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Rose Gardner Investigations E-book Box Set #1

Rose Gardner Investigations E-book Box Set #1

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I could see my dog Muffy in the window jumping up on the glass in her excitement. She weighed about eight pounds, but that didn’t stop her from trying to break through. I hated leaving her alone out at my farm, so I brought her to work most days and even to job sites. Neely Kate and Bruce Wayne had dubbed Muffy RBW Landscaping’s mascot, and lately, Neely Kate had taken to shopping for dog costumes online. Muffy was wearing one now—something that made her look like she’d been attacked by a giant white daisy. That alone could have been the reason she looked so frantic. Or maybe she was freaked out by the storm, the reason I’d left her behind.
But one look inside the window revealed the real source of her distress.
“Neely Kate, I thought you fired Marci.”
“What are you talkin’ about?” she asked, digging in her purse. “I did.”
“Then what is she doing in our office?”
“What?” Neely Kate screeched, leaning forward to peer inside the windows. “I fired her. You heard me.”
“Well, she’s in there now. Let’s go find out why,” I said as I hopped out of the truck.
Neely Kate followed me. I opened the previously locked office door, and Neely Kate slammed into my back when I came to an abrupt halt.
Muffy stood on her back legs, and her front paws scratched frantically at my legs.
I gasped as I bent down to scoop her up. “What in the Sam Hill . . .”
Files and papers were scattered everywhere—the floors, the chairs, and the desks. Not one inch had been left uncovered. And in the middle of the chaos stood a woman with long blonde hair, cut-off jean shorts, and a lavender-colored tank top.
She spun around to face us, and a frown tugged on her lips. “You just ruined the surprise.”
“That a tornado came through?” I asked in dismay.
She laughed. “Don’t be silly, Rowena. I’m redoing your filing system.”
“But Neely Kate fired you,” I said.
She waved her hand and rolled her eyes. “She was always such a kidder.”
“I wasn’t kidding!” Neely Kate’s voice rose as she stepped around me. Her foot slipped on a folder, and I grabbed her arm to keep her from falling on her booty. “What else did you do?” Neely Kate asked.
Marci put a hand on her hips and gave us an impressive pout. “I was only trying to help.”
“I told you that you are not auditioning for Plant or Die!”
Marci lifted her chin and gave Neely Kate a defiant look. “That wasn’t it. It was something else entirely.”
“What was it?”
“It’s something you love to do anyway,” Marci said with attitude. “You’ve said so a million times.”
Neely Kate crossed her arms. “What TV show did you think you were on this time?”
“Not me,” she said. “You.” Then she pointed to me. “And Rowena.”
“Her name is Rose!” Neely Kate shouted. “Who doesn’t get their own boss’s name right?”
“Are you sure it’s Rose?” Marci asked, giving me the once-over.
“Yeah,” Neely Kate said. “I think I’d know since she’s my best friend. Now, what did you promise?”
“That poor man needed help. He was desperate.”
“What man?” Neely Kate asked.
“Radcliffe Dyer. His grandmother’s jewelry is missing.”
A shiver ran down my spine, but Neely Kate perked up. “Why did he come by here?”
“He heard that you and Rowena were good at finding things.”
“Rose,” I said with a sigh.
Marci shook her head. “He’s not looking for roses. It was jewelry.”
Tipping her head back, Neely Kate released a loud groan. “What did he say, Marci?”
“He said, ‘I need to talk to the two girls who work here,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re lookin’ at one of ’em.’”
I gave Neely Kate an exasperated look. Had we really let this girl represent our business for ten hours?
“Why did he want the two girls who worked here?” Neely Kate asked.
“He said,”—Marci’s voice lowered into a deep bass—“‘I need them girls to find my grandmammie’s jewelry for me. My ex-wife has something to do with ’em going missing, and I want to get to the bottom of it.’”
Neely Kate put a hand on her hip again and waited. When Marci didn’t continue, she asked, “What else did he say?”
“He said,”—she lowered her voice again—“‘Sorry to hear about your yellow dress. When do you think they’ll be back?’”
Neely Kate turned back to me. “She obviously left out what she said to him, but I’m scared to ask what it was.”
Neely Kate turned back to her. “What did he say when you told him when we’d be back?”
“Oh, I told him I had no idea when that would be. So he gave me his number . . .” She spun in a circle, scanning the room. “Now where did I put it . . . ?”
“Never mind,” Neely Kate said. “I know where to find Raddy. Now tell me why all those files are spread everywhere.”
“Oh!” Marci said, clapping her hands. “I was reorganizing your filing system.”
“By spreading them out on every horizontal surface?” Neely Kate demanded.
“I just set out the files,” she said defensively, then waved to Muffy. “That overgrown daisy was the one to mess ’em all up.”
Muffy let out a low growl. I stroked her head to quiet her.
Neely Kate shook her head. “You were fired, Marci. Fired. I fired you yesterday. Now get your purse and get out of here. Now!”
Marci looked offended. “Does that mean I’m not getting my thirty-five hundred dollars?”
“You’ll be damn lucky to get the seventy dollars we owe you for yesterday.” When Marci started to protest, Neely Kate held up her hand. “And if you think we’re paying you for creatin’ this mess today, you’re plum crazy. Now get out of here!”
Marci grabbed her purse and marched the walk of shame to the front door, nearly slipping a couple of times. When she passed us, she held up her head and kept her eyes on the door like she was Anne Boleyn marching to her beheading.
When the door closed, Neely Kate said, “Rose . . . I had no idea.”
Looking at the mess made me exhausted, and we hadn’t even started to clean it up yet. “We don’t have time to pick this up, but we can’t leave it like this either.” I set Muffy down, then grabbed my phone out of my pocket and called the nursery I co-owned with my sister. Violet was in Texas, recovering from her bone marrow transplant, but we’d found the perfect person to fill in until she came back. Maeve Deveraux answered on the third ring.
“Gardner Sisters Nursery, Maeve speaking. How can I help you?”
Hearing her cheery voice helped ease some of the tension in my back. “Maeve, I was wondering if I could borrow Anna for a bit. Are you too busy to turn her loose?”
“Of course I can spare her, Rose. But she’s really not dressed to be digging.”
“I actually need her in the office.” Then I filled her in on the details.
“Oh, dear. I’ll send her over right away.” Then she paused and lowered her voice. “I haven’t talked to you in over a week. How are you doing?”
“I’m great. Good.” And I was. Mostly. My ex-boyfriend Mason—Maeve’s son—and I had broken up four months ago, and he’d moved back to Little Rock. My heart had been broken, but I’d moved on. Mostly. Even if I still refused to consider dating anyone, much to Neely Kate’s dismay. “How about you?”
It was no secret Maeve had moved from Little Rock to tiny Henryetta to be closer to her only living child. She’d been lonely and eager to feel wanted and needed again. But she’d found a place for herself here, and despite Mason’s decision to leave, she’d stayed. Still, I knew she missed her son something fierce. I’d kept my distance, mostly out of guilt. I couldn’t help wondering if she secretly blamed me for him leaving.
“Good. I’m excited about Violet coming back.” But I heard the wistful tone in her voice.
While we’d only intended for her position to be temporary, she’d been working full-time for the past four months and seemed to love every minute of it. “You know, Violet won’t be back to one hundred percent,” I said. “It occurs to me that we’ll still need help. Would you be willing to stay on part-time?”
“Of course. I’d love to.”
It warmed my heart to make her happy. Maeve had been like the mother I’d always wanted. I missed her. “Well, then that’s settled. You’re an official permanent employee at Gardner Sisters Nursery.”
“I’ll send Anna right over. And Rose . . . thank you.”
“No, thank you. I have no idea what we would have done without you these last four months.” I hung up and stuffed my phone back into my pocket. “Anna’s on her way.”
“Well, now that this is taken care of . . .” Neely Kate said, brushing off her hands. “Let’s go talk to Raddy Dyer.”
I held up my hand, blocking the exit. “Hold up. We’re not going anywhere just yet.”
“But Anna’s coming to clean up, which means we can go.”
I narrowed my eyes.
“I’m really sorry about Marci,” Neely Kate said with a sigh.
“Everyone deserves a chance. I’m sorry if you’re in trouble with your aunt for firing her.” It was hard to hold this against my best friend. I’d met her aunt. I probably would have hired Marci too.
She waved it off. “I might get stuck with the burnt ends of Aunt Jackie’s raccoon roast next Christmas, but I’ll manage.”
I almost blurted out, Raccoon roast? But I wisely kept my mouth shut. Neely Kate’s family was one of a kind.
She shuffled her feet and shifted her weight before giving me a hopeful look. “I checked the weather on my phone, and it looks like the rain won’t clear off until this afternoon . . . which means we have some time to talk to Raddy Dyer.”
And there it was.
I sighed. “Neely Kate—”
“Now, before you say no, let me plead my case.”
“Funny choice of words,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. “I’m listening.”
Excitement filled her eyes. “You and I have solved cases before—”
I started to protest, but she held up her hand.
“—let me finish.”
“I know we accidentally stumbled into some bigger things last fall and winter, but we got out of all of them, right?”
Stumbled into some bigger things was an understatement. Our last off-the-books investigation had landed us in the web of J.R. Simmons, a man of wealth and prestige who’d considered himself above the law. For a long time, he had been. He’d gotten away with murder—literally—because he’d had the connections, money, and deviousness to cover his tracks. I had banded together with James Malcolm, the king of the Fenton County underworld, to bring J.R. down, and Neely Kate hadn’t hesitated to join us. J.R. was dead now—destroyed by his own evil doings rather than by us—but nothing had gone as planned. People had died; lives had been changed in an instant. After last February, I’d vowed to leave danger behind and live a quiet life.
Only Neely Kate was bound and determined to make me live boldly.
“Neely Kate . . .”
She held up her hands. “You said you’d listen.” When I didn’t answer, she lifted her eyebrows. “Over the last four months, we’ve solved some mysteries that had nothin’ to do with us. Not to mention they were completely harmless.”
“We found a missing garden gnome, a lost dog, and figured out a dispute between two neighbors.” And I couldn’t deny I’d loved every minute of it.
“So why won’t you consider this?” she asked in frustration.
“This is different. From what Marci said, this man thinks his ex-wife is holding his grandmother’s jewelry hostage. It’s not a mystery. It’s a hostage negotiation. You should tell Carter Hale,” I said, referring to our defense attorney friend. “It seems more like a situation for a law shark than for two landscapers.”
“We’re not just two landscapers. We’ve solved mysteries before. You’ve worked with the crime lord of Fenton County, for Pete’s sake. Missing jewelry should be a piece of cake.”
“Neely Kate . . .”
“Let’s just talk to the guy, okay?” she asked, hope filling her eyes. “We can find out what he wants.”
“He wants us to get his jewelry back. His ex-wife has it. Where’s the investigation? Maybe he expects us to beat the jewelry out of her with our shovels.”
“Please?” She gave me a pout; then her eyes widened. “If it makes you feel better, you can have a vision. See how the meeting goes.”
She had to be really desperate to ask me that.
The visions were a birthright I’d spent my life hating, but I’d come to realize they had their uses. Seeing glimpses of the future had helped me save my life—and my friends’ lives—more times than I could count. Still, there were serious downsides. For one thing, I could only see other people’s futures. For another, I always blurted out whatever I’d just seen, which often put me in embarrassing situations. The visions usually happened spontaneously, but I’d learned that if I forced them regularly, I could sidestep the spontaneous ones. Of course, there were risks—sometimes I forced a vision and saw something I immediately wanted to unsee, like the time I’d witnessed Neely Kate’s first foray back into dating. Although I had no idea when the date would happen, or if it already had, she was going to go all in. Blessedly, the vision had ended before I was burdened with details, and the comment that had leaked out of me afterward had been about her black bra rather than anything truly indecent.
Still, I had no desire to put myself through it again.
I groaned. “Fine.” When she started to get excited, I held up my hands. “We’ll talk to him. That’s all. Then you and I will talk about it and decide where to go from there.”
Her head bobbed as she nodded. “Sure. Of course.”
I’d seen that look before. I suspected she’d already texted Raddy Dyer and accepted the case.
My phone began to ring, and I pulled it from my jeans pocket, surprised to see the initials SM—Skeeter Malcolm—on my screen. I shot Neely Kate a glance before I answered.
“James, I haven’t heard from you in a while.” A couple of weeks, to be exact.
“Lady,” he said, his voice tight. “We’ve got a problem.”

A bundle of the first three books from the New York Times bestselling Rose Gardner Investigations series, along with a Neely Kate Mystery. 


Family Jewels: Rose's best friend, Neely Kate, convinces her to become a private investigator, but their first case turns out to be more than they bargained for while trying to find a missing necklace that's not only part of a family dispute but one in the criminal world as well. 

Trailer Trash (Neely Kate Mystery): Neely Kate is still reeling after discovering her father's identity several months ago. Now, her criminally insane half-sister is threatening to expose secrets Neely Kate buried in the past. Literally. When Neely Kate heads to Oklahoma to cover her tracks, the last person she expects to offer to help her is Jed Carlisle, the second in command to the king of the Fenton County crime world. 

For the Birds: Neely Kate convinces Rose to look for a missing parrot for their next case. Only the bird belongs to a missing man, and they think the bird not only witnessed a crime but might also be able to tell them what happened. Rose juggles all of this while dealing with the fact that not only is her secret Lady in Black identity out in the open in the criminal world but now she's seen as a neutral party. Only some of the criminals still hold a grudge. 

Hell in a Handbasket: Rose is dealing with the devastating news about her sister, while taking in a stranger she thinks might have ties to a threat hanging over her head. Skeeter Malcolm is waiting for her answer to his proposition, which makes needing his help to solve a woman's murder even more complicated. 

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