Seventeen-year-old travel blogger CC is stuck on a never-ending road trip with her wanderlust-addicted father. When her dad lands the job of his dreams in Sugar Lump—wedding capital of the world—CC finally finds a place to call home. Complete with two quirky best friends and a quixotic guy to crush on, Sugar Lump is more shades of perfect than she can possibly count.
But when CC accidentally overhears the mayor complaining that she has to “take out” a rogue employee for not fulfilling the terms of his contract, the idyllic town’s facade crumbles. Devastated by the possibility of having to move yet again, CC discovers everyone has been keeping a massive secret from her—including her own father.
14+ due to adult situations
I bolted from the front door, stood on the porch looking from left to right a few times as if I was being tailed and then took off down the block in the direction of town.
It was quiet. Too quiet. The gingerbread houses lining the perfectly clean street with perfectly trimmed lawns, all had lights on. No movement or sound came from within though. Which was a stark contrast from the scene last Friday when there were plenty of people for me to photograph.
I only made it two houses down, stomping through the grass, causing lingering lightning bugs to scatter. I pressed my face against the picture window of my neighbor’s house. The room, identical in size and layout to my own house, was bathed in warm light, but the flat screen on the wall was off and I couldn’t see anyone.
I sprinted through the lawns, punching at perfectly manicured shrubs, and took up the same stance at the identical house next door. No one was home but the lights were on. These neighbors seemed to have a thing for roosters. The curtains, the clock, and the sun catcher on the glass doors all contained roosters.
Trampling through the bushes, I made my way to the front door. When I tested the knob, it turned easily in my hand. A streak of fear shot through me, but the scent of onions and roast cooking drew me in. There were only a couple paces between me and the door but it was enough to make me feel like I just broke into a diamond vault. I poked my head into the kitchen far enough to see a crock pot on the bar.
My cell beeped and sang in my pocket, sending my racing heart into overdrive. I sprinted like a frightened cat out of the house, slammed the door, and wrangled my phone out of my pocket.
“CC!” Macy hollered. She was teetering on her heels as she made her way toward me but she still had a while to go. “What are you doing?” She threw in a hint of hysterical laugher like maybe she was trying to convince me everything was okay and that we were just playing a game.
I ignored her and answered my phone.
“What’s going on?” I asked Dad in a whisper like anyone was around to hear me.
“What do you mean?” His voice was calm, normal, and I could hear conversation in the background.
“Where are you? What are you doing?”
“I’m at the bakery, Cupcake. Macy was supposed to tell you. This Friday’s busy—very busy. It seems like the whole town is running around getting ready for all the weddings tomorrow and Sunday.”
“But where is everyone? I’m standing out front of a house down the street and all the lights are on and there’s even food cooking like they’ll be right back but no one is here.” The night air had turned muggy, thick, like it was hiding something.
“Why are you running around outside?”
“Because something is going on.” I started backing away from Macy, keeping close to the house until I rounded the corner.
“And what would that be?”
“I don’t know. I have no clue. But I was at the Mayor’s house and she had a gun. Dad, a real gun, and she was talking about teaching someone a lesson. And I saw a list. A list of names of all the adults in the town and everyone was paired up like Noah’s Ark and each pair had an amount of money after it. Does thirteen thousand dollars sound familiar to you? And your name was on the list next to Macy’s name.”
I was out of breath, feeling like I could pass out with stress or fear and whatever else I was feeling, and Macy was getting closer. I ducked into the backyard of the rooster house and hid behind a shed with white siding and a weathervane on top.
“Why were you snooping around the Mayor’s place? They invited you for lunch and you go through her things?” He sounded more concerned with my poor manners than anything.
“This isn’t about that. That’s what you take away from what I said?” I peeked out from behind the shed but didn’t see anyone. “And to be clear, she didn’t invite me. Thorn did. And I didn’t go through his things.”
“You need to calm down, okay? Everything is fine. I don’t know what to tell you about the gun but that list was probably when people were hired. Before me Macy was the newest employee at the bakery and Missy O’Dowd said the bonuses run with years of experience and years working in town. I’m sure the list is just to keep track of that.”
Um, what year was this? Who keeps important records on a piece of paper? “But what does that have to do with the Mayor?” I cupped my hand over the phone like someone was reading my lips.