Not only does the groom go missing but someone is murdered. Suzie, Mary and their lovable Labrador, Pilot, do a little snooping to decipher this baffling murder mystery.
Has the groom just got cold feet? Or is something more sinister at play?
Beaches and Betrayal is the twenty-second book in the Dune House Cozy Mystery Series. If you like strong female sleuths, enduring friendships and loyal dogs, then you'll love this page-turning cozy mystery.
Join Suzie, Mary and Pilot for a heartwarming, fun cozy mystery by USA Today and Wall Street JournalBestselling Author Cindy Bell.
Release date: May 26, 2022
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Beaches and Betrayal
Ribbons and flowers decorated every tree and bush that lined the driveway that led up to the majestic house that sat on a dune that overlooked the beach in the small town of Garber. A buzz of excitement carried through the delivery workers that hurried back and forth between the driveway, the large parking lot, and the path that led to the beach.
“Just put the garlands in the back.” Suzie Allen called out to the young man who carried two large boxes toward the front porch of Dune House, the sprawling house that had been restored back into its former glory as a bed and breakfast.
“Will do.” He called back, then veered off around the corner of the house.
Suzie wrung her hands as she took a deep breath.
“Stop worrying.” Mary Brent patted her shoulder as she stepped out onto the porch behind her. “Everything is coming together just fine.”
“I just want it to be perfect.” Suzie looked out over the assortment of vehicles in the parking lot. “It’s such a special occasion for Claire.”
“For both of them.” Mary smiled. “I’ve never seen a couple so excited.”
“I remember your wedding.” Suzie grinned as she looked over at her. “I tried to talk you out of it.”
“I almost knocked you out.” Mary laughed as she crossed her arms. “Of course you were right, as usual.”
“I wasn’t.” Suzie shook her head as she thought back about thirty years. “Maybe he wasn’t the best choice for you, but you two built a wonderful family together, and that is not something that can ever be wrong.”
“Thanks, Suzie.” Mary wrapped an arm around her waist and squeezed. “You’re right. I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything. But I do hope these two know what they’re getting into. Marriage isn’t easy.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Suzie grinned.
“Oh, just give it time, Paul isn’t going to let you get away.” Mary laughed as she knew that Suzie loved Paul, her fisherman boyfriend, but was not keen on marriage.
“Don’t even think it! I love things just the way they are.” Suzie shook her head as she looked back at the parking lot. “I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“You’re not forgetting anything. You’ve double and triple checked. Why don’t you take Pilot out for a walk and try to relax a little?” Mary started to walk around the side of the house along the wraparound porch. She knew that a walk with the lovable yellow Labrador would help Suzie relax. “I can supervise for a little while.”
“The walk is going to have to wait.” Suzie followed after her. “Jason said that he’s going to stop by soon.” Detective Jason Allen was Suzie’s younger cousin.
“I hope everything goes to plan.” Mary smiled.
“Me, too. You know how these things can get. Sometimes families don’t get along, and the mix of booze and emotions can lead to some rowdy situations.” Suzie winced. “I hope it doesn’t happen, but I don’t want anything to ruin the special day.”
“I’m sure they appreciate that.” Mary nodded. “I’ll do my best to keep an eye on things.” She stepped closer to Suzie. “Is everything okay, Suzie? You seem a bit stressed. You’re usually so calm.”
“I don’t know, Mary, I just have this feeling I can’t shake.” Suzie frowned. “It’s like something bad is going to happen, even though I’m sure this will be a beautiful event.”
“Try not to focus on it. This is the first wedding we are hosting. Sometimes when we want things to turn out really well, our mind plays tricks on us and convinces us that it won’t.” Mary hugged Suzie. “Everything is going to be just fine.”
Mary was surprised at how stressed Suzie seemed. Mary was usually the one to worry too much about things.
“Did you hear about what Tony did last night?” A young bridesmaid giggled as she walked across the front porch, speaking into her phone. “I really thought Chad was going to knock him out.”
“Just boys being boys.” Mary shrugged, then waved her hand. “I’m sure they’ll have it all worked out by sunrise. The wedding will happen, and everyone will be thrilled.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Suzie smiled.
“Just remember, we’re in this together, okay?” Mary met her eyes. “You don’t have to do everything.”
“You do a lot more than me.” Suzie gestured to a car as it pulled into the parking lot. “There’s Jason.” They both waved to him.
“Good morning, ladies.” Jason pulled his hat off as he reached the top step.
“Hi Jason.” Suzie smiled at her cousin. “What brings you here today?”
“I just wanted to give you a heads-up.” Jason glanced over his shoulder and surveyed their surroundings before he looked back at Suzie and Mary. “Things got a little rowdy at the party last night.”
“They did?” Mary’s eyes widened. “I thought combining the bachelor and bachelorette parties would keep things pretty tame.”
“Larry called me around eleven to say that things were getting out of hand. When I arrived, the groom and the best man were getting into it.” Jason frowned, then lowered his voice. “I had to separate them.”
“Did they throw any punches?” Suzie winced. “I’m sure Claire’s not going to want her groom to have a black eye on their wedding day.”
“Nothing that landed, but it was about to get worse. Chad’s brother was getting involved, too.” Jason sighed. “I pulled them apart and they promised to behave, but I had to convince Larry to let them stay. You know how he is about any violence in his bar.”
“As he should be.” Mary pursed her lips. “Larry runs a clean and safe place for people to unwind. Ever since he opened the bar a few months ago, I don’t think I’ve heard of any problems there. It took a little convincing to get him to host the party there to begin with. You know the fishermen don’t like to be disturbed.”
“Oh, I know.” Jason rolled his eyes. “I’ve been hearing about it all morning, actually.”
“That’s no good.” Suzie shook her head. “Just let Paul know, I’m sure he can get them all to settle down.”
“I’ve put in a call, trust me.” Jason grinned. “But things like that don’t always blow over so easily. I just think you should take some extra precautions.”
“I don’t want anything to ruin the big day.” Mary frowned. “Maybe I should try talking to Tony to see what he and Chad were upset about.”
“I don’t know if we should get involved.” Suzie shook her head. “If we overstep, we might cause even more problems and that’s the last thing we want to do.”
“You may be right about that.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “I wasn’t sure whether to say something to you or not, but Summer insisted.”
“Tell your wife, thank you.” Mary smiled. “I’d rather know, so we can be prepared for whatever might happen.”
“Nothing is going to happen.” Suzie held up her hands. “That’s enough negative talk. I’m sure whatever issue came up between the groom and the best man has been resolved, and we can all look forward to a perfect wedding.”
Mary smiled at how Suzie had already seemed to get her confidence and positive attitude back.
“Excuse me!” Claire stormed up the steps of the front porch. She looked straight ahead as she barreled through the front door and into the house.
“Claire!” Her mother’s shrill voice called after her, just before the older woman mounted the steps. “We have to talk about this! Please! You can’t simply ignore it!”
“Stay out of it, Mother!” Claire slammed the door of the house shut before her mother could get through it.
“Oh!” Violet gasped as she took a step back.
“Violet, are you alright?” Mary touched her elbow as she took another step back. “Is everything okay with Claire?”
“Fine, just fine.” Violet huffed as she smoothed down her blouse. “She just thinks she knows everything as always. I tell you, one of these days she’s going to realize that with age comes wisdom. Of course, by then it will be too late. She’ll already be married to that loser.”
Jason and Suzie exchanged a long look.
“Weddings can be so tense.” Mary patted Violet’s arm. “Why don’t we get a cup of tea and talk about it?”
“That’s sweet, but no.” Violet met her eyes. “I’m not accustomed to having tea with strangers. I think I’ll just insist on my daughter listening to me.” She pulled away from Mary and marched right through the front door. “Claire. You can’t hide from me.”
Mary held her breath as she let the wave of tension that Violet left behind dissipate. Her attention was drawn to Jason and Suzie.
“None of this is unusual. It’s the day before the wedding, emotions are running high, it’s nothing that can’t be worked through.” Suzie shrugged.
“All I’m saying is that you need to keep your eyes and ears open. If things look like they are going to get out of hand, you’ll need to be ready to deal with it.” Jason looked up at the house, then back at Suzie. “I can provide extra security, but that’s not going to mean anything, if things get out of hand before I have the chance to intervene.”
“Jason, I’m sure the wedding is going to go off without a hitch.” Suzie smiled. “I’m sure everything is going to be fine.”
“I just think you need to be prepared.” Jason’s eyes widened.
“Of course we will be.” Suzie nodded before walking into the house. “I better get back to it.”
Mary walked toward Jason. “I promise, we’ll keep a close eye on everything.” She smiled as she caught sight of Detective Wes Brown’s car pulling into the parking lot. “I’ll keep you up to date, Jason.”
“Thanks.” Jason nodded to her, then to Wes as he parked.
Jason walked briskly to his car.
Mary’s eyes settled on Wes as he approached the front porch.
“Morning.” Wes smiled as he reached the top step, then leaned forward to kiss her cheek.
“Good morning, Wes.” Mary wrapped her arms around him. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I thought you might be going a little crazy by now, so I thought I’d stop by and lend a hand.” Wes peeked around the corner of the porch. “But it looks like things are going well.”
“As well as they can be.” Mary tipped her head toward Suzie who gripped a clipboard tightly in her hands.
“Weddings can be so stressful.” Wes winced. “But in the end, they’ll be married, and moving on with their lives.”
“It was so nice of you to recommend us to your friend, Abigail.” Mary smiled as she led him around the side of the deck and down the steps that led toward the beach. “She’s such a sweet woman.”
“When she told me about Chad wanting to pay for the wedding himself, and needing to keep it simple, I knew that Dune House would be perfect. It’s so beautiful here, and you and Suzie are so creative.” Wes squeezed her hand.
“Oh no, Suzie’s the creative one.” Mary laughed. “I’m just along for the ride.”
“Sure.” Wes met her eyes briefly, then looked over the white, wooden tables and chairs being positioned in the sand. “It looks like the set-up is going well.”
“It’s for the rehearsal lunch today. I hope it goes smoothly. Apparently, the party last night didn’t.” Mary frowned.
“Groom blowing off some steam?” Wes raised his eyebrows.
“Why would you think that?” Mary turned to face him.
“Oh, I don’t know, I imagine that’s what happens before most weddings.” Wes shrugged. “Why, isn’t that what happened?”
“Actually, according to Jason it was the best man that made all the trouble.” Mary sighed. “We don’t know exactly what happened, but it almost came to blows.”
“Sounds about right.” Wes nodded.
“You aren’t like that, though.” Mary looked into his eyes. “You’re never anything but kind.”
“I will say I have mellowed in my old age.” Wes chuckled. “But those young guys, they have more energy than they know what to do with, and sometimes it spills over into anger.”
“Hopefully, it won’t again.” Mary caught sight of a young man as he approached the porch. “Michael, I just saw your mother and sister go inside, they didn’t look too happy.”
“They never do.” Michael paused before her and rolled his eyes. “Those two have never gotten along.”
“Oh, what a shame.” Mary frowned. “I love spending time with my daughter, though sometimes I think she gets a little tired of me always asking about her life.”
“Asking is one thing, controlling is quite another.” Michael shook his head. “She’s always breathing down Claire’s neck. I thought she would ease off a bit when she graduated from college, but she never has.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Mary gestured to Wes beside her. “This is my boyfriend, Wes.” She laughed. “Though, it still sounds funny to call him that.”
“Not funny at all.” Wes winked at her as he held out his hand to Michael.
“I’m Michael, the bride’s brother. This is Chad’s cousin, Jenny.” Michael smiled as he shook Wes’ hand and gestured to the woman who looked to be in her thirties who approached them. Wes shook Jenny’s hand as well.
“Nice to meet you.” Jenny pulled her hand back and crossed her arms. She seemed very guarded to Mary, but she hadn’t spent much time with her. She had arrived late the previous night.
“Aren’t you friends with Chad’s mother?” Michael looked at Wes.
“Yes, we’ve known each other for a long time, but we just recently got back in touch.” Wes swept his gaze over Dune House. “When she mentioned the wedding, I just knew that she would love this place.”
“Chad was quite relieved to have it as an option. He and his brother, Daniel, are around here somewhere.” Michael looked back at Mary. “Have you seen Daniel, anywhere?”
“Not this morning.” Mary frowned. “Maybe he was out late at the party last night?” She met his eyes. “I hear there was a bit of a commotion.”
“Oh, did you?” Michael nodded. “Yes, that didn’t go too well. But we got it all straightened out. No harm done.”
Jenny’s phone rang. She took it out of her pocket and looked at the screen.
“Sorry, I have to take this.” She answered the call as she walked away. “Tony, where are you? I’ll head to the beach, now.” She started toward the beach and passed a young man who waved from the path that led to the beach as he approached them.
“Michael!” The man called out.
“Daniel.” Michael smiled as he approached. “I have to check in with Brody.” He glanced at his phone. “Then I’ll check in with Claire. Do me a favor and make sure Chad and Tony are good after last night, alright?”
“They’re fine.” Daniel shrugged. “Chad always puts up with Tony’s stupidity. I’ve tried to convince him not to and to stay away from him, but of course he always knows better than his big brother. I can’t believe he made Tony his best man instead of me.”
“Right now, he just needs us to make this day happen.” Michael looked straight into Daniel’s eyes. “They both do. Can I count on you?”
“Of course you can.” Daniel nodded, then walked back off toward the beach.
“You’re carrying a lot on your shoulders, aren’t you?” Mary smiled at Michael. “It’s sweet of you to look after your sister like this.”
“She deserves it.” Michael sighed as his phone rang. “Excuse me, I have to take this.” As he walked away, he answered the phone. “Brody, I don’t want any more footage of what happened last night leaked to the press. Please, use your contacts and ensure nothing else is leaked. I don’t know who leaked it, but can you see if you can find out.” He paused, then raised his voice. “I know there isn’t much you can do, but just do what you can. Just do your job!” He ended the call, shoved his phone into his pocket, then stepped the rest of the way into the house.
“Tense.” Wes winced. “Are you sure you want to stick around for all of this?” He tugged at Mary’s hand. “I can’t convince you to run away with me and leave Suzie to handle it?”
“I could never do that.” Mary grinned. “Well, the run away with you part, yes, but not the leave Suzie behind part.”
“Alright fine, but if you’re going to get through this, you’re going to need some rest. You sit down in the rocker, I’ll get you some tea, and we’ll spend a little time just breathing in this beautiful day.” Wes started toward the door.
“Wes, that’s so sweet, but I really have things to do.” Mary shook her head.
“After you rest.” Wes pointed to the rocking chair. “You’re not really going to make me beg, are you?”
“Fine, fine.” Mary settled into the rocking chair, even as her heart hammered against her chest. She loved that Wes insisted on taking care of her, but she still wasn’t accustomed to it. Her husband hadn’t had any interest in helping her as she raised their two children. In fact, he had often gotten angry if she asked for any help. Wes’ kind nature still surprised her. When she had first met him, he was closed off, but as they got to know each other he let his guard down and showed his softer side to her. As she waited for her tea, she closed her eyes and let the sounds of her surroundings relax her.
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