Picture Perfect Frame (Tourist Trap Mysteries #12) by Lynn Cahoon



Chapter 1

            “Creation is the heart of art. No matter if the product isn’t quite what you want, the act of creation is one of rejuvenation. People need to celebrate not only the successes of their work, but their failures as well.” Meredith Cole glanced around the Coffee, Books, and More shop, crowded with Business-to-Business attendees. Her sharp features made her straight red hair stand out even more. And her green eyes were narrowed and focused on the audience. No one would ever call this woman warm and fuzzy. But somehow, her message and her voice felt soft and encouraging as she continued. “No matter what our job entails, we are all artists and creators inside.”

            Spring had finally arrived in the coastal California town, or at least spring without rain. The sun was shining, the birds singing, and after our newest business owner finished with her talk on Why Art Matters, the group of small business owners would be brainstorming marketing events for the upcoming months. A topic I was much more invested in than getting in touch with my creative side.

            “Maybe you have one deep, deep inside you.” Toby Killian leaned across the table and refilled my coffee mug. His strong jaw and dark, short hair made him look more like one of the romance novel cover models than a coffee shop barista. Of course, his other job was as a South Cove police officer, so he did have that hero attitude. “Didn’t Jackie take decorating the store off your list of chores after the last Valentine’s disaster?”

            “Purple and black are totally appropriate Valentine’s colors in my mind.” I grinned at my part-time barista. Toby had been my first employee not related to me. Aunt Jackie had been the first, and even though I’d thought it had been a temporary offer of help so many years ago, my aunt was still here. Well, she would be here as soon as she and Harrold got back from their long weekend in Arizona. “Did Jackie call off for tonight yet?”

            Toby shook his head. “I haven’t heard from her. Do you need me to stay?”

            “Shh.” A woman across the table leaned over and gave us both a look of disgust. “I’m trying to listen.”

            “We’ll talk later.” Toby gave the shusher one of his winning smiles and left me alone.

            Amy Newman, my best friend and South Cove’s receptionist, city planner, and meeting notetaker, giggled. Amy looked like she belonged in the central coastal community. Her short, blond hair sparkled against her always tanned face. If she’d been in a bikini and holding her board, she’d make a perfect beach promotional shot. Yes, my best friend was a surfer. But I didn’t hold that against her. Much.

            The woman who had shushed us was one of the artists who had opened a studio last year on Main Street. I had no idea what her name was because this was the first meeting she’d attended. Art supports art, I guessed. I started making notes about what I needed to get done today just in case I needed to step in for the evening shift.

            After a very hearty round of applause when Meredith finished, Darla Taylor took the podium. If Amy was the image of an athletic life, Darla was the “before” picture. Even after making a habit of working out with her boyfriend, Darla still was more fluff than muscle. She was friendly and welcoming, an attitude that served her well as the owner/manager of South Cove Winery. We were friends and I gave her a big smile to let her know I was listening. Well, at least to her.

            “Good morning, South Cove. I’m so glad you’re here today. We’re finishing up the final touches on our St. Patrick’s Day event. No parade this year, but we’ll have Main Street blocked off for a street fair so we can bring our businesses out on Main Street. Literally.” She grinned as she continued. “What we need to talk about today is Easter. I know we’ve gone back and forth on this, but I’d still like to have a B2B-sponsored egg hunt the Saturday before. If you’re out of town, that’s fine, but remember this the next time we come asking for something.”