Living in Bliss
Living in Bliss

Living in Bliss

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Book one in the Lyssa Jones cozy Mysteries


Welcome to Bliss, where the streets are lined with endless charm, every storefront has a story, and the Pen & Pages Book Festival brings more drama than a bestselling novel.

For Lyssa Jones, returning home to Bliss was supposed to be a soft landing—not a dive into a mystery deep enough to drown her sorrows. If navigating her new life wasn’t complicated enough, her recently deceased father, Jimi Jones, has decided it's the perfect time to become a ghostly adviser, chiming in with unsolicited advice and quirky observations from the beyond. His spectral suggestions and incorporeal insights add an otherworldly charm to Lyssa's quest for peace and purpose.

After seven years away, Lyssa's life reads like a cautionary tale: divorced, unemployed, and at a crossroads. But Bliss, with its quirky residents and small-town warmth, is the perfect place to figure out what’s next. That is until her volunteer gig at the book festival thrusts her into the middle of a feud between two literary stars, both vying for the coveted top prize, and both annoying in their unique ways.

When one of the authors is found dead, the plot thickens faster than Aunt Maybee's buttercream frosting. Speaking of Maybee, she's suddenly the prime suspect, accused of a crime that could crumble her business and her spirit. But in Bliss, family and friends don't let accusations go uncontested.

Lyssa, with the help of her best friend and town Mayor Holly Bliss, dives headfirst into detective work. Unfortunately all of their investigative skills come from television shows. Fortunately, they aren't alone. Trouble, the family feline, has a paw in the game. With a whisker for clues and a tail that twitches in the face of danger, Trouble refuses to be left out of solving this mystery.

"Living in Bliss" is a cozy mystery that wraps you in warmth like a well-loved quilt, one stitched with humor, heart, and a hint of danger. Join Lyssa, Maybee, Holly, and Trouble as they navigate the twists and turns of small-town secrets, proving that home is not just where the heart is, but also where you solve your first murder case.

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» What are the dimensions of the paperback?
Paperback222 pages

 5 x 0.56 x 8 inches

Chapter 1

“Baby girl. Baby girl, wake up. Got to talk to you.” 

I rolled onto my side, dragging the pillow over my head, trying to shut the sound out. But the raspy voice was still there. “Sorry to do this to you. I wasn’t planning on it. Didn’t even see it coming. This getting old business kind of sucks. I suppose all those cheeseburgers caught up with me and clogged up the works. But don’t you worry, I’ll still be around, just in a
different way.”

It wasn’t just Jimi’s voice. His face hovered above mine. He was wearing his favorite shirt, because of course he was, from the original Roadhouse movie. People often compared my father to the actor Sam Elliott; the shirt was a not-so-subtle nudge if they didn’t immediately make the connection.

I grunted and rolled onto my back, fluttered open my eyes to clear the dream, and closed them again. It didn’t help. Jimi was still standing over me, looking somber. That confirmed I was dreaming: Somber wasn’t in Jimi’s repertoire, only big grins and hearty laughs. “I’m sorry I wasn’t a better dad. I tried, but I wasn’t built for father-daughter dances and chasing boys off. Doesn’t mean I didn’t love you. I loved you more than anything in the world. I think things turned out the way they were supposed to. Your Aunt Maybee coming back and taking care of you was exactly what you needed. I’m not saying things happen for a reason. I don’t believe in that wishy-washy stuff, but sometimes you get what you need. If we couldn’t have your mama, Maybee was the next best thing and a damn good second.” Jimi grinned. “Don’t tell her I said that. Don’t want to make her head bigger.”

What the heck? Was I asleep, or was I awake? I opened my eyes again to be sure my wayward father wasn’t actually standing here, a thousand miles from his home, leaning over my bed. Nope. There were no six foot tall hippies in my tiny apartment. I told myself to go back to sleep, but Jimi wouldn’t shut up! “I’m really sorry about you and Parker. He’s a fool. He shouldn’t have let his mother treat you like that. We all knew she was the one poisoning the well. It’s not entirely fair to blame him, though, because if we’re honest, you shouldn’t have let that old biddy run you over like you did. But that’s all right. You live, and you learn. Park’s a good man; he’s just a good man with an overbearing mother. Still, it’s hard to lose your best friend. I know. Ansel and I are great pals, but that’s not the same as me and your mama.”

“Go away!” I groaned, but Jimi kept talking.

“You’re gonna do fine, Baby Girl. You just need to rekindle that blaze of fire that’s always been in you, that fire Penelope Beaumonte tried to put out. It’s still there. I know there are embers under the ashes. You can get it going again. Remember, I love you. I’m gonna keep an eye on you from wherever I end up. Expect to hear from me once in a while. ‘K?”

Now, I was wide awake. I growled and rolled onto my side, rubbing my eyes. I never dreamed about my father. And that was one heck of a vivid dream. Darn it, Jimi. It had to be a dream because that’s the only place he would ever say something sweet about Maybee. 

The neon numbers on my alarm clock told me it was five a.m. Trying to sleep longer was pointless once my brain was fully activated. I swung my legs over the edge of the twin bed and let out a surprised squeak when my bare foot was stabbed by the spikes of my hairbrush. 

Living in 400-square-feet isn’t easy when you have 1,500 square feet of stuff, and 1,300 square feet of it are vintage clothing and accessories.

Wide awake—well, wide awake-ish—Jimi’s voice was still in my head, crystal clear. We only spoke on the phone twice a year, on my birthday and his. Texting had been our sole form of communication since texting became a thing. I made a mental note to check on him this weekend. He’d tell me all about the latest adventures at Spirits. I was pretty sure the bar was his one true love, or at least his favorite child. He’d shown it more attention than he ever had me.

Something he’d said in the dream came back to me and made me frown. He said he loved me. Although I knew he did, I couldn’t remember him ever saying it, not even on my wedding day when he walked me down the aisle. 

I shook my head again to clear the cobwebs and surveyed my minuscule kingdom. I joked to my best friend Holly I could touch each wall of my apartment from the bed. The bed was against one wall, couch against the other. Under the lone window, a small table served as my desk. It overlooked the windows of the building across the alley. My laptop and monitor took up most of the desk space. The kitchenette had three small cabinets, a camper-sized stovetop and oven, and a mini fridge. And for all this, I paid an insane amount of rent.  Internet extra, of course. 

I padded across the room and started a pot of coffee, washed my face in the kitchen sink, and swapped pajamas for Zoom-appropriate attire: a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the logo (a ubiquitous puzzle piece) of the nonprofit I worked for, and my favorite pair of Calvin Klein jeans. I couldn’t put them on without thinking about Brooke Shield’s iconic statement, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins!” and that always made me smile. I could have gotten away with pajama bottoms since I wouldn’t be leaving my apartment today. Unless I was hitting up thrift stores or doing my weekly grocery shopping, I rarely went anywhere. Washington, DC, for me, was nothing like New York.

In the last seven years, I’d had three distinct lives: first, fresh out of college, living at home in Iowa, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Second, in New York City, as the wife of an up-and-coming attorney with political aspirations. And now, three years later, divorced and living in DC because that’s where the job offer was and I refused to tuck tail and head home, admitting defeat. I hated it. DC had its good points—lots of cheap or free activities in the form of festivals, monuments, and museums—but it was crowded, expensive, and chaotic. If not for the mixed blessing of having a good number of thrift shops to stalk as I hunted for treasures, I’m not sure I would have lasted this long. Soon, though, I’d need to move because the goodies were taking over the tiny space we shared. 

Jimi’s dream visit was still rattling around in my head. What was all that business about Park? I was a little stung that he’d been so quick to shift the blame from Park back to me. Yes, I let my mother-in-law Penelope get to me, and that was my bad. But Park didn’t do much to protect me. That was on him. Jimi was no doubt feeling loyal to his pal Ansel, who was
Park’s uncle. Ansel and Jimi were as close as brothers; they’d been best friends since college. I suppose I had never considered how the divorce might have affected their relationship. Yippee. Another thing to feel bad about.

My gaze moved to the only photo I had of Jimi. Actually, it was Jimi, Ansel and me at my college graduation party. The three of us had our arms around each other’s waists, me in the middle, on the stage at Spirits. Jimi was wearing his usual attire—jeans, a T-shirt, and his much-loved boots, with a cowboy hat plopped onto his head. He’s smiling, his weathered face partially hidden behind his trademark mustache (another ode to rough-and-tumble actors he admired). His thick salt-and-pepper ponytail snuck out from under his hat and rested on his shoulder like a beloved pet. Ansel, on the other hand, exuded elegance. He was dressed in dark trousers and a crisp button-up shirt carefully folded to expose his forearms, polished Italian loafers, and his favorite Rolex visible at the wrist. Holly must have helped me that day because my coppery-colored hair, usually a mess of curly chaos falling around my face and over my shoulders, was somewhat under control. The vintage floral wrap
skirt and the fantastic crocheted halter top I was wearing in the photo were still in my closet, along with the Frye boots that had been Maybee’s until I ‘borrowed’ them. How did I look so young and carefree? Maybe I felt safe because I had a rock on each side. 

I yawned and glared at the coffeepot to hurry it up. Three hours of sleep wouldn’t help me write this blasted grant proposal about a program my boss had made up out of thin air. I was pretty sure she did not know how grant funding worked. You have a program, set goals, create benchmarks, develop an appropriate budget, and explain how you’ll use the money. You don’t just ask for a check and say you’ll figure out the details later. 

The coffee maker must’ve been tired, too, because it took ‘drip’ entirely too literally. I couldn’t wait anymore. I grabbed a mug in one hand, the pot handle in the other, and magic-presto swapped the two vessels as quickly as possible, only dribbling a little. When the cup was full enough, I repeated the process to extract the full mug, this time with less spillage. 

Did I wait to take a sip? No, of course not. I swore when I burned my lip. Story of my life. I rushed into things and paid for the consequences later. This overpriced rabbit cage of an apartment was proof of that.

My phone vibrated on the dresser, which was also my nightstand. I scowled and stuck out my tongue. My boss arrived every morning at eight, and the flood of emails and texts started immediately after. Then I
frowned. It was only five-thirty, too early for her histrionics.

I picked up the phone and looked at the list of notifications, and my gut flipped. Three missed calls with no voicemails and a single text, all from my aunt Maybee. “Call as soon as you can.”

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