Scoop to Kill: A Mystery a La Mode

chapter 1

“I can’t even believe that womanis related to me.”

“Alice, honey, I hate to tell you, but you and your mama are like two kits in a litter. Hardheaded, tenderhearted, and too smart for your own good.” I ran a hand through my hair and sighed. “Too smart for my own good.”

Alice folded her arms across her chest and cocked a skinny hip. She still looked more like a child than a woman, and I had a tough time remembering that she was finishing up her first year at Dickerson University. “That is so not true, Aunt Tally. I would never in a million years show up at a formal event looking like a hoochie.”

I studied my cousin, Alice’s mama, trying to see her through her precocious teenage daughter’s eyes. Bree Michaels wore a vibrant pink tank dress that clung to every luscious curve of her statuesque form. A beam of late-afternoon sunlight filtered through the atrium windows of Sinclair Hall, brightening her bouffant updo to a glossy maraschino cherry red. And when she threw her head back and laughed at one of her admirers’ quips, her abundant décolletage frothed like freshly whipped cream until I thought she might overflow her D cups. She looked like a sexy strawberry sundae, and the men surrounding her—from adolescents to octogenarians—practically drooled on her three-inch spike heels.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Alice tugging on the cuffs of her prim white cotton dress shirt, and I smothered a chuckle.

“In your mama’s defense, the invitation called this shindig a ‘reception,’ and they’re serving barbecue and ice cream. Not exactly black tie and tails.”

“You know what I mean,” Alice huffed. “You dressed appropriately.”

I glanced down at my own outfit, a knee-length black skirt and French blue wrap shirt. “I look like a waitress,” I muttered.

“Better a waitress than a call girl.”

“Show a little respect, Alice. And cut your mama some slack. She’s terrified she’s going to embarrass you today.”

Alice snorted.

“Seriously. Bree was a hot mess this morning. She tried on three different outfits and spent an hour on her hair, and she was still shaking so bad I thought she’d collapse the minute we walked in here and saw all the posters and displays.”

My niece nibbled on her lower lip, and I could see the wheels turning behind eyes as wide and blue as the prairie sky. “Mom’s no shrinking violet,” she insisted.

“You’re right. Bree’s cocky as heck when she’s on her own turf. When she’s singing karaoke at the Bar None or scooping cones at Remember the A-la-mode. But Honor’s Day on a college campus? Scares the piddle out of her.” I wrapped an arm around Alice’s scrawny shoulders and pressed a kiss to the silky hair at her temple. “Your mother is so freakin’ proud of you, little girl. Just turned seventeen and you’re presenting a research project at a prestigious private university? When she was your age, your mama had just gotten hitched to husband number one and was living in a camper in her in-laws’ side yard. She doesn’t want to hold you back, kiddo.”

Alice leaned in to me, and I gave her a little squeeze. Underneath the eighty-pound attitude, she was a great kid.

Before we could get any gooier, a smartly dressed woman emerged from the curtained platform that ran along one side of the atrium and made a beeline for us. I put her somewhere in her early to midthirties. Her caramel-colored hair fell just past her angular jaw in a chic asymmetrical bob, and funky tortoiseshell glasses rested on her aquiline nose. As she strode closer,