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Frame and Fortune by Misty Simon

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  • Ivy Morris' best friend, Bella Landry, is in trouble, thanks to a surprise she finds in the walk-in freezer at her hair salon. Calling amateur sleuth Ivy is a no-brainer for Bella. She can't trust her policeman boyfriend—he's the one who cuffed her and booked her, and not in a sexy kind of way.
     
    Ivy might be in over her head this time, with Bella's ex showing up wanting to help and only making things worse. Who is he secretly promising to pay? And does it have anything to do with the person stealing picture frames but leaving the pictures around town?
     
    Ivy's got a convoluted mess on her hands—secret lives, secret agendas, and a lot of unexplained money. To top it off, the decidedly delicious Ben Fallon has turned gourmet cook and chief bottle washer in her house...while stealthily taking over a few of Ivy's drawers.
     
    What's a girl to do?

    Excerpt:

    “Hey, that’s what I’m here for,” I said, thinking she should have been able to call on her boyfriend. But since he was the one who put her in here, I guessed that was out of the question. “You can tell me all about it on the way home.”

    We trundled down the hallway. The door of the occupied room was still closed, but I could hear laughter through the wall. I put my arm around Bella’s shoulders, walking between her and the room. Laughter was not exactly the best medicine for her right now.

    As we made our way back up front, Marge stood at her desk with the black phone in her hand. “Yes, sir, I’ll tell her,” she said. “Yes, sir, you can count on me.” She hung up with a decisive click, that smirk still on her face.

    I wondered if it might freeze there if I whacked her in the back, like in One Crazy Summer with my heartthrob John Cusack. No time to contemplate that, since she walked out from behind her desk to block the way to the door.

    Bella tensed next to me, her whole body going stiff as a newly hair-sprayed beehive hairdo. I patted her arm, trying to be as reassuring as possible. Surely they were not going to hold her now that I’d come to get her. “What can we do for you, Marge?” I asked, trying to keep my voice pleasant—no need to arouse her trigger finger on the mace.

    “The chief wanted to make sure Ms. Landry here is warned not to leave town. He may have more questions for you and wants to keep an eye on you. So no quick out-of-town jaunts, or going to Jersey for the weekend.”

    “I’ll make sure not to go out of town, Marge. Thanks a lot for the warning.”

    Normally that would have been said in this awesome snarky voice with a bite like a shark. Instead, this time Bella sounded resigned. I take that back. She actually sounded grateful for the restriction. What?

    Bella continued to the front of the converted house. Dumbstruck, I followed. What was going on? Without a word, she climbed into the Santa Fe, then rested her head back on the headrest, a look of defeat on her face.

    I climbed in after her. “Hey, what’s going on?” I asked, really concerned that all of the strength seemed to have left my feisty friend.

    “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Ivy.” A tear leaked out of the corner of her eye, although it didn’t ruin her makeup. “The police say they have some very convincing evidence I did it, but they need more solid facts before they can hold me.”

    I let go of the wheel with one hand and held hers. I wasn’t always one for touching, but this warranted some reassurance. When I was a suspect a couple months ago, I had been questioned down at the station. Let me tell you, it was no picnic.

    “That last little warning was more of what I’ve been enduring all day,” Bella continued, squeezing my hand. “The sly innuendos, the outright disrespect. The man found dead was Trev Brewster. Another favorite son in town, second only to my ex. Everyone is convinced I ran off the first favorite after we got divorced, and now they think I’ve killed the second one. This is a nightmare. They are going to do everything in their power to put this one on me. I can’t help feeling someone is trying to take me down after all these years.”

    That did not sound good in any way, shape, or form. Cripes!

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