Read Hooked on Ewe Online

Authors: Hannah Reed

Hooked on Ewe

Praise for

O
FF
K
ILTER

“If you fancy a quick, inexpensive trip to the Scottish Highlands, then
Off Kilter
is your ticket. . . . Hannah Reed’s new series will please Scotophiles everywhere, and they’ll soon be eager for another trip to Glenkillen.”

—Miranda James,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries


Off Kilter
is a brilliant mystery, rich in charming characters set against lush depictions of the Scottish village of Glenkillen. With her kind heart, quick wit, and savvy smarts, Eden Elliott is my new favorite amateur sleuth. She is fun and feisty and a delight to spend time with. Hannah Reed writes an engaging tale full of belly laughs and white-knuckle moments. I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through the Highlands and I can’t wait for the next one.”

—Jenn McKinlay,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lover’s Mysteries

“Hannah Reed’s series debut captures the appeal of the Highlands, and features a plucky, determined heroine surrounded by a cast of quirky but believable characters.”

—Sheila Connolly,
New York Times
bestselling author of the County Cork Mysteries

“A wonderful new series set in the Scottish Highlands . . . Reed knows her way to a winning mystery. . . .
Off Kilter
provides an escape into an exotic location with an admirable amateur sleuth. After reading Hannah Reed’s outstanding mystery, you’ll want to escape to the Scottish Highlands.”


Lesa’s Book Critiques

“Eden is a wonderfully fresh character [whom] I enjoyed getting to know . . . You don’t need a passport to feel like you’ve visited the majestic Scottish Highlands. Just pick up a copy of
Off Kilter
and lose yourself in the picturesque village of Glenkillen.”


Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries, and Meows

“Remarkable . . . Reed gives cozy readers a mystery, a likable protagonist, her own view of the Scottish Highlands, plenty of adorable critters, and a sexy guy in a kilt.”

—MyShelf.com

“A perfectly done cozy mystery. The author does a wonderful job of capturing both the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and the undercurrents present in a small village. The characters are well drawn and so realistic, you find yourself really rooting for them. . . . The plot is well-thought-out and executed perfectly and the denouement is very satisfying . . . I am very interested in seeing where the story goes and am looking forward to reading more about Eden and Leith.”


The Qwillery

“Eden Elliot is a refreshing thirty-eight-year-old divorcee who is intelligent, level-headed, and compassionate. Her character is delightful as a woman who is reinventing herself and learning to live life a little . . . A great setting, characters you want to spend more time with, and a murder plot that engages all make this a very enjoyable story and [a] great start to a new series. Rating: Excellent—loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.”


Mysteries and My Musings

Praise for Hannah Reed’s Queen Bee Mysteries

“A great setting, rich characters, and such a genuine protagonist in Story Fischer that you’ll be sorry the book is over when you turn the last page.”

—Julie Hyzy,
New York Times
bestselling author of the White House Chef Mysteries

“Action, adventure, a touch of romance, and a cast of delightful characters fill Hannah Reed’s debut novel.
Buzz Off
is one honey of a tale.”

—Lorna Barrett,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries

“Hannah Reed sweeps us into her world with skillful and loving detail.”

—Cleo Coyle,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

“Reed’s story is first-rate, her characters appealing—Story’s imperfections make her particularly authentic—and the beekeeping and small-town angles are refreshingly different.”


Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Will appeal to readers who like Joanne Fluke and other cozy writers for recipes, the small-town setting, and a sense of community.”


Library Journal

“A rollicking good time. . . . This series promises to keep readers buzzing.”


RT Book Reviews
(4 stars)

“A charming beginning to what promises to be a fun series! . . . A yummy treat for fans of cozy mysteries.”


Fresh Fiction

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Hannah Reed

Queen Bee Mysteries

BUZZ OFF

MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX

PLAN BEE

BEELINE TO TROUBLE

BEEWITCHED

Scottish Highlands Mysteries

OFF KILTER

HOOKED ON EWE

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

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penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

HOOKED ON EWE

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2015 by Deb Baker.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61399-3

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / July 2015

Cover illustration by Jeff Fitz-Maurice.

Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

C
ONTENTS

Praise for Hannah Reed

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Hannah Reed

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

C
HAPTER
1

“You should’ve asked my opinion before you went off half-cocked,” Kirstine MacBride-Derry scolded her half sister Vicki from behind the counter of the wool and yarn shop they owned together on the outskirts of Glenkillen, a small village in the Scottish Highlands on the North Sea, along a protected bay called Moray Firth.

No way was Kirstine going to take her eyes off of Sheepish Expressions’s cash register for a single second, or relinquish that spot to anybody else. She was in full command of the till, even though the shop wouldn’t open for a few more hours.

“What do
you
think, Eden?” Vicki said, dragging me into the middle of the sisters’ dispute, which served me right for walking into the shop and getting between them. Before I could think of a reply she went on, “Should I have to postpone my first yarn club skein-of-the-month deliveries just because of the charity sheep dog trial event? I
mean, the club members have paid dues in advance, and I promised the yarn kits would be ready on the first of every month. Today is the first of September, in case anybody needs a reminder. When the shop opens, my members are going to start showing up. I’ve made a commitment to them.”

Vicki’s eyes pleaded for my support. I looked away as her trademark perfume wafted my way, the light fragrance of roses and jasmine mingling with the tension in the air.

I really didn’t see the big deal, but I was making an effort to understand both sides.

Today the MacBride’s farm was hosting the September sheep dog trials in the field next to the lane, an annual charity event sponsored by the Glenkillen Sheep Dog Association to raise funds to keep the town’s hospice operating in the black. And since Kirstine and her husband, John, have been responsible for the majority of the work in preparation for the trials, it wasn’t surprising that Kirstine was stressed. She was a bit grouchy even on a regular day.

The Glenkillen Hospice Center had taken quite a hit during the most recent economic downturn and needed an infusion of cash to assure its continued service to the community. The sheep dog competition was only one of many events held for that purpose throughout the year, but this one was the grand finale and the largest. Others had included 5k runs, a cycle challenge, several charity golf days, and lucky-number drawings that operated much like lotteries—tickets were purchased, winners were announced, and prizes awarded.

Spectators at the sheep dog trials could support the hospice in a number of ways. Aside from paying an entrance
fee, they could buy a printed program with the dogs’ running order so they could support their favorite local shepherd. Or purchase teas, sandwiches, and cakes from the massive refreshment tent that had been set up near the trial field. Or—and this one was sure to be the most popular—they could buy raffle tickets for the opportunity to win products from local businesses, including many donated by Sheepish Expressions.

“How many yarn members do you have?” I asked Vicki, glancing at a pile of beautiful and bright-red-colored skeins that my friend had hand-dyed herself. Not only was the wool from the MacBride farm’s sheep, but it had all been handspun by Vicki as well.

“Thirty-five!” Vicki replied with visible pride. “Fifteen more than I expected just starting out. I even had to close membership until I can figure out how to speed up production, and already just in the last few days there’s a waiting list of another fifteen or so who want to join.”

“Wow!” I said, sufficiently impressed. Vicki had only recently come up with the yarn club brainstorm and had done little in the way of promoting it beyond a few handmade flyers strategically placed in hot spots around Glenkillen (and, of course, inside Sheepish Expressions). Word of mouth was a powerful tool, especially in the Highlands. News of any sort traveled dizzyingly fast around here.

Originally, I’d signed up for the skein-of-the-month club as a show of support for Vicki’s new venture, even though I can’t knit a stitch. But as new membership requests poured in, I’d bowed out to make room for those with actual ability.

“I’ll teach you soon,” Vicki had assured me, obviously
appreciating my commitment to her cause, but relieved at the same time. We both knew I needed to start out with a simpler project, like a pot holder. Besides, I was left-handed and Vicki was right-handed. She was going to need a lot of patience when that day came.

Kirstine scowled, not used to anyone else in the shop making decisions, no matter how minor or insignificant, no matter how little it might affect her personally. Forty-two years old, a few years younger than Vicki, she would be pretty if her mouth turned up more. Instead, she had deeply furrowed frown lines.

After a lengthy estrangement, Vicki’s appearance after their father’s death to claim her share of the MacBride estate inheritance (a sizeable fortune in land holdings and business enterprises), had been difficult for Kirstine to accept. Kirstine had been educated in England, but had spent the better part of her adult life managing this woolen shop, and her Welsh husband, John, continued to run the farm operations as he always had. Vicki and her mother, her father’s first wife, had lived in London and California, and Vicki had only visited the MacBride farm on occasion as a child. Even so, she was now committed to making a go of her new life here.

“You decided this without checking with me first, I might add,” Kirstine continued, with only a faint hint of a Scottish accent. She couldn’t let it go. “I would have informed you that we’d be too busy with the trials to deal with your yarn club members traipsing in at the same time,” she said. “Between tourist buses arriving and spectators underfoot, I’d have thought you could have waited to begin next month. Or at the very least until next week.”

“Kirstine,” I said, “it doesn’t really seem like it would be much effort to keep the kits behind the counter and distribute them to members. Aren’t those club members who come for their yarn kits going to be likely to stick around for the trials and drop more cash?”

Kirstine didn’t seem to hear my voice of reason. Her lips were pressed together in a line of discontent. “Look at you, causing trouble as usual, Eden Elliott,” she said, not mincing words. “Why don’t you go off and make yourself useful elsewhere. Go on.”

That’s me. Eden Elliott. Troublemaker and major meddler, according to Kirstine. She hasn’t come right out and said it aloud, but I know she wishes I’d disappear for good. And she wouldn’t be too concerned about the method of my departure as long as it took me far away from the farm and shop. It’s in her tone and in the snarky comments she reserves exclusively for me.

I’m an outsider in this community, having arrived here in Glenkillen from Chicago three months ago. The trip had been unexpected, courtesy of my overly pushy and well-off best friend back home, Ami Pederson, who’d decided I needed a change of scenery and had bought me a ticket to the Highlands. Generous to a fault, as they say . . . the fault in Ami’s generosity being that my return ticket had been for six months down the road, which, as she explained to me, was the maximum length of time I was allowed to stay in Scotland on the standard travel visa.

In spite of my doubts and resistance, those first months had flown by. I suppose I
had
needed a change. I’d gone through some stressful personal events—a divorce and my mother’s death—but now I had a small amount of cash
and the freedom at thirty-eight years old to go on this adventure.

Amazingly, I’d also accomplished what I’d set out to do, which was to write a hot contemporary romance novel set in the Scottish Highlands. Glenkillen turned out to be the perfect backdrop for my inspiration to flow, and the first draft of
Falling for You
had practically written itself.

Which is a good thing, because to make it equally scary, I was already under contract to write it. I’m convinced that Ami pulled some strings with her publisher (yeah, she’s
that
Ami Pederson, international mega-bestselling historical romance author), though she denies having anything to do with landing this amazing opportunity for me. But even if she had helped orchestrate the beginning, it was still up to me to make it all come together in a real-life happy ending.

The pressure, mostly created by a mind that tends to overthink things, was on. I had to perform and perform well.

Gulp.

Regardless of my current insecurities, however, the beautiful Scottish Highlands saved my sanity, restored my self-confidence, and I’ve made lasting friendships here. I’m planted firmly at the MacBride farm, after an invitation from Vicki. I met her on my first day of travel on a connecting flight to Inverness out of London, and we’ve been fast friends ever since.

And to my good fortune as well as hers, she’d commandeered the farm’s main house that had been vacant after her father passed. Kirstine and John have their own home in Glenkillen near the harbor, and no intention of
actually living at the farm, claiming they had devoted enough of their lives to the family enterprise without needing to live and breathe it any more than they already did. “Besides,” Kirstine had sniffed, “Da should have built a bigger house, but he was as thrifty as they come. John and myself, we need more space.”

The MacBride farm’s lands might extend in all directions, the estate enormous with the house, shop, several cottages, barn, and numerous outbuildings, and the bank balance most likely above anything I could imagine, but no one involved was allowed to slack off. These people were hard workers. My friend included.

Vicki had brought so much to Sheepish Expressions in the short time she’d been a contributing partner. In my opinion, the current arrangement had the potential to benefit all concerned. The sisters might snipe, but they really complemented each other. Kirstine oversees stocking of the woolen wear that graces racks in one section of the shop—kilts, accessories, tartans, scarves, and much, much more. And although the MacBride farm’s own Glenkillen yarn is featured, she also orders other Scottish yarns, skeins of which fill every nook and cranny in the other half of the shop.

Vicki’s talent lies in dealing with customers, something sourpuss Kirstine could learn from. People skills go a long way in selling gifts to tourists. Tour buses stop at intervals throughout each day of the week, either on the way to or returning from several attractions, whether hoping for glimpses of minke whales, harbor porpoises, and bottlenose dolphins off Moray Firth, or following the whisky trail and visiting the numerous distilleries in the Highlands.
A bright and cheery welcome from the person behind the counter could sell more stock than the surly one who usually greeted them.

Vicki had also started knitting classes, and she’s hoping to add spinning lessons if there’s enough demand. The woman is amazing with fibers, from the moment the wool is shorn from the sheep all the way through the spinning and dying process.

Kirstine’s husband, John, has his own niche, too, tending to the fields and animals. Anyone who meets the gruff Welshman can tell how much he cares about his sheep and working dogs. He’d rather be with them than with people, which is exactly how I feel some days.

Vicki, with my help, had taken on the task of restoring one of the two cottages on the property that had fallen into disrepair. The other one had been past fixing, its stonework crumbled, the interior little more than a shell. But we’d managed to salvage the other. Last week I’d suggested that I move out of the main farmhouse and into the cottage. Vicki hadn’t put up much of an argument, knowing I needed my personal space.

The cottage consists of a small kitchen and sitting room on one end of the rectangular building, and a bedroom and bath on the other end. The furnishings are simple—a scarred dresser in the bedroom and an iron bedframe with squeaky springs, yellowing wallpaper in the sitting room, and two armchairs before a small wood-burning stove set in a corner. The kitchen is nothing more than a wooden table, two chairs, sink, stove, a tiny counter, and a hodgepodge of cookware. But it’s adequate for my needs, especially if I’m only going to be in the country for a few short
months more. The most important features are indoor plumbing that actually works as it should, along with an electrical system John updated after being coerced into repairing the rodent-chewed wiring.

Right this minute, I missed the coziness of the little cottage, and the solitude it provides.

Vicki had turned her attention back to her skein-of-the-month kits, which were beautifully packaged in a paper satchel with a fancy label that read
A Sheepish Expressions Exclusive: Poppy Sox Knitting Kit
. Each kit contained an exclusive pattern for cable-knit stockings along with a special knitting needle, and the yarn that Vicki called Poppy Red, because of its rich red poppies-in-the-field hue.

I glanced up and out one of the shop’s windows, noting the dawning day. September in the States would mean shortening days, but in Scotland we were blessed with close to fourteen hours of daylight. I smiled at my good fortune—to be here in this rural setting, at this beautiful time of the year. Since Kirstine suggested I make myself useful, I went outside and stood on the shop’s porch to admire the view, trying to decide what to do next.

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