Memoirs of a Garroter
With grudging permission from Heathcliff, Mina Wilde has transformed Nevermore Bookshop. She’s running author events, hosting Quoth’s art show, and using her creative flair to attract more customers. But when crime writer Danny Sledge is murdered moments before his writing workshop, the bookshop goes from bustling to broke.
No one in the village will set foot inside Nevermore. What if the murderer is targeting the bookshop? What if it’s connected to Mina’s father and the mysterious room? All Mina knows is that if she doesn’t solve the crime soon, she can kiss her livelihood goodbye.
Add in a plague of locusts, an emotional school visit, and a magical visitor from the past, and poor Mina has her work cut out for her. Luckily, she has Heathcliff, Morrie, and Quoth to help… that is – if they can keep their hands off her, or each other...
The Nevermore Bookshop Mysteries are what you get when all your book boyfriends come to life. Join a brooding antihero, a master criminal, a cheeky raven, and a heroine with a big heart (and an even bigger book collection) in this brand new steamy reverse harem paranormal mystery series by USA Today bestselling author Steffanie Holmes.
Release date: June 26, 2019
Publisher: Bacchanalia House
Print pages: 278
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Memoirs of a Garroter
“Oh shite, oh shite…”
“Get back here, you bastards!”
I moaned, crawling deeper under my blankets and shoving my pillow over my head. What’s going on now?
I’d been flatting with my new BFF, Jo Southcombe, for the last six weeks. So far, it had mostly been awesome. Unlike the dingy flat I grew up in, Jo’s place had Edwardian features like high ceilings, picture rails, and beautiful fireplaces, as well as decent heating, comfortable furniture that didn’t smell faintly like the rubbish tip, and a coffee machine that I would marry if humans and inanimate objects were allowed to wed.
It was also pretty cool to come home at the end of the day to a glass of wine and a friendly face. Especially after all the extra work I’d been doing at Nevermore Bookshop. Not only was looking after my three boyfriends Heathcliff, Morrie, and Quoth a full-time job, but I’d decided to forge ahead with a program of events to bring more business into the shop. I’d lined up the next three months with author visits, art exhibitions, local history talks, and even a ghost hunting tour. It was super exciting and heaps of fun, but also a ton of extra work. Jo was great at listening to my tales of woe and offering advice.
But Jo was also… unique. She was the county pathologist, which meant that a) she worked all hours of the day and night, so sometimes she wanted to share that bottle of wine at three a.m., and b) she filled her home with the oddest collection of strange and macabre things. The other day I opened the fridge for a snack and found three Petri dishes of bacteria sitting on the bottom shelf. Then there was the anatomical skeleton behind the shower curtain (The first time I met ‘Barry’ I got such a fright, I tripped over the edge of the bath and smashed the bottle of Britney Spears’ perfume I purchased ‘ironically’ but secretly loved), and the doorbell that played Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ whenever someone called in. Last week, she started a project studying forensic entomology and set up a shelf in the living room containing several jars filled with dead mice and various alive and very disgusting flies, ants, wasps, beetles, and locusts.
Another crash sounded from down the hall. Sighing, I threw off the covers, pulled on an oversized Iron Maiden hoodie, and peeked my head out the door.
“Jo, what’s wrong?”
My flatmate danced around the living room, slapping at the air. I squinted into the dim light. What’s she up to now?
“Are you learning some kind of hunter-gatherer mourning dance off Youtube again, because I think it needs work—” my words died on my lips as I noticed small objects darting around Jo’s head. Are those insects? Don’t tell me she let her science experiment escape…
My gaze fell to the floor at Jo’s feet, where pieces of glass scattered across the rug. Please don’t let that be the South American fire ants—
“Argh!” I yelped and leapt back as something large and black dived at my face. The bug zoomed past me and slammed into the door, where it hung around, admiring the view. “Kill it! Kill it!” Jo screamed.
I grabbed the nearest object – a replica Egyptian canopic jar – and swung. The ceramic vessel shattered into pieces, and the black insect darted down the hallway, completely unscathed.
“What was that?” I demanded, watching it flit across her portrait of Sir Bernard Spilsbury (he was the father of forensics, so I discovered in a forty-five minute impromptu lecture after I’d innocently asked Jo about it the other day).
“It’s a locust! I accidentally knocked the jar and it smashed and now they’re all over the apartment.” Jo swung an anatomy textbook at the wall. She left out a satisfied “Yah!” as she connected with her target, leaving an ugly brown smudge along the paint as she drew back and swung again.
“You’re telling me the flat is crawling with locusts?” I ducked as another angry insect dove at my head.
“It’s less crawling, and more swarming!”
I covered my head with my arms and ducked into the kitchen. Locusts flew around the room like a whirlwind, pinging off the windows and diving at the dirty dishes stacked in the sink. In seconds, they reduced the herb garden on the windowsill to a bare dirt patch.
I fumbled under the sink, barely able to read the labels on the cleaning products. My fingers closed around an aerosol can. Fly spray.
By all the goddesses, let this work.
“Go back to Egypt, you poxy bastards!” I yelled, aiming the can at the swarming bugs and slamming my finger down.
A stream of white liquid shot out from the nozzle. I swung my arm around, laughing maniacally as I coated the insects. Take that, you grotty little wankers—
“Oh no, that’s cooking spray!” Jo yelled.
I lowered my arm just as a huge jet shot from the nozzle and hit the wall behind the stove. Oily bubbles exploded all over the kitchen, coating the floor and the walls and Jo’s Victorian apothecary set and Jo and also me in a layer of slick, sticky oil.
“I’m sorry,” I moaned, turning the can around to read the label. How had I missed the words ‘Non-Stick Cooking Spray’ in huge letters?
Probably because I’m going blind, that’s how.
“We’ve just made them angry.” Jo ducked as a dark swarm careened toward her head. She crawled across the floor and grabbed the front door knob. “Hurry, Mina!”
I scrambled after Jo as she yanked open the door and dived down the steps. I slammed the door shut behind us, wincing as locusts dive-bombed the stained glass window.
Icy wind whipped around my bare legs. My feet sank into freezing snow. I hugged my hoodie to my chest. “I’m sorry. I thought it was bug spray.”
“Nope,” Jo wiped a smear of oil from her cheek. “Definitely not bug spray. If it’s any consolation, I’m sorry I broke that jar and set a swarm of locusts free in our flat.”
I waved a hand. “I’m sure it happens all the time. What are we going to do?”
Jo raised an eyebrow. “I was thinking of just giving them the house?”
I couldn’t feel my feet. “Or we could maybe call an exterminator?”
“I guess that would work.” Jo glanced at her watch. “Oh, shite. I have to go. I’m late for work, and Cal will be waiting for me to prep the body.” She scrambled in her pocket for her car keys.
“You can’t just leave. What if the locusts get out? How am I going to get to my room? I need clothes.” I gestured to my bare legs, now turning a bold shade of blue.
Jo shrugged. “I have no idea. I’ve got some old clothes in the back of the car. You can change while I drive you to the bookshop, if you like. It’s not as if those guys aren’t used to seeing you without your clothes on.”
“But all our stuff—”
She flung open her car door and climbed in behind the wheel. “Forget the flat. We’ll raze it to the ground, salt the earth, and get another one. With a hot tub and one of those multi-head showers. Come on, Mina. I’ve got a dead body to cut up, and you’ve got three hot guys ready to fan you with palm fronds and serve you peeled grapes. What’s it to be?”
Sighing, I pulled the hem of my hoodie down over my arse and climbed into the car beside Jo. “I thought living with you would save me from chaos and mayhem, not invite it.”
“You can’t be right all the time,” Jo said as she sped off. “Look on the bright side. At least it was locusts and not another dead body.”
I groaned. She had no idea how right she was. Just before Christmas, I’d been a guest at the Argleton Jane Austen Experience, where two people were killed. That was on top of the other murders I’d been involved in – my ex-best friend Ashley, and members of the Argleton Banned Book Club. If I never see another dead body, it’ll be too soon.
Relax, I told myself as I fumbled in the junk behind Jo’s seat for some clothes I could wear. All I’ve got to look forward to this week is a book signing, a writer’s workshop, and some sexy times with the guys. It’s not as if any murderers are going to be in attendance.
“You look tired,” Morrie said as he held open the door of Nevermore Bookshop for me. “Trouble with your lesbian lover?”
I didn’t even dignify him with an answer. Morrie and Jo had been friends for a while now. They both shared a professional interest in the criminal underworld – Jo as an employee of the local coroner, Morrie as a member of aforementioned underworld. He’d been teasing me about being in a lesbian relationship with Jo ever since I moved in with her, just before Christmas. I thought it was rude, considering he knew Jo actually was a lesbian, but that was Morrie for you.
Personally, I think Morrie was a bit hurt that I didn’t move into the flat with him and my other two boyfriends, Quoth and Heathcliff. As tempting as it was, I knew being the only girl in a house full of fictional blokes would be a nightmare. Just one whiff of the smell coming from their bathroom reinforced that I made the right decision.
“Come on, gorgeous. Give me something more. How’re the new digs?”
“Currently filled with a biblical plague,” I replied, shoving past him, tossing my bag into the corner, and collapsing into the velvet chair beside Heathcliff’s desk. Quoth fluttered down from the chandelier and perched on the ancient till. He studied me with his deep brown eyes.
You look different, he said inside my mind, tilting his head to the side.
“That’s because I’m wearing Jo’s clothes. Mine are currently being eaten by locusts,” I muttered out loud, pinching the fabric on her red tartan cuffed pants. Jo was curvier than me, so her clothes hung loose, but I had to admit she had great taste. “Luckily, I found one of my bras under the seat in her car, otherwise I’d be sagging today.”
Grimalkin darted out of the shadows and leapt onto my lap, purring as she curled herself into a tight ball. I stroked her back, letting her loud purr relax me and bring me to my happy place. Being surrounded by the shelves of Nevermore Bookshop and in the presence of the three men who made me feel all sorts of delightful things could cure any bad mood, even one caused by a plague of locusts.
As if reading my thoughts, Morrie strode across the room. He placed one hand on the arm of the chair, his face inches from mine. A wave of grapefruit-and-vanilla swept over me – Morrie’s distinct and expensive shampoo, and a scent that never failed to send my heart into palpitations.
Ice-blue eyes locked with mine. Full lips curled back into a possessive smile. Heat pooled between my legs. How is this man mine? I still couldn’t believe it.
And he wasn’t even my only man, because apparently the universe allowed one lucky girl – me – to hog all the hot guys. Of course, my guys came from fictional books, so they weren’t technically supposed to be in this world. It might explain why they were so extra.
“I’m assuming you’re not in a mood to elaborate about the biblical infestation. Allow me to direct your mind to other things. Blasphemous things.” Morrie bent down and brushed his lips against mine. All thoughts of Jo’s locust experiments flew from my mind as his tongue found its way into my mouth, drawing out a flame of heat that lit up my whole body.
“Meow!” Grimalkin piped up from my lap, annoyed that she was not the one being adored.
Morrie pulled back. “I think your pussy needs some attention,” he growled, his cold eyes alerting me that he wasn’t talking about Grimalkin.
“Meow!” she butted his arm.
“Sorry, kitty,” I shoved her off my lap. “This hug isn’t for you.”
Grimalkin’s claws clack-clacked on the wooden floor as she trotted away, howling about the unfairness of it all.
Morrie trailed his fingers along my jaw, pulling my head toward his and claiming my mouth for a long, languid kiss. I forgot all about Grimalkin, losing myself in Morrie’s expert touch. This guy was an expert kisser. Locking lips with him was an act of surrender, giving up rational thought and falling headfirst into his psyche. Kissing Morrie was like jumping off the high dive board, like the first dizzying splendor of inebriation.
Slowly, Morrie unwound my scarf from my neck and tossed it on the ground. One by one, he flicked the buttons open on Jo’s shirt, the tips of his fingers barely stroking the skin underneath. My breath hitched as he let the fabric fall open, his arms sliding around my waist to undo my bra.
“What about customers…” I murmured.
Relax. I flipped the CLOSED sign.
My eyes swiveled from Morrie to the bust above the door, where Quoth perched still as a statue, his dark eyes boring into mine. He tilted his head to the side, asking permission to stay, to watch, and I nodded. I liked it that he watched; that he liked to watch.
Morrie popped the clasp on my bra, and with agonizing slowness, slid the straps off my shoulders, pushing the bra and my shirt fabric down my arms, trapping my hands at my sides. A cold draft blew across my bare nipples, which already stood firm and pert, desperate for his touch.
But Morrie did so love to tease. He bent down and kissed my neck, my collarbone, along my forearms. Everywhere but my breasts. I growled at him and he grinned.
“You should know by now that you only have to ask,” he purred. “I love it when you beg.”
I growled again. My whole body buzzed with electric energy. “Morrie, would you be so kind as to suck on my nipples until I scream for mercy?”
“Why, Ms. Wilde, I thought you’d never ask.”
Morrie’s lips closed over my nipple. I arched my neck as a cord of fire tore through my body. His tongue rolled me between his lips. Morrie’s fingers trailed over the waistband of the tartan pants, slowly tugging at the drawstring knot until I groaned with frustration and undid it myself. Morrie chucked, his musical laugh sending another wave of heat through my body.
With his lips still around my nipple, Morrie slid his hand between my legs, cupping my mound. Heat pooled inside me. I pushed my hips forward, desperate for more.
Morrie slid down my trousers and flung them behind him. They caught on the stuffed armadillo, so his head just poked out from under the tartan. Quoth fluttered down and perched on top of them, his eyes locked with mine.
I raised my legs onto Morrie’s shoulders. He slid between my legs, his face lit up like he was unwrapping a present at Christmas. Morrie pressed his lips against my throbbing clit and my whole body shuddered. His tongue moved in slow circles, so I could feel every tiny movement reverberating through my veins. My fingers curled around the arms of the chair as I fought to stop myself melting into a puddle on the floor.
All around me, towers of books stared down in silent disapproval. But I didn’t care. Pleasure built inside me as Morrie drew my clit inside his mouth and sucked it lightly. The pressure was so intense I cried out. My nails dug into the chair. Morrie released me and teased tiny, light circles on my clit.
And all the while, Quoth’s brown eyes remained locked on mine. At the edges, flecks of gold appeared. Something about his gaze was so intimate, almost more than what Morrie was doing to me.
Mina, Quoth said inside my head. You’re so beautiful. I love you.
Morrie sucked my clit deep into his mouth and I was gone gone gone, my body shaking in raptures of pleasure. My head lolled to the side, keeping Quoth’s gaze even as flickers of blue neon light danced across my eyes.
Morrie stood up. “Less grumpy now?”
“Much.” I held out my hand and Morrie helped me to my feet. His ice eyes raked down my body as I pulled on my knickers and Jo’s trousers and slumped behind Heathcliff’s desk. I knew what he wanted – to slam me up against the bookshelf and bury himself inside me. But Morrie liked his games, and he was playing one now. He wanted me to beg him for it. I wanted to, oh how I wanted to, but I had so much work to do before tonight’s event. “Where’s Heathcliff? I want to run over the details for the week with him.”
Morrie made a face. “His Lord Tetchiness is still in bed. He said that he’s not going downstairs while the shop is filled with writers. According to him, they’re worse than customers.”
I groaned. Heathcliff was the only shopkeeper I’d ever met who got grumpy when his shop was popular. And thanks to me, Nevermore Bookshop was doing better than ever.
A month ago I’d wrested free rein from Heathcliff to run the shop however I wanted. I wasted no time in remaking Nevermore Bookshop as a must-visit bibliophile destination. I took new photographs for our website, started an Instagram account, and organized my first ever bookshop event. Famous local crime author Danny Sledge was going to be giving a reading this evening about his latest novel, The Somerset Strangler. And tomorrow he’d be running a full-day workshop for crime writers. We had attendees coming from all over the country to learn from this master storyteller.
My stomach fluttered with nervous excitement as I thought about the workshop. Even though I’d never written a book, I would be sitting in on it with the real writers. For some reason that excited me more than anything else about the event. I’d filled my whole life with books, and it would be interesting to peer behind the curtain and see how plots and characters really came together.
Or it might be the fact that I’d seen far too many murders in the last few months, giving me enough plots for a whole series of crime novels. Danny Sledge better watch out, or I could boot him off the bestseller list!
But the event wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t get the shop ready. I pulled out the list I’d printed in huge letters and inspected everything I had to do. We needed to tidy up the Events room. Danny’s publisher, Brian Letterman, would be arriving with a box of books for Danny to sign, and I’d need to enter them into the new digital inventory system Morrie and I set up (against Heathcliff’s protests) so we could offer them for sale.
My hand flew to my purse. I kept my father’s letter inside my wallet, and I found myself fingering it every time I felt stressed or upset. Right now, I was stressed as fuck about the event tonight. I still didn’t have any answers about who my father was or why he’d left me and Mum, but just knowing that somewhere in time he still existed, and he still thought about me, calmed me.
“Right, then.” I pointed at Quoth. “You, put on your human suit. I need you to move furniture, set up chairs, and hang your artwork on every spare wall in the Events room.”
Quoth fluttered over to perch on the edge of the desk. A moment later, a very naked and harried-looking man leaned over the desk, wiping a strand of shampoo-commercial perfect black hair from his eyes. “You want my artwork—”
“On the walls, yes. This is going to be the most people we’ve had in the store ever. I want your pieces front and center.” Quoth’s terrified expression made me pause. I leaned in and brushed my lips against his, trying to assure him that it would be okay. I pointed to Morrie. “You – you’re on customer duty. I don’t have time to field a single query about how to find the History section or get into an argument about whether J. K. Rowling’s best book was Lord of the Rings. I’ve got too much to do—”
“Speaking of time-wasters,” Morrie smiled, his eyes on the window. “I see one arriving now, wearing a look of determination that suggests our ‘CLOSED’ sign will be thoroughly ignored.”
Quoth’s hot and naked human body disappeared in a cloud of feathers just as the bell tinkled. A moment later, my old high school English teacher Mrs. Ellis appeared in front of the desk. Without a word of greeting, she upturned her purse onto the desk, spilling a stack of brightly-colored travel pamphlets on top of my ledger.
“Mina, help me!” she wailed. “I can’t decide what to do!”
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