The Diva Cooks Up a Storm Krista Davis
KENSINGTON BOOKS www.kensingtonbooks.com
KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018 Copyright ÂŠ 2018 by Krista Davis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews. All Kensington titles, imprints and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund-raising, educational or institutional use. Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager: Kensington Publishing Corp., 119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018. Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647. Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off. Library of Congress Control Number: 2018932864 ISBN-13: 978-1-4967-1468-8 ISBN-10: 1-4967-1468-7 First Kensington Hardcover Edition: June 2018 eISBN-13: 978-1-4967-1470-1 eISBN-10: 1-4967-1470-9 First Kensington Electronic Edition: June 2018 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America
C ast of C ha racters Old Town Residents Hollis Haberman Kelsey Haberman, Hollis’s wife Gavin Haberman, Hollis’s son Cindy Haberman, Hollis’s ex-wife, Gavin’s mother Angus Bogdanoff Madison Jenkins (husband Gage) Trula Dixon Parker Dixon Dr. Jay Charles Sophie’s Friends Francie Vanderhoosen Nina Reid Norwood Bernie Frei Humphrey Brown Lavinia Brown, Humphrey’s mother Mars Winston Alex German Natasha
Dear Sophie, I met a very cute guy recently. We went out once and now he has invited me to an “underground dinner.” He doesn’t know where it will be, what will be served, or who else will be there. This sounds very suspicious. I don’t want to end up under the ground! Is this a real thing? Trepidatious in Lick Fork, Virginia Dear Trepidatious, Underground dinners, also known as pop-up dinners, are all the rage right now. An undisclosed but well-known chef prepares a surprise menu in a location that isn’t revealed until the last minute. Tickets are typically bought well in advance. Underground dinners are a lot of fun, but you’ll have to decide whether this is what the new boyfriend actually has in mind. Sophie
t ten in the morning on the first day of my summer vacation, a bloodcurdling scream pierced the tranquility of my neighborhood in Old Town Alexandria. My hound mix, Daisy, had been sniffing around my backyard while I enjoyed a mug of coffee. Daisy barked once and ran for the front gate. Dogs have far better hearing than humans, so I trusted her inclination about the direction of the trouble and followed right behind her. A man ran toward us on the sidewalk, his gait awkward and ungainly. He waved his hands madly around his head and continued screaming. By that time, my neighbors Nina Reid Norwood and Francie Vanderhoosen had emerged from their homes. At first blush, the man appeared to be deranged. But as he neared, his dilemma became readily apparent. Angry bees buzzed around him and more followed. I seized his hand. “Quick. Into the house!” Daisy snapped at the bees as we ran. Nina and Francie brought up the rear. We rushed into my kitchen and quickly closed the door behind us. A few bees made it inside. Nina and Francie grabbed sections of the newspaper and swatted at them while Daisy continued to chase and snap at them. Meanwhile, I sat the man down. Thirtyish, I guessed. His green T-shirt bore the hound face logo of The Laughing Hound, a local restaurant. His jeans were dusty, as though he’d been doing lawn work in them. He was having trouble breathing. Red welts had already formed on his face. “Do you have a bee allergy?” I asked. “Doh. Gihzzy.” He opened his mouth for some deep breaths. There was no mistaking the swelling of his tongue. I grabbed the phone, dialed 911, and handed it to Nina while I wet a kitchen towel with cold water. I had no idea
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whether that was the right thing to do, but I held it against his face. Francie seized the beautiful pink begonia from my bay window, pulled it out of the pot, and scooped up dirt in her hands. “Scoot over, Sophie.” She packed the dirt against his face. One of his eyes was swelling shut. “Will you look at that?” asked Nina. “Bees are still buzzing around your kitchen door.” Some of the bees outside were even hitting the glass window in the door as though they were angry that they couldn’t come inside. Moments later, the reassuring wail of an ambulance soothed my nerves. Allergic or not, this guy needed medical attention. I ran to the front door and opened it. In moments, the ambulance had parked, and emergency medical technicians walked inside calm as a serene lake. An EMT asked the man, “What’s your name, sir?” “Anguh Guhanhoh.” His speech was so garbled that none of us could understand it. “You ladies know him?” The three of us looked at one another and shook our heads. “He came running down the street with bees buzzing all around him,” I explained. The EMT felt the man’s pockets for a wallet and extracted it while another EMT asked what was on his face. Francie beamed when she said, “Dirt. It’s an old home remedy. Soothes the stings.” The EMT shook his head in obvious disbelief. The one with the wallet said, “I don’t see any allergy alerts in here. You’re Angus Bogdanoff?” The man nodded. “Got any allergies?” “Doh.” He shook his head.
They administered a shot of epinephrine, put him on a stretcher, and wheeled him out to the ambulance. We trailed along, feeling helpless. We couldn’t even notify anyone for the poor guy. When the ambulance departed, Nina, Francie, and I returned to my kitchen. I took lemonade and iced tea out of the fridge to make Arnold Palmers. “I’d suggest sitting in the garden,” said Francie, “but we probably ought to let any lingering bees dissipate.” “Not to mention that it’s already getting warm,” Nina fanned herself with both hands. “I swear this is the hottest summer I can remember. I try to stay indoors until six in the evening. Thank heaven the underground dinner tonight doesn’t start earlier. They’d have people fainting all over the place.” “Everyone is too pampered these days. We didn’t have air-conditioning when I was growing up.” Francie sipped her Arnold Palmer. “I remember my daddy sitting outside to read at ten o’clock at night because it was too stuffy in the house. And no one had air-conditioning in their cars, either. We kids sat in the back with the windows rolled down and hung our heads out like dogs. Mom and Dad made ice cream with an old crank machine and cream. Can you imagine? It had fat it in! Best ice cream ever. It was such fun running around the neighborhood, catching fireflies in the dark. Now that’s how summer ought to be.” Nina shot her a sideways glance. “I bet you wouldn’t go without air-conditioning today.” She’d caught Francie, who laughed. “I bet I could weather it better than you.” I suspected that might be the case. A true outdoorsy Southerner, Francie had reached the age where she said what she thought, even if it might sting. She made no effort to tame her dyed-yellow hair that looked as brittle as
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straw, or to hide the wrinkles she had earned from years of gardening and bird-watching in all kinds of weather. “What do you know about bees, Francie?” I asked. “Why would they chase Angus like that?” “Bees can be ornery little buggers. They’re focused on protecting the hive and the queen. My guess is that Angus accidentally stumbled onto a hive and disturbed it. I’ve heard they’ll chase a person up to half a mile.” Nina shuddered. “I love honey, but bees scare me.” I was perusing the fridge for a snack when someone knocked on the front door. Daisy accompanied me to open it. Hollis Haberman, who lived on the next block, stood on my stoop. A respected criminal attorney in his fifties, Hollis liked to eat and had long ago given up any sort of exercise. His face was flushed from the heat and the short walk to my house. “Hollis! Come on in out of the sun. Could I offer you an Arnold Palmer?” “That would hit the spot. Sorry to disturb you, but my yard man vanished, and I’m told he was seen headed this way acting kind of strange.” I closed the door behind him. “Angus was working for you? Come into the kitchen. Nina and Francie are here. It was the strangest thing. Angus was being chased by bees. You’d better be careful in your yard.” Hollis touched my arm ever so gently. “Could I have a private word with you out here first?” “Sure.” I frowned at him. “What’s up?” Hollis’s belly heaved when he took a deep breath. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Do you know of a way to test food at home to be sure nobody poisoned it?”
She must scramble to stop a killer before anyone else eats their last meal.