Dark, Witch & Creamy
"A cozy mystery with the perfect blend of magic and mayhem. This series has me completely bewitched!"
Caitlyn's world changes when she learns that she was found as an abandoned baby and adopted by her American family. Now, her search for answers takes her to a tiny English village where a man has been murdered - and where a mysterious shop selling enchanted chocolates is home to the "local witch"...
Soon Caitlyn finds herself fending off a toothless old vampire, rescuing an adorable kitten and meeting handsome aristocrat Lord James Fitzroy... not to mention discovering that she herself might have magical blood in her veins!
When she's dragged into the murder investigation and realises that dark magic is involved, Caitlyn is forced to choose. Can she embrace her witchy powers in time to solve the mystery and save those she loves?
This book follows British English spelling and usage.
Clean read: no graphic violence, sex, or strong language.
Genre: humorous paranormal cozy mysteries / cat cozy mystery series / women amateur sleuth / British cozy mystery
Release date: January 28, 2017
Publisher: Wisheart Press
Print pages: 228
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Dark, Witch & Creamy
“I can’t believe you’re really gonna do this.”
Caitlyn Le Fey looked up from the map she was holding and smiled at the pretty blonde girl who was frowning at her from across the table. Around them, the tearoom buzzed with the hum of conversation and the clink of china, while the gorgeous smell of fresh baking wafted from the kitchen.
“What do you mean?” she asked lightly as she helped herself to the last mouthful of scone from the plate in front of her. She savoured the rich, buttery bread slathered with home-made strawberry jam and clotted cream. Mmm… they said the scones at the Little Stables Tearoom were the best in Oxfordshire and they were right.
Caitlyn licked her fingers clean and smiled. “I’m just going for a drive in the Cotswolds.”
“Not just any drive,” the other girl protested. “You’re driving out to a village where someone’s been murdered by witchcraft!”
Caitlyn stifled the urge to roll her eyes. She loved her cousin, but sometimes Pomona’s wild imagination could get a bit ridiculous. “That man wasn’t murdered by witchcraft.”
“Yes, he was! The papers are full of it!” Pomona picked up a tabloid newspaper from the table and waved it dramatically. “They said he was found by a stone circle!”
“An ancient stone circle, Caitlyn! They’re, like, the kind of place where pagan rituals and sacrifices take place. They said he was icy cold to the touch and they couldn’t find a mark on him—”
“Anyone’s body would feel cold if they’d been outdoors all night,” said Caitlyn reasonably. “He probably had a heart attack.”
“But he’d been fine earlier that evening! Half the village saw him at the local pub. And no one saw him go into the forest. He was a big man—he wouldn’t have been easy to carry—so how did his body even get there?” Pomona leaned forwards and lowered her voice. “Maybe someone transported him there…”
Caitlyn grinned. “You mean, flew him on a broom?”
Pomona made a face and threw her napkin at her. “Ha. Ha. Very funny. Seriously, Tillyhenge could be a dangerous place. Are you sure you should go there?”
Caitlyn reached out a placating hand. “Hey… Pomie… It’s just a sleepy little Cotswold village like any other, except that this one has a stone circle nearby—”
“That’s exactly it!” said Pomona, her voice rising. “Don’t you know that stone circles are sites of great magic? They’re places on earth where the powers of nature come together—they’re connected by ley lines.”
Pomona nodded earnestly. “Ancient invisible lines of energy. Stone circles are often where the ley lines meet. They’re also places where druids and witches worship and perform their spells and stuff, ‘cos the circles mark the points where you can open a doorway to the Otherworld—”
“Aww, come on,” said Caitlyn, rolling her eyes. “I know you’re really into all this occult stuff—but seriously, Pomie? Witches and druids? Doorways to the Otherworld? We’re in twenty-first-century England, for heaven’s sake!”
“There’s still magic all around us… You just don’t wanna see it,” said Pomona, jutting out her bottom lip.
Caitlyn gave her an exasperated look. When it came to the paranormal, Pomona had a one-track mind. She was obsessed with witchcraft and magic, pagan rituals and the occult. Maybe it was the result of growing up in Hollywood or maybe it was just growing up with actress Mariah Sinclair for a mother. That lady was almost as famous for her outlandish beliefs as for her glamorous looks. It was no wonder that Pomona still believed mermaids and unicorns were real!
As for herself, Caitlyn was grateful that she’d never lived in Beverly Hills much. Her mother, Barbara Le Fey, and Mariah had been sisters, but although Barbara had been in showbiz as well, the singer had preferred life away from the Hollywood parties and celebrity circuit. Barbara had been a free spirit and a hippy nomad, happiest when she was spending most of her life on the road. Even when she hadn’t been touring and giving concerts, Barbara would choose unusual places to settle for several months, sometimes years—from a jungle villa in Bali to a converted church in the south of France, from a luxury caravan in the Australian Outback to a yacht in Tahiti…
As a child, Caitlyn had sometimes felt like a gypsy, always moving homes, barely staying anywhere long enough to make friends. It also meant that she didn’t know what country to call her own. Barbara might be American but Caitlyn didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere. In fact, the one place she had always been drawn to was England, although she couldn’t explain why. Well, now that she knew the truth about herself, perhaps that made sense…
“Hello? Earth to Caitlyn?”
She blinked and refocused on her cousin. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
“I was saying that it’s not just me. There are rumours going around here too. The locals agree that Tillyhenge has a reputation for being weird.”
“Weird? What do you mean, weird?”
“Like… the weather is always different there. It could be sunny everywhere else but when you get there, it’s grey and misty—or it’s raining all over the Cotswolds but completely dry in Tillyhenge… And if you’re driving, the GPS can’t find it, no matter how you give the directions. In fact, it doesn’t even show up on satellite images—they told me it’s just a green blur, as if there’s nothing there but forest!” Pomona shuddered. “Don’t you think that’s creepy?”
Caitlyn sighed impatiently. “That could just be coincidence. Even back in the States, you’d sometimes get rain in one part of town and not another—there’s nothing weird or spooky about that. Anyway, who told you all these rumours?”
Pomona jerked her head in the direction of four little old ladies who were huddled around a table nearby. “Them. I started talking to them when you went to the restroom earlier. There’s this bossy old hen called Mabel—she told me they know everything that goes on in the area. They’re like the Gossip Mafia.”
Caitlyn gave her a wry look. “Yeah, I know those old biddies. I’ve run into them a few times while staying in Oxford.” She leaned towards Pomona and lowered her voice. “I think you’ve got to take anything they say with a big pinch of salt. They’re known for having… uh… pretty vivid imaginations.”
“Still… Caitlyn, you gotta listen to me. I have a bad feeling about this. And you know I’m slightly psychic, right?”
Caitlyn hid a smile.
“It’s true!” said Pomona. “I have feelings about things. Remember that time when you fell off the yacht and I got my mom to call Aunt Barbara ’cos I knew something bad had happened to you? And the time I warned you about that scary skin rash?”
“You said I had Rocky Mountain spotted fever! It was actually chicken pox.”
Pomona waved a dismissive hand. “Yeah, well, that’s almost the same thing. Anyway, I’m telling you, I have a feeling about this.” She reached out suddenly and grabbed Caitlyn’s empty teacup, turning it upside down to drain the last of the tea away. “Okay, look—I’m gonna read your tea leaves.”
“Pomie…” Caitlyn groaned but her cousin ignored her, peering into the teacup and turning it this way and that.
“Hmm… ooh! Ooh! I see something!”
“What?” asked Caitlyn, curious in spite of herself.
Pomona smiled. “A tall, dark, handsome stranger is coming into your life.”
Caitlyn groaned even louder. “Oh, give me a break—”
“Wait! There’s more!”
Caitlyn gave her a wry look. “What? I’m going to receive a letter? Come into a lot of money?”
“No…” Pomona frowned. She turned the teacup. “It looks like… it looks like a bar of chocolate.”
“Chocolate?” Caitlyn said incredulously. “What, there’s chocolate in my future? Or are you telling me that I’m going to put on weight?” She grinned. “Because I have to say, that’s probably true, but I don’t need some fortune-telling tea leaves to tell me that.” She looked ruefully at the empty plate in front of her, then down at herself. “All this British baking is absolutely delicious but good grief, it’s a killer on my hips.”
Pomona gave her a scornful look. “Huh! You can’t talk about hips until you’ve got hips like mine.”
“Yeah, but you own your hips,” said Caitlyn, looking enviously at her cousin’s full figure. Pomona had a backside that deserved the name “booty” and she flaunted it with pride. Caitlyn wished that she had her cousin’s confidence. Her own figure was what the English politely termed “pear-shaped”—she wasn’t fat, exactly, but no matter how she tried, she couldn’t seem to shift the weight off her hips and thighs.
“Your hips aren’t the problem,” said Pomona, eyeing her critically. “It’s everything else. Look at the jeans you’re wearing – they must be, like, ten years old!”
“They’re comfortable,” said Caitlyn defensively.
“Honey, you can be ‘comfortable’ when you’re eighty! When you’re twenty-two, you wanna be ‘gorgeous’. And you could be, if you just made a little effort! I mean, look at your hair—you’ve got the kind of red hair that other women can only get out of a bottle and green eyes like—”
“They’re not green, they’re hazel,” said Caitlyn quickly. “And most of the time, they just look light brown.”
Pomona gripped her hand eagerly. “Give me twenty minutes and some mascara and eye shadow, and I’ll give you the most amazing green eyes you’ve ever seen. C’mon, Caitlyn, lemme do a makeover and—”
She pouted. “Aww… you’re always saying no!”
“I’m not you, Pomie,” said Caitlyn, giving her cousin a look of mingled admiration and resignation. “I’m no good with things like make-up and fashion. Even if you made me look amazing, I could never keep it up by myself.”
“You could learn! Applying mascara isn’t rocket science!” Pomona huffed in frustration. “You know what your problem is, Caitlyn? You’re afraid of people looking at you. You’re afraid of getting attention. But you can’t go through life always skulking in the shadows.”
Caitlyn sighed. She knew her cousin could never understand. Pomona loved being the centre of attention and revelled in the limelight. She could never relate to Caitlyn’s desire to stay in the background.
“Well, I’m coming out of the shadows now, aren’t I?” Caitlyn said lightly with a smile. “This little adventure to Tillyhenge—”
“That’s different,” said Pomona, frowning. She leaned forwards, suddenly serious. “I can feel it, in here.” She pressed her ample bosom. “If you go to Tillyhenge today, you’ll change the path of your life forever. Things will never be able to go back to what they used to be.”
“Whoa…” Caitlyn leaned back at her cousin’s ominous tone. “Honestly, Pomie, I think you’re over-reacting. I’m just going for a drive and maybe staying a couple of days in a village in the Cotswolds. It’s no big deal. Tourists do it every single day.”
“Well, then go where they go,” said Pomona. “Go to one of the other Cotswold villages where tourists usually visit. Like Burford or Lower Slaughter—or why don’t you stay a couple of days here in Meadowford-on-Smythe? It’s gorgeous. Why d’you have to go to Tillyhenge?”
“Because that’s where I’ll find answers.”
Caitlyn raised her right hand unconsciously to touch the runestone attached to the ribbon around her neck. Her fingers slid over the stone, tracing the symbols carved onto the smooth surface, even though she knew the shapes by heart already. She had traced them a million times, ever since she was a little girl, although she still didn’t know what they meant. It was one of the many mysteries from her past, one of the things she needed answers to.
Pomona dropped her gaze to the stone. “Are you sure the letter didn’t say anything else about that?”
Caitlyn shook her head, thinking about the letter that had turned her life upside-down. She had barely recovered from the news of Barbara Le Fey’s death in a car accident before she had been called into a private meeting with the singer’s lawyers. And there, she had been handed a sealed letter—a letter Barbara had instructed to be given only upon her death—and Caitlyn had opened it to discover that the woman she had called “Mom” all her life wasn’t her mother at all.
To be honest, she had never felt very close to Barbara—something which had always vaguely bothered her, although it was hardly surprising since she had been almost completely brought up by her British nanny. Barbara Le Fey had adopted a child on a whim and had soon lost interest when the novelty had worn off. Oh, she had always been generous and kind, and Caitlyn had never wanted for anything, but Barbara had remained a distant figure in Caitlyn’s life. Still, it had been a shock to discover that Barbara wasn’t her “real mother”.
“I’ve read the letter so many times, I practically know it by heart,” said Caitlyn. “It didn’t mention the runestone, other than to say that it had been around my neck when I was found as a baby by the side of the road—”
“I still can’t get over that,” said Pomona, laughing. “Seriously, it sounds like something out of a fairytale! When you first told me about it, I thought Aunt Barbara must have been joking.”
“So did I,” Caitlyn admitted. “I wasn’t sure what to believe. But then after the funeral, I got talking to Jim Stanton, Barbara’s agent. He’d been with Barbara for years and he told me that he’d been in the car the day she found me. It happened exactly like the letter described. They were on their way to some country house party and they’d taken a detour down a country lane… and then they saw this tiny baby, wrapped up in blankets, propped against a bush at the side of the road…”
“Jeez, you must have only been, like, a few hours old,” said Pomona.
“Exactly!” said Caitlyn. “That’s what Barbara said the doctors thought when they examined me—which means I must have been born around here!”
“Okay, but I still don’t get how that’s connected to Tillyhenge. Why d’you think you’ll get answers there?”
Caitlyn leaned forwards earnestly to explain. “I got talking to a professor at Oxford University a few days ago and he told me that researchers have discovered ‘hidden engravings’ on the surface of the giant stones at Stonehenge.”
“So… he said the symbols on my runestone reminded him of those engravings. Don’t you think that’s just too much of a coincidence?” she asked impatiently, as she saw Pomona’s blank stare. “Look, my runestone is engraved with these symbols, which are similar to those carved on Stonehenge, a famous stone circle… but there is a local stone circle near a village called Tillyhenge and I was found in the same area. There has to be a connection and the only way to find some answers is to go to Tillyhenge myself.”
Pomona heaved a sigh. “All right. I can see that I’m not gonna change your mind.” She gripped Caitlyn’s hand tightly. “But promise me you’ll be careful? I don’t want anything to happen to you. You’re… you’re like my sister. The only sister I have.”
Caitlyn felt a rush of affection for the other girl. Whatever else happened, she knew she would always have Pomona as family. They might not have grown up in the same city together and Pomona’s glamorous Hollywood lifestyle was very different to the hippy, nomadic life that Caitlyn had led, but somehow they’d instantly bonded from the first time they’d met. Caitlyn had always looked forward eagerly to the school vacations and holidays when Pomona would join them for a while on the road.
She squeezed her cousin’s hand. “I promise I’ll be careful.” Then she glanced at her watch. “You’d better get going otherwise you’ll miss the train back to London. Don’t forget, you’ve got to go back to Oxford first to catch it.”
“You sure you don’t want me to come with you?” asked Pomona, rising slowly.
Caitlyn hesitated. A part of her desperately wanted her cousin to go with her. She was nervous about what she would find and she didn’t want to face it alone. But she also wanted to keep a low profile, and—with her glamorous looks and flamboyant dress sense—Pomona drew attention wherever she went. Her cousin had already been getting stares the whole time they were in this tearoom.
“No, I’ll be fine,” said Caitlyn, pinning a bright smile on her face.
“Call me tonight and let me know what’s happening,” said Pomona over her shoulder as she headed towards the door. “And make sure you don’t meet any black cats!”
Caitlyn sat for a long moment after her cousin had gone, feeling suddenly very alone. She almost picked up her phone to call Pomona and say she’d changed her mind, to ask her cousin to go to Tillyhenge with her.
Then she took a deep breath, drained her teacup, and stood up. No, this was something she had to do herself. In a strange way, she felt like her whole life had been leading up to this moment, to this journey into the Cotswolds.
Caitlyn got into her rented Volkswagen Beetle and secured her seatbelt, then she paused to look at the map again before starting the engine. Tillyhenge might not have been on GPS but it was clearly marked on the old-fashioned road map. If she just followed this road out of Meadowford-on-Smythe, took the left turn at the first intersection, got onto the A40, turned north at Burford, kept going past Shipton-Under-Wychwood and Upper Slaughter, then she should come to another intersection where—
Rap! Rap! Rap!
Caitlyn started and looked up. A pair of rheumy eyes above a long pointed nose peered at her through the glass of the driver’s window. They belonged to a stooped old man dressed in a dusty black suit. He was beckoning her to get out of the car. Caitlyn hesitated a moment—the man looked a bit odd and the suit he was wearing looked like something out of the early nineteenth century, with long black tails and a white shirt with ruffled collar underneath—but it wasn’t as if he was a tattooed gangster in a hoodie. Besides, he was an old man. Perhaps he was lost or needed help. She unclipped her seatbelt, opened the door, and got slowly out of the car.
“Can I help you?” she asked hesitantly.
The old man teetered to one side as he attempted to sweep her a gallant bow. He looked about a hundred years old and Caitlyn had to resist the urge to grab his elbow to prevent him from toppling over.
“I am your vampire uncle,” he said, like someone turning up on your doorstep and announcing: “I’m your plumber.”
“I’m sorry—what?” Caitlyn stared at him, sure that she had heard wrong.
“I am your vampire uncle,” he said again, sounding slightly tetchy now.
She couldn’t help it. A giggle burst from her lips.
“What is so funny?” He glared.
Caitlyn struggled to keep a straight face. “Nothing… Sorry… It’s just… Well, vampires don’t really exist.”
“Of course, they exist!” He bristled. “There may not be so many of us left but we are still here.” He scowled. “Of course, the younger ones, these days—they are too busy wasting their time on things like sparkling in the sun and falling in love… Bah!” He waved a contemptuous hand, the force of the gesture sending him teetering in the other direction. “They do not understand the important role we vampires have as Ancient Guardian Protectors. It is left to the few of us who still believe in the old ways, in duty and honour…” He puffed his bony old chest out proudly, then his brows drew together again as he saw Caitlyn’s expression.
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