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Look Inside Chapter 1
“Have you heard?” The whisper came from the booth nearest the front of my aunt’s Sunny Side Up Café. It was a vicious hiss, loud enough to be heard several tables away. It was early in the morning, and we’d just opened the café doors. The faint chatter from tables, the clink of knives and forks, and the hiss of the coffee machine wasn’t enough to disguise the gossip.
“What?” Another voice asked, equally mean. “What is it, Cherry, darling? Tell me.”
“Rita’s niece,” Cherry hissed, “Sunny? The new manager of the café? She’s having an affair with Nick, the chef. Everybody’s talking about it. Why else would he have filed for divorce from Jasmine?”
I froze, my back to the table mid-gossip about me. My ears went beet red, and I stared at the menus in my hands. I’d been about to hand them out to a nice-looking family with two young children, already giggling and sticking their tongues out at each other.
“Really?” asked the second woman at the gossiping booth.
“Oh yeah. They’ve been having an affair since Sunny arrived in Parfait. It’s disgraceful. She’s bringing shame to Rita’s name, you know, and to the café. She’s a homewrecker.”
I took deep breaths, trying not to let what they’d said get to me.
It was impossible.
After having gone through a terrible divorce myself, then dealing with an entire murder case at the Sunny Side Up, the last thing I,or the café, needed was another mudslide of rumors. Particularly ones about me and the chef, whom I was definitely not having an affair with.
You can do this, Sunny. You can do it. Just get through the rest of the morning.
I’d tried my best over the past couple weeks to smile and put my best foot forward with customers. Heaven knew, I wasn’t experienced at running a business—I’d lived a sheltered and luxurious life before I’d lost everything in the divorce.
The day-to-day challenges of dealing with people when I was, at best, shy and, at worst, introverted, had been something I’d viewed as a necessity. Overcoming them was important because I needed to thank Aunt Rita for taking me in.
But when this happened… this spiteful gossip, I wanted to regress and run back to the office.
Stop it, Sunny. You’re better than this. Come on.
“Are you all right, miss?” The mother at the table I’d seated smiled up at me.
“Here are your menus,” I said, trying not to mumble.
“—shameful. She should be fired for this,” Cherry stage-whispered on. “But it’s a small town, y’know. So nothing will happen to her.”
I faced the gossiping women, opening my mouth, searching for a defense.
“Flapping your lips again, Cherry?” Another woman, older, with huge circular glasses, stood next to the door to the café. She considered the gossipers. “I see not much has changed since I left town.”
Cherry, a middle-aged but pretty brunette, went as red as her crimson lipstick. “Pamela,” she said. “Which dog dragged you back into town?”
Sheesh. What’s with people this morning? My experience of the Parfait townsfolk so far had been pleasant. Apart from Cherry and Sienna, the two women I’d just overheard besmirching both my name and Nick’s.
Pamela, the new customer, strutted over, clutching an oversized tote against her side, and stopped next to me. “Darling, you really must learn not to dribble your vitriol all over the place. It’s unbecoming for a woman who is meant to be mature,” Pamela replied.
Has she got a pair of ovaries, or what? I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d been on the verge of snapping at the customers with far less thought-out comebacks.
“Vitriol?” Cherry narrowed her heavily makeup smeared eyes at Pamela.
“Oh dear. Don’t have a dictionary in your home?”
“I don’t have to sit here and listen to this,” Cherry growled, throwing down a few dollars on the table. “Come on, Sienna, let’s go.”
Sienna sniffed and flicked her bottle-blonde hair, and both women pranced from the café, taking their sour air with them. The mood lightened, and the talk in the restaurant resumed.
“Thank you,” I said to the newcomer. “I’m Sunny, by the way, Sunny Charles.”
“Oh, I know who you are, dear. I’m a friend of your aunt’s.” Pamela adjusted her thick glasses. “Now, let me see. Mind if I take the table those two vacated?”
“Please, go ahead.” I gestured for Didi to come over and clear the plates, then placed a newspaper-style menu on the yellow-and-white checked tablecloth. “Your server will be with you in a moment.”
Pamela rewarded me with an absent-minded smile. She drew a small, red leather-bound journal out of her pocket, followed by a stubby pencil, and scribbled away.
I left her to it, letting out a breath. It didn’t matter what Cherry or Sienna thought of me. Just as long as the café wasn’t affected, it was fine. Gosh, that was how it had to be until my Aunt Rita got back from her cruise. Then my aunt would take over and everything would return to normal around here.
Granted, gossip was basically a part of life in Parfait.
The small Floridian town was filled with sun, beautiful views of the ocean, restaurants, seaside cottages, and not much to do except fixate on how other people lived their lives.
I hurried to the coffee bar at the back of the Sunny Side Up Café and sat down on the stool, trying to collect myself. At least, I hadn’t made an announcement trying to ban gossip. That had gone down as well as a cactus, last time.
“Hey, Sunny. You OK?” Didi dropped off her tray on the counter and fisted a hip. Today, the young server wore a purple streak in her hair and a black shirt bearing an image of her favorite K-Pop band. “You went kind of pale back there.”
“I’m fine,” I said, waving a hand. “Just being my usual silly self.”
“You’re not silly,” Didi said. “Two things, though, real quick?”
“Sure, what’s up?” I always had time for Didi. She was an incredibly loyal employee and had been my first friend when I’d arrived in Parfait, down on my luck.
“First, do you think you’d ever go to a K-Pop concert with me?”
It was such a left field question that I did a double take. “A concert?”
“Sure. My favorite group is flying all the way over from South Korea to do an American tour. And I really want to go see them in Miami. Would you consider going with me, maybe? It’s just, my mom would prefer I went with friends and none of the girls my age… Well, yeah. You know. They don’t like the music. Or me.”
“Everybody likes you, Didi.”
“They really don’t,” Didi said, with a deprecatory laugh. “It’s OK. If you don’t want to go, that’s fine. I’ll just ask, uh, Nick or something.”
“No, no, I’ll go with you. That sounds like it would be fun.” A novel experience.
“That’s amazing!” Didi squealed, drawing a few raised eyebrows from the folks at their tables. She clapped her hands. “Oh my gosh, you have no idea how awesome that is.”
“What was the second thing…?”
“Right. Nick asked me if you had a minute to talk to him in the kitchen?”
“Sure.” I scooched off the stool and headed for the swinging kitchen doors, my heart pitter-pattering into my throat. It was silly to get nervous around Nick. He was a good friend going through a divorce—heaven knew, I could sympathize with that—and, besides, I wasn’t interested in him like that.
I wasn’t. He was handsome. And an employee. And a friend. I would never cross any boundaries with Nick. It was the gossip that had gotten to me. Made me nervous about talking to him.
I entered the kitchen and found Nick behind the gas stove, flipping a burger patty. Delicious scents filled the room, and my stomach grumbled. I’d eaten a piece of dry toast this morning while my aunt’s cat, Bodger, feasted on kitty food and occasionally flicked his tail at me.
“Didi mentioned you wanted to see me?”
“Sure did,” Nick replied, sending a broad smile my way, the lines around his eyes crinkling. “I wanted to check in with you before I leave tomorrow and make sure you’ve got everything organized. We spoke about a replacement chef last week, but I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you.”
I blinked. “Huh?”
“I’m going on the baking course tomorrow. Remember?”
The baking course. Oh my… I totally forgot! Nick had applied to go on a baking course to improve his skills weeks ago, and I had approved of it. And I’d known the date when he’d be leaving for five entire days.
“Uh, Sunny? Are you OK?”
“Mhmm. Yeah. Fine.” Except I’d forgotten to source a new chef for the café. Forgotten because I was so terrible at being a manager. Sure, I was streets better than I’d been when I’d first started, but this was a disaster.
“You don’t have a replacement, do you?” Nick’s smile disappeared. “Shoot. Should I stay? I can cancel—”
“No! No, Nick. You go on the course. You’ve been looking forward to it,” I said, offering him my brightest smile. So bright, it hurt my cheeks. “Don’t worry. I’ve got everything under control.”
Except I didn’t. And I’d have to figure something out within twenty-four hours.
Cozy Mystery fans can’t put the Sunny Side Up series down!
“I thoroughly enjoyed this series. It was hard to guess the perpetrators of the crimes which proves the writing skill of Ms Point! More please!!!!”–Amazon reviewer
“The Sunny Side Up mysteries are lively and charming from the first word. We’re thrown right into the deep end with Sunny as she navigates romance, restaurants, and of course, murder. Funny, full of twists and turns, and fast-paced, the Sunny Side Up Box Set is a quick read that will put you in the mood for a perfectly cooked egg… and even more mystery!”–Chelsea Thomas, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Apple Orchard Mysteries.
The Sunny Side Up Cozy Mysteries
Five cozy mysteries for you to enjoy…
When Sunny arrives in Parfait, Florida, she’s set on sun, sand, and rejuvenation after a messy divorce. She’s done dealing with her flaky ex, and the criminals he worked with. But when Sunny arrives at her quirky Aunt Rita’s cottage, all she finds is a grumpy cat and a note waiting for her…
Sunny’s expected to take over her aunt’s Sunny Side Up Café while Rita’s on vacation, and Sunny’s never managed a mood swing let alone a restaurant.
Before she knows it, she’s up to her neck in trouble, fielding complaints from a snobby food vlogger, serving cold chicken noodle soup, handling the eccentricities of the local baker’s club and… dealing with murder cases?
The mysteries are mounting, and they all revolve around her according to the local detective.
With so much to lose, her aunt’s café included, Sunny has to figure out whodunit before it’s too late.
Grab your copy of the Sunny Side Up Cozy Mysteries Box Set and indulge in this full series of cozy capers today.
Book 0: Murdersippi Mud Pie
Book 2: Muffin But Murder
Book 3: Chicken Murder Soup
Book 4: Murderoni and Cheese
Book 5: Lemon Murder Pie
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