Mom Zone Mysteries 02 Staying Home Is a Killer
Excuse me.” I slithered through Abby’s updated kitchen, complete with a dishwasher, and stepped through the sliding glass door, another part of the remodel, onto the deck and left the crowded, overheated rooms. The brisk air cooled my face. The low clouds were gone and the ice-coated trees and bushes glittered in the setting sun.
    With my elbows propped on the rail, I took a deep breath of the piney air and tried to gather my thoughts. I hadn’t had a minute to myself since Clarissa trotted away with her lingerie-stuffed suitcase and I wanted to think. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, and my instinct was to keep it to myself. Clarissa must be having an affair. Otherwise, why take sexy, lacy underwear on a business trip? A whole suitcase of it, too. But then why would she be jealous of Penny? Maybe she didn’t love Bedford, but she didn’t want to lose him either?
    I couldn’t do anything about those questions now, but I could focus on the crew that made Penny uncomfortable. They were the ones who drew the strongest reaction from Penny that morning, and there was something going on from the hints they’d given to Jeff.
    A short man with thin blond hair leaned on the other end of the rail, mirroring my posture. “Hi. Aaron, isn’t it?” I asked. He was the new guy on the crew that made Penny nervous.
    He walked over to shake my hand. “You’re Ellie. We live across the street from you.”
    He returned to his leaning posture and looked back at the trees. “Interesting the way the ice catches the light from the sun. Look at how the ice magnifies the twilight.”
    I turned back to the trees and realized the ice-coated needles did seem to glow with the orange of the setting sun. “It’s beautiful.”
    The silence began to stretch. I couldn’t dive in and ask him about Penny out of the blue. I’d start off general and try to work the conversation around to her. “How do you like Vernon?” This was one of my stock conversation starters.
    Aaron rotated and looked back to the sliding glass door. He ran a hand over the little bit of bland, blond hair he had. The color reminded me of the neutral beige paint on the exterior of every Air Force building. I’d nicknamed it “Pale Blah.”
    “It’s fine here.”
    Okay, so he wasn’t chatty. This might be harder than I thought. I’d cooled off. Now the air seemed frigid instead of refreshing. My hands started to ache. Aaron took a drink of his beer and I could see his hands were chapped and red with the cold, too.
    I glanced back at the glass door. In contrast to the growing darkness outside, light glowed from the uncurtained window. It was like watching a movie with the sound on mute as people moved in front of the window. Mitch walked past with Livvy on his shoulders. Her fingers clutched his hair and I smiled because I could tell she was squealing. I glanced over at Aaron to see if he’d noticed Livvy. Sometimes you can’t help but smile when you’re face-to-face with delight on a two-year-old’s face.
    But Aaron was looking at Bree, his wife. Her shocking red hair stood out in little spikes below a black beret as she tilted her head and smiled at Zeke. Against her pale skin, stark black eyeliner and rectangular glasses emphasized green eyes. She spun around to speak to another person. Her flowing multiprint skirt swirled and her long, chuncky necklaces flew.
    “That’s Bree, your wife? She’s a painter?” I asked, trying another conversational track.
    Aaron’s eyes narrowed and anger seemed to radiate from him. “She paints,” he allowed. It didn’t look like I was going to be able to subtly work Penny’s name into the conversation because so far we hadn’t had a conversation. I might as well be blunt.
    “Aaron, you were on a crew with Zeke and Rory, right?”
    He quickly turned back to the trees and intently studied the view, but the sun had set. There was nothing to see except a black wall of pines. I flexed my fingers and stamped my feet to

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