- Author: Patti Benning
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Party PerilsHawk’s Place Cozy Mysteries, Book 5
Summer Prescott Books Publishing
Copyright 2021 Summer Prescott Books
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**This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons, living or dead, places of business, or situations past or present, is completely unintentional.
Also by Patti Benning
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“It’s just a dinner party. Come on, it will be fun.”
Hannah Cooper raised an eyebrow at her best friend and business partner, Caroline Price. “For you, maybe. You and Dean will be the only ones I know there.”
“That’s the point,” Caroline said cheerfully as she sprayed bleach on the stainless steel counter she was cleaning. “You need to make more friends. Thus, dinner party. Your social life keeps making me sad, and I want to fix it.”
“Why does this party have to be during one of Ben’s shifts?” Hannah grumbled. Ben Evans was the man she was casually dating, and she was sure she would have more fun at the dinner party if she could bring him. He was a cheerful, uncomplicated man who had lived in the tiny town of Shale, West Virginia his entire life, and she always felt more comfortable with him around. The thought of him reminded her that he was waiting out in the front of the restaurant for her to finish helping Caroline clean, which spurred her on. She wrung out the mop and splashed some clean, soapy water on the floor.
“Sorry about that,” her friend said, looking like she really did feel bad about it. “I’d offer to reschedule, but finding an evening where both the Finches and Rich Anders are available is hard. They have much more demanding schedules than Dean and Bucky do. Rebecca’s even able to come, which is nice. She doesn’t always attend; she lives pretty far out of town.”
“The only name I recognize is Dean’s,” Hannah said, shaking her head. She scrubbed at a spot on the tiles where someone had spilled pasta sauce earlier in the day before continuing. “Fine, I’ll go, but only because you’re right. I do need more of a social life.”
“Great,” Caroline said, beaming. “I’ll tell Dean. Remember, get there at seven. We’ll be sitting down to eat by seven-thirty.”
“Seven on Saturday,” Hannah said with a nod. “I’ll be there.”
They finished cleaning the kitchen together and Hannah said a quick goodbye to Caroline at the front doors. Hawk’s Place was their shared passion. They had met years ago in culinary school, and even then had shared the dream of opening a restaurant together, though it had taken them half a decade to start working toward the goal. Opening Hawk’s Place had been a gamble for both of them, but it had paid off, and Hannah could never regret her move to Shale.
Of course, that didn’t mean it hadn’t been hard. Hannah had left everything she had known behind in the move. Caroline was her best friend, but the fact that they were co-managing the restaurant meant that they almost always worked opposite shifts. Most days, their interactions were limited to a quick hello as they traded shifts, and the occasional get-together whenever they had the energy for it. Hannah wasn’t scheduled to work tonight, but since she had a date with Ben anyway, she had decided to swing by and help Caroline with closing. It was a nice way to spend some time with her friend, although she hadn't planned to be wrangled into agreeing to go to a dinner party. It wasn’t that Hannah was antisocial, she was just very busy. She would much rather spend her free time somewhere she could just kick back and relax.
“Ready?” Ben asked, grinning as he slipped an arm around her shoulders. “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”
She laughed, leaning into him. “You know, you could’ve left early. I didn’t have to help Caroline clean, I just figured I might as well since you wanted to finish your shift.”
“Leave early for a date?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows. “I shudder to think what my boss would say to that.”
“Good point, she might have written you up,” she said jokingly. He chuckled as they walked out to the parking lot. Normally, she might feel a bit strange about dating one of her employees, but Ben was a part-time security hire who had a full-time job at an auto shop on the other side of town. He was hardly depending on her for his main source of income, and they had been acquaintances before she’d hired him. She already knew that he wouldn’t work at the restaurant forever; he was slated to take over the auto shop in a few years, and would need to give the place his full attention when he did. She would miss his presence at the restaurant, but she was happy for him. He loved the auto shop, and he would have a good future there.
“Hey,” he said as they got into his car. His voice was more serious this time, and she looked up at him, pausing to buckle her seatbelt. “Are you okay with going to the bar again? I feel bad that it’s pretty much the only place I take you, but it feels weird to ask you on a date to your own restaurant, and Hawk’s Place is the nicest place in town.”
“Trust me, I’m more than happy with the bar,” she said, giving him a quick smile as she finished buckling up. “We’ve eaten at the restaurant a couple of times, and while I would never say I’m tired of the place, it is a bit strange to have