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Monday, July 10, 2017

Bikinis & Bloodshed by Anne Marie Stoddard Excerpt & Giveaway!

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Anne Marie Stoddard is joining us on the blog today to celebrate the release of her latest cozy mystery, Bikinis & Bloodshed, available for pre-order now and released for Kindle on July 11th!  Anne Marie is offering up a $15 Starbucks e-gift card to one lucky Must Read Mysteries reader.  Sounds like a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon...a delicious iced coffee and a great read!  

Update: Congratulations to our winner, Lisa Brown!  Thanks everyone for reading, liking, and sharing!

Comment below for a chance to win. Share this post and let us know for a second entry. The winner will be chosen by random number generator on Friday, July 14th.


by Anne Marie Stoddard

After a quick shower, I dressed for my first day as the Happy Hula Dress Boutique's store manager. I shimmied into the new tunic that I'd bought from the shop the day before. Then I applied a fresh coat of makeup and straightened my hair, carefully clipping it back so that Rikki's spare helmet wouldn't ruin it on the ride to work. Last, I slipped into my new gold sandals and completed the outfit with new gold teardrop earrings and an Alex and Ani bangle bracelet with a pineapple charm. I stepped back and admired my reflection. CuteCheck. Professional? Totally. I grinned into the mirror. Let's do this.

Rikki was waiting for me in the kitchen with a steaming cup of Kona brew. "Looking good, sweetie," she said. She pushed the Styrofoam coffee cup and a brown paper bag toward me from across the kitchen table. "I brought you breakfast. I jogged over to the Blue Manu Coffee House while you were in the shower."

My mouth watered as I inhaled the rich aroma of the hot drink. "Thanks." I gripped the to-go cup and brought it to my lips. Mmm. It was heaven. Opening the brown sack, I found a fresh macadamia nut muffin inside. I quickly polished it off before following Rikki out to the driveway. I grudgingly strapped on the helmet and climbed onto the back of the Vespa. I'd have to get a car of my own—hopefully sooner than later. If I sold my wedding band and engagement ring, I was sure I could afford a down payment on something reasonable. Anything but a Vespa, I thought, flinching as we shot down the street on the little scooter.

A short drive later, we parked in the employee lot of the Aloha Lagoon Resort. When Rikki removed her helmet, I saw that she was frowning. "Louana's car is here." She gestured to a green Corolla a few spaces over. My aunt chewed her lip. "She stormed out without returning her shop key yesterday. I hope she's not here to stir up more trouble."

My gut tightened as I stared at the little green sedanIt would be just my luck that the angry woman would show up to cause another scene before I could even clock in for my first shift.

As Rikki had suspected, the front door to Happy Hula was already unlocked when we arrived. She cautiously pushed it open, and we both peered inside. The shop was empty. We did a quick search of the sales floor, and then Rikki checked the cash register. Thankfully, nothing seemed out of place.

My aunt blew out a breath. "I was half expecting to find the place ransacked," she admitted, sounding relieved.

“Maybe Louana went to one of the bars on the resort last night," I suggested. "She might have been too toasted to drive and decided to call a cab.”

“It's possible," Rikki said, but she didn't sound convinced. "If that were the case though, why would the shop be unlocked? You, Sara, and Harmony were all with me when I locked it last night." She stared at the shop door for a few moments, a frown wrinkling her forehead. "I'm going to pay a visit to Summer at the front desk in the lobby. I'm pretty sure she's got the number for the locksmith that the resort uses. It couldn't hurt to change the store locks, just in case.”

“Good idea," I agreed. "Is there anything I can do while you're gone?”

Rikki gestured to the wastebasket behind the counter. "If you wouldn't mind collecting all of the trash from the bins around the store, that'd be great. There are bags in the supply closet beside my office. Once you've emptied all the bins, you can carry the bag out to the dumpster behind the store. I'll be back in a few minutes," she called over her shoulder as she started for the door.

I made my way to the supply closet and retrieved one of the large trash bags. The shop's wastebaskets were located behind the register, in both dressing rooms and bathrooms, in Rikki's office, and in the storage room. I emptied the contents of each bin and then tied the large trash bag closed before heading toward the store's back exit.

The rear door to the boutique was located through the stockroom and opened to a small alley behind the row of courtyard shops. I carried the bags into the alley, wrinkling my nose as the sour odor of garbage hit me full in the face. I held my breath against the stench emanating from the trash bin and walked toward it as fast as my sandals could carry me. After heaving the bag into the dumpster, I dusted off my hands and turned to hurry back inside.
Something glittering in the sunlight caught my eye, and I spun on my heel, curiosity drawing my attention downward. A sparkly green blouse lay on the ground near the corner of the dumpster. Frowning, I took a step toward it. I recognized the top from one of the racks near the front of Happy Hula's sales floor. Lying several feet away was another garment: a pair of red and white striped bikini bottoms.

I crinkled my nose as another wave of the putrid scent of garbage lifted past my nostrils. Holding my breath, I moved toward the clothing, halting when I spied a woman's flip-flop on the ground. It was black with silver rhinestones on the strap. Something about seeing the lone shoe without its owner gave me the creeps. A finger of dread tickled my spine, and I shivered despite the warmth of the June morning. I shook off the weird feeling and stepped around the corner of the dumpster to collect the blouse and bikini.

A light blue Happy Hula shopping bag was overturned on the ground next to the garbage bin. Several other dresses and sarongs were scattered about, littering the alley. My back stiffened. Who would throw away all these clothes?

I stooped to retrieve the sparkly green blouse, pinching it between my thumb and forefinger as I lifted it. I immediately dropped the shirt back to the ground. The other black flip-flop was beneath it. The shoe itself didn't startle me—it was the fact that it was still attached to a foot that sent me scuttling back a few steps. Alarm bells went off in my head as my gaze traveled the length of a woman's bare calf and then up toward the side of the dumpster. A horrified scream clawed its way out of my throat.

Louana Watson's lifeless body was slumped against the garbage bin, a hot pink bikini top wrapped tightly around her throat.

About the Author

Anne Marie Stoddard is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author, iBooks Bestseller, Amazon Mover & Shaker, and Amazon Top 100 Author. She writes supernatural thrillers and cozy mysteries with an edge, many of which are based on her experience working in radio and at music festivals across the U.S.

Aside from writing, Anne Marie loves her dog (Bowie), college football, hula hoops, music, coffee, and anything pumpkin-flavored.





25 comments:

  1. Love the cover and it sounds great; thanks for the chance :)
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

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    1. Just put the book on my "to buy" list. Can't wait to read it!
      Sheila Siarkiewicz

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  2. shared https://www.facebook.com/lisa.brown.50364592/posts/10211461552487096
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

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  3. I was lucky enough to read a pre press copy of this book and loved it!

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  4. Preordered and looking forward to reading! Thankyou for the opportunity. minishoes(at)msn(dot)com

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. This was an awesome read!! So glad I got a arc copy!

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  7. Sounds like a great by-the-pool read for this recent retiree! Thanks for the opportunity to read a new-to-me author.

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  8. I love this series having read & reviewed others and can''t wait for your version to come out...the storyline is very intriguing.
    kat8762(at)aol(dot)com

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  9. Shared on Facebook. Enjoyed the excerpt of the book and I'm looking forward to reading it. Sounds like a great summer read.

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  10. Looking forward to the whole read!

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  11. I have read and enjoyed all of your other books, so I am definitely going to dive into this new one! (Shared on Facebook)

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  12. Looks so good! Thanks so much for the chance to win!!!

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  13. Sounds like a great book! parkeremma2003 at yahoo dot com

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  14. What a wonderful opportunity! Thanks so much! Cbalevrern at gmail dot com... Thank you! Cindy

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  15. amy guillaume lindermanJuly 14, 2017 at 6:09 PM

    looks like a great beach read with an iced coffee!

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  16. Thanks you! I can't wait to go have a coffee :)

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