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Peach Pie Surprise Cupcakes
2 pieces store-bought refrigerated pie dough
For the filling:
3 pounds ripe peaches
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk
For the crumb topping:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
Unroll pre-made pie dough and, using a 3 1/2 -inch metal ring, cut dough into circles. Press the center of the dough circles into the bottom of the cupcake liner and work the remainder of the dough up the sides.
Peel and slice the peaches. In a large bowl, toss peaches well with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring sugar, honey, bourbon and water to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Wash down any sugar crystals from the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber; about 5 minutes. Remove caramel from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour over peaches and toss.
For the topping, place oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Place cream cheese and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 50 percent power for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds at 50 percent power and stir until smooth and creamy. Add cream cheese-butter mixture to oats. Stir with a fork until all crumbs are coated and large clumps of topping stick together.
Fill “pie shells” about 2/3 of the way with peaches and top with topping. Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbly. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes.
Chapter 3 recap
Mirabelle’s business has slowed because of the vandal, except for Eugene. She goes for a walk to clear her head when she sees a stranger in the distance.

Chapter 4

“Good morning. Thank you for calling Swinney, Todd & Blazer. Please hold.”

“Good morning and thank you for calling Swinney, Todd & Blazer. Please hold.”

“Good morning and thank you for calling Swinney, Todd & Blazer. Please hold.”

Mirabelle stared at the receptionist behind a grand mahogany desk in what seemed to be an otherwise tiny sitting area. Her arms were starting to cramp under the weight of the 20 cookie baskets, and she tried with no luck to adjust the large box to relieve some of the pressure.

“Good morning and thank you for calling Swinney, Todd & Blazer. Please hold,” the receptionist said, either still unaware that Mirabelle was buckling at the knees in front of her or merely ignoring her. She was betting on the latter.

“Hello. Thank you for holding. Mmmhmmm. Yeah. Mr. Swinney? I’ll transfer you to his assistant.”

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Mirabelle rang the bell in front of her, prompting an unkind glare from the receptionist, whom Mirabelle could now see was “Hillary.”

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yes. I’m Mirabelle from Queen Pin Bakery. I have a delivery for Harrison Todd,” said Mirabelle, mustering the energy to lift up the heavy box so it stared Hillary in the face.

Hillary took one look at the box and took off her head set, pushing away from her desk and standing up.

“OK. Right this way,” she said, leading Mirabelle down a narrow hallway. Mirabelle struggled to keep up with Hillary who seemed ready to race in her 3-inch heels.

She stopped, knocked on an open door and directed Mirabelle into the office.

“Hello. Mirabelle,” Harrison said, almost as if asking whether it was actually her. “Can I help you with that box?”

“Oh, that’s OK,” Mirabelle said. “Just let me know where I can set it down.”

Harrison gestured to a dark wood table in the corner of the office and moved behind her to help despite her assurance that she was OK with the box. Mirabelle looked at him out of the corner of her eye – Harrison certainly didn’t look how she imagined he would. Younger, for sure, probably mid-30s. Blond. And he was tall, towering over Mirabelle’s 5-foot-8 frame.

“Thanks so much for bringing these in,” Harrison said. “The girls here have been talking up your bakery since they went in that first week. I swear it was cupcake this and cookie that. Queen Pin, Mirabelle, brownies.”

Mirabelle covered her mouth and tried to hide her laughter but let out a snort instead.

“Oh. Sorry,” she said, embarrassed. “It’s good to hear that people like what we’re doing.”

“Have a seat. Can I offer you a cookie?” he said, smiling.

“Cookie? At 8 a.m.?” Mirabelle said. “You’re my kind of guy. Unfortunately, I’ll have to decline. I have some peach pie surprise cupcakes on the brain and, assuming that my lunch business won’t change this week, the time is ticking.”

“Worried about your business? Impossible,” Harrison said, straightening his striped tie and tugging at the lapel of his navy blue suit. “From what I hear, you have nothing to be worried about.”

Mirabelle blushed. “Let’s just say that this weekend wasn’t the greatest of weekends for us. I think some people were scared away from downtown after what happened Friday night.”

“Oh,” he said. “I did hear about that. I wasn’t at the game that night, sadly; I heard it was a good one. The game part, that is.

“My running pals – a few are on the FWPD – were talking about the tires. They seem baffled. Three tires each, no real pattern and no real motive. The speculation is that a group of kids got bored and had some fun. One time. I wouldn’t worry, Mirabelle.”

His lips turned up again, flashing bright white teeth. Mirabelle’s knees buckled.

“Well … ” she said. “I hope your staff enjoys the cookies. I’ve left a card and menu in the box in case you ever need me – I mean, the bakery – again.”

Mirabelle caught herself nearly flirting with Harrison Todd. Her face turned red and she quickly let herself out of the office.

“What were you thinking, doing that?” she thought to herself as she nearly ran down the hall, not even pausing to shoot Hillary a look.

She pushed through the doors of the law office and stumbled onto the sidewalk – and right into a police officer. She looked up and saw the glow of red and blue lights and cruisers headed down Calhoun, right toward Queen Pin.

April was standing outside the bakery, one arm across her body and the other holding a hand to her mouth.

“What is going on?” Mirabelle asked.

“I haven’t heard anything official, but word on the street is that the vandal struck again,” April said, reaching out to grab Mirabelle’s hand.

“Tires slashed?”

“Not this time. Supposedly the cars had one window broken and an ‘X’ spray-painted on the back of the driver’s side head rest.”

“Seriously?” Mirabelle asked.

“Trust me – I couldn’t make that up,” April said.

“This is crazy. Just crazy,” Mirabelle said. She looked to her left and saw Finn walking up.

“What the fig is going on?” Finn asked, forgoing traditional greetings.

“I have no idea but I don’t think this is just a group of kids having some fun.”