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Wine, Dine and Christmas Crimes

A Baker Girls Cozy Mystery

Maria Grazia Swan

Copyright © 2019 Maria Grazia Swan

An Echo Canyon Press Publication

* * *

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the US Copyright Law.

Foods, Fools and a Dead Psychic is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author and publisher.

* * *

Cover Design by Mariah Sinclair

Formatting by Debora Lewis


Table of Contents



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

About the Author

Other books by Maria Grazia Swan


While writing this book I couldn't help remembering how it all started, back in the '80s, Saddleback College, Orange County, California. Creative Writing. The class where I met many of the people who cheered me through my writer's journey.

Susan Hecht was our fearless leader.

A thank you to all, the ones who are still writing, the ones we wish could still be with us.

I love you all. Grazie.


The 9-inch unbaked pie crust is store bought.

You will need

3 eggs-slightly beaten

1 cup of corn syrup, we suggest dark.

1 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of butter-unsalted

I ounce of semi-sweet chocolate (approx. 4 squares)

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 ½ cups of pecan halves/pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter and chocolate in same small saucepan

Stir eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and the melted combination butter+chocolate in the same large bowl until it looks well blended. Add pecans. Stir again. Pour into pie shell.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, check by inserting knife halfway between center and edge of pie. Knife must come out clean.

Let the pie cool before cutting.


To make these delicious pies super simple, instead of baking your own pastry, use frozen mini pie shells, 6 to a package, or Keebler Ready Crust Mini Graham Pie Crust, also 6 to a package, which you can find in the baking aisle of your supermarket.

6 mini pies, one serving each

1 cup of pecan halves.

1 small box (3.4 oz) of cook and serve chocolate pudding (substitute instant if desired) 2 cups of milk needed.

1 cup whipped cream or whipped dessert topping

1. Prepare pudding according to package.

2. Spoon pudding evenly into the center of the 6 shells.

3. Divide the pecans into six servings and arrange each portion in a circle on top of the chocolate pudding.

4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

5. Before serving, spoon a portion of the whipped cream or dessert topping on top of each mini pie. Top with a pecan if desired.


THOSE NUMBERS ON the computer screen.

Magic numbers? Or not.

Wow, this stuff could easily mess up a girl’s sense of reality, especially on this Thursday evening. I sat alone in my cozy little house engulfed by the early darkness seeping in as the December sun set. How long had I been staring at the screen? Too long. My right leg had gone to sleep.

I felt frozen as a Klondike bar but not as sweet.

Stop staring at the computer. I sensed a surge of—no, not happiness—more like satisfaction. Yes, that—the satisfaction of a job well done. Like it or not, those numbers looking back at me from the computer? Dollars in my bank account.

I ran my finger over the sleek screen, over my name, Monica Baker. It didn’t say real estate agent extraordinaire next to it, but it should have because all that money was my commission from the closing of escrow of the Dumont’s horse ranch transaction. This was the largest amount of money I had ever earned in all my working days. Mercy.

If only I could shout it from the rooftops—perhaps while standing next to the inflated plastic reindeer Officer Clarke, AKA Aunt Brenda’s good friend Bob, had installed as Christmas decoration. Part of me savored the euphoric rush, while the rest of me felt awfully aware that the money came from Tristan Dumont’s assets.

In the real estate business, it’s customary for the seller to pay the agent’s commission, but without a buyer there would be no sale. And the buyer was Tristan Dumont, the married object of my desire. With the deal now closed, we no longer shared any ongoing business. He wasn’t my client, but he was still the man I pined for. I signed out of the bank’s site just as Aunt Brenda called my cell.

Huh, Brenda? Wasn’t she catering the holiday dinner at Kay’s place? Had she forgotten to take Kay’s present I’d entrusted her with—a lovely personalized name plaque for Kay’s desk? Kay was my colleague at Desert Homes Real Estate, and at six thirty p.m. her dinner party should have been approaching the appetizers stage.

“Monica, thank God. Are you home?”

“Huh, yeah. Why? You okay?”

“I need your help.” Music to my ears...I normally assisted Brenda in her business, B&B Catering, but Kay hadn’t wanted anyone from the office. So not only was I not invited to the holiday dinner, but I couldn’t join with the working crew either.

“Monica, are you paying attention?”

“Yeah, yeah.” It was an effort to keep my voice from betraying my excitement. “Should I wear the usual black dress? Did you forget Kay’s present?”

“I don’t care what you wear, as long as you get here ASAP. I did forget something but not the box you gave me for Kay.”

“Oh, okay. What did you forget?” Perfect, I had my excuse to go check out the party.

“Walk over to my place and pick up the two large trays of finger foods I left in the refrigerator. Be very careful, they are tightly wrapped in clear plastic, but they can still slide around. Lay them on the back seats of your Fiat with something cushy so the trays don’t move around. I know how you drive.”

“Sheesh, thanks. Why

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