- Book info
- Author updates
Pepper in her first trimester...and what a trimester it is!
All of Magnolia Cove is buzzing when soothsayers arrive to offer blessings to Pepper's and Axel's unborn child. But when one of the soothsayers foresees death, the celebration quickly turns sour.
Don't worry because there is a solution. But when the solution turns deadly and someone winds up murdered, it looks like any and all of Pepper's relatives could be guilty--even Axel!
Can Pepper figure out who committed the murder before the killer strikes again? Or will she become the next victim?
Find out now!
Release date: September 13, 2020
Publisher: LADYBUGBOOKS LLC
Print pages: 160
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
“Now you drink this tea, here,” Betty said. “It’ll get rid of your nausea.”
I sat in my grandmother’s living room, one arm clutched around my stomach, the other holding my mouth, trying to fight back the sick feeling swelling in my belly.
I knew there would be nausea my first trimester of pregnancy, but I never imagined it would be quite so vicious. Simply walking threw off my equilibrium, making me unable to travel on two legs for any length of time.
So it was lucky that I was a witch and could travel by my craft. Which meant I didn’t have to walk at all. I could simply apparate to wherever I wanted to travel. This was how I wound up in my grandmother’s living room curled up on her couch, groaning in agony.
She handed me a cup of brown liquid that she had called tea. I sniffed it. It smelled like sewage. I dry heaved.
I smoothed my fingers over my hair. “There’s no way that I’m drinking that. It’ll kill me.”
Betty placed a fist on her hip. “This here stuff is what I drank when I was pregnant with your mother.” She rested the cup on the table beside me. Steam curled from the chocolate-colored liquid. “It helped me feel better, and it’ll help you.”
The acrid smell wafted up my nostrils. I clamped a hand over my mouth and leaned back, succumbing to another wave of nausea.
“I don’t believe you,” I said weakly.
She waddled over to the cup and sniffed it. “Smells right. Believe your old grandmother when I say it’ll help.”
I groaned and collapsed back on the couch. “I think I’d rather deal with feeling sick.”
Amelia hopped down the stairs. “Morning sickness again?”
“It’s worse than before.” I moaned. “It was so bad that Axel made me come here. I think he’s tired of hearing me whine about it.”
She plopped down beside me. The cushions dipped, and I lurched to the side, vomit surging up the back of my throat. “Gently, please.”
“Sorry.” Amelia reached around me and grabbed the cup, taking a good whiff. “Oh my word. That’s disgusting!”
Betty smiled proudly. “Yep, and the worse it smells, the better it works.”
My cousin arched a brow. “If it doesn’t kill you first.”
“It’s not going to kill her,” Betty snapped. “For y’all’s information, this is the morning sickness remedy that’s been passed down in my family for generations. It works like a dream. Smells horrible, tastes worse but does the job.”
Amelia didn’t look convinced. “You know, if you don’t want to take Betty’s remedy, I’m sure we could find someone else in town who’ll be happy to give you a tonic that doesn’t smell bad.”
Betty glowered. “Didn’t Axel send you here so I could help you?”
“You know he did. I just said so.”
My grandmother waddled over to the cauldron that hung in the center of the hearth, and using a wooden spoon that she took from a hook on the mantle, she stirred the sewage-colored liquid.
Ugh. Just thinking thoughts like that made my stomach slosh with nausea.
Betty tapped the spoon on the iron cauldron and turned to me. “Your husband knows a thing or two about what’s best for you.”
The remedy’s pungent aroma assaulted my nose again. I fought back retching. “Then he can drink it.”
“He can drink what?”
Axel strode around the couch, coming into view.
I glared at him. “How long have you been standing there?”
Amelia rose and he sat beside me. I gripped the couch’s arm to steady myself. When I was younger, I always thought it would be cool to have a waterbed. But weaving back and forth on the couch made me realize that I would have hated having one.
Axel grazed his thumb over my cheek. “Long enough to have heard that I can drink something. What?”
I handed him the cup. “This evilness.”
He tutted. “Did Betty make it?”
“I sure as heck did, and these kids here don’t appreciate all the sweat and tears it took.”
“Well, it doesn’t smell like your sweat and tears went into it.” Amelia nabbed an apple from the dining table and polished it on her shoulder. “It smells like you put a different bodily fluid in there.”
“Okay,” Betty snapped. “That’s it. You get out of here before you learn what it means to really make me angry.”
My cousin lifted her arms in surrender. “Fine. I’m out.” She shot me a look. “Just remember what I told you, Pepper. We’ll find you something else to take for your nausea if you don’t want to drink that.”
Before Betty could say another word of warning, Amelia bolted from the house, slamming the door shut behind her.
“That kid,” Betty snarled. “She’s lucky that I’m so nice. One of these days I might not be so kind to her.” She exhaled and with it, her demeanor shifted. My grandmother smiled brightly at Axel. “Now, can you please talk some sense into your wife?”
I shot her a dark look. “Yes, Axel, talk some sense into me. Drink some of this concoction and let me know how it is. Apparently, it tastes worse than it smells—if that’s possible.”
Betty’s lips tightened, but she didn’t say anything.
Axel picked up the cup. “Will this do anything bad to me if I drink it?” he asked Betty.
She shook her head. “Other than put a little more hair on your chest, no.”
“A werewolf can always use more hair,” he said pleasantly.
I scoffed. “Whose side are you on?”
“The right one.” He winked at me before opening his mouth and throwing the contents of the cup down his throat.
Axel gagged and tears sprang into his eyes. I swore that for a second his face turned green. But Axel, bless him, was a trooper. He swallowed with a grimace. When it was down, he pressed a hand to his chest.
“Oh, that was…an ordeal.”
“I’m surprised you’re alive,” I said. “The way you reacted, I thought you might die.”
He nodded as if to say that yes, he also expected that the liquid might do him in.
“Stop it,” Betty said. “I’ve never killed anyone with one of my potions, least of all a woman expecting.”
“Thank goodness for that,” I said. “But I’m really not wanting to be the first one.”
She glared at me. “You can sit and be miserable all day. I don’t care. I’m only trying to help you.”
Axel handed her the cup, and she ladled another heaping spoonful of sewage into it.
“I hope that isn’t for me,” I murmured.
“Who else would it be for?” she asked, her voice overflowing with bite.
“It’s really not that bad,” Axel said, forcing a smile.
He was lying. A little tension lay in those lips, tipping me off to the truth. “I know that’s not what you think. You almost vomited it back up.”
He pressed the cup into my hands. “No, I didn’t. And this is for your own good. Drink this and you’ll feel better. I’m still sitting here. Granted, the inside of my mouth tastes like—”
“A dumpster?” I offered.
He gave me a thin smile. “It’s not that bad. Don’t you think you’re being childish?”
I nodded. “Yes, I do think I’m being childish.”
He rolled his eyes. “Okay, then. You can sit here and be miserable, or you can drink this.”
I stared at the cupful of liquid that he’d placed in my hands. All I had to do was pinch my nose, toss it back and the ordeal would be over. Also, I would feel better.
I clamped two fingers over my nose and threw the drink back. The fact that it was warm was the only saving grace about it. The drink tasted worse than it smelled, and it smelled pretty darn bad. It was bitter and sour with a dash of disgusting thrown on top.
I drank through a gag that bubbled in the back of my throat and managed to get the whole liquid down. I lowered the cup with a thud and used my shirtsleeve to wipe away the tears that streamed down my cheeks.
Betty beamed at me. I’d just undergone the seventh level of hell, and she was smiling about it.
“Now,” she said, “how do you feel?”
I didn’t feel bad. Deciding that I’d risk getting up, inch by inch, I edged my way to the rim of the couch.
“Your color looks better,” Axel said quietly.
“I feel better.” Even the astonishment in my voice surprised me. I slowly rose, and it felt normal. “Oh my gosh!” I turned to Betty, who smiled proudly. “You did it! You took the nausea away.”
As I wrapped her into a hug, she said triumphantly, “Of course I did. You don’t get to live as long as I have and not know a thing or two about healing others. Remember, this is what I used to do—make potions for folks. Now, I don’t do it much anymore, but for you, I’ll make you the anti-nausea brew every morning if you need it.”
I rubbed her arm warmly. “Tomorrow can I add sugar or honey?”
She cackled, sounding like the witch she was. “Sorry, but no. That interacts with the rest of the ingredients, makes them lose their potency, and you need this drink to be potent. Am I right?”
I raked my fingers through my hair. I’d felt so sick this morning that I hadn’t even bothered to take a shower. A greasy film coated my scalp, and I knew I smelled, let’s just say, not so fresh. So the first thing that was in order, before I started my day, was to head on home and pull myself together before going over to Familiar Place, the shop where I paired up witches with their familiars.
If y’all haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a witch. Sorry, I would have said something earlier, but you know, I was sick and all.
I took a quick look at my plaid pajamas and declared that it was time for a shower.
Axel rose from the couch and wrapped his hard, stonelike arms around me. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
Betty clapped her hands together. “All right, now. You need to git on back and get changed. Then head over to the Bubbling Cauldron Road, where folk’s be expecting you.”
I shot Axel a confused look. “Where folks’ll be expecting me? Why?”
He shrugged. “No clue.”
Betty placed a finger on one nostril. A line of magic zipped from her nose and circled the cauldron. In a blink, the cauldron vanished, to be stored away somewhere.
“You’ve got to get over there because it’s Presents Day,” she explained in a voice that suggested that should be everything I needed to know.
“I’m sorry? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She huffed. “Didn’t Cordelia tell you?”
Cordelia came down the stairs dressed for work. Her long blonde hair was pulled up into a messy bun. A messenger bag was strapped over the button-down shirt that she’d paired with slim jeans. “Tell you what?”
Betty scowled. “You didn’t tell her about Presents Day?”
Cordelia smacked her head. “Oops. I pulled an Amelia. Forgetting to tell you. Sorry about that.”
Axel’s hand pressed into the small of my back. The heat from his skin was like a mini furnace. Warmth spread up to my shoulders and down to my rear end.
Concern flared in his eyes. Ever since I told him that we were expecting a baby, the werewolf in him had become more dominant. He explained that it was his protective nature strengthening, that the beast in him wanted to keep me safe. Needless to say, little surprises like this made him tense.
“What’s Presents Day?” he asked.
“Oh,” Cordelia said with a touch of sarcasm, “it’s when a whole bunch of witches show up and tell you all about your baby. They let you know how awesome your baby will be when they grow up.”
“I don’t like your tone,” I replied before turning to Betty. “This sounds weird—weirder than your horrible remedy for morning sickness.”
Betty grabbed a tea towel from a hook and swatted me with it. “Nonsense. There ain’t nothing strange about being honored by the witches who can see these sorts of things. Nothing strange at all.”
I was skeptical. “So what do I have to do, exactly?”
“You sit and have your feet worshipped,” Cordelia said flatly.
Betty glared at her.
“What?” Cordelia shrugged. “I’m telling her the truth. She sits down and people tell her about the baby.”
Axel winked at me. “They’re saying you’ll get a lot of attention.”
I groaned. “All I want is to have this baby in relative peace and quiet. I don’t want it to be big deal.”
Cordelia rubbed her forehead. “In case you haven’t noticed, you are a big deal. Do I need to list all your accomplishments? Or shall we just skip that part and go straight to the point where you say you’ll happily go and have your feet worshipped by the peasants?”
I stifled a laugh. “I’m not going to have my feet worshipped by the peasants.”
“Exactly.” Betty jabbed the air with authority. “Don’t listen to your cousin. It’s not a big deal.”
“You just said it was a big deal,” I countered.
She winced. “Okay, maybe it is a big deal, kid. But you’re a big deal. All you have to do is sit and listen, just like Cordelia said. In a couple of hours all the attention will be over with and you can go back to doing whatever you want. You can forget all about the soothsayers. Unless, of course, they tell you something unforgettable, like your child will become a queen or something.”
I nearly slapped my face from frustration. Axel rubbed my shoulder, hugging me to his rock-hard side. I ran my hand down his abs because let’s face it, my body was on the cusp of changing in ways that I wasn’t prepared for. So I might as well touch a well-built body since I wouldn’t have one anymore.
“I think you should go,” Axel said. “It’ll be fun. I’ll come with you.”
“There’s no ‘thinking’ about it,” Betty said. “She’s going whether she wants to or not.”
“So I don’t have a say in it,” I said.
My grandmother shook her head. “Kid, as much as I’d like to tell you that you do, I can’t.” She glanced at her watch. “In fact, the first guests should be arriving now.”
Axel flashed me a huge smile. “Well then, let’s walk on over.”
“Can someone please give me a magical shower?” I asked. “I’m pretty gross.”
Betty shot a line of magic from her nose that enveloped me like a cloud. When it disappeared, I felt like I’d stepped out of a shower and into fresh clothes.
She winked. “No problem, kid.”
I let Axel pull me toward the front door. “Time to go.”
This was no big deal, right? What was the worst thing that could happen?
I should know by now that’s not a question to ask.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...