Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Great Chocolate Scam (Death by Chocolate 3) by Sally Berneathy Chapter 1

The Great Chocolate Scam (Death by Chocolate 3) by Sally Berneathy

Third book in the Death by Chocolate series.

Finally Rick has agreed to sign the divorce papers and give Lindsay her freedom! She is sitting in her lawyer’s office waiting for him when she gets the call.

Rick is dead. Murdered by a bomb that blew up his car in his own driveway.

Lindsay is his sole heir. Or is she? She’s never met any of Rick’s family. Though he told her various conflicting stories about them, she came to believe they didn’t exist, that Rick was an alien stranded here when the mother ship left without him. But then Rick’s mother and two brothers show up followed by a woman who claims to be his ex-wife and a boy she claims is Rick’s son. Everyone except Lindsay wants to inherit Rick’s estate. What’s so valuable that someone killed for it and is ready to kill again?

Come for the Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars, stay for the murder, mayhem and fun!

Chapter One

I sat in the client chair in my lawyer’s office, tapping my foot and fidgeting. Rick was fifteen minutes late for our appointment to sign the divorce papers.
Based on the last year and a half of his alternating between I want a divorce and I want you back, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. But this time he’d seemed desperate to get it done as soon as possible. In fact, he was disappointed we had to wait a week for our attorneys to find a mutually available time to get together.
I figured he was in love again. He hadn’t said so, but that was usually the reason he was ready to sign off on the divorce. Rick fell in love regularly. He fell out just as quickly, but that would soon no longer be my problem.
I was looking forward to being a free woman with no more ties to Rickhead, to owning one hundred percent of my little restaurant, Death by Chocolate located in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of Kansas City, and to dating Detective Adam Trent officially. Soon Rick couldn’t show up at my front door with protestations of eternal love or plans for some barely-legal scheme that somehow involved me. Well, he could still show up and try to involve me, but he wouldn’t be able to use the lever of signing the divorce papers to get me to aid and abet him.
I had even bought a new outfit to wear to my lawyer’s office for the big event, a dark purple raw silk pantsuit with a turquoise and lavender scarf. Very elegant and stylish. My friend, Paula, went with me to pick it out. When clothing goes beyond blue jeans and tee-shirts, I’m lost.
So I sat there in the office of Jason Beckwirth of Hoskins, Grier, Morris and Beckwirth, looking elegant and stylish and irritated, waiting for my former knight in tarnished armor to show up and make me the happiest woman in the world by agreeing to unmarry me.
Why wasn’t I waiting at my father's law firm? Because divorce is beneath them. They’re corporate lawyers handling real estate deals, tax law, estate planning, that sort of respectable law. Besides that, he and Mom blamed me for the failure of a marriage they’d tried to prevent. After trashing him for years, suddenly when I announced I was divorcing Rick, he became their favorite son-in-law. I’m an only child, so that was really no great feat.
Jason looked up from the papers he was studying and smiled. He has a deceptively genial expression, looks like the boy next door, but he turns into the cut-throat lawyer next door in the courtroom. “Relax,” he said. “They’ll be here any minute. You know Rick will be late to his own funeral.”
I crossed my legs and changed to swinging instead of tapping. “This waiting makes me nervous. I don’t trust him.”
Jason nodded. “With good reason. But when I talked to his lawyer last week, he said Rick was adamant about going through with this. You sure I can’t get you a cup of coffee?”
“No, but a Coke would be good.” I’d only had one so far that day. Our breakfast and lunch crowds at the restaurant were hectic and hungry, so Paula and I had been too busy to do much eating or drinking ourselves. My stomach rumbled and reminded me about the eating part.
Jason called his assistant, and she brought me a glass of Coke with ice. I preferred my Coke straight, no melting ice to dilute it, but at that moment, I would have settled for a Pepsi.
I finished the soft drink, swung my right leg then my left, tapped my feet, drummed my fingers and waited.
No Rick.
The beige phone on Jason’s desk jangled—in a dignified manner, of course. Jason glanced at the display. “It’s Bert,” he said and lifted the receiver.
Bert Hanson, Rick’s lawyer.
I inhaled sharply. I tried to tell myself he was probably calling to say they were stuck in traffic, but my heart sank down to the tip of my little toe. I had a horrible feeling Rick was jacking me around again. His lawyer was calling to say he’d cancelled.
I watched Jason’s face, listened to every word he said, strained to hear the other side of the conversation. I couldn’t, of course. My neighbor Fred probably could have if he’d been there. I’m pretty sure Fred has super powers. Not that I’ve seen him flying or anything like that.
Jason didn’t say much. “I see.” He looked at me and shook his head. That was a bad sign. “Okay. Well, thanks for letting me know.”
He cradled the receiver, then lifted his gaze and folded his hands on his desk. “Lindsay—”
“He’s not coming, is he?”
Jason sighed and shook his head. “It doesn’t look like it. He didn’t show up at Bert's office, and Bert hasn’t been able to reach him by phone.”
“Damn it!” I slammed my hand on the arm of the chair, shot up and spun around. I needed to go outside, run, hit something, eat huge quantities of chocolate. I needed to vent the anger that flared up inside me. This time I’d dared to hope. This time I really thought it was going to happen. This time the disappointment was even worse than usual.
I thought about the night on the town Trent and I had planned in celebration. The Divorcement Party I’d scheduled for Saturday night. None of it was going to happen. Rick was still causing problems, still controlling my life.
I stomped to one side of the room then back to the other, cursing with vehemence and sincerity. “Damn it, damn it, damn it! I knew it! That sorry, worthless, no-good—”
My cell phone began to play George Strait’s Blue Clear Sky, Trent’s ringtone.
“I’m sorry.” I strode over to my purse and pulled out the phone to shut it off and send the call straight to voice mail, but then decided maybe I should answer and tell Trent I’d return his call in a couple of minutes. There was no reason for me to stay in Jason’s office any longer. We weren’t going to do business that day.
“Hi, Trent. Can I call you right back?”
“I need to talk to you right now. I wanted you to hear this from me before you see it on television.”
On television? No good news ever got reported on television. “Okay, fine, hang on and let me say good-bye to Jason. I’m just leaving my attorney's office. Rick was a no show.”
“I know.”
“You do?” Fred was the one who always knew things. Apparently Trent had just developed psychic abilities too.
“There’s been an accident.”
My insides went cold at that sentence, and I sank back down into my chair. The cops on TV said those words when they came to tell a family about a death. Images of the people I cared about most whirled through my mind. My parents, Fred, Paula, Zach, Henry… “What kind of accident? Who?”
He paused for what seemed like an hour but was probably closer to a second. “It’s Rick. There was an explosion. His car was blown up in his driveway.”
I frowned, relieved and puzzled. That explained why he hadn’t shown up for our meeting. He’d have trouble driving if his car exploded. “An accident? Rick’s a terrible mechanic, but blowing up his own car seems like quite a feat even for him.”
“He didn’t blow it up. Somebody else did. Lindsay, you need to come down to the station.”
“Why? Are you craving my chocolate chip cookies?” I was grasping at straws. I could tell from the somber tone of his voice that he wasn’t trying to wheedle cookies.
“We need to ask you some questions.” He paused again, and I could hear him draw in a deep breath. “Rick was in the car when it blew up. Lindsay, Rick’s dead.”

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