him on the sofa.
Chris took another deep breath and ran his hand through his hair. “The thing is … um.” He picked up his wine glass from the coffee table and downed what was left of it. He looked up at Jess, sheepishly. “The thing is… I need to tell you… my divorce is not exactly final… yet.”
“Not exactly final yet,” Jess repeated, incredulously.
“Technically, I’m still married,” he said.
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