Lakefronts and Larceny
When an investor for the town's not-so-popular condo project is found dead and her daughter's boyfriend lands at the top of the suspect list, she jumps in with both feet to clear his name. The problem is, the deeper she digs, the worse it looks for Tony.
Can she save her daughter's happily ever after and uncover the real killer before Tony gets fitted for a new pair of cement shoes?
Release date: March 12, 2020
Print pages: 162
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Lakefronts and Larceny
“Girl, we look good.” I commented, as I leaned across the glass-topped bakery display case and spread out the latest copy of the Sweetwater Herald. The photo splashed across the front page showed my daughter, Macy, grinning from ear to ear, her boyfriend, Antonio Castellini, and me, a very proud mom. Several members of the Sweetwater Springs Chamber of Commerce stood alongside us, looking on as the Mayor used a gigantic pair of scissors to cut the ribbon, symbolizing the Grand Opening of Macy’s On Main, Hometown Bakery and Beanery. After months of tearing out wood paneling, refinishing original hardwood floors, installing a state-of-the-art commercial baking kitchen and a plethora of cappuccino, espresso and coffee appliances, her dream had become a reality. I was so proud of my girl that I could bust wide open.
Macy had just brought out a warm pan of made-from-scratch, blueberry biscuits and was arranging them on a tray for the morning rush. “We look awesome except for that goofy grin on my face!” she commented, as she drizzled the warm sugar glaze over the biscuits. “Why do I have to show every tooth in my mouth?”
“I think it’s a great picture,” I said, as I took a bite of the warm biscuit and groaned in delight. “And how cool is it that soon there’ll be a picture of Tony’s ribbon cutting for Tavolo? The grand opening of two new eateries in Sweetwater Springs in the same month must be the biggest thing to happen here since the county seceded from the state during the Civil War,” I said, referring to the history that was our town and county’s claim to fame. When the State of Alabama seceded from the Union, our county was so opposed to the Confederacy, it seceded from the state. There was even a big statue of a soldier dressed half in Confederate uniform, and half in Union standing in the center of town to commemorate the event.
“I’m so excited for both of us. A little scared, but excited.” Macy confided. “He’s been so good to help me even with his own place opening in a couple of weeks.”
Macy’s former chef instructor, and now, boyfriend, had volunteered to come over from Mississippi back in May and help her with her bakery design and menu planning. Over the last few months, not only had he fallen in love with the town, but it seemed he might be falling in love with Macy. As they worked together on her bakery and coffee shop plans, he got the idea to purchase the storefront next door and open an Italian restaurant.
From the little information I could drag out of Macy, this wasn’t the first time he had owned his own place. Tony had been co-owner in a restaurant somewhere up north several years ago but made the decision to leave the restaurant business to teach culinary school. I guess he was ready to give it another shot. He was quite a bit older than Macy. It took me a while to get used to the idea that he was closer to my age than to hers. But it didn’t take me long to see what she saw in him. He had such a kind and generous heart. It was easy to see that he cared for and believed in Macy. They supported each other in their new business ventures, and it was going to be fun to see where their relationship went.
I walked over to the coffee area and poured myself a large iced coffee to go. “I hate to leave you, but I need to head on in to work. Nana should be here any minute to help you out.”
Macy peeked around the half-open swinging door to the kitchen. “I just put the last of the dark chocolate pound cakes in to bake. Once she gets here, she can start mixing up the cranberry pecan crisps, and I’ll work out front.”
The bakery had only been open a couple of weeks, and we knew Macy couldn’t afford to pay anyone to help just yet, so Momma and I were tag teaming. She worked on Monday and Wednesday, the days I worked in the office at Sweetwater Springs Baptist Church, and I planned to work with Macy on the other days. From the conversations I’d had with Momma, she seemed to be a little overwhelmed. “How is she doing with her barista lessons?” I yelled, as I straightened tables and chairs across the room.
Macy came through the door wiping her hands on her apron. “Pretty good. I don’t think she expected it to be as complicated as it is, but she’s actually catching on pretty quickly.” She flipped the switch on both coffeemakers.
“I can sympathize with her. Some of these machines are complicated and it seems that these days it’s become more of an art form!”
The bell over the door jingled and Momma flipped the sign on the door to OPEN as she came breezing in. “Mornin’ Macy! Mornin’ Glory!” Momma beamed. Everyone got such a kick out of greeting me that way, including Momma.
“Well, you sound chipper for a Monday morning!” I laughed.
“Good morning, Nana. Do you mind working on some cookies in the kitchen?”
“I’ll do whatever helps you the most,” Momma said, tying an apron around her waist and heading through the swinging door with a smile of complete relief. Momma was well-known for being one of the best cooks in town. The cooking gene skipped a generation with me, but I was glad Macy got it.
The door jingled again, as Megan Lester, and a lady I didn’t recognize, came in dressed to the nines and browsed the pastry selection in the display case.
“Good morning ladies! What can I get for you this morning?” Macy chirped. “The blueberry biscuits are to die for, if I do say so myself.”
“I’ll take one of those and a skinny vanilla latte,” Megan responded.
Megan was the president of our local Ladies’ Club and Southern to the core. My Granny would say that she always “put on the dog,” which meant she acted a little uppity. When I first met Megan, I thought the same thing. But the more I’d gotten to know her, the more I realized she was just a true Southern belle. She had a kind heart and had never been anything but nice to me. She and the other ladies had welcomed me into the Ladies’ Club with open arms. Maybe they saw me as new blood, and it probably helped that I had a problem saying no and usually regretted it later. I had gotten in over my head on several occasions, one of which I was in the middle of now.
“I think I’ll go with the chocolate croissant and a cup of whatever your boldest roast coffee is this morning,” Megan’s friend said as they took a seat at one of the bistro tables on the other side of the room.
Even standing at the counter several feet away, I could still hear bits and pieces of their conversation. The lady with Megan was clearly adamant about something and Megan kept nodding her head like she was agreeing with her. I heard the word condo, and my radar immediately went on full alert. Construction on a group of resort condominiums called Pine Bluffs was just getting underway out on Smith Lake. Although many people in town were excited about the potential it had to bring in the tourist trade, there was a pocket of citizens who were adamantly against it. These were mostly made up of lakefront landowners whose property was near the resort.
Macy arranged the blueberry biscuit and chocolate croissant on cute, mismatched, vintage dessert plates and placed them on a serving tray on the counter along with their coffee orders. I took the opportunity to get a little closer to the conversation and delivered the delicious goodies myself.
“I don’t know about you and Chris, but Jeff and I are not going to stand for it,” the other lady said. “Our property values have already taken a hit, and they’ve barely broken ground.”
Megan nodded. “Believe me, Chris feels the same way. We need to do whatevah it takes to get this project stopped before it goes any fuh-tha,” Megan continued in her Scarlett O’Hara southern drawl. “Don’t you worry your sweet little head. I have a feeling we won’t have that little problem much longa, dah-ling.”
“Here you go, ladies. Best breakfast in town!” I smiled as I placed the plates in front of them along with their coffees.
“This smells just divine!” Megan exclaimed. “Macy is as sweet as tea, and this place is just heavenly. I know it’s gonna be a glorious success.”
“Thanks, Megan. I’m pretty proud of her.” I smiled and turned to the other lady as she took her first bite of the croissant and groaned in delight. “I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Glory Harper. I’m Macy’s mom. I’m in the Ladies’ Club with Megan.”
“Oh, Glory, I do apologize! I thought you had met Cindy,” Megan said, placing her hand daintily on the other lady’s arm. “This is Cindy Newsome. She is in the Ladies’ Club with us. She and her husband Jeff own Hearth and Home Furniture.”
“Nice to meet you, Glory. Since summer is our slowest time for sales, we use that time to travel to trade shows and furniture markets to get ready for the fall, which is our busiest time of year. I have had to miss the last few meetings. I hate missing out on all the fun, but business comes before anything else at our house.” Cindy smiled, but I noticed the smile didn’t quite reach her blue eyes.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” I said, with my fingers crossed behind my back, “but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation about the condo project. I know Megan’s position on it, but I take it that you and your husband are opposed to it also?”
I knew Megan and Chris Lester were one hundred percent against the project. They lived on the Upper End of the lake. That’s where the condos were being built. Commercial buildings like the boat docks, bait store, jet ski rentals, Lakeside Motel and Lake House Café were all much further down the shoreline. A few months ago, Megan had commented to me that Terrance Wolfe had better “watch his back” if he tried to move forward with the project.
“Yes. We live next to Megan and Chris on the Upper End and are just as concerned as everyone else that the commercial rentals will destroy our property values. And let’s not forget the ambiance on the Upper End that we paid a pretty penny to acquire.” Cindy lifted her coffee cup to take a drink with her pinky finger stuck out a mile.
“I see. I can understand your concerns, but don’t you feel like the beauty of our lake is something that everyone should be able to enjoy? God’s beauty in nature really belongs to everyone, right? Hopefully, this will boost the economy of our town and as a result your furniture business will grow.”
“Maybe,” Cindy frowned and shrugged as she took another sip of her coffee.
“Well, ladies, I hope you have a wonderful day. I need to get moving if I’m going to make it to the church office on time.” I returned the serving tray to Macy at the counter, told her I’d see her tonight and headed to work.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...