Say Yes to the Death, the latest novel in the Debutante Dropout Mystery series by Susan McBride, is out today from Witness! Say Yes to the Death has high-society dropout Andrea Kendricks thrust back into things when her mom drags her to a fancy wedding. A wedding where, of course, somebody dies. And that's just the beginning!
Prologue, Say Yes to the Death, by Susan McBride
Millicent Draper yawned and nudged her owl-like glasses back up the bridge of her nose, leaving a smudge of ivory fondant on the tortoiseshell frames. Her plastic-gloved fingers were smeared with the stuff. Her knuckles felt stiff, and she could barely keep her eyes open. She’d worked through the night on a wedding cake for Senator Vernon Ryan’s daughter, Penny, and she hadn’t slept a wink.
Olivia La Belle, the bride’s wedding planner, had phoned at six o’clock the night before— just as Millie was closing up shop— demanding an early delivery. “Sorry, Millie, but the ceremony’s been pushed up a wee bit,” Olivia had said in a honey-sweet twang that implied softness when Olivia was anything but.
Four whole months was “a wee bit”? Millie thought with a groan.
“We must have the cake by three o’clock tomorrow sharp,” Olivia had insisted, her sugared drawl turning hard. “The ceremony’s at five with a sit-down dinner reception to follow. If you don’t get this done, it will make me very unhappy. Do you understand what I’m sayin’, sugar?”
Oh, yeah, sugar, Millie understood. Ticking off Big D’s premier event planner was a big no-no. Olivia might as well have said, “If you don’t get this done, you’re as good as dead in this town.” Ever since Olivia had done weddings for an Oscar winner and the spawn of a former president, her head had blown up as big as Texas. She’d become society’s go-to girl and, not only for Dallas royalty, but honest-to-God foreign royalty and Hollywood’s A-List. She’d even finagled her own reality TV show on a cheesy cable network and used it to promote herself and to punish those who displeased her. Anyone who dared defy The Wedding Belle risked hanging a “Going Out of Business” sign on the front door.
Millie had seen it happen most recently to Jasper Pippin, a floral designer in Big D for decades. Fed up with Olivia’s lies and demands, he’d finally drawn a line in the sand. “She lied her tight little ass off and said the tulips I had flown in from Amsterdam for the mayor’s wife’s birthday were wilted,” Jasper had told Millie, moaning. “She threatened a drubbing on her TV show if I didn’t eat the cost. I’m going to lose my shirt if she keeps pulling these dirty tricks.”
“What will you do?” Millie asked him.
Jasper had drawn in a deep breath and said, “I’m going to let her have it. I am not going to give in.”
So the always civil Jasper had finally squared his thin shoulders and stood up to Olivia, sure that other vendors who’d been jerked around would follow suit. Only no one dared, and Olivia had bad-mouthed him on her reality show. His orders dried up one by one until Jasper had to shutter his doors, claiming early retirement, though Millie knew better. He’d withdrawn, refusing to return her calls. She had no clue what he was up to, but she knew he wouldn’t give up so easily. Millie hoped he would rise like the phoenix and stick it to Olivia somehow.
That evil woman had her French-manicured fingers in so many pies around Dallas that everyone who worked with her was scared to death. Even Olivia’s current assistant seemed skittish, and with good reason since the job seemed to involve a revolving door. The gangly twenty-something, Terra, followed her everywhere, taking notes. She never seemed to say anything but “Yes, Olivia” and “Of course, Olivia,” like a well-trained parrot.
Millie wished she’d had the gumption to tell Olivia that she could take this impossible cake deadline and stuff it, but she couldn’t risk losing everything she’d worked so hard for. She’d started Millie’s Cakes in her own kitchen thirty-five years ago and had built her impressive client list from scratch. She wasn’t ready to give it all up because she’d ticked off the very fickle Ms. La Belle. Unlike Jasper, she had no intention of being forced into early retirement.
Millie swallowed, glancing at the clock on the wall. With a noisy tick-tick, its hands crept toward seven.
She only had eight hours left and still had to attach the two hundred handmade sugar orchids she’d painted a delicate shade of purple. Her feet ached from standing, and her arthritis was acting up so badly that her fingers felt like unbendable sticks. If the shop wasn’t so busy, she would have turned the whole shebang over to her staff, but they had other orders to fill, cakes that had been on the docket for months and were equally important.
No, this monkey was squarely on her back.
If she blew this job for Senator Ryan’s daughter, it would be on her head, no one else’s. She tried to convince herself that she couldn’t blame the bumped-up time frame entirely on Olivia. It was Penelope Ryan who was truly at fault.
“Silly girl got herself knocked up,” Millie muttered, having heard the gossip that the bride’s belly had begun to pop and that the senator— a button-down conservative if ever there was one— wanted his daughter legally wed ASAP. He couldn’t afford to have the nineteen-year-old college sophomore he’d painted as pure as the driven snow during his campaign get photographed walking down the aisle in a maternity gown.
“You can put her in a big white dress and marry her off but that doesn’t change anything,” Millie murmured, and she pushed at her glasses again.
Was the senator going to pull one of those “the baby came prematurely” routines when his grandchild popped out in another five months or so? People didn’t seem to have a whole lot of sense these days, but most of them could count, so long as they had enough fingers and toes.
Ah, well, Millie mused, there would always be brides who got knocked up before their vows. There would always be disappointed fathers who wanted to pretend their darling daughters stayed virginal until their honeymoons. And there would always be bitches like Olivia La Belle behind the scenes, wielding a phone in one hand and cracking a whip with the other, either telling everyone off or telling them or telling them what to do.
Millie sighed. “Enjoy your moment while it lasts, Queen Olivia, because it won’t be forever,” she whispered, thinking of Marie Antoinette and her date with the guillotine. “As for me, I will let them eat cake,” she added, knowing that Olivia would get her comeuppance one of these days. Women like her always did. She just hoped she’d be around when it happened. Heck, she’d pay good money for a front row seat.
But for now Millie blinked her bleary eyes and tried to keep her hand from shaking as she delicately affixed the edible orchids to the seven-layered concoction she’d created overnight.
She would get this damned cake done or die trying.
Excerpted from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride. Copyright 2015 by Susan McBride. Published by Witness, an imprint of HarperCollins. Reprinted with permission.
Say Yes to the Death
A Debutante Dropout Mystery
Witness, September 29, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
Someone old, someone cruel
Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos—so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of déjà vu. As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who's graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show. But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia's fate: lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat—but did the angry baker do it?
Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie's Cakes, swears she's innocent, and Andy believes her. Unfortunately, the cops don't. Though Andy's fiancé, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie's case, she's determined to spring Millie herself. But where to start? "La Belle from Hell" had enemies galore. Good thing Andy has a BFF who's a reporter— and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood, the first of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. The award-winning series includes The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, and Too Pretty to Die. She's also the author of The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, all Target Recommended Reads. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at her website or on Facebook.