As the latest Lizzie book goes into final edits, I thought I would share the first chapter with you all to get you ready. Lots of excitement, laughs and closure for a long-standing story line. I hope you enjoy this!
Usually, eating alone was something to be savored. For once, no one wanted anything from me. My daughter, Cassiopeia, was spending time with my mother and stepfather, and they made it clear that my presence was not required. Kind of reminded me of when I was a kid and my grandparents said the same thing to my mother. I guess I’ll do the same thing one day.
Trixie Greene Roosevelt, my best friend for eons, and I weren’t on speaking terms right now. For the past four months, she had been trying to get me to go out with Rex Sinclair, the new man in town. Frankly, I didn’t like him and or trust him. But she figured it was just because I didn’t know him very well. She even had the nerve to set us up on a blind date a couple of times. I finally reached my breaking point and told her off. She stopped talking to me after that.
Even Gladys Norwell, my nemesis, was too busy nowadays to bother me, but I was sure that wouldn’t last long. She was sitting at her usual table, eyeing me suspiciously.
“Why are you sitting here by yourself?” Jake Mathias said as he slid into the seat across from me.
“Enjoying the peace and quiet for once.”
“Or moping because Trixie still won’t talk to you, and you miss Cassie.”
“My problems with Trixie have been off and on since Owen died. And of course I miss my daughter.”
“Our daughter,” he corrected me.
“Our daughter,” I repeated.
“You two won’t stay mad at each other forever, you know,” Jake said, snatching a French fry off my plate.
“She can hold a grudge longer than anyone,” I told him. “You have no idea.”
“Well, it probably didn’t help that you decided to tell her off in the middle of the town square during the Fourth of July celebration,” he pointed out.
“She wouldn’t shut up about me going out with Rex Sinclair!” I said, totally exasperated with the conversation. “Could we talk about something else?”
“Like what?” He snatched another fry.
“For starters, getting your own food.”
Maddie Reynolds, the café owner, brought over a double cheeseburger, fries and a glass of sweet tea, and placed it down in front of Jake. “Here you go, handsome. I hate to see a man wasting away from lack of food.”
Jake grabbed her hand and kissed it. “You’re a lifesaver, Maddie. I love you.”
“You only say that when I bring you food.”
“Because no one cooks like you, food angel.”
She rolled her eyes and looked at me. “Are you having dessert today? I made a fresh pecan pie this morning that has your name written all over it.”
“Sure, why not?”
“Let me twist your arm, why don’t ya?” she laughed and walked away.
“You’re a bit grumpy today. What’s wrong?”
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with her.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes. I told you she would get around to me eventually. “He was talking to me, not you, Gladys.”
“This shameless hussy,” Gladys said, ignoring me, “was at a rather expensive restaurant last night with Rex Sinclair. What’s wrong with her is a hangover. She was drinking like a fish and hanging all over that man.”
I stared at her, my mouth hanging open. “Gladys Norwell, you’re a liar.”
People in the café gasped.
“I am not, Elizabeth Crenshaw. I know what I saw.”
“I was on the phone last night, conducting an interview with a woman who wants to open a boutique in one of the empty storefronts on the square.”
Gladys scoffed. “A likely story. You were wearing a green silk shirt and black pants. Your hair was down around your shoulders, and you were flirting with Mr. Sinclair like he was the last eligible bachelor on the planet.”
“I don’t have to verify my whereabouts to you, Gladys, but I will make an exception in this case. If you would like the name of the woman I talked to, come by my office later. Not only will I give it to you, I will call her while you are standing there, and then after I hang up, you can apologize in private. Unless you prefer groveling and being humiliated in public. Now, if you don’t want to wear my sweet tea, I suggest you get out of my sight right now.”
“I know what I saw, and I can prove it.” She stomped over to her table, grabbed her phone and came back. Swiping left a couple of times, she held out her phone to me. “See? I have proof. That’s you sitting there with Mr. Sinclair.”
Jake snatched the phone from her before I could look at it. “You can’t even tell that’s her, Gladys. All you see is the back of the woman. This could be anybody.”
“He called her Lizzie.”
“I’m not the only Lizzie in the world, Gladys,” I said, resisting the urge to call her an idiot.
Jake tapped on the screen a few times before he handed the phone back to Gladys. She looked down at it, then back at him. “What did you do? The pictures are gone.”
“Are they?” he said innocently. “I must have hit the wrong button. I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter. I sent them to Charlene and Iris. I’ll just get them to send them back to me. We’ll see how you feel about being publicly humiliated for a change instead of me.” She spun on her heels and went back to her table.
“I swear she is the devil incarnate at times,” I said.
“Well, I have to admit, Lizzie, I saw the pictures, and it looks a lot like you, at least from the back.”
“Jake, I swear to God I wasn’t out with Rex Sinclair last night. I haven’t seen him in two weeks!”
He held up his hands. “Don’t get mad at me! I’m just telling you what it looks like. I believe you, trust me. I know you’d never go out with the guy.”
The bell over the door rang, but I ignored it because Maddie brought over a big piece of pecan pie at that moment. But as she left, I noticed Jake was looking toward the door, so I turned to see what he was looking at, and immediately wished I hadn’t.
Rex Sinclair had just walked in the door.
Right behind him was Ethan Winthrop.