The Hacker Pushes Her Luck (Moonchuckle Bay 6)

By: Heather Horrocks

What Did You Do With The Cat?

AS LYDIA HAMILTON PASSED THE signs welcoming her to Moonchuckle Bay, she glanced at the gas gauge — and groaned. The display said she had only enough gas left for one more mile.

Good luck, don’t fail me now!

She’d lost track of how much gas was left because she was listening to the latest culinary mystery from Diane Mott Davidson featuring Goldy Bear — a heroine who loved to cook almost as much as Lydia did.

She made it down the freeway exit on mere fumes and rolled into the closest station, Phillips 666.

Thanking her lucky stars, Lydia climbed out and stretched, enjoying the warmth of the June sun.

It had been a six-hour drive from Grand Junction, since the only roads into Moonchuckle Bay that were passable by passenger car came out of either Cedar City or St. George, Utah. Since she drove a car, she’d taken the shorter Cedar City route.

She filled her white Honda Civic’s tank, admiring her brand new car as she did so. She’d bought it as a gift to herself when she’d graduated from Johnson and Wales University culinary school in Denver. She was the first in her family to attend culinary school. They’d discouraged her at first, because they figured if you can use magic, why go to school? When they saw how happy it made her, they changed their minds, and now were enthusiastically proud of her — her cousin Calista was even attending now.

“Lydia Hamilton?” a woman’s voice called out.

Lydia turned to see an Amazon striding toward her. Her brunette hair lay loose upon her shoulders and her strong eyebrows emphasized vivid green eyes that seemed cold and calculating. She’d have been pretty — if she hadn’t felt so predatory. Lydia couldn’t read auras, but she definitely got a wary vibe. She wondered why. Surely it wasn’t the woman’s intimidating height. Or her shiny green pantsuit. Or the fact that the irises of her eyes were slightly more football shaped than round. Maybe it was just that no one in town besides Elvis should know her name. “Yes?”

“I’m Jade Monroe.” The woman’s chilly smile didn’t quite reach her eyes as she extended her hand. “I’m so glad to meet you. Elvis asked me to watch for you and take you straight to him. He’s excited to meet his new pastry chef.”

Those words should have relieved Lydia’s wariness, but the woman’s demeanor made her pause. Still, she didn’t want to be rude, so she put out her hand. The woman had a strong grip.

Lydia said, “I have my own car.” Duh. Right here beside me.

“Of course you do.” The woman gave a dismissive wave. “You can just follow me.”

A white panel van pulled up at the pump beside them. Good, because this woman was giving her the creeps. Now there was someone else there in case something happened. A Plumbing Experts employee who, if the logo could be believed, did the job right … guaranteed! It also stated that a flush beats a full house.

Lydia didn’t take her eyes off Jade, but out of the periphery of her vision, she could see a tall man climb out of the van, walk around to the back, and open the back doors.

Jade stepped closer to her. “Elvis hasn’t stopped talking about you since he received your resume. It’s been Lydia this and Lydia that. I can’t tell you how glad we are that you’re finally here.”

Well, that made her feel a little better. “I’ll enjoy working with him.”

It wasn’t every day that a chef got to work with Elvis — the Elvis Presley, who was now living as Elvis Smith. Elvis Sightings, a new restaurant that would be serving all of the King’s favorite dishes — many of which included grape jelly and peanut butter — would be opening in two months. He also wanted to provide first-rate desserts, and that’s where she’d come in.

    Jade was now so close that she was making Lydia uncomfortable. She started to back away from the woman when someone grabbed her from behind and put a big hand over her mouth to stifle her scream. Within mere seconds, she was thrown into the back of the white van. The tall man jumped in and the woman slammed the doors. Trapping Lydia.

No! This isn’t going to happen, she thought.

She kicked at the man, her foot striking his knee, and he swore, punching her in the jaw with his big fist.