Hi, it's good of you to come for my little tour today. Let me just open that security lock, so we can get into the store. You see, with a location on Via de' Tornabuoni, we have to be a bit careful about thieves. If you have luxury and beauty and so much light, darker elements will also come, like moths, but that can't be helped. Via de' Tornabuoni is probably the most prestigious street here in Florence, and I'm glad I found this store. I'm renting it from a formidable lady. It's tiny, but it's my universe, and I have to say I'm darn proud of it.
My mother thinks it's it's embarrassing that I'm selling lingerie, besides being convinced that my stuff is heavily overpriced, but in return, I tell her that never leaving the house without a cushion is far stranger than my job. She does that, you know. Nobody really knows why, but it makes her feel comfortable, and if that's what it takes, I'm fine. She sleeps on it when family weddings last too long.
You ask if we have many family weddings? Gosh, yes. I lost count this year. My grandfather and his twin brother both had seven kids, and so the whole town is littered with relations. We're a closely knit family. I was born in the US because my father was American. He died when I was thirteen, and that's when my mother moved us all back to Florence.
Do you notice my new mannequin over there, in the window? I bought it after Delayed Death came out. You see, I had to use the previous one to stun a murderer, and all that foam flew everywhere. Thank God that's over.
Yes, that little cone in gold right in front of the cash register is for bargains. You're interested in that thong? Why, certainly I can find you a matching bra for that. Let's look over there. Do you like this model in red? I bought it for one of my best customers, but he got killed before he could find the matching woman. A charmer, that's what he was, but not without faults.
Come on through to the back to try it on. Behind the curtain over there is my storage area. Sure you can have a look. Yes, it's tiny, isn't it? I employed a carpenter who's specialized on yachts when I built the interior of the store. That's why every millimeter is put to use. I have two rows of inbuilt shelves. The front one is on wheels and can be pushed to the side – like this. Amazing, isn't it? I just roll it to the side, right in front of the door that leads to the bathroom if I want to reach into the storage cubicles behind.
Yes, you're right, working in a store is hard on the feet, but when I get a minute, I take down the folding chairs over there. They are usually up on the walls to take up less room. There's another one behind the door, for my assistant, too.
Once Garini interviewed me while I was sitting on it. He's the investigating officer in charge of all the murder cases that occurred recently. He's . . . well, I can't describe him. Gosh, do I blush? Anyway, I still remember that day when he interviewed me here. It was the first time we talked without anybody else present. I still remember it as if it was yesterday. We recently went through a hard time because my cousin, a banker, was – em – found dead in my apartment, and it looked a bit – em – as if I was having an affair with him, but I guess you can read about it if you want it.
You want to take that bra and thong? Sure. I'll pack them into the special Temptation bag. Here you are. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
Excerpt Delayed Death
"Where did you find your grandfather?"
Carlina throat tightened. The preliminaries were over. Now came the hard part. "Grandpa sat at the kitchen table." Her voice cracked.
She felt as if he was pushing her bit by bit forward, until she would drop off a cliff. "My cousin . . . Emma threw a fit."
His eyebrows twitched. "Why?"
"Emma was the bride! His death destroyed her wedding."
Commissario Garini looked as if he had no clue what she was talking about.
Do you have no imagination at all? "Can you picture the bride coming up to church and saying that her grandfather just died?" Carlina closed her eyes. It was easier to speak without looking at the man made of steel next to her. "Everybody bursting into tears, the wedding canceled, no dancing, no party, the flowers wilting, the ceremony postponed, the honeymoon annulled . . ." She shook her head so hard, she felt the edge of the shelf beneath her hair.
"I like the wilting flowers," he said. "Nice touch."
Her eyes flew open. I hate you.
He returned her gaze without emotion. "Go on."
Another step closer to the edge. "In the end, we said it would make no difference to my grandfather if we pretended he had died later, but for Emma, it made all the difference in the world."
"Interesting." His voice was dry as dust.
Damn that man. He wanted to provoke her, and he managed all too well. “We had another reason, too.”
“The doctor told Uncle Teo to avoid stress because of his heart. He almost forbade him to join the wedding party. Emma and I were afraid that Uncle Teo would have a heart attack if we told him in the middle of the wedding.”
He lifted a skeptical eyebrow but didn't comment. “What happened then?”
Carlina took a deep breath, but for once, the smell of dust and boxes and brand-new products, the smell of her own universe, failed to soothe her. Where had all the oxygen gone? "Everybody could see my grandfather through the kitchen window, so we decided to put him into bed."
"Fully dressed?" His eyebrow twitched.
"Emma undressed him, but she forgot the socks."
"What were you doing in the meantime?" He sounded as if he thought she had used the interim to dance a solitary waltz in the kitchen.
Carlina clenched her teeth. "I was sick in the bathroom."
"So you did feel some emotions. Congratulations." His voice was vitriolic enough to make a hole into the floor if it dripped.
Don't reply, Carlina. Ignore him.
"Let me get one point clear," Garini said. "If I understood correctly, you were both fully dressed for the wedding in long evening gowns."
"Mine was long." Carlina looked at her hands. "Emma's was short."
"Both with high heels, I assume?" His light eyes seemed to pierce her.
"Yes." Carlina glared at him. "Want to know our hairdos as well? If you wish, I can send you a picture."
"That would be helpful," he said. "Wasn't it difficult to carry a dead man in that outfit?"
"Anything unusual strike you?"
Carlina wanted to hit his immobile face. "I don't do this kind of thing every day, if that's what you mean!"
"I meant with the body."
Carlina crossed her arms in front of her chest. "I've never seen a body before. Ever. I wouldn't know if anything was unusual, even if it came up and bit me in the face." Her hand flew to her mouth. "Ugh. Didn't want to say that."
Her gaze flew to his face. He knew how to laugh? The laughter transformed his lean face, made his eyes sparkle. He looked like a different man. Carlina bit back an answering grin.
He looked at her, his head placed to one side, as if he was considering something. "Would you describe how you carried the body?"
Carlina's face twisted.
Her mouth dropped. He could be polite? She took a deep breath. "Grandpa was sitting at the kitchen table. His eyes were open. Emma nudged him, and he fell to the side. I - I managed to catch him before he fell. He was heavy - and warm."
"Warm?" His sharp voice interrupted her.
"Yes." Carlina swallowed. "I said to Emma he must have died a short time ago."
"But you were sure he was dead?"
Carlina's mouth dropped open. "Oh, Madonna, yes, of course. If you had seen him . . . there was no doubt."
"Was it cold in the apartment?"
"No. It was stifling. I remember thinking so when I came through the door. It smelled of peppermint." Her throat hurt at the memory. "Grandpa used to eat peppermint drops all the time." Don't cry, Carlina.
"What happened then?"
"I couldn't make him sit up again." Her throat tightened. "Emma said I should place his head on the table, but it felt so . . . irreverent." Damn. She shouldn't have used that word. Nothing in her behavior had led him to believe that she gave a damn about reverence for the dead. She cringed and waited for a scathing comment from Garini. When nothing came, she looked up at him.
His light eyes searched her face. "Go on." It didn't sound quite as commanding as before.
"I made Emma take his feet. We carried him to his bed. It felt . . . indecent, and there was that smell."
His eyebrows pulled together. "What smell?"
"I . . I don't know. I've never smelled it before. Sort of sweet, but in a cloying way."
"And then I was sick." She felt sick now.
"What did his face look like?"
Carlina's mouth was dry. "I tried not to look. I wanted to remember him the way he had been."
"So you didn't see anything? Not a glimpse?"
Carlina swallowed. "It was . . . bluish."
He gave a sharp, short nod. "Did Emma say it had been difficult to undress him?"
"No." Carlina shook her head. "She was real quick. But then, she was in a hurry."
"I see." The ironic note was back in his voice.
Carlina pulled herself together. "I thought it wouldn't make a difference. I only wanted to help Emma." She sounded pleading now. "I also planned to get up early the next morning, to find him. Then nobody else would have suffered the same shock."
"But you didn't?"
"No." Carlina could feel herself blushing. "I overslept." He'll think I'm a total loser. "Uncle Teo found him."
"Yes." Carlina sighed. "I was so glad that he didn't have a heart attack right there and then. However, later, just as Marco wanted to sign the death certificate, he . . ."
Garini held up one hand. "Hold on. Your mother told me Marco was called because your family doctor was ill."
"What's the name of your family doctor?" Garini was back to his true form. He shot his questions like bullets at her.
"Is Marco the official stand-in for Signor Catalini?"
"I don't know." Carlina frowned. "But my mother wanted to have Marco because he's a family member. He married my cousin Angela some months ago."
Garini's light eyes narrowed in thought.
Carlina was glad she had chosen to sit. The shelf in her back gave her a bit of much needed stability to face those x-ray eyes of his.
"What happened next?"
"Uncle Teo exploded into the kitchen and made a big scene because Grandpa still had his socks on." She sighed. "I didn't know he always took off his socks first when he undressed. I never even thought about his socks."
The Commissario didn't comment.
Carlina threw him a glance. No sympathy there. "Next thing I knew, Uncle Teo called the police." Something scratched her ear. Carlina reached up and blushed. Damn. She still had the bra and slip from the mannequin over her shoulder. What a sight she was! She pulled them off with a quick move and stuffed them behind her back. If only he didn't start laughing.
His light eyes never wavered. "Why didn't you stop your Uncle Teo?"
Carlina bristled. "How could I? Wrestle the phone from his hands?"
"For example." His voice was mild. "I'd have thought you're a woman with enough resources." For some reason, it didn't sound like a compliment.
"Uncle Teo turned beetroot-red." Carlina didn't look at Garini. She didn't want to see the disbelief in his eyes. "I was afraid he would have a heart attack if I stopped him. Besides, all the family was listening in.”
"Fine." His voice sounded hard. "And can you explain why you didn't tell me the truth when I came?"
She looked at her hands. They had clenched themselves into a tight knot. "I wanted to, but you came early. When I came downstairs, the gang, I mean my family, had told you everything."
"Everything but the truth."
"Well." Carlina's felt short of breath, as if something strangled her. "I wanted to speak to you alone." She lifted her gaze and frowned at him. "You remember that, don't you?"
He lifted his eyebrows. "You didn't try very hard."
Carlina closed her eyes for an instant. "I didn't want to shake my mother. She was so upset."
How she hated his snarky questions. "Yes, she was!" She balled her fists. "I don't know if you saw her cushion?"
"Well, she usually carries that cushion around with her when she's on the road, but in the house, she doesn't take it. When she came up to me and had that cushion in her arms, I knew she was shaken to the core."
He blinked. "Are you telling me your mother never leaves the house without a cushion?"
Oh, God. She shouldn't have mentioned it. "Yes." She hoped her voice conveyed dignity. "It's a little idiosyncrasy."
"Did she take it to the wedding?" He sounded intrigued.
"And did she use it?"
"I don't know why you need to know that! It doesn't have anything to do with my grandfather." Carlina pressed her lips together.
His mouth twitched. "Humor me."
"Oh, all right." Carlina sighed. "She used it to sleep in Church."
"I take it the service wasn't fascinating?"
Carlina suppressed a giggle. "It was the sixth family wedding this year."
"In that case, I understand completely."
Carlina smiled. "Later, Mama used the cushion to sleep on the table."
"She slept on the table?" Now he sounded scandalized.
"Just with her head." Carlina hastened to add. "It doesn't matter; everybody is used to it. In fact, I think it's very considerate of her."
He blinked. "In what way?"
"Well, we always share a taxi back, and when she's tired, she simply goes to sleep. Other mothers would start to nag until the party is broken up."
"I see." His tone spoke volumes.
He thinks we're a bunch of idiots. Carlina stared at her hands and concentrated on relaxing them. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw that he still leaned against the door frame as if he belonged there, a relaxed panther.
From the street, she heard the faint noise of people walking by, talking, laughing. Inside, it was so quiet, her own breathing seemed too loud.
"To sum up, Signorina Ashley. You moved your dead grandfather because you didn't want to upset your cousin Emma. You allowed your great uncle Teo to call the police with a crazy tale because you didn't want him to have a heart attack. You lied to the police because you didn't want to upset your mother Fabbiola. I'm impressed. You're quite the philanthropist."
About Delayed Death:
What do you do when you find your grandfather dead half an hour before your cousin’s wedding? You hide him in his bed and tell everyone he didn’t feel like coming.
Delayed Death is an entertaining mystery set in Florence, Italy. When Carlina finds her grandfather dead on the day of her cousin’s wedding, she decides to hide the corpse until after the ceremony. However, her grandfather was poisoned, and she becomes the attractive Inspector’s prime suspect. On top of that, she has to manage her boisterous family and her luxurious lingerie store called Temptation, a juggling act that creates many hilarious situations.
About Beate Boeker:
I love books with touches of humor and mischief. It doesn’t matter if they’re romances or mysteries or biographies – as long as they make me chuckle, count me in.
Avalon Books in New York published three of my sweet romance novels as hardcovers. “A Little Bit of Passion” and “Take My Place” were both nominated for The Golden Quill Contest 2011/2012, and on top of that, “A Little Bit of Passion” was also a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award 2011. When Avalon Books was sold to Amazon, these stories became also available as paperbacks and e-books.
If you feel like a short trip abroad, try out my romance with a hint of mystery “A New Life” – it’s set in Florence, Italy. This novel was also listed as a semi-finalist in the “Best Indie Books 2012 Contest”.
My latest mystery series is also set in Florence. It starts with “Delayed Death”, where the heroine finds her grandfather dead half an hour before her cousin’s wedding. In order to save the wedding, she hides her grandfather. Unfortunately, she then finds out that her grandfather was killed, and now she’s the attractive Inspector’s main suspect . . .
For a quick read, try my popular short story “Chic in France”. You’ll get a whiff of the mediterranean coast with some chaos thrown in. And if you like a combination of baking and reading, the series “A Culinary Catastrophe” is right for you.
Purchase from Amazon.
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The giveaway prize for this tour is a $25 Amazon.com or Paypal cash. The link to the giveaway is here: http://cozymysterymarketing.com/?p=315.