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Oh, her aching feet! Micki Demetrius questions her sanity for agreeing to compete in Serendipity Springs’ Annual Charleston Challenge when clearly she and her partner, Guy Whitney, have no chance of winning or even placing. Just ask the reigning champion, who points out their low odds of taking home the trophy every chance she gets.
But then, Micki’s only dancing in this contest because Guy wouldn’t enter without her, and the poor man needs something to occupy his days. Retirement hasn’t come easy for him. Not that there’s anything special going on between them, as much as Guy would like or his daughter suspects. There isn’t, is there?
Micki can’t wait to put their performance behind them—until one of the top competitors is found dead on the ballroom floor. The sheriff warns Micki and her three mah jongg pals not to play amateur sleuth again, but he can’t stop this persistent freelance journalist from pursuing her inside scoop, with a little help from her friends. The trouble with being on the inside, though, is that being so close to her sketchy subjects might just let the killer get dangerously close to her.
The Charleston Challenge
The Mah Jongg Mysteries Book 7
By Barbara Barrett
Guy met Micki and met her at the door to his two-story Tudor when she arrived. He blocked the way and leaned toward her. “My daughter, Luann, went a little overboard with the party. Just so you know, it wasn’t my idea, but she’s so pleased with herself, don’t let it get to you.” He kept his voice low, so no one else would hear him.
“Gotcha,” she said, planting her best guest of honor smile on her face and pushing past him.
She’d barely gone a few feet when a woman she assumed was Luann, since she knew everyone else there, handed her a flute of champagne. “Congratulations, you two. You may not have brought home the trophy, but you’re champions as far as we’re all concerned.”
“Hear, hear,” Trip said, holding his glass in the air.
Kat shouldered her way past Luann to hug Micki. “We are so proud of you.”
Syd and Marianne joined her. “You hung in there through all these weeks of practice and performed brilliantly,” Syd told her.
“And that costume,” Marianne added. “You looked beautiful.”
“Thanks, guys.” She pulled out of their embrace and addressed Luann. “We haven’t met yet, but the house looks great. I’m Micki, although I’m sure you know that.”
Luann stuck out her hand. “Oh, I know that quite well. And I’m Luann. It’s so good to meet you finally.”
Finally? How long had Guy been talking about her?
“I second what Micki said,” Guy told his daughter, hugging her. “You didn’t need to go all out like this, but we appreciate it.”
“It was the least I could do, Dad. Besides the dance contest, we have a lot to celebrate tonight.”
Though Micki heard Luann’s words, Trip and Beau approached her with their own bear hugs.
“You slipped in without my hearing you,” Portia Whitney, Guy’s sister, said, emerging from the kitchen. “Trust the oven timer to go off at the wrong moment. The food is almost ready. I’m glad Luann handled the champagne.”
“Those aromas coming from the dining room smell fantastic,” Guy said.
“Then let’s party,” Luann replied as she herded the group from the front door to the dining room.
Though she’d hardly eaten all day, Micki didn’t fill her plate. She satisfied her appetite with one deviled egg, a few stalks of celery, and a mini quiche. Something wasn’t washing, but she had no idea what. Maybe she was just coming down from the last several weeks of torture.
Once everyone had made their first trip around the dining room table grazing all the goodies Portia had supplied, Luann approached her again. “I’m sorry we haven’t met before now. I’ve been buried in work at my job in Nashville until recently. Although Dad’s been widowed for several years, you’re the first woman he’s shown more than passing interest in.”
That was news. Not surprising because it explained some of his neediness. “Your dad is a good man. I never would’ve competed tonight if he hadn’t been so intent on being in it.”
“But you’re more than dance partners, right?” Wink, wink.
What was she getting at? “He’s been my escort a few times.”
“He’s clearly indebted to you and your friends for clearing Aunt Portia’s name when her partner was killed.”
“I didn’t know he’d shared that with you.”
“Oh, yes. He said he’s helped solve a couple other murders after that. Maybe not the safest way to spend his retirement years, but he seems to have come alive once he met you.”
What had Guy told her? “Thank you, but your father and I …”
“Micki? Sorry to interrupt,” Kat said. “Rick had to leave. He asked me to apologize for having to take off before he was able to congratulate you and Guy on your performance.”
“I’m sorry, too, but I’m glad he could be there for the contest. Did he share why he had to leave?”
Kat bit a lip and glanced at Luann, who picked up on the cue immediately and excused herself.
“I guess it’s okay to tell you. You’ll know soon enough. But you’ve got to promise me you’ll stay here and enjoy your party. We’ll figure out what to do next tomorrow.”
Kat was being very mysterious. Something told Micki she wasn’t going to like this news. Nonetheless, she wanted to know now. “Kat! What aren’t you telling me?”
“The hotel staff found a body in the ballroom. It was Nedra Perkins.”
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