Tequila Key is just like any other small town, and I'm just like any other small town psychic. Scratch that. Tequila Key is a world onto itself and some people might think that I am one crayon short of the box.
And, if we're being totally honest, Tequila Key is just like any other small town—if that town boasts a voodoo priestess and a few white witches for flavor. Turquoise blue water and the best margaritas this side of Mexico make it hard to leave.
I'm Althea Rose, co-owner of Luna Rose Potions & Tarot Shop, and I've just stumbled into a love triangle while trying to save my best friend from being accused of murder.
See? Just like any other small town.
Release date: July 16, 2015
Publisher: Lovewrite Publishing
Print pages: 256
Reader says this book is...: clever protagonist (1) entertaining story (2) female sleuth (2) action-packed (1) escapist/easy read (1) funny (1) quirky supporting cast (1) satisfying ending (1) unexpected twists (1) unputdownable (1) witty (1)
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Listen to a sample
“BUT I'M QUITE certain Bitsy would wish to speak with me,” the woman across from me sniffed and clutched a folded silk handkerchief with a perfectly monogrammed E on the corner. The point of her chin rose as she looked down her nose at me.
“Mrs. Evanston, I've already explained this – I'm a psychic – not a medium,” I sighed as Mrs. Evanston's eyes steeled up and her shoulders braced.
“Well, I'd say that you're certainly misleading people with your little psychic shop if you can't even talk to Bitsy for me.” Mrs. Evanston narrowed her eyes at me. I could already read the threat in her mind: she would be contacting the Better Business Bureau and by lunch, she'd be tearing my reputation to threads with her Ladies Who Lunch club. Mentally rolling my eyes, I plastered a smile across my face.
“The reason that I don't advertise being a medium is because it's so incredibly draining for me,” I began, lying through my teeth. “However, for you, I'll make an exception.”
A muffled snort from a screen to my left almost had me cracking a smile but instead, I stayed focused on my client. Hope had dawned in Mrs. Evanston's eyes as she leaned forward, hands pressed into the purple velvet of my table.
“You can? Oh, oh, just...can you tell me if she is safe?” Mrs. Evanston breathed, staring into my glass scrying ball on the table.
I closed my eyes and counted to ten, doing my best to get an image of Bitsy from Mrs. Evanston's thoughts. A puffball of a white cat popped into my head, so I went with it.
“Her coat is just as stunning as it was in life – I see her walking proudly,” I said, keeping my eyes closed and praying that I had hit the mark.
“Ohhhh,” Mrs. Evanston breathed and I snuck a look to see her with a hand over her mouth, a sheen of tears making her eyes glint behind her glasses. Her hair, the perfectly blue-gray rinse favored by the elderly set on Tequila Key, bobbed as she nodded.
“She was really proud of her coat. Bitsy was a show cat, you know,” Mrs. Evanston said.
“I can see she carries herself as such. She is wonder- fully happy and has told me that her only concern is for you to find peace with her passing,” I said gently, using my de rigueur explanation when clients insisted that I contact a loved one.
No matter what, it seemed that when people heard psychic, they thought I could do anything.
I'd leave that to my best friend and business partner, Luna Lavelle, the one who had so gracefully snorted from the other room of our Luna Rose Potions & Tarot Shop tucked on a sleepy street in Tequila Key, Florida.
“You know, Althea Rose, your mother may be the famous one, but I think you've inherited her gift,” Mrs. Evanston said, rising to shake my hand with a smile. I scanned her thoughts and all I got was pleasure, so as far as I was concerned, the reading had been a successful one.
I checked my moral compass and decided as white lies go, it was a minor one. People only come to psychics for two reasons – to find out if they will be okay and to find out if someone they love will be okay. I turned my palm over to look at the $1 tip she had pressed into my hands. I had to laugh. Though the rich in this town liked to flaunt it with country club passes and fancy houses, in all reality they were stingy to the core.
Pressing my hands to my eyes, I willed back a headache that threatened to dull my thoughts.
“Drink this,” Luna said, interrupting my brief debate over closing shop for the day or not.
I smiled at her as I took whatever potion she had mixed up for me and held it to my nose. Luna slipped into the chair across from me and waved an impatient hand at the drink.
“Althea, I know your tastes by now, you'll like it.”
Vanilla mint soothed my throat as I sipped the cool liquid and my head cleared instantaneously. I tilted the now empty glass at her in a salute.
“You should sell this.”
Luna sighed and tucked her stick-straight blonde hair behind her ear. My best friend and business partner was my antithesis in every way. Airy, elegant, with a sharp business mind and mile-long legs, Luna made her living breaking men's hearts and helping the down and out of Tequila Key.
That whole white witch thing didn't give her much room on the “bound to help” area of her life, I thought. Much like the Hippocratic Oath – when Luna saw suffer- ing, she sought to fix it.
And didn't that just make her a better person than I? Annoyed with where my thoughts were going, I refocused on Luna.
“Bad day?” she asked.
“Could be better. Drinks on me tonight!” I sang, holding up the dollar bill that Mrs. Evanston had left me with. Luna's warm chuckle flowed across the table – a light and lilting sound. I’d seen men turn at thirty paces and backtrack just to meet her after hearing Luna's laugh.
“Oh, like Beau ever makes us pay,” Luna said with a smile, speaking of Beau Redford, our mutual best friend and owner of Lucky's Tiki Bar.
“It scares me to think what our tab could be.” I pushed away from the table, unaccountably antsy, and paced my side of the store.
The Luna Rose Potions & Tarot Shop was a combination of our names and a clash of our personalities. From the outside, a whimsical coastal cottage with two front doors welcomed our clientele. The weathered white siding with stars and moons painted across the wood just added to the charm that was peculiar to this section of Tequila Key.
But – depending on which door a client chose to walk through – two different worlds awaited.
My side, the Tarot & Psychic shop, was set up precisely as one would expect a tarot shop to be. A few years ago, I'd gotten a bee in my bonnet about dispelling the myth of un-professionalism in the tarot world and had transformed my shop into a waiting room similar to a lawyer's office. Soothing gray tones with light pink accents, a potted plant in the corner. Luna had scoffed at it and to my surprise, my business had all but dried up.
I've since learned not to mess with people's expectations.
Now, my side screamed “PSYCHIC! LIVE READ- ING!” louder than a flashing neon sign on the window. Miles of red and purple crushed velvet was draped across the tables and chairs, while crystals, statues, and incense cluttered the shelves that lined the room. A privacy screen blocked my clients from the other side of the shop and a combination of Luna's new age music and her magic kept clients in the potion shop from hearing the dark secrets shared in mine.
I loved my little shop, I thought with a smile. A skeleton in the corner sported a Ramone's t-shirt and Day of the Dead candles lined my altar. It fit me to a T.
I flipped my hand over to check the time on my watch, the face turned inside my wrist so as to allow me to discreetly check the time during my readings. Below the watch, an intricate tattoo wound its way up my inner arm, holding both an evil eye design and Celtic warrior protec- tion symbols.
One could never be too safe.
“I like your color this week,” Luna said, gesturing to my hair. I stopped my pacing and turned to stand in front of a small ornate mirror to study my reflection. Curls in every shade from deep brown to neon pink rioted around my face, subdued only by a jeweled headband with a skull that I'd tucked in there earlier in the day. Reaching up to fluff my curls, I tilted my head.
“The pink does pop my eyes a bit,” I said.
“Those cat eyes of yours pop no matter what,” Luna said dryly.
I suppose they do, I thought as I widened my green eyes that naturally slanted at the corners. A flowing silk maxi dress, the color of the sea at dawn, covered my body and made me look like one tall cool cylinder of water. Well, water with a few ripples, I thought, eyeing a generous butt that the flowing dress didn't fully conceal.
“I love this dress,” I decided and turned back to smile at Luna.
“You say that every time you wear it,” Luna said with a smile, standing and stretching. A dainty white camisole and white linen slacks covered her thin frame. White linen slacks that didn't dare wrinkle, I might add.
“I have my ways,” Luna said, reading my thoughts.
“I can't do white. I never understand how you can wear white every day and not get stains on it,” I grumbled.
“Maybe you should try paying attention to where you are going and you won't end up with stains so much,” Luna said gently and motioned for me to follow her to her side of the shop.
“We closing out for the day?” I asked, and turned to switch a small beaded lamp off behind my table.
“Unless you have any more appointments?” Luna's voice floated back to me.
“Nah, and I doubt we'll get a walk-in today. Tuesdays are typically pretty slow,” I murmured as I went around the room clicking off lamps and throwing the bolt in the front door on my side. I stood at the window for a moment, peering out into our sleepy street, my anxiety still high.
“It's nothing,” I reprimanded myself and slid the blinds closed, grabbing my beaded, fringed, slouchy boho bag.
Stepping from my shop to Luna's was like going from Walmart to Neiman Marcus. Elegance oozed from every whitewashed corner. Luna had gone with upscale beachy, with a predominant theme of white, gray, and gold showcased throughout the room. Large reclaimed wood tables and shelves held hundreds of bottles, each with a gold top and a fancy white-and-gold label. Luna believed that presentation was everything and I couldn't argue with her, as her potions and elixirs were in demand around the world. At times I wondered if she thought my side of the shop was dragging hers down.
“Why do you have that look on your face?” Luna asked, squinting her blue eyes at me, one small line marring her perfect forehead.
“I just am always amazed that you're willing to slum it with the likes of me,” I said, gesturing to the beautiful display of crystals on a table in front of me.
“Knock it off, you bitch,” Luna swore, knowing that curses coming from her delicate mouth would get me chuckling.
“You're the bitch,” I said, cracking a smile at her. “See? This is why we are best friends and perfectly
suited to do business together,” Luna said, pointing a finger at me as she moved behind her counter and began to total her receipts.
I traced my hand over a chunk of amethyst on the table.
“Our shops are just so different,” I said, unable to drop it for some reason.
“Which is why they work. They are complementary to each other,” Luna began, sighing as she put the receipts down and waited for me to finish, knowing that I would keep interrupting her math until I got it out.
I shrugged, and picked up a small citrine crystal and held it to the light.
“I know. I guess sometimes I just feel like I'm dragging you down. You've got all this beauty and light over here,” I said, gesturing with the citrine, “and I'm all dark and crushed velvet over there.”
Luna crossed her arms and studied me more carefully. “What's really bothering you? This has never been an issue before.”
“Nothing, I don't know, I…” I shrugged and put the citrine down, unsure why I was feeling insecure, unsure of where these emotions were bubbling up from.
“Althea. We can't be the same. We should never be the same. It isn't light and dark. It's just that our powers and our very essences are so different. This…” Luna swept her arm out to the shop, “would be nothing without you. You are one of the top psychics in the country. You bring in as much business as my light working and potions do. And don't even get me started on your beautiful art,” Luna said, gesturing to where my underwater photographs lined her walls. “We're a team. And in more than just business. This isn't like you at all to question that,” Luna said, her head tilted, receipts forgotten as she studied me. I could feel her mental probe as she tried to get a reading on my feelings.
“I'm worried,” I blurted out and then stopped, wracking my brain for why.
“Why?” Luna crossed her arms and watched me, taking my concerns seriously.
“I don't know. I've been anxious all day. But when I try to get a grasp on what or why…” I spread my hands in front of me and raised my shoulders, “nothing. I see a gray mist of nothing. I don't know what that means.”
Luna came around the counter and began to pace her shop, mimicking my moves from a few moments before.
“That's highly unusual. Now I'm worried. Can we call Abigail?”
Abigail Rose is my mother, one of the most sought after psychics in the world, and currently tucked away in Greece doing a reading for a dignitary. Or was it a movie star? I could never remember.
“You know how they are when they travel,” I said, thinking with love of my parents.
“Yes, completely off the radar,” Luna murmured, wrap- ping a strand of her hair around her finger and tugging it.
“I'm sure it's nothing. Maybe just that time of the month.” I shrugged, wanting the conversation to be over.
“Nice try, Althea, but I know you,” Luna said, picking up the receipts again. “Let's meet at Lucky's in an hour. It'll give you time to feed Hank.”
Hank, my parents' Boston terrier, had become a fixture in my home as they traveled the world.
“Yeah, he's probably getting antsy by now. I'll give him a quick run and then meet you over there. Um…just call me when you leave here, okay?”
“Now you really have me worried.”
“It's fine. I swear it's fine. But until I know why I'm feeling this way…just…put your protection spells up. And carry your knife,” I said, reluctant to leave.
“Great, Althea. Now I'll never finish these receipts. You know what? I'll count them tomorrow. You can bike me past my place. Okay with you?”
I blew out a breath and nodded, feeling the tension in my shoulders relax.
I held up the citrine again before slipping it into my purse.
“Add this to my tab.”
“SEE YOU IN AN HOUR,” I called, ringing the bell on my beach cruiser bike as I pedaled away from Luna's swanky condo that always made me a little on edge to hang out in. Her design style was echoed there, with a lot of white on white and long windows that let in the light.
I'd have stained the couch with red wine by now if I lived there, I thought as I circled my bike and waved to Mr. Roberts sitting in his rocker on the front porch of Fins, the local everything store.
Tequila Key is a small town with big city aspirations. Often skipped over by the tourists on their way from Key Largo to Key West, Tequila Key had gone through a small re-birth in the 70s. In a bid to attract more tourists, the mayor at the time had thought it would be fun to rename the town from Whittier Key to Tequila Key, thus enraging the Whittiers, whose family had been some of the first to live here, and ensuring that we would never be taken seri- ously by anyone, ever.
At the entrance to town, just a marker off the highway, a huge sign proclaimed, “Tequila Makes it Better.” Whoever's genius idea it had been to erect that had driven the final nail into the coffin on getting any actual tourists to come further into the city. Instead, cars full of people would pull off the highway, take their picture by the sign, and continue on to the party town of Key West, leaving Tequila Key an all but forgotten stop on their journey.
This relative obscurity worked just fine for me, as well as for a slew of creative types who had wandered their way here over the years, pushed out of the other Keys by rising land prices and expensive tourist restaurants. The rich had found their way here as well, for those craving a sleepier waterfront lifestyle while still getting the most bang for their buck. An invisible line seemed to form through the town, with old Tequila Key being a colorful assortment of houses clambering over each other for space and New Tequila – that is, the newly renamed Port Atticus – housing the Ladies Who Lunch with manicured lawns and gated subdivisions.
And, somehow, it all worked out just fine, I thought as I rode my bike past a series of shotgun-style houses, boasting porches painted in a myriad of colors, with large plantation shutters ranging along tall front windows. My house was the last in the row, giving me an unobstructed view of the water from the side that wasn't connected to the rest of the row.
I smiled as I heard barking from my house. I had worried that I was the annoying lady on the block whose dog barked all day while she was gone, but my neighbor swore that Hank only barked when I was coming home.
Some days I took Hank with me to work, but he was a little high-energy for some of my clients.
I got off the bike and wheeled it towards my faded blue house, the porch painted bright lavender with white trim work. An Althea Rose bush climbed a trellis on the side, its blooms offering a cheerful welcome. It was still unde- cided whether my parents had named me for the rose bush or the Grateful Dead song. Knowing them, it was probably a combination of both.
I loved where I lived, the color and cacophony of the houses on the street reminding everyone that even though we were still connected to the mainland, we were islanders at heart.
Two ears poking up from beneath the windowsill were all I could see of Hank before I slid the key in the door and pushed it open, immediately crouching to stop him from racing past me.
“Hank! You miss me, buddy?” I said, laughing as Hank ran in circles around me, jumping up to lick my face, before tearing around the house.
“Got the crazies?” I called as I heard him snorting and skidding over the wood floors as he ran, tearing through the large open layout of the first floor. Hank was a tradi- tional black-and-white Boston and twenty pounds of pure love and sass. Part of me suspected that my parents had never adopted him for themselves, but instead to keep me company while they traveled.
A beep from my purse alerted me and I dug into it, pulling my phone out and swiping the screen to see an email from my mother.
“Speak of the devil,” I said, and perched on a paisley-
print chair in screaming pink and aqua tones. It didn't match anything in the house and I loved it.
Having a blast in Greece, my love. Your father loves the Ouzo. Did a marvelous reading for Eminem. I see him doing big things this year. I'm worried about you. Do me a favor please and be careful? Kisses to Hank!
A picture accompanied the email, bringing a smile to my lips. My parents beamed happily at me, my dad in rumpled khakis with spectacles slipping off his nose, his face red from the sun. He had his arm around my mother, a stat- uesque redhead in a flowing pink caftan. The blue of the Mediterranean stretched behind them and my heart tugged a bit, missing their nearness.
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