Bittersweet Betrayal

Welcome to Snippet Sunday!

Here’s a look Book 1 in the Spirited Sweets Series, Bittersweet Betrayal. 

Claire & Nick are the perfect crime solving couple.

Except one of them is dead…

Now available!

CHAPTER ONE

I’m a morning person. I’ve always been. I don’t need coffee in my cup or a ghost’s face popping out of my bread dough to get me rising, which is why at 5 AM I stared wide-eyed at the talking head lecturing me on my bread-making skills. You would think my recent experiences with the paranormal would make me an expert at such ghostly encounters, but truth be told, I was far from one.

“I’ve never seen bread made this way. With a machine? Tsk tsk. That would never fly in my kitchen,” the talking head lectured.

I blinked a time or two. 

“Where’d you get this recipe? The internet? It’s not the London way. No wonder your bakery’s in trouble,” the head continued.

At that moment, I couldn’t have cared less about my bakery. I was more concerned with how my husband’s grandmother had died and what her head was doing in my bread dough. Not to mention wondering where the rest of her body was. This was a first. Adele’s death had to be a recent turn of events. Bleu Clair Bay was a small village. No way had the monarch of the London family met her demise without me getting word of it. I looked around my deserted bakery for its resident ghost, but my dearly departed husband was nowhere to be seen either. 

Great.

I was definitely having a case of the Mondays.

I took a deep breath.

“Mrs. London, I’m sorry to see that you’ve, uh … passed.” I continued surveying the bakery. Ellen, who was like a mom to me, wouldn’t be coming in to lend a hand for another hour or so; until then, it looked like I was on my own. Not that she would’ve been able to see Adele, but the moral support would’ve been nice. Adele London hadn’t cared for me much in her life and I’d bet she still didn’t like my recipe book, if the bread comment was any indication.

“Passed? What are you talking about?” Adele looked around and took her herself in, or rather, the lack thereof. I felt her anxiety spike within my own chest. Her energy buzzed, and her image started to pulse like a strobe light.

“Mrs. London, it’s okay.” I reached out to her, but her head jerked away from my hand as if it was a fly buzzing toward her. The bread machine kicked up a notch, whizzing louder and angrily throwing the ball of dough inside the bowl. It smacked around the metal bowl—thwack, thwack, thwack—threatening to knock the entire thing off its base. I moved to turn the machine off. Adele misread my movement.

“Get away from me! What am I even doing here? I don’t even like you.” Adele’s words were cold and cruel. Delivered in death the same as in life, which is why her insult didn’t surprise me. How sad is that? She gave me one last stare, a look I could hope to never see again before zapping into the ether. I shivered. 

“Okay, that was weird.” And seeing how weird my life was already, that was saying something. 

With Adele gone, I went to the fridge and pulled out a tray of leaf-shaped sugar cookies I had baked the night before. I had debated making snowflakes, but thought I’d wait until after Halloween to go there. Even though it was still October, snow would be flying soon here in northern Michigan, a fact that the locals were excited about. The fall rush was just about over. Snowfall meant a new wave of tourists would be heading up our way, ready to play in our winter wonderland and spend their cash. Without tourists, our village would be toast. 

I put the cookies on the counter and went back to the fridge to retrieve the buttercream frosting. Using a pastry knife, I smoothed a thick layer of the silky orange cream onto one of the cookies and sunk my teeth into it.

ACK! 

I spit the cookie out into my hand. It tasted absolutely horrid, and what’s worse, I had no idea why. Was it the cookie? The frosting? Where did I go wrong? I tossed the cookie in the trash and jogged over to the sink to wash my hands and rinse out my mouth. My problems were much bigger than using a bread machine. Adele was right. No wonder my bakery was in trouble. 

“That good, huh?” Nick’s voice purred unnaturally close to my ear. Even from the afterlife, that man could make my heart go pitter patter.

“I don’t know what’s happened, but I’ve lost my touch,” I confessed, dabbing my mouth dry on a tea towel. “It’s only a matter of time before even Ellen abandons me.” 

I nibbled on another cookie and found it to be the most flavorless piece of cardboard ever. Looked like it had been both, the cookie and the frosting. I chucked the rest of the cookies into the trash and looked around at the assortment of baked goods in their various states, praying they weren’t all ruined. 

“Come now, Love, it can’t be that bad.”

I furrowed my brow as my mind tried to calculate just how bad it was. There was no denying that demand was down—way down. I already didn’t have to bake half of my usual assortment since no one had bought a cupcake in a week. A week! Who could resist the temptation of a cupcake? Even the mental image had my mouth watering. This was worse than I thought. 

But then I remembered Adele.

“Hey babe, so, um, your grandmother was just here.” I walked the bowl of frosting over to the sink and scooped it out. I wasn’t even going to taste a little bit.

“What? She was?” From over my shoulder, Nick’s transparent image flickered a bit. Sort of like a television when its antenna is on the fritz. “That’s odd.”

“You have no idea.”

Nick cocked his head to the side knowing there was more to the story. 

“It was, um … her ghost that came in,” I said as I walked over to where he was standing.

“What?” Nick’s body passed right through mine. The coldness took my breath away and made me take a step back. I smacked my head from the temporary brain freeze. 

Nick’s eyes were wide. “Sorry. I didn’t mean …” I waved his concern away. 

He looked around. “Is she still here?” 

“Not anymore, and she wasn’t happy to be here when she was.” I gave Nick a knowing stare.

“I bet.” His grandmother’s personality hadn’t escaped his notice, even though he had been her favorite.

Nick’s expression drifted off, and I knew he wanted to run off and check out things on his end. “Just let me know what you find out. Won’t you?” I asked.

“You don’t mind?” Nick replied.

“No, of course not.” Truth be told, I was pretty curious myself. As far as I knew, Adele London had been as healthy as a horse, or maybe it was a mule. A stubborn, bossy mule. 

“Okay, I’ll be back shortly. I’ll let you know what I find out.” Nick started to fade away, before his appearance brightened once more. “Hey, chin up, buttercup. I always loved your cookies.” I tried to smile, but it was half-hearted at best. Nick threw in a wink and then popped out of existence. All that was left was a little blue orb floating off through the front of the bakery. I assumed once outside, he’d take a left down Cherry Street and head along the coast to London Manor.

I sighed and looked around the bakery once more. Ellen had painted a festive fall scene on the front windows—a maple tree dropping its gorgeous red and yellow leaves with a group of smiling jack-o-lanterns sitting beside it, their grins painted a bright yellow as if lit from within. Inside, the white and black checkered floor gleamed like the display cases up front with fall garland sprawled across them—also Ellen’s doing. Everything was festive and welcoming. Now if only my baking could live up to it. 

That was no way to think, I scolded myself. I should be lifting myself up, not beating myself down. After all, this morning would be big. Even if my baked goods had started to earn a bad reputation, the locals would still be flocking here to gossip about Adele’s death. I figured the locals would stop here or down the street at Carol’s Bar, and I couldn’t see the church’s women’s guild meeting up at the local watering hole to talk about Adele’s demise.

I had to be ready. Was redemption best served hot or cold? I wasn’t sure. I crossed my fingers and turned my attention to my once-famous cinnamon rolls. I prayed they were stellar and you could bet that they’d be iced to impress.

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