EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 2
The group parted to allow Heather to pass, and she walked toward me with the practiced bounce of a model. Opening her arms wide, she pushed a giant smile to her lips.
I didn’t trust her for a second. “Catherine!” she said warmly.
“Don’t you ‘Catherine’ me,” I growled, my hands finding my hips. No way was I going to allow any kind of friendly embrace.
Heather stopped in front of me and allowed her arms to hang there awkwardly for a moment. The women she’d just left were watching us, and I could see the puzzled expressions on their faces too.
“You set me up!” I hissed.
Heather’s arms dropped dramatically. “Catherine, whatever are you talking about?”
I waved a hand down my front. “This.”
“It’s a lovely suit, dear, but why would you come wearing black and white to a jewel-tone themed luncheon?”
The ladies behind Heather edged closer toward us, completely engrossed in what was obviously about to become a scene.
“I’m wearing this because you told me this was a black and white themed affair.” I was aware that I was speaking through clenched teeth, likely giving me the appearance of snarling at our host. I didn’t care.
“What?” Heather said loudly. “Oh my goodness, no! Black and white is what I require the staff to wear. It helps my guests to identify them at these affairs, you know?”
I narrowed my eyes to mere slits. Heather’s tone and manner were conciliatory–gentle even. There wasn’t a trace of snark or snide amusement. Bitch.
“Well, Heather, my invitation noted black and white attire. It didn’t say anything about wearing jewel tones.”
Heather’s gorgeous face fell into a sad pout. “Oh, Catherine,” she said tossing up her hands. “Come now, don’t be upset. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. Perhaps you misread the invitation.”
“I didn’t misread it. It plainly stated that I was to wear black and white to your party.”
“Well, I personally wrote out all the invitations, and I would never have my friendly neighbor from just next door come dressed as a servant, of all things.” Heather chuckled merrily, and some of the other women, who had by now gathered around us, also laughed lightly. I was being taken for a fool.
“You clearly treated me like a servant when you texted me just an hour ago to bring punch to the party,” I snapped.
Heather put a hand to her lips. Looking troubled, she said, “Oh, my. Now I see what’s happened. I believe the caterer’s name is Cathy. I must’ve mixed the two of you up when I was trying to put the finishing touches on the luncheon. Did you bring punch, dear? I have several guests who don’t drink alcohol. And I hope you followed the recipe to the letter. Like I said, I have several guests who don’t drink.”
I could feel myself seething. Heather was so clearly lying. I could see it in her eyes, but she was playing up this act of miscommunication really well, and all the women around her seemed to be buying her lies. It infuriated me.
“Yes, I brought the punch and I followed your recipe!” I snapped. “Your housekeeper even taste-tested it like I’m some idiot who can’t follow simple directions. It was frankly insulting, but not nearly as insulting as the fact that when I arrived with the punch, your housekeeper wouldn’t even allow me through the front door! She insisted I use the back entrance.”
Heather’s gaze gave me the once-over. “Well, she probably thought you were staff, dear. I would’ve directed you to the back as well if you were wearing that outfit and carrying a large punch bowl.”
And that’s when I knew I had her. I never mentioned anything about bringing the punch over in my own large crystal bowl.
Glancing to my right, I spotted the grand window with a view of the front yard. And then I glanced back to the spot where Heather had been first standing before coming over to me. I realized that she’d been perfectly positioned to watch each guest arrive—or, more importantly, to watch for when I arrived.
Something else crystalized for me in that moment too: from the many parties and luncheons I myself have thrown, I knew that no party ever has all the guests arriving early. And then I thought about the start time of the luncheon on my invitation.
It’d read 12:30 p.m. Not noon, as was more customary, but half past.
That in and of itself had initially struck me as odd because it meant that, with those attendees who’d be late, lunch wouldn’t start until closer to one or one-thirty, but I’d passed it off in my mind as just a simple quirk. I now knew that it wasn’t nearly that simple. Heather had scheduled her guests to arrive at noon, and she’d written out my invite for twelve-thirty to ensure that I’d be among the last to arrive. Late. Wearing the catering staff’s colors, ushered through the back door, and guaranteed to feel embarrassed and out of place when I stepped into a room filled with women wearing vivid jewel tones.
To confirm my suspicions, I turned to a woman to my right and asked, “Out of curiosity, what time was this little affair supposed to start?”
Her brow furrowed, and I could see she felt put on the spot, but she said, “Noon.”
“Ah,” I said, narrowing my eyes to look scathingly back at Heather. “That’s funny. My invite said twelve-thirty.”
Heather sighed audibly. “Well, now you’re just making things up, Catherine! It couldn’t possibly have said that. All my luncheons begin at twelve. Otherwise, we’d be eating far too late.”
“Well, mine said twelve-thirty.”
“Do you have the invite?” she asked me, all sweetness and light.
I wanted to punch her. “No.” I’d stupidly left it on the kitchen counter.
Heather threw her hands up in the air like she simply didn’t know how to make me happy. “Would you like to go home and change?” she asked, as if exasperated by our conversation. “Lunch is about to be served, but if you’re uncomfortable, I suppose we could wait . . .” And then there was a tiny crack in the fissure of her pretense, and she added, “Or you can grab a tray from the back and help serve.”
Around us there was a tiny gasp of surprise, and about a dozen muffled snickers. My humiliation was complete.
Still, Heather had yet to learn about the Cooper temper. Abby–my short-fused sister–even has a pet name for when mine flares. She calls me “the Catken.” She may be underselling it.
“You know what, Heather, dear?” I said, popping out a hip and placing a hand on it. “I think going home is exactly what I’ll be doing, but I won’t be returning. We all know you set me up with this little scheme. You wanted me to show up in black and white attire. You wanted me to arrive a half hour later than your other guests. You wanted me to be directed to the back door so that I’d come into your little party and stick out like a sore thumb. Miscommunication my ass, lady!”
“Catherine, please,” Heather said, placing a hand to her heart. “It hurts me that you could think I would do anything to jeopardize the good relationship we have as neighbors.”
“Good relationship?!” I yelled. “Are you kidding me?!”
The room turned loud with silence. All murmuring and talking had hushed the second I’d started yelling, and glancing around, I saw how shocked everyone appeared. Even the women who’d been in on the joke seemed surprised that I’d get so mad.
I wanted to laugh right in all of their shocked faces. Meanwhile, Heather had taken a step toward me, her hands clasped together in something of a pleading gesture. “Catherine, I’m very sorry if I’ve offended you–”
“Oh, cut the crap! You’ve been nothing but a nightmare to deal with for me and my building crew from the moment we broke ground. You and all your other little flying monkeys can laugh at my expense and eat your lame little lunch or throw feces at one another for all I care, but mark my words, Heather Holland, you’ve been messing with the wrong woman. I am done playing nice!”
Holding up my hand, and curling my fingers, I added, “This cat’s claws are coming out, toots, and you’re going to be the one who ends up a bloody mess in the end!”
With that, I stomped right through the crowd of ladies–mouths agape–and over to the front door, pulling it open hard and making sure to slam it on my way out of the house.
(C) Victoria Laurie, Kensington, 2019
When Catherine Cooper settles in the Hamptons on the heels of a nasty split from her long-time husband, the luxurious coastal community seems like the perfect place to get back on track in style. But as Cat soon discovers, starting fresh on the East End can be deadly . . .
Cat Cooper never imagined selling off her in-demand marketing firm would mean going from the pinnacle of success to a walking hot mess. Gouged from an unexpected divorce, Cat suddenly finds herself struggling through a new career as a business-savvy life coach for the hopelessly adrift in East Hampton and contending with Heather Holland–a spiteful neighbor who will do anything to bully her out of town. But her second act may very well continue behind bars when Heather’s dead body turns up next to a shattered punchbowl . . . and Cat’s pinned as the murderer.
But given Heather’s mean girl reputation, any one of the guests at her invite-only luncheon could have committed the crime before planting Cat’s punchbowl next to the body. Determined not to trade designer duds for an unflattering prison jumpsuit, Cat sides with her best friend Gilley to scour chic boutiques and oceanfront mansions in search of the criminal who framed her. With a stoic detective looking to get her in cuffs, it’s up to Cat to catch the real killer and land on her feet once again . . .
Mystery Cozy [Kensington, On Sale: October 29, 2019, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781496720337 / eISBN: 9781496720337]
About Victoria Laurie
When I was in the 7th grade I took one of those career aptitude tests – you know, the ones where you answer a bunch of questions and the results indicate what profession you’d best be suited for? Yeah, well my test results indicated I was best suited for a career as a government spy.
I think I had the coolest results in the entire class. 🙂
Needless to say, I did not follow that particular career path – or maybe I just took the more indirect route. In my thirties a very good friend of mine who is now one of the world’s most renowned psychic mediums suggested I stop ignoring my talents and dive right into the professional world of a psychic intuitive. On a lark, I did. And the results were pretty mind-blowing. Within just a few short weeks even I couldn’t deny it – so much of what I predicted for total strangers was coming true and I really had to accept the “gift” so to speak.
Over the years I’ve built a really fabulous clientele and all those experiences have helped me create the Psychic Eye Mysteries, the Ghost Hunter Mysteries, and – for children – Oracles of Delphi Keep. And along that way I discovered my true love – writing.
Writing is one of those passions that gets me out of bed in the morning and invigorates my day. I love spinning a good yarn, and when I feel I actually get it right – wow! There is no better feeling.
In fact, the other day I was kicking back after a looooong day of writing, which ended in the completion of a manuscript and I remember just marveling in the fact that I actually get paid to daydream! I can’t think of a more satisfying way to spend a life. And let’s face it – it’s a whole lot safer than working some covert operation. Although – I’m pretty sure the benefits might be better at the CIA. Still, I’ll stick to my daydreams…at least for now… 🙂