Home > Getting Lucky (Asheville Brewing #3)

Getting Lucky (Asheville Brewing #3)
Author: Denise Grover Swank

 


Chapter One

 

 

They’d had her at petting zoo. Although Maisie O’Shea hadn’t been to a Buchanan Brewery party in months, let alone one of their notorious staff parties, she’d finally relented. Because she was feeling lucky—adopting out four puppies and finding a foster home for a senior dog in one night would do that for a woman—and maybe a little reckless. Because it was a beautiful night in November, cool but far from cold, perfect for an outdoor party. And because she’d really, really wanted to see what kind of animals would be in a petting zoo put together by the Buchanan staff.

“I thought there were just going to be goats,” Jack Durand commented, his eyes wide.

She patted his back. “Amateur. You’ll get used to it.”

Jack had moved to Asheville just two months ago to join the brewery as events director. Although his half-sister Adalia was good people and had become a close friend, Maisie could count on one hand the number of times she’d spoken to him. She took him for something of a straight man—the sort of stoic, humorless figure who watched in silent judgment as the world went mad around him. Then again, she was in the habit of making snap judgments about people, and she had to admit they weren’t always correct.

Jack just stared into the pen for a moment. And it was a sight to see. There were four goats, a pygmy and three full-sized ones, but someone had also brought a donkey, and a goose wandered around at the other animals’ feet, its neck occasionally darting forward for a vicious peck. They’d been corralled behind what looked like two zip-tied plastic baby playpens, which would almost certainly collapse sometime in the night. Especially since someone had inadvisably placed the food table directly next to it. One goat was already pressing against the plastic side of the gate, which had been insufficiently staked into the ground, attempting to reach for what looked like a breadstick. Whoever had set up the lighting in Dottie’s back yard had done a poor job of it—half the yard looked like it was in full daylight, and the rest was cast in shadow. At least the animals were in the daylight part. If you were going to get attacked, it was best to see it coming.

“Aren’t geese mean?” Jack asked.

“Positively vicious,” she responded with a grin. “I’ll bet Lurch was supposed to get a duck.”

Lurch, the former head brewer at Buchanan Brewery, wasn’t known for his intelligence. Then again, he hadn’t been hired for it. Rumor had it the old owner, Beau Buchanan, had brought him on as a thank-you for helping him out of a lurch, and so the name had stuck.

She glanced at Lurch, who stood to the side of the zoo, talking with someone who looked like an animal wrangler, and thought, Must’ve been one hell of a lurch.

Dottie burst out of the house, accompanied by a woman with long white hair that had been piled into a bun on her head. The woman held a canvas and what looked like a collapsible easel. A large, sagging bag hung from her arm.

“Is she going to be painting out here?” Jack asked, although his voice wasn’t pained like Maisie would have expected. Just interested.

She patted him on the back again. “I’ll tell you what—it’s going to be a long night for both of us if you keep asking questions like that.”

The woman set up what was indeed a painting station in a patch of light right next to the makeshift animal pen, just in front of where they stood. Meanwhile, another former Buchanan staffer, Josie, had set up shop behind a couple of crates fronted with a handwritten sign that read, Palm Reading. 13% Accuracy Guaranteed. Be prepared for the bitter truth. She stood in near darkness, but a little lantern under the sign made it readable. An overturned goldfish bowl with a small tea light under it apparently served as some sort of crystal ball, but what a palm reader needed a crystal ball for was anyone’s guess.

No, thanks. Josie had read her palm a year ago, and once was enough. Dottie had all but shoved her into the line at a party much like this one, and Maisie, rolling her eyes, had succumbed to the pressure. They all knew Josie’s fortunes tended toward dark. The victim before Maisie had been told that he’d contracted syphilis from a Norwegian prostitute, only for his wife to pour a beer over his head—apparently he had been to Norway recently. So she’d prepared herself for something like that. Or to hear that she was going to die in a Zamboni accident or have her arm bitten off by a killer whale. But Josie had taken one look at her palm and said, “You’re in love with someone, and he has no idea. But he’s going to marry someone else, and you’re going to die alone.”

No words could have cut into her more efficiently. Because she had been in love with her best friend, River, for years—more or less—and she’d gone to some lengths to ensure no one knew. Not River, certainly, and most definitely not Josie.

And from the slightly bored, slightly high look in Josie’s eyes, Maisie couldn’t be certain if she knew or was only delivering another flip yet devastating fortune.

So no, no palm reading for her.

Rich, deep laughter drew her eyes to Jack.

“So you do laugh,” she said.

“Is there any other appropriate response?” he asked, waving a hand back toward the petting zoo.

The goat had nudged the gate far enough that he’d managed to reach the breadstick, but the goose had jumped onto his back—its wings must have been clipped, which sucked, but there was no clipping those instincts—and was pecking at the breadstick with fervor. The goat looked rightfully terrified and was jostling around to get the bird off its back. Meanwhile, the artist was painting furiously. She’d only gotten in the outline of the goat so far, but she’d painted an obscene amount of blood on its back. Did she hope it would come to that?

This could only be the infamous Stella. Adalia had visited her studio a couple of months back while planning the Asheville Art Display—the event they would be celebrating at this after-party…if the back yard didn’t explode into chaos before it officially started.

Dottie was looking over Stella’s shoulder, nodding knowingly. “Marvelous, marvelous.”

Although what was so marvelous about it, Maisie would never know. She might not be an artist like Adalia, but she knew what she liked to look at. Bleeding animals didn’t make it on the list.

The goose was pecking the goat now, as if encouraging him to get another breadstick to avoid becoming a replacement meal. Maisie winced. It looked painful, and she didn’t care if it made her a bleeding heart that she didn’t want to watch.

The animal wrangler was still deep in conversation with Lurch, their voices raised. The sweat on his face indicated he was questioning his life decisions, as well he should.

“Hey,” Maisie called out, clapping her hands. They all turned to look at her, puzzled. “Is anyone going to help that goat?”

“Help him?” the artist bleated. “He’s my muse! Diego knows that. He’s doing this for me.”

“I take it Diego’s the goat?”

“No, he’s the goose,” the artist said, giving her a look that suggested she was stupid. “I would never name a goat Diego.”

The animal wrangler’s lack of response indicated he was only there for the donkey.

Looked like Maisie was going to have to handle this up close and personal. Luckily, years of running a dog shelter made her the right woman for the job. In the early years of Dog is Love, before she had a volunteer network, she’d done nearly everything herself.

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