The countdown timer has started! I can’t believe it’s only six days until The Case of the Waffling Warrants goes live!
I’ve been so excited to share this book, not only because it’s the continuation of Charlie’s story (from the Mission Inn-possible Series) but because it was so much fun to write.
My inspiration for this novel came from an emotional place. Namely, a feeling of inadequacy. It was easy to relate to Charlie while writing because I felt like a little bit of her story was mine. Not that I’m a spy, or I solve murder cases, haha, I wish I was that exciting. Rather, it was because I’ve gone through a period in my life where I felt like I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile. Or that I had failed.
I think we’ve all had times like that in our lives. As long as we rise above… right?
I’m happy that this book is the start of Charlie’s journey. Bonus? I got to make waffle cupcakes with maple syrup and eat them while I wrote the story. (Pictures of that to follow. I think it’s time I bake another batch!)
The Case of the Waffling Warrants is available via pre-order from the following websites
If you’d like to read the first chapter, look no further. I’ve attached it below. Let me know what you think!
“Come in, Big G, come in.” I spoke under my breath so that the flesh-colored microphone seated against my throat picked up my voice. “What is your status?”
My grandmother, Georgina—pet name Gamma, code name Big G—was out on a special operation. Reconnaissance at the newest guesthouse in our town, Gossip. The reason? First, she was an ex-spy, as was I, and second, the woman who’d opened the guesthouse was her mortal enemy and in direct competition with my grandmother’s establishment, the Gossip Inn.
Who was this enemy, this bringer of potential financial doom?
A middle-aged woman with a penchant for wearing pashminas and annoying anyone who looked her way.
It was rumored that even thinking the woman’s name summoned a murder of crows.
“I repeat, Big G, what is your status?”
“I’m en route to the nest,” my grandmother replied in my earpiece.
I let out a relieved sigh and exited my bedroom, heading downstairs to help with the breakfast service.
In the nine months since I had retired as a spy, life in Gossip had been normal. In the Gossip sense of the term. I’d expected that my job as a server, maid, and assistant would bring the usual level of “cat herding” inherent when working at the inn. Whether that involved tracking down runaway cats, literally, or providing a guest with a moist towelette after a fainting spell—tempers ran high in Gossip.
What was the reason for the craziness? Shoot, it had to be something in the water.
I took the main stairs two at a time and found my friend, the inn’s chef, paging through her recipe book in the timid green kitchen. Lauren Harris wore her red hair in a French braid today, apron stretched over her pregnant belly.
“Morning,” I said, “how are you today?”
“Madder than a fat cat on a diet.” She slapped her recipe book closed and turned to me.
Uh oh. Looks like it’s time for more cat herding.
“My supplier is out of flour and sugar. Can you believe that?” Lauren huffed, smoothing her hands over her belly while the clock on the wall ticked away. Breakfast was in two hours and Lauren loved baking cupcakes as part of the meal.
“Do you have enough supplies to make cupcakes for this morning?”
“Yes. But just for today,” Lauren replied. “The guests are going to love my new waffle cupcakes, and they’ll be sore they can’t get anymore after this batch is done. Why, I should go down there and wring Billy’s neck for doing this to me. He knows I take an order of sugar and flour every week, and I get it at just above cost too. What’s Georgina going to say?”
“Don’t stress, Lauren,” I said. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Right.” She brightened a little. “I nearly forgot you’re the one who “fixes” things around here.” Lauren winked at me.
She was the only person in the entire town who knew that my grandmother and I had once been spies for the NSIB—the National Security Investigative Bureau. But the news that I had helped solve several murders had spread through town, and now, anybody and everybody with a problem would call me up asking for help. A lot of them offered me money. And I was selective about who I chose to help.
“I’ll check it out for you if you’d like,” I said. “The flour issue.”
“Nah, that’s OK. I’m sure Billy will get more stock this week. I’ll lean on him until he squeals.”
“Sounds like you’ve been picking up tips from Georgina.”
Lauren giggled then returned to her super-secret recipe book—no one but her was allowed to touch it.
“What’s on the menu this morning?” I asked.
Lauren was the boss in the kitchen—she told me what to do, and I followed her instructions precisely. If I did anything else, like trying to read the recipe for instance, the food would end up burned, missing ingredients or worse.
The only place I wasn’t a “fixer” was in the Gossip Inn’s kitchen.
“Bacon and eggs over easy, biscuits and gravy, waffle cupcakes and… oh, I can’t make fresh baked bread, can I?”
“Tell her I’ll bring some back with me from the bakery.” Gamma’s voice startled me. Goodness, I’d forgotten about the earpiece—she could hear everything happening in the kitchen.
“I’ll text Georgina and ask her to bring bread from the bakery.”
“You’re a lifesaver, Charlotte.”
We set to work on the breakfast—it was 7:00 a.m. and we needed everything done within two hours—and fell into our easy rhythm of baking and cooking.
My grandmother entered the kitchen at around 8:30 a.m., dressed in a neat silk blouse and a pair of slacks rather than the black outfit she’d left in for her spy mission. Tall, willowy, and with neatly styled gray hair, Gamma had always reminded me of Helen Mirren playing the Queen.
“Good morning, ladies,” she said, in her prim, British accent. “I bring bread and tidings.”
“What did you find out?” I asked.
“No evidence of the supposed ghost tours,” Gamma said.
We’d started hosting ghost tours at the inn recently, so of course Jessie Belle-Blue wanted to do the same. She was all about under-cutting us, but, thankfully, the Gossip Inn had a legacy and over 1,000 positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
Breakfast time arrived, and the guests filled the quaint dining area with its glossy tables, creaking wooden floors, and egg yolk yellow walls. Chatter and laughter leaked through the swinging kitchen doors with their porthole windows.
“That’s my cue,” I said, dusting off my apron, and heading out into the dining room.
I picked up a pot of coffee from the sideboard where we kept the drinks station and started my rounds.
Most of the guests had gathered around a center table in the dining room, and bursts of laughter came from the group, accompanied by the occasional shout.
I elbowed my way past a couple of guests—nobody could accuse me of having great people skills—apologizing along the way until I reached the table. The last time something like this had happened, a murder had followed shortly afterward.
Not this time. No way.
“—the last thing she’d ever hear!” The woman seated at the table, drawing the attention, was vaguely familiar. She wore her dark hair in luscious curls, and tossed it as she spoke, looking down her upturned nose at the people around the table.
“What happened then, Mandy?” Another woman asked, her hands clasped together in front of her stomach.
Mandy? Wait a second, isn’t this Mandy Gilmore?
Gamma had mentioned her once before—Mandy was a massive gossip in town. Why wasn’t she staying at her house?
“What happened? Well, she ran off with her tail between her legs, of course. She’ll soon learn not to cross me. Heaven knows, I always repay my debts.”
“What, like a Lannister from Game of Thrones?” That had come from a taller woman with ginger curls.
“Shut up, Opal,” Mandy replied. “You have no idea what we’re talking about, and even if you did, you wouldn’t have the intelligence to comprehend it.”
The crowd let out various ‘oofs’ in response to that. The woman next to me clapped her hand over her mouth.
“You’re all talk, Gilmore.” Opal lifted a hand and yammered it at the other woman. “You act like you’re a threat, but we know the truth around here.”
“The truth?” Mandy leaned in, pressing her hands flat onto the tabletop, the crystal vase in the center rattling. “And what’s that, Opal, darling? I’d love to hear it.”
“That you’re a failure. You sold your house, left Gossip with your head in the clouds, told everyone you were going to become a successful businesswoman, and now you’re back. Back to scrape together the pieces of the life you have left.”
“Witch!” Mandy scraped her chair back.
“All right, all right,” I said, setting down the coffee pot on the table. “That’s enough, ladies. Everyone head back to their tables before things get out of hand.”
Both Opal and Mandy stared daggers at me.
I flashed them both smiles. “We wouldn’t want to ruin breakfast, would we? Lauren’s prepared waffle cupcakes.”
That distracted them. “Waffle cupcakes?” Opal’s brow wrinkled. “How’s that going to work?”
“Let’s talk about it at your table.” I grabbed my coffee pot and walked her away from Mandy. The crowd slowly dispersed, people muttering regret at having missed out on a show. The Gossip Inn was popular for its constant conflict.
If the rumors didn’t start here then they weren’t worth repeating. That was the mantra, anyway.
I seated Opal at her table, and she pursed her lips at me. “You shouldn’t have interrupted. That woman needs a piece of my mind.”
“We prefer peace of mind at the inn.” I put up another of my best smiles.
Compared to what I’d been through in the past—hiding out from my rogue spy ex-husband and eventually helping put him behind bars when he found me—dealing with the guests was a cakewalk.
“What brings you to Gossip, Opal?” I asked.
“I live here,” she replied, waspishly. “I’m staying here while they’re fumigating my house. Roaches.”
“Ah.” I struggled not to grimace. Thankfully, my cell phone buzzed in the front pocket of my apron and distracted me. “Coffee?”
“I don’t take caffeine.” And she said it like I’d offered her an illegal substance too.
“Call me if you need anything.” I hurried off before she could make good on that promise, bringing my phone out of my pocket.
I left the coffee pot on the sideboard, moving into the Gossip Inn’s spacious foyer, the chandelier overhead off, but catching light in glimmers. The tables lining the hall were filled with trinkets from the days when the inn had been a museum—an eclectic collection of bits and bobs.
“This is Charlotte Smith,” I answered the call—I would never get to use my true last name, Mission, again, but it was safer this way.
“Hello, Charlotte.” A soft, rasping voice. “I’ve been trying to get through to you. I’m desperate.”
“Who is this?”
“My name is Tina Rogers, and I need your help.”
“Yes,” she said. “I understand that you have a certain set of skills. That you fix people’s problems?”
“I do. But it depends on the problem and the price.” I didn’t have a set fee for helping people, but if it drew me away from the inn for long, I had to charge. I was technically a consultant now. Sort of like a P.I. without the fedora and coffee-stained shirt.
“My mother will handle your fee,” Tina said. “I’ve asked her to text you about it, but I… I don’t have long to talk. They’re going to pull me off the phone soon.”
“The police,” she replied. “I’m calling you from the holding cell at the Gossip Police Station. I’ve been arrested on false charges, and I need you to help me prove my innocence.”
“Miss Rogers, it’s probably a better idea to invest in a lawyer.” But I was tempted. It had been a long time since I’d felt useful.
“No! I’m not going to lawyer. I’m going to make these idiots pay for ever having arrested me.”
I took a breath. “OK. Before I accept your… case, I’ll need to know what happened. You’ll need to tell me everything.” I glanced through the open doorway that led into the dining room. No one looked unhappy about the lack of service yet.
“I can’t tell you everything now. I don’t have much time.”
“So give me the CliffsNotes.”
“I was arrested for breaking into and vandalizing Josie Carlson’s bakery, The Little Cake Shop. Apparently, they found my glove there—it was specially embroidered, you see—but it’s not mine because—” The line went dead.
“Hello? Miss Rogers?” I pulled the cellphone away from my ear and frowned at the screen. “Darn.”
My interest was piqued. A mystery case about a break-in that involved the local bakery? Which just so happened to be run by one of my least favorite people in Gossip?
And when I’d just started getting bored with the push and pull of everyday life at the inn?
Count me in.