Candy-Coated Secrets

Candy-Coated Secrets by Cynthia Hickey

Book: Candy-Coated Secrets by Cynthia Hickey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cynthia Hickey
what we saw, Joe.” Ethan patted my arm and released me. “There’s also a strange bag hung in one of the oaks. I think someone lured our furry friend here. I also don’t think he escaped. I bet someone set it free. Much like the hog that chased Summer.” Ethan leaned across the table toward Joe. “Someone is playing games, and I don’t like it.”
    Why would someone want to play games with me? Tomorrow, Monday, when Ethan went to work, I’d slip away from the candy booth and start back at the beginning. Millie’s trailer.
    Joe dropped his fork onto his plate. “I don’t like it either, Ethan. I’m not sitting here twiddling my thumbs. The department is actively trying to find out the purpose behind all this. Why the hog chase, why the Ferris wheel ride, and why the attempt on her life today? Now—a lion roaming around Mountain Shadows. Specifically this yard. Coincidence? I don’t think so.” He wiped his mouth and tossed his napkin to the table.
    “Summer does a good deed, which still doesn’t make sense to me. Not with the liability involved with her walking an elephant. Then she stumbles across Millie’s body and a whole slew of other things. Doesn’t add up.” Joe pushed to his feet. “Things like this don’t happen in other small towns. But then, Summer lives here, doesn’t she?” He stormed out of the kitchen, leaving the rest of us to stare at each other in silence.
    Since my parents’ fatal car accident, my cousin Joe had played the part of overly protective older brother. When Ethan and I got engaged, I’m sure Joe hoped I’d become someone else’s worry. Instead, it seemed as if the two men got to share in my troubles.
    By the time we finished dinner and Aunt Eunice and I were standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, two officers approached the house with guns drawn. Behind them walked a man dressed in khaki coveralls, carrying a really long rifle-looking thing. Joe joined them on the back porch, Uncle Roy announced he’d stand guard out front, and the officers, Joe, and the Crocodile Dundee guy strode, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, into the woods behind the house.
    Ethan walked up behind me and encircled my waist with his arms. “You holding up okay?”
    “I am now.” I leaned into him, relishing his solidness. Ignoring the grin on my aunt’s face, I turned in his arms. “I’m sorry, Ethan. For being a screwup. For being a trouble magnet. You name it.” Tears pricked the back of my eyes.
    “Summer.” Ethan tightened his hold. “I don’t want you not to be who you are. I just want you to be. Understand?”
    I nodded. “Ditto.”
    “They’re coming back.” Aunt Eunice pulled her hands from the water. Soapy suds slopped down the cabinets. “They’re dragging something. It looks like a body.”
    April dropped a dishtowel on the counter. “It’s definitely a body.”
    My foot caught on the rung of the chair as I bolted to my feet. Only Ethan’s outstretched arm prevented me from falling face first to the worn linoleum. “Let me see. It’s too dark. I can’t see a thing.” I used my hip to push against my aunt.
    “Stop shoving. They’ve gone around the corner.”
    Like two children at a toy store, we jostled each other as we sprinted toward the front. Ethan chuckled and joined us.
    Yanking open the door, I jumped back and screamed as I came face-to-face with the lion. Except this time it was dead. Its dark eyes stared lifelessly at me from the front porch. Next to it lay a shredded, bloody, canvas bag.
    Uncle Roy knelt beside the animal. “There seems to have been another murder. Someone killed this big cat.”
    Joe scribbled on a notepad. “Good assumption. On first guess, I’d say someone put poisoned meat in that bag then hung it from a tree to attract the lion. Walters said one of his lambs disappeared yesterday, along with a jug of rat poison. What I want to know is. . .” He tapped the pencil against his chin. “If someone lured the lion here to get

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