Fiction by L.K. Campbell

Mrs. Carlyle's Second Honeymoon

Celeste returned to the lobby and found the photographer taking pictures of Wes and Emma in front of the mural.

“Mr. Adams would love that,” Maddie whispered to her.

Unable to answer for the lump in her throat, Celeste nodded in agreement. After the photographer had directed the group to go outside, Celeste perched on the stool next to Maddie.

“Why would a thief break into a formalwear shop and steal wedding gowns?” she asked.

Maddie cocked her head toward Celeste. “Why do you ask?”

“The gown that Emma is wearing belonged to my daughter,” Celeste said. “Emma’s dress was stolen last night along with some other items from Belle’s Custom Formals in Lenoir.”

“How awful,” Maddie said. “Well, they’d either resell them online or transport them across the country to be resold in another location.”

Maddie’s knowledge concerning fencing stolen goods didn’t surprise Celeste. Her college major was in criminal justice.

“I’ve been told that this was a one-of-a-kind gown so it should be easy to catch the thief if he or she tries to sell it online,” Celeste said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Maddie said. “I’m sure the police are already on it. It was lucky for Mrs. Carlyle that you had your daughter’s gown and that they were the same size. I’d say that she has a guardian angel.”

Or a fairy godmother. Other than a few small glitches, the wedding had been a success. Celeste left the front desk and went in the direction that Bill had taken earlier. As she passed the gym entrance, she glanced through the plate glass windows that spread across the front wall of the room. She saw Kylie standing near a treadmill facing away from the door.

“No, I’ll be here until tomorrow,” she said to someone on the phone. “Because we’re going to a barbeque restaurant and bar in Blowing Rock tonight for dinner and dancing. It’s probably some hoe-down joint with straw on the floor.”

I shouldn’t be listening to this. Celeste moved to the other side of the hallway, but the acoustics in the gym amplified Kylie’s voice more than she might have realized.

“I don’t want to do a Zoom call. The wi-fi here is spotty. This place is located somewhere between the boondocks and the middle-of-nowhere.”

Kylie paused while the person on the other end of the call responded. Celeste fought the urge to be offended. She remembered Bill’s comment that the hotel was ten miles out of town. But it’s less than one mile off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Howard had assured her when they’d bought the place that the BRP would bring in a steady flow of business.

“She worked here in college,” Kylie continued. “Maybe, she’s going to throw the old man off the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Make it look like an accident…like her first husband. I just hope Wes can persuade her to sign those papers tonight. He told me that he’s afraid she’s having second thoughts. She nearly bit my head off when I approached her about it.”

Kylie made a quarter turn toward the door, and Celeste darted from her line of vision. She retreated into the restroom for a few minutes. Kylie’s words had caused a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. I pity Emma for marrying into that family. I hope Wes can make her happy enough that the other Carlyles’ opinions won’t matter.

Once she felt the coast was clear, she entered the hallway again and made her way to the kitchen. Through the storm door, she spotted Bill outside talking to Renee who had set up a smaller tent next to her van as a staging area. Steve took pictures of the dishes while Renee placed them on the table.

Celeste’s stomach growled when she saw the Waldorf chicken salad on a bed of lettuce. She could almost taste the combination of apple chunks, grapes, pecans, and shredded chicken. She removed from the freezer one of the microwave meals that she usually had for lunch. She popped it into the appliance and took another gander outside. She spied two figures behind the lattice screen that concealed the hotel dumpsters. Who is that? They shouldn’t be there. She edged closer to the window. Her breath caught at the sight of Bill and Kylie with their hands all over one another kissing the way lovers kiss. Behind the dumpster of all places.


The black and white picture flickered on the screen, and Celeste munched on chips and salsa. Perry Mason grilled a witness in the case of a man accused of poisoning his wife’s medicine so that he could run off with the housekeeper. As much as she tried to stay interested in the episode, she couldn’t get Kylie’s phone conversation off of her mind let alone the kiss she’d witnessed between Kylie and Bill. The woman had said such nasty things about her stepmother-in-law and there she was kissing a man who wasn’t her husband. I suppose I could’ve misinterpreted what I saw. After thirty years of marriage and experiencing all of the different stages of a kiss, she wasn’t mistaken. To think, I had dreamed that Bill had an affair with Jessica. My subconscious chose the wrong sister-in-law.

Celeste woke up her laptop and double-clicked the internet browser. I should’ve done this before I signed a contract with Bill. She typed his name in the search bar. His PR firm’s website and his LinkedIn profile were the top two listings. She selected the second one where she could peruse his resumé. He’s a 2000 graduate of ASU. Why does that strike a chord with me? She clicked on his website and selected the pull-down menu under ‘Clients’. Her lips parted, and she drew in a short breath. Belle’s Custom Formals appeared near the top of the alphabetical listing. Okay, now I’m just going crazy. It’s all coincidental. Why would Bill arrange to have Emma's wedding gown stolen?

Before going out for the evening, Emma had delivered Amy’s gown to Celeste and expressed many thanks for coming to her rescue. Emma seemed like a nice person. And, losing her first husband in an accident…But Kylie had even intimated in her phone conversation that Emma had somehow caused the accident. Why would Kylie introduce Emma to her father-in-law—as Missy had suggested—if she had those suspicions?

The ringing phone interrupted her thoughts. She set the laptop on the coffee table, turned down the volume on the television, and reached for the phone receiver.


“Mrs. Adams,” her night clerk’s voice sounded through the receiver.

Something in his tone sounded an alarm.

“Yes, Richard, is there a problem?”

“Ma’am, you’d better come over to the hotel. We’ve had to call nine-one-one.”

Celeste jumped to her feet. “I’m on my way.”

Cozy Mystery


Celeste Adams thought that she and her late husband would spend their golden years operating The Gran Vista Hotel. Unfortunately, Celeste's husband is killed in a tragic accident, and she must carry on alone, in debt, and in danger of losing the hotel. Public relations expert, Bill Matthews convinces her to advertise the hotel as a wedding venue, but the first event she hosts ends with a dead groom. Though his death is first believed to be natural causes, an autopsy proves otherwise. Fingers point to the bride, Emma Carlyle, who is now a second-time widow. However, as the Carlyle family skeletons come tumbling out of the closet, the clues Celeste uncovers lead to a surprising conclusion.

Category: Contemporary Cozy Murder Mystery

Published: June 2021

Words: 38,360

ISBN: 9781005665777