Hi! I’m Dove Agnew, former successful dress designer who was living the high life in New York, until my sleazy business partner used my business to move his drugs, leaving me to pack my ruined reputation and move back home to the tiny town of Harland Creek.
Despite the setback, all was going relatively well until I found Gertrude Brown’s body on the floor of my mom’s quilt shop. Now, rumors are flying and all eyes are on me. I’m a murder suspect! Even my ex-boyfriend, the current chief of police, is suspicious of me.
Now, it’s up to me to clear my name and find out who the real killer is before someone else gets hurt. But I’m going to need help, and the Harland Creek Quilters, and a goat named Petunia, are just the group to get things done.
Welcome to the new series set in the beloved town of Harland Creek.
With the quilting club ladies and a sidekick, which happens to be a goat, this book will keep you guessing and laughing out loud!
I thought no one knew my secret. But I was wrong.
Yesterday, Gertrude Brown had come into the quilt shop demanding that I finish her quilt in one day. I’d never liked that old lady. She was as mean as a snake and cruel just for sport. I had let my anger get the best of me and let Gertrude have a piece of my mind. My mom had been horrified and the two customers in the store had gaped.
I immediately regretted my action and tried to apologize, but Gertrude stormed out of the store. My guilt had me staying late after the quilt shop closed to try to finish her quilt as a peace offering. I should have known better. There would never be any peace between Gertrude Brown and me.
Things went from bad to worse when Gertrude burst into the quilt shop after Mom had left. Gertrude told me she knew about my secret in New York. She said she would not hesitate to tell the whole town I was a criminal if I didn’t finish quilting her Tea Cup quilt that night. Gertrude was the cruelest woman in Harland Creek, bent on making everyone miserable if she didn’t get her way.
I laid my head on the steering wheel and groaned. “Why didn’t I just keep my big mouth shut?”
A knock on my car window jolted me back to the cruel reality of where I was.
I frowned at the plump older woman with mousy brown hair styled in a bowl cut. She shoved her vintage silver glitter cat eye glasses up on the bridge of her nose and squinted at me. She was wearing a tight purple tracksuit in the middle of summer. The stress lines around her mouth and forehead made me think she was in her late fifties.
I went to press the button to roll down the window, then remembered I was no longer in my Lexus convertible.
Grimacing, I remembered the Ford’s windows couldn’t be rolled down without turning the engine back on. I didn’t want to deal with another fart of smoke so I opened the door.
“Yes?” I asked.
“You must be Dove Agnew. You’re Mildred’s daughter, aren’t you?” The woman’s mouth shot up in a wide grin, making her cheeks look big and rosy. “I could tell by the eyes. No one has eyes like Mildred.”
I cringed at the sound of my birth name but then forced a smile. It had been a while since anyone called me Dove.
“I’m Patricia Earle. I work with your mom. She hired me a few months ago to help in the quilt shop. I was off these last few days to take care of Mother. She schedules all her doctor’s appointments the same week and I have to drive her.” Her smile faltered. “Mildred said you’d be working here, too.”
I sighed and nodded slowly. “Yes. Mom asked me to help with the quilting orders. Seems like summer is a busy few months for her.”
Patricia looked a little pale around the lips. “So, you will not be running the register? I was afraid you were going to replace me.” She extracted an inhaler from the pocket of her tracksuit, put it to her mouth and took a deep pull.
I frowned. “Are you okay?” The last thing I needed was to be giving a strange woman CPR.
She nodded and then let out the breath. “Yes. I have asthma. My mom told me I don’t need to get all worked up and upset over nothing.”
“Your mom is right.”
“She’s always telling me what to do. I live with her.” She gave me a slight smile. “Like you and Mildred.”
My smile slid off my face. “It’s only temporary.” Like me, staying in Harland Creek was temporary.
She smiled. “That’s what I said. But it’s been ten years since I moved back home, and I’m still living with my mom. I’ll see you inside.” She gave a little finger wave and walked into the quilt shop.
It was my first week back at Mom’s quilt shop, and I already felt like I was suffocating.
I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror. The double braid I had fashioned my blonde hair into was starting to frizz in the Mississippi heat. I blinked. Patricia had been right.
No one had ice blue eyes like my Mom, except me.
Instead of wallowing in my self-pity, I climbed out of my car and grabbed my Christian Louboutin bag, the only expensive thing I still owned, and made my way to the shop.
The honeysuckle that wrapped around the side of the building hung heavy in the air. A smile escaped my lips, reminding me of sweet memories of how as a child, I’d pluck the blossoms and suck on the nectar.
A bead of sweat trickled from my neck down my back. I had sold a lot of my expensive clothes back in New York and my wardrobe was severely limited. Thankfully I’d borrowed a T-shirt of Mom’s and my denim shorts to help stay cool while I quilted. While the shop had air conditioning, the room where I worked was the hottest in the building.
I swiped my brow with the back of my hand and opened the door to the quilt shop.
Patricia had already switched the window sign to Open and had turned on all the lights. The scent of fabric welcomed me inside the shop as I made my way toward the back room where the long arm machine was.
The phone rang, and Patricia immediately answered. “Mildred’s Quilt Shop, where the sewing magic happens. How may I help you?”
I headed to the back room and put my purse under the counter where my mom kept the coffee maker beside the usual tray of pastries that her quilting buddies would bring by.
My mom poked her head out of the office. “Good morning, Dove. I was hoping you’d get here earlier so you can work on Gertrude Brown’s quilt. She left two messages on the answering machine after we closed. After that terrible row between you two, I think it best if we go ahead and finish her quilt.” Mom let out a heavy sigh.
“I’m sorry about what I said to her yesterday. I know it’s not good for business to be yelling at customers. No matter how demanding they are.” I gave her a pained smile.
“Well, she had it coming. No one has ever stood up to her in this town.” Mom shook her head. “I swear this is the last time I’m ever quilting for her.”
I poured myself a cup of black coffee and walked over to her. “I finished her quilt last night.”
My mom’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You what?”
“I stayed up half the night so I could finish it. I even completed the binding.”
Mom gaped. “That’s the quickest quilting job I’ve ever seen.”
“I wasn’t going to stay late, but after what happened yesterday, I felt it best to get it done.” I left out the part about Gertrude trying to blackmail me.
Mom stood up and her eyebrows knit together in a frown. “That woman is so demanding. And mean as a snake to boot.” She lifted her chin. “You should have just made her wait. I would have if she had talked to me that way.”
I took a sip of my coffee and averted my eyes. “I didn’t mind,” I lied. I minded a lot.
Mom pressed her lips together in a thin line. “That woman thinks she runs Harland Creek. I don’t like people like that.”
“Neither do I. Want me to call to tell her to come get her quilt?” I looked at her.
“Let me see it first. I don’t want to give that old bat something to criticize.” Mom set her mug of coffee down on the counter and followed me out of the office.
“Knock, knock!” The woman I recognized as Elizabeth Harland, walked into the back of the shop. Gray, short hair curtaining a face with kind, yet strong features, Elizabeth Harland was a steel magnolia. She sought comfort over fashion and worked hard for a living. She wore blue jeans and a floral blouse with black orthopedic shoes with white socks. “I brought goodies. Homemade lemon bars. My grandmother’s recipe.” She held up the decorative platter covered in cellophane.
Elizabeth Harland was one of Mom’s quilting group. She was widowed, ran her own flower farm with a young woman named Heather, and the town was named after her ancestors. She preferred muumuus when she worked her farm and was a wonderful cook.
Mom walked over to give her friend and fellow quilting buddy a hug. “Elizabeth, you shouldn’t have. But I’m glad you did.” She turned to me. “You remember my daughter, Dove?”
Elizabeth gave me a bright smile. “Of course, I do. Hello, Dove. So nice to have you back in Harland Creek.”
I smiled in spite of myself. “Thank you, Mrs. Harland. I’m here to help Mom get caught up on her long arm quilting.”
“That’s right. You’re quite the seamstress.” She walked over and placed the platter of sweets next to the coffee. “And please call me, Elizabeth. I hope you’ll join us for our quilting bee. We’d love to have the help. We have to finish hand quilting a quilt of valor for one of the residents at the nursing home.”
“How kind of you. But I don’t know if you’ll want me quilting with you ladies. I’m better at long arm quilting than hand quilting.”
“I doubt that.” Elizabeth gave me a wink. “Have you had time to finish a quilt yet? I’d love to see it.”
“Then you got here in time. She finished Gertrude’s last night. Fastest quilting job I’ve ever seen.” Mom shook her head.
“I heard she made some kind of coffee pot quilt.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose.
I let out a laugh. “Actually, it’s a tea cup quilt. She appliqued fabrics in the shape of tea cups and tea pots onto her blocks.”
“Sounds pretty. Which is unlike Gertrude.” Elizabeth groused.
“Oh, it is pretty. She even added folded vintage women’s handkerchiefs under each tea cup. She sewed a seam around the whole handkerchief so it wouldn’t open. The effect was pretty, but it made it difficult to quilt through the extra layers.”
“If she were going to do that, she should have just cut the handkerchief in half.” Elizabeth quipped.
“I totally agree, and I told her that. Her response was to shut up and sew it the way she wanted.”
Mom gasped. “Dove, you should have called me. I don’t let anyone talk to my employees, let alone, my daughter like that.”
“I heard you gave Gertrude quite an earful yesterday.” Elizabeth grinned.
“Ugh. I guess it’s all over town. I was hoping to avoid that.” I buried my face in my hands.
“Ha! That old bird had it coming.” Elizabeth lifted her chin. “Hopefully you won’t have to deal with her again.”
I took another sip of my coffee. “I hope not. Come on, I’ll show you the finished product.”
Mom and Elizabeth followed me into the next room, where we kept the quilt orders written on a whiteboard. There was a wall of built-in shelves where we kept the pieced quilts to be quilted, as well as the finished quilts waiting to be picked up.
I flicked on the switch and immediately screamed. A body, with lifeless eyes stared up at me.
Lying in the middle of the white linoleum floor was Gertrude Brown.
Jodi Allen Brice is a USA Today best-selling author and has written numerous books under a different pen names. Under Jodi Allen Brice she writes fiction, small town clean and sweet romance and cozy mystery.
She transitioned away from paranormal romance in the year 2020 when the virus hit and currently writes under Jodi Allen Brice.