If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Penelope had her third cup of hot cocoa in front of her as she sat on the couch, Brutus asleep on her feet, when Jake opened the front door. He left the lights off and removed his shoes before he noticed her sitting there.
“You’re still up?” He came into the living room. “What’s wrong?”
Jake pushed the dog out of the way and sat down next to her. “Eleven o’clock at night, fire in the fireplace, and hot chocolate with marshmallows. You’re brooding.” He eased an arm around her. “I know you.”
Penelope leaned into him and rested her head against his neck, breathing in the scent of him that reminded her of everything good in the world. “I was sitting here hoping that Jezza’s son didn’t have anything to do with her death even though it means that it was probably someone who lives here. And Brian went to have dinner with Anne again this evening and didn’t come back and it’s none of my business, but…” She made a noise between a groan and a growl.
“With you on that one.” Jake picked out a marshmallow and ate it. “But I have good news for you. Steven was still in Georgia when his mother died. We checked the flights and there’s no way he could have done it.”
“That’s something, anyway.” She sighed. “I’m beginning to think Jezza just wasn’t a very nice person. She used her son in her cons while he was growing up, abandoned him, took advantage of anyone who stood in her way, stole, cheated, blackmailed… I think the wonder of it is that nobody killed her before now.”
“I’ve certainly had to ask a whole lot of people where they were that morning.” He stole another marshmallow. “A surprising number of them were not where they should have been.”
Penelope raised her head to look at him, interest in her eyes. “Anything interesting?”
“Did you know that there’s a swingers group in town that meets once a month?”
A laugh escaped her. “I know there used to be one that met at Sondra Gillespie’s house, but that was years and years ago. I can’t imagine that’s still going on.” She looked at his impassive face. “It is? What, do they have a Costco bottle of Viagra next to the bowl of keys?”
Jake raised his eyebrows. “You seem to know an awful lot about this.”
Still smiling, Penelope shook her head. “Only second-hand. Sondra used to sit in the back row of the PTA meetings and whisper with one of her friends. I learned more than I ever wanted to know.” She drained the rest of the cocoa in the mug.
“Are you done brooding, or should I make you another cup?” Jake stood up and held out his hand.
Penelope let him draw her to her feet. “I think the only thing left on my brooding agenda was how many circus animals I could afford to import.” She smiled at his confused expression and twisted to bump him lightly with her shoulder. “I want to make sure the production is big enough.”
“Oh, I see.” He nudged her backward toward the stairs to the bedroom. “I might have some notes on that I could give you if you’re interested.”
“Really? Well, if it’s not too much trouble…” She took his hand and led him up the stairs.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)