Third time’s a charm…until someone commits murder.
With her sister back at the castle and the tea shop thriving, Wynona feels like her life is finally on track. The fact that a certain werewolf is hanging around an awful lot, only makes it all sweeter.
Until her best friend, Primrose, while pretending to be a vampire, becomes a suspect in a murder investigation.
Wynona’s life is once again turned on its head as she navigates the world of Hex Haven’s most passionate fangirls. The deeper she digs, the more confusing the evidence becomes, and the harder she must work to clear her friend’s name.
With her own magic completely out of control, a burgeoning relationship distracting her, and a police chief with an eternal grudge against her family…Wynona isn’t quite sure how’s she’s going to pull this off. But for Primrose’s sake, she has to try.
Follow Wynona and her band of misfits as they navigate a city of magic, mystery and possible danger in this light-hearted, paranormal cozy mystery by Abigail Thornton.
A Sip of Murder by Abigail Lynn Thornton
Series Le Doux Mysteries | Genre Adult Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher Angel Music | Publication Date November 23, 2021
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A SIP OF MURDER
A Le Doux Mysteries Novel
© 2021 Abigail Lynn Thornton
Prim paused just outside the warehouse door and took a couple of fortifying breaths. Right now she needed to be cool…collected…and completely in control. Madam Ureo wouldn’t tolerate weakness. In fact, she would chew it up and spit it out before Prim ever got to her practiced speech about why she needed to be paid. She had worked the hours, it was time to see the money.
Her phone buzzed against her hip and Prim quickly pulled it out, then made a face. “Perfect timing, Nona,” she muttered, silencing the device before putting it back in her pocket. She loved her friend dearly, but right now Prim needed to focus. They could always chat later.
Closing her eyes, Prim poofed her tiny fairy form into a human one and threw back her shoulders, faking the confidence that would be needed in order to convince her boss that she deserved what she was asking for, despite any financial struggles the theatre was having. After all, they shouldn’t have hired her if they couldn’t afford to pay her…right?
With a tight fist, Prim knocked forcefully on the wooden door.
“Enter!” Madam Ureo screeched, her harpy voice cracking enough to make fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a symphony.
Gritting her teeth against the noise, Prim pushed it open and entered with her head high. “Madam Ureo,” she said calmly. Her fists stayed clenched in order to keep the shaking to a minimum.
The harpy glared with her beady yellow eyes. Although, to be fair, the look was her basic resting face, which meant Prim had no idea if her boss was angry, happy or something in between. “Ms. Meadows,” Madam Ureo garbled. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
The tone of the creature’s voice let Prim know it was decidedly not a pleasure.
“I’ve been working for well over a month now,” Prim began, working her way into her practice speech. “And I believe it’s time for me to receive the paycheck that is owed to me.”
The harpy’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that so?” She folded her hands together and leaned forward onto her gnarled wooden desk. “And just what did you have in mind?” Her smile showed jagged teeth that did nothing to put Prim at ease.
Prim had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. What was it with this harpy and her tight fist on the money? “My paycheck,” Prim said succinctly. “That’s what I had in mind.”
In an act of faith, Prim had taken out a second mortgage on her beloved greenhouse in order to expand her wholesale plant and flower business. Her timing, however, had been less than stellar, since there had been a shift in the market and her numbers had dropped just as her payments had increased.
At first it had been fine. Prim had some money set away, but as the months passed, her savings had whittled down to nothing and she had come dangerously close to not being able to pay her bills.
Desperate, Prim had taken on another job. A nighttime position at The Siren’s Thrall Theatre. It was a place where creatures could come to watch vampire impersonators sing, as well as mingle with other cast members pretending to be famous paranormal creatures. It definitely wasn’t something Prim would have ever considered before, but it had been available. And with her mortgage looming, Prim had jumped at the chance to earn enough to keep her creditors at bay.
There had proven to be two problems with Prim’s decision to work. One, the harpy smirking at Prim from behind a desk. Madam Nelara Ureo absolutely lived up to her species’ reputation as a rude, uncaring, demanding boss, who paid too little and asked too much. Actually…she hadn’t paid at all, which was exactly why Prim was in Madam Ureo’s office yet again. Prim needed that paycheck. She was tired of Madam Ureo’s excuses that funds were difficult to come by. If the theatre was that hard off, they shouldn’t have been hiring workers and if Prim didn’t get paid soon, she would have to take desperate measures in order to save her business.
The second problem was the fact that Prim had yet to tell her best friend about the new job. Wynona had come from such a difficult background that Prim couldn’t find it in herself to share her own troubles. How could she admit that she was failing as a businesswoman? Especially to someone who grew up with President and Lady Le Doux as parents? Wynona had spent thirty years being bullied and treated unfairly, she didn’t need to deal with Prim’s issues.
As a fairy, even a wingless one, Prim’s talents definitely didn’t lend themselves to stage performances. Fairies usually found themselves in pursuits that involved decorating or building of some sort. They liked to make things beautiful, which was why the interior decorating field was dominated with the species. Prim considered herself a botanist, though she didn’t have a formal degree in the subject.
Her magic specialty was plants, and that had always been more than enough to fulfill her wants and desires. At least until the market had taken a turn for the worse.
Madam Ureo’s dark chuckle brought Prim out of her wandering thoughts. “You think you’re more important than any of my other workers?” the harpy rasped. Her laughter sounded like shattering glass. “You’re nothing but a broken fairy. The little bit of money we actually have to work with goes to pay much better employees than you.” Madam Ureo threw her head back and laughed so hard that she ended up coughing like a chain smoker.
Prim pressed her lips together, determined not to shout. She’d spent her entire life being mocked and bullied for not being born with wings and in the fairy world, at least Prim could understand why people made a big deal out of it. But in a job like this one, whether or not she had wings made absolutely no difference whatsoever.
“I’ve worked just as hard as the other actors,” Prim said tightly. “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to, and I’ve done it without complaint—”
“Exactly,” Madam Ureo interrupted after regaining her breath. “And you’ll continue to do as I say.” One side of her lip curled up in a sneer. “Which is why you’re now going to walk out that door and I’ll forget this little incident ever happened.”
Madam Ureo placed her palms on the desk and slowly stood to her full height, which for Prim was terrifying even when she was in her human form. Eight feet of creepy black skin and boney wings was enough to make even a troll shake. “Perhaps your ears are as nonexistent as your wings,” Madam Ureo snapped. “I said get out!”
Prim’s nostrils flared as she did her best to control her anger. She wasn’t usually one to work so hard to control her emotions, but she had an eerie feeling that Madam Ureo ate fairies for breakfast and wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to Prim if she didn’t fall back into line.
But this was important to her. She wasn’t asking for anything she hadn’t earned. She wasn’t pressing for a raise or advance. It was within her rights to ask for what she had earned. “The contract I signed was one that included being paid for my work. I have worked for over a month now and still haven’t been given a single dime. You’re in breach.” Prim stuck her chin in the air. “I have grounds to sue you for what is owed me, but I would rather we just solve this without the courts.” The words were bitter on Prim’s lips, but her business was worth the threats. Without her plants, Prim would be nothing.
Wide, leathery wings snapped out, making the large office seem like a mouse hole as they filled the expanse. “Get out or you’re fired.” The words were blunt and to the point and definitely not what Prim had expected her boss to say.
Her mouth dropped open. “You would really rather I bring in the authorities?”
Madam Ureo’s long black fingernail pointed toward the door. “I don’t deal with overeager creatures whose egos are bigger than their brains. Now, either I can have you kicked out permanently, or you can leave on your own and still keep your job. Your silent job.”
The sting of tears hit the back of Prim’s eyes, but she kept them back. After her upbringing, she’d gotten good at pretending as if nothing affected her. She stuck her nose in the air. “This isn’t over.” Forcing a nonchalant walk, she headed to the door and pulled it open, only to stumble to a stop.
Brell Tuall, the company’s most famous impersonator, was standing at the door with her fist raised. “Oh!” Brell said breathlessly. Her plush red lips formed a perfect “O”, and Prim wanted to roll her eyes with disgust.
Sirens were so annoyingly perfect.
“Ah, our star performer,” Madam Ureo drawled.
Prim glanced over her shoulder to see the manager leaning lazily back in her office chair, grinning smugly. “I do believe I have a more important employee to deal with, Prim, dear. If you would?” Madam Ureo waved toward the door.
Prim’s lips pinched into a tight line, and she bit her tongue to keep from telling the harpy exactly what she thought of her. The exact second something better came along, Prim was out of here, but in the meantime, Prim needed that money.
She stepped to the side to go around Brell.
“Oh, and Prim?”
Prim stopped but didn’t bother looking back.
“We have a Sunday afternoon show this week. Don’t miss it.”
Prim spun, her mouth open to argue. That had been the one caveat she’d given when being hired. Sunday afternoons were off limits. They were the one day a week Prim got together with Wynona for tea and even with the addition of Rascal, they were a precious event for her.
Madam Ureo tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “Problem?”
Prim snapped her mouth shut and shook her head.
“That’s what I thought.” The smugness in the harpy’s tone was nauseating. “Now run along. I need to speak to the person who actually makes me money.”
Prim spun and stormed out of the office. She didn’t bother to say hello to Brell, or acknowledge the siren’s shocked look at Prim’s departure. How had everything gone so horribly wrong? Prim had practiced her speech for days. That money was hers! Madam Ureo had no right to keep it from her! If the theatre was bankrupt, then every employee should be told that. But as far as Prim knew, only a handful of them weren’t getting paid. But why? Why was the money being held back? And why was Prim too scared to just quit?
“Because you can’t afford to,” she muttered to herself.
Madam Ureo, unfortunately, knew how much this job meant to Prim. Being a natural people person, Prim had come into her initial interview and shared her eagerness and troubles, which was exactly why her boss knew that threatening Prim’s position would put her back in line. The harpy was as cruel as they came.
Prim’s footsteps stuttered at that thought. She knew well how cruel people could be. Anyone who was raised just the slightest bit different from the norm knew. But now, as an adult, and a normally successful business owner, Prim hadn’t expected her boss to be one of them.
Prim had every reason and every right to leave notice and go home. But the stubborn part of her that hadn’t let her lack of wings stop her from opening a business, and the fact she had an empty bank account, refused to let someone as terrible as Madam Ureo have the last laugh. If only to spite the disgusting harpy, Prim was going to stick around. And when no one was watching, she was going to take matters into her own hands.
A slow grin crept across Prim’s face as she walked down the sidewalk. It wasn’t much, but the thought of her rebellion helped lift the dark cloud that had been hanging over her head. No one could stop her from finding a way to win, least of all a bitter, old crone who wouldn’t know a good thing if it bit her overly long nose.
Prim’s walk grew more relaxed and her arms began to swing carelessly. Yes, it was going to be fun undermining the head honcho. And if word got back to Madam Ureo and she followed through with her threat of dismissal, well…then Prim might just have to call in a favor with her best friend’s boyfriend, who happened to be a police officer. Of course that would mean admitting her failure to her friends, but if it came down to confessing or losing? Prim knew exactly what she would do.
Reaching into the back pocket of her slacks, Prim pulled out her phone and dialed Wynona.
“Prim!” Wynona’s sweet voice came through the line. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you!”
“Well, you have me,” Prim said cheerily. “What did you need?”
“Help with the flowers,” Wynona said in a low tone. “I don’t know what happened, but the arrangement you brought me for the pastry table completely keeled over this morning! It’s like someone put something in the water, only I can’t figure out what it would be.”
Prim frowned. “Are all the flowers dead?”
“They’re not exactly dead, just…wilted. Like, really wilted.”
Prim’s walk slowed as her mind worked through possible scenarios. “Has anyone touched it since I brought it by? It shouldn’t have needed water since I only brought it yesterday.”
“I moved it to the antique cabinet,” Wynona said. “Other than that, no.”
Prim laughed. “Nona, you put it in the sun, didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah. Don’t flowers like the sun?”
“Sweetie, I made that arrangement specifically for the pastry table. I knew it wouldn’t see the sun, which is why I filled it with Bleeding Hearts and Lily of the Valleys. They’re shade flowers.”
Prim shook her head, then answered, “Nope. Just like you don’t put the food near the sunny window, these flowers don’t go near the sunny patches either.”
“Oh my gosh.” Nona gasped. “I’m so sorry. If I put them back, will they perk up?”
Prim glanced at the screen of her phone. “Tell you what. I’m free at the moment. I’ll come by and give them a boost so they’re ready for your opening tomorrow.”
“Would you?” Wynona asked. “You’re so amazing.”
Prim grinned. “And this is why you’re my best friend. Everyone needs someone to build their ego once in a while.”
“You save these flowers and I’ll build up your ego so big you won’t be able to walk through the front door.”
“Deal.” Prim picked her pace back up. “I’ll see you in fifteen.”
She hung up the phone and stuck it back in her pants pocket. Seeing Wynona would be a nice break, especially since Prim wouldn’t be able to come to tea this Sunday. Not that Wynona needed to know that…yet.
But between a friend visit and a planned rebellion, Prim felt as if her future had suddenly perked up just a bit. There was fun and mischief ahead, and Prim was going to come out the conqueror.
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Ever since I was in elementary school I have wanted to be an author. Career day was a bit rough, since there is no official uniform for this job. Pajamas and a laptop maybe? Although my clothes change from day to day, my job as a wife and mother doesn’t. My days are filled with my 5 children and enjoying time with my husband, while my evenings are filled with creative time. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.