Double Fudge & DangerBy: Erin Huss
Cambria Clyne Mysteries book #3
To my beautiful daughter Natalie, who endured many years of apartment tours, move-out inspections, and long office hours. I love you!
A huge thank-you to Gemma Halliday, Susie Halliday, and everyone at Gemma Halliday Publishing. To Jed, Natalie, Noah, Ryder, Emma, and Fisher, you are my motivation in all things. Thank you to my beta readers Ashley Denton, Nicole Laverne, and Blaine Tavish; Cody Christiansen for being my go-to lawyer; Ashley Stock for my author photo; everyone at Cozy Mystery Mingle for your input and support.
I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy while editing this book. The entire process—from diagnosis to surgery—was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I want to thank my readers for your kind thoughts and prayers. They meant everything to me. Thank you to my author tribe, my friends, family, and especially Dr. Leslie Memsic and Dr. Georgeanna Huang for taking great care of me. There's no way I would have had the mental and physical health required to keep writing if I weren't in such great hands.
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We all have fears. You know it. I know it. If monsters are hiding under the bed like my daughter thinks they are, then they know it too. There are the small conquerable fears. For me it's elevators. A tiny box suspended above the ground by thin cables—no thanks. If stairs are available, I will take them. Unless I'm going to the tenth floor. Then I'm able to look fear right in the face and say "Not today, fear" and hyperventilate the entire ride up.
There are the deep-seated emotional fears. For example, Tom, my baby daddy, who has a fear of commitment. Or maybe it's rejection. Or maybe it's failure. Or maybe it's all the above. Whatever the fear, it drives me bonkers.
Then there are the unspeakable fears. A threat to our survival, or worse, a threat to those we love most. The type of fear that ignites the fight or flight within and drives you to make desperate and even deadly decisions.
This is what makes my job interesting.
As an apartment manager, I'm privy to all my residents' freak flags, secrets, and fears. Whether I want to be or not.
Trust me. It's not a job for the delicate, bad-tempered, or anyone prone to panic attacks. It's a job for me…or at least I thought it was until I woke up in the back of an ambulance with a gunshot wound.
Now, I'm not so sure.
It might be time to quit.
—Lessons I've learned since I became an apartment manager:
the term emergency is subjective.
"It's back on!" I ran to the couch with my bowl of ice cream, careful not to knock down the fans strategically placed around my living room. "Everyone, quiet." I unmuted the television, sat beside my daughter, Lilly, and handed her a napkin to wrap around her ice cream cone.
Celebrity Tango, a dance competition pairing sort-of celebrities with hot professional dancers, was on. My best friend, Amy Montgomery, was a sort-of celebrity and had managed to clumsily dance her way into America's hearts. No one, Amy included, anticipated her making it past week one. She lacked rhythm, grace, and popularity. Vegas gave her +2500 odds to win at the beginning of the season. I had no idea what that meant exactly, since I'd never gambled (you kind of need money to bet money), but I'd been told it wasn't good. And now Vegas could shove it, because Amy was on fire!
All that stood between her and the semifinals were a former NFL quarterback, a former soap star, a former boy band member, and an Argentine tango. This had to be celebrated.
And celebrate we did.
If celebrating meant eating ice cream, watching the show on my non-high-def TV with my maintenance man, his wife, my neighbor, and my three-year-old daughter while six fans were going at high speed around us, because it was June and 110 degrees inside my apartment—then, yeah, we were celebrating.
My name is Cambria Clyne, and I'm an on-site apartment manager slash party animal.
I ate a spoonful of double fudge ice cream, crisscrossed my legs, and stared at the television, feeling excited and proud. I already knew the results. The show had taped earlier, and Amy had sent me a text saying Raven (the former soap star and this season's favorite to win) had been sent home in a shocking elimination.
No one else at the party knew.
The Celebrity Tango logo flashed across the screen. Dom Astroid, a fifty-something former child star with skinny eyebrows and a helmet of dark hair, was this season's host. He flashed a movie star smile and told a few corny jokes that elicited a giggle from Lilly. Then he introduced Amy and her partner. The two took center stage. Amy looked nervous but happy. Her partner looked extra bronzed and determined. The music started, and they began to tango.
"I can't believe how much she's improved," I said in awe. "There's no way she'd be able to do that turn week one."