Murder at Rover Meadows
Dog walker and pet sitter Nikki Green loves her job. She enjoys spending time with her best friend, Sonia Whitter, and her boyfriend, Detective Quinn Grant. But with Quinn busy testifying in a court case in another town and Sonia going on a last-minute trip to Rover Meadows, a small, picturesque town, to try and save her late husband’s property from being sold to developers, Nikki realizes she has a lot of spare time on her hands.
But not for long…. Soon after Sonia leaves, Nikki gets a frantic call from her to come and take care of her precious Chihuahua, Princess, because Sonia has been accused of murder! Nikki drops everything and with Coco, the loyal German Shepherd, and Spots, the boisterous Dalmatian, in tow, she goes rushing to Rover Meadows to help out with Princess and clear Sonia’s name before she lands up convicted of murder. But with a grouchy detective on the case, most of Sonia’s family believing she is guilty and evidence piling up against her, Nikki realizes that she might have bitten off more than she can chew.
It is a race against the clock to find the murderer before Sonia lands up behind bars permanently!
Murder at Rover Meadows by USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Cindy Bell is the ninth barking-good book in the Wagging Tail Cozy Mystery series. If you like quirky characters, crafty canines, and twists and turns that will keep you glued to the page, then you’ll love Cindy Bell’s heartwarming, tail wagging whodunits.
Buy Murder at Rover Meadows to uncover a killer today!
Release date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 242
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Murder at Rover Meadows
Nikki Green’s hand trembled as she held the phone. The urgency that she heard in her friend Sonia Whitter’s voice left her heart racing.
“There’s no time to explain, Nikki, can you please come early to walk Princess?
As soon as possible.”
“Of course, I can. Is everything okay?” “No time!” Sonia ended the call.
Nikki’s stomach twisted as she hurried in the direction of Sonia’s large estate. It wasn’t often that her friend asked for her to do anything out of routine. Though they were generations apart in age, she and Sonia had become very close, and Nikki couldn’t help but worry about what might have driven Sonia to ask her to walk Princess almost two hours earlier than normal.
As Nikki crossed from the mostly lower middle-class neighborhood, into the streets lined with houses that could easily be called mansions, she quickened her pace. Whatever was going on with Sonia, she hoped that she would be willing to talk to her about it. Her imagination came up with terrible things, and she wanted to put all of those unsettling images to rest. She reached the front door and knocked firmly on the wood.
“Come in! Just come in!” Sonia shouted from somewhere inside the house.
Nikki pushed open the door to the house with a small frown. It wasn’t like Sonia not to greet her at the door. However, Princess was right there to jump up against her legs.
“Hi there, sweetheart.” Nikki smiled as she crouched down to greet the Chihuahua.
“Make it a quick walk please, Nikki, I have a car picking me and Princess up in just over an hour.” Sonia rushed through the front hall and into the living room, where she gathered up a few magazines from the coffee table.
“What? Where are you going?” Nikki scooped Princess up into her arms and carried her into the living room.
“Rover Meadows.” Sonia rolled her eyes. “It feels like a century since I’ve been there.”
“Rover Meadows? Where’s that? Why are you going there?” Nikki narrowed her eyes. “You didn’t tell me you were planning a trip.”
“I didn’t know I was planning one. It was all very last minute.” Sonia huffed. “But if those greedy youngsters think they are going to keep me out of all of this, they’re wrong!”
“Wait a minute.” Nikki caught Sonia by the shoulder. “Slow down for just a second and tell me what is going on.”
“I’m sorry.” Sonia licked her lips as she turned to face Nikki. “It’s a long story, but my late husband’s family owns quite a large portion of the town they live in, Rover Meadows. I am now the oldest living partner in the ownership of this land. Most of the land has been passed down to the children of my husband’s siblings. They have all gotten together and decided that they are going to sell the land to a large developer.”
“Oh.” Nikki frowned. “And that’s not what you want?”
“Not at all. James was passionate about that land. He believed that it was the one piece of beauty left within one hundred miles, as the land around it all became built up over the years. He was determined to keep it that way, as were his siblings. Of course, the younger crowd doesn’t have those same values.” Sonia met Nikki’s eyes. “No offense.”
“None taken.” Nikki smiled, then shook her head. “So, what do you plan to do if the rest of the owners want to sell?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I’m certainly not selling. They didn’t even notify me about this. I received an e-mail this morning, can you believe that? Asking me to sign over my land to them so they could go through with the sale and then they will give me my share of the money. They’ve already set this whole thing up. So, of course, I’m going there to put a stop to all this nonsense.” Sonia put her hands on her hips. “They have no idea who they are dealing with.”
“That may be true, but I’m not sure that you know what you’re walking into.” Nikki studied her friend. At over seventy, she always worried about Sonia’s health, though Sonia would have her head if she mentioned it. She was a healthy and fit, but petite, woman who could be very passionate. “Maybe you should talk to your lawyer first. I hate to see you so upset.”
“Oh, don’t you worry, Nikki. I’m not going to keel over and die. They would just love it if I did, wouldn’t they? They even mentioned in the e-mail, that since I don’t have anyone to leave the land to, it would be best to handle the sale of it now.” Sonia rolled her eyes. “They might as well have opened with, you’ll be dead soon, so give us your land.”
“Oh Sonia, I’m sorry.” Nikki pulled her into a warm hug. “I’m sure they didn’t mean it that way.”
“I’m sure they did.” Sonia pursed her lips as she pulled away. “I’m sorry, Nikki, but I don’t have time for hugs, or kind words. A car is picking me up soon. Please give Princess a brisk walk because she’ll be in the car with me for a good amount of time, and I want her to be tired out.”
“I will do just that.” Nikki gathered Princess’ leash then clipped it onto her collar. As she led the dog outside, her heart pounded. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something felt off about Sonia. She always had a strong personality, but somehow her tone was colder than usual.
“Let’s go, Princess.” Nikki smiled as she urged the dog into a run. As she made her way down the sidewalk, she thought about what it would be like while Sonia was gone. She’d been meeting with Sonia multiple times a day for quite some time, not just to walk Princess, but to spend time together as friends. Although she had a handful of other friends, she counted Sonia as her closest, and the thought of being away from her left her feeling a little sad. Added to that, her boyfriend, Detective Quinn Grant, had been quite busy lately, and she wondered how she would keep herself occupied in her spare time over the next few days. When she returned to the house with Princess in tow, Sonia already had her suitcase on the front porch.
“The car is on the way to pick us up.” Sonia tugged on a pair of silver gloves that matched the shoes she wore. “Here.” She thrust a small card at Nikki. “I’ve written down where I will be staying.”
“Sonia, how long will you be gone?” Nikki tucked the card into her pocket. “As long as it takes.” Sonia pursed her lips.
“Are you sure you’re going to be able to handle this on your own?” Nikki met her eyes.
“Nikki, you know better than that.” Sonia snapped her fingers, though her gloves muffled the sharp sound. “I’m going to whip these kids into shape and make sure they know that the land they own is more than just a financial benefit, it is a responsibility to their ancestors.”
“It sounds like you’ve got it handled.” Nikki smiled, then pulled her into another hug. “But I’m going to miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too.” Sonia squeezed Nikki tight. “And so will Princess. I had thought about leaving her with you, but honestly, I’m not sure I can be away from her. I need her to keep me calm during all of this.”
“Please keep me updated on how everything is going. If there is anything I can do to help from here, I’d be happy to.” Nikki picked up Sonia’s suitcase as a car pulled into the driveway.
“I will, Nikki. I’m sure I’ll be chatting your ear off.” Sonia sighed. “I’ve been meaning to visit the land out there, but not under these circumstances. Maybe next time, you can come with me.” She looked into Nikki’s eyes. “It’s so beautiful, Nikki, I just know you would love it.”
“Next time.” Nikki smiled, then set Sonia’s suitcase into the trunk of the car. She peeked in the driver’s seat at the man behind the wheel. “She’s going to tell you to speed. Don’t.” She met his eyes.
“Okay.” He flashed her a grin.
“Don’t listen to her. Let’s go.” Sonia settled in the back with Princess in her lap. “Sonia.” Nikki sighed as the car pulled away. She waved, then smiled as she saw Sonia stick her hand out the window to wave back.
* * *
Not long after Sonia left, Nikki reached Quinn’s house. It still made her a little nervous to slide the key into the lock of his door. He’d given it to her so that she could walk his recently adopted dog Spots, but it still felt strange to enter his home when he wasn’t there. Not that she didn’t spend plenty of time in his house, it seemed like she spent most of her free time there with him. But over the past few days she’d barely heard from him.
Nikki stepped inside through the back door and looked for Spots in the kitchen.
After finding no sign of the dog, she crossed into the living room. The dog was not on the couch or his bed. In fact, there was no sign that he had been in the living room at all.
“Spots?” Nikki frowned, then walked down the hall toward the bedroom. Her heart skipped a beat as she wished that Quinn would be there, waiting to greet her.
Instead, she found his dog, sprawled across his bed, his head propped on Quinn’s pillows. He gave a little whimper as Nikki walked up beside the bed. “Look at you sleeping in.” She rolled her eyes. “Does Daddy know that you are sleeping on his pillows?” She winced as the dog raised his head and revealed a pool of drool beneath his mouth. “I guess he’ll find out soon enough, huh?” She laughed as she snapped on Spots’ leash. “Let’s go, you need your exercise.” She smiled as she guided the dog down from the bed. As she did, she noticed that Quinn’s bed was still made. It looked like it hadn’t been slept in at all. She tried to ignore the red flags that popped up in her mind. If he hadn’t slept in his bed, then where had he slept? She walked back through the living room. No blanket strewn on the couch. No indication that he’d camped out anywhere else.
“Let me guess, you’re missing him too, aren’t you, pal?” Nikki reached down and patted the top of Spots’ head. As she continued on her walk, she thought about the possibilities that might explain Quinn’s absence the night before. He had probably just made the bed that morning and she was being paranoid?
Nikki was almost at her next stop when her cell phone buzzed with a text.
Can you take Spots for a few days please? I’m not going to be home much, and I know that he’s probably lonely.
Nikki stared at the text, then sighed. She thought about texting back that Spots was not the only one. Instead, she sent back a quick response.
Sure no problem. Is everything okay?
Nikki collected Coco, a German Shepherd, from his house. “I guess we’re going to have company, buddy. Spots is going to spend a few days with us, too.” She picked up the list and packed bag that Coco’s owner, Jake, had left for her. Because her apartment was so small, she didn’t often sit for dogs in her own home, but had agreed to do so in Coco’s case as a favor to his owner. Of course, that was before she realized that Spots would need a place to stay, too.
When Nikki checked her phone for a response from Quinn, she found no new messages.
“Alright, I guess that’s to be expected considering how distant he’s been lately?” She muttered as she tucked her phone back into her pocket, then continued on to collect the other dogs on her route. As a dog walker she’d made a name for herself throughout the town, and it seemed like each day she had someone new inquiring about her services. It felt good to be able to do something she loved and be successful at it, but it still had its limitations when it came to income. She could only walk so many dogs, there were only so many hours in the day. She was saving up for her dream. A house on a large property with an animal rescue shelter, dog and cat boarding facilities and even a dog training facility. But it still seemed like just a dream.
One by one Nikki returned each dog to their home, and took the time to make sure the dogs had fresh water, as well as a little extra affection, before moving on to the next. With just Coco and Spots in tow, she walked back to her apartment. As soon as she settled on the couch, both dogs jumped up beside her, one on each side.
“How can I feel lonely with you guys around?” Nikki grinned. However, as time ticked by, she began to feel less amused. Why hadn’t Quinn texted her back yet? She also hadn’t heard a word from Sonia. It made her uneasy to wonder what Sonia might have walked into.
Nikki decided that she would relax and have a peaceful night’s sleep. She was sure that Quinn would contact her in the morning.
* * *
When Nikki woke the next morning, she found Spots and Coco sleeping on either side of her. She smiled as she patted their heads. She turned over and picked up her phone expecting texts from Quinn and Sonia, when there were no texts, her heart raced. It was still early so she didn’t want to contact either of them. She got ready and even though it was early, in an attempt to ease her anxiety, she decided to text Quinn. As a police detective he probably didn’t like to be questioned, but it seemed the better choice, compared to waiting all day for him to text her back.
Nikki stared down at her phone and wondered if she should delete everything that she had just typed. Was it too clingy? Would he be frustrated that she texted him again? Would he be hurt if she didn’t?
“Any tips, Spots?” Nikki looked over at the dog curled up beside her on the couch. “You’re with him all the time. Does he complain about me? Does he say I call too much? Not enough?”
Spots snorted, then licked his snout.
“Really? That bad?” Nikki frowned, then looked back at her phone. “The thing is, I’m supposed to be his girlfriend, right? So, isn’t a girlfriend supposed to be concerned when he doesn’t return her texts?” She sighed and flopped back against the couch. “Why is this so much harder than I expected? It should be simple. We love each other, we spend time together, we laugh at each other’s jokes, so why is it so hard just for me to decide whether to text him or not?” She glanced back at her phone. “Alright, I’ll send it, right now. Just rip the band-aid off, just do it.”
Just before she could hit the send button her cell phone began to ring. Quinn’s name bounced across the screen. She couldn’t help but smile as she answered the phone.
“Nikki, it’s so good to hear your voice.”
“Is it?” Nikki’s smile faded some. “It’s been a while.” Did that sound too jealous?
Too vulnerable? She winced.
“I know, I’m so sorry about that. Work has been crazy. I have to go to court to testify on a case I worked on before moving here, and I am going to be caught up in it for a few days. So, I have been trying to get on top of everything before I leave.”
“Okay.” Nikki reached over and stroked Spots’ fur.
“I’m sorry about asking you to take on Spots. I know that you already have Coco on your hands.”
“I don’t mind at all. I don’t think he does either.” Nikki patted Spots’ back. “But I think we’d both prefer that you come home soon.”
“I will, I promise. The cell reception is spotty in that area, but I’ll try to keep in touch when I can.” Quinn took a breath, then continued. “I love you, Nikki.”
“I love you, too.” Nikki ended the call as her heart pounded at the thought of not being able to see Quinn or Sonia for a few days. “Alright, Spots, it’s time for all of us to go for an extra walk. I need to burn off some anxiety.” She latched the leash onto Spots’ collar and did the same for Coco.
Neither dog seemed to mind a stroll through the early morning quiet that blanketed the neighborhood. Very few people were up yet and out and about. With Sonia away, and Quinn out of touch, Nikki had way too much free time on her hands. She needed to try and keep busy.
As Nikki rounded the corner toward the park, her cell phone rang again. Her heartbeat quickened as she assumed it was Quinn. She pressed the phone to her ear and smiled.
“Did you want to tell me you loved me one more time?”
“Nikki!” Sonia’s voice carried through the phone, but it didn’t sound like her. Her voice was tiny, frightened, a shadow of what it normally was. “You have to help me!”
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