Murder Over Easy
Murder has never been this easy…
When Sunny Charles arrives in small-town Parfait, Florida, the last thing she expects is a note from her aunt instructing her to take control of the famous Sunny Side Up Café. After going through a vicious divorce, losing her entire life savings, and, oh yeah, having the Russian mob on her tail, Sunny’s willing to give it a shot, even if it means trying her hand at cooking.
Let’s face it, eggs over easy aren’t exactly ‘easy’ to make, but they beat facing off against armed men with guns. All things considered, her first day in the café goes well, that is, until one of the customers, a food vlogger, tries her aunt’s eggs over easy and drops dead on the spot. Sunny’s set to lose the café unless she can prove her innocence. But with a handsome chef as a distraction, the creeping suspicion she’s being watched, and a detective on her case, she’s got her work cut out for her.
Can Sunny solve the mystery before the murderer stops her? Find out in this funny starter in a brand new cozy mystery series!
Look Inside Chapter 1
The cat was out to get me.
It sat on the top step of my auntie’s cottage, its black paws placed neatly beside each other, its yellow eyes focused on me. Every time I tried taking a step up the front path, it would hiss, fur standing on end.
Now, I hadn’t exactly been expecting a welcome wagon when I’d arrived in Parfait, Florida, at the crack of dawn, but this was ridiculous. An angry cat, humidity that had no right to exist at 5:00 a.m., and the depressing realization that all my belongings fit into one wheeled suitcase—boy, was I living the life.
I cleared my throat, and the cat flicked its tail.
Why had Aunt Rita never told me she owned a cat? Though, in this case, it seemed more like the cat was the one who did the owning.
“Auntie,” I warbled. “I’m here!”
She’d expected me two days ago, but paying my ex-husband’s debts had taken longer than I’d hoped. There had been complications. People who I hadn’t even known had had dealings with Damon had come out of the woodwork, looking for handouts. A lot of them were Russian. And intimidating. And had told me if I called the cops, I would regret it.
Try not to get depressed this early in the morning.
“Auntie Rita?” I called.
The cat hissed at me again.
“Oh relax,” I said to it, hoping that my shouting hadn’t woken the neighbors. Parfait was a small, coastal town, and the last thing I wanted was to make enemies on arrival. According to Aunt Rita, the locals adored her café and were pretty laid back, unless you got on their bad side.
I took a breath and fiddled with the extended handle of my suitcase. This was absurd. I couldn’t let a cat get in my way. Aunt Rita had invited me to stay at her house while I got back on my feet after the messiest, scariest divorce in history.
And, yeah, I had been through the wringer, but I wasn’t about to let a feline with an attitude problem prevent me from having a good start to my “revival.”
Granted, my revival had so far comprised three sweaty bus rides and being hit on by a toothless man who smelled of bourbon and peanut butter. Interesting combination, I’d give him that.
“Aunt Rita.” I tried one last time.
The cat meowed, showing off disastrously sharp fangs.
“Look,” I said, directing myself to the cat, “I like cats. Pretty much every animal is great in my books, barring chickens. Long story.” I waved a hand. “The bottom line is, I’m expected, OK? Aunt Rita knows I’m coming, so you can chill out.”
Another disdainful flick of the tail.
Grow a pair of ovaries, Sunny, for heaven’s sake. What’s the worst that could happen? It launches at your ankles?
I did have tender ankles.
“OK,” I said, “I’m coming up.”
The cat had understood that, it seemed, because it rose on all fours and yowled like a bat out of the nether. It hissed and spat, clawing as I walked up the cute path that led to Aunt Rita’s single-story cottage.
“Shoo!” I waved a hand. “Shoo!”
The cat streaked toward me, and I braced for clawed impact. It disappeared underneath a bush rather than inflicting flesh wounds.
“Huh, would you look at that,” I murmured. “All hiss and no claws.” I trudged up the front steps, grinning at my silly idiom, and stopped on the cutesy, floral-print welcome mat.
I rapped my knuckles on the front door. “Aunt Rita?” It was early, but my aunt usually rose with the birds. She had when I’d lived with her, and I doubted that habit had changed over the last twenty years. Shoot, every Christmas I visited she’d wake me up with coffee at 4:30 a.m..
Twenty years. Gosh, was I really that old?
Thirty-eight and back at Auntie’s house, looking for a place to stay, broke as the day I left.
I knocked. “It’s me, Sunny.” Still no answer.
The house was quiet as the grave.
Uh oh. OK, no need to panic.
My aunt always kept a spare key in plain sight in case she wasn’t home when I came to visit. She’d changed her hiding spot from under the mat to the potted plant hanging from the eaves about a year ago. That was after I’d pointed out that everyone kept their spare key under the welcome mat.
I dug around in the soil in the potted plant and extracted the key. I dusted it off, my nerves building.
Why wasn’t she answering the door? And why was her cat acting so weird? And when on earth had she gotten a cat?
I let myself into the cottage’s entrance hall. It smelled faintly of lavender and chocolate chip cookies, as it always did. The evil cat streaked past me into the house, hissing for good measure, and I shut the door.
“Auntie?” I called out and flicked on the lights.
The place was immaculate—polished wood floors, styled in teal and cream, with framed pictures of me and Aunt Rita along the walls, showing my progression from geeky teenager to woman.
“Where is she?” I scooted my bag into place next to an end table. My gaze landed on an envelope propped against a vase of flowers. My name was scrawled across the front in my aunt’s looping handwriting.
I lifted it, frowning. Why would she leave me a letter and not call me if she had a reason for not being here? Then again, I was a few days late.
I slit the envelope open with my aunt’s silver letter opener and slipped out a single sheet of folded parchment paper.
My heart tha-thumped in my chest.
Dear Darling Sunny,
If you’re reading this letter, I’m long gone. I regret to inform you that I’ve decided to go on a cruise with a few lady friends. To the Bahamas! Can you imagine it? Me in the Bahamas, sipping Bahamian drinks and dipping my toes in the water.
Now, you might think I’m crazy for leaving Florida, which is basically a prime vacation destination, but I need a break.
It’s for this reason that I’m leaving you in charge of the Sunny Side Up Café until I get back.
I nearly dropped the letter in shock. “What?” I had no experience running a business whatsoever. I had gone to college to get a business degree, but my studies had been cut short when I’d married Damon. Besides, I couldn’t cook a meal to save my life! Except for maybe spaghetti, and even that was touch and go.
I straightened the page and kept reading.
Don’t worry, dear, you’ll have plenty of help. Just try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.
I’ll be unreachable for a few days until we’ve settled in, at which point you’ll be able to contact me via the number on the back of this letter.
Have fun! Live a little!
P.S. I’ve already had my neighbors feeding Bodger, but if you could take over from them once you arrive, that would be perfect. Also, Bodger hates everyone except for me, so make sure to lock your bedroom door at night. He has a tendency to leap at people’s faces when they close their eyes.
Each word in the letter was worse than the last.
I was alone in my aunt’s house with a homicidal cat and a café to run. Talk about out of my depth. And what had she meant about having plenty of help?
A knock rattled the front door, and I jumped and nearly dropped the letter.