Laina Turner, Author
L.C. Turner, Author

Dahlias and Danger a Petal Pushers Flower Shop Cozy Mystery Free Chapter

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Chapter 1

“Wow, this looks gorgeous. I haven’t been to the Hunter’s Hollow Convention Center since we were supposed to be married here,” I said as Cooper and I walked into the convention center to attend a charity dinner hosted by celebrity chef Anthony LaCroix.

“I think they took the opportunity to update the place while they were rebuilding after the fire. I heard some people talking about it at an event I was recently at.”

“Well, they did a good job then.” We checked our names off the list and headed into the ballroom.

I was a huge fan of Anthony LaCroix’s cooking show, and when I found out he was coming here to do a charity event for his personal charity, Feed the Hungry Children, I had been more than willing to pay for Cooper and me to experience one of Chef LaCroix’s delicious meals.

As we walked to find our table, Cooper spoke up, “I’m hungry—because I didn’t get lunch today—but I’m apprehensive about the edible flowers.”

I laughed. “It’s not like he uses edible flowers for every single dish, and you don’t have to eat them. It’s more that he just adds them as garnish, but it’s a unique touch, unlike parsley, and adds a little extra to his signature brand. He specializes in Asian fusion food, and I’ve seen a couple of shows where he used them, but he does Southern comfort food as well.”

“Okay, well, that makes me feel better,” Cooper said.

dahlias and danger a petal pusher cozy mystery

We found table number 18 and sat down. I immediately saw Willie and Katy walking in. They had officially started dating before our trip to Germany, and I couldn’t be happier. I really thought they were the perfect couple. Willie had started his job with the Hunter’s Hollow police department, and it was great to have him here as a permanent resident of Hunter’s Hollow. The only part of moving here that I hadn’t liked was leaving my good friends behind in Chicago.

“One thing I’m happy about is having you here permanently now,” I told Willie.

“This is so exciting,” Katy said.

“I know. I can’t believe we’re getting the opportunity to eat a meal prepared by Chef Anthony and that we will actually be able to meet him after,” I said.

“What I can’t believe is that you two like this guy so much,” Willie said.

“What’s not to like? He’s cute and he’s funny,” I said.

“I thought you watched his cooking show for his cooking,” Cooper teased.

“I do. The rest is just the icing on the cake.” I leaned over and gave Cooper a kiss as someone in the front of the room tapped a microphone to get our attention.

“Excuse me, everyone. If you could take your seats, we will be starting the first course in a few minutes. We will be having lobster bisque followed by a grilled filet mignon with a citrus demi-glaze, and for dessert a chocolate ganache with Kirsch-infused whipped cream, which I’m sure you will all thoroughly enjoy. I know I will. And of course, all the offerings tonight will be garnished with the edible Dahlias that are tonight’s flower.”

“Okay, that does sound delicious,” Cooper said.

“See, I told you you’d enjoy the food. So, how do you like working for Sheriff Blackford?” I asked Willie as I watched some wait staff starting to come out of the back to deliver the soups.

“So far, it’s great. He’s a reasonable guy, and I like his leadership style. Of course, it’s interesting how there aren’t a ton of things to investigate every day. It’s so much more laid back, but I like it. That’s the whole reason I wanted to leave Chicago. I was starting to lose a little bit of faith in humanity with the amount of criminals I was dealing with on a constant basis.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad you like your new job.”

The wait staff made it to our table and set down bowls of creamy lobster bisque with beautiful purple dahlias on top.

“I almost don’t want to eat it,” Katy said. “It’s so pretty.”

“I know, I like how the light orange of the lobster bisque looks with the dark purple of the dahlia.”

“Are we supposed to eat the flower?” Cooper asked, looking at it skeptically.

“Like I said, you don’t have to eat the flower, but they are edible. I’ll have you know I sourced them specifically to Chef Anthony’s specifications. All the flowers that will be accessorizing his food today are different-colored dahlias, and depending on the soil in which the dahlias are grown, the flowers offer different flavors.”

I saw both Cooper and Willie raise their eyebrows, but they didn’t say anything.

“Seriously?” Willie asked.

“Seriously. At least try it,” I said and picked up the small flower, setting it on the bread plate next to me and picking off a petal. I already knew what it was going to taste like because Wendy, Cynthia, and I had taste-tested the flowers to make sure they matched the chef’s desired flavor. “This is even better than I expected,” I said after eating the petal I’d picked off.

“You’re right,” Cooper said. “It tastes a little bit like lemon, which pairs really nicely with the soup.”

His description made sense to me because he was right; the flavors really did complement each other. The filet was just as delicious, so tender and juicy, and by the time I thought there was no way I was going to be able to eat another bite, the staff brought out dessert—the chocolate ganache.

“I think this is the best chocolate ganache I’ve ever had,” Katy said after taking a bite.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a chocolate ganache, but I’ll agree this is some of the best dessert I’ve ever had, and I’m starting to really like these flowers,” Willie said.

The dahlias Chef Anthony had used for the chocolate ganache were all different colors, and the MC had introduced each dish and mentioned that the chef was trying to show how versatile flowers could be in cooking with this desert. I understood that not everyone got the whole point, but personally, I saw it as another art form or a way of expression, much like I had come to realize flower arranging was.

After a few minutes, the MC, who had been introducing each course, got our attention once more.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have coffee and tea that will continue to be circulated by the staff. If you want an adult beverage, you can help yourself at the bar at the back of the room. Chef Anthony will be out here in just a few minutes for a meet and greet. This is informal, and he’s just going to mingle, so please, everyone, I know how excited you are to be here… Let’s not monopolize his time and give everyone a chance to meet him.”

“I wish I knew where he is going to be so we could be more strategic about this,” I said.

Katy nodded. “Me too,” she said.

“You two are crazy. I didn’t realize you were this big fans,” Cooper said.

I started to tell him why I was such a fan when I heard a scream. Our heads swiveled to look to my right, where the scream had come from.

“Someone call 911. I think she’s dead.”

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