Deadly Decor by Karen Rose Smith
Quiet Kismet, Pennsylvania, may look like any other small town, but as a home-stager, Caprice De Luca can see behind closed doors—and it seems someone has designs on murder.
Life is a full house for Caprice these days. She’s dating, she’s rescuing adorable cocker spaniels, and she’s decorating the roomy interiors of Kismet’s most well-heeled residents with fun fantasy themes. But when a house painter Caprice frequently employs is found dead, it’s time for Caprice to stage an investigation. She must shift her attention from finding the perfect curtains to finding the perfect culprit.
As soon as she and Bella slipped outside, Bella led her down an incline into the lower part of the garden. She really didn’t want to be overheard. By Joe? Or by everyone else? Now Caprice was really getting worried.
She stopped beside a row of yellow tomatoes. “What’s wrong?”
“So much that I don’t even know where to start.” Obviously close to tears, Bella’s voice was a little high pitched.
Caprice wrapped her arm around her sister’s shoulders. “Come on. Tell me.”
“Joe didn’t come home until after one last night, and he reeked of smoke. I pretended I was asleep because I don’t know what to say to him any more.”
“You didn’t question him about it?” Caprice tried to keep her tone as calm and reasonable as her question. She couldn’t imagine why Bella didn’t ask him
“You just don’t get it, Caprice. Maybe you have to be married to understand, but I’ve asked him before and he wouldn’t tell me. I couldn’t see that it was going to be any different now and I just didn’t want another argument.”
If Bella wanted real answers, Caprice had a suggestion. “Have you gone through his pockets?”
Her sister actually looked shocked and slowly shook her head. “That seems such like an invasion of privacy.”
“You can’t have it both ways. If you won’t ask him, you’re going to have to find out another way. If he won’t tell you, then maybe you need to invade his privacy.”
Bella looked a bit embarrassed. “I did check his phone for odd numbers, any I didn’t recognize. But I couldn’t find a one. Anybody who called was one of his friends.”
“What about text messages?”
“You know we’re trying to cut expenses. Joe won’t pay for the text function. But that’s not the only reason I wanted to talk to you. I…” Her sister confided, “I had coffee with Bob.”
“You seriously did that? Bella!”
Her gasp of outrage had been a mistake. If Bella sensed that she was judging her, she’d clam up. Caprice took a deep breath and warned herself to go easy. “Okay, so you had coffee with Bob. Did you reminisce about old times?” Those memories could put distance between Bella and Bob, or bond them closer together.
“Not so much. He really knows how to listen, like he really wants to know what I say. When I talk to Joe, it’s like I’m talking to a door.”
Right now a very closed door, Caprice suspected. “So what did Bob listen to?”
“I told him I want to sell the costumes I design on the Internet. He didn’t laugh at me like Joe did. You know what he said?”
Caprice didn’t like that excitement in Bella’s tone one little bit. Excitement like that could be dangerous. “What?”
“He told me I always was talented and I shouldn’t give up on what I want to do. I’m going to see him again.”
Bella’s tone almost sounded defiant and Caprice knew she had to be careful as she wheedled out the details. “I can imagine having someone listen to you felt good and that’s why you want to see him again.”
“You’re exactly right. He has a board meeting at the community center next Sunday. I’m going to see him after the meeting. He’s really involved there painting murals on the walls with teens helping him after school. I already talked with my neighbor about watching the kids if Joe’s not around.”
“What if he is?”
“I don’t know. I’ll deal with that on Sunday. But he’s there so rarely. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”
“Can I tell you what I honestly think without you getting all upset?”
“I don’t know because I’m probably not going to like it.”
No, she probably wouldn’t. “I think you’re heading for trouble. What if Joe finds out you’re meeting Bob?”
“Maybe he should find out.”
Rebelliousness in Bella’s tone signaled that she’d like Joe to be jealous, that she’d like him to show her he cared, that she wanted to know she was still loved. But, on the other hand, Caprice didn’t believe Bella would really want to see those fireworks if Joe discovered her plans.
“You realize you could be purposely damaging your marriage?”
Suddenly, Bella’s chin rose an inch or so. “I’m tired of feeling sad and bearing the brunt of Joe’s resentment about my pregnancy. And I’m beginning to think…” Her voice trailed off as she got choked up, showing Caprice that hurt lay beneath all the rest.
“What are you beginning to think?” Caprice asked gently.
“I’m beginning to realize Joe married me in the first place because he had to, not because he wanted to.”
Caprice was trying to decide the best way to respond when she suddenly saw the tomato plants jiggle. Bella saw the greens move and heard the rustle, too.
“What is it? Do you think there’s something in there?” She sounded almost panicked as if a squirrel hearing their conversation would cause a scandal.
The tomatoes rustled more earnestly now.
Before Caprice could part them, two buff-colored paws appeared, then a wet nose and a scraggly head. It looked like a bedraggled cocker spaniel.
She automatically hunkered down. “Oh, my goodness. What are you doing in there?”
The dog was panting now, panting more than it should be.
“I don’t believe this,” Bella said mutinously. “We’re having a serious conversation and we’re interrupted by a…a…dog. You’re a stray animal magnet!”
“Bella, I can’t help you right now, but I can help her. She looks scared and dehydrated. Could you please get her a bowl of water while I see if she’s okay?”
Caprice held her breath, hoping Bella wouldn’t explode.
Award-winning author Karen Rose Smith was born in Pennsylvania. Although she was an only child, she remembers the bonds of an extended family. Since her father came from a family of ten and her mother, a family of seven, there were always aunts, uncles and cousins visiting on weekends. Family is a strong theme in her books and she suspects her childhood memories are the reason.
In college, Karen began writing poetry and also met her husband to be. They both began married life as teachers, but when their son was born, Karen decided to try her hand at a home-decorating business. She returned to teaching for a while but changes in her life led her to writing romance fiction. Now she writes mysteries and romances full time. She has sold over 85 novels since 1991.
Presently, she is hard at work on the Caprice De Luca home staging mystery series for Kensington Books. When she isn’t writing, she cares for three rescue cats, strays and feral cats, gardens, and cooks. Married to her college sweetheart since 1971, believing in the power of love and commitment, she envisions herself writing relationship novels, both mystery and romance, for a long time to come!
To learn more about Karen’s books, go to her websites http://www.karenrosesmithmysteries.com and http://www.karenrosesmith.com. Karen also likes to interact with her readers on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KarenRoseSmithBooks) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/karenrosesmith).
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