After suffering a personal tragedy Abby Sullivan buys a huge old seaside mansion she has never even seen, packs up her life in San Francisco, and moves to Holiday Bay Maine, where she is adopted, quite against her will, by a huge Maine Coon Cat named Rufus, a drifter with her own tragic past named Georgia, and a giant dog with an inferiority complex named Ramos. What Abby thought she needed was alone time to heal. What she ended up with was, an inn she never knew she wanted, a cat she couldn't seem to convince to leave, and a new family she'd never be able to live without.
In book 24 in the series, love is in the air as one of Holiday Bay's favorite couples decide to wed. Abby is determined to give her friends their perfect day in spite of the series of unfortunate events that prove to be almost more of a challenge than she can handle.
Release date: September 26, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1)
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The Inn at Holiday Bay: Witness in the Wedding
Phineas Potter, a pompous little man with beady black eyes and short dark hair that had
begun to gray at the crown, had blown into my life just long enough to send my normally even
temper into a dither I’d yet to recover from. I’d hoped to escape his scathing remarks and biting
disposition by heading into town for the Labor Day Cook-off, only to find the man chatting with
two of the five judges assembled to taste the Saturday afternoon offerings.
“See the short man wearing the purple fedora standing near the judges’ booth talking to the
man with the blue shirt and the woman wearing the bright pink scarf?” I asked my best friend
and roommate, Georgia Carter. When I’d walked up, Georgia had been chatting with Amy
Hogan, her cook-off partner for the three-day Labor Day event.
“Yeah, what about him?” Georgia asked as we watched the man walk away from the pair
he’d been speaking with, only to disappear into the crowd.
“His name is Phineas Potter. He’s an irritating and condescending egotist who checked into
the inn this morning after you’d already left for the cook-off.”
“Egotist?” Amy laughed as she leaned a hip against the table where the team had displayed
their entry for this afternoon’s judging. “That doesn’t sound like the sort of thing the Abby
Sullivan I know would say.”
“It doesn’t,” I agreed. “I usually go out of my way to graciously welcome all of our guests,
but this man began pushing my buttons from the minute he arrived.” I crossed my arms over my
chest and began tapping my fingers on my forearms. “I can’t remember the last time I let
someone get to me the way this man seems to have.”
“Phineas Potter?” Georgia asked. “The name doesn’t ring a bell. Did he have a reservation?”
“No,” I answered. “The man didn’t have a reservation. He showed up after everyone had left
for town, so there was no one to ask about it, but apparently, he’s somehow related to Jeremy.” I
referred to Jeremy Slater, a full-time Inn at Holiday Bay employee and one of my best friends. “I
wasn’t able to get ahold of Jeremy, who left with Jovana, Carlos, and Annabelle early this
morning, but according to Mr. Potter, not only was he assured that he’d be welcome at the
wedding, but that we’d be happy to find a place for him to stay as well.”
Jovana was Jeremy’s sister, and Carlos Santiago was Jovana’s new husband. Annabelle Cole
was Jovana’s daughter and Jeremy’s niece.
“Did you explain that we were booked solid?” Georgia asked, a slight lilt of panic in her
“I did, but he became outraged when I suggested he might need to consider a place in town. I
should have just sent him on his way, but I didn’t want to do anything to upset Jeremy, Jovana, or
the delicate equilibrium we all seem to be struggling to maintain, so I agreed to at least attempt
to work something out.”
Georgia groaned. “Work something out? We’re already bursting at the seams. Given all the
unexpected guests, I don’t see how we can accommodate this man.”
“Unexpected guests?” Amy asked, inserting herself into the conversation. “I think someone
needs to catch me up. I knew that Jeremy’s sister was coming to the wedding with her husband,
but this is the first time I’ve heard about other out-of-town family members attending.”
“It really has been a nightmare,” Georgia said as the judges walked on the stage and began
organizing themselves for the awards ceremony. “When Jeremy and Mylie decided to move the
wedding to the weekend following Labor Day, I knew it would be tricky, but I never imagined
just how tricky it would actually be.”
Jeremy was marrying another full-time employee of the Inn at Holiday Bay, Mylie Sanders.
The wedding was scheduled for seven days from today. The happy couple originally planned to
wed in November, but Jeremy’s sister, Jovana, who lived in Spain with Carlos, had requested that
the wedding be moved to September to accommodate her schedule. Jeremy and Mylie had been
reluctant to make the change, but Annabelle, who lived with Jeremy and Mylie and had been
raised by Jeremy since her mother moved overseas, had been looking forward to her mother and
new stepfather visiting and didn’t want to disappoint her.
“Originally, Jeremy reserved two suites in the inn; one for his sister and her husband and the
other for his aunt and uncle, who live in Florida,” I explained. “That was fine. We knew we
needed those two suites in advance, so we reserved them with no problem, even though it would
be a busy weekend due to the beginning of the leaf season. Then, two weeks ago, Mylie’s cousin,
Adrianna, called and informed us that she and her husband, Armand, planned to attend with their
two children and requested lodging for the four of them. Coming up with two extra suites at the
last minute was tough, but a family who’d reserved two rooms called and canceled, so instead of
pulling a name from the waitlist, we decided to accommodate Adrianna. Then, two days ago, an
old friend of Mylie’s named Cassidy, who’d initially indicated that she’d be unable to attend due
to a conflict, informed Mylie that she’d had a last-minute change in plans and would be able to
attend after all. We put her in suite one, which we’d actually planned to keep unoccupied during
the wedding due to the potential for excessive noise and overall busyness, but Cassidy seems to
be the flexible sort, and Mylie really is happy that she was able to be there for her big day.”
Georgia jumped in. “The real problem began when Jovana and Carlos arrived with four extra
“Four?” Amy gasped.
Georgia nodded. “Carlos invited his sister, Giselle, and his sister’s boyfriend, Stephan, to
come with them from Spain. That was bad enough, but then Stephan invited two of his friends,
Aldo and Efren.”
“Jeremy’s sister arranged for a private jet to bring them to Holiday Bay, so adding a few extra
passengers to the flight wasn’t a problem for them, but of course, it was a huge problem for us,” I
“I should say so,” Amy agreed. “I can’t believe these people showed up at the last minute
expecting lodging. What did you do?”
I responded to Amy’s question. “We put Giselle and Stephan in Haven’s cottage, and Haven
is sleeping on the sofa in our cottage for now, although the man in suite six will be leaving on
Sunday, so we can move Giselle and Stephan to the attic suite then. Aldo and Efren are in the
basement. The renovation of the carriage house is complete, so Mylie, Jeremy, and Annabelle
moved out of the basement and into the carriage house just a few days ago. The basement hadn’t
been cleaned since the move, but it was all we had, and both men agreed that as long as they had
clean bedding, they didn’t mind a little dust and dirt.”
“So, the entire inn is booked with wedding guests,” Amy confirmed.
“It will be once Giselle and Stephan move into suite six,” Georgia answered.
“So where does this Phineas come in?” Amy asked.
“When he arrived looking for a room today, I had no idea what I was going to do with the
man, but then Haven suggested that we might try to incentivize the guest who had reserved the
second one-bedroom cottage to look for lodging elsewhere. He wasn’t due to arrive until
tomorrow and was booked into the cottage for ten days, so when I explained about the wedding,
noise, and confusion that would likely go along with it, he agreed to accept a free stay at the inn
at some future date in addition to a free room at the inn in town for his current stay.”
“The inn in town gave him a free room?” Amy asked.
“I paid for his room,” I informed her. “All in all, between having to refund the man for the
prepaid room at the Inn at Holiday Bay and pay for the suite at the Bayside Inn and Suites, Mr.
Potter has already turned out to be a very expensive guest.”
“And he was rude on top of that?” Amy asked.
“Not only rude, but he was also belligerent and condescending,” I confirmed. “He referred to
the inn as common day lodging and his suite as barely adequate. He even tried to make it sound
like he was doing me a favor by agreeing to stay in such a subpar lodging property.”
“Subpar!” Georgia said a bit too loudly.
“He made the point that we didn’t even have a pool or offer spa services as any lodging
property worthy of his presence would. When I pointed out that our guests seemed to enjoy the
quiet atmosphere of the sea just outside their window and, generally speaking, didn’t seem to
mind that we didn’t have a pool, he looked me up and down and then said, ‘common day’ in a
voice that made it clear that he was referring to me and not the inn.”
“What a jerk,” Amy said. “If it had been me, I would have booted him out.”
“Or decked him,” Georgia added.
“I’m going to talk to Jeremy just to make sure he isn’t a favorite uncle or something, but if he
continues to pick at and belittle every little thing we have to offer, I may just do that. Boot him
out, not deck him,” I clarified.
When Georgia’s face began turning red, I realized I shouldn’t have brought this whole thing
up at this particular point. I was about to change the subject when Amy asked about the guests
staying in our other cottages.
Happy for the diversion from the previous subject involving the most obnoxious guest we’d
had in quite some time, I jumped in with an answer. “George and Brit leased their cottage
through October, so they’ll be in town for the wedding.” George Baxter and his niece, Brit
Baxter, had booked a two-bedroom cottage for the entire summer. “George has been busy with a
project he’s been working on with Joel, and Brit has actually been out of town,” I referred to Joel
Stafford, a friend of ours who recently moved to the area. “Brit and George both seem fine with
the wedding and the circus it has created, so I don’t see a problem there. The family in the
second two-bedroom cottage will be checking out Sunday and have assured me that they planned
to spend most of the weekend in town and will be fine with the increase in noise caused by the
group occupying the rest of the units. I called the couple who had been scheduled to check into
the two-bedroom cottage after the couple who is currently occupying it left, and they agreed to
postpone their trip. In exchange, I offered them two free nights plus a huge discount on
additional nights when they stayed with us at a later date. Once the two-bedroom cottage has
been cleaned, we can move Aldo and Efren out of the basement.”
“It sounds like you’ll be okay as long as no one else from either family shows up looking for
a room,” Amy said.
I agreed and hoped there wouldn’t be additional surprises, at least none involving out-of-
town guests needing a place to stay. Spotting the purple fedora in the crowd, I watched as the
tiny man made his way across the room. He paused to speak to Stephan, who must have come
with Giselle, although I didn’t notice her in the crowd. I supposed the fact that the man obviously
knew the boyfriend of Jeremy’s brother-in-law’s sister likely meant that he was connected to
Jovana in some manner, but it seemed equally likely that the man didn’t actually know Jeremy,
so I had to wonder why Jovana would have invited him. For that matter, why would she have
invited any of them?
Stephan left the building with Phineas, who I hoped would use his time in town to find
lodging more to his liking, so I turned my attention to the judges who’d gathered to decide on the
winner of the cook-off’s appetizer category. There were five celebrity judges, all of whom were
unknown to me, but both Georgia and Amy seemed to recognize all of them.
After a bit of a delay, it seemed the judges had managed to get organized since the man
wearing the blue shirt I’d seen speaking to Phineas earlier moved to the front of the makeshift
stage that had been set up. He thanked everyone for coming out and then launched into a long
monologue explaining the schedule and rules for the three-day event. Sweet treats, desserts, and
baked goods were featured this morning. Georgia and Amy had taken second place with their
carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and chocolate drizzle, but if you asked me, their cake
should have been awarded the blue ribbon. Of course, the mile-high tarte that won the blue
ribbon did look delicious.
This afternoon, the competition featured appetizers and starters. Amy had made her famous
crab and lobster wontons with creamy horseradish dip. The combination of the crispy wonton,
seafood filling, and spicy dipping sauce was complete perfection. In my mind, there was no way
the pair wouldn’t walk away with a blue ribbon to go with their red one.
Even though I really did think Georgia and Amy should have won this morning, I supposed I
could see why it might not be a good idea for them to take first place in every category.
Tomorrow would feature creative sides in the morning, followed by food from the grill or
smoker later in the day. I wasn’t sure what they planned to enter for their creative side dish, but I
knew that Amy was making her famous ribs in the afternoon, which were not only fall of the
bone tender, but the sauce she and Georgia had come up with was to die for.
Day three of the cook-off featured the clam chowder face-off, which was really the event
everyone hoped to win. I’d tried Georgia and Amy’s test batch, and as far as I was concerned,
there was no way anyone else would have a chance.
Once the rules were outlined, the woman wearing the bright pink scarf I’d seen talking to
Phineas walked forward and handed a note to the man at the microphone. He read it, frowned,
and then announced that he needed to take a short break but would be back shortly to announce
the winners. It seemed like an odd time to take a break, but perhaps they’d found a problem with
one of the entries. Everyone seemed to be waiting for a bit more of an explanation as he turned
and followed the woman wearing the bright pink scarf out of the room.
“I wonder what that’s all about,” Amy said as we turned toward each other after the man with
the blue shirt had left.
“It was odd the way the man just left right in the middle of his spiel, but I suppose the
woman wearing the pink scarf brought news of an issue of some sort,” I said. “Do either of you
know the man wearing the blue shirt who seems to be running the competition?”
“The man in the blue shirt with the crazy tall hair hosts a cooking show,” Georgia informed
me. “His name is William Callister, but everyone just refers to him as Chef Callister. He has a
show on NBC and is best known for doing cooking segments with an international flair. Most
recently, he hosted a five-part series filmed in Lisbon.”
“I’ve never seen the show you’re referring to, but I recognize the name,” I said. “I didn’t
realize our little local cook-off was such a big deal that we would attract celebrity judges.”
“Last year, chamber of commerce members judged the event, but this year, the cook-off is
being sponsored by Davidson Foods,” Amy explained. Davidson Foods was one of the largest
packaged and frozen food distributors in the States. “Apparently, Davidson Foods is taking to the
road and sponsoring a series of cook-offs in small towns like ours across the country as part of
their new advertising campaign. The cook-offs will be televised, and Davidson Foods has
decided to provide celebrity judges to bring in the viewership.”
I could see how there was a certain appeal to the idea of bringing small-town America to the
forefront of their campaign. “So, is Chef Callister one of the judges in addition to acting as the
spokesperson?” I asked.
“I thought I heard that Eileen Wexel was one of the judges.” I referred to a local woman who
had judged events in the past.
“She was before Davidson Foods announced they were providing their own judges,” Amy
said. She laughed. “I’ve been catering to Eileen’s every whim for the entire summer, and it turns
out that the special treatment was all for naught.”
“She’ll likely be back to judging the competition next year,” Georgia reminded her.
“I guess you make a good point,” Amy acknowledged,
“So who, other than Chef Callister, has been recruited to act as a judge?” I asked.
Georgia responded to my question. “The woman standing next to the man with the black shirt
is Renova Hollingsworth. She’s a nationally syndicated food columnist. Frasier Michaelson is the
man wearing the black shirt who Hollingsworth is standing next to. He hosts a reality cooking
show on the Food Network.”
“And the man wearing the lime green pants?” I wondered.
“Matthew Dougherty,” Amy answered.
“He’s a restaurant critic based in New York, and the tall man standing next to him was
recently hired as the new head chef at Rinaldi’s,” Georgia said, referring to a Beverly Hills
restaurant that was nearly impossible to get a reservation for unless you were an athlete or movie
I looked at Georgia. “I’m surprised Davidson Foods didn’t ask you to be a judge. Cooking
with Georgia has grown in popularity over the past few years.”
Georgia smiled. “The show is gaining popularity on a local level, but the judges who have
been selected have a national presence.”
“So, is it just the five of them?” I asked.
Georgia frowned. “I think so, although I’m not sure if there will be any other judges at some
point. These are the only five who have been here today.”
“What about the woman wearing the pink scarf who brought the note?” I asked.
“I didn’t recognize the woman or know her name, but I’m pretty sure she works for Davidson
Foods,” Georgia answered.
I supposed it made sense that someone would be here to represent the sponsor.
“It looks as if Phineas is back,” Georgia said, nodding toward the back wall where Phineas
appeared to be taking photos.
“Why would this man who showed up for Jeremy and Mylie’s wedding be taking photos of
the crowd who had gathered for the cook-off?” Amy asked.
I frowned. “I’m not sure. I really have no idea why Phineas is even here.”
“I suppose he might be in town for the cook-off and simply needed a place to stay, so he lied
about being here for the wedding,” Amy suggested.
“That seems like a stretch,” I said. “Besides, Phineas knew both Jeremy and Jovana by name,
and if he was just some random guy looking for a place to stay, I doubt he would have been in
possession of that information.”
“It looks as if he’s leaving again,” Georgia said.
I watched him head toward the door, bumping into a woman wearing a dark brown sweater
as he made his way through the crowd. The woman said something to him, which he seemed to
ignore as he quickly made his way to the exit. Not only was the man odd-looking, but he also
seemed to be acting oddly. I couldn’t help but wonder if something more was going on than an
obnoxious visitor in town for a wedding.
I was about to say something about the man’s odd behavior to Georgia and Amy when a
woman with short blond hair wearing a bright red apron wandered over. She’d been chatting with
a group of women who, based on their colorful aprons, all looked to be contestants.
“I don’t suppose you know what’s going on?” she asked Georgia.
“I have no idea,” Georgia answered. She looked at me, “This is my friend, Abby Sullivan.
Abby, this is Francesca DeMond. Francesca is the chef at Sunday Supper.” Sunday Supper was a
popular restaurant in Sunday River, Maine, which I’d never tried, but many of my guests had
“I’m happy to meet you,” I said.
“It’s nice to meet you as well.” She turned her attention back to Georgia, making eye contact
and then glancing over her shoulder at the group she had been speaking to before joining us.
“Bethany told me that Vivica told her that she noticed someone lingering near the booth assigned
to the women from Kittery,” Francesca informed us. Bethany Livingston was Francesca’s
competition partner and good friend, and Vivica Hofton was a chef from Bar Harbor. “According
to Bethany, Vivica seemed to think someone may have been tampering with the food.”
“Tampering?” Georgia asked. “I haven’t noticed anything.”
“Nor have I, but it does seem that we might want to keep our eyes open. According to
Bethany, Vivica claims that her award-winning crab dip was much saltier than usual and feels
certain tampering was involved. When she said as much to the group of chefs she was chatting
with, Irma Jean shared that her cake should have won the morning competition, but the judges
felt it was gritty. We both know that Irma Jean’s gritty cake might not have been caused by
tampering so much as by a lack of stirring, but the whole thing seems suspicious.”
“So do you think someone added something to Irma Jean’s base ingredients to cause it to be
gritty and to Vivica’s base ingredients to make her crab dip salty?” Georgia asked.
“I can’t say for sure what is going on, but as I said, it does seem that something is afoot. If I
were you, I’d keep my eyes on my booth and never let my guard down. If there is a rat in the
mix, it seems likely that we’ll all be hit at some point.”
“Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes on my booth,” Georgia said.
Francesca went back to her friends, and Georgia turned toward Amy with a grin on her face.
“I can’t say what happened to Irma Jean’s cake, but if someone added salt to Vivica’s crab dip, it
was likely her cooking partner, Tisha.”
“Tisha is Vivica’s sous-chef at the restaurant where they both work in Bar Harbor. Why
would she add salt to their entry?” Amy asked.
Georgia leaned in close. “The rumor is that Tisha has been looking for a head chef position,
and a restaurant in Augusta was interested, but when they called Vivica for a recommendation,
she told them that Tisha still had a lot of learning to do before she was ready for a head chef job
so she couldn’t recommend her. I guess the restaurant that had been interested in Tisha decided
to pass based on the lack of recommendation from her boss, and when Tisha found out about it,
she was livid.”
“Maybe Tisha really isn’t ready,” I said.
“Maybe,” Georgia agreed. “Everyone thought Tisha would quit over this, but she hasn’t yet.
As I said, Tisha is angry and has been badmouthing Vivica to anyone who will listen. I wouldn’t
be surprised to learn that she intentionally sabotaged the entry. Of course, that would be difficult
to prove, so in the end, we may never know if tampering was involved or if it was simply bad
Drama at the cook-off. I guessed I should have expected as much. There were entire
television shows devoted to the very idea of drama amongst chefs who came together to compete
for a prize. I wasn’t a chef or a drama queen, but I still found that I was having the best time.
I smiled as Shelby Morris, Amy’s roommate and business partner, wandered over with a
woman I was pretty sure I’d never met. “Hey, all,” Shelby said. “This here is Megan
Mulholland,” she introduced the woman standing to her left. “Megan and I waitressed together
for a while back when I lived in South Carolina.” She paused and slightly turned so that she was
looking at her friend. “Megan, these are my good friends, Abby Sullivan and Georgia Carter, and
my business partner, roommate, and good friend, Amy Hogan.”
“I’m happy to meet you all,” Megan responded.
“Are you in town for the weekend?” Amy asked.
“I am,” Megan answered, looking around as if searching for someone in the crowd. “I’m
actually here with my boss, Gwenevere Wilson. Gwenny has a popular cooking podcast and is
here to do a series of interviews, so I came along to set things up.”
“Really,” I said. “What’s the name of her podcast?”
“The Spice is Right.”
“I’ve heard of that,” I said. “One of my guests told me about a series of episodes that were
recorded in Europe.”
Megan nodded. “Gwenny and I spent two months in Europe this past summer. We traveled to
six countries, interviewing top chefs in each of those six countries.”
“It sounds like you have an interesting job,” I said.
“Oh, I do,” Megan agreed.
“I listen to that podcast quite often,” Georgia jumped in. “Gwenevere is very good at what
she does. I really loved the segment set along the French Riviera. It was all so interesting. Not
only is Gwenny knowledgeable, but she’s very personable. I’d love to meet her if she’s here.”
“Gwenny is pretty tied up today, but if you’re Georgia Carter from Cooking with Georgia, I
think Gwenny plans to stop by and introduce herself. She heard you were entered in the
competition and hoped to talk you into an interview.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged,” Georgia said. “If you’d like, I can give you my cell number,
and you or Gwenny can call me to arrange a time that will work for both of us.”
Megan grinned. “Thank you. I appreciate that.” She turned to Amy. “If you have time, I’d
love to suggest to Gwenevere that she interview you as well. Shelby has told me that not only are
you her new business partner, but the head chef at the Bistro.”
“I have time,” Amy said, grinning from ear to ear. “And I’d love to have the opportunity to
promote the Bistro.”
“If you don’t mind sharing your cell phone number, I’ll pass it along to my boss.”
Amy recited her number to Megan.
“Gwenny has her big interview with Calista Davidson this evening, but I’m sure she’ll call
you both to schedule interviews later in the weekend.”
“Calista Davidson is here?” Georgia asked.
Megan’s eyes lit up. “I haven’t personally seen her, but as far as I know, she’s here and ready
to talk. In fact, I understand that the entire Davidson family is up in arms over the big reveal.”
“Big reveal?” I asked. “I thought Gwenevere did a cooking podcast.”
“She does, but she also likes to mix things up with interviews with a shock or twist. Last
month, she did an exposé on Chef Groverson from LA. Groverson is, or I guess I should say
Groverson was, the head chef at Quake before he was fired following statements made by
Gwenny about the man during one of her podcasts.”
“What sort of statements?” I asked.
Megan shrugged. “Just comments about how he treated the staff and how he cut corners and
replaced quality ingredients with ingredients of subpar quality.”
“Were the comments true?” I wondered.
“Of course they were. Gwenny digs up dirt, but she doesn’t lie. I know there are those who
feel that Gwenny may have crossed a line a few times in the past with some of her big reveals,
but the reality is that people love that stuff. Digging up dirt helps to keep The Spice is Right in
front of so many viewers.”
I guessed that the spice in The Spice is Right was gossip rather than cinnamon or oregano.
Maybe I wouldn’t bother with the show after all. “I get the need to provide sensationalized
content, but why Calista Davidson?” I asked. “She’s the wife of the sponsor but not a chef. I’m
not sure I even understand why she’s being interviewed.”
Georgia explained. “Calista Davidson used to be Calista Ravenwood before she married
Duncan Davidson and changed her last name. The Ravenwood family is quite wealthy and
politically connected, so when Calista and Duncan decided to wed, everyone seemed to feel that
a union between them was not only strategic but somehow expected. During her tenure as
Duncan’s wife, she took on the position of spokesperson for Davidson Foods, which seems to be
the main reason the company has grown so much in the past few years. Calista is a savvy
businesswoman who used her elevated position in the company to secure a place on the board of
Davidson Foods. It seemed the arrangement was working out for everyone. At least for a while.”
“And then Calista found out about Duncan’s mistress,” Amy answered. “When Calista found
out about the affair, she moved out of the home she shared with Duncan, quit her job as
spokesperson for Davidson Foods, and filed for divorce. The thing is that she kept her stock and
her seat on the board. Much to Duncan’s horror, Calista seems determined to use her position
with the company to make life for Duncan as difficult as possible.”
“And the best part is,” Megan jumped back in, “that Calista claims to have a bunch of dirt on
Davidson Foods. According to what I understand to be true, the dirt Calista has will totally
destroy the company.”
“If Calista’s news is that big, why is she going public on Gwenevere’s podcast?” Amy asked.
“No offense to Gwenevere or her podcast, but this sounds more like information for a national
Megan frowned. “I’m not sure why she chose Gwenevere’s podcast as her platform. It almost
seems as if Gwenny somehow knows Calista. Maybe they have a history that I’m unaware of.
Gwenny didn’t share many details when she told me about the interview and her plan to record it
here in Maine.” She frowned. “The whole thing seems odd, but I’m only the assistant, so I guess
I’ll just do my job and assist.”
I guessed if Gwenevere and Calista were friends from the past, then Calista might have
decided to help her friend’s career by using her podcast to make her big announcement.
“Any idea what sort of dirt Calista plans to share?” Shelby asked.
“No idea,” Megan answered. “I know that Gwenny and Calista have spoken on the phone on
a couple occasions, but I wasn’t privy to the content of those conversations. Normally,
Gwenevere isn’t so secretive, but I suppose that part of the agreement Calista negotiated with
Gwenny is that she keeps quiet about the content of the interview until the podcast airs. I haven’t
even been invited to attend the airing. It’s all very hush-hush at this point.”
“Well, I can’t wait to hear what Calista has to say,” Amy said. “If Calista really does know
something and is looking to get back at her ex, I will be willing to bet that what she has to share
is going to be juicy.”
“The juiciest.” Megan grinned.
Megan segued into a conversation about some juicy news she’d picked up about one of the
other chefs in the cook-off, who I’d never even heard of, so I turned my attention to Shelby. “By
the way, I want to thank you again for allowing us to borrow Nikki for a couple weeks. Having
her at the inn has allowed Jeremy and Mylie to spend time with their guests.” I referred to Nikki
Peyton, who worked at the inn before accepting a position at the Bistro.
“I heard that everyone showed up early,” Shelby commented. “Nikki came by yesterday to
pick up her check and told me you already have a full inn even though the wedding is a week
I nodded. “I can understand why Jeremy’s sister might have wanted to show up early. She
has, after all, come all the way from Spain, but I’m not sure why everyone else decided to come
early as well.”
“Free room at the most charming inn on the coast,” Shelby answered.
I smiled. “Yeah. I guess offering complimentary suites was a bad idea from the beginning. I
will admit that I got caught up in the romance of the whole thing, but in my defense, it was only
supposed to be two suites.”
“Surely the guests Jeremy’s sister brought along don’t assume that their suites will be
provided at no charge as well,” Shelby said.
“No one has mentioned payment,” I answered. “I guess the time to bring it up would have
been when everyone showed up, but it was so chaotic just trying to find rooms for everyone that
I guess a conversation concerning the cost of all these rooms never came up.”
“You should have Jeremy speak to his sister about it. I would be surprised if she brought
extra guests, assuming their rooms would be comped. It’s more likely that she’s expecting to be
presented with a bill at some point.”
“I guess you’re right,” I said. “It looks like Jeremy is here with his sister, her husband, and
Annabelle,” I said, glancing toward the table where samples of each entry had been provided for
the judges. “I’m going to wander over and say hi.”
“I’ll come with you,” Shelby said. “Megan left to find her boss, and I’d like to meet
I assured Georgia I’d be back to help her pack everything up once the winners were
announced and then crossed the room with Shelby.
“Hey, guys,” I said to the group.
“Hey, Abby.” Annabelle ran over and hugged me. “Did they say who won yet?”
“Not yet. It seemed as if the master of ceremonies was about to announce the winners, but
then the man left, and he hasn’t returned yet.” I greeted Jovana and then turned toward Shelby.
“This is my good friend and owner of the Bistro at Holiday Bay, Shelby Morris. Shelby, this is
Jeremy’s sister, Jovana, and her husband, Carlos Santiago.”
“I’m so happy to meet you both,” Shelby said. She held out a hand in greeting. “Annabelle
talks about you all the time.”
“She’s mentioned you as well,” Jovana said, returning Shelby’s offer of a handshake.
Carlos kissed the back of her hand. “Shelby with the pretty blue eyes.”
Shelby quirked a brow, and Carlos laughed. “That was how Annabelle described you the first
time she spoke of you to me. She said you had a nice laugh, a funny bar cat, and pretty blue
Shelby smiled at Annabelle. “Well, thank you, sweetheart.”
Annabelle grinned back at Shelby, seemingly delighted to have won her approval.
This was the first time I had an opportunity to speak to Jeremy since Phineas checked in, so I
decided to ask about the man. “I’m wondering if you invited a man named Phineas Potter to the
“The name doesn’t ring a bell,” Jeremy said in response to my question.
“He showed up after everyone had left to come into town. He said he was a member of your
family and was here for the wedding. He demanded a room, which I had to scramble to supply. I
hate to speak ill of anyone, but the man was extremely discourteous.”
Jeremy turned to his sister. “Does the name ring a bell with you?”
Jovana shook her head. “No, and since Phineas is such a unique name, I would think if we
had a cousin or some other distant relative with that name, I would remember it.” She frowned
and then glanced at me. “Are you sure that he said he was a member of our family? Maybe he’s
related to Mylie.”
“No, he specifically said he was with Jeremy’s family, and I saw him speaking to Stephan
“I suppose the man might be a friend of Stephan’s,” Jovana said.
“Why would Stephan invite someone to my wedding?” Jeremy asked. “For that matter, why
would Stephan come to my wedding? I’d never even met the guy until you all showed up.”
Jovana looked offended by Jeremy’s tone of frustration. “Stephan is Giselle’s boyfriend, and
Giselle is my sister-in-law. I didn’t think you’d mind if I invited them. Now that Carlos and I are
married, Giselle is family.”
“And Aldo, Efren, and Phineas?” Jeremy asked.
She shrugged, but I noticed a look in her eye that really amounted to nothing more than a
narrowing of her gaze, yet that narrowing seemed to have meaning. “I suppose it might have
been best not to invite Aldo and Efren, but they’re here now, and when I spoke to Mylie, she
seemed fine about having the extra guests at the wedding. As for Phineas, as I said, I wasn’t the
one to invite him. I really do think this man may be attached to Mylie or her family in some
I doubted Phineas was attached to Mylie, and I doubted Mylie was okay with all the extra
guests, but I was sure she didn’t want to make waves with her soon-to-be sister-in-law. I looked
around. “Where is Mylie anyway? I know she told me she was coming into town.”
“She’s with her cousin and her family,” Jeremy shared. “They planned to meet up with
Cassidy later,” he said, referring to Mylie’s friend. “We figured that sightseeing as one large
group would be cumbersome, so she went with her family, and I went with mine.”
I supposed that made sense.
“Oh, look, Marnie and Cricket are here,” Shelby said, waving to the sisters from across the
room. It was abundantly clear to me Shelby was looking for a way out of the conversation and
realized that Marnie and Cricket might provide that way out. “I’m going to go and say hi.” She
turned toward Jovana and Carlos. “It was very nice meeting both of you. I’m sure we’ll have the
chance to chat again.” Cricket and Marnie Abernathy had recently moved to Holiday Bay and
were co-owners of the local flower shop, All About Bluebells.
“It was nice to meet you as well,” Jovana said as Shelby turned to leave.
Jeremy turned back toward me once Shelby had made her exit. “I was going to ask about
dinner. Since Georgia is tied up here, I planned to head back and prepare something. I left shortly
after breakfast, however, so I didn’t get a head count, but we ran into Kennedy, who had talked to
Nikki, and Nikki had indicated to her that everyone was eating in town this evening.”
“Everyone headed into town for the day, and it seemed as if most folks planned to be gone
for dinner,” I answered. “The only guests I didn’t speak to directly were Giselle, Stephan, Aldo,
Efren, and Phineas.”
“My sister, Stephan, Aldo, and Efren are going out drinking,” Carlos said. “They won’t be
back to the inn for dinner.” He looked at Jovana. “They invited us to join them.”
“That would be fun,” Jovana said, although the look on her face said otherwise. “But I’m
thinking we should go somewhere nice for dinner first. Just the two of us.” She glanced down at
Annabelle, who stood beside her as if she’d almost forgotten she was there. “You don’t mind, do
I could tell Annabelle did mind, but she said she didn’t.
“I’ll just take Annabelle with me,” Jeremy said. “Mylie mentioned that she wanted to talk to
her about her bridesmaid flowers anyway.”
I knew that all the flowers for the wedding, including the bridesmaid flowers, had been
ordered weeks ago, but I could see that Annabelle was on the verge of tears, so talking about the
flowers was a perfect diversion.
“Okay, then I guess we’ll just go now.” Jovana kissed her daughter on the top of the head,
took her husband by the arm, and then headed toward the exterior door of the community center
where the cook-off was being held.
“It looks as if they’re finally going to announce the winners,” I said to Jeremy and Annabelle
as the man who would announce the winners returned from wherever he’d gone. “Let’s go and
join Georgia and Amy.” I took Annabelle’s hand in mine, and the three of us headed across the
“So, are all the contestants from Holiday Bay?” Jeremy asked Georgia once we’d arrived at
the space that had been reserved for Georgia and Amy.
“No. Amy and I are the only team from Holiday Bay. All the teams are from Maine, but each
team is from a different city.”
Jeremy looked around the room. “Okay, so who’s who?”
Georgia started with the booth to her left. “The team to my left is from Bar Harbor. Chef
Vivica Hofton and her sous-chef, Tisha, represent that wonderful seafood restaurant we tried out
a while back.”
“Oh, I loved that place,” Jeremy’s eyes lit up. “The scallops were excellent, and I thought the
dressing on the salad was quite unique.”
“Vivica is a very talented chef,” Georgia agreed.
“And the team to their left?” Jeremy asked.
“Chef Francesca DuMont and her friend, Bethany. Francesca is the head chef at Sunday
Dinner in Sunday River.”
“Another restaurant with excellent food. I probably had the best burger of my life there when
I took Annabelle and Mylie skiing this past winter.”
“Francesca does make a good burger,” Georgia agreed.
“And to her left?” Jeremy asked.
“Chef Rudy Boatman from Bangor, and to Rudy’s left is Chef Frank Montgomery from
Portland. I don’t know the names of either of their assistants.”
“And to Frank’s left?” Jeremy asked.
“Chef Evington from Kennebunkport, and to Evington’s left is Chef Oswald from Augusta. I
don’t know their assistants’ names either, although I’m pretty sure everyone’s name can be found
in the program. To the left of the Augusta team is Chef Jicarilla from Kittery, and to her left is
Chef Tingley from Newport.”
“And the women to our right?”
“Chef Irma Jean Huckleberry and her sister, whose name I didn’t catch. The team is from
“So, ten teams in all, with each team having a head chef and an assistant,” Jeremy confirmed.
“So, who is taking the lead on your team?”
“Amy, actually. She wanted to promote the Bistro, and I didn’t care who was the lead for our
“That’s really awesome.” He grinned. “You know we’re all pulling for you.”
The man in the blue shirt, who I now knew was Chef Callister, apologized for the delay and
then announced that the third-place winner was Francesca from Sunday River; the second-place
winner was Chef Rudy from Bangor, who seemed to do well every year, and as expected,
Georgia and Amy took the blue ribbon for their delicious wontons. Once the awards were
presented to the winners, the contestants began packing up, and the audience cleared out.
Annabelle seemed to forget about her mother once the winners were announced, and
everyone began hugging the two chefs who had teamed up. Mylie wandered in with her friend,
Cassidy, her cousin, Adrianna, Adrianna’s husband, Armand, and their children, Dusty and
Delila. Adrianna suggested the group head out for pizza. Jeremy asked me again about dinner at
the inn, which he’d planned to cover. Georgia overheard what he’d asked and assured him that
she was heading back to the inn, and if anyone showed up wanting something to eat, she’d make
them something quick and easy.
I could tell that Jeremy was reluctant to bail on a chore he’d agreed to take care of, but
Annabelle really wanted him to go with them, so he eventually gave in.
“What happened to Annabelle’s mother?” Georgia asked after Jeremy, Mylie, and the others
left, and we began loading the supplies she’d brought into boxes.
“She left to go out to dinner with Carlos and then planned to meet Carlos’s sister and their
friends for drinks.”
Georgia frowned. “Poor Annabelle. She was so excited about and looking forward to
spending time with her mother, and then the woman doesn’t think twice about bailing on her
daughter the second night she’s in town.”
“Honestly, I don’t get the whole thing,” Amy said. “Why would this woman leave her child
with her brother to raise in the first place?”
“I don’t understand the why of it all, but I honestly believe Annabelle is better off with
Jeremy,” I said. “He loves Annabelle and has cared for her since she was a toddler. Annabelle
loves her mother, but she barely knows her. She visits her mother from time to time, but I think
Carlos is the one who looks after Annabelle when she’s in Spain.”
“I hope Annabelle isn’t too disappointed that her mother chose to go out for dinner and
drinking with friends rather than to spend time with her,” Amy said.
“I think she’s hurt, but I know she’ll have fun with Jeremy, Mylie, and Mylie’s family,”
Georgia said. She paused and looked around. “Did we get everything?”
“It looks like it,” Amy said. “I plan to come in early tomorrow morning to start the ribs. Once
we have them on the grill, we can work on our side. I’m glad they’re judging for the sides in the
morning. It will give me time to slow-cook the ribs.”
“I’ll be here by eight,” Georgia assured her. “Jeremy and Haven are going to handle
breakfast, so I’m freed up to be here.” She looked at me. “Are you heading over to Colt’s?”
“I am,” I answered. “In fact, I should get going. I won’t be late, so maybe we can go over the
schedule for tomorrow when I get home.”
“I’ll be there,” Georgia assured me.
When I arrived at my boyfriend, Police Chief Colt Wilder’s home, my good friend, Lacy
Parker, who had shown up with her husband, Lonnie, and the couple’s six children, greeted me.
Colt’s neighbor, Virginia Danbury, was there with her two sons, Adam and Andrew, and Shelby’s
dining room manager, Kennedy Swanson, was there with her daughter, Addy. Colt’s niece and
nephew, Mackenzie and Tyler, had been with him the entire summer but were due to return to
their grandparent’s home for the school year. Their grandparents would arrive tomorrow and then
take them home Monday morning, so Colt had planned a farewell party/barbecue for the kids and
some of their friends this evening. He’d invited me, so I assured him I’d stop by once I was
finished at the cook-off, even though part of me felt I should head to the inn and try to help
manage the wedding guests who’d descended upon us.
“It looks like everyone is having fun,” I said.
“Everyone is having fun,” Lacy agreed. “Where’s Annabelle? I figured she’d come with
“She would have, but Jeremy and Mylie have wedding guests in town, so she went to dinner
with a group of Mylie’s friends and relatives.”
“That’s nice. I’m glad Annabelle is having a nice time. I’ve been thinking about her for the
past few days. She’s been so excited that her mother was coming to Holiday Bay for the first
time since she’s lived here, and it seemed as if she’d built up all these big expectations in her
“Yeah, I think that’s exactly what has happened. Annabelle has had a fairytale fantasy in her
mind of how awesome it was going to be once her mom and stepfather showed up, but I’m afraid
that reality hasn’t quite matched the fantasy.”
“Unfortunately, it’s true that big expectations can lead to big disappointments.”
I knew Lacy was right, and I realized that from the moment she began to fantasize about her
mother coming for a visit, Annabelle had probably been setting herself up to be disappointed, but
I still felt so bad for the child who’d captured a place in my heart and almost felt like a daughter
“So, how was the cook-off?” Lacy asked, changing the subject.
“Georgia and Amy took the blue ribbon for the appetizer competition and the red ribbon for
the desserts and baked goods. I thought their cake was blue ribbon worthy, but both chefs assured
me that they’d tasted the tart that took the blue ribbon and felt the judges got it right.”
“I suppose it’s only fair that the blue ribbons are passed around a bit rather than having one
winner for everything.”
“Yeah, that occurred to me as well.”
“I heard that there are a bunch of celebrity judges,” Lacy said.
“There are. I didn’t know who any of the judges were, but Georgia and Amy appeared to be
“I would think so. A few of the judges have a national platform. I also heard that Gwenevere
Wilson is in town. She does a podcast that I really love.”
“I actually met her assistant, Megan, who happens to be a friend of Shelby’s. I guess Shelby
and Megan used to work together before Shelby moved to Holiday Bay, so she was showing her
“Did you meet Gwenevere?” Lacy asked.
“No,” I replied. “But the assistant did indicate that Gwenevere wanted to interview Georgia,
so there might be an opportunity to meet her tomorrow.”
“Like I said, I love her podcast and would love to meet her.” Lacy smiled. “Not only are the
cooking segments Gwenevere does worth watching, but she does fun interviews with others in
the cooking industry.”
“I understand there’s a drama component to the whole thing.”
“Drama?” Lacy asked.
“It was mentioned that she likes to mix things up by adding comments and interviews with
shock appeal to the show from time to time.”
Lacy smiled. “That’s what makes it fun. I’ve always thought that the whole thing is staged,
but she makes it feel like she’s sharing some huge secret with her viewers.”
“I heard she’s actually here in Holiday Bay to interview Calista Davidson.”
Lacy raised a brow. “Really? Calista Davidson is here?”
I nodded. “Apparently, Calista plans to do some sort of big tell-all, and for reasons I’m not
privy to, has chosen Gwenevere Wilson and the Labor Day Cook-off as her platform.”
Lacy grinned. “I wonder what she plans to spill. I guess you heard about her divorce.”
“I hadn’t heard anything about it until Gwenevere’s assistant, Megan, brought it up while we
chatted with her today. In fact, I’d never heard of Calista Davidson until then.”
“By rights, Calista Davidson was an heiress on her own,” Lacy informed me. “She’s a
member of the Ravenwood family, who made their money in steel production if I remember
correctly. Calista Ravenwood used to be engaged to Kevin Oppenheimer, but then Duncan
Davidson came along and swept her off her feet. Once Duncan entered the picture, Calista ended
her engagement with Kevin and married the man who’d caught her attention. After the two were
wed, Calista bought a bunch of stock in Davidson Foods, and then she took on the role of
spokesperson. I think it was generally accepted that Calista really helped Davidson Foods. She
seems to have the business sense and creativity that the current generation of Davidsons lacks.
Anyway, the company blossomed during her tenure, but then Calista found out that not only was
her husband cheating on her, but that he’d been cheating on her since before the wedding, and
she divorced him. The thing is, she still has her stock, and she still has her seat on the board. I
don’t know what Calista plans to reveal, but there’s a rumor circulating that she’s been seen
talking to Reese Lauder.”
“And who is Reese Lauder?” I asked.
“Reese is an ex-employee of Davidson Foods. I don’t know what position she held, but she
was some type of engineer fairly high up the food chain. She jumped ship recently and is
working for Hancock and Hancock, a rival food processor and distributor. I suspect that Hancock
and Hancock is Davidson Food’s biggest rival.”
I had to admit this story kept getting more and more attention-grabbing.
“So if the ex-wife and the ex-employee have been chatting, something big really is about to
blow,” I suggested.
“That seems to be likely. I can’t imagine what sort of dirt Calista might have dug up, but I
will say that getting an ex-employee on her side will go a long way toward giving whatever she
has to say some legitimacy. I can’t wait to hear what Gwenevere is up to.”
“Will you be coming to the cook-off tomorrow?” I asked.
Lacy responded. “I’d like to if Lonnie can work it out to watch the kids. He said he would,
but I suppose I should remind him. He has that new mansion project coming up, and he’s been
trying to tie up loose ends before he gets started with that one.”
“I heard he won the bid to renovate that old mansion east of town. The place is huge. A job
like that is going to take a while.”
“It is a big job, and the new owner is on a bit of a tight timeline and has offered Lonnie a
bonus to get it done by a certain date, so once he actually gets started, Lonnie plans to devote a
hundred percent of his time to the house until it’s finished. I expect that he will need to work
long hours over the next few months, but the bonus that’s being offered will set us up for the
winter when things tend to be slower.”
“It seems like a couple of months of hard work would be worth the comfort of a padded bank
account,” I agreed. “Plus, the place is gorgeous, at least from the outside. I’d love to go by and
look inside once he gets started. I heard there’s a ghost who lives in the mansion.”
Lacy laughed. “I remember hearing about ghost sightings when I was a kid. I personally
never saw anything, but I remember kids from school talking about the woman who died in that
house and the strange lights and noises that others had seen during the years since her death.”
“Didn’t the woman who died there die a long time ago?” I asked.
Lacy nodded. “It was back in the seventies. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know it
was well before I was born.”
“I seem to remember she committed suicide.”
Lacy paused and then responded. “If I remember correctly, it was rumored that the woman
committed suicide, but there has also been a theory floating around out there by those who felt
that it was more likely that she was murdered. I don’t remember what exactly was supposed to
have occurred, but it seems the woman who supposedly haunts the house wasn’t the only person
to die that night.”
“Really? Who else died?”
Lacy shrugged. “I think it was someone from out of the area. I wasn’t even born when it all
happened, and I was just a kid when I heard the story from my friends, so while I remember
being intrigued by the idea of there being a ghost on the property, I didn’t pay all that much
attention to the details or even to the rest of the story. Now that Lonnie will be spending time in
the house, I should probably dig around a little and try to fill in some of the blanks.”
“It does sound like a fun mystery to poke around in, but with the wedding next weekend, I’m
afraid that the amount of time I have to poke around in old mysteries is zero.”
“I get it.” Lacy looked toward the lawn where the boys were tossing a football around. “It
looks like the triplets might be picking on the younger boys from down the street. I should go
and check on things.”
“I’m going to go and say hi to Colt.” I nodded toward the patio where Colt and Lonnie were
working the grill.
“You might mention that if they don’t want a mutiny on their hands, they should start putting
the food out. It seems the natives are getting restless.”
“I’ll do that,” I promised before I crossed the lawn and joined Colt and Lonnie on the patio.
“You made it,” Colt greeted me with a kiss.
“I did. It looks like you have a good turnout.”
“Everyone the kids wanted to invite was able to attend other than Annabelle, who apparently
is busy with wedding guests.”
“Annabelle wanted to come with me but ended up going into town with Carlos and her
mother and then joining Mylie and her family for dinner.”
“It’s nice that Annabelle is getting to spend time with her mother,” Lonnie said.
I was going to point out that while Annabelle’s mother had taken her into town, she’d totally
bailed on her for the evening, but at least Jeremy and Mylie had been there to pick up the pieces.
Instead of getting into any of that, I decided to pass along the message from Lacy about setting
the food out.
“I’ll grab the chips and dips that Lacy and I brought,” Lonnie offered. “That should help to
tide them over until we can get the rest set out.”
“That’s a good idea,” Colt said. “The chicken is done, but I need about twenty more minutes
with the ribs.”
Lonnie agreed that slow and steady was the best way to ensure having ribs that would fall off
the bone, so he headed toward the house to get the chips and dips.
“It seems as if Mackenzie and Tyler made quite a few friends over the summer,” I
commented to Colt after Lonnie left. “That will be very helpful if they permanently move to
Holiday Bay at some point.”
“I agree,” Colt said as he opened the lid to his grill to check on the ribs he’d been slow-
cooking. “Despite the problems my parents have been having with Tyler, they’ve really missed
the kids this summer and have agreed to allow Mackenzie and Tyler to live with them for at least
one more year so that Mackenzie won’t have to change schools. I think both kids realize they
will be back in Holiday Bay for the remainder of the year if things don’t work out.”
“Does Tyler want to go back to his old school?” I asked.
Colt answered. “No, he doesn’t, but one of his best friends has decided to enroll in a private
school. The school is expensive, but I can swing it, and it’s in the same town where my parents
live. I talked it over with my parents, and we decided that it should work out fine to put Tyler in
the private school where he’ll get the attention he needs while leaving Mackenzie in school with
her friends. If this works out, we should be able to settle into a routine where the kids are with
my parents for the school year and with me for the summer.”
“That does seem like a good solution,” I agreed. “For everyone’s sake, I hope Tyler does well
in the new school. I can understand his anger with the world after the loss of his parents, but
things will be easier in the long run if he can find a way to work with the adults in his life who
only want what is best for him.”
“I agree, and he does seem to be doing much better. How’d the cook-off go?” he asked.
I filled him in on the details. I also took a moment to catch him up on the drama created by
last-minute guests and neglectful mothers who apparently preferred partying over spending time
with a child they rarely spent time with.
“I do feel bad for Annabelle,” Colt’s lips tightened. “I know she loves Jeremy, and if offered
the choice of living with her mother and stepfather or Jeremy and Mylie, I suspect she’d choose
the latter, but I still think it hurts her heart when her mother makes it clear that she really isn’t a
priority in her life.”
“I agree. I can tell that Annabelle is much more bothered by her mother’s approach to
parenting than she lets on. But as I indicated, Jeremy, Mylie, Mylie’s cousin and her family took
Annabelle out for pizza, so I think she’ll be okay.”
“I hope so. Annabelle is such a good kid. I hate to see her hurt.”
“Right there with you,” I agreed.
He lifted the top on the grill. “Do you mind running into the house and grabbing the barbecue
sauce I left in the refrigerator?”
“No problem. Is it in a plastic bowl?”
He nodded. “The green one with the white lid, sitting on the top shelf.”
I turned around and headed across the lawn toward the house when I noticed my new full-
time employee, Haven Hanson, talking to Eden Halliwell, the new employee at Firehouse Books.
“I thought you were holding down to fort at the inn,” I said to Haven after she crossed the
lawn to greet me.
“Nikki and I were there all day to take care of the cleaning and keep an eye on things, but
after everyone left this morning, there haven’t been any guests at the inn. Brit is still out of town,
and George went out for the day. I called and spoke to Georgia, who told me that she was
heading back to the inn and that it was fine for Nikki and me to come to this party.”
I looked around. “I noticed Eden was here but haven’t seen Nikki.”
“She’s around somewhere,” Haven assured me. “She may have gone inside to make a call.
She said something about letting Eli know he should come over here when he got off.” Eli was
Nikki’s current boyfriend. “Actually, here Nikki comes now.” Haven waved toward the back
door where Nikki stood chatting with Eden.”
Nikki jogged over to say hi when she noticed me. “I hope it’s okay that Haven and I came
“It’s fine. Haven explained that there weren’t any guests at the inn.”
“It seemed everyone had plans for both the day and the evening. Jovana came by just as I
was leaving. She said she needed to change her clothes before joining Carlos, Giselle, Stephan,
Aldo, and Efren in town. When I asked if she knew what Felicity and Clifton had planned for the
evening, she said she wasn’t sure. I spoke to Mylie, who told me she and Jeremy were going for
pizza with her cousin’s family. Cassidy and Annabelle were with them. I have no idea what the
new guy is up to.”
“You mean Phineas?” I asked as I continued walking to the kitchen.
“Yeah. What’s up with that guy? He shows up with an ego that I doubt he has the wealth or
clout to support and then leaves without saying a word. I asked Jovana about him when she came
by to change her clothes, and she said she had no idea who he was. Isn’t he supposed to be
related to Jeremy?”
“That’s what he said.”
“If he’s related to Jeremy, and Jovana is Jeremy’s sister, then Phineas would be related to
Jovana as well, wouldn’t he?”
“He would,” I agreed as I opened the refrigerator door and began rummaging around for the
barbecue sauce Colt wanted. “Based on what I’ve figured out, the guy is actually Stephan’s
“Why would Stephan invite someone to come to the wedding? Stephan isn’t related to
Jeremy or to Mylie.”
“No idea,” I said. “It does seem odd that this guy would just show up. I ran into Jeremy and
Jovana at the cook-off, and neither claimed to know who the guy was.”
Nikki picked up an apple from the bowl on the counter and took a bite. “I know I haven’t
been around much since I moved into town, but it seems like you have a real madhouse out
“It has been a zoo,” I agreed. “And I am very grateful that you have agreed to help out. I
don’t know what we’d do without you.”
She smiled. “I’m happy to help. I want to be there to support Jeremy and Mylie, and I really
want to be there to support Annabelle.”
“She feels so bad about how everything has worked out.”
“She does?” I pulled the green bowl out and closed the refrigerator.
“Annabelle told me that she feels bad that so many people showed up. She said if she hadn’t
wanted her mom to be there so much, then Jeremy and Mylie could have had their wedding in
November when they’d wanted to, and there wouldn’t be all this juggling around to see to.”
“I’m sure neither Jeremy nor Mylie wants Annabelle to feel bad. It was natural for Annabelle
to want her mother and new stepfather to see her in her bridesmaid dress, and it’s not her fault so
many extra people showed up. I’ll talk to her when I get the chance.”
“That might be a good idea. It really is too bad that Annabelle feels responsible for
something that isn’t even her fault.”
Once I grabbed the barbecue sauce, Nikki went to talk to Kennedy and Addy while I headed
toward the patio, where Colt was still handling the grill. Lonnie had returned to the yard with his
chips and dip, which had all the kids gathering around the long table Colt planned to use as a
“The meat sure smells good,” I said as I handed the sauce to him.
“As I mentioned, I’ve been slow-cooking these ribs all day. I think they’re going to be
“Georgia and Amy are doing ribs as their entry for tomorrow’s from the grill or smoker
category of the cook-off,” I said. “It sounds as if they’re pretty confident.”
“Georgia’s ribs are some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and Amy’s are becoming quite famous in
town, but no one can beat Lacy’s homemade sauce.” He held up the plastic bowl.
“Ah. You have Lacy’s sauce. Then yes, these might be the best ribs to come off a grill this
“Maybe Lacy should have entered the contest,” he suggested.
“If the contest was only for ribs, I agree, but I’m not sure she would be into the rest. Besides,
Davidson Foods is sponsoring the contest this year, and they’ve changed things up. There are
celebrity judges, and all the contestants are chefs from restaurants around the state.”
“I guess I did hear that. Seems like the fact that everyone has to be a professional has taken
some of the small-town feel away from the event, but what do I know.” Colt’s cell phone dinged,
indicating he had a text. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at the display. “I
need to call Alex.” He referred to his second in command, Officer Alex Weston. “I’m going to
ask Lonnie to come and take over the grill, so maybe you can offer to help Lacy get the food set
“I’d be happy to.” I glanced at his cell phone. “Is anything wrong?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I don’t think Alex would text me this afternoon unless it was about
Colt headed over to say something to Lonnie, who nodded and started toward the grill. Lacy
had seen the exchange and had started walking across the lawn to the patio.
“Colt needed to make a call,” Lonnie informed Lacy and me, even though I already knew
what was happening. “He said to go ahead and finish up the meat and get the food on the table.”
Lonnie confirmed he would take care of the barbecue, so Lacy and I headed toward the
“I hope nothing’s wrong,” Lacy said as she turned the stovetop on under the beans she’d
prepared at home and brought in a heavy-duty pan to reheat.
“I said the same thing, but Colt pointed out that Alex wouldn’t bother him today unless
something important had happened.” I held up the tub of coleslaw. “Is this ready to put into a
Lacy indicated it needed a stir, and then I could transfer it to the bowl. Once that was done, I
grabbed the potato salad and set it on the dining room table next to the bowl of slaw. I’d noticed
plastic bags filled with cubed melon, so I added the fruit to a bowl and set it on the dining room
“Let’s go ahead and butter the bread. We’ll heat it on the grill,” Lacy instructed. “Once
Lonnie finishes with the ribs, we’ll cut them up and start setting everything out.”
“Paper plates?” I asked.
“No. I brought heavy-duty plastic. I realize the plates aren’t disposable, and we’ll have to
wash them, but they won’t bend under the weight of the food.”
Lacy and I had all the sides ready to set out on the table by the time Lonnie brought the plate
with the ribs in for slicing. Once the ribs were sliced and transferred to a serving tray, we’d be
ready to begin fixing our plates, so Lacy called to the kids and told everyone to wash their hands
in the outdoor sink. Colt had set up round tables with folding chairs so everyone would have a
comfortable place to sit while they ate.
Lacy and I had returned to the kitchen to help Lonnie with the ribs when Colt came in.
“I’m afraid I have to go,” he said.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“There’s been a murder.”
“Who?” Lacy gasped.
“A visitor from out of the area named Gwenevere Wilson.” ...
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