Did you miss Chapter One?
Mona, we’re in the festival!” Vicki exclaimed when her
best friend answered the phone.
“What? Are you serious?” Mona shrieked.
“Yes, it opens in a couple weeks. I can have a bunch of stuff ready
by then. How about you?” Vicki buckled her seat belt and leaned back
against the headrest, giddy.
“I should be able to work on some new jams this weekend,” said
Mona breathlessly. “How about we do a fall theme?”
“You read my mind.” Vicki broke out into a dance in her seat. “I
already have some cinnamon and pumpkin-spice honey sticks.”
“I could make some muscadine jam and apple butter. And some
strawberry and blueberry jam to fill out the table.”
Vicki’s mouth watered. “That sounds delicious! I’ll have my body
scrubs, some lip balm, and my honey straws. I might take along some
honeycomb too. I’ll be harvesting tomorrow after Coupon Clippers.”
“Mmm, I love your honeycomb. Did you know that beeswax is
being sold at some festivals now?”
“Beeswax, huh? Where’d you see that?”
“At the county fair last weekend. The guy selling it had some
candles, but also just the plain beeswax. He said people are using it to
coat their tools, and cheesemakers use it to cover their cheese.”
“Interesting,” she said slowly. “Beeswax is the main ingredient in
most of my products, but I could bring along a few pieces of plain
“Cool,” said Mona. “Oh, could I buy one of your relaxing scrubs?
I could sure use all the help I can get to keep my stress levels down.
These contractors working on my store are so flaky it might
“I’ll give you a jar,” promised Vicki.
“No, that’ll cut into your profits.”
“It’s okay.” Vicki grinned, even though Mona couldn’t see her. “I’m
doing it for a selfish reason.”
“Because I’d love some of your muscadine jam!”
“Consider it a trade. I’ll bring a jar to Coupon Clippers tomorrow!”
They hung up, and Vicki checked an incoming text message. It was
from her brother, Leo. Hey, we still on for dinner?
Of course, she replied. See you in a few hours!
The chilly afternoon air signaled autumn was upon Magnolia
Falls. From her barstool perch in her homey kitchen, Vicki squinted
down at the glass bowl on the counter. “Let’s see . . . just a little more
peppermint oil. That should do the trick,” she murmured. She
unscrewed the bottle of peppermint oil and filled the dropper.
“One, two, three . . .” she whispered, counting each drop.
This was it. She could feel it. Once she put the finishing touches on
her line of honey body scrubs, she could really try to make this busi‐
ness work. The Fall Festival would be the first big test.
She glanced out the window, at the beehives on the far side of the
yard. Her first venture into the honey business had gone up in flames
—literally—when her best friend’s store had burned down shortly
before the grand opening. Before the fire, Mona had been planning to
feature Vicki’s products. Now, neither friend had much of a func‐
tioning business. Sure, they had online stores, but Vicki’s certainly
didn’t come close to making ends meet.
Her throat tightened at the thought of checking the balance in her
But these scrubs—and the Fall Festival—were going to be her big
I can practically smell the success! Vicki thought.
Or maybe that’s just the peppermint.
The peppermint overpowered the kitchen, even masking the spicy
smell of the simmering stew on the back burner.
She opened the window halfway, letting in the crisp, clean air.
From outside came an emphatic quack.
Vicki peered down at the grassy lawn. “What’s that, Sunny? Is that
She picked up the bottle to recap it, but a thin sheen of oil on the
glass made it slippery. The tiny jar slipped through her fingers and
fell straight into the body scrub mixture. With a little shriek, she
snatched it back up and held it up to the light. It didn’t look like too
much had spilled. But the scrub definitely had enough peppermint
Sunny, her pet duck, quacked in reply and shook her white tail
“Good girl!” Vicki closed the bottle securely, then wiped her hands
on a navy kitchen towel and reached for the bowl of blueberries she
kept close at hand. She tossed a berry out the window, and Sunny
swerved to chase it down.
“You’re all sunshine, huh?” Vicki had adopted Sunny after her
latest romantic interest had ended up in jail for burning down Mona’s
store and killing someone in the process. Adopting a duck was more
of a commitment than any of the standard breakup scripts, like
changing her hair or buying pints of Ben & Jerry’s by the armful or
learning how to swordfight, but Vicki had loved every minute of
being a duck mom.
Sunny waddled over to the kitchen window and gazed up
Vicki tossed her another blueberry. Then the oven beeped,
announcing it was done preheating. She glanced up at the wall clock.
“Your Uncle Leo’s going to be here soon!” she said to Sunny. “It’s time
to put the cornbread in the oven and make the salad.”
She opened the preheated oven and set the glass pan of cornbread
batter on the rack. Then she grabbed a bagged Caesar salad from the
fridge and tossed it.
Turning her attention back to her scrub mixture, she murmured.
“Now, where were we?”
She bent over and sniffed the mixture, and the overwhelming
scent of peppermint wafted over her. She grabbed a wooden spoon
and started stirring. After a couple minutes, she squinted down at the
“I think that should do it,” she said, setting aside the wooden
spoon. She glanced out at the yard, but Sunny had wandered back to
her makeshift pond in a children’s plastic wading pool. With a half
sigh, Vicki tapped the edge of the bowl. “Guess I better test this scrub
out if I’m going to be giving samples to the coupon queens
She carried the peppermint scrub—she’d call this one her ener‐
gizing blend until she came up with a clever name for it—up the stairs
and into the bathroom.
“Self-care, for the win.” Vicki set down the bowl and smoothed
some of the scrub on her arms. Warmth tingled over her skin.
This feels good.
Her skin got hotter and hotter. Too hot. Vicki let out a yelp and
dove for the sink. She turned on the cold water and washed the scrub
off her arms.
Still feels a bit tingly. Guess that was too much peppermint oil.
She blew on her arms to cool them down.
The doorbell rang, and her eyes widened. Leo was early!
“Coming!” she yelled, toweling-drying her arms and jogging down
the stairs. She threw open the front door to greet her big brother.
From the backyard, Sunny quacked frantically.
Leo chuckled and gave Vicki a quick hug. “Sounds like DuckTales
back there wants to say hi.”
“She always does.”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”I couldn’t stop reading!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Fast-paced and fun. I love these mysteires!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Diana Orgain is my new favorite author!”
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