STATS: I am in my early twenties, and have long brown hair and blue eyes. I’m five feet nine inches tall and slightly fluffy. I was raised by a troll who I believed was my gramma (interesting story), and only learned I had artifact magic when I got into my teens and artifacts started following me around. Literally.
Hi! My name is Naida, and I’m a magical artifact librarian. I have a magical cat and a talking frog. My best friend is a sprite with fiery red hair and a matching personality. My boyfriend is a cop and a gargoyle.
I live in a place called Croakies. Seriously. The froggy name was the brainchild of the original librarian, and it’s magically protected, impossible to change.
Believe me, I tried.
But, despite the bad name and a growing cadre of misfits and malcontents who live there with me, the place has become my home. A bookstore in the front, and a warehouse of magical artifacts in the back, Croakies has grown on me like troll fungus in the years since I’ve become Naida keeper, KOA, Keeper of the Artifacts.
I know what you’re thinking. Librarians may be nice people, but their lives are boring. Goddess in a glass house…not my gig. Some days I wished it were boring. The job is a veritable smorgasbord of intrigue and mystery, along with lots of danger. I hear you laughing. But it’s true. What kind of danger? you ask. Okay, let me catalog, librarian-like, a few of my assignments:
In my newest adventure, Super Croakies, I chased a hot-pink magical Cadillac with deadly intentions and a literal ton of magical energy behind it. I also found myself dodging a malevolent superhero costume that had gone rogue in a decidedly toxic way.
In Croakies Dictum, my friends and I fought a trio of magical gateways in an attempt to access a universal artifact key and save the fairies from certain death.
In Turtle Croakies, my friends and I found ourselves in the Jurassic era, battling all manner of dinosaurs in pursuit of a time-traveling tortoise and the witch who was misusing it.
Then it was monsters. In Croakies Monster, we had to deal with an army of beasts that we inadvertently released from the abyss when we used the magic incorrectly.
And, if you want a truly nightmarish situation, try entering a magical black-and-white TV like we did in Black and White Croakies, and experience getting sucked into the evil twin versions of every sitcom you enjoyed as a kid.
Sigh… Such is my life. The adventures are potentially lethal for me and my friends, but eminently entertaining for you, so there’s that…
Deadly Traditions Christmas anthology – Killing the Carol
FaLaLaLaLa the songbird’s dead.
My story in the anthology is entitled, KILLING THE CAROL. It’s a fun romp of a holiday mystery from one of my favorite series. THE GRAVE THEATRICS SERIES is based on a unique premise. The heroine is a professional mourner. Yep, it’s just like it sounds. She gets paid to play a mourner at a funeral/viewing/interment. Professional mourners are a real thing. They’ve have been around for centuries. The role has generally been played by women in poorer, less advanced societies because it was a good way for a woman to add to the family’s finances without stepping outside of accepted norms. Of course, my professional mourner isn’t worried about accepted norms. In fact, she’s more than happy to stomp all over the rules when she’s stalking a killer!
My name is MayBell Ferth, and the cute little ball of fluff and ‘tude sitting on my lap is Shakespeare… Shakes for short. Shakes is a Pomeranian, a.k.a. the Pomeranian Devil. He’s also my best friend and my accomplice in crime-fighting and other things.
I come from a family of cops. My dad, the Lieutenant, is a fearsome creature with a soft spot for Shakes that he tries to deny. My brother Argh is a detective. Argh got his weird nickname as a kid when he had to wear an eyepatch due to reoccurring eye infections. Argh and I have an older brother and sister who are also cops.
I’m pretty sure the very first Ferth to step off a ship onto terra firma in the New World was a cop of some sort. The Ferths have worn the impetus for protecting and serving as a badge of honor through countless generations.
I’m not a cop. And, I’ll bet you an entire box of caramel-filled chocolates that you’ve never heard of my job before.
I started out as a Community Theatre actor.
“Ha!” you say. You can almost taste those chocolates. I’m sorry to disappoint. I may have started out in the theatre, but I left that job behind because I couldn’t take all the drama. Wait…an actor who doesn’t like drama? Let me clarify.
I couldn’t take diva drama.
Which brings me to my current career as a Professional Mourner. Yep, that’s a real thing. I actually get paid to cry at funerals and play whatever role the client wishes me to play. Bereaved girlfriend, gloating college rival, conniving ex-partner. I’ve played them all.
I love my job, even though it has gotten me into a few “situations” since I started. I’ve bagged a murderer since taking my job at Exit Stage Left and almost gotten myself killed in the process.
But the situation I’m currently in isn’t due to my Professional Mourning job. I signed up for a role in a community theatre production for charity because the proceeds will be going to a really good cause. If I’d known I’d be working with one of the very divas who’d sent me sprinting from the stage in the first place, I might not have taken the role.
But I am, and I did.
Patrice Reynolds has been the bane of my existence since we both tried out for the same role in a high school production of Peter Pan. She’d shoved me down a short flight of stairs to keep me from getting the coveted role of Tinkerbell. Unfortunately for Patrice, we Ferths have excellent bones. I didn’t break a leg…euphemistically or otherwise.
And, I totally rocked the role of Tinkerbell.
Over the years, Patrice has schemed and lied, flinging self-respect to the winds in an effort to get one over on me, both professionally and personally. I’d thought I’d left her in my dust when I changed careers.
Then I found her dead body in the wings. I soon realized that made me the prime suspect since I was the only one in the theatre when I stumbled over her body.
Well…me and the shadowy figure I’d seen sprinting away through the cheap seats just before I found Patrice.
To make things worse, not only was Patrice dead but she’d clearly been murdered. No surprise at all to those of us who knew her.
Since Argh was the detective in charge of the case and I was the one to find her, with no witnesses to absolve me of the crime, I’ve also put my family in a terrible situation.
Enter the hero stage right. Okay, hero might be too strong a word. Eddie Deitz certainly looks the part, with his tousled black hair, smoldering gaze, and delectable…erm…flipside, but he’s no hero. He’s a private investigator. And since he was hired by the deceased to protect her much less delectable flipside from some unknown stalker, he’s surfing in the same shark-infested waters as I am.
So it looks like we’ll need to work together to figure out who killed the diva. With the help of a certain adorable Pom, potential assistance from my monosyllabic, dread-headed neighbor who lives in a medically-endorsed cannabis cloud, and an assist or two from the Lieutenant, whose involvement definitely nudges the line between ethical and not so much.
There’s a murder to be solved, and I’m going to solve it. I might not be a cop like the rest of my family, but I’ve got more detective than diva coursing through my veins.
“Have you seen Vel?” I asked my assistant as she buzzed past, wings whirring softly in the quiet space.
“No.” Sebille stopped in front of me and popped into full size, her expression perplexed. “I was just looking for Baca. One of the ceiling tiles is loose in the bookstore. I was going to have her fix it.”
I frowned, looking around the enormous, warehouse-like space of the artifact library. “I just realized I haven’t seen Mr. Wicked or Hobs either since dinner.”
Our gazes met and locked, alarm widening her iridescent green eyes and my blue ones in matching indications of concern. “What are they up to?” I asked, knowing it was a rhetorical question since nobody but the aforementioned little monsters knew the answer.
If my cat, Mr. Wicked, was missing, along with the brownie, Baca, and her constant companion, Hobs, that was concerning enough. If the newest member of our strange gang was missing too, things were almost guaranteed to get squiggy. Vel, our little demon dog, was a sweet but undisciplined disaster waiting to happen. We’d gotten her from the demonic plane, and I suspected she was just a puppy with massive powers she seemed to have little control over.
The front bell rang and a clear, worried voice called out. “Naida? Sebille? I need to talk to you.”
I looked at Sebille and she rolled her eyes. “What does she want now?”
Sebille didn’t usually react that way to our friend Lea, the earth witch who lived above the magical herbs shop next door. The sprite generally saved that level of derision for me. But Lea had been in something of a dither for the last couple of weeks. She’d read some signs in tea leaves or something. We assumed she was reading them wrong. But she was sure of her results. And they were bad. Really bad. Basically, she was predicting the end of the world.
Two brisk knocks on the dividing door between the store and the artifact library had me sighing. As much as I loved my friend, like Sebille, I was getting just a wee bit tired of the drama about the full moon. I mean, we had a full moon a dozen times a year, right? What made the current full moon so different?
I threw a wisp of my Keeper magic toward the door and it opened, revealing a harried, wild-eyed earth witch wearing pink and lace footie pajamas.
“Ah!” Sebille said, holding up her arms as if to ward off a boogie. “What are you wearing?”
Looking perplexed, Lea glanced down at her curvy form. “My PJs. Why? What’s wrong with them?”
“Other than the obvious?” Sebille asked.
“Says the woman who wears red and white striped footie PJs to bed all the time?” I said, in Lea’s defense. Not to mention the green and purple polka dot dress Sebille was currently wearing with black and red striped stockings and fire-engine-red shoes that matched her long, red hair. My assistant was the last person who should be picking on somebody else’s clothing choices.
“I wear them in the winter,” Sebille responded. “It’s only October. Way too early for the Full Monty, pajama-wise.”
Lea hurried over, the plastic bottoms of her footie feet scraping softly on the concrete. “My heat’s broken, and the shop is freezing.” She fluttered her hands dismissively. “That’s not important. I just read the tea leaves again.”
I didn’t look at Sebille. I didn’t want to see the face I knew she was making. “Oh?”
To be honest, I was with Sebille about the tea leaf overdose. Lea had just learned to read tea leaves, and she was seeing danger around every corner since starting. The whole thing had a “Chicken Little” feel to it. “I take it you saw something alarming?”
Sebille elbowed me in the side hard enough to make me grunt. She didn’t want me to encourage the witch. If she could communicate telepathically, she’d no doubt be telling me, “Shut it. The witch finds enough trouble without us encouraging her.”
I didn’t disagree.
Lea ran a hand through her long, light brown hair, her movements jerky and agitated. “Nothing new,” she responded. “Just the same death and destruction.”
“Can you give us anything to work with?” I asked. “Any detail at all?”
Lea shook her head, looking like she wanted to cry. “I’m getting the full moon, with a blood-red haze over it. And howling. Lots of howling. Then I get this feeling of death.” She shuddered, clearly affected by what she was seeing.
Even if it was all in her imagination.
“Look, Lea…” I began.
The bell on the front door clanged again. Hippopotamus halitosis! “Did somebody replace the front door with a revolving one?”
Lea frowned. “It wasn’t locked when I came inside. In fact, the knob is kind of kluge.”
“Kluge how,” I asked, heading for the front of the building. I tugged the dividing door open and found a man with broad shoulders and mahogany-brown hair standing by the front door. He was staring down at something in his big hand.
“Kluge like that,” Lea said. She nodded toward the doorknob in my boyfriend Grym’s palm.
He looked up, an apology in his dark caramel gaze. “I’m really sorry, Naida. It just came off in my hand.” It might have been the result of his gargoyle DNA. Or the door might have been compromised already, as Lea suggested.
Panic swirled through me. Had Croakies been broken into?
I looked at Sebille. “I need to do a quick read of the whole place.”
She nodded. “I’ll make tea.”
Tea would fix everything. Well, not everything. “We might need cookies too.”
The sprite nodded.
Grym turned back to the door and tried to stick the handle back into it. “Where’s Baca? She can fix this in no time.”
The brownie was becoming indispensable.
I closed my eyes and lifted my hands, palms up. Tugging power from my core, I released it in dual waves of silvery energy that spread throughout the bookstore and then moved into the much larger artifact library at the back. As it moved through the building, I mentally inventoried every magical book and artifact, finding nothing out of place or missing.
Opening my eyes, I shook my head. “I don’t know where Baca is,” I said, belatedly answering Grym’s question. “I can’t find any of them.” Noting Grym’s dour expression, I realized he hadn’t just come to Croakies to say hey. “What’s wrong?”
Grym was a detective with the Enchanted Police. I gathered from his manner that he had business of a police nature to share with us. I also guessed it wasn’t good news.
He motioned toward the table by the bookshelves. “You might want to sit down.” He took the tea Sebille offered him and nodded at Lea. “All of you.”
Panic swirled in my chest, making my heart flutter with concern. “What’s wrong?” I repeated, my tone going slightly shrill. “The kids are okay, right? You’re not here to tell us something’s happened to them?” Suddenly the idea that I hadn’t seen them since dinner took on a sinister feel.
My question was based on recent experience. There had been a whole Pied Piper thing that still gave me nightmares. The sight of all of my friends and loved ones being marched away to almost certain death had left me scarred.
Grym gave me an apologetic look. “No. This isn’t about them. But…” He stared into his teacup and sighed. “You might want to keep them close for a bit.”
“Why?” Lea asked. She glanced toward the door, and I didn’t need to read her mind to know she was thinking about her little cat, Hex, alone in her apartment next door.
Grym set the tea down on the table and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You remember Rhonda across the street?”
I nodded. “The banshee.” I’d only met Rhonda a couple of times, but both times had been memorable. She’d joined us for a pretty chaotic Christmas party where someone had spelled the cookies to mix up our bodies with our spirits. I would never forget the experience, having spent way too much time as a frog, craving bugs. I shuddered at the memory. The second time, we’d been battling a building-sized snake, and she’d screamed the monster to sleep for us. “I haven’t seen her for a while.” Even as I spoke the words, I knew what he was going to say.
“Well, she…” his brows lowered as he seemed to be struggling with the right words. “Somebody…” He shook his head. “She’s dead.”
“Oh!” Lea said, shuddering violently. She looked at Sebille and me. “See! I told you. Somebody’s already been killed! I was right.”
I held up a hand for her to calm down. “How did she die?” I asked Grym.
He winced. “I don’t really want to…”
Sebille, Lea, and I all gave him the stink eye.
“You can’t come in here and tell us Rhonda’s dead and then not tell us what happened,” Sebille said.
“She’s right,” I told him.
“Was she murdered?” Lea asked, looking as if she’d just eaten a bug.
“Yes,” he finally said. “She was killed. Somebody, or something, chewed on her.”
The best chocolate begins with imagination and ends in murder.
Making chocolate is a labor of love and an age-old art. As a connoisseur of the sweet, creamy stuff herself, Blaise is excited to be working at an exclusive confectioner’s shop, run by a woman whose reputation for being a creative chocolatier is legendary. Madeline Foss’s past might be murky and slightly dark, but her chocolate is delicious. And nothing says love like chocolate. Or at least, that’s what Blaise has always believed.
But when her new boss ends up dead, she quickly realizes that nothing says murder like jealousy and ambition. And there isn’t enough chocolate in the world to overcome a savage intent.
She floated into the room in a cloud of raspberry and chocolate chiffon, her arms waving around her head and her eyes swiveling to take in every display with a slightly hostile, but eminently discerning eye. “Les grains de café enrobés de chocolat!”
Blaise settled the last perfectly formed rectangle of toffee onto its tray in the glass case and glanced up. “I’ve got them ready to put out. I’ll do those next.”
Madeline Foss nodded and stopped in the middle of the cozy little shop, an index finger pressed against her ruby-red lips as her cool, gray gaze swept the tables and danced over the glass display cases. “The brittle is messy,” she told Blaise.
“I know. I’ll do that after the chocolate covered coffee beans.”
“Les grains de café enrobés de chocolat,” Madeline corrected, her upturned nose lifting with disdain.
“The grains de whatever, yes.” Head down so her boss couldn’t see when she rolled her eyes, Blaise closed the case and moved over to the tray of pretty plastic containers filled with coffee beans coated in creamy, rich chocolate. She fought the urge to inhale their scent, knowing that Madeline, in her Queen of England persona, would consider it gauche.
Madeline’s cell rang and she tugged it from an invisible pocket in the cloud of chiffon, glaring at the screen. “I’ll be in my office, Blaise.” She turned and swept toward the back of the shop, her outfit billowing around her like a designer flag in a windstorm.
“Yes?” Her voice was tight and shrill. It was her “I don’t like you, so why are you talking to me” voice.
Blaise shook her head. She’d taken the job as an experiment, thinking she might like to get into the confectionary business. She’d learned a lot and enjoyed creating the sweet delicacies as much as watching people’s eyes light up when they came through the door and looked around. But dealing with the talented yet decidedly temperamental Madeline had been a bit more than Blaise had bargained for.
Still, she’d been surprised to discover she really liked her new boss. Once she’d realized there was a soft center under all that prickliness.
Her own cell rang a couple of moments later as the back door snicked closed, sending a cold draft of early Winter air in Blaise’s direction. Blaise frowned toward the hallway that led to Madeline’s office, the private restroom, and the exit.
Had her boss left for the day without saying anything?
Irritation flaring, Blaise answered her phone without looking to see who it was. “Hello?”
A shrill bark met her greeting. Her temper sifted away and Blaise grinned. “Hey, Miss Ivy. How’s my beautiful girl?”
Panting noises preceded a soft whine, and Blaise chuckled. “Dolfe, how many times have I told you not to whine on the phone.”
“It works for the fur-brats,” a sexy, deep voice told her.
“That’s because they’re little and cute.”
“I’m not cute?” His voice filled with pretend hurt.
“Cute is not the word I’d use for you, no.” Gorgeous. Sexy. Painfully masculine. She grinned.
His chuckle made her all warm and sizzly inside. “What time will you be done tonight? The brats and I want to go to that new drive-in restaurant for dinner.”
“The brats told you that, huh?”
“They did. I happen to speak fluent fur-brat.”
Laughing, she glanced through the front windows at the lead-gray sky beyond. “It’s cold and ugly outside, Honeybun.”
“We won’t be getting out of the car.” She could almost hear him smile. “Besides, I’ll keep you warm.”
“More like the two dogs on my lap will keep me warm. You won’t be able to reach me through all the fur and teeth.”
Dolfe sighed. “Story of my life. Time?”
“Five o’clock. I’m almost done setting up for tomorrow.”
“Perfect. We’ll see you then.”
A short, muffled scream had Blaise turning toward the back again. “What the…?” She disconnected and started toward the office. “Madeline?”
The hall was empty. The office door was locked. Madeline kept it locked whenever she left the room. Blaise’s boss wasn’t a very trusting person and the office’s proximity to the back exit, which led to an alley featuring a stinky dumpster, a few employee cars, and zero security cameras didn’t improve her trust issues.
Blaise tugged the bathroom door open and stuck her head inside. “Madeline?”
A cold breeze skimmed down the hall and the metal door to the alley clacked against the frame. It wasn’t latched.
It was unlike her boss to leave it open. Unless she’d been in a hurry. Or upset.
Frowning, Blaise hurried toward the door and eased it open, peering into the alley as an icy blast of wind scoured across the space, sending bits of debris skimming over the dingy asphalt and carrying the stench of the dumpster down the way to her nose.
Her boss’s car was still there, sitting alone under the security light that hadn’t come on yet.
“Madeline…?” Blaise’s voice cut off as she spotted a length of raspberry chiffon dancing on the air near the dumpster. Shivering violently, Blaise stepped into the alley. “What are you doing out here? You’re going to get frostbite.” She headed for the cloud of chiffon, rubbing her arms and looking around for any indication of why Madeline had come into the alley.
“You know, I took the trash out earlier, right?”
A pale hand lifted above the dumpster and Blaise gave a startled yelp as a rangy orange cat jumped from the rusty container and dropped lightly to the ground. The cat turned to stare at her, its startling green gaze filled with distrust. The stray’s tail whipped from side to side and Blaise took note of the dark stains around its mouth. She grimaced. “Dumpster diving, huh?”
Madeline must have been trying to capture the cat. The woman was cat crazy. She had six cats of her own, all rescued off the streets of Indianapolis. Blaise frowned as the cat ran away, her gaze drawn to the pale hand resting against the side of the dumpster. “Please tell me you didn’t fall into that dumpster trying to help the cat?”
She stepped on something that crunched under her boot. Looking down, Blaise frowned at the familiar phone, its back encased in faux purple jewels. She picked it up and grimaced at the cracked screen. “Um, Madeline…I think I broke your phone.”
Silence met her statement. “Madeline?”
Blaise hurried over, jerking to a stop as she got close enough to see inside the trash receptacle.
Blaise gave a sharp scream, her hand snapping up to cover her mouth.
“Oh, Maddie…” Tears burned her eyes and slid down her cheeks, dripping to the stained and debris-strewn asphalt beneath her boots.
When Sebille suggests I open the bookstore up to a small holiday party, I foolishly agree. How was I supposed to know that the hobgoblin would decide it would be fun to hide everybody’s stuff? Or that we’d be hit with a freak winter storm that confined everybody inside for the duration. Or that a “You’re me but who am I?” spell would be released inside the shop, switching everybody’s identities and creating general chaos and hysteria?
I could probably deal with all that if it weren’t for the fact that my friend, Lea…the one person who could possibly reverse the spell…was ensconced in SB the parrot, with no opposable thumbs for spelling.
And me? Of course, I’m sitting fat and squishy inside Mr. Slimy. Thank goodness Rustin isn’t currently in residence, or it would be really crowded in here.
Who spelled my party? What do a pair of Santa’s elves have to do with it? And why have old enemies suddenly become new friends? I apparently have a little holiday mystery to solve inside Croakies, and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it with everybody mixed up and some of us human.
She’s got a lot more to lose now…and somebody’s determined to make sure she loses it all.
Blaise is at it again. She’s still searching
for that perfect job. But even when she thinks she might have found a job that
could be more of a career than just a 9 to 5 gig, something always happens to
get in her way.
Usually, that something involves a corpse…
But this time, Blaise’s past comes back to
haunt her in a big way. She’d thought she put that whole, seeing a murder on
the beach thing behind her. But it seems somebody doesn’t want to leave the
past where it belongs.
And her past problems are about to become her
She’s just trying to live her life. But someone doesn’t want to let go of the past. And that means not letting go of her!
“Just think of it as a giant party,” Blaise’s friend, Suz Whatsnoggin told her, grinning.
“It will be just like working at the bar,” Dolfe offered,
taking a long swig of his icy cold beer.
Tyrese shook his head. “Not really. There are no Bridezillas
at the bar.”
Dolfe’s handsome face filled with worry. “Bridezilla? I
don’t know what that is but I’m pretty sure I don’t like the sound of it.”
Blaise winced, imploring her friends with her eyes not to
inform her sexy fiancé about the horrors of dealing with a nervous bride. It
was the last thing Blaise wanted him to think about on the virtual eve of their
Well…if you consider “within the next year” the eve.
Fortunately, Suz caught what her friend was throwing. “It’s
nothing you need to ever worry about, Honeybun.” She winked at Blaise.
But Dolfe was not a stupid man. In fact, he was probably
even smarter than he was good-looking, Blaise thought. And that was a lot of
smart. “It’s just a mean term used for brides who get the jitters,” she told
him in as offhand a way as she could muster. “Suz is right. You’ll never
experience that with me. I’m a rock.”
He grinned. “A rock, huh?” Being the aforementioned smart
hottie, Dolfe was wise enough not to venture any further into those tempestuous
seas. He simply smiled, shaking his head, and took another sip of his beer.
Tyrese apparently wasn’t smart enough to stay out of the storm.
He dove right in, daring the waves to swamp him. “I have no delusions. If Suz
and I choose to get married someday, she’ll be the queen of bridezillas. My Suz
will own the term.” He shook his head
as Suz gave him a quelling look. “I love me some strong woman. I have my own
special way of easing her nerves.”
When he waggled his brows, Suz rolled her eyes. “Stupidity,
thy name is Tyrese.”
Ty’s leer slid away. “Babe!” He leaned across the table, one
long, brown finger tucking up beneath her delicate chin and lifting. “You know
you’re cray-cray about me.”
She leaned in too, her lips a mere breath from his as she
released the Kraken. “Dude,” Suz said in her sexiest voice. “You know, if we
ever did decide to tie the knot, I’d just be marrying you for your last name,
Ty laughed. “What? You don’t want to lumber through life
with the name Whatsnoggin anymore?”
Suz smacked him on the arm.
Blaise shook her head. “Please tell me you didn’t just go
there,” she said.
Dolfe winced. “We
don’t make fun of a person’s name around here, man. It’s not in good taste,” said
the guy named Honeybun.
Ty’s smile withered. “She started it.”
Suz snorted. “Really? That’s what you’re going with? A
Ty shrugged. “Look, I love your weird name, babe. It’s just
one of the many funny little oddities that make you special.”
Dolfe groaned and Blaise sucked in a gasp. “Ty!”
Suz stared at him for a long moment, her pretty face so
lacking in expression it was an expression all on its own. It was a face that
said, you are so dead, while simultaneously declaring a total lack of concern.
Tyrese slowly lost his swagger and began to wilt, until he
became little more than a handsome puddle in the delicate chair. When he was so
puddly he looked ready to slither bonelessly off the chair onto the newly
carpeted floor, Suz finally gave him a tight smile. “Just for that, if we ever
decide to get married, Tyrese Miller, you’re going to take my name.”
Everybody gasped at that, followed by Dolfe’s low chuckle.
“Snap!” Blaise told her friends, knocking dainty knuckles
“Come on, girlfriend,” Suz told Blaise. “Help me count the
new shipment of linen napkins that just came in?”
Blaise stood, winking at Tyrese. “You’d better pull together
your best defrazzling game, son. That’s one ticked off ‘special’ girl right
there.” Blaise grinned as she followed Suz’s angrily swaying behind toward the
door at the back of the enormous room. Behind her, she heard Dolfe’s deep
chuckle as Ty whined at him in a voice that sounded like seagulls on a stormy beach.
Suz stopped at the open storage room door and grinned. “That
should keep him on his toes for a while.”
Blaise laughed softly. “Oh yeah.”
Before going inside, the two of them stood in the doorway
and looked around at the massive main space. It was a gorgeous room, elegant
and clean, with lots of light and clean, simple lines. Blaise was impressed by
her friend’s vision and decorating skills.
“It’s really beautiful, Suz.”
Her friend sighed, leaning companionably against Blaise’s
shoulder. “It is, isn’t it?”
Blaise nodded. When Suz had first come to her with the idea
of a wedding reception barn venue, Blaise had thought Suz had lost her mind.
But her friend had quickly sold the plan, backing up her excitement with lots
of rock-solid information that supported both the need and profitability of the
With Blaise’s help and Dolfe’s investment in time and effort,
Ty and Suz had turned the dream into reality in only a few short months.
They’d found a big, dusty barn out in the country on twenty
acres of farmland and woods. The property featured a picturesque creek running
along behind the main building, a wide lawn with old growth evergreens, and a
lovely bridge over the creek that would make a perfect spot for pictures.
Ty and Suz had turned the interior of the metal-sided barn
into a beautiful space, with rustic looking cedar walls, a tall ceiling with
the original beams, and cream-colored carpet that Blaise couldn’t help thinking
was going to be Hell on Earth to keep clean.
The public portion of the venue mostly consisted of one,
giant room, with an alcove for coats and gifts, two bathrooms, and an open-air
patio out back that served both as an outdoor kitchen and smoking lounge. The
roof of the lounge was outfitted with industrial-sized heaters for cooler
nights, and giant ceiling fans for sultry summer nights. The structure was
mostly enclosed, with one wall entirely open so that smoke from cigars or the
grill could escape harmlessly out into the night. The view through the open wall included the
pretty little creek and bridge, as well as a few acres of grass, flower beds,
and evergreen trees.
It was actually a really nice space that Blaise hoped they’d
be able to use for future Honeybun parties. It was large enough to accommodate
a family as big as the Honeybuns, even as they continued to grow.
The non-public part of the venue consisted of a storage room
with a small office at the back, and a caterer’s kitchen with restaurant-grade
The main room held fifty tables that were big enough to seat
eight to ten people each, with chairs that Suz had covered in frilly white
covers. Overhead, crystal chandeliers looked both opulent and kitschy against
the age-darkened wood and were complimented by yard after yard of gossamer
drapings, which hung from the rustic beams.
They’d added a small dance floor on one end, with a raised
stage and glossy wood floors.
A swinging metal door in the back corner of the main space
led to the caterer’s kitchen, which contained ample refrigeration, a bank of
industrial microwaves for reheating food that was brought in for events, and a
couple of long, wide, stainless-steel counters for food prep. They’d added the
kitchen space on Dolfe’s suggestion, and it had required building a small annex
of the main building. But Blaise realized it had absolutely been the right
thing to do, and she was happy her friends had listened to her very smart
Blaise had been intrigued as the couple turned the ugly
building into something straight out of a fairy tale. All her doubts had slowly
been swept away as she saw the enormous potential there.
And the last hurdle had been breached when they got their
first clients, who were on their way to the venue at that very moment for a
Suz took a deep breath. “This is really going to happen,
Wrapping an arm around her friend, Blaise nodded, “It really
“I hope this couple isn’t difficult,” Suz said, frowning.
She chewed on her bottom lip, clearly affected by the whole bridezilla
“We’ll deal with whatever happens,” Blaise said soothingly.
Suz nodded, giving Blaise a wide smile. “Have I told you
that I’m so happy you’re here to help us get this off the ground?”
“Only five times today,” Blaise said, laughing. “But
remember, it’s only for the first few months.” The wedding reception venue
concept felt too much like working in a bar for Blaise’s taste. She was happy
to help out, but it wasn’t what she wanted to do long-term for a living.
“I know,” her friend said on a sigh. “But a girl can dream,
“She absolutely can.” Blaise swung her arm to encompass the entire space. “Look what happens when she does.”
Grab your copy of Risky Venue at its temporary New Release price!
Hi. My name is Caphy, short for Cacophony. My best friend Joey named me that because I make a lot of noise when I’m hungry, or want to play ball, or see a squirrel, or a car, a bird, a speck of dirt blowing across the floor…
Geez, I used to think she was being overly sensitive about the noise thing. But now that I look at it, she might have something there.
Joey doesn’t know I’m here. Ixnay on the ewsnay. She’d be mad if she knew I was whining in your ear. But something must be done. Our author’s out of control. She’s ruining my fictional life!!! Whiiiiiiinnnnnneeeee!
I’ve been Joey’s best friend for years, ever since she and her Uncle Dev rescued me from that ditch alongside the road. We’re inseparable and, other than my second-best friend Hal Amity (who launches a mean tennis ball) we’ve been a team of two for that whole time.
I like it that way.
But now Sam’s throwing a wrench into the works. Or should I say, a cranky cat? I don’t like this cat. She’s mean and spits at me a lot. Joey won’t let me eat her, so what’s a sweet, slightly scared of spitting felines, pibl to do? All that’s left for me is hiding under and behind the furniture. I’ve been sucking hairballs for a whole week now and I hate it.
Please help me talk Sam out of making Joey keep this nightmare on soundless feet. If LaLee stays around I’m going to need serious therapy. I’m talking hours of tennis ball chasing, copious amounts of rolling in stinky stuff, and boxes full of my favorite dog treats.
Look, I’m not heartless. I know the cat just lost her owner. Good boy do I know! She was swimmin’ wid’ da fishes in Joey’s pond. But that doesn’t mean I need a furever sister, does it?
No! It doesn’t. So please, do me a solid, send Sam a note and beg her not to saddle me with the cat. Pleeeeaaassseee…whiiiiiinnnnnneeeee! I’ll be your third best friend furever if you do.
I tucked the tiny bottle of fake tears more deeply into my tissue and sniffed daintily, scoping out the assembled crowd of mourners with a practiced eye. My baby blues caught on a handsome, dark-haired man standing back from the rest, and I did one of those embarrassing jerk-away things with my eyes, hoping he didn’t notice me noticing him again.
He totally noticed me.
He’d been staring at me since I’d arrived at the viewing an hour earlier. And his expression was anything but friendly. Somehow my eyes kept traveling to him, though I swear on the life of my spunky Pomeranian, Shakespeare, that it was pure accident.
I wasn’t ogling the mourners.
Really, I wasn’t.
Of its own volition, my gaze accidentally slipped over the spot where he’d been again, and I blinked.
He was gone.
To cover my surprise, I turned to the elderly woman next to me and let my bottom lip quiver. I gave a practiced little sob and squeezed the fake tears in my tissue just as a big hand landed on my shoulder.
I yelped, gripped the tiny bottle as if it was the only thing keeping me from plunging a thousand feet off a bridge to my death, and then yelped again as I shot a stream of faux sadness right into one wide blue eye.
Fake tears ran like the River Jordan down my artificially pale cheek. “Oh!” I exclaimed as I tried to deal with the mess.
I jerked around to eye the owner of the hand and forgot how to speak.
Across the room he’d been yummy, definitely an eight-star performance on opening night. But up close and personal, Mr. Hostile was a solid fifteen stars, with a good three-minute standing ovation added in.
Even with the glare on his face.
I couldn’t help wondering why he seemed so angry with me. Surely it wasn’t because I was ogling him at the viewing of the man who was supposed to be my boyfriend. I gave that one a few moments of thought.
Nah. That couldn’t be it.
Hostile Hottie stuck the hand he’d accosted me with in front of my face, all but daring me to shake it. “Eddie Deitz.”
I blinked. “Huh?” Brilliant, MayBell. Oscar-worthy response.
My poor tissue was swamped with fake tears, and there were more of them trailing down one cheek. I couldn’t seem to get them under control. So, I decided to embrace the dramatic substance of the moment. I quivered my bottom lip and sniffled behind the lump of saturated tissue.
Accepting his challenge, I placed a limp paw into his and allowed it to be pumped. “MayBell Ferth. It’s a pleasure.”
Ugh! I wanted to kick myself. Who says that at a funeral? Jeezopete!
His gorgeous green gaze narrowed slightly, bringing my attention to the thick fringe of black lashes framing his eyes.
I’d do a year’s worth of PiYo classes to have lashes like that. And that was saying something because I hated PiYo with the power of a thousand suns.
“Is there something wrong with your eye?” he asked.
I mopped ineffectually at the fake tears with my soggy tissue. “Um, no, I’m just sad.”
Stupid, May. Stupid.
His expression told me he didn’t believe I was sad out of only one eye. I couldn’t blame him for his skepticism.
NOTE: Mourning Commute is available exclusively on Amazon. If you don’t have a Kindle you can use Amazon’s free Reading App. That’s how I read on all my Apple devices! It’s also available in Print.
When I was asked to write Mourning Commute, I spent some time pondering the idea of hired mourning. It wasn’t the first time I’d thought about it, I’d actually already written a scene with paid mourners. Perhaps you recall this dignified and sedate scene from Naval Gazing?
A long, wailing sob broke the stillness, its fulsome, alarming tenor enough to break through even the little old man’s stupor. He flinched once but, no doubt suffering under nine decades of emphasis on manners and how to behave in polite society, kept his gaze fixed on the casket in front of him.
However, the emitter of the wail was not to be ignored. Another hefty wail broke the silence and it seemed the sound broke something loose in the rest of the assembled mourners. Loud sobbing bubbled up to fill the previously mostly silent cemetery. The sound rose to match the wailing in loudness and, in one or two instances rose above it.
Not to be outdone, one mourner called out, “Help me Lord Ja-eee-sus!” Sounding like a good old-fashioned television preacher working a crowd for money.
With that, the stakes were raised. Never one to let someone beat her at her own game, Agnes let off wailing and, giving her competition a very un-Christian glare, threw back her head and screamed, flinging herself forward toward the unsuspecting deceased.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Agnes caught her oversized sneaker on a blade of grass and toppled, arms akimbo, onto the surface of the casket.
Everything stopped. It was as if someone had been playing with a time machine and, seeing the pure entertainment value in that place and time, hit a giant ‘Pause’ button to savor the train wreck more completely.
Yeah, not Agnes’s finest moment. But you have to admit it was a good bit of acting. #:0) The truth is that professional mourning has been a “thing” for a very long time. It has its roots in several cultures and is mentioned several times in the Bible. In ancient times, the profession was meant to comfort and entertain a grieving family and was performed mostly by women. The jobs were coveted because they provided a way for women to earn their own money. For the deceased, having paid mourners was a sign of prosperity and importance.
Like her ancient sisters, May Ferth believes her job is a comfort to her clients. She takes great pride in serving the grieving family’s needs. But it soon turns out to be the role of her life. May bumps up against a cold-blooded killer while performing her part, and is soon running for her life in a truly ugly pair of shoes!