Spooky Spice Cake Curse (Murder in the Mix #26) by Addison Moore

Chapter 1

My name is Lottie Lemon, and I see dead people. Okay, so rarely do I see dead people. Mostly I see furry creatures of the dearly departed variety who have come back from the other side to warn me of their previous owner’s impending doom. But right now, I’m not seeing a dead anything. Instead, I’m seeing a Halloween extravaganza unfold at the old Hearst Estate tucked in the hills of Honey Hollow. The Hearsts are one of this country’s most famous families, and they’re not only known for their wealth, they’re equally known for their familial curse as well.

It’s early October and fall has descended on our little corner of Vermont. The maple and oak leaves have transformed to brilliant shades of citrine, in a rainbow of orange, yellow, and fiery red.

It’s well into the evening, the sky is covered with dark purple clouds, and the grounds outside of the old Hearst mansion are brimming with bodies. Some of them are dressed in Halloween costumes and some of them are simply dressed to tackle this crisp fall weather. The sound of spooky mood music filters through a series of unseen speakers overhead, and twinkle lights shed a soft enchanted glow over the vicinity. There are picnic tables set out over the grounds, a midway with games and pumpkins dotting every free space. A large orange banner stretches across the front of that old stately mansion that reads Welcome to the first Hearst Halloween Haunt!

The Halloween Haunt is turning out to be the fall festival to be at, and seeing that everyone in Honey Hollow seems to have shown up for opening night, I think the rest of the month is going to be quite a hit as well.

Outside of the tall white structure with its many columns and glowing windows, a festival atmosphere is taking place where caramel apples and hot apple cider abound. And, of course, my dessert platters abound as well.

I’ve provided sugar cookies in the shape of pumpkins, orange and purple frosted cupcakes, brownies, raspberry and chocolate thumbprints, snowballs with sprinkles, my new favorite sweet treat—spice cake both sliced and in cupcake form—and, last but not least, my rather infamous fried pickles. I’ve stationed my sweet treats right next to the refreshments, and on the next table over there’s a dinner buffet provided by the Honey Pot Diner for those looking for a heartier meal.

I snap up a couple of fried pickles as I take in the scene, and what I see is a lethally handsome man if ever there was one.

“Lemon, let me make you a plate.” Everett wraps his arms around me. “You’ve been on your feet all day, and you haven’t had dinner. They’ve got some great food here.”

I can’t help but bite down on a smile as I look up at him. Everett is tall with jet-black hair, commanding blue eyes, mid-thirties, hardly ever smiles himself, but really knows how to put a smile on a woman’s face—namely mine. He’s got the face and body of a deity, which explains why every ovary-bearing female in the vicinity is craning her neck to get a better look at him. There isn’t a woman on the planet who can resist his dark charm. He’s an unstoppable testosterone-based force of nature, and he happens to be all mine.

“A plate sounds wonderful,” I say, giving his tie a flirtatious tug. “But just a big heap of mashed potatoes is all I’m craving.” I spot my bestie across the way, noshing on a caramel apple, and just like that, a brilliant idea hits me. “Ooh—and instead of gravy, would you head over to the caramel apple stand and ask the girl behind the counter to pour some hot caramel sauce over my potatoes? That will really hit the spot,” I say, warming my belly with my hand.

Everett’s eyes widen a notch.

Judge Essex Everett Baxter is technically my husband—I say “technically” because we got married last December so that he could meet the requirements of the trust fund his father left him. It was more or less a business transaction. Almost no one refers to him by his proper moniker, Essex, with the exception of the multitude of women he’s danced with in the sheets—it’s sort of a naughty door prize. And even though I qualify, I prefer to call him by the name I’ve grown comfortable with, Everett.

Before we were married, Everett and I used to date way back when. But before that—and after, I had an on-again, off-again relationship with Detective Noah Fox. And well, Noah and I are off-again and Everett and I are on-again.

A dark laugh rumbles from his chest. “All right, Lemon.” Everett steals a kiss from my lips. He’s only ever called me by my surname, but I’ll be the last to protest. “Anything for you.” He gives a suspicious glance around at the throngs of people pouring onto the grounds. “Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.” He bears those blue eyes into mine. “Remember what Nell said.” He nods. “No matter what happens, we need you to stay safe.”