Pecan Pie Predicament (Murder in the Mix #27) by Addison Moore

Chapter 1

One week earlier…

My rental house goes up in a wall of flames as if it were doused in kerosene, and all I can do is watch, slack-jawed and horrified.

The sound of windows blowing out riots into the night like a bad rendition of a Fourth of July spectacular. Then, one by one, the windows on Everett’s second story detonate as glass rains down over the street. Both houses burn with a fury, with flames that reach to the heavens, red as sin, hot as hell.

“Lot Lot!” Carlotta howls. “Your kid and your men are in that house!”

“Evie!” I scream, and soon a pair of arms embraces me from behind. I turn to see Evie Baxter’s beautiful face, and I sob for a moment into her neck.

“I’m sorry, Mom. I went to Hannah’s house. They were having a party. I didn’t do this, I swear.”

“I know you didn’t,” I say as the firemen turn up full force, and I quickly spot my brother-in-law, Forest, in the mix.

“Everett and Noah are in the house.” I point over to the towering flames. “They’re looking for Evie, but she’s here and she’s okay!” No sooner do I get the words out than a shadow darkens the door, and I run past Forest and up Everett’s driveway. “Evie’s down here!” I shout. “She’s safe!”

The shadow runs down the stairs, and I can see it’s Everett.

“Oh, thank God,” I say as I collapse my arms around him. His body is dusted with soot and holds the heavy scent of smoke. “Where’s Noah?” I glance past him.

“Noah is in there?” Everett’s blue eyes glow against the soot covering his face. Everett lets a few expletives fly as he pushes away. “Get to safety, Lemon. Watch over Evie,” he shouts.

“Everett, stop!” I howl. “The fire department is here. They can get him!”

A beam falls ablaze into his living room as a part of the roof caves in.

“I’m sorry, Lemon. But nobody knows that house like I do. And I want that damn fool out of there alive.” He barrels past me, and three different firefighters try their best to tackle him, but Everett makes his way into that burning inferno despite their efforts.

“Dad!” Evie wails as she latches onto me for dear life, and we watch in horror as the structure begins to collapse. A line of firemen gets as far as the entry before trekking around to the side of the house. “They’re not going in.” Evie bucks with grief. “Uncle Noah and Dad are on their own, aren’t they?”

Words refuse to come. Mostly because I want so badly to comfort her, but I don’t know how.

The sound of glass fracturing once again goes off, followed by a body jumping onto the patio roof from the second story before hopping onto the lawn below.

The firefighters come at him and hold him up like a couple of bookends. They head this way, and I can see those familiar dimples digging in.

“Noah.” I dash over and wrap my arms around him.

“I’m fine, Lot.” He coughs. “I tweaked my knee. I got it pinned under some debris. I’ll be fine.”

“Oh, Noah.” I pull him even tighter.

He looks from me to Evie. “Where’s Everett?”

My lips part as I look back at the unholy blaze that rises high like a skyscraper.

“No.” He moans as we watch what’s left of Everett’s home collapse in on itself.

“No.” This time the word comes from me in a horrific moan.

Evie belts out an ear-piercing scream, and I join her as we wail our grief into the night.

It can’t end like this for us.

This can’t be happening.

I’ve done this.

Nell tried to warn me, and I brought on this fury, this evil into our lives, and now it’s costing me everything.

God forgive me.

Oh, Everett, please forgive me.

I fall to my knees and howl with grief. I never want to stop. I can’t.

A maniacal echoing laughter comes from above, and I look up to see that lavender aura ignite the sky.

“You are paying dearly,” a disembodied voice warbles from up above.

No. I shake my head up at the sky because I refuse to believe it.

This isn’t over. It’s not over by a long shot.

Grief mixed with rage wails from me.

And I pray Everett and I aren’t over by a long shot as well.

Let the world burn to rubble. Just give me Everett.

From behind, I hear the whisperings of those in the crowd as they hiss in unison like a chorus—the Hearst curse strikes again.