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Twice Dipped Murder: A Rita Reincarnated Cozy
 

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Twice Dipped Murder: A Rita Reincarnated Cozy


  Twice Dipped Murder

  A Rita Reincarnated Cozy

  Daphne DeWitt

  Copyright © 2017 by Daphne DeWitt

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Contents

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  Also by Daphne DeWitt

  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

  Thank You for reading!

  Author’s Note

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  Also by Daphne DeWitt

  Rita Reincarnated

  Twice Baked Murder

  Twice Layered Murder

  Twice Dipped Murder

  Cursed Coven Cozies

  Cursed at First Sight

  Cursed on the Second Date

  1

  Appearances can be important. They can be so important, in fact, that there are people in this world who think it’s the only thing that matters. They live their entire lives under a sort of self-imposed microscope. It can get so bad, they forget how to live sometimes, and other times, they can nearly ruin what’s important, what’s right in front of them.

  Appearances can be important, but they can also be deceiving. I learned that the hard way.

  I nearly dropped seven of my twenty-four cupcakes as I stumbled on the top step leading up to the town hall building.

  Even as a kid, I had never been coordinated. A trait that had followed me, not only into adulthood, but into my second life as well, right into my brand new body.

  Which was a shame, because I’d have really liked to have been reborn as Maria Sharapova or something.

  It turned out that wasn’t in the cards though because, when I took a tumble down a flight of steps on the other side of Seconds Springs (helped by a pair of meaty hands and a vague threat), I reemerged two years later, as nosy as ever, but this time I was a redhead with an aloof dog, an ever evolving spirit guide named Charlie, a bad habit of getting into trouble, and a seemingly never-ending supply of floral print dresses.

  “Careful there,” a familiar voice said from beside me.

  Darrin came smiling into view, helping me brace the large sweet tray by grabbing the far end.

  “Thanks,” I answered, huffing loudly and blowing a tuft of this annoying red hair out of my eyes. My old hair did everything I ask it to, but this, keeping it in place was impossible. “I almost fell over one of the Jack-O-Lanterns on the step,” I said, looking back at some of the festive Halloween decorations surrounding the building.

  “They can be hazardous,” he answered with a grin.

  My father’s replacement had warmed to me a little since we’d solved Chloe Covington’s kidnapping together. Still, telling him about the whole ‘reincarnation’ thing might have been a mistake, judging by the looks he’d taken to giving me since he found out.

  I liked to think that now though we were on the same page.

  “Thanks all the same,” I responded.

  “Not a problem,” he answered, still grinning. “Wouldn’t want you to break your record.”

  “Record?” I asked, quirking my mouth to the side.

  “Yeah,” he answered. “You usually wait until the party starts to ruin it.” He shrugged. “Wouldn’t want you jumping the gun.”

  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly the same page.

  “Very funny,” I answered, moving into the town hall building, where people were already beginning to gather. “If by ‘ruining’ you mean ‘saving the day,' then I’ll gladly agree with you, and take it as a compliment.”

  “You singlehandedly brought both the Peach Festival and the Covington wedding to a screeching halt.”

  “This is true,” I said, motioning toward the long table at the end of the room where Peggy had spent most of the afternoon setting up a space. “But this isn’t a party, is it? No. It’s just a meeting.”

  “Thank goodness,” Darrin answered, taking most of the heft of the cupcake tray as we set it on the table. “I’m not sure I could handle another celebration if you were in attendance.”

  I tried to act offended, but I couldn’t hide the snort his remark had elicited. Looking him up and down again, I had to admit Sheriff Darrin Dash looked very, well, dashing. He wore a blue button-down shirt and pair of jeans. His hair was brushed back lazily. He looked much less uptight than he usually did. In fact, the only evidence of stress was the gun holstered on his hip.

  “You’ll see,” I answered, regaining composure. “Mayor Hester told Peggy that she’s planning a huge party for the town to mark the end of this dog show.”

  “Really?” Darrin asked, looking over at Mayor Evelyn Hester, who was-at that very moment- scolding her personal assistant for not informing her that the curtains hanging behind the stage would clash with her scarf. “That should be a good time.”

  “Stop it,” I said, shaking my head. “She’s worked really hard to secure this show. The Southern Skies Dog Competition is a big deal…apparently.”

  “I’m sure it is,” Darrin answered, snatching up a cupcake, key lime which was his absolute favorite (probably because I found it disgusting). “Does that mean you’ll be entering your dog? Since you’re such a big fan and all.”

  “Mayor McConnell? Absolutely not,” I balked. “He’s not exactly a show dog.”

  Or a happy dog, or a personable dog, or a normal dog. Mayor McConnell, as the name might betray, used to the mayor of Second Springs, Georgia back in the 1800s. Now he was my dog. To say that he was miffed at the reversal of fortune was be a gross understatement.

  “That’s too bad,” Darrin answered, his eyes smiling as much as his face as he looked me up and down. “I wouldn’t mind seeing you prancing around for the judges.”

  A blush rose in my cheeks, but I pushed it back. Certainly he didn’t mean what I thought he meant. That would have been ridiculous. I was sure the real reason was much less romantic than the things in my head right now. “That’s only because you want to see me embarrass myself.”

  “Perhaps,” he answered, taking a huge bite of cupcake.

  “Miss Redoux!” The shrill voice of Mayor Hester bounced against my eardrums.

  “Good luck with that,” Darrin said, grinned again, and started off toward the crowd.

  “I thought your motto was ‘leave no man behind’!” I said in a hushed yell.

  “That’s the Army Rangers,” he answered, without breaking stride.

  I spun as I heard the clip clap of her high heels against the old wooden floor of the town hall building. Steadying myself, I took a deep breath; not because I was nervous or anything, but because every time I had even been around Mayor Hester
, she had been drenched in what had to be the strongest perfume allowed by law and I wasn’t in the mood for another headache.

  “Funny seeing you here,” she said, settling in front of me and folding her arms over her chest. Mayor Hester rose to power at some point during the two years I was busy being dead. Before that, she had been a stuffy librarian who never let anyone take any books because “you people never put them back in the right place.”

  How she managed enough votes to win in a general election was beyond me but, given the other strange occurrences that accompanied my little intermission, it didn’t feel entirely out of place.

  She was a short and stout woman with curly black hair and a pair of eyes that never stopped looking for fault in anything.

  “I’m not sure what you mean, Madame Mayor,” I said, brushing that unruly strand of hair out of my eyes again. “Seeing as how you ordered seventy cupcakes for this event and all.”

  “Well, yes,” she answered, blustering at what she probably thought was my insolence. “But I naturally assumed I’d be getting your employer with my order and not some flunky.”

  I swallowed hard, trying to choke down that insult along with a few choice words I was dying to say to the mayor.

  Those words included, but were not limited to: For your information, I put the ‘I’ in Pie Ladies’ Paradise. Flunky, my foot.

  Of course, I couldn’t tell her that. Rita Clarke started the Pie Ladies’ Paradise. Rita Redoux simply worked there. It was something of a demotion for sure, one that I hadn’t deserved. But hey, nobody said getting yourself killed wasn’t without its drawbacks.

  Instead, I nodded politely.

  “I’m sorry, Madame Mayor, but Peggy is having a wedding planning session with Aiden and her future mother-in-law. If you have any concerns though, I’d be happy to address them.”

  Okay, so ‘happy’ was a bit of an overstatement, but I would be as kind as I could stomach for Peggy’s sake.

  “I just assumed that any small business owner worth her salt would want to be on hand when an opportunity this big lands right in her lap.” She puckered her lips so that the last ‘p’ really popped. “But what do I know? I’m only the wildly successful public servant who managed to wrestle the Southeast’s ninth biggest dog show out of the arms of Cold Creek.” She pointed a pink polished finger at me. “And I’ll tell you something, Ms. Redoux. Cold Creek did not want to give it up. Oh no, and do you know why? Because they know how big a boon this can be for us.”

  “I understand that, Madame Mayor. And I’ll be sure to explain that to Pe—”

  “For the last four years, Cold Creek has reaped the rewards of the Southern Skies Dog Competition,” she said, blatantly ignoring me. “And in those four years, I’ve watched helplessly as they took monetary incentives that should have went to my town.”

  “You haven’t even been mayor for four years,” I answered.

  “That is an appendage of a fact that doesn’t matter anymore,” she shook her head, her dark curls jiggling almost as much as her cheeks. “The important thing is I’m mayor now, and I’m going to do everything in my power to bring every opportunity to the citizens of Second Springs, including those who would rather plan parties than take care of their business.”

  “It’s not a party,” I answered. “Like I said, she’s planning her wedding, and Aiden’s mom is leaving in a few days, so there’s really not a lot of time.”

  “You are a fan of excessive and useless information, aren’t you?” Mayor Hester asked, looking at me like I was the most ridiculous person in the room. “Since you are the only representative of Pie Ladies’ Periphery at my disposal though, I suppose I’m forced to treat you as though you’ve worked there for more than a day and a half.”

  “It’s Paradise, and I’ve been there for three months,” I answered. I cringed a little inside. I hadn’t been there for three months. I’d built that place with my own sweat, tears, laughter, and determination. I couldn’t say that though, and there was a part of me that would never be okay with that.

  “Well then, in that case, I’ll get you a gold watch and prepare your stock options,” she huffed, rolling her eyes. “When your employer sees fit to finally take an interest in her business and the local economy, let her know that her mayor told her that this dog show could revitalize this entire area.” She nudged my waist with her elbow. “Why I saw Candy Devine just last night.”

  “From Channel 16 news?” I asked. ‘She’s in town?”

  “Well, not so much in town as her face on a bus as it was passing through it on its way to Dalton. The driver asked me for directions at the gas station, though. And I’m quite sure he worked for her in some capacity. I did manage to mention the dog show to her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she circled back to do an expose.”

  “And what exactly would she be exposing?” I asked.

  Mayor Hester blinked at me. “I don’t understand. It’s the news, Honey. Best not to overthink it. The point is, there’s money in this. Someone will have to cater the celebratory party that will follow the announcement of the winning K-9, and who better than the fine women of Pie Ladies’ Pandemic.”

  “You have to know that’s not right,” I answered.

  “What isn’t right is letting some out of towner swoop in with their designer tarts and custom eclairs and steal all the business away from locals.” She looked over our cupcake platter, her mouth turning down distastefully. “I see you’re going for quaint and simple.”

  “It’s proved to be successful in the past,” I answered, suddenly very defensive.

  “Has it?” she asked. “It was successful for the whole three months then?”

  Well, she had me there.

  “Listen, just let Peggy know that this is only the beginning. I have my eye on boat shows, fishing tournaments, and even camper expos.”

  “Be still my beating heart,” I muttered.

  “Crack wise if you want, Miss Redoux, but once word gets out about how big a success this dog show is, Second Springs will become a destination spot.”

  I didn’t like the sound of that. Second Springs was a quiet place, an oasis of sorts. Even in the last few days, as people poured into town for the upcoming show, dragging their dogs along with them, I found myself cramped.

  The hotel was full, and the park was packed with all sorts of breeds.

  Still, if it was good for the economy, I suppose it couldn’t be all bad.

  “I’m telling you Miss Redoux,” Mayor Hester nodded. “This is going to be a turning point for this town. Everything’s coming up roses for us. I can practically smell them.”

  A loud crash sounded outside the town hall building, accompanied by a shriek and the sounds of car alarms going off and countless dogs going wild.

  My heart leapt into my throat and my body tensed. My eyes shot over to Darrin who looked at me.

  We both knew the drill at this point. Something had happened and, whatever it was wasn’t good.

  Darrin started toward the door, but before he could get to it, Willa Conyers came rushing is, her hand on her chest and her face pale as a sheet.

  “He just jumped,” she said, tears pouring down her face. “Some man just jumped off the roof of the hotel.” She shook her head. “He’s dead!”

  Oh no. My heart jumped in my chest. This was happening all over again.

  A loud scuttle started inside the town hall building, and I knew-somewhere deep inside- this was just the start of something.

  I leaned closer to Mayor Hester who stood silently and shocked beside me.

  She swallowed hard. “I hope he didn’t land on the roses.”

  2

  I made my way to Darrin through the push of horrified people.

  My heart was racing so fast that I was afraid it would pop out of my chest like a Jack in the box. Still, as horrible as all of it was, I couldn’t help but feeling more than a little irritated.

  Was this really happening again? And, if so, where was Charlie
with my prerequisite (and infuriatingly vague) warning shot? It wasn’t much, but at least it was enough to get hairs on the back of my neck standing up. At that let me brace myself for the mayhem ahead.

  Turns out I didn’t even get that this time.

  Ugh!

  I was going to ring his neck the next time I saw him…whatever he looked like.

  “I need you to stay here,” Darrin said, catching sight of me as I zigzagged toward the door where he was standing.

  “Not going to happen, Captain,” I answered. “Not that you’re a captain or anything.” I shrugged. “Maybe one day.”

  “Don’t argue with me, Rita,” he said, his voice taking on that familiar ‘no nonsense’ tone.

  “I’m not arguing. I’m just not listening.” I put a hand on his arm. “Look, we both know I’m going to be involved in this in one way or another. It’s what I do. It’s my nature. So, the way I see it, you can keep playing the ‘sheriff’ card and keep me at arm’s length until you can admit how valuable I am, or you can get over yourself, and we can work together right now.”

  “It’s not that,” he answered, shaking his head. “I mean, it is that. It’s always that these days, but look at this place. These people are upset, afraid and, worst of all, curious. I need someone to keep them in check. I can’t have them running all over my crime scene before we’ve had the chance to check it out.”

  “Alright,” I answered. “But what about the mayor?”

 
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