Grade in Red| Chapter 6

Chapter Six

I was asked to wait outside in front of the school while the paramedics and police were inside securing the crime scene. I couldn’t believe it, Bridgett Nickel was dead, actually dead. I knew there were many times as a teenager that I wished she would disappear, but I never wished her any physical harm. 

What had happened? There was no way that was an accident, someone actually meant her harm. I remembered from Biology class that there was an artery in the neck. That had to have been where the pen entered, there was too much blood otherwise. I just couldn’t get the image of her lying there, blood congealing on the floor. She had to have been there for quite some time. hat is what they say on the show, Crime Scene Investigation, right?

I was shivering and shaking. The lights from the ambulance and police cars were playfully dancing in the grass in front of me. I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder and I jumped. “What?!” I yelped. 

“Hey! Mags, I know that you’re in shock, but I need to ask you a couple of questions. We can do that here or we can go down to the station, whichever one works for you.” Jake was talking to me in a low and soft voice. 

I could tell that he was trying not to make me go further into shock or freak out anymore then I was at the moment. The way he was acting now, so kind and considerate reminded me of how was when we used to hang out. 

“Sure, what do you need to ask me? Anything I can do to help catch this killer.” I was starting to get angry over this whole event. Someone came into our town and decided to kill one of our own. Just because I didn’t like her didn’t mean that I didn’t value life. 

“Now Mags, we do not know that there was a killer. We cannot assume anything. However, I need to know when was the last time that you saw the victim alive?” Jake asked as he flipped out his notepad and started jotting down notes. 

“What do you mean we can’t assume there was a killer? There was a pen sticking out of her neck!” I started breathing heavily and my hands clenched in frustration. 

“Maggie, we can’t assume anything. We have to weigh out all other possibilities. The medical examiner needs to officially determine the cause of death. We need to question the victim’s last day. There is a lot to think about and consider. Now, when was the last time that you saw the victim alive?” Jake’s eyes were piercing into mine with an intensity I wasn’t comfortable with. 

“Umm, last night at Murphy’s. She was wasted and stumbling everywhere.” I started shivering. It had to be at least 90 degrees outside and I was cold. 

“Did you two have an altercation last night at the pub?” Jake continued looking at his notepad. I felt like this was a rhetorical question because by the tone of his voice he already knew the answer, but I told him what happened anyway. I didn’t need the grapevine to be the one telling the police about the argument Bridgett and I had. 

“She ran into the back of my chair and spilled her drink down my back. I was shocked, turned around and saw that she was intoxicated. She claimed that I had ruined her drink and demanded that I buy her a new one. If you don’t believe me, you can ask anyone in the bar. Vic was there and so was Cindy.” I knew that I was getting defensive, but it had turned into a long night and all I wanted to do was go home and wash off the night. 

“Listen Maggie, I don’t need you to get a tone with me. I have to ask these questions. I need to corroborate your last moves and Bridgett’s. Now do you have an alibi for approximately 3:00 pm today?” Jake’s eye were boring into mine. I could feel them penetrating my own looking for the truth. 

“I was at home, unpacking, listening to music, getting my lesson plans ready for the school year.” I said in a deadpan voice. 

“You have no one to backup your alibi? You were at home by yourself?” He asked, completely serious. There wasn’t a hint of the  playful glint in his eyes that I had seen not only two hours before. 

“No, my dad was at work and my mom was called to do a consult in Tulsa for the day. I was home alone.”  I felt dread entering my body. I knew at that moment that I was a suspect. There wasn’t anything I could do about it. 

Or was there?

Cozy Releases| August 2019

Watch the Video!

A Bias for Murder

A Bias for Murder
Book 3
Sally Goldenbaum
August 6th
https://amzn.to/2F2hWVZ

Oliver Harrington II was one of the most beloved members of Crestwood’s community. Despite being the picture of health at age 52, he died from a sudden heart attack, leaving behind the family mansion on a sprawling piece of property. His twin sister Adele returned to the town she despises to claim her brother’s home, intent on turning it into a B&B. And she’s hired Po Paltrow and the Crestwood Quilters to craft quilts for the guest rooms. 

 But Adele is not the only one interested in the future of the Harrington estate. A developer wants to put multiple houses on the land. The townsfolk just want their neighborhood to retain its small-town charm and not become a tourist trap. But when an autopsy reveals that Oliver was actually poisoned, suspicion falls on his sister. Po doesn’t believe Adele is guilty, leaving her determined to discover who else harbored deadly designs on the Harrington home . . .


The Time for Murder is MeowThe Time for Murder is Meow
Book 1
T.C. Lotempio
https://amzn.to/2WAqsXj

Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.

While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting—until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick—her aunt’s Persian Purrday—find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?


Jealousy Filled DonitsJealousy Filled Donuts
Book 3
Ginger Bolton
https://amzn.to/2IvLMTP

It is a truth universally acknowledged—cops and donuts go together. Exhibit A: Deputy Donut Café, owned and operated by detective’s widow Emily Westhill and her father-in-law, the retired police chief of Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. Named after Emily’s adored and adorable tabby, the donut shop is a favorite among cops, firemen, and EMTs, as well as tourists and townspeople. So when Fallingbrook needs donuts for their Fourth of July picnic, Emily’s shop gets deputized.

 But a twisted killer has found another use for Emily’s treats. At the picnic, a firecracker is hidden in a stack of raspberry-filled donuts and aimed at the unwitting queen of the festivities. When it explodes, she is killed. Having her jelly donuts involved puts Emily in a sticky situation, and when a shady shutterbug tries to frame her with incriminating photos, she finds herself in quite a jam. To preserve her freedom and her shop’s reputation, Emily needs to solve this case—before the fuse-lighting felon goes off again …


Wonton TerrorWonton Terror
Book 4
Vivien Chien
https://amzn.to/2K4KToo

Lana Lee is all smiles when the first evening of Cleveland’s Asian Night Market kicks off the summer. The weekly festival is always good for business, packed with locals and tourists, and this year, some stiff new food-truck competition. Wonton on Wheels, run by old friends of Lana’s parents, promises to have customers lining up for their delicately wrapped delights—until the truck blew up at evening’s end.

Lana’s boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, had been planning a birthday getaway for the two of them but, lo and behold, Lana must assume the role of amateur sleuth yet again. With one proprietor of Wonton on Wheels dead, it’s beginning to look more like murder and less like an unfortunate accident. And as they begin to unwrap layers of disturbing secrets, Lana’s own family erupts into new drama. Will Lana be able to solve this crime—or has she jumped from the wok right into the fire?


Silent Night, Deadly NightSilent Night, Deadly Night
Book 4
Vicki Delany
https://amzn.to/2I5ZEoM 

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, is preparing for a weekend reunion of her mother’s college friends. But when the group of women comes into Merry’s shop, Merry is met with frosty attitudes and cold hearts. 

The women argue amongst themselves constantly, and the bickering only intensifies after one of the friends is poisoned. With her father’s role as Santa in danger due to his proximity to the crime, Merry will need to use all of her investigative gifts to wrap this mystery up and save Santa and her favorite holiday.


Until next time, Happy Reading!

XOXO,
Courtny

Summer Cozy Mystery Recs!

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Oh Say Can You Fudge

Oh Say Can You Fudge
(A Candy-coated Mystery Book 3)
Nancy Coco
https://amzn.to/31kBgYa

Red, White, And Boom

It’s not Fourth of July on Mackinac Island without fireworks and fudge. The Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop is supplying the treats–and Allie has hired Rodney Rivers, the biggest name in aerial displays, to create an unforgettable spectacle. Unfortunately, Allie finds him dead, covered with screaming chicken fireworks, just before the entire warehouse of pyrotechnics goes up in smoke. Is it arson or is it murder? Allie and her bichonpoo, Mal, must sift through the suspects until the killer is caught and the island can enjoy a star-spangled celebration.


Murder Most FrothyMurder Most Frothy
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Book 4
https://amzn.to/2MB4XRt 

Clare Cosi’s new friend, millionaire David Mintzer, has an offer no New York barista could turn down: an all-expenses-paid summer away from the sticky city. At his Hamptons mansion, she’ll relax, soak up the sun, and, oh yes, train the staff of his new restaurant. So Clare packs up her daughter, her former mother-in-law, and her special recipe for iced coffee–for what she hopes will be one de-latte-ful summer…

Soon, Clare tends the coffee bar at her first Hamptons gala. But the festivities come to a bitter end when an employee turns up dead in David’s bathroom–a botched attempt on the millionaire’s life. Thanks to the Fourth of July fireworks no one heard any gunshots, and the police are stuck in holiday traffic. Concerned for everyone’s safety, Clare begins to investigate. What she finds will keep her up at night–and it’s not the java jitters…


Bikinis In Paradise

Bikinis In Paradise
Book 3
Kathi Daley
https://amzn.to/2WojiAk 

When the Tropical Tan Corporation descends on Maggie’s Hideaway, the lakeside resort where Tj Jensen lives, she must juggle a bikini contest, a BBQ cook-off, a missing model, and a dead chaperone while her father is out of town. 

Lead Deputy Dylan Caine is on vacation while his sister is visiting, leaving Assistant Deputy Roy Fisher in charge. When Roy asks Tj for her help, they find there may be more going on than anyone realized. 

With Kyle and Jenna’s help, they dig into the lives of those involved, only to find a mystery more complex than anything they could ever have imagined.


Lemon Meringue Pie MurderLemon Meringue Pie Murder
Book 4
Joanne Fluke
https://amzn.to/2K7IqJV 

Hannah Swensen thought she’d finally discovered the recipe for a perfect life. But her sometime beau Norman Rhodes tosses a surprise ingredient into the mix when he phones to tell her he’s just bought a house from local drugstore clerk Rhonda Scharf—which he plans to tear down in order to build the dream home he and Hannah designed. It seems the plan has been cooking for quite some time, and Hannah’s shocked. Especially since her ring finger is still very much bare. . .

The good news is that the soon-to-be-torn-down house is full of antiques—and Norman has given Hannah and her mother first dibs. They uncover some gorgeous old furniture, a patchwork quilt . . . and Rhonda Scharf’s dead body. A little more sleuthing turns up the half-eaten remains of a very special dinner for two—and one of The Cookie Jar’s famous lemon meringue pies. Now it’s up to Hannah to turn up the heat—and get busy tracking down clues. Starting in her very own kitchen. 


Independence Slay

Independence Slay
Book 3
Shelley Freydont
https://amzn.to/2WXJk1H 

With Independence Day fast approaching, Liv Montgomery is swamped coordinating one of the town’s biggest festivals. In addition to the traditional July fourth events, the town stages a spooky Revolutionary War reenactment that can’t be missed. Every year, the ghost of local war hero Henry Gallantine—played by his eccentric descendant of the same name—appears at the top of the family mansion, kicking off the night’s revelries.

But Henry’s annual cameo goes awry after the ghost signals SOS instead of his traditional cue. When Liv rushes to the rescue, she finds Henry missing and a real dead body instead of a fake haunt. Now she will have to hunt down both a murderer and a missing person quickly before unwanted political fireworks ignite and someone else winds up as local history… 


Until next time, Happy Reading!

XOXO
Courtny

Graded in Red| Chapter 3

Chapter 3

I couldn’t believe I was back home. Even after packing all of my earthly belongings, driving three and a half hours from the city, and unpacking my things into the basement apartment, I couldn’t believe it. But here I was, walking into my favorite local pub, Murphy’s. Scott and Cindy were the owners and had been alive for as long as I could remember. I swear it was the homemade brew that they made here in Broken Bow. That was what kept them alive and kicking. 

Our town was small. Everyone knows everyone. A person’s personal business is technically not their own here with a population of around 4,000 people. There were some great things about this.  For example, I grew up never knowing a stranger. However, there were downs to this as well. Every person I ran into knew about the fact that I couldn’t make it in the big city, Oklahoma City. 

“Hey everyone! Look who’s back! Mags!” squealed Cindy as she ran from around the counter to envelop me in a huge hug. 

“Hey Cindy! How’s it going?” I breathed as Cindy squeezed all of the breath out of my lungs. She smelled the same, of citrus and cigarette smoke. Not the most appealing of scents but it made the reality of being home so much more clear. They said that scent was one of the most important of the five senses, it could bring back memories a person thought was forgotten. 

“Oh, you know! My back has been acting up, and Scott fractured his hand when a crate of beer fell on it! It’s never boring here! But we are fine just the same. Smithwicks for you, Mags?” Cindy asked as she squeezed my shoulders one last time before heading back behind the bar. 

“Yes! You remembered! You’re the best. Have you seen Vic? She was supposed to meet me here to talk about the beginning of the school year.” I  said as I wove my way in-between the tables to get to an empty barstool table with two seats. 

“ Of course I remembered! I follow you on your Facebook! Trying to keep up with all of those city drinks! And no, she hasn’t made it in yet. But grab that table and I will point her your way when she gets in. Until then here is your beer, want anything to snack on while you wait?” Cindy took out a notepad from her apron and took the pencil out from behind her messy bun. 

“Got any specials today?” My stomach was rumbling. I remembered that I hadn’t had anything to eat since this morning when I was filling up my car with gas at a QuikTrip. 

“We have some cheese fries, chili, and some broccoli soup with bread from the bakery down the street. Any of that sound good to you?” 

“I think I’ll have some broccoli cheddar soup and two pieces of bread, thanks Cindy. You’re the best.” I smiled at her as she nodded and walked back to the kitchen. 

Looking around the pub I noticed that things hadn’t changed much in the 10 years since I had last been here. The booths still had the same green cracked leather and faux wood veneer. The lights were still dim and caked with years of dust and other things that I didn’t want to think about. But I could tell that Cindy and Scott were doing well. They had new beer mugs, new taps, and a new POS system, with a fancy touch screen. 

As I was scanning the room my eyes fell on the last person I wanted to see, Bridgett Nickel. I could tell time had not been kind to her. There were lines deeply edge in her face from years of smoking and a hard life, I assumed. Her hair was bleached to the last possible inch of its life. She looked a good ten years older than me, and yet she was still wearing clothing from what looked like our high school days. 

A tight red halter top, a size too small, a black lacy bra, not strapless, a short jean skirt with embroidered flowers on it, and  bright red stiletto heels. She was leaning down talking to a man at the bar, so she didn’t notice me staring. They looked to be having a heated discussion, he grabbed her arm, she pushed back and yanked it out of his grasp. He grabbed her waist and pulled her in, giving her a very sloppy and messy kiss. I couldn’t tell if she was enjoying it or not. As I was trying to figure it out someone came up from behind me. 

“Hey Mags, what are you staring at?” A soft voice whispered behind me. 

My heart jumped into my throat at being caught staring, but I knew that voice almost better than my own, “Victoria Star! You know it’s rude to sneak up on people unannounced!” I said as I grabbed her and forced a hug on her. 

“Ha! Says the woman who was staring down Bridgett over there. You know, if you are going to spy on people, you should at least be more secretive about it. Maybe put a magazine in front of your face, and peak over it every once in a while. Haven’t you ever watched a James Bond movie? Or Harriet the Spy?” Victoria lectured as she put her Mary Poppins bag on the table and started to bring out stacks of papers. I swear that purse had no ending. 

Victoria Star had been my best friend since we were in middle school. She was into oldies music, black and white movies, and old books. Of course, in a small town like Broken Bow, where sports ran the schools, this made her an outcast. It didn’t help that she was 5’2” with bright red hair, and had a garish laugh. She might have been small, but she was fierce. As an awkward middle schooler who basically lived in the library, hit puberty way to early, and actually liked school, I wasn’t part of the ‘cool kids club’ either. Thus a wonderful friendship bloomed. 

Victoria took to her artistic way of living and got her degree in the Visual Arts at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. She tried her hand at show business, I mean, with the last name of Star, she had a lot to live up to. But she missed home too much and came back home about 5 years ago. She got a job at the local high school as the Art and Drama teacher.  

“Listen, you know Harriet the Spy was my favorite book and movie growing up. I just didn’t expect to see Bridgett here in town. I thought when we graduated she was going to make it big as a TV anchor or something like that. You hadn’t mentioned her during our weekly phone calls. I was just caught off guard.” I said defensively and I watched Cindy weave her way through the now full pub with my bread and soup. 

“Hear ya go, darling. Enjoy! Anything I can get you, Vic?” Cindy asked while wiping the table next to us off with a damp rag. 

“I’ll have what she’s having. A smithwicks right?” Victoria looked at me with a glint in her eye. I knew I was predictable but I liked what I liked. No sense in straying from something I knew was going to taste good. 

“Alright, it might be a little bit longer, we always get slammed around this time every day. The new school they’re building brings in a lot of thirsty and hungry construction workers. See ya in a bit, I’ll bring your drink over first. though.” Cindy made her way back to the bar, getting stopped every few steps to take empty glasses, pick up tabs, and orders. She made it look easy, but I know it takes a special person to be able to handle this kind of crowd. 

“I didn’t know that she was back in town. I knew that she was in and out of rehab after we graduated high school. She got knocked up, by her drug dealer, I believe, and the kid lives with her parents while she wanders around town to town.” Victoria looked like she was going to cry. I knew that she didn’t feel bad for Bridgett, she was just as mean or worse to Victoria in high school then she was to me. There had to be something else that Vic was upset about. 

“What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?” I asked

“It’s just, I know her son, Blake. He is in 3rd grade now, and is the sweetest, most talented kid I have in the Young Actors Guild that I run after school. She isn’t the kindest to him. She picked him up last week, drunk off her rocker and swearing at him. Calling him a fairy because he had stage makeup on. It was just hard to watch, and I feel so bad for him.” Victoria wiped away a tear as she started to sort the papers in front of her into piles that only made sense to her. 

“Hey, Vic, I’m sorry! Just know that everything you are doing with your after school clubs and before school tutoring is amazing! You are a wonderful mother figure for these kids and you are helping them with everything that you can.  But you have to remember that you’re only human, you can’t do everything.” I squeezed her arm and smiled at her. 

“Oh, I know! This is me being tough, you should have seen my first year teaching. I cried every day. Speaking of first year teaching, you ready to tackle History for Juniors and Seniors? I brought the textbook and the most recent state standards for you to look over before school starts. You’ll be working with Mike, the 9th and 10th grade teacher on collaboration and lesson plans.” Victoria went into organization and planning mode. I knew that I wouldn’t get anything else out of her if we didn’t get everything settled and sorted out now. 

“Mike? Who’s Mike? You never mentioned that I would have to work on a team with anyone else. What was it that you said? ‘Mags, you’re basically your own boss. You won’t even have to deal with adults, besides parents. I promise this will be amazing!’, I’m pretty sure you didn’t mention working with anyone else.” I didn’t like surprises and Victoria knew that. 

“Listen, I knew that you might say no if I told you that you weren’t going to be 100% on your own. And no job lets you work all alone, you need to socialize more! Besides, it’s not like its a stranger. You know Mike.” She said while averting her eyes from my gaze. 

“I do? Who is Mike?” I could feel the apprehension climbing from my stomach to my heart and into my throat. 

“Michael Johnson. He was a year behind us. He followed you around like a lost puppy our senior year. Asked you to prom but you decided to go with Jake instead. Which I still can’t understand.” Victoria scrunched up her face to show her displeasure in my choices ten years ago. 

“You knew from the beginning that I was going to be working with him didn’t you?!” I squeaked just a little bit too loudly, causing others in the tables near us to turn around and stare. 

I don’t know why I was so upset or why I was acting like a scared teenager. Mike never creeped me out or anything. He wasn’t a stalker by any means, but he did like to hang out with our group and try to be next to me most of the time.  He actually helped me study a time or two in the library for a history exam from Mr. Rod. His tests were always so brutal it was hard to keep up. 

Looking back I realize that I wasn’t the best of friends with him that I could have been and I didn’t want to have to relive my past mistakes even more than I was already going to. 

“Yes Mags, I knew that you would be working with him. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. You both are mature adults, right? You can be kind and helpful to one another. Plus, he is your mentor actually, so you have to meet with him at least once a week.” Victoria said the ending sentence as quickly as she could while drinking a large gulp from her beer. I think she was hoping that I wouldn’t hear the last part. 

“EVERY WEEK?! Jeez Vic, I’m not a child. Just because this is my first teaching job outside of my internships doesn’t mean I need to be babysat. I do have a degree in American Studies, I know what I am teaching. I have my teaching certificate which is more than a lot of alt-certified teachers here in the state.” I could feel the vein in my forehead bulging. When I get mad or upset that traitorous vein always pops. 

With the recent cuts to education in the past ten years Oklahoma teachers were flocking to the surrounding states for better teacher pay and support in the classroom. This left a lot of empty holes that needed to be filled in Oklahoma schools. 

Instead of actually raising teacher pay, the legislators decided that they were going to give emergency certifications to people who have degrees semi-close to what they would teach. They would have two years to pass the state test for the subject, but until then the school districts would throw these adults into the lion’s den with students who would eat them alive due to lack of classroom management or understanding of children’s phycology. 

“Do you know how to read IEPs? 504s? BIPs? What about the new OAS standards? There are many more acronyms that have come out since you graduated. You will need help with accommodations, talking to helicopter parents, and the flow of classroom management.” 

“Wait a minute, what is a helicopter parent? That sounds like something that would come out of a Science Fiction novel.” I laughed into my drink

“A helicopter parent, is a parent who thinks they know more about educating their child then you do. They’ll march into the Principal’s office to demand a 5-page report on why little Suzy got a B+ instead of an A for the paper they wrote for them because God forbid kids do their own homework and then they’ll force you to share your lesson plans with them and quickly respond by supplying you with their own they downloaded off some home-schooling website, while threatening to have you fired because they attend the same country club as the superintendent. And all because their child didn’t score high enough on the SAT, which how could they have when their parents were doing all the work for them or hired it out to tutors….” Victoria’s voice got low and turned into a hissing whisper. It was like she was afraid a helicopter parent was going to pop up and scare her even before the school year started. 

Just as Victoria was finishing her scare tactic lecture someone bumped into my chair and sloshed their drink down my back. 

“Excuse me!” I gasped as the warm beer trailed down my back and into my shorts. 

I turned around to see none other than Bridgett Nickel, trashed. She was so wasted that her eyes were barely open. No wonder she slammed into my chair she could hardly see. 

“Whaaat?! You bumped into me witch.” Bridgett slurred, “You owe me a new drink!”

“The hell I do. You slammed into my chair, spilled your beer down by back, and you’re blaming me?” My voice was raising and people around the pub stopped their conversations to peer our way. I remembered quickly that this was an extremely small town and anything said would get around quickly. 

Bridgett narrowed her eyes as though she was trying to focus on them, “ Maggie Turee! Ha! Is that you? It can’t be, your face isn’t the Grand Canyon anymore and you’ve lost the baby fat. It looks like you’re still stuffing your bra though.” Bridgett hissed and looked around the bar to get people to snicker with her. She was met with silence. 

One of the many rumors that Bridgett spread around the high school was that I stuffed my bra or got breast implants. She was tall and skinny in high school and part of what my mom called the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. It was the one thing that I had that she couldn’t take from me. My genetics. 

Being heavy on top was not all it was cracked up to be. I had to buy shirts a size too big so that they would fit my chest. Bras would wear out quicker. Worst of all was the back pain that they caused. They were actually a bigger problem than they were a blessing. I had thought many times about getting a reduction, but never went through with it. 

“Wow, you really haven’t grown up have you? You still have to put others down in order to bring yourself up don’t you?” I was trying not to let her put me back into my old high school mindset. I knew who I was and what kind of person I am. I wasn’t going to sink to her level. 

“Hey Cindy! Do you think you can get Bridgett here a pot of coffee? She needs to sober up!” I called over all the people to the bar. 

Nodding Cindy started pouring a glass of coffee out for Bridgett. As I walked closer to Bridgett the smell of alcohol seeping from her pores and the acidic stench of cigarette smoke insulted my nostrils as I tried to coerce her towards the bar.

 “Bridgett, you should go and sober up. Your son needs a mom. Someone to be there for him. You can’t continue to live life like this.” I was trying to be as kind as I could be. I was doing it for her son, not for Bridgett I told myself. 

Bridgett did not see this as a kind gesture. She yanked her arm out of my grasp and screamed as loud as she could, “DON’T TOUCH ME! You all saw! Maggie Turee assaulted me! I am going to the cops! I’m going to sue you!” She was walking towards the door as she was yelling, tripping over her own feet as she went, “This isn’t over, Turee! I will get you! No one makes a fool out of Bridgett Nickel!” Her voice faded as the pub door slammed shut.

Graded in Red| Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“Hey! Do you need any help with that?!” Someone across the street yelled as I was heroically carrying three boxes from the moving truck. 

“No! I’m good! You know women’s rights and feminism and all that!” I hollered back struggling against the weight of the boxes I was carrying. Who in the sane world owns this many books? I mean seriously, Maggie read them once, donate them, sell them, move on!’, is what a sane person would tell herself. And yet, here I am, moving across the state, with more boxes full of books then basic materials to live. 

Hearing an exasperated sigh from behind me, I knew that I was about to get a talking to from whoever was behind me. The hair rose on the back of my neck as the person spoke. 

“Seriously I don’t mind helping, really! I promise, I will still look at you as the womanly woman that I think you are behind those boxes. You know, the kind of woman that doesn’t mind asking for help. Unless you’re cool with tripping over that next step, face planting, and then being a toothless feministic female who carries heavy boxes by herself.” 

I tried to move forward but was blocked by an unmoving object. I was pretty sure it was the frustrating floating voice becoming a solid form and blocking my way into my parent’s basement apartment. 

I tried moving around the foreign object, moving left, and then right, but it kept impeding my advancements and I felt the load in my arms lighten and the brightness of the sun penetrate my once shadowed face as this stranger lifted one of the boxes from my arms. 

“Listen, I get it. You are a gentleman and you wanted to help the lady across the street. But I specifically said I did not need any help. Now, I have pepper spray in my pocket and I’m not afraid to use it. Put the box down and step away slowly. No one will get hurt.” I said as my eyes adjusted to the light that was forced upon them. 

I was however bluffing, after I moved back home from the city, I didn’t feel the need to carry my pepper spray and cat keyring with me 24/7. But this guy didn’t need to know that specific piece of information. I could front with the best of them. 

As my eyes focused on the person in front of me, I could not believe who I was seeing. Jake, the neighborhood terror and once a close friend, was standing in front of me carrying my box of books. The mischievous look in his eyes knew that I recognized him and showed that he was having a grand old time messing with me. 

“Margaret Turee, looks like you are still as stubborn as ever at letting people help you.” Jake said in a playful yet obnoxious way. 

“Jake Peterson, looks like you are still as pushy, overbearing, and still don’t understand the words ‘No, Thank You!’. And its Maggie, it has always been Maggie” I snapped as I pushed pass Jake and walked down the stairs, while not so gracefully tripping over the lifted up edge of the threshold as I entered the kitchenette and set my boxes down on the counter. 

Jake, obviously still ignoring everyone else’s wishes came down the stairs, missing the warped edge of the entryway, and set the other box of books on my counter. 

“Maggie, Mags, when are you going to get over what happened? That was 10 years ago. I came to help you out, I’m not the same person I was when I was 18. Are you?” 

I blew the hair out of my eyes and looked up at Jake. I wasn’t short for a woman at 5’7’’. I also wasn’t tiny, I liked to eat real people food. I weighed in at a solid 160lbs, and wore a size 10. 

But when I say that Jake grew into his body. I wasn’t kidding. The tall, gangly boy I remembered from high school was nowhere to be seen. The man standing in front of me was not only take-your-breath-away gorgeous but looked like he could easily lift a hundred boxes of heavy books with his massive biceps and still not break a sweat. It looked like he finally grew out his chestnut colored hair from the military cut his dad always forced on him when he was younger. Being the son of the police chief was something that Jake had hated, growing up, but he seemed to have accepted it, as shown by the badge on his hip.  

“Of course I’m not the same person as I was when I was 18. Would you have seen me move back home?” I snapped as sweat dripped down my face and threatened to fall and sting my eyes. 

The heat of Oklahoma never seemed to waver in July. Not only was the temperature hot, but the humidity was at 90% today. You got out of an air conditioned car and you were hit with a wall of wet fire. 

“Maggie, my dear!” A voice hollered down the basement staircase. 

“Yes mom! What is it?” I shouted back. Jake squinted and covered his ears at my response. In my family, we don’t merely walk to the other side of the house to have a regular conversation. This is what normal people in normal families do. Nope, in my family, we scream at the top of our lungs. Even if there isn’t a thing going on in the house, we scream. It’s just the way I was raised. 

“I just made a fresh batch of sweet tea, would you like one? It is hot as a whore in church out there. I am afraid that you are going to overheat!” My mother continued screaming down the stairs. 

You see, my mom, Heather, was what you would call a special woman. She did not care about what others thought, spoke her mind, and cussed like a sailor. This to my dad was a redeeming quality, since it was exactly the opposite of himself. I guess the saying opposites attract really rungs true when it came to my parents. 

Mom is loud and boisterous and has never met a stranger. Whereas my dad, Paul, was shy, rarely spoke out, and had the best sense of humor you could possibly imagine. I found my love of puns through him. 

Walking to the end of the stairs, I could see my mom peeking out of the door at the top, “I’m good mom. I don’t need anything, thank you though!” I hollered up the stairs and shooed her away with my hand. 

“Oh! You want me to leave?! Who’s down there with you? A boy!? Paul! Maggie has a boy in her room!” My mom  shrieked into the living room, where I knew my dad was sitting in his recliner watching a sports ball game of some sort. 

“I’ll come on down and see who is here!” My mom said as she waddled down the steep stairs into the apartment. “Oh! Jake! It’s so good to see you! Were you coming by to see me? I need my front yard mowed and our gutters need cleaning out!” My mom started digging through her pockets in her jeans shirt and jean shorts coming up with a wrinkled $20 bill. 

“I’m sure this will cover both of those chores, now come on up for a nice cold glass of tea. If Maggie-Poo here wants to die of dehydration like a cowboy chasing a floozy mirage in the Sahara Desert that is her choice, but I want to make sure you don’t keel over while tending to the yard.” Mom said as she walked away and Jake trailed after her looking helpless. 

I had a tiny urge to rescue him from my mom, but then I remembered what happened 10 years ago, and I decided that this was his punishment. My mom could make paint peel talking it to death. I love her, but you can only listen to the same story so many times before your eyes start to roll. 

It was time to start unpacking. This was the beginning of a new chapter for me. I was going to meet with Victoria this evening to talk to her about my new job at the high school and what to expect. I needed to rinse off really quick, change into some shorts and a tank top, and head on over to the pub on Main Street.

CozWeek| July 1st-7th

Hello everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful morning! I’m doing pretty well! I can’t believe that today is the last day of June! This year is halfway over and we are getting into the hotter months, especially here in Oklahoma. It’s like Hell’s Sauna outside with the heat and humidity. Ha!

I normally have a really hard time celebrating my birthday. I don’t know why, but ever since I was about 16 I haven’t felt like really celebrating. I feel bad when people buy me gifts and I don’t know how to celebrate.

I have had quite a few people as me over the past couple of years if I would ever do a mid-year Cozy readathon. With March Mystery Madness in March and Cozmas in December, I thought that July would be a great time to have a short one week readathon.

CozWeek

It just so happens to be the week of my 29th birthday. Life keeps moving faster and faster as I grow older. I hear that life tends to do that! Ha! So, I came up with CozWeek! It is a very simple readathon with three challenges. If you’d like to watch my booktube video click here, if not I’ll explain the challenges and my TBR below!

COZWEEK CHALLENGES

As you can see there are three very easy challenges for Cozweek! I wanted something that everyone could do!

I want to preface this, you do not have to read Cozy Mysteries for every or even ANY of the challenges. I might have even changed my TBR from what I said in my video.

For the 1st challenges it is pick a book that is either a new favorite series or maybe even a new favorite author. I wanted something that would be pretty easy to do. There are just some author’s that you fall in love with and you just have to own EVERY. SINGLE. BOOK. they have written. Am I right?!

51YsmBtzo7L._AC_SY400_ For the A New Favorite Series/Author challenge I chose Buy a Whisker by Sofie Ryan.

This is the second book in the A Second Chance Cat Mystery series. I LOVE LOVE Sofie Ryan who also writes under Sofie Kelly.

I actually just finished A Tale of Two Kitties by her for the Magical Cats Mystery series. It was really cute!

This series is all about a young woman who has started her life over, adopted a stray kitty cat, and has opened up a thrift store where she refurbishes old furniture and of course solves a few mysteries at the same time!

 

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For the second challenge it is read a new book! I was graciously sent this book from the publisher Kensington Books. This is the first in the series and I am all about any cozy with fur-children!

This cover is to die for though, isn’t it?! I love all of the detail that a Cozy Mystery cover can give you! You can see the bunny over course, but then the blood on with the tomato, and then the cemetery on the salad bowl!

I am all about getting comfy on the couch and devour this book as well. I have a really good feeling about this!

 

 

cover163182-mediumFor the last challenge, a July release, I had originally chosen Penne Dreadful. But then it doesn’t come out until July 30th and I don’t have an Advanced Readers copy. So I started looking into all of the other books that I’ve gotten. Including those from Netgalley! A lo-and-behold I found this amazing nugget.

It technically doesn’t release until July 30th as well, but I have an ARC from Netgalley! So this is going to be my choice for a July Release! It still technically ticks the mark for the challenge! *self five*

This still has a cozy-ish theme to it. The main character Yvonne is getting out of a bad relationship and she feels herself getting into something new. Starting over.

“But now the once-broke single mom is Atlanta’s most sought-after interior designer—and one-half of the media’s hottest power couple. She and her celebrity fiancé, Nathan, are a perfect, practical match, on—and off—camera. And with their new home improvement reality show the object of a fierce network bidding war, there’s no limit to how far they can go . . .”


So those are my choices for #cozweek! Let me know, are you going to be joining me in the week long read of cozy reads? In the comments down below let me know what your choices are!

I’d love to add more books to my every growing TBR pile!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

XOXO
~Courtny