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A Charming Blend

Part of the Killer Coffee Cozy Mystery Series, Magical Cures Mystery Series

Part of the Killer Coffee Cozy Mystery Series, Magical Cures Mystery Series

You won’t want to miss this crossover tale of two of your favorite cozy mystery sleuths, June Heal from the Magical Cures Mystery Series and Roxanne Bloom from the Killer Coffee Series.

When Roxy Bloom and Patrick Cane got a gift card at the Full Moon Treesort in Whispering Falls, Kentucky, they figured it’d be a fantastic honeymoon.

When June Heal heard from the Whispering Falls Newspaper report from editor Faith Mortimer that there was a nosy coffee barista coming to town and she needed an eye kept on her, June was quick to put Mr. Prince Charming on the tourist, Roxanne Bloom.

When a dead body is discovered during the annual Whispering Fall tree lightening, Roxy Bloom just can’t seem to keep her nose out of it, even though she feels like something strange is going on in the cozy town.

June Heal is using powers, she never thought she’d use, to keep tourist Roxy Bloom away from the crime scene.

Will the two feisty sleuths come together to solve this murder before Roxy’s honeymoon is over or before June Heal uses all of her powers to keep Roxy away from their secrets of Whispering Falls?

A Charming Blend

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Chapter One
Roxy Bloom

 

“We are getting closer.” Patrick’s big brown eyes looked at me; a tender smile crossed his lips, softening his chiseled jaw. He returned his eyes to the road just as we entered a new small town on our now five hour car ride.  “We are in Locust Grove, the town next to Whispering Falls.”

“I was hoping to see some snow.” I wasn’t complaining, but I’d had my heart set on having our honeymoon in what I had heard was a magical place.

What could be more magical than a nice snowfall during the Christmas season, especially when we were going to be there for the Whispering Falls tree lighting? The thought of it made my heart flip flop with delight.

“If we can’t have snow, then maybe we can have some Christmas music.” I reached across the dashboard and flipped on the radio. I wasn’t going to let anything ruin our honeymoon.

“Is Mike there?” the DJ asked a caller.

“This might be interesting.” I shrugged, taking my finger off the scan button and sitting back into the passenger seat. I couldn’t wait to see what Whispering Falls looked like, and the anticipation was getting to me.

I had looked it up online and googled it, but there were literally no pictures to be found of the town. I had found a list of shops, but that was it. It was like it wasn’t even real. I’d even questioned the person who gave us his honeymoon package as a wedding present and she assured me it was a real place. She described it as something she couldn’t put her finger on.  She said it was … magical.

“Mike, this is Bob and Brenda from the Bob and Brenda Morning Show on WLOC. We have a mutual friend that we’d like to ask you about.” Bob sounded like he was on a mission to get an answer to this burning question.

“Is this one of those second date updates?” Mike questioned, his voice cracked through the speakers of the car. His nervousness was apparent.

“So you’ve heard of us?” Bob asked Mike. “We are calling about Debbie.”

“Listen, man,” Mike continued to talk to Bob while I gazed out the window. “It’s the holidays. Some of my buddies came home to celebrate and we were out having a good time. I had a little too much to drink. I hate to say it, but I don’t remember that night at all. I remember waking up next to a girl, but I bolted. I’m engaged, and I can’t talk about this anymore.”

“You piece of crap!” The voice of woman, who must’ve been Debbie, screeched through the radio speakers. “You seemed to remember a whole lot for the more than eight hours we spent together. Are you saying you were drunk the entire time?”

“Mike, I guess we should’ve told you Debbie was on the line.” The radio host sounded like he was really enjoying this. “And I’m thinking you aren’t going to go on a second date? I mean, we’d pay for it.”

“Mike, you didn’t act like you were engaged! You are a snake!” Debbie screamed.

“This is awful. Trapping a man like that,” Patrick said and reached out to turn the channel. “Besides, he’s engaged. He cheated on his fiancée.”

“Wait.” I put my hand on top of his and pulled it away. “I’m interested to see what happens.”

“There’s something wrong if a woman doesn’t get asked to go on a second date and she calls a radio station to call him and get answers when he won’t call her back.” Patrick was right on all accounts and I understood his point.  ”On top of that, he’s engaged.”

“What else do we have to listen to?” I asked.

He gave me a side eye and shook his head. I leaned across the seats to kiss him on the cheek, barely getting my lips on his skin because Sassy, his black Standard Poodle, shoved her nose in between us.

“Sassy.” I gave her a sweet pat on the head. Pepper, my salt and pepper Schnauzer, darted up to get his rub. “Okay, you two. Go back and lay down. We can’t be that far away.”

“Not far at all.” Patrick pointed out the window at the road sign.

“Whispering Falls, a Magical Village.” I shivered and rubbed my hands up and down my arms. “Snow,” I gasped and looked at the clear line between Locust Grove and Whispering Falls. “How on earth is there no snow right there and a ton of snow here?” I asked and twirled around in my seat to look out the back window.

Patrick shrugged off the strange phenomenon.

“Look at the trees. They are different too. I bet there’s a big temperature change now that we are at the foot of those mountains.”

 

“We are in Whispering Falls, our destination.” Patrick reached over and shut off the radio.

“Patrick, doesn’t that sound just perfect for our honeymoon? Whispering Falls,” I sighed, my shoulders tugged up around my ears.

“Anywhere with you is perfect.” Patrick has always had a way with words, even when we met at the ripe old age of sixteen when I spent summers in Honey Springs, Kentucky, with my Great Aunt, Maxine Bloom.

“Seriously, look at this place.” The small town of Whispering Falls appeared out of nowhere, as if carved out of the wooded mountainous area. “It’s just like we heard … magical,” I whispered as if there was some sort of real magic and something would happen if I said the word too loud.

“You and I both know magic.” Patrick’s words were as soft as his kisses . “What is magical is that somehow I convinced you to marry me.”

“I’m the one who rushed you to the altar.” My heart warmed with how the surprise Halloween wedding went off without a hitch during our Neewollah Festival back home.

It had been a spur of the moment decision on my part. After I had endured hours of my mother and Great Aunt Maxi, who didn’t get really get along, going head to head during a meeting with our wedding planner, I had had enough of the two of them fighting over what I wanted. When I had to pick out costumes for the annual party, I figured why not wear a wedding dress, get Patrick a tux, grab the preacher, and get hitched right there at the festival.

I glanced at our fur babies in the back seat before I slid my eyes past Patrick to check out all the adorable shops along the main street of Whispering Falls.

“Look how cute these shops are.” I pointed out how each shop was a little cottage surrounded by a fence with an ornamental gate. “Look!” I couldn’t help myself. “Wicked Good Bakery and The Gathering Grove Tea Shoppe,” I squealed with delight.

“I think I’m in trouble.” Patrick had pulled the car over and was looking at the directions on his phone. “I can’t find the hotel.”

I picked up the honeymoon gift certificate we’d received for the adventure and scanned down the page for an address. I handed it back to him and pointed to the phone number.

“While you call for directions, I’ll run into the bakery.” I grabbed my purse off the floor.

“Get me something.” He winked at me and it made my heart flutter just like the first time he’d winked at me from the top rung of the ladder that summer so long ago when he was working with his dad repairing something at my Aunt Maxi’s house.

I jumped out of the car and opened the back door, grabbing Sassy and Pepper’s leashes after seeing the sign on the glass door that said Pets Welcome.

The crisp breeze made its way down the mountains and into the little village, snapping the edges of the pink and green awning attached to the front of the bakery.

“Cute little ones,” said a little gray-headed woman who came out of nowhere. “Are they twins?” she asked.

“Twins?” asked another gray-headed woman, similar to the other, as she saddled up next to the dogs.

“We are twins.” The first one wiggled her pointer finger between Sassy and Pepper.

“Mmmhmm, twins,” the other mimicked as if I hadn’t heard it the first time.

They were exactly the same, down to their housedresses and glasses.

“Let me guess.” I hesitated and tapped my chin. I pointed to the first one who had approached me. “You’re the older one.”

“You’re good.” She grinned.  “Just by a few seconds, though.”

I swear there was a real twinkling star in her eye, but more than likely it was a reflection of the Christmas lights dangling across the front of the Wicked Good Bakery in her glasses.

“I’m Constance Karima and this is Patience Karima.” Her face beamed with pride as her cheeks balled when she smiled. “Are you from one of the west villages?” She asked as the other one got a little too close and inhaled loudly as she dragged her nose up along my arm before stopping just shy of my face.

“Are you smelling me?” I jerked back, tugging the dogs away too.

”Mmmhmm.” She hummed and dramatically nodded slowly to her sister before jerking her head to the side as if she were telling her to move along.

“Good day! Stay warm.” They rushed off down the street with their heads together, turning one last time to glance back at me.

“Come on,” I said to the dogs as I opened the bakery door.

The smells of cinnamon, sugar, pumpkin spice, and chocolate swirled around my nose as soon as I stepped in. It was the cutest little bakery I’d ever seen and I made a mental note to take a few pictures to show Emily Rich. Emily owned the Bees’ Knees Bakery a couple of shops down from The Bean Hive, my coffee shop. Emily would love the old timey feel of the bakery and its black and white checkered floor. The color theme was pink and lime green, which actually went really well together. There was a side room filled with café tables. Customers were sitting at a couple of the tables and a white cat was sitting on top of one of another one.

“Good morning. That’s Mr. Prince Charming. He’s a very friendly cat,” the black-haired woman behind the counter greeted me. “Welcome to Whispering Falls. I have just the pastry for you.”

She wiped her hands down her pink apron and swept a long strand of her black hair behind her shoulder. She picked up something and held it out for me.

“To start your honeymoon off right.” Her black eyes did that twinkle thing like the old lady I had just encountered outside.

“How did you know I was on my honeymoon?” I asked and kept the dogs’ leashes tugged tight. They were both trying to get closer to that cat in the other room. But I had my eye on the heart-shaped pastry in her hand.

“Oh, that look in your eye.” She winked. “You can let them go. They won’t bother Mr. Prince Charming. He’s used to other animals.” She glanced over at the cat.

“Mr. Prince Charming?” I asked. “Sounds as enchanting as your town.”

“Yes.” She held the item out in front of me again. “A heart for the love you will always have with Patrick.”

I laughed nervously because I knew I hadn’t said Patrick’s name . . .or had I? I suddenly found myself all confused and unsure of what I was saying or had said. When Sassy and Pepper tugged on their leashes, my hand felt like it had no grip and gave way, allowing them to run over to Mr. Prince Charming. They stopped shy of his table and sat down. The three animals stared at each other. Odd.

“That’s so strange.” I just couldn’t stop my thoughts. I shook my head and took the heart- shaped pastry. “I’ve never seen them do that. I mean,” I found myself stumbling for words. “I do help our local SPCA find homes for animals and they are around other animals. Including cats.” I took a bite to try to shut myself up, but I kept rambling. “They love cats, but I’ve never seen them just sit down like that before trying to sniff them out first.”

“Everyone loves Mr. Prince Charming.” She cackled and abruptly stopped. It was as if time had stopped.

I glanced over my shoulder and looked at the window to see Patrick and noticed people on the street were frozen in place.

“I’ll take a couple of these to go.” I turned back around. I  needed to get out of there. “Ma’am?”

“Raven.” She snapped out of wherever she’d gone. “Raven Mortimer is my name. Nice to meet you, Roxy. Unfortunately, you had the one and only one of those I made, but I’d love to give you something extra sweet for you and your sweetheart to enjoy during your stay at the Full Moon Treesort.”

“You know I’m staying there?” This was getting just plain creepy.

“It’s the only place in town,” her black eyes stared at me, causing me to look away. “If you go straight down Main Street and hook a left next to the Glorybee Pet Shop, you’ll find a teeny-tiny road that will lead you right to the resort.” She held a box with the Wicked Bakery logo on it across the counter. “I really hope you enjoy your stay. I’m sure I’ll see you tonight at the tree lighting.”

“Yes.” I patted my leg with one hand to call the dogs and took her to-go box with the other. “Thank you.”

I let out a long sigh and shifted my eyes back and forth on my way out of the bakery as I tried to figure out what all just happened.

“Are you okay?” Patrick asked after I’d gotten Sassy and Pepper in the car along with myself.

“Yeah.” I blinked, knowing I had something to tell him but couldn’t quite remember. “She said to go straight down here and take a left past the pet store to go to the hotel.” I gulped, knowing there was more to be said, but not sure what. It was as though I’d lost my memory.

 

 

Chapter Two
June Heal

 

“There you are.” The sound of my black boots ticked across the black and white tile floor of the Wicked Good Bakery. “You are an ornery cat,” I said to Mr. Prince Charming, my fairy god cat. My fingers flew down the front of my cape, unlatching the buttons until it was open in the front. I pushed back a strand of my short black hair and fluffed my bangs.  “Have you been begging for food?”

“I’ve always got a treat for him,” Raven Mortimer laughed from behind the counter. “Did you get the Whispering Falls Newspaper this morning?”

The Whispering Falls Newspaper was delivered by Faith Mortimer, Raven’s sister. It wasn’t your typical newspaper that was printed on paper. It was carried on the breeze.  Through the air. Only spiritualists could hear it.

“Yes.” I nodded and took my cape off, hanging it on the coat tree next to the counter.

You see, Whispering Falls was a spiritual community. And by that I mean all the shop owners have some sort of magical power we use for good. I’m a homeopathic curist. I make and sell potions at A Charming Cure, my shop down and across the street from Wicked Good Bakery. I also have a keen intuition that’s always on high alert.

Raven has the gift of Aleuromancy. Messages and answers came to her in the form of her baking. The dough forms itself into shapes unbeknownst to her while little messages for incoming customers stick in the back of her head. Those customers always pick out the perfect pastry for them. Sometimes she could do reading like a medium, only the spirit wasn’t standing there like with most mediums.

Today, Raven appeared to be baking up the storm.

“The young woman Faith warned us about?” There was a worried look in Raven’s dark eyes as she handed me a cup of coffee and the box of cookies I would give out to my customers at my shop. “She was in here when the paper was being delivered. I was waiting for her with the perfect heart-shaped pastry. She ate it.”

“Oh, good. What did the dough tell you about her?” I asked over the rim of the coffee cup I’d lifted to my lips. We’d been awaiting her arrival for a couple of months.

“Her name is Roxy Bloom. She’s got two dogs. Very sweet, but very curious. She is so in love with her new husband of a couple of months, but the dough told me I had to keep her and her honeymoon alive. Meaning, more romance. There’s something that’s going to make her want to spend time away from him while they are here,” Raven’s voice trailed off.

“Do you know what that is?” I asked and looked over when I heard Mr. Prince Charming   jump off the café table. He scurried over and rubbed a figure eight design around my ankles with deep purring delight.

“No. But I don’t have a good feeling.” Raven’s lashes swept down and created a shadow on her cheek. “The paper said she was nosy.”

Rowl, Mr. Prince Charming growled. Something fell out of his mouth.

“Is that. . .” Raven scurried around the counter and we both stood silently over my fairy god cat and the pig charm he’d dropped on the floor.

I gulped, setting my cup on the counter, and rubbed my left hand over the charm bracelet on my right wrist.

“A pig,” Raven gasped, drawing her hand up over her mouth.

”Greedy. Selfish.” The words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them.

The door of the bakery flew open. Mr. Prince Charming took the opportunity to run out into the blustery winter day. I grabbed the pig charm, my cape off the coat tree, and the box of cookies from the counter, and went out after him.

“June! Do you want your coffee?” I heard Raven call after me.

“I’ll have it later!” I yelled over my shoulder.I swept the cape around me, knotting the fabric in a ball with the charm embedded in my palm and bringing the collar of the cape around my neck to help ward off the chill.

The sidewalk was filled with tourists who were all excited about the shops opening for the day and  the tree lighting happening that night.

The banners on the carriage lights had snowflake patterns on them, with Whispering Falls embroidered across the bottom. Vibrant poinsettias spilled from the hanging baskets. Our little magical village had been transformed into a winter wonderland.

Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding. The sound of a bell echoed as it bounced off the mountains.

When I heard the familiar sound of Santa ringing his bell, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a sign that it was almost time for Christmas.

I scurried across the street to put a few dollars in Santa’s red cauldron and say hello to Gerald, our spiritualist who took so much pride in playing Santa. Especially now that he had his own little son to dress in the jolly outfit for.

“Ho, ho, ho. I know it’s not a kettle, but this is what they gave me.” The voice coming from behind the white beard didn’t belong to Gerald. He smiled showing a deep scar in his right smile line.

My gut pinged, sending ice through my veins.

I drew my hand and my donation back.

“Aren’t you going to put some money in?” He asked, eyeing my fistful of cash.

“Yes. Later,” I told him as I rushed past him, wondering if I should head straight over to the police station and tell Oscar of my chilly intuition.

Oscar Park, who was my husband, a wizard, and the local sheriff, and I loved Christmas. Both of us grew up in mortal homes and found out about our true spiritual gifts as we got older. My parents had lived in Whispering Falls. I had moved to the neighboring town of Locust Grove with my mom after my father had passed away. Well, actually he had been murdered along with Oscar’s parents, but that’s something I didn’t like to think about.

Mr. Prince Charming darted across the street. I winced and held my breath when a car driving very slowly down the road almost hit my fairy god cat. I let out a long sigh of relief when he made it across the street safe and sound.

My eyes met the passenger’s eyes. A woman. She had lovely black curls and blue eyes. My intuition pinged and reminded me of the pig dream I’d had last night.

“Roxy Bloom.” The heat of my whisper mixed with the cool winter air, creating a puff of smoke out of my mouth and making me forget about the fake Santa.

The woman’s face froze, as though she could read my lips and was frightened. She jerked back into her seat and faced forward.

“I look forward to meeting you.” I thought as the car passed me going towards the south side of the town. No doubt on their way to the Full Moon Treesort.

“Scat, cat!” The Santa kicked a leg and shook his bell.

Mr. Prince Charming was standing up on his hind legs batting at the Santa.

“What’s wrong?” I yelled to the Santa.

The man looked up at me. I nearly tumbled over when a piercing pain struck me in the gut for the third time.

Images of a pig floated into my head, making me dizzy. I realized I had had a nightmare about a pig, not a dream. I gulped. Closing my eyes, I inhaled and took a deep cleansing breath to regain my senses. If I didn’t get to my shop and figure out this nightmare quickly, I knew Whispering Falls wouldn’t have a very Merry Christmas.

“I’m sorry.” I hurried back to the Santa and picked up Mr. Prince Charming. The cape opened in the front and the chilly air whipped up and around me. I cradled my cat closer. “Who are you?” I decided to ask him instead of going to see Oscar.

“I’m the red kettle Santa for the day,” he said sarcastically.

“Yes. I can see that.” I smiled and secretly wished I had a potion to give him to make him nice. He wasn’t the jolliest of Santas. “Who hired you?”

“The lady with long blonde hair.” There was only one woman on the Village Council he could be referring to and that was Isadora Solstice.

“Izzy?” I asked, shortening her name.

“Yeah.” He nodded. “That’s her.”

Hmmm. My eyes squinted as fake smile lines drew up my face. That was unusual since the Village Council always used Gerald. We didn’t want word to get out about our little magical village and relied upon our own spiritualists as much as possible. Things sometimes changed at a moment’s notice, but then there would be a meeting called at the Gathering Rock. She should’ve called a meeting.

I looked back at Gerald’s shop, The Gathering Grove Tea Shoppe, and swept my face back towards the Glorybee Pet Store, Petunia Shrubwood’s shop. They were married, and both shops were closed.

“Thank you for filling in for Gerald.” I didn’t have time to assess the situation. I sent a little whisper in the air of good thoughts to Gerald and Petunia. Though the shops weren’t supposed to open for another ten minutes, I couldn’t help but worry something was wrong with baby Orin, their son.

If that was the case, I was sure Izzy had no other choice but to ask one of the new mortals who lived in the new subdivision at the south end of town. We had opened a new development that included non-spiritual citizens. It was a farm-to-table community. It was really very interesting. There were fifty houses, all built around a working farm. It was a communal farm and we needed different herbs for the items for our spiritual needs. We had to do something when the local government questioned why we didn’t have subdivisions like other towns. The Village Council voted to open up a little plot of land and build only fifty houses. This way, we could use them as a cover for our magical little town.

“Good morning,” Chandra Shango trilled from the front of her shop, A Cleansing Spirit Spa. She pushed the yellow turban up over her arched brows, and I noticed her fingernails had Christmas trees painted on them.

 

“Happy day,” I said as I waved to Chandra from the front gate of A Charming Cure and pulled some dried leaves from the wisteria vine on the trellis. As I touched them, a few sprang back to life, making me smile. I tried to picture what it had looked like when my mom had owned the shop. It was something I had desperately tried to remember since learning this had been her shop, A Dose of Darla, at one time.

Darla, as she preferred I call her, was my mother and she wasn’t a spiritualist. She just had a natural knack for homeopathic cures. My father was a spiritualist, which made me one.

“Do you know what’s going on with Gerald?” I asked across the way to Chandra.

“No? What?” She reached out and touched the Singing Nettles nestled in the flower boxes below her shop window.

They hummed and stretched their leaves, bursting into song – Jingle Bells – and putting a big smile on my face.

The Singing Nettles were Darla’s favorite flower even though she could never hear their song. She appreciated their sheer beauty like the rest of the mortal world. If only mortals could hear how lovely they sounded. It was like a true professional choir.

“The Santa with the red cauldron isn’t Gerald.” I looked past her and noticed Glorybee was now open. Then I shifted my eyes across the street towards The Gathering Grove and saw it was open too. “Strange,” I whispered.

“Where was the Santa?” Chandra asked.

“He was right over there.” I pointed towards Magical Moments Flowers, but he was gone.

“June,” Chandra drummed her fingertips together. “Are you okay this morning?”

I laughed nervously and planted a smile on my face.

“You know what?” I shook my head and put Mr. Prince Charming down on the ground. “I need coffee. That’s what’s wrong.” I tucked a strand of my short black bob behind my ear and put my hand in my pocket of the cape.

I waved her off. I took the skeleton key from the depths of my pocket, leaving the pig charm behind, and unlocked the door to my shop.

Meow, meow. Mr. Prince Charming darted ahead of me when the door opened. I ran my hand up along the wall and flipped on the lights.

The front room was filled with all sorts of glass bottles of different shapes and sizes.

Lamps were scattered throughout the shop on small tables. Each lampshade was very ornamental and no two were alike. Strands of beads dangled from some of the shades. They made the shop homey.

The chalkboard on the wall listed the Special of the Day,

Tiered display tables sprinkled the shop floor with all sorts of remedies on them. I knew the remedies inside were good. Luckily, I think there was enough inventory to open today. I’d been so busy decorating the display window for today’s opening, I’d forgotten to restock some items.

The back wall was lined with every ingredient I used to create the special blend each customer needed. The bottles were organized in alphabetical order. Dried herbs hung from a clothesline around the room. There were burners, test tubes, melting pots, strainers, muslin cloths, cauldrons, and much more. In a back room behind a closed door, there was a desk, a mini-refrigerator, and a couch that was a good place to catch a quick nap.

I took my cape off and hung it on the coat tree next to the counter. I moved behind the counter and flipped on my cauldron that was hidden by a partition.

“What on earth happened back there?” I asked Mr. Prince Charming when I saw him pop his head out from underneath one of the tablecloths. The box of cookies from Wicked Good smelled so good.

The warm apple cider immediately heated. I arranged the cookies on a festive Christmas plate. I couldn’t help myself and had a cookie on my way to the front door and flipped the sign to OPEN.

“What is that charm all about?” I eyed him.

Meow. He darted up to the counter and jumped on it.

Mr. Prince Charming showed up on my front porch on my tenth birthday. He wore a little collar with a dangling turtle charm. It was missing one of its red eyes. I was so excited because I thought Darla had gotten me a cat. This would’ve been a good birthday present, especially since all of my birthday cakes were cakes from the local grocery store’s bakery that hadn’t been picked up by the customers who had ordered them.  Darla didn’t bother crossing out the other person’s name on the cake or removing the CLEARANCE sticker from its box. She didn’t see anything wrong with getting me cakes that were clearly meant for someone else.

So when Mr. Prince Charming showed up, I thought she’d gone all out for my birthday for one. Only I was wrong. He was a stray that hung around for years. I found out after Darla died that I was a spiritualist and he was sent to protect me since I didn’t live in a spiritual community.

Long story short, whenever there was danger that I needed to know about, he’d steal a charm from Bella’s Baubles, Whispering Falls’ jewelry store, and bring it to me for protection. I had no idea how he did it. I never questioned the spiritual world I lived in. I simply trusted it.

“Good morning.” I greeted a customer A she walked into the shop. I straightened out the tablecloths on my way back to the counter, using my hand to smooth out any unwanted creases.

“I love all of these bottles.” The woman I had seen in the car earlier was standing in front of the far left wall looking at all the bath products. ”Each one is different.”

It was Roxy Bloom. I felt an instant liking for her that warmed my soul.

“They are so pretty.” Another young woman with red, shoulder-length hair had come in and started up a conversation with Roxy. “We don’t have anything like this in Locust Grove.”

“Locust Grove?” I questioned her. “Are you from Locust Grove?”

“I am.” She nodded, with a big smile on her face.

“I am too.” I made my way over to her. I sucked in a deep breath and let her awareness seep into me. “Are you getting married?” I asked.

I felt it in her soul that she wanted a long, happy marriage but had some doubts.

“Isn’t it gorgeous?” she lifted her ring, assuming that was how I knew she was engaged.

Her soul spoke to me as I got closer to her and this was how I knew exactly what special potion to make for her. Was it nerves? Was it doubt? That was what I needed to find out. There was definitely something apprehensive about her getting married.

“Yes.” Roxy gushed about the ring. “I just got married. I’m here on my honeymoon.”

There was a light tap on the window. I glanced out. The Karima sisters, Constance and Patience, had their noses stuck on the glass, looking in. Both were pointing to Roxy and nodding.

They were odd, those sisters. They owned Two Sisters Funeral Home and they could sniff out death or someone associated with death in a nanosecond. They were wrong about Roxy.

When I used my gift to feel what she wanted, all I got was a simple life filled with family and friends.

“I’m here to find special gifts for my bridesmaids. My fiancé is in the tea shoppe.” The young lady rolled her eyes. “I’m Camille.”

“I’m Roxy. Nice to meet you.” The two women appeared to really get along.

“Can I interest either of you in hot apple cider and a cookie?” I moved them closer to the hospitality table to give me time to get their actual products ready.

They nodded and continued their conversation, while I took the bottles they’d picked, and headed back to the counter.

“I’ll have your lotions ready in no time.” I hurried back behind the partition and set the bottles on the counter.

The cauldron bubbled to a slow simmer. I was going to work on Roxy’s potion first since I needed to know what she was all about as soon as possible. I dragged my hand along the back wall of ingredients and when my finger warmed, I knew it was the right one for Roxy’s potion.

The translucent tonic was sapphire in color and smelled like caramel apple. It was a delightful smell that told me Roxy really enjoyed caramel apples. That is how the magic worked. The special potion took on a smell the recipient loved.

“Now that we have that in there,” I whispered and turned back to the shelf, running my finger down it one last time. “Where are you?” I asked for the right ingredient to warm the pad of my finger at my touch. “Rue.” I smiled when I felt the warmth. “Of course.”

I plucked the Rue herb from the shelf. It was perfect for Roxy’s love potion. Not only would it make her feel head over heels in love, it would also ward her off from any sort of nosing around, which was what the Whispering Falls Newspaper had whispered in the air this morning.

“Just a few sprinkles.” I uncorked the top of the bottle and held it over the bubbling cauldron. “One, two. . .”

“You better put in at least ten more,” said Madame Torres, my crystal ball, who was sitting next to the cauldron. The black ball turned gray and then a deep purple with green lines running through it before she appeared. Her big face floated deep inside of the glass globe. Her eyelids were painted white, her cheeks green, and her lips the brightest red.  The turban on the top of her head had a jeweled Christmas tree at her third eye. “Protect yourself. Protect Whispering Falls.”

“She doesn’t seem so bad.” I went ahead and put a few more dashes of Rue in the boiling water. I picked up the ladle and stirred it slowly. “Besides, I’m working on a potion for her.”

Madame Torres floated closer to the edge of the glass. One big eyeball magnified as she twitched it back and forth.

“Now what?” I questioned my nervous-acting crystal ball.

“Where’s the four-legged dirty thing?” she asked about Mr. Prince Charming. “Why can’t he give you valuable information other than a pig?”

“As I recall, you only told me to protect myself and Whispering Falls.” I jerked my brow towards her and continued to stir the potion in the cauldron. “I’ll go see Bella to find out exactly what the pig means.”

”Mmmhmm…” Madame Torres drew her eye back, bringing her full face back into focus. Her face started to fade into the purple swirl. “There will be trip to Locust Grove with Roxy on your heels,” her voice trailed off as the waves of the liquid inside her globe swooshed back and forth, hitting the sides.

“Roxy? I doubt that,” I said with a sigh, giving the potion one more dash of Rue. “One could never be too careful.”

I left the cauldron to finish the potion while I went back out to the shop floor to see exactly which bottle Roxy would choose.

“Roxy?” I called. The two women still had their heads together as though they’d been friends for a long time. “Would you mind picking out a bottle from the wall over there? The one you picked out isn’t big enough,” I lied.

Underneath the chalkboard with the daily special, which just so happened to be a happy potion disguised as Candy Cane Lotion, was a shelf full of ornamental bottles, each unique in design and color.

“Sure.” Roxy eagerly walked across the shop. It didn’t go unnoticed that Mr. Prince Charming had shifted himself to watch each step she took. “These are all so pretty. How do I pick?”

“I suggest you take your time. This is special for you,” I encouraged her. “Pick them up and let them sit in your hand. You’ll know.”

It was truly magical how the bottle picked the recipient. They couldn’t see it, but the bottle would give a faint glow, letting me know it was the right one.

“This one really speaks to me.” Roxy gently grabbed a pale brown glass bottle in the shape of a heart. The screw-on cap was cream and there were cream-colored ceramic butterflies attached to the front of the heart. “Is that silly?” She asked when I went to take it from her.

“Absolutely not.” I offered a reassuring smile. “It’s your special lotion and it should be in a special bottle that you love.”

“Then, this one is it.” She let go of the bottle, letting it rest in my palm. There was a small shock between us. “Oh.” She giggled. “Static electricity.”

“Mmmhmm.” I nodded. “Something like that.” I turned and headed back to the cauldron, but not without leaning down to whisper into Mr. Prince Charming’s ear first. “Keep an eye on her.”

Although I didn’t feel like there was anything evil about Roxy Bloom, there was something I did find curious about her. Maybe it was the newspaper article this morning that had warned us about her.

The cauldron had already turned itself off by the time I got back to it with the bottle. I unscrewed the lid and held the bottle over the cauldron. Like a funnel, the potion zipped up into the bottle.

Madame Torres’s glass globe lit up with a display of fireworks as the words Protect Whispering Falls continued to float in the waves.

“Here you go, Roxy.” I set the bottle down on the counter next to the cash register. “Little dabs along the neck, behind the ears, and on the soles of your feet are all you need for a relaxing honeymoon.”

She hurried over along with  Camille. They both had anxious looks on their faces as Roxy unscrewed the lid and lifted the bottle up to her nose.

“Caramel apple,” she gushed. She lifted her chin, her eyes dancing with delight. “The night Patrick and I got married, we’d been bobbing for apples at the annual Neewollah Festival. We ate caramel apples. This is just too coincidental.”

She dabbed a little on her wrists before she offered some to Camille.

“That’s just for you.” I put my hand out to stop her from dabbing some on her new friend. “I’ve got just the thing for you. I bet you’d love a dash of lemon balm and that doesn’t mix well with caramel apple.”

My heart sank when I got a whiff of lemon balm.

“Did you say that you’re engaged?” I asked Camille to make sure my intuition was right.

“I am.” She eagerly nodded. “We are getting married on New Year’s Eve. It’s been in the works for about a year now. My fiancé just had a small bachelor party in November and I didn’t want one. I only wanted him to bring me here, to Whispering Falls, for the shopping and the tree lighting tonight.”

As she spoke, my heart got heavier and heavier. She truly loved this man. Her heart practically glowed with the love, but I knew there was a deep dark secret. One that was going to reveal itself.

I watched as she picked out a bottle for the broken heart lotion I had to make for her. It was what her body was saying she needed, only she had no idea she needed it. . .yet.

“I’m sure your wedding is going to be amazing.” I assured her, taking the red, hourglass-shaped bottle from her grip.

“Let’s exchange phone numbers in case I ever can get Michael to visit Honey Springs,” I overheard Camille  tell Roxy as I headed back behind the partition to make her potion.

The bell over the door dinged, and as I glanced back over my shoulder, the door was closing. Roxy Bloom must’ve left, and a man shuffled into the shop.

“There you are.” He hurried over to Camille. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Oh, Michael, isn’t this the best shop ever?” She bounced on her toes.

Michael’s eyes met mine. There was a deep sadness within them that sent a punch to my gut. He was going to break her heart and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

“Just darling,” he muffled with sarcasm. “I think we should go home.”

“Why? You promised me a full day in Whispering Falls.” Camille pleaded with him. “Mike?”

I headed back to the cauldron, not only to get her a potion made fast, but to get out of the way of the discussion they were having.

“The snow is getting heavier and it might be a while before we can make it back home.” His voice got softer. “We can make it home in time for a nice romantic dinner in front of the TV.”

“No! Over your dead body is when I’ll leave early.” Camille’s words were followed by the slamming of the shop door.

 

 

Chapter Three
Roxy Bloom

Patrick parked the car on an open spot near the Glorybee Pet Shop. There was a parking lot specifically for the Full Moon Treesort, but an arrow pointing towards a trail where we had to walk the rest of the way.

Unsure of how long it would take us to walk the trail, Patrick took the dogs for a walk while I had roamed around a few of the shops.

“There you are,” I greeted Patrick, Sassy, and Pepper after I’d found them on the little trail I’d taken from the shops towards the resort.

“I swear I’ve been lost in these woods for about an hour.” I still wasn’t sure of my way around.

“How did we not know this town was here?” Patrick let Sassy and Pepper shower me with kisses as though I’d been gone for a week before he took me into his arms. “It’s pretty amazing. There’s snow on the ground, but we aren’t freezing.”

I tucked my arm in his elbow and let him lead me back to the Full Moon Treesort since I’d yet to see where we were staying. Sassy and Pepper ran ahead like they knew exactly where they were going.

“Do I smell caramel apple?” Patrick nuzzled his nose in my neck, sending shivers up my spine.

Meow, Mr. Prince Charming showed up out of nowhere.

“Mr. Prince Charming,” I greeted him and snuggled closer to Patrick. There was an inexplicable feeling growing within me that I wanted to spend as much time with Patrick as possible. The love and happiness I was feeling was indescribable.

“His name is Prince Charming?” Patrick laughed.

“Mr. Prince Charming,” I corrected him. “He belongs to June Heal. The lady who owns A Charming Cure. She made a lotion just for me. It smells just like caramel apples.” I took it out of my purse and showed him the bottle. “There’s something strange about this town that I can’t quiet put my finger on.”

“Don’t you dare go and sniff around when we are on our honeymoon,” Patrick warned, tightening his grip around me. “We only have a few days here before we head back to Honey Springs for our family Christmas. We need to relax before we have your Aunt Maxi and your mom in one room.”

I busted out laughing, the joy in my voice bouncing around the woods and across the clearing ahead of us.

“Patrick,” I gasped when I saw the large tree that had a house of some sort built into it.

“That’s the Full Moon Treesort,” he said.

We both stopped and watched Sassy and Pepper dart up the front steps of the hotel. It was the most spectacular hotel I’d ever seen.

“We aren’t your typical bed and breakfast.” Amethyst Plum had greeted us from the large kitchen inside of the resort. She hummed happily as Patrick took a seat at the large kitchen island where she was making something that smelled so good.

She had a long, fishtail braid and wide, black eyes that danced as she giggled at Sassy and Pepper curled up next to the large stone fireplace.

“My resort is nestled deep within the woods behind our village. As you can see, the two story, A-frame structure is nothing but windows that overlook the most spectacular views Whispering Falls has to offer. Our rooms are scattered among the trees in the forest. Each one has a different theme and a unique view, and you get the honeymoon tree. You’re going to love it.” She peeled the dough from her hands and floured the cutting board.

“What are you making?” I asked with great interest.

“I’m making candy cane cookies. They are delicious.” She took half the dough and began to roll it into a thin line.

“I have a wonderful recipe that I use at The Bean Hive for candy cane cookies.” I took pride in all of the food I cooked and baked in my coffeehouse.

“You own a bakery?” She asked.

“No. I own a coffeehouse where I make my own special blends. I also bake and have some food items.” I pushed my sleeves up to my elbows. “May I?” I asked.

“I’d love that.” Amethyst happily moved out of my way.

“Oh boy, this is going to be a while.” Patrick took his drink and headed over to one of the sofas. “I’m going to sit here and enjoy this view while you do that.”

The large windows around the Treesort provided a perfect view of the woods and the falling snow.

“Are those twinkling lights?” I asked as I began to incorporate the red food coloring into the dough.

“The teenagers?” She asked.

“Teenagers?” I took another hard look out the window. I didn’t see anything except what appeared to be lightning bugs, but I knew it was the season for them. Especially with the snow. “No, I meant the things that look like lightning bugs.”

“Oh, dear,” she curled her lips in and mumbled. “Those.” She hesitated. “What is the oven supposed to be on?” she asked, avoiding my question all together. “I’ll be right back.” She didn’t bother setting the oven or waiting for me to answer.

“There are just things I can’t seem to explain,” I said to Patrick after she hurried out of the room. I walked over to the oven and looked at  it. I couldn’t find the buttons to turn it on.

“What are you talking about?” He asked over his shoulder.

“Those lightning bugs.” I pointed to the window. He turned back around and followed my finger. It was early, but dark enough to see the bugs flying all around.

“What lightning bugs?” He asked. “I only see snow falling.”

The twinkling lights were suddenly gone. I looked from window to window.

“I’m not going nuts. I swear there were lightning bugs,” my jaw dropped as the words left my mouth. I blinked a few times.

“Lightning bugs?” Amethyst appeared out of nowhere next to the oven. The oven started. “Those amazing bugs go away around October. They’ve been long gone now.” She drummed her fingers together.

“How did you start that oven?” I asked and looked back. There were a couple of knobs that I swear weren’t there before. The oven’s digital readout already said three-hundred and fifty.  “I swear I didn’t see any knobs or buttons.”

“Nothing special.” Amethyst had already taken the cream-colored dough and the red dough, braided them together, and had them perfectly shaped in candy cane form before I could turn back around.

“Wow. I . . .” Now my jaw was on the floor.

“You okay?” She asked. “I just love your recipe. These are going to be a big hit with the bed and breakfast guests.”

“Good evening,” June Heal greeted us when she walked into the room. “I see you’ve met.”

“Evening?” I glanced up at the clock. It was already five p.m.

“Time flies when you’re having fun.” Amethyst grinned from ear to ear. She gestured to the windows where the woods were suddenly really dark. “June, did you see the Santa this afternoon?”

The awkward moment between the two women didn’t go unnoticed. It was as though they were trying to tell each other something that they didn’t want me to hear.

“You’re going to miss the tree lighting if you don’t hurry up,” June said as she took a bite out of a candy cane cookie. It was obvious she was ignoring Amethyst’s question about the Santa.

“The cookies are ready?” I blinked a few times when I noticed the three-tiered displays were full of the baked cookies.

“Are you feeling okay, honey?” Patrick walked over to see me. “All the baking you’ve done today must have you tired. Do you want to skip the tree lighting and just go lay down?”

“You have been busy.” Amethyst patted my hand.

“No. I’m fine.” I planted a smile on my face, but deep down I knew that something wasn’t right. “I’m ready to go to the tree lighting.”

Patrick got Sassy and Pepper along with our coats. On our way out the door, I took the lotion June Heal had made me and threw it in the trash can when she and Amethyst weren’t looking.

“Why did you throw that away?” Patrick asked on our way out of the Treesort.

“I don’t know. I think it made me sick to my stomach. Maybe the scent was too much.” I shrugged off his question.

If I told him that I thought this town was crazy or that there was some sort of witchery was going on, he’d think his new bride was crazy.

“The fresh air might do you good.” He rubbed my back as we found our way back into Village.

Colored Christmas lights were strung from lamp post to lamp post, making the town even more magical at night. Every shop was open, and the sidewalks were filled with tourists.

The Santa was ringing his bell next to a red. . .cauldron? I had to do a double take when it was clearly not a kettle. We made our way down to where the carolers sang at the big evergreen that hadn’t been there earlier today, on the lawn of Two Sisters and A Funeral at the far end of town. There was a countdown clock next to the unlit tree. Next to the tree was a big red sleigh with the times listed for visits with Santa.

Mr. Prince Charming beat us there. He stared at me like he was watching me.

“Are you following me?” I bent down and asked him.

He began to dance around my ankles, leaving fur marks on my jeans.

“You are a funny cat.” I bent down and picked him up.

“Welcome to our magical village of Whispering Falls. I’m Petunia Shrubwood, the President of the Village.” The woman spoke above the crowd next to a giant light switch. She had long brown hair that desperately needed a brush.

“Is that a stick in her hair?” Patrick leaned over and asked me.

“Is that a bird on her shoulder?” I asked him and we both laughed.

“We will have a lot to tell people about our honeymoon over Christmas dinner.” He laughed again, making me laugh some more.

“It’s my great honor to host you and your loved ones for what we hope to be an annual event.” Petunia continued to tell the crowd about the town. “All of our shops are open for you. We hope while you are here you will take the time to explore our village and enjoy your stay.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Camille darting in and out of the crowd like she was looking for someone.

I waved my hands over my head.

“Camille!” I called her name and caught her attention. My smile grew bigger and bigger as she made her way through the crowd. “Patrick, this is Camille. She is getting married.”

“Not if I can’t find my fiancé.” There was a worried look on her face. “I’ve been looking for him since you left the shop earlier.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Do you remember seeing a man walk into A Charming Cure when you were leaving?” she asked.

“Yes. He had brown, longish hair.” I used my hands to show her what I meant. She nodded. “Long, blue cashmere coat?” I confirmed that my memory wasn’t gone . . yet.

“Yes. Have you seen him since then?” she asked, with worry evident in her tone.

“I haven’t. I’m sorry, but I can help now.” She accepted. “I’ll be back in a few. You stay here so I can find you,” I said to Patrick.

He gave me a kiss on the lips.

“Don’t miss the lighting. You’ve got five minutes.” He pointed to the countdown clock.

“You go that way and I’ll go this way.” I pointed to the left for Camille and I went right.

The crowd was getting bigger and bigger as the countdown clock ticked down. I walked on my tiptoes to see above the crowd, but I wasn’t tall enough. When I got to Santa’s sleigh, I figured I’d just step up on it and look over the crowd.

I grabbed the reins and hoisted myself up.

“What are you doing?” Constance Karima was standing near the back of the sleigh. Her sister was behind her, sniffing around like a dog. “You need to get down.” There was no room in her tone for negotiation.

“I was just trying to find. . .”

“Three, two, one!” Petunia yelled into the microphone as she pushed the big light switch to ON.

The entire village lit up like somebody had turned on the sun. It nearly blinded me, causing me to lose my balance.

“Get down!” Constance Karima screamed at me. “Now!”

“Whoaaa!!” I tried to see past the spots of lights that were affecting my sight. I blinked a few times. My arms flailed around like airplane propellers before I fell right into the sleigh. “I’m so sorry,” I begged Santa to forgive me when I noticed I’d fallen on him.

My eyes went back to normal as I started to push myself up and help out the jolly big guy. Only it wasn’t the jolly big guy.

“Michael?” My eyes grew as I realized it was Camille fiancé with a knife stuck in his neck.

end of excerpt

A Charming Blend

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Feb 27, 2019

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