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Best Cosy Books

Start from Scratches (PAPERBACK)

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Title

PAPERBACK. Book 4 in the MenoPaws Mysteries, Paranormal Women's Fiction cozy mystery series.

Detective Cole is missing. Nell has a gut feline all is not well, but JenniFur, Edison, Daphne, and Delilah assure her he is simply on leave.

When the detective's neighbor is found murdered, Nell and her friends discover all is not cat and dried. Soon they are chasing their tails. Will they find the detective before it's too late? One thing's for sure, they will have to go back to the beginning and start from scratches.

PAPERBACK.

 Paperback 270 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.61 x 8 inches (127 x 15.6 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781922595317
 Publication date  May 6, 2021
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books

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CHAPTER 1

I said good morning to the cat, and the cat said good morning to me. That was one of the strange things about JenniFur. She said good morning, while most cats said, “Do not greet me. You are not worthy of a hello. Feed me. Feed me or suffer my wrath.”
Also, she said good morning in English.
“I want food,” she said. A magical cat was still a cat, after all. Her manners only stretched so far.
“I am feeding you,” I replied, opening a can of tuna.
“If you do not feed me this very second, I will vomit on the carpet.” JenniFur ran in front of my slippers.
“You know, you would get fed a lot faster if you didn’t try to trip me up every time I walked towards your bowl.”
“How can I trust you won’t forget to feed me?” JenniFur replied. She head-butted my calf.
“I feed you every day,” I muttered, emptying the can into her bowl.
I stood, tossed the can into the recycling bin, and glanced in the mirror. I looked a mess. My hair was in the type of curlers my grandmother had worn every night for seventy years. I didn’t mean the curlers looked the same; they were her exact curlers. I’d inherited them while my cousin, the favourite, inherited her home, furniture, and savings.
“Feed me,” JenniFur said.
I looked down at her. “I literally just fed you?”
“I don’t recall,” JenniFur said, “I feel as though I haven’t been fed in seventeen years.”
“You were fed five seconds ago,” I said, even though I knew there was no point in arguing with her.
JenniFur did not reply. Instead, she vomited on the rug.
I groaned. “Great! Why can’t you throw up outside?”
“It’s cold outside,” JenniFur said. “I would like my breakfast now.”
I cleaned up while JenniFur tried to trip me up. Then I fed her again, because I wanted two seconds of peace and quiet to remove the curlers from my hair. I didn’t get the chance in the end, because there was a knock on my door.
I lived above my bookstore called A Likely Story. It was a cozy, quaint little apartment deep on Wild Lime Mountain. The man who ran the bookstore, Edison, was a small, wizard like individual who sometimes knocked on my door with coffee and crumpets. After the stress of JenniFur, I was looking forward to the caffeine.
I opened the door. “Edison, that’s so sweet.”
But it wasn’t Edison. It was Detective Caspian Cole. Caspian was ridiculously handsome. Seriously, no man had any business being that dashing. I scrunched up my nose, trying to keep out his cologne, which was warm and spicey and inviting.
“Check out the buns,” JenniFur said. If she was a person, I figured she would have wolf whistled.
“That is wildly inappropriate,” I said. For a moment, I had forgotten that Caspian had no idea I could speak to JenniFur. I was the only one who could hear her thoughts.
“No,” JenniFur said, she was purring now. “The finger buns.”
It turns out she was not talking about Caspian’s bottom, but the bread covered in icing and sprinkles.
“Why have you brought those?” I said, thinking the only place those buns would go would be straight to my buns.
“A bribe.” Caspian looked flustered.
“I’m listening,” I replied.
“Oh, are you ever,” JenniFur said.
I ignored her.
“My niece is in town for a while.”
“I didn’t know you had any siblings.” I stepped to the side to let Caspian into the apartment.
“Neither did I,” he replied, “until three years ago. It turns out I have a half-brother who is fifteen years younger than I am. We’re not at all close, but he’s asked me to look after his daughter, Harriet, for a few weeks. She’s my niece.”
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m aware how families work, Caspian. Is everything okay?”
“Oh, yes. My brother’s away on business. I don’t know the first thing about kids, Nell.” Caspian ran a hand through his hair.
“You’re a homicide detective. I would think taking care of a kid would be easy for you.”
“What do they eat?” he asked.
“How old is she?”
“I have no idea. She’s so small. Tiny. A baby, really. With these beady little eyes, like a shark.”
“Where is she now?”
“At home,” he said.
“You left a baby at home, alone?”
“No, Edison’s watching her. I called him before I popped over. He’s watching her while I speak to you.”
“Okay. Well, do you have anything at home for her?”
“Like what?”
“Oh, Caspian, like formula. Teethers.”
He paled. “Oh no!”
“That’s no drama. We’ll stop by the shops on the way to your house, okay?”
“My brother’s going to kill me,” Caspian said.
“He does have nice buns too,” JenniFur said as I closed the apartment door. The day had already descended into madness, and it was not yet nine o’clock.
We bought formula, a teething toy, a rattle, three bibs, three onesies, and a breast pump. We hadn’t meant to buy the breast pump, only Caspian had shoved anything from the baby section into the cart, and I hadn’t noticed until we packed the car. It was one awkward situation on the drive over to his house, trying to explain how a breast pump worked. Men really were another species.
Edison hurried out of Caspian’s home when we parked outside on the road. “Thank goodness you’re here,” he exclaimed. “She’s a monster. A monster!”
He hurried to his car and drove away.
“How bad could a little baby be?” I thought as I looked towards the house.
It turns out Caspian’s niece was not a baby but a teenager. She stood on the porch, arms folded, glaring down at us. Her hair was brown but with two chunky strips of bleach at the front, and her fingers were decorated with the kind of plastic rings my daughter had loved when she was Harriet’s age.
“You said she was tiny,” I muttered to Caspian.
“She is tiny. Look at her.”
“I’m Nell,” I called out to Harriet.
“Whatever.”
“You gave me the impression she was a baby,” I hissed.
“I said she was tiny?”
I exhaled. “Then why did we buy baby stuff?”
Caspian shrugged. “I followed your lead. You’re the one who knows about children.”
Ignoring Caspian, I walked over to the house. “Are you looking forward to spending the next few weeks with your uncle?” I asked sweetly.
“Please. This town is so boring. Wild Lime Mountain? Gross. I could have been with Maddie at the beach.”
“But does Maddie have teethers?” Caspian said, unloading everything we had bought from the supermarket.
“This stuff is for babies,” Harriet said. She rolled her eyes. “I’m not a baby, Uncle Caspian. I’m thirteen.”
“A terrible age,” he said.
“What’s this old lady doing here anyway?”
“I’m not an old lady!” I exclaimed. “I’m fifty-something. I might not even be halfway through my life.”
Harriet groaned. “I don’t want to learn how to knit.”
“And I don’t want to teach you how to knit,” I replied.
Harriet narrowed her eyes. “Do you know Kung Fu?”
“Yep,” I said. “I’m a ninja.”
“Really?” She brightened.
“No, of course not.”
To my surprise, Harriet laughed. “Okay. Sorry. But Maddie’s grandmother is a Kung Fu instructor. Isn’t that cool?”
“That’s lovely. Look, I’m sorry you’re stuck on the mountain for a few weeks, but I own a bookstore. You’re welcome to stop by anytime you feel bored.”
“I love books,” Harriet said. I could tell she was warming up to me, even though I didn’t teach Kung Fu. “Do you sell coffee?”
“You’re not allowed to have coffee,” Caspian said. “You’re thirteen.”
Harriet rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Uncle Caspian. What’s your Internet password?”
Caspian told her, and Harriet disappeared into the house. Teenagers can only waste so much energy on adults before they needed to bail. I understood. I was a teenager once myself many moons ago. I didn’t plan on telling Harriet that, though. Everybody her age seemed to think that fifty-year-olds had always been fifty, that we were born into an advanced age, and that the sands of time would never touch their naive little heads. If only that were true.
“You’ve got your hands full with that one, Caspian,” I said affectionately. I liked spirited girls. The world too often tried to crush that spirit out of them.
“That’s why I bribed you with finger buns. I need help,” he said.
“Well, for starters, feed her pizza. Kids love pizza. And pasta. Make it extra cheesy. I’d also recommend giving her an allowance if her brother didn’t leave her any money.”
“He didn’t.”
“With an allowance, she can buy books and snacks when you’re out.”
“What if she spends the money on cocaine?”
“Oh, my goodness, Caspian. There’s no cocaine on Wild Lime Mountain. You’re a detective. You should know that. Besides, just because she’s a teenager, doesn’t mean she’s into drugs. She likes books. She said so herself.”
“Pizza. Pasta. Books. Okay. I think I can do all that.” Caspian frowned. “Hey, Nell, were you talking to your cat before?”
“No! What. Maybe. Hmm?”
“It sounded like you were talking to someone before I knocked, only there was no one else in your apartment.”
“I’m a crazy cat lady,” I said. “What can I say?”
Caspian nodded. “Thanks for your help.”
“Thanks for the finger buns. I’d better get moving.”
“Sure,” he replied. “Do you need to take the rollers out of your hair.”
“What rollers?” I said. I reached up to touch my hair, only to remember that I was still wearing my grandmother’s rollers. “Oh no!” I was absolutely mortified. My ears burnt with embarrassment.
I looked down at my feet. I was still wearing my slippers. In fact, I was still wearing my pyjamas too. They were not even cute pyjamas, but long johns with a butt flap. For a horrid moment, I thought the flap might have fallen open, but when I reached around to check, it was still buttoned close. Well, that was something.
“Why did you let me leave the house looking like this, Caspian?”
“I don’t know anything about fashion,” he said.
“This is not fashion. This is pyjamas.”
“I think you look fine.”
“No woman wants to look fine, Caspian. Why is it that men think it is acceptable to tell women they look fine? We want to look glamorous, breathtaking. We want to look unhinged. Anything but fine!”
“You look unhinged,” Caspian said. He seemed puzzled.
“Thank you,” I replied.
Harriet burst through the front door. “Can you people keep it down, please? Adults are so annoying. Why don’t you both chew loudly and sneeze while you’re having your little lovers’ tiff!”
With that, Harriet slammed the door, leaving us on the porch.
Caspian’s face flushed red. He opened the door for me. “You go inside.” I opened my mouth to protest, but he held up one hand to forestall me. “You don’t need to speak with Harriet. Sit in the living, room and I’ll fetch the nice bottle of wine I just bought. I left it in the car. It’s the least I can do. First, I’ll give Harriet some money.”
I smiled and walked inside. To my relief, Harriet was nowhere to be seen. I walked into the living room and sat on a comfortable couch. I hadn’t been in Caspian’s house before. It was masculine, the large Chesterfield couch on which I was sitting was upholstered in dark blue fabric, and there was a dark brown leather Chesterfield opposite. It looked much younger and in far better condition than the leather Chesterfield in the reading room in my bookshop and the even older one in my living room.
I stared at the fire. They were real flames, and it took me a few moments to realise it was one of those fires that looked like a real wood fire. That was certainly a plus. I did love open fires, but I didn’t like the venomous snakes and deadly spiders that came with firewood, although thankfully the deadly Funnel Web spider wasn’t usually found this far north.
I shuddered and looked at the doorway. Caspian was certainly taking his time. I crossed to the window and looked out. His car was still parked on the street, and the door was open. There was no sign of Caspian.
That was strange. I walked to the front door and opened it. I walked outside and looked in his car. He wasn’t sitting there, speaking on his phone. I was turning around to go when I noticed what I thought was blood on the ground.
I gasped, but on closer inspection, it was only red wine.
That’s when I saw the broken glass. The wine bottle was shattered, its pieces glinting in the early morning sun.
Where was Caspian?