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Kinglet Books

MURDER AND MOZZARELLA (EBOOK)

MURDER AND MOZZARELLA (EBOOK)

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EBOOK. BOOK 1 IN THE CHEESE CAFE COZY MYSTERIES.

Something smells off about this murder, and it's not the stinky cheese.
Brianna West needs a fresh start away from the big city. In her new cheese-themed café on quaint Driftwood Island, she plans to serve mascarpone croissants and asiago scones to friends new and old. But when Brianna follows her eccentric Aunt Dot’s escaped goat and discovers the water buffalo farmer next door with Dot’s pitchfork in his back, her aunt is suspect number one.
Soon, other suspects besides Dot emerge like curds from whey. Brianna sets out to prove her aunt's innocence with the help of her chatty best friend, the inflated egos of the local Gourmand Society, and a handsome local Mountie in charge of law enforcement. Brianna vows to sniff out the real murderer before she loses her aunt, her new life on the island, and her succulent, savory cheese café.
Cheese is pungent. Murder stinks.

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CHAPTER ONE
It was a hard call, but the first sniff of the day invariably belonged to the Roquefort.
“Hello, my blue beauty,” Brianna West whispered when she opened the waxed paper wrapped around her favorite cheese. The package was still cold from the fridge where she stored most of her stock, including this Roquefort. Its pungent aroma featuring moldy socks and grass drifted deep into Brianna’s nostrils when she inhaled, and a smile lifted her cheeks. “As fragrant as always. You’re destined for pear and blue cheese Danish pastries today.”
Brianna replaced the Roquefort and continued her morning tradition of sniffing each cheese currently in her fridge. She’d been doing this ritual since the industrial kitchen had been installed in her soon-to-be-open café. She’d determined that every item on the menu would feature cheese, which hadn’t been a difficult decision. While she told anyone who asked that smelling the cheeses was an important part of assuring the freshest ingredients for her baked goods, she really did it because she adored cheese.
Her dairy products properly greeted, she pulled out a large bowl of risen dough from the fridge and a few blocks of butter then tied an apron over her jeans and striped blouse. She pulled her unruly mahogany curls into a no-nonsense ponytail that would keep it out of her way. Every recipe needed to be practiced and perfected before her grand opening. She had work to do.
Not that it might seem like terribly important work to someone other than her, she thought while she rolled the dough and cut it into squares for Danishes and sliced butter into a large bowl of flour. She’d been accustomed to her big city life in Vancouver, Canada, working as a consultant for small businesses and supporting her detective husband as he solved high-profile crimes. But when a bullet found her husband’s carotid artery while undercover, she couldn’t stay in her old life for a second longer. After a wine-soaked evening with her aunt Dot, she’d sold her condo in the city and, with the life insurance payout, bought a storefront on Driftwood Island where Dot lived.
Life was far too short to waste not following her passion. Cheese had always turned Brianna’s good times into something close to divine, thanks to her sensitive nose and love of dairy from her grandmother. Now, she was merely weeks away from serving scones and pastries in her very own café, the Golden Moon. The biggest issues she had to solve these days were problems with her secondhand oven, although she was proud of herself for fixing the latest issue without calling a professional. If there were one thing she was good at, it was problem-solving.
Just as Brianna slid the last tray of scones into her temperamental oven, a knock rattled the door of the café beyond. It was too early for her carpenter to arrive, and Dot never rose before ten in the morning. Brianna poked her head into the café dining area to see who her visitor was.
Her heart squeezed every time she entered the cozy space of the Golden Moon. The café wasn’t nearly ready for customers, but Brianna could see the future, and it looked like a wonderful dream. Swatches of paint on the drywall hinted at bright yellow walls to come. They were illuminated by tall frontage windows that gave the space a warm feel, enhanced by honey-stained hardwood floors and wooden farm-style chairs shoved in a corner. Brianna planned to sew cushions for each one using fabric printed with fanciful designs of cheese wheels. She had found vintage frames at a consignment store down the road and filled them with glossy photos of her favorite cheeses. They leaned against one wall, waiting to be affixed in place.
A box in the kitchen held a cluster of vintage cheese knives, which Brianna planned to artfully arrange in a pinwheel above the electric fireplace. If the décor and name didn’t make the theme of the café clear enough, the counter display of cheesy baked goods would satisfy any lingering curiosity. The counter wasn’t built yet—her carpenter would be hard at work on that project today—but Brianna had an excellent imagination.
Brianna brightened at the sight of her childhood friend at the glass door. She and Macy Jones had drifted apart after high school on the larger Victoria Island—Brianna to university in the mainland city of Vancouver where she’d met her late husband, and a teenage Macy raising her unplanned daughter on Driftwood Island where her grandparents lived—but Brianna had tried hard to reconnect after moving back. They now had a tentative but swiftly warming friendship.
Brianna bustled to the door and let Macy in. Her friend’s bright smile under her shoulder-length blond hair and bangs was infectious. Grinning, Brianna unlocked the door and ushered Macy through.
“Well, hello, hello, my baking bosom buddy,” Macy said. She straightened her demure blouse, clearly on her way to work at the nearby preschool. “I won’t be in your way for long, I know you’re busy practicing your baking. Wow, something smells great. What am I saying? It always smells great in here. I swear I’ve gained five pounds since you’ve started trialing recipes.”
“I aim to please.” Brianna walked toward the kitchen, where she’d already set up the café’s espresso machine. Just because the café’s counter wasn’t yet installed didn’t mean Brianna couldn’t drink quality beverages. She called to Macy over her shoulder, “Coffee?”
“Does a duck swim?”
Brianna grabbed a mug and placed it under the nozzle. She peeked her head around the corner. “Double shot, extra vanilla?”
“You remembered.” Macy beamed at her, and the warmth in Brianna’s stomach reminded her of why she’d moved here. It was good to be back. Vancouver, for all its excitement, had never truly felt like home. Driftwood Island wasn’t where she’d grown up—she’d lived in nearby Nanaimo on the larger Victoria Island—but she’d visited her aunt here often enough, and Macy’s familiar face made the island comfortable in a way Vancouver had never been.
After the machine’s requisite noise, Brianna walked back into the unfinished dining area with two mugs and passed the fragrant coffee to her old friend. Macy took a dainty sip then held the mug in both hands for warmth.
“I noticed your help wanted ad in the window,” she said, blowing on her drink.
Brianna waved at the counter. “There’s a lot to do. When the café opens, I’ll be too busy baking and running the till and cleaning up all by myself. I’d love someone for the front counter so I can focus on baking. We’ll see. My flyer hasn’t had any bites yet.”
“About that.” Macy straightened her spine and stared at Brianna with hope in her eyes. “Would you consider hiring Oaklyn? She’s in the market for a part-time job, weekends and after school. She works hard when she puts her mind to it.”
Brianna sighed inwardly. She’d already heard rumors about Macy’s teenaged daughter Oaklyn being a troublemaker. One story even had Oaklyn—allegedly—shoving fireworks in a Halloween pumpkin, which had sprayed the front of the irate neighbor’s house with bits of squash. When Brianna had met Oaklyn last month for the first time in years, her first impression hadn’t put the rumors to rest. Dyed, spiky black hair, far too much eyeliner, and a bored-at-everything expression hadn’t endeared Oaklyn to Brianna.
But money was always tight with Macy. She’d had to raise Oaklyn on her own for all these years, and that included paying for night college for Macy to get her early childhood educator diploma. If Oaklyn could fund her own extras, it would give her mother a much-needed break from being sole-breadwinner. And Macy was her friend. Brianna couldn’t say no to the hope in her eyes.
“Of course,” Brianna said with far more enthusiasm than she felt. Afternoons and weekends would help, but she’d have to find someone else to come in the mornings too. Brianna could make it work for now. “Let’s give her a trial run. Grand opening is in two weeks. Have her come in on the Friday evening before then, and I’ll show her the ropes.”
Macy’s face relaxed with a relieved smile. “Thanks. She’ll be great. You won’t regret this.”
Brianna wasn’t so sure about that, but she could bear a lot to make Macy smile.
Brianna’s head twisted toward an odd clopping sound coming from the window. Macy gasped, and coffee sloshed out of her mug and onto her sensible pants.
“Drat!” Macy slammed the mug onto a nearby pile of wood and brushed at the stain with ineffectual sweeps of her hands. “I need to move my car. It’s parked illegally.”
“You need to do it now?” Brianna stared at her friend while she tossed her a rag the carpenter had left lying around.
“Yes, yes,” she said, diving into her purse for keys. “He’s coming. I can’t afford a ticket right now.”
Brianna frowned at Macy’s cryptic words. Who was ‘he’? In the face of Macy’s distress, there was only one thing to do. She swiped Macy’s keys from her friend’s hand and walked toward the door.
“I’ll move the car,” she called over her shoulder. “You get cleaned up.”
The clopping sound stopped. Brianna hustled out the door, curious to discover the source of Macy’s angst. Her friend’s tiny red hatchback was parked in front of the café’s alley where Brianna’s bicycle sat next to the neighboring yarn shop. It was early enough that few other cars were parked along this side street of Snuggler’s Cove, the only town on Driftwood Island. Brianna tucked her hands into her pockets to avoid an early morning breeze that cooled the summer sun. Beside Macy’s car was a sight that had Brianna blinking.

SERIES ORDER

Murder and Mozzarella

Corkscrews and Camembert

Fraud and Feta

Poison and Parmesan

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