Tuesday Sampler: The Great Chocolate Scam by Sally Berneathy

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Tuesday’s Sampler is an excerpt from The Great Chocolate Scam, the third books in the Death by Chocolate series from Sally Berneathy.

As one reviewer said: Sally Berneathy is a great find – don’t miss this series. Her humor is fresh and very funny. (Also, the recipes at the end of the book are mouth-watering.)

Click Here for the Audio Book.

The Story

Finally Rick has agreed to sign the divorce papers and give Lindsay her freedom! She is sitting in her lawyer’s office waiting for him when she gets the call.

Rick is dead. Murdered by a bomb that blew up his car in his own driveway.

Lindsay is his sole heir. Or is she? She’s never met any of Rick’s family. Though he told her various conflicting stories about them, she came to believe they didn’t exist, that Rick was an alien stranded here when the mother ship left without him.

But then Rick’s mother and two brothers show up followed by a woman who claims to be his ex-wife and a boy she claims is Rick’s son. Everyone except Lindsay wants to inherit Rick’s estate. What’s so valuable that someone killed for it and is ready to kill again?

Come for the Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars, stay for the murder, mayhem and fun!

The Sampler

Sally Berneathy
Sally Berneathy

Rick was dead.

A man I’d once loved, been married to, planned a life with, was gone forever from this earth. I’d never again see those blue eyes enhanced by colored contacts, that arrogant smile, that carefully streaked blond hair.

A part of me was sad, but I have to admit that a tiny part of me was just a little bit relieved. Rick had driven me crazy with his cheating while we were married, then after we separated he’d switched to just driving me crazy in general. Even though the separation was his idea…out with the old (Lindsay), in with the new (Muffy)…as soon as he and Muffy broke up, he decided he wanted me back. I, on the other hand, decided that one burst of insanity—marrying him in the first place—was enough for one lifetime and told him I wasn’t coming back.

He didn’t get to be top salesman for Rheims Commercial Real Estate by accepting no for an answer, and he had no intention of accepting no from me. I became a challenge, that big sale he was having trouble closing.

Then he met Becky and backed off for a while until Becky became history. After that came Carolyn, Vanessa, Lisa and probably a few more I didn’t know about. The last couple of years had been stressful, frustrating and maddening. This sudden and very final resolution seemed somehow too abrupt and a little anticlimactic. After all the hassle, it just couldn’t be this easy.

I drove to the police station, and Trent met me at the front desk. He was a welcome sight in his rumpled jacket and slacks. He has great eyes, brown with hints of green. The happier he is, the more green shows in his eyes. That day his eyes were brown like the bark on a tree in winter, and his expression was grim.

He came over to me, wrapped me in his arms and hugged me in front of God, the dispatcher and everybody. Since my divorce wasn’t final, we had never indulged in public displays of affection. This public hug made the new circumstances suddenly real. My divorce was final.

“I’m sorry, Lindsay,” Trent murmured in my ear.

As soon as he released me, his partner, Gerald Lawson took his place, embracing me gently. My nickname for Gerald is Granite Man. He’s tall and thin with structured gray hair and a face that never shows emotion. From the first time I met him, I’ve had a goal to break him down, to make him show some kind of emotion, maybe even toss caution to the wind and laugh without restraint. Seems I cracked the granite that day, but not the way I intended. When he pulled back, his expression was marked with sadness and sympathy.

I felt a little guilty, accepting all that compassion under false pretenses. Sure, I was upset that Rick was dead, but in a detached sort of way, the same way I’d feel upset over the death of a stranger. That’s what he had become. An annoying stranger.

The boys led me into an interrogation room with a scarred wooden table, uncomfortable wooden chairs and a one-way mirror. Suddenly I felt like a criminal rather than the object of sympathy. Surely they didn’t think…

“We’re sorry for your loss.” Lawson sat across from me. He had resumed his Granite Man face.

“My loss?”

“Your deceased husband.”

I flinched and stole a glance at Trent who sat next to Lawson. We’d been sort of dating for several months, waiting for my divorce to be final before putting a name to our relationship, and I wondered how he felt about his partner’s reference to my husband. However, at that moment Trent, whom Fred referred to as Mr. Stone Face because of the stern way his chiseled features looked when he was playing cop, wasn’t showing much more expression than Granite Man.

“My ex husband,” I said.

“Your divorce wasn’t final.”

“I think it is now. I think this is about as final as it’s going to get.”

Lawson nodded and looked down at the papers lying on the table in front of him before once again lifting his steely gaze. “Where were you at three o’clock this afternoon?”

I half rose out of my chair. “Where was I? You think I blew him up? You seriously think I would go to all the trouble to blow him up when I was just about to get what I wanted from him?”

“No!” Trent reached a hand across the table toward me. I refused to meet him halfway and take his hand, but I did sit back down.

“We have to ask,” Lawson said.

“I was sitting in my lawyer’s office, waiting for Rick to arrive and sign the divorce papers.” I gave them Jason’s name and phone number. “You can check with him, and I’ll give you a copy of his bill for all that wasted time.” I glared at both of them in turn. See if I ever made them any more chocolate chip cookies.

“So Rick was on his way to your lawyer’s office?”

“He was going to his lawyer’s office first, and then the two of them would come to Jason’s office together. He never made it to his lawyer’s.” I studied the two of them, so sympathetic and caring one minute, so official the next. “If one of you could tell me exactly what happened, I might be able to answer your questions a little better.”

Trent looked at me, holding my gaze as if he could support me by the power of his eyes. “The explosion occurred a few minutes after three o’clock in Rick’s driveway. Nobody saw it happen, so we’re not sure if he had just backed out of the garage or if the car had been sitting there for a while.”

“He never left his car sitting in the driveway. He thought that looked tacky, not befitting his status in the neighborhood.”

Trent nodded. “The neighbors heard a loud explosion, and parts from the car flew all around the cul-de-sac.”

I swallowed and straightened, trying to absorb the image of Rick’s green SUV flying around the neighborhood along with pieces of Rick—a blue contact lens in Mrs. Hawkins’ driveway, a perfectly creased trouser leg hanging on the street sign. “Do I need to—” I cleared my throat. “Do I need to identify the body?”

 

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