Macrame murder, p.1

Macramé Murder, page 1


Macramé Murder

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Macramé Murder

  Books by Mollie Cox Bryan

  The Cora Crafts Mystery series




  The Cumberland Creek Mystery series








  Macramé Murder

  Mollie Cox Bryan


  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents

  Books by Mollie Cox Bryan

  Title Page

  Copyright Page



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  CD and DVD Coasters

  Simple Macramé Friendship Bracelets

  Seashell Candles

  Teaser chapter

  KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by

  Kensington Publishing Corp.

  119 West 40th Street

  New York, NY 10018

  Copyright © 2017 by Mollie Cox Bryan

  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.

  If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

  Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat & TM Off.

  ISBN: 978-1-4967-0468-9

  First Kensington Mass Market Edition: September 2017

  eISBN-13: 978-1-4967-0469-6

  eISBN-10: 1-4967-0469-X

  First Kensington Electronic Edition: September 2017

  Dedicated to my daughters, Emma and Tess—

  Emma at the beginning of a new chapter,

  Tess at the start of a new passion.

  Bravehearts, both.

  I’m so honored to be your mom.


  Readers: Thanks so much for welcoming Cora Chevalier and Jane Starr into your reading lives. I’m thrilled you love them as much as I do.

  Special thanks to my editor, Martin Biro, and my publicist, Morgan Elwell, both of whom go above and beyond the call of duty. Much gratitude goes to the whole Kensington team. From the gorgeous covers to the fun social media graphics, your hard work is so appreciated. Thank you!

  A heartfelt thanks goes to my beta readers, Amber Benson, Jennifer Feller, and Mary Sproles Martin, who give their time, energy, and opinions freely to read my early drafts.

  I’d like to thank a few bookstore owners who have been extremely supportive of both my series. Mary Katherine Froelich, owner of the beloved Stone Soup Books and Café in my hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia (now an online concern), and event planner extraordinaire, and Kelly Justice of Fountain Books in Richmond, who always includes me in signings and watches for my books. Both women are so supportive to writers and the book community. Thank you, ladies!

  A special nod to my new agent, Jill Marsal. Here’s to many years of a great partnership.

  To the loves of my life, my husband and daughters, thank you seems hardly enough, but there it is.



  Chapter 1

  The bride resembled a mermaid princess in her sparkling white-blue outfit. The dress fit her curves down to right above her knees, tumbling out onto the sand in a splay of tulle, with lace cut to imitate scales.

  A small but rapt gathering of people encircled the couple, and not far from the group stood Cora Chevalier and Adrian Brisbane. The sun hung low in the sky, displaying great streams of colors—brazen orange and crimson, melting into the sea. Torches planted in a circle around them lit the area softly, and distracted the mosquitoes, always a problem for Cora.

  Cora and Adrian had arrived at the Big Island Craft Retreat that morning, planning to make time for themselves before the official launch of the retreat the next day. They had decided to go for a stroll when they happened upon the intimate wedding.

  Adrian slipped his arm around Cora.

  “A beach wedding,” Cora whispered. So stunning. So intimate there wasn’t even a bridal party.

  As the bride turned her head to kiss the groom, Adrian stumbled on the sand.

  “Are you okay?” Cora asked.

  “Um, yeah, I guess. Sorry,” he said, red faced, flummoxed.

  She turned back around to the bride and groom and spotted the most gorgeous tiara she had ever seen perched on the bride’s head.

  Crafted from sea glass, rhinestones, and a few seashells, the tiara fit her head as if she were born with it. Seized with a longing to find out all about that tiara, Cora wondered who made it. Was it created with real sea glass? She’d read about the rarity of authentic sea glass. People used fake sea glass in their crafts because it was cheaper and easier to find. She stepped forward but Adrian held her back.

  “Whoa,” he said. “Where are you going?”

  “I just wanted a closer view of the tiara,” she said. “It’s stunning.”

  “We better head back,” Adrian said. “Our dinner reservation—”

  “Oh yes, sure, that’s right,” Cora said. But she hated to leave the scene, a tableau straight out of a bridal magazine, except for the lack of a large wedding party.

  “C’mon,” Adrian said, and grabbed her by the hand.

  He pulled her away from the wedding and whisked her back to the resort. The place had one fine-dining restaurant and they were going to make the most of it this first night away from Indigo Gap, North Carolina, where they both lived.

  Adrian, a school librarian, and Cora, the proprietor of the Kildare House Craft Retreat, had met only a few months ago. Their relationship was moving along at a snail’s pace, according to Cora’s best friend and business partner, Jane Starr. But both Cora and Adrian were comfo
rtable with how it was progressing.

  Before they reentered the resort, Adrian grabbed Cora and kissed her.

  “Well,” she said, after they finished kissing. “I don’t know what brought that on, but I’m all for it.”

  He grinned and slipped his arm around her once more as they walked down the path to the resort. They were interrupted by a loud voice coming from behind a clump of spiky beach shrubs and small trees.

  “Honestly, I don’t know what you were thinking! That tiara is priceless! One of a kind! Why would you simply let her have it?”

  Tiara? Cora and Adrian stilled.

  “You don’t need the money, for God’s sake. I was hoping for publicity. She’s got the connections,” another voice said.

  Cora’s and Adrian’s eyes locked. He grimaced.

  “Connections?” the female speaker said, and made a noise of exasperation. “Are you that gullible? She’s a rich girl from this island. She’s modeled a few times. She’s written a few books. But she’s never going anywhere, especially now, since she married that trash.”

  Cora’s eyebrows lifted as she glanced at Adrian, whose face was reddening, again.

  “I’m not necessarily talking about that. She’s a scholar, too, you know,” the male voice replied. “She’s got publishing connections.”

  “Unbelievable! She’s published a few books on mermaids and now she’s a scholar! Mermaids!”

  “Now, now . . .” the voice said, quieter and moving away from Adrian and Cora.

  “Wow,” Cora said. “Do you think they were talking about our bride?”

  “Um, well, I . . .” Adrian stammered and shoved his hands in his pockets.

  What was wrong with Adrian? Normally he was a bit more articulate. This evening all he could do was stammer . . . and kiss. More of the kissing, less of the stammering, Cora thought.

  Cora’s empty, gurgling stomach prompted her to pull Adrian further along the path.

  * * *

  Later, her mood softened by wine and a satisfying meal, Cora slipped into her king-size bed, covered in luxurious, plush bedding. Maybe Jane was right. Should she have invited Adrian to stay in the same room with her? But then again, Cora wasn’t exactly ready for that step—and Adrian hadn’t pushed her. He’d gotten his own room. No questions asked.

  As she rolled over to her side, she thought of her own quilt-covered bed in her attic apartment, and her cat Luna, whose purr usually lulled her to sleep. Luna was being well-tended by Zora, her new friend and the owner of the Blue Note B & B. Cora closed her eyes and found sleep, even without Luna.

  A siren rudely awakened her several hours later. She listened to the siren, not a police siren, but more like a warning signal. A fire alarm? Or a boat out on the ocean? She leapt up out of bed at the same time the phone rang. She picked up the phone.

  She was greeted with a recording. “Please stay in your rooms. The warning siren is a notice for beach security. There is an emergency on the beach. Please stay in your rooms until further notice.”

  Emergency on the beach? What could it be?

  Cora mentally sifted through the possibilities. Beach emergency—that could mean almost anything. Not a hurricane. The weather was perfect. Could some sea animal be beached? Or had someone had a heart attack, stroke, or gotten hurt on the beach? Paramedics were probably working on someone. She walked over to her window and strained to see. Flashing lights came into view, though she could barely see them. But the police and the paramedics were on it. This emergency was none of her concern.

  Not this time.

  Chapter 2

  The next morning, the 8 A.M. “teacher breakfast” loomed, a time to go over the schedule and a few “housekeeping” items for the retreat. When Cora found herself stressing because the retreat wasn’t as organized as she’d like, she reminded herself she was here to teach. This was not her retreat to run.

  She met Jane and Ruby near the elevators. They were all on the fifth floor with incredible views of Sea Glass Beach. The small island, named after the large amounts of sea glass it was blessed with, gave rise to the Big Island Craft Retreat, part of the island’s establishment for fifteen years.

  “Good morning, ladies,” Cora said to them. “Where’s London?”

  “She’s outside with the day care people,” Jane said. “They’ll be keeping her busy. They have all sorts of activities for the kids. Best retreat ever,” she said, and smiled.

  Ruby pressed the elevator button. “Sounds like an awesome arrangement. What the hell went on last night?” Ruby, a slightly stooped woman of a certain age, who had lived her whole life in Indigo Gap, was like a fish out of water in this high-tech, swanky resort. She lived in the gardener’s cottage on the property Cora had purchased for her own craft retreats and was grandfathered in to the purchase. When Jane and Cora found out she was an herbalist and crafter, they invited her to join them in their craft retreat business.

  “Some kind of emergency on the beach. Didn’t you pick up the phone?” Cora asked.

  “No, I didn’t reach it in time,” Ruby said. “And I couldn’t figure out how to use the bloody voice mail system.”

  “It cleared early this morning,” Jane said. “A lot of people were on the beach already when I took London to the day care.”

  As the elevator door opened and the three of them entered, the two women already inside nodded a good morning. As the door closed, one of them said, “Are you Jane Starr?”

  Jane smiled. “Yes,” she said. “And you are . . . ?”

  “I’m Jessica and this is May,” she said. “I’m so pleased to meet you. We’ve signed up for all your classes this weekend.”

  “Great!” Jane said. “I look forward to it.”

  “I have about twelve of your pieces at home,” May blurted. “Big fan here.”

  Jane, an award-winning potter, was gathering quite a growing fan base. She could hardly keep up with her orders, especially for her goddess-mythology-themed pieces, and had been talking about hiring someone to help. Cora beamed. Jane had come a long way from the little girl she knew who loved to play in the mud—and the woman who’d married a troubled man. Jane was now her own woman.

  Ruby caught Cora’s prideful expression and she grinned at her. Ruby hadn’t known them long, but she knew both of their stories, of course. Cora wasn’t sure, but she thought Ruby considered herself Jane’s patron saint of single motherhood. But what Ruby didn’t realize was Jane had it all figured out.

  The elevator door opened and everybody exited. Each group went their own direction.

  Jane, Ruby, and Cora found the restaurant down a plush carpeted hall with several hanging, glittering chandeliers and huge paintings. Chloe’s was one of the many eateries at the resort.

  Mathilde Mayhue welcomed them to the table and made introductions. She was one of the first organizers of craft retreats. Fifteen years ago, she saw the market and the need for these retreats. It had become a measure of success to receive an invitation to teach.

  Along with Cora, who was teaching a blogging-for-crafters class, Jane, who was leading a pottery class, and Ruby, instructing several classes including one on seashell candles, two other teachers were on the program. The headliner was Zooey, the macramé artist. Just Zooey. Complete with a limp handshake, Zooey seemed a type Cora often ran into at these retreats. She was manageable. Cora could get along with anybody, but she didn’t have to become friends with her. The other teacher was Ryan Anderson, a crochet expert. Cora liked him immediately.

  Mathilde’s assistant, Hank Simmons, also sat at the large table, smiling at them with his gleaming white teeth on display. Cora wasn’t sure how she felt about him. All those teeth made her nervous.

  “What happened on the beach last night?” Ruby asked after they were all settled in, each with plates heaped high with breakfast food from the buffet.

  “Oh.” Mathilde waved her hand. “Who knows? I hate when that happens during the retreat. It startles people. I kind of wish they’d give me
a heads-up so I could warn the retreaters before the alarm goes off. But most of the guests aren’t in yet. They will be arriving throughout the day.”

  “Do you mean they never tell you what the emergency is?” Ruby asked, with a note of incredulity.

  “They will eventually,” Mathilde said, and took a bite of her whipped cream and strawberry-topped pancake.

  * * *

  Cora was pleased she and her crew were here, but she hadn’t made up her mind about Mathilde yet, either.

  But as she went over the rules for the craft teachers, Cora leaned more toward not liking her—especially with Mathilde’s “no socializing with students” rule. What was that about? Cora didn’t like that one bit. Nor the policy about extra craft supplies—if a crafter messed up, he or she was allowed one more try, with supplies covered by the cost of the event. After the limit, it was their responsibility to buy supplies. Cheap, Cora thought, especially at such an expensive retreat.

  A server came up and whispered something into Mathilde’s ear.

  Mathilde’s face turned ghastly white and her mouth dropped open.

  What is wrong? Cora wondered, becoming concerned.

  “Are you okay?” Ruby said, reaching for Mathilde. She was the closest one to her.

  “I’m fine,” Mathilde managed to say. “I’ve just gotten some horrible news.”

  “Drink some water,” Ruby said.

  The group quieted. The sound of others’ voices in the place took on a louder quality. Plates and utensils clanging. Someone laughed.

  Mathilde blinked. Her eyes watered. “I’m sorry.” She dabbed her eyes with a napkin.

  My goodness. What is the problem? Cora thought.

  “This has never happened before,” Mathilde said, stiffening. “But I might as well give you the news myself.”

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