Bow Wow Big House – Addison Moore, Bellamy Bloom

My name is Bizzy Baker, and I can read minds. Not every mind, not every time, but it happens, and believe me when I say, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Like say now for instance. If there’s one thing I detest more than whimpering canines, it’s that concoction the caterers are threatening me with. My God, did they bake roaches into those treats? I gasp as I inadvertently listen in on the thoughts of the woman before me. Not only did she request that the Country Cottage Café cater platters of brownies to the fundraiser tonight, but Siena Thompson, the woman whose mind I’m currently prying into, owns and operates the Bow Wow Rescue House right here in Cider Cove. And it’s one of the premier rescue houses in all of Maine. Emmie Crosby, my lifelong best friend, and I are currently standing in the ballroom of a stately mansion filled with swarms of elegant people dressed to impress one another’s expensive socks off. It’s the night of the big fundraiser set to bring in a nice haul for the rescue shelter, and by the looks of it, every deep pocket in the state has shown up for the event. Siena Thompson is a tall redhead with a heavy cleft in her chin and beady dark eyes that seem to be scrutinizing just about everyone at the event, and I have no doubt she’s doing exactly that. I clear my throat. “Hello, Siena, my name is Bizzy Baker, from the Country Cottage Inn, and this is my good friend, Emmie. We’ve got the rocky road brownies you requested for the event. Where would you like us to put them?” I ask, holding up the platter in my hand, laden down with chocolate and marshmallow goodness. They are to die for.

I should know, I gobbled down about a half a dozen on the way over. Siena scowls at the brownies as if they had offended her, before manufacturing a tight-lipped smile. “Yes, well”—she takes a breath as she straightens—“my assistant, Winnie, must have requested those rather interesting treats. The refreshment table is right over there. Put them wherever you like.” She waves at a couple who just walked through the door holding an adorable Chihuahua before disappearing into the crowd. And as cute as that Chihuahua is, just about everyone here has a furry little purse puppy with them. A few bigger dogs roam the vicinity as well and every last one of them is better behaved than some of the humans here. I would have loved to have brought my boyfriend’s dog, Sherlock Bones. He’s a sweet and mild-mannered mutt who would have really got a kick—and a bellyache—from the doggie biscuit bar.

Rumor has it, each bone-shaped treat is infused with bacon. Of course, my sweet cat, Fish, would have appreciated it as well, but there are only a small handful of pooches she can tolerate and this venue would have well exceeded her limit. It’s the night of the big biannual fundraiser to help raise both awareness and finances for the Bow Wow Rescue House. Tickets were listed at fifty dollars a plate and every last one of them sold out almost immediately. Emmie and I each gladly bought a ticket to support the cause, but we ended up missing dinner because we had to redo a batch of rocky road brownies. You see, in an effort to lend a helping hand, I decided to make up a batch myself and ended up burning them beyond recognition. They were so thoroughly toasted, you could have swept the ashes up and put them in an urn. Once again, my lack of culinary acumen showed as bright as that momentary kitchen fire. Come to find out, turning up the temperature isn’t the best way to speed up the baking process. I should have known better than to set foot in the kitchen.

Even though my surname is Baker, it’s sort of an irony at this point. As far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to create tasty treats like my cookie-slinging bestie, and all of my life I’ve had to defer to her baking brawn. Emmie and I share the same long, dark, wavy hair and icy blue eyes. People have mistaken us for sisters for as long as I can remember. We’re both in our late twenties and the similarities don’t end there. We even share the same formal moniker, seeing that Elizabeth is her first name and mine. But in order to evade and avoid confusion, we’ve each happily stuck with our nicknames. And a little Emmie-Bizzy trivia—I was once married to her brother, Jordy, for less than a day. That lapse in judgment involved a drive-thru chapel in Vegas, an Elvis impersonator, and my own brother’s very first case that involved a rush annulment. My brother, Huxley, is a family practice attorney who has garnered a lot of practice from our family alone.

No sooner do we set our platters down on an elegant table covered in white linen than Emmie pulls me close by the arm. “Would you get a load of this place? It’s so elegant and ritzy and—” “Haunted.” I nod over at her. It’s true. The Chadwick mansion is notorious for two things: the sheer girth and opulence of the residence and the fact a murder took place here over fifty years ago. “Apparently, Mr. Chadwick, a psychiatrist for the criminally insane, lost his own sanity one night and ended up pushing his wife over the railing from the second floor—and her body landed right out in the foyer.” Emmie and I glance over at the wrought iron staircase and shiver. “Geez, Bizzy,” she whispers. “Why did you have to bring that up?” The Chadwick mansion is expansive inside, pale stone floors, marble entry, and it even boasts of a cavernous ballroom that’s currently ground zero for the charity event this evening.

Smooth jazz billows from the speakers as formally dressed waitstaff wander the premises, offering free champagne. There are a bevy of volunteers practically accosting anyone they see in an effort to sell as many raffle tickets as they can in hopes to increase proceeds from tonight’s event. And you really can’t blame them. After all, that is the point of the evening. “I brought it up because we both know we were thinking it.” “Not true.” She irons out her navy gown with her hands. “I’m actually making an effort not to think of it. You know I hate the idea of a haunted house. I’m the girl that hides under a pillow on Halloween night.

This is all too freaky for me.” I roll my eyes at that one. “You do not hide under a pillow on Halloween night. You wear the skimpiest costume you can get your hands on and you scour the neighborhood for the sexiest vampire you can—well, get your hands on.” She belts out a laugh. “There’s no shame in my vampire game.” “That’s what I like about you, Em. You own up to your neck-sucking ways.” “I’m not the vampire in the equation, Biz.” “It’s never stopped you before.

” “Touché.” But it’s not Halloween, and it’s definitely not October. It’s January and we’re smack in the middle of a cold snap. We’ve been breaking snowfall records all across Maine, and it’s even managed to snow on and off right here on the coast—a rarity in and of itself, some might say a miracle. Tonight, we’ve traded our snow boots for high heels and glorified prom dresses. Both Emmie and I went to the local vintage store and picked up long satin gowns. Hers is a stunning navy with spaghetti straps that crisscross in the back and mine is light pink with a giant black bow seated over my rear end. “Never mind about the haunted house,” I say, pulling at the neckline on my ill-fitting gown. “I feel ridiculous in this dress. Next time I’m calling tails.

” Emmie and I couldn’t decide who got which dress in the thrift shop since we’re both the same size, and I was on the losing end of a game of rock, paper, scissors, best out of three. That pretty much sums up how we’ve gone through our decision-making process in life, big or small. Emmie’s paper always covers my rock. “Ooh, look.” She jabs me in the ribs. “It’s your mom and big sis.” No sooner do I turn around than my mother and sister, Macy, pop up next to us. My mother, Ree Baker, is impeccably dressed at all times, and this ritzy venue demands nothing different. Her strawberry blonde hair is feathered and highlighted, her denim blue eyes have a youthful sparkle to them, but it’s that dress with its arrestingly dramatic collar that fans up over her shoulders that steals the show. She practically raised my sister, brother, and me on her own, despite the fact our father was very much still in the picture.

Recently, she adopted two sweet kittens, Mistletoe and Holly, which amused my siblings to no end since our mother was never one to own a pet. Macy said they were the perfect crazy cat lady starter set. “Mom, you look”—an entire dictionary of adjectives swills through my mind, and yet not a one holds water to what I’m actually seeing—“specific.” Macy, my older and questionably wiser sister, leans in. “I know, right? I tried to tell he r Dynasty called and the witches that ruled the wardrobe department want their costume back.” Emmie and I share a quick cackle at my mother’s expense. “Ignore her,” I say, pulling my mother in for a hug while giving Macy a quick thumbsup for the accurate description. Macy has dark hair—at the roots—and a dark disposition on life in general. And tonight she has on a little black dress to match her sooted soul. Macy owns and operates a soap and candle shop called Lather and Light just down the street from the inn I manage.

And tonight she’s donated a large basket of goodies from her shop to be used as one of the many raffle prizes they have here. “So”—Macy leans in with her eyes wide and wild—“did you hear the big news?” Emmie looks suspicious as to what my sister might classify as big news. It’s safe to say Macy sees the world through a different set of lenses—and those lenses are usually smudged with a raunchy patina. “What big news?” Em asks with trepidation. It’s no news to Emmie or me that Macy is the town gossip. But that’s one of the reasons we love and rely on her. She keeps us in the know. “Spill it, girl,” I say, and just as we’re about to form a holy huddle, a tornado in a bright red kaftan bursts onto the scene. The tornado in the red kaftan would be Georgie Conner, an older woman that I seemed to have acquired in one of my father’s many divorces. Georgie was the mother of one of my father’s wives way back when, and even though her daughter did a spontaneous disappearing act, Georgie decided to stick around and I’m glad about it, too.

She wears her gray hair long and wild, and tonight she’s donned a thick line of kohl underneath her eyes and a swath of bright red lipstick that matches her gown. There’s a chunky necklace made of rose-colored sea glass that adorns her neck that Georgie herself handcrafted. Georgie is an artist who specializes in mosaics—sea glass just so happens to be her all-time favorite medium. And she just so happens to be one of the few people who knows that I can pry into other people’s minds. “Not without me!” Georgie spikes a crooked finger in the air. “You girls should know better than to let a secret fly without me here to catch it.” She pulls something out of her multicolored tote bag, and whatever it is she’s wielding looks like a macramé tennis racket. She holds it precariously in the air as if she were about to swat Macy over the face. “It’s a dream catcher, and it’s pretty darn good at catching a secret or two as well. Go ahead.

” Macy closes her eyes a moment. “Touch me with that crooked wand and you’ll be flying right into the atmosphere without your broomstick.” “Ooh.” Georgie wiggles her fingers. “A murderous threat right in the very house a murderous threat was made good on. Go on. Let’s hear what else your lying lips have to say.” Macy brushes her off as she leans my way. “Word on the restaurant-lined streets is that la madre here dumped that hot to trot boyfriend of hers.” “What?” both Emmie and I squawk in unison.

My mother has been dating my own boyfriend’s brother for a few months now— twisted, I know. His name is Maximus, and he’s the owner of a very trendy restaurant out in Seaview that bears the same moniker. Georgie lets out an egregious groan. “Say it ain’t so, Ree!” She claps her hand over her chest as if she had just been shot. Mom is quick to wave us off. “It’s true. I just couldn’t take all the late night loving, the early morning affection, the middle of the afternoon—” I hold up a hand. “We get it.” Georgie scowls my way. “Bizzy is just jealous because she hasn’t rounded out the bases with her own Wilder yet.

” Macy ticks her head to the side. “I rounded out the bases with two of them.” She’s not kidding. Macy quickly had her way with Jasper’s other brothers, Dalton and Jamison. That might sound shocking, but Macy has been known to cycle through men like a crop rotation. She looks to Emmie. “Have you taken Jamison out for a test run yet?” “I have the right to remain silent.” Emmie makes a zipping motion across her lips. “Oh no.” I glance to the ceiling and moan.

“Et tu, Emmie?” I knew they were dating. I just didn’t know they were mating. And I’m still hoping I’ve read this entire conversation wrong. Georgie leans my way. “Speaking of hot to trot men, don’t tell me you’ve cut a perfectly good Wilder loose yourself, Bizzy.” “Not me. Jasper is working late, but he’s coming straight here once he’s through.” “Working late?” Macy offers an amused blink. “Bizzy, it’s Saturday. I think it’s time you put a tracking device on that man.

” I shake my head at the thought. “There’s a huge crime ring the sheriff’s department is looking to break up. Apparently, they’re close. It’s all hands on deck.” The lights dim before going on and off, much to the delight of the crowd. And soon a spotlight is focused near the front where a familiar brunette stands holding a microphone. “Hello, everyone. My name is Mayor Woods and I’d like to welcome you to the semiannual fundraiser for the Bow Wow Rescue House.” A rousing round of applause goes off. I give a half-hearted clap, but it’s not because I lack any enthusiasm for the cause.

It’s more of a lack of enthusiasm for the mayor. As far back as I can remember, Mackenzie Woods was actually one of my best friends, along with Emmie, despite her evident wicked streak. Then somewhere in middle school she pushed me into a whiskey barrel full of water and a few wayward apples ready to be bobbed, and shockingly, she did it just for the heck of it. Four things came from that near drowning. First, I quickly acquired an unnatural fear of being submerged into both large and small bodies of water—which leads to the second thing, my fear of confined spaces. The third thing that developed was a very real distrust of Mack Woods. And the fourth and final gift she inadvertently gave me that day was the ability to read minds. It’s true. No sooner did I emerge gasping from that whiskey barrel than I started picking up on roving thoughts of those that were around me. But I’ve kept that last part to myself for the most part.

And even though I didn’t technically tell anyone my secret, Georgie somehow managed to wrangle it out of me a few years back. Apparently, a person can only be so intuitive. Recently, I’ve learned that my boyfriend’s former best friend, Deputy Leo Granger, happens to share the same odd gift. And as fate and my bad luck would have it, Jasper’s ex-girlfriend, Camila Ryder, somehow garnered this information as well. She cheated on Jasper with none other than Leo, but recently she’s seen the error of her ways and tried tooth and nail to get Jasper back. Camila went as far as threatening to expose me if I didn’t relinquish my hold on him. As if I’d break up with a perfectly good homicide detective over a few flimsy threats. But then, true to her rotten word, Camila did make good on those threats. On Christmas Eve, she wrote Jasper a letter and basically told him that both Leo and I share a supernatural gift. Thankfully, Jasper laughed it off and called her insane.

But the men who showed up from the Metaphysical Research Department, MRD for short, weren’t laughing. That’s right. Camila had the nerve to call in the feds. As if I’ll ever admit to my ability. Two investigators from the MRD came sniffing around the Country Cottage Inn, twice last month—the second time being on Christmas Eve right after Jasper read that ridiculous, yet explosively accurate letter. Jasper chased them away and they’ve yet to be back. But something tells me they will be. And they will want answers. Mayor Mackenzie Woods drones on and on, and I can’t help but glance around at the glamorous crowd. A commotion near the entry of the room catches my eye.

It’s Siena Thomson arguing with a tall blonde, and I watch as the blonde snatches Siena by the wrist and Siena struggles to break free. I slip away from the crowd and make my way over to the entry, if for anything, to make sure the two women don’t come to blows. “Don’t you ever threaten me again, Mariah,” Siena snips as she steps in close to the towering blonde. “Or I will end you.” She stalks off and I step back, trying to blend into the crowd. The blonde glares in the direction Siena disappeared in. Oh, honey. Kiss your daddy’s millions goodbye because I will most certainly end you. T C H A P T E R 2 he odd thing about hanging out in a haunted house is that there’s an underlying creepy delight to it all. Okay, I confess, I’m not all that big on getting frightened out of my mind.

But with a room full of people—not to mention adorable pets—each one more glamorous than the next, there’s the illusion of safety in numbers. That is, with the exception of this moment right here as I delve into the main hall just outside of the raucous ballroom behind me. I spot Siena near the base of the stairs, tapping spastically into her phone just as a younger woman with long, dark hair and matching dark eyes approaches her. She’s got on a copper-colored dress that fits her like a tight glove, and a part of me wishes I could trade dresses with her before Jasper gets here. Siena looks over at her. “Oh, thank God, Winnie. What is going on tonight? Has everyone gone mad?” “Don’t worry about it.” The brunette, Winnie, I suppose, waves it off. “I have everything under control. Let’s get our minds off it and focus on the task at hand.

We’re raising a lot of money tonight for a good cause.” Siena openly scoffs at the girl. “We would have raised more if you’d have paid attention to the messages I sent you. Remind me to dock your pay.” Siena bolts off like a woman on a pay-docking mission. “What?” the girl calls after her. “Siena, you can’t be serious.” A hard groan comes from her. But she is. Because she’s a monster.

The woman barrels past me, nearly knocking me right off my heels as her ring gets caught on that annoyingly large bow on the back of my dress. “I’m so sorry.” She takes the ring off and works it loose from the fabric, and I can’t help but admire it’s a beautiful rose gold Claddagh ring. I’ve always wanted one of those. It’s a traditional Irish ring, and the design consists of two hands holding a heart, and the heart just so happens to be wearing a crown. The entire ring is representative of friendship, loyalty, and love. My father is Irish, so the connection is there, but I have a feeling even if he wasn’t I’d still crave the pretty little bobble. The woman, Winnie, untangles the two of us and speeds off with tears in her eyes. Poor thing. I’m about to head back to the ball when Siena speeds this way, scanning the vicinity with those wicked laser beams she calls eyes.

Good. She’s gone. There will be hell to pay for this fiasco, and I’ll gladly pin it on that nitwit. She sheds a saccharin smile my way and my mouth opens to say something just as an older woman with a cardigan on over her dress strides out from behind. “There you are.” Siena practically lunges at her. “I’m so glad you made it. Did you bring your things? I’ll have Winnie display them in the entry. Are you selling or donating?” The older woman balks. She’s tall, wide shoulders, a strong jaw, auburn hair that touches down to her neck worn in a pageboy style.

She has good cheekbones, and if I were her, I’d show them off. “Aren’t I always donating to the cause?” the older woman bleats with a raspy deep voice as if she smoked one too many cigarettes in her lifetime. Siena spots me and does a double take. I turn to take off and I hear her call my name. “It’s Bizzy Baker, right?” I cringe a moment. There are only a handful of things worse than getting caught eavesdropping. And if I were a better liar, I’d quickly point out that I was lost on my way to the ladies’ room. A smile springs to my face. “Yes, that’s me,” I say. “Is the restroom this way?” I point to the left and she frowns because she can see right through the toilet-based half-truth.

It would be a nice cover if I believed her. Of course, she was listening in on my conversation. Why wouldn’t she be? Everyone else does it. When you come from money, everyone wants to get what they can get—even a stolen conversation. I frown over at her for reading me so well. “Never mind the restroom.” She waves me over. “I want you to meet someone.” I head that way and Siena holds out a hand to the woman before me. “Bizzy, this is Lucy Miller.

She’s designing the clothes for the upcoming fashion show. Of course, the dogs will be modeling the fashions. Trust me. It’s a brilliant way to get rid of them—as in adopted.” My mouth rounds out with surprise. “A doggie fashion show!” I can’t help but giggle. “That’s a wonderful idea.” Lucy shakes her head. “Oh, it is. It will be held at the adoption event at the end of this month right outside the Bow Wow Rescue House.

We’re working hard to get the entire community involved.” Siena nods. “Which brings me to my next point. Bizzy, don’t you run that dusty inn?” My eyes widen her way. Just whose inn is she calling dusty? Her lips twitch with a budding smile. I just love crawling under people’s skin. And not once has anyone dared to give me an ounce of resistance. There’s more to having money than all those lovely zeros in your bank account. The power that comes with it is addictive and delicious. “Yes, I manage the Country Cottage Inn right here at the cove.

” Siena nods. “And don’t you have some pet facility on site?” “Oh! Yes, we do. We have Critter Corner, a pet daycare that’s available to both our guests and anyone else who would like to use it. There are so many pets left alone at home while their owners go to work, and this way the pets can be around people during working hours. It’s fun for the animals. And my staff has just as good a time with them.” “Perfect.” Siena gives Lucy a shove over the arm. “Hit her up with the merch. Maybe you can make a sale after all.

” She takes off for the couple holding that adorable Chihuahua I saw earlier. Lucy leans in. “Don’t mind her. She’s abrasive, but she has no idea how she comes across. Trust me when I say it could be worse.” And it has been much, much worse, but I’m not one to disparage anyone while they’re within earshot, especially not a brat like Siena. “So tell me more about Critter Corner.” “Oh, it’s my baby right along with the inn,” I say, never taking my eyes off Siena. The couple she’s chatting with are both dressed in the same deep crimson red color. It’s not so odd on the woman, a short brunette.

Her dress looks almost banal, off-theshoulder, tea-length. But the man has a crimson suit, coat and matching pants, and his dress shirt shares the same devilish hue. Lucy gives a dark rumble of a laugh. “Those are the Dillingers. They’re actually brother and sister. Harry and Molly. Creepy, right?” I shake my head. “I don’t think I’d ever want to coordinate wardrobes with my brother that way.” Huxley and I usually get along pretty well, but not enough to warrant a matching wardrobe. “Molly works for Siena’s father, managing his ritzy casino hotels.

He’s got an entire chain of them. Anyway, Molly introduced Siena to Harry and they were fiercely serious. But she dumped him and moved on to her boy toy, Jackson.” She cranes her neck in the crowd. “He’s here somewhere. Last I heard he and Siena were arguing. I bet he’s steering clear. Which is good advice for all of us on a night like tonight. So about the pet daycare. Would you mind if I left my card at the facility? Believe it or not, there’s a big demand for custom clothes for pets.

You know those furry little beasts come in every shape and size. My clothes are all tailored to fit like a glove.” A laugh bubbles from me. “I think that’s a great idea. You can leave all the cards you want. I bet you’ll pick up a ton of new business that way.” “Thank you so much. You don’t know how much this means to me. I’ll stop by next week.” She gives a wave as she dives into the crowd.

But my attention drifts back to Siena and the odd couple in matching outfits. The woman she’s with says something heated to her before taking off. I try prying into her mind, but there’s just white noise—a good indicator of excitement on many levels. The man Siena is with glances my way. He’s about my age, perhaps a little older. His skin is pocked; his eyes are hard. I glance away, but my mind is like a heat-seeking missile as I try my best to pry into his thoughts and— “Oh God.” I nearly jump right out of my skin as I take off into the crowd for shelter. I don’t examine myself in the nude often, but when I do, I prefer it not to be in the recesses of someone’s dirty mind. My phone pings and it’s a text from Jasper.

I can’t help but smile just seeing his name at the top of my screen. Okay, fine. Jasper has seen me sans a stitch of clothing plenty of times in his mind’s eyes—just not in person as of yet. Here. Just parked in Timbuktu. It might take me an hour to walk up there. Judging by the sea of cars out here, this is the place to be. See you soon! My heart soars at the thought. Hopefully, his ex-Camila won’t accost him on the way up. She’s proving to be quite the proficient stalker.

Not that she’s at the Chadwick mansion tonight. Camila Ryder’s smug smile bounces through my mind, and I bounce her right back out. I step out of the ballroom and back out into the foyer where the air is cooler. I should probably head back to my car and bring in the rest of those trays loaded down with those delicious rocky road brownies. I’m sure Jasper won’t mind helping me out, and that way I can sneak a few chocolaty kisses his way. There is nothing better than kissing Jasper Wilder in the snow with a full moon overhead. Come to think of it, it’s not so bad kissing him in my cottage, cozy on the sofa with the fireplace going and a half dozen empty boxes of takeout strewn over my coffee table. Oh heck, there’s not a single bad place to make out with that man. And boy does Jasper know how to plant one on me. He puts the smooch in smoocher.

In fact— My thoughts stop cold as I step deeper into the foyer and spot a familiar face across the way. The sound of escalating voices grows from somewhere up above, but I’m tuning those out at the moment because I happen to be looking at what I’m hoping is an apparition related to this haunted house. The reality isn’t quite as appealing. “Camila?” I shake my head as she strides this way. Her long brown hair is perfectly coiled in obedient curls. Her amber eyes glow like angry jewels and she looks arresting in a red satin gown that accentuates her curves in all the right places. My mouth opens to say something just as a shrill scream breaks out from above and I look up in time to see a body falling to the floor and landing smack between Camila and me. That long, curly red hair, that pale as paper face. The woman lies motionless with her limbs splayed out. My hand presses to my chest as a scream of my own locks in my throat.

It’s her. Siena won’t have to worry about hosting another fundraiser. Siena Thompson is dead.

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