Delicious Torment

By: Linsey Lanier

A Miranda’s Rights Mystery Book II

Chapter One

“Did you see that move?” Miranda Steele gritted her teeth as she watched a masculine hand slide up a shapely thigh under a calico sundress a few tables away.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Parker pretended to study his Dom Pérignon. “Were you able to capture it?”

“Every disgusting slither.” She grinned with satisfaction, adjusted the broad brim of her flouncy silk hat, and murmured under her breath. “Thanks to this fancy equipment, courtesy of the Parker Agency.”

Tucked under the crown of her hat was a state-of-the-art mini-camcorder, so light she barely felt it. The camcorder was surreptitiously attached to a viewer hidden in her sunglasses. A very cool surveillance toy.

It gave Miranda a thrill to be sitting here with her sexy boss, ace investigator Wade Parker, CEO of the ultra-successful Parker Agency, at the ritzy Northwinds Steeplechase outside of Atlanta, acting as if they were just having drinks at an outdoor pavilion. With its linen-covered tables, its view of the rolling green fields, the Vivaldi wafting from concealed speakers, no one would imagine they were really gathering evidence on a couple of brazen cheaters.

“Have one.” Parker nudged a china saucer of appetizers toward her. Peppers laced with chipotle and wrapped in jalapeno bacon.

“Don’t mind if I do.” She picked one up by its miniature skewer and popped it in her mouth. It burned, but nothing she couldn’t handle. “Bland,” she shrugged.

Parker chuckled. Ever since she’d challenged him to a pepper-eating contest at a local restaurant, he’d been testing her endurance. “I’m pleased at how quickly you’ve picked up the feel of the equipment.” He sat back and sipped from his glass, peering at the lovebirds across the way. “Excellent work, so far.” His low Southern murmur was as smooth as Jim Beam and juleps.

Involuntarily, the corner of Miranda’s lip turned up. “Thanks.” She’d never had a real career before and she liked detective work. She was glad Parker had asked her to work this case, even though it was partly an excuse to be with her.

“What’s the first rule of covert surveillance?” he said so softly, she barely heard him.

That was a quick one-eighty. “Don’t get made,” she whispered. “So?”

“So why are you so tense?”

“I’m not tense,” she hissed through her teeth.

“My mistake,” he said dryly and set down his glass.

Watching the bubbles rise in the amber liquid, she exhaled and rotated her shoulders, even picked up her drink and took a sip. Maybe she was too tense. She really wanted to nail this guy.

“That’s better,” Parker smiled. Then he nodded casually to an acquaintance passing by their table.

Easy for him to say. Ease and charm came naturally to the cagey investigator. Especially earlier this morning, when they’d had to make polite conversation with the women of his social circle while they’d trailed their frisky targets all over the steeplechase grounds. Women who thought Miranda’s presence here with Parker proved she belonged to the species goldus diggerous. But at least she hadn’t gotten as many cold stares as she once had from the horsey set.

Could be the front-page news coverage of the murder case she’d just solved, where she’d saved a young girl’s life. A battle with a monster that left her cold and numb—and with twenty-five stitches across her chest.

A half-groan, half-giggle came from the woman in the calico sundress. The man just about drooled over himself as he draped an arm across the back of her chair.

“Smile for the birdie.” Miranda narrowed her eyes at the frisky subjects. These two belonged to the “horsing around” set.

The man was Anthony Lloyd Witherspoon. Young, clean-cut, dressed in an expensive beige suit. An upwardly mobile banker type from CK&G. The woman, tanned and carefree, with long, dark blond hair, was Farrah Simmons, a local well-to-do with connections to the steeplechase. Her stylish hat, like Miranda’s, was in deference to the Ladies’ Hat Contest, something of a ritual at equine events, Parker had explained.

Miranda caught the insignia on the woman’s tote bag. “Canterbury Stables is Simmons’s horse farm, right?” She remembered that from the file.