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Sue Hollowell Books

Crocuses and Corpses (EBOOK)

Crocuses and Corpses (EBOOK)

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EBOOK. Crocuses and Corpses is BOOK #5 in the Treehouse Hotel Mysteries series.

Drama on the high seas, a shyster in disguise, and a serenading casanova...

Chloe and Max are looking forward to a relaxing cruise before the treehouse hotel busy season begins. But after a trip to the ship’s hair salon with her mom, Chloe quickly finds herself mired in a mysterious murder.

Luke’s sweet-talkin’ of the ladies, and his one-of-a-kind hair styles earned him huge tips and the adoration of his clients. But Chloe and Max quickly discover that Luke’s carefully coiffed hair and charming chatter were a facade for lies that ran deep.

As Chloe and Max navigate the festive, fun-loving cruise, they uncover deceit, jealousy and diabolical schemes that threaten the hotel and her mom’s future. Can they crack the clues to Luke’s demise before the murderer sinks their vacation plans?

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The blue- and teal-patterned carpet stretched on for what looked like miles down the hallway of the cruise ship. Mom, Max, and I navigated the hordes of families and their dogs as we searched for room 6329. This trip was already one of the highlights of Max’s life. He insisted on stopping at each pup we encountered to greet his new friend. Between that and lugging the extra two suitcases Mom insisted on bringing (certain she would leave something crucial behind and be forced to spend money on the ship) we would never reach our destination.

“Chloe, I think we’re getting close.” Mom was giddy with excitement. She turned and hugged me tight before continuing our trek. Her attitude was now a complete one-eighty from the time we sat in the travel agent’s office trying to get her to choose a destination. That woman was stubborn. But once something became her idea, she was all in.

With sweat beading on my forehead I spotted the door to our room. Walking on the ship would be good for improving my fitness. Winter at home meant more hibernating than usual.

Mom practically danced in place as I opened the door. Max sped inside to inspect our quarters for the next week. Mom and I would share a bed, and Max had his own on the floor. He plopped into it and rested his chin on the side, his tongue out, as winded as I was. Mom dropped her things on the bed and went to look outside.

She turned to me, a bit choked up. “Chloe, this is so beautiful. Thank you for making me do this after all.” She turned her gaze back to the window.

My heart warmed. This was the first vacation I ever remembered Mom taking. Given that she was in her eighth decade of life, she may not have many more to enjoy. And she more than deserved this treat. My next mission was to get her to enjoy some of the activities.

“Why don’t we unpack and rest up a bit? Then we can figure out what we want to do next.” I dropped into a chair and pulled out the folder with all of the brochures from our travel agent. I thumbed through the endless number of options to keep us busy during our time.

“Not too long, though. I want to get going.” This cruise had become the fountain of youth for Mom. I had a feeling it was going to age me by another ten years. She unzipped her bags and loaded her clothes into the drawers and closet. “I know I definitely want to see Cats. They just don’t have those big city things where we live.”

I continued perusing the activities. “They’ve got karaoke nights. That sounds fun.”

She snapped her head my direction. “Oh, not for me. But you can do that. I never want to be the center of attention.”

Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. She was the eye of the gossip storm back home. But no matter. Maybe I would try karaoke and stretch my own comfort zone a bit on this adventure.

With all of her things put away, Mom joined me. “Whew.”

Max stood and looked back and forth between Mom and me. Apparently, he had rested enough and was ready to roll. I patted his head. “All in due time, my boy.” He lay down.

Mom gestured toward Max and chuckled. “I’m with you Max. There’s so much to do. I don’t want to waste a minute.”

Mom reached her hand over and took hold of mine. “This last year has been so trying. I can’t tell you how happy it made me that you decided to return to Cedarbrook and help me run the treehouse hotel.”

I squeezed her hand. Max got up and placed a paw on our hands too. “Max and I are thrilled we could help and be part of the hotel expansion.”

“Oh, yes.” She sniffed. “We better rest up on this trip. With the hotel completely booked with conventions and retreats, we’ll be busier than ever when we get home.”

Max barked. We both laughed. “Agreed. Let’s get some dinner and call it an early night. You have that hair appointment tomorrow before sunrise. Why so early?”

She dismissively waved her arm. “It was the only time available. This guy is booked solid.”

I got up to unpack mine and Max’s things. I wanted this trip to be everything for Mom and a memory she would treasure forever.


This time of day called for the biggest coffee I could get. I tightly gripped my cup in one hand and Max’s leash in the other as we entered the bright and quiet hair salon. Poised behind the check-in counter was a man with wavy hair moussed up in spikes. His warm smile greeted Mom.

“Hello. You must be Mabel.” He put an arm around Mom and led her to his chair. Over his shoulder, he said, “I’m Luke. And you are?”

Max and I moved to the waiting area and took a seat. “I’m Chloe, Mabel’s daughter. And this is Max.” I tilted my head toward Max as if he couldn’t figure it out.

Max sat so close to me, I could feel his pulse and the rumble of his growl. He was not happy about something here. I couldn’t imagine it was Luke, who seemed very personable.

Mom sank into the luxurious styling chair as she and Luke began their chat. He fawned all over her, no doubt trying to increase his tip.

“So, Mabel, tell me. What do you do back home?” Luke darted around the chair, snipping Mom’s hair. He moved so quickly, I hoped he didn’t accidentally stab her. That was all we needed to start our trip.

Mom loved the attention, despite her assertion to the contrary. “Well, Chloe and I own a treehouse hotel.”

Luke stopped in his tracks and looked back and forth between Mom and me. “Get out! You mean, like people stay in real treehouses?” He resumed snipping.

Mom sat a little taller in the chair and beamed. “Yes. We just finished a big expansion, and we’re now booked for months with conventions and retreats.”

“Well, that’s just wonderful,” Luke said. “Say, Mabel. I have a friend that I think you would really hit it off with. If you’re OK with it, I’ll introduce you two later.” He locked eyes with Mom in the mirror.

Mom wiggled in her seat. “Why, yes. That would be lovely.”

Max gave another low-level growl, protecting Mom. I reached over and laid my hand on his back. He looked up, eyes wide, and shook his head. This environment was all so new to him, he was being overly cautious.

Mom popped out of the chair and touched her hair, preening in the mirror. “Luke, you are a genius with those tools. Thank you.”

Luke met Mom at the check-out counter. “Oh, Mabel. You’re too kind. I hope to see you again soon.”

Max and I joined Mom as she sped from the salon, energy bursting. “Whoa, slow down.” Not something I usually said to her.

She stopped and waited. “He was just so nice.” She looked me up and down. “You could stand to have an appointment too. Before we leave, let’s get you in there so you look good for Paul when we get home.”

Mom had been angling for months for Paul and me to go on a date. With his construction team finished at the hotel, and our business relationship complete, I relented. He was a handsome and very nice man. She was right. I missed having love in my life. She attempted to accelerate the process, but I was content to take my time to see where it went. The rest of the guests on the ship were now waking up, the hallways busier than an hour ago.

“Let’s head back to our room and plan our day,” I said.

Without a word, she rushed toward the elevator. What a great start to our trip.

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