Title: The Cupcake Caper
Author: Kelle Z Riley
Genre: Cozy Mystery with Romantic Elements
Science is about solving puzzles. Why should solving a murder be any different?
Dr. Bree Watson (aka Gabriella Catherine Mayfield-Watson) is comfortable solving chemistry problems. She isn’t comfortable finding her boss dead and being a suspect in his poisoning. Now she’s juggling:
· A sexy marketing manager—who may, or may not—be a contract killer.
· A handsome lead detective whose interest goes beyond the case.
· The dead man’s cranky cat.
· A goose-chasing dog in hot water with an animal rights group.
· The search for the perfect cupcake recipe.
· And, of course, someone who wants her out of the picture.
And she thought getting a Ph.D. was hard.
Dr. Bree Watson understood the pressure of trying to impress a brilliant mentor. She pushed herself to excel, achieving a BS, MS, PhD, and a job in a field still dominated by old men. She had reached all of her goals except one: to silence the voice of doubt that dogged her every waking minute. Now, faced with an important meeting with her boss, she reviewed her presentation one last time.
“What’s up, Doc?” A baritone chuckle sounded when she jumped. Damn, she hated having her back to the door. She turned to find marketing manager Matthew Tugood leaning against the cubicle frame. As much as a man could against a structure only as high as his shoulder.
Tall, slender, with broad shoulders, muscled biceps, and a dusting of light brown hair on his forearms, Matthew Too-Good-To-Be-True didn’t look like a Harvard School of Business graduate. He looked—or so her friend Kiki said—like an underwear model.
Matthew flashed a smile and held out a paper cup filled with gourmet coffee. “I brought gifts.”
“Thanks.” Bree accepted the coffee and swiveled back to her monitor. “I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t talk.”
“I won’t take more than a minute.” Bree heard him flop down in her guest chair. She turned back.
And came face-to-face with a cupcake. A luscious, iced-in-pink-frosting-with-a-cherry-on-top cupcake. “I scored this from the executive lounge.”
“Thank you.” Bree snatched the cupcake from him and peeled the wrapper away revealing perfect, moist cake. A sweet warm-from-the-oven chocolate scent tickled her nose. She licked the frosting. Sank her teeth into the cake, savoring the complex chocolate and cherry flavors. A nutty yet smooth cream cheese filling melted on her tongue.
Later she would research flavor chemistry and try to recreate the cupcake. Now, she’d simply enjoy herself.
Matthew cleared his throat. “If your office had a door, I’d step outside and close it so you two could be alone.”
Bree swallowed hastily and took a sip of coffee. “Sorry, I just—” Oh Lord, she could feel the heat rushing to her cheeks. She hustled him out of her cubicle, and turned back to the presentation, the culmination of weeks of testing in dirty chemical facilities.
A flashing reminder icon on her computer caught her eye. She was late for her meeting. Not by a little. By a lot.
Panic washed over her, making her gums and teeth tingle as blood rushing from her head. Bree hurried to his office, aware her lateness would earn a black mark in her boss’s notebook of doom. She would turn the situation around and add a dozen positive marks to offset the one negative. Even if it took every ounce of energy and intelligence she had.
Outside his office his admin, Norah, intercepted her as quickly and quietly as a ghost, despite the girl’s skin-tight black sheath and scuffed combat boots. Bree bit the inside of her lip to keep from commenting on—or worse laughing at—the outfit of the day. The twenty-something admin looked like a walking Halloween prop with her pale skin and artificially dark hair. But as much as she tried to appear hard and aloof, her natural warmth always shone through the cracks in her disguise.
“Chill, Bree. He’s been quiet as a corpse all morning. No demands at all. It makes me wonder if caffeine wasn’t his problem all along.”
“Caffeine? The man lives on coffee.”
“He did.” Norah smirked, causing her lip piercing to torque upward at an odd angle. “While you were traveling last week, he decided to decaffeinate himself. Talking to him was like trying to pet a crocodile—you risked losing an appendage. Tuesday he lit into me for not setting the auto brew feature on his coffeemaker before I left on Monday night. It’s his own fault if his coffee tasted like crap this morning, because I set it up last Friday.” The grin she sent Bree had a touch of evil in it—or would have, if her bright red lipstick hadn’t smeared and faded. “At least he didn’t complain. Maybe he fell asleep from lack of caffeine.”
Bree peered through the office window but didn’t see anyone. She rapped on the door. No answer. “Buckster? It’s Bree. We had a meeting this morning.” She rapped harder.
Still no answer.
Unease tickled the back of her neck, and her hands felt cold. “Norah, are you sure he didn’t step out for a minute?”
Norah pointed to the do-not-disturb sign with a black lacquered fingernail. “I haven’t moved from this desk since I arrived. No one’s been in or out of that office.” Her lips curled into another smirk. “Trust me, I’ve been watching that door all morning.”
Bree’s apprehension mounted. The wannabe Goth girl seemed ill at ease, too. Bree turned back to the office and twisted the knob. The door opened easily. Inside, the odor of burned coffee assaulted her nostrils. A coffee mug sat on the polished surface of the credenza, next to a nearly full pot of coffee. The hot plate on the coffeemaker sizzled as a drop of liquid splashed onto the exposed surface.
Bree inhaled eau de burned-coffee, now unpleasantly laced with essence of sewer.
The desk was in disarray. She rounded it, kicking an overturned paper coffee cup. Liquid sloshed out onto the carpet. A sweet, nutty, cherry scent wafted up to join the noxious sulfur and coffee stench.
She peered under the desk and froze, the chill from her hands now encasing her whole body. “Norah, call 9-1-1.” Bree dropped her notes and rushed to her boss’s prone body. He lay facing the wall, halfway under the desk, one arm outstretched. She put her fingers on his neck, praying she’d feel a pulse, but the stiffness of the flesh—not warm, yet not cool either—told her she wouldn’t.
Buckminster Davis was dead.
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Amazingly original and awesome! 8 stars. This will be a book series that I read more than once, and each time I will find something to laugh at or just enjoy. I love the characters in this book, The author did an amazing job describing and developing every character within this story. NetGalley Reviewer, 5 stars
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Kelle Z. Riley, writer, speaker, global traveler, Ph.D. chemist and martial artist weaves bits of her real-life into the Undercover Cat Series books. The series features a scientist-turned-sleuth who juggles mystery, romance and the search for a perfect cupcake recipe.
By day Kelle is a full-time chemist working in water treatment with multiple U.S. patents. At night she turns into an author whose accolades include finals in the RWA Golden Heart and numerous chapter contests. More information on her workshops can be found on her website.
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