Cassie Alberta loves her new life in Little Leaf Creek. Living next door to two cheeky goats and a energetic dog means she is kept on her toes and there is never a dull moment. She has the fresh start she wanted after her husband's sudden death and is looking forward to spending the day celebrating her birthday. But when someone from her former life turns up in Little Leaf Creek and there is a murder, Cassie finds that there is no way of escaping the past.
Cassie partners with her tenacious ex-cop next-door neighbor Tessa to solve the mysteries. Why did someone from Cassie's old life land up in Little Leaf Creek? Who committed the murder? Cassie has to reveal secrets from her past in order to get to the truth and make sure that her boyfriend Sebastian doesn't land up behind bars.
Will the murder be solved so that Cassie can finally start coming to terms with what she's been trying to leave behind?
Recipe included: Triple Chocolate Cake
Surprises in Little Leaf Creek is the fast-paced seventh book in the Little Leaf Creek Cozy Mystery Series. If you like unexpected twists and turns, lively personalities, lovable animals and a never-ending list of suspicious characters, then you'll love Cindy Bell's heartwarming whodunnit.
Buy Surprises in Little Leaf Creek to start solving the murder today!
Release date: May 20, 2021
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Surprises In Little Leaf Creek
Cassie Alberta brushed her curly, brown hair back from her eyes one more time, then sighed. It didn’t matter how long she took in the mirror, forty years, was forty years. As much as she’d been dreading her birthday, she didn’t feel as weighed down by it as she expected. Maybe the date on the calendar had changed, but her life still felt fresh and new. Since moving to Little Leaf Creek, everything she’d experienced had been part of her new beginning, and since she started dating Sebastian Vail, new possibilities played through her mind every day. But the fact that he hadn’t answered her call or texts that morning, left her a little less excited.
Cassie pushed away the disappointment and focused instead on a sure way to brighten her day. She headed through the metal gate that separated her property from her neighbor’s, and ascended the front porch to Tessa Watters’ front door. She gave a light knock, then started to open the door, as had become customary for her morning routine.
“No, not today, Cassie!” Tessa tried to push the door closed from the inside.
“Tessa? What’s wrong? I thought we could have breakfast together.” Cassie sniffed the air that wafted past the partially closed door. “And from what I can smell, you’ve cooked up something delicious in there. What are you making?”
“None of your business!” Tessa narrowed her eyes as she gave the door a hard shove with her good hip. What Tessa lacked in physical dexterity, she more than made up for in brute strength. The door latched shut.
Cassie gasped as she heard Tessa turn the lock on the door. She had a set of keys in her pocket that included one for her next-door neighbor’s front door, but of course she wouldn’t use it to force her way inside. Her heart dropped as she wondered if she had done something to offend Tessa.
When Cassie had first moved to Little Leaf Creek, after her husband’s untimely death, Tessa was one of the first people she met. Although met, wasn’t exactly the right word to use to describe their encounter. Tessa was considered the town recluse, and someone to be quite cautious around. But over time the pair had bonded, both over their shared love of solving mysteries, and their love of good food.
Tessa had spent most of her time in retirement pursuing her love for baking sweets, everything from pies to pastries. She had grown up baking with her mother and best friend, Alice. Alice had passed away quite some time ago and Cassie knew that baking helped Tessa feel close to her. Tessa said all the sweetness made up for the rough experiences she’d had as a police officer. Cassie just enjoyed the fruits of Tessa’s labor, some of which had her salivating as she stood outside Tessa’s locked door. It wasn’t the lack of the tasty treat that had her worried, though, it was the lack of Tessa’s well-hidden kind nature. It had taken quite some time to get on her good side, but she guessed it wouldn’t take all that much to end up on her bad side.
Cassie sighed and sat down on the front porch. She didn’t realize her mistake until two feisty goats came barreling toward her.
“Oh no! Slow down! I’ll give you the treats!” She waved her hands in front of her, but it was far too late. The goats knew she always had treats for them when she came over in the morning, usually carrot pieces, and they knew she kept them wrapped up in her pocket. Goat teeth began gnawing at her pockets as she tried to get to her feet.
“Billy! Gerry! Stop it!” Cassie stumbled and managed to grab the railing to get herself halfway up.
A barrage of barking sent the goats flying in different directions, as Harry, Tessa’s collie mix, charged toward her.
“My hero, Harry!” Cassie laughed as the dog sat down in front of her and seemed to smile. “Don’t worry, I didn’t forget.” She slipped a bone-shaped treat out of her pocket and tossed it to him.
Harry snapped it up as he wagged his tail.
Cassie threw the goats their treats before they could make it up the front steps again.
“Well, at least you three still seem to want me around.” She frowned as she glanced over her shoulder at Tessa’s front door. She’d already called her boyfriend, Sebastian, only to have the call go to voicemail, twice. She wasn’t usually someone who demanded the attention of others, but getting the cold shoulder from two of the most important people in her life, stung. They had both sent her texts wishing her a happy birthday first thing in the morning. But she really wanted to see them and speak to them.
“Happy birthday to me I guess.” Cassie opened Tessa’s front gate and closed it carefully behind her. “If I can’t have company, then I’ll at least have good food. Turning forty isn’t going to be easy if this is how my day starts out.” She shook her head as she walked down the street in the direction of the local diner.
After spending many years as the spouse of a wealthy and very well-connected CEO, she’d found that she wanted a new start in a new town and that included getting a new job. Her life hadn’t always been luxurious. Her childhood had been spent in a town much like this one, with dirt under her fingernails and sunburn on her cheeks. Her first job as a teenager had been in a diner, and luck would have it that the local diner needed a waitress, so she decided she would try it out again. Most of it came back to her immediately but her feet definitely hurt more and she got tired a bit easier. She was so glad that the owner of Mirabel’s Diner, had taken a chance on her and given her the job. She was sure that Mirabel Light would at least have a cheery greeting and a chocolate milkshake for her.
As Cassie pushed open the door to the diner and stepped inside voices greeted her from all over the spacious restaurant. She smiled as she returned a few waves to those she recognized, then headed to the front counter. A familiar face turned to greet her as she walked toward him. Detective Oliver Graham.
“Well, if it isn’t the birthday girl.” He smiled as he stood up from the barstool he’d been perched on. “Happy birthday.”
Sunlight that spilled in through the wide, front window of the diner splashed off of the badge he wore and bounced right into her eyes.
“Good morning, Ollie.” Cassie smiled as she settled onto the stool beside him. “Thanks.”
“I would have thought you’d be off on some grand adventure to celebrate, but instead you’re here on your day off?” Oliver narrowed his eyes as he sat back down as well.
“I’m too old for adventures now, Ollie, I might break a hip.” Cassie grinned.
“Oh, please tell me you’re not going to go down that road, when you barely look old enough to drink.” Oliver huffed.
“Oh wow, is that my birthday gift?” Cassie laughed. “You’d better be careful telling lies like that in public, people might stop trusting you.”
“I only speak the truth.” Oliver held up his hands as he studied her.
“Ollie’s right.” Mirabel set a milkshake down in front of Cassie.
The whipped cream was piled so high on top that it threatened to slide over the edge of the glass.
“Yum!” Cassie grinned. “I should say not for breakfast, but actually this is exactly what I was hoping for. You granted my birthday wish, Mirabel!”
“I sure hope it wasn’t the only one.” Mirabel shook her head. “There are a lot better things to wish for.”
“Cassie has to be careful now, because of her advanced age.” Oliver met Mirabel’s eyes. “Apparently, she’s quite fragile now.”
“Oh please.” Mirabel rolled her eyes. “If I didn’t have the employee paperwork to prove it, I wouldn’t believe today is your fortieth birthday. Cassie, you should appreciate that beauty you have, not everyone gets it. You are beautiful inside and out.”
Cassie met Mirabel’s eyes. She’d never seen anyone quite as stunning as Mirabel, from her long, red hair, bound as always in a tight braid, to her wide, warm blue eyes, she dazzled her from the first moment she met her. Not to mention the enthusiasm and positivity she emanated, which just added to her beauty. But Cassie guessed, that as many women did, Mirabel had a blind spot when it came to her own beauty. The memory of the time spent looking in the mirror that morning, hunting down new wrinkles, made the milkshake she sucked down a little less sweet.
“Mirabel, I have never met anyone as gorgeous as you, so you might want to take your own advice.”
“Is that so?” Mirabel laughed. “I guess you are getting old, Cassie, your eyesight is starting to go.” She grabbed Oliver’s mug from in front of him. “I’ll get you a refill, Detective.”
Oliver caught her hand before she could pull the mug away. “Cassie’s eyesight is perfect, and so is mine.” He gazed into her eyes for a long moment.
Mirabel froze, her eyes wide.
Cassie held back a smile as she watched the tension ripple between them.
“I’d love a refill, thanks.” Oliver released Mirabel’s hand and blushed as he looked away from her, and back toward Cassie. “Please tell me you have more plans than a milkshake.”
“I actually don’t have any plans at the moment, and that’s just how I like it. All I really want is to spend time with the wonderful people in my life.” Cassie smiled.
“I’m sure Sebastian has something special planned for you.” Oliver accepted a fresh cup of coffee from Mirabel. “If not, I might have to arrest him for stupidity.”
“Sebastian behind bars?” Mirabel glanced over at Cassie. “I can’t imagine that.”
“Me either.” Cassie laughed.
“I have to get going.” Oliver backed away from the counter. “I have to get back to the station.”
“Let me sort that out for you.” Mirabel poured Oliver’s coffee into a to-go cup. “You should stay a bit longer. Surely you can spare a few extra minutes to finish your coffee. Weren’t you encouraging Cassie to be adventurous? Maybe you should take your own advice.” She laughed.
“I really do have to get back.” Oliver crossed his arms.
Oliver’s tense demeanor was one of the first roadblocks Cassie had encountered when she moved to Little Leaf Creek, and though he’d relaxed a bit since rekindling his friendship with Tessa, he still often had a stern attitude.
“I made some of those apple cinnamon turnovers you like.” Mirabel smiled at him as she held out the cup of coffee. “Want one of those to go, too?”
“Yes, please.” Oliver took the cup, but avoided her eyes.
As Mirabel headed into the kitchen to get the pastry, Cassie rolled her eyes.
“Are you ever going to ask her out, Ollie?”
“We’ve been spending time together.” Oliver cleared his throat.
“That’s not the same as a real date and you know it.” Cassie sipped her milkshake.
“The timing isn’t right, Cassie. I just helped her out with all of the legal stuff with her ex-husband and his so-called friends, I don’t want her to think she owes me something.” Oliver shrugged. “Besides, I’m not even sure if she’s interested.”
“She made you pastries, Ollie.” Cassie smiled. “She’s interested. Speaking of that legal trouble, Mark Collingswood, the lawyer, helped you out with that right?”
“A bit, yes.” Oliver eyed her. “Why?”
“He just seems to have his hands in a lot of things. I’ve been wondering why.” Cassie shrugged.
“That curiosity is going to get you into trouble one of these days.” Oliver frowned.
“He and Tessa seem to know each other pretty well.” Cassie met his eyes.
“I think he holds a soft spot for Tessa. They go back years. I think they might have even dated at one point but I’m not sure.” Oliver had a sip of coffee. “I don’t know the whole story of what happened between them.”
“I thought there was something there.” Cassie nodded. “I don’t know, something about him just feels off to me.”
“With Mark, yes, things definitely seem off.” Oliver chuckled as Mirabel stepped out of the kitchen with a small, white paper bag.
“I put two in there, you’re getting a little skinny.” Mirabel clucked her tongue as she handed him the bag.
“Sure I am.” Oliver smiled as he took the pastries from her. “Thanks Mirabel.”
“Anytime, Detective.” Mirabel winked at him.
Oliver started to turn away, then turned back. He looked over at Cassie, then focused on Mirabel.
“Are you free tonight? I mean, are you—” Noise from his radio cut him off before he could finish his sentence.
“A death?” Mirabel’s eyes widened as some numbers floated out of the speaker on the radio. “Isn’t that what that code is for?”
“How did you know that?” Oliver held her gaze as he pulled his radio from its holster. He spoke into it, informing them that he was available.
The dispatch officer rattled off an address.
“That’s Sebastian’s address!” Cassie jumped to her feet. She knocked over her milkshake in the process. The sweet, sticky ice cream pooled across the counter, completely ignored.
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