Read Mayhem in High Heels Online

Authors: Gemma Halliday

Tags: #General, #cozy mystery, #Women Sleuths, #Weddings - Planning, #Women fashion designers, #Mystery & Detective

Mayhem in High Heels

Here's what critics are saying about

Mayhem in High Heels:

 

"I love how Gemma Halliday intertwines laughter and romance with grit, suspense and murder. Her characters have incredible depth, which makes you feel like you know them on a personal level. Her story,
MAYHEM IN HIGH HEELS
, sparkles with charm unlike any other murder mystery."

- Romance Junkies

"Funny and appealing, Halliday's hapless detective is a pleasure to watch as she somehow manages to solve another mystery."

- Booklist

"Do not wait -- rush right out and get
MAYHEM IN HIGH HEELS
and join Maddie and her gang for a thrilling mystery adventure!"

- Romance Reviews Today

"Fans will no doubt enjoy the last in this fun series but be sad to see it end."

- Enchanting Reviews

"This fifth and final installment in Halliday's High Heels series is wonderfully entertaining, with an absorbing and complex mystery. Her pleasingly non-ass-kicking heroine -- with her entourage of quirky and fascinating family and friends -- makes this a fitting finale to these fun stories."

- Romantic Times, 4 stars

OTHER BOOKS BY GEMMA HALLIDAY

Viva Las Vegas

High Heels Mysteries:

Spying in High Heels

Killer in High Heels

Undercover in High Heels

Alibi in High Heels

Mayhem in High Heels

Christmas in High Heels (short story)

Hollywood Headlines Mysteries:

Scandal Sheet

The Perfect Shot

Deadline (coming soon!)

SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS

BY GEMMA HALLIDAY

So I Dated an Axe Murderer (novella)

Watching You (short story)

Confessions of a Bombshell Bandit (short story)

 

MAYHEM IN HIGH HEELS

by

GEMMA HALLIDAY

Copyright © 2010 by Gemma Halliday

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

MAYHEM IN HIGH HEELS

 

Chapter One

 

There's just something about weddings. Something about tulle and lace being spun into fairy tales. Something about friends and family gathering to welcome a new member. Something about gawdy bridesmaid dresses, embossed invitations, and five dozen lilies in strategically placed crystal vases that make grown women turn into squealy second-graders, men have nightmares of chains wrapped around their ankles, and mothers get misty eyed at the slightest provocation.

"Mom, you're crying again," I said, pulling a tissue from my purse and handing it to my mother, lest her caked-on black mascara streak down her cheeks for the third time in as many minutes.

"I can't help it, Maddie. They're all just so beautiful."

I looked down at the array of place cards on the slick, black conference table at L'Amore Wedding Planners.

"They're place cards."

Mom nodded, her eyes shining. "I know. Aren't they lovely?"

I looked down again, chewing on a piece of Doublemint as I narrowed my eyes at the squares of paper. Personally, I was having a hard time telling the difference between the white, linen, embossed cards and the snow, woven, stamped cards.

"They are... nice."

"Oh, Maddie, they're breathtaking!" Mom squeaked out, holding the tissue to her face.

"Honestly, I don't know that we even need place cards, Mom. Jack and I want to keep things small. Intimate."

"And what's more intimate than hand-stamped place cards at each guest's spot?" asked Gigi Van Doren, the proprietor of L'Amore and grand dame of all things wedding. Her pen hovered just above her ever-present clipboard, eagerly awaiting the go-ahead to order several dozen.

I put Gigi anywhere from her early forties to late fifties - one of those women who seemed to defy time and age altogether. Pale blonde hair pulled back from her face in an artful French twist, cool blue eyes steady beneath a pair of rimless glasses, tailored suit fitting a body that spoke of regular pilgrimages to the gym. Or the plastic surgeon. But what had endeared me to her right from the first were the pointy toed, four-inch, black leather pumps on her feet. Prada. The woman knew style.

Still...

"What do you think, Dana?" I asked my best friend.

Dana pinched her strawberry blonde brows together, staring at the array as if she were taking a calculus test. "They
are
nice. Can I see the ivory-edged ones again?"

"But of course." Gigi signaled to her assistant, Allie, a blonde, blue-eyed twenty-something, who produced another indistinguishably whitish square of paper from her case, sliding it across the table.

Dana picked it up and let out a wistful sigh. "Oh, these are so romantic." She held the square up to the light, gazing at it like it might turn into Prince Charming on the spot.

"That one's my favorite," Allie agreed.

"We can watermark it with anything you like - the date, hearts, even your photograph. Very intimate," Gigi assured me.

Hmmm.

"Exactly how much are these intimate water-marked cards going to cost?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at Gigi as I snapped my gum between my teeth.

She shrugged. "Inconsequential. Hardly anything. Besides, how can you put a price on a beautiful occasion like your wedding day?"

"She's right, Maddie," Mom chimed in, dabbing at her eyes. "It's your wedding day. You can't put a price on that."

Maybe
I
couldn't. But I was pretty sure my groom would have something to say about it.

Six months ago Jack Ramirez, L.A.P.D. detective and the last person in the world I expected to believe in happily ever after, proposed to me atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was the single most romantic thing that had ever happened to me. Or, I ventured to guess, anyone outside of a Meg Ryan movie. He'd picked out the most gorgeous ring on the planet, and, once I'd given him my tearful "yes," we'd spent three days of bliss in Paris, wrapped up in each other's arms, floating down the Seine, feeding each other chocolate eclairs, holding hands under the most romantic sunsets in the world.

But, like all good Meg Ryan movies, it had to come to an end sometime. Once we'd gotten home the reality of being engaged had started to sink in.

Ramirez works homicide, carries a very big gun, has a very big tattoo, and a very big... well, let's just say I'm
really
looking forward to the honeymoon. He's not your typical family man, and the whole commitment thing is a new gig for him. For that matter, it was a pretty foreign concept for me, too. So far the biggest commitment I'd jumped into was a ficus tree. And that was plastic.

But when I'd shown my newly adorned left ring finger to Mom and Faux Dad, as I affectionately called my stepfather, reality didn't so much sink in as hit me like a cheap pair of loafers to the gut. Saying the word "wedding" to my mother was like saying "
Haagen-Dazs
" to a Weight Watcher. She was foaming at the mouth within seconds, planning a ceremony to top all ceremonies, appropriately scheduled for this coming Valentine's Day. Suddenly the romantic moments Ramirez and I had stolen in Paris were turned into a whirlwind of reception halls, bridesmaid dresses, honeymoon packages to Tahiti, gardens versus churches, lilies versus roses, prime rib versus chicken kiev. And currently, white, snow, or ivory watermarked place cards.

"I don't know..." I hedged, looking down again at the squares. "Exactly what is the dollar amount of inconsequential?"

Gigi shot me an annoyed look, her mouth puckering up like she was sucking on a lemon drop. "Well, that all depends on how many people are coming."

"Just friends and close family," I said. Then repeated my wedding mantra, "Small and intimate."

"Right," Mom agreed, bobbing her coiffed hair up and down. "Just four hundred."

I swallowed my gum with a hiccup. "Four hundred? As in people?"

Mom gave me a blank stare. Then nodded. "Didn't you look at the guest list? I emailed the final version to you last night."

I shook my head. "I didn't have time to print it out before I left. But I didn't realize it went on for fifty pages. What happened to small and intimate?"

Mom blinked her heavily lined eyes at me. "Honey, I did the best I could to pare it down."

"We can easily accommodate four hundred," Gigi told me, her annoyance being replaced by what I could only interpret as glee.

"Exactly, that's why we chose an outdoor venue. The Beverly Garden Hotel said they could seat four-fifty, so I figured we were fine." Mom gave me an innocent look that I didn't buy for a minute.

"Wait." I held up a hand. "Hold the phone. I don't even know four hundred people."

"Yes, you do. Honey, don't you want people to come to your wedding?"

"People, yes. Strangers, no."

"These are not strangers."

"Four hundred, Mom? I have four hundred close friends and family?"

"Oh, honey, we simply couldn't leave anyone out."

Was I not annunciating clearly enough? "Smaaall. In-ti-mate."

Mom cocked her head to the side. "But, honey, it's your
wedding
. It's your special day."

I clenched down so hard I bit my tongue. "Yes, my wedding
day
. One day. There is no way I can feel good about spending a mint on one day. It can be special without declaring bankruptcy over it."

Dana's eyes ping-ponged back and forth between us. Mom puckered her forehead. Gigi narrowed her eyes at me like I'd just spoken blasphemy.

"Well," Mom hedged, "not everyone has RSVPed yet..." She reached into her gargantuan purse and pulled out a leather-bound book, laying it out on the conference table.

"What's that?" I asked.

"The guest list."

I took a deep meditative breath. Then opened the book and started scanning names.

"Who is Amber White?"

"Oh, honey," Mom said, smacking my arm. "You remember Amber. She's that woman who did your hair that time for the recital."

"Recital?"

"You know, when you were Little Red Riding Hood?"

I blinked at her. "Mom, I was six."

"And you looked adorable."

"You did not invite a woman I haven't seen since I was six to my wedding." I hiccupped again, that gum lodging in my throat.

"Well, she took such an interest in you."

"Mom!"

She pursed her lips, an argument on the tip of her tongue. But, lucky for me, she bit it back. "Okay. Fine. Amber's out."

"Thank you." Now we were getting somewhere. "What about her?" I asked, stabbing my finger at a name halfway down the page.

"Dolly Schlottskowitz?"

"Yeah. Who is she?"

"Oh, surely you remember Dolly Schlottskowitz? You know, Megan Schlottskowitz's mom?"

"Seriously? Megan the cheerleader from high school? Mom, I haven't seen her in ten years. And we weren't even friends then!" I grabbed Gigi's pen and crossed Mrs. Schlottskowitz's name off the list.

"I remember Megan," Dana piped up. "I heard she got really fat after high school."

I raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Dana nodded, her blonde shag bouncing up and down. "Oh yeah. I ran into Karen Olsen at Starbucks one day and she said she saw Megan going into the Lane Bryant at the Burbank mall. And," she said, leaning in with a pseudo whisper, "she's been divorced." Dana help up two fingers. "Twice."

"Reeeeally?" I said, drawing out the word. I put Mrs. Schlottskowitz back on. So I wanted to show off for the former cheerleader. So sue me.

"This looks like it may take some time," Gigi said, eyeing the list. She glanced down at the gold watch adorning her slim wrist. "Why don't we adjourn for now? You get back to me with headcount tomorrow when we do the final cake tasting at..." Gigi looked to Allie who whipped out an electronic organizer thingie, quickly consulting it.

"One," she said.

"One," Gigi repeated. "Sound good?"

Mom clapped her hands together. "Perfect. Maddie, we'll go over it this afternoon, yes?"

I nodded reluctantly. I'd hoped to meet Ramirez for lunch, but unless I wanted my mom's neighbor's second cousin's milkman attending my
special
day, it looked like an afternoon with The List was in order.

"But let's at least decide on the place card design," Mom insisted.

I sighed. "Do we really need them?" I looked to Dana for help.

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