She wouldn’t have chosen to be born into the most powerful, ruling witch family in all of Hex Haven. She wouldn’t have chosen to be cursed at birth and grow up without powers. And she definitely wouldn’t have chosen to add ‘amateur sleuth’ to her resume.
Unfortunately, fate had other ideas.
Having been raised as her family’s ‘dirty little secret, it isn’t until her grandmother helps her escape on the Spring Equinox that Wynona manages to make a few decisions for herself…that is until a dead body is found in her tea shop. She’s only six days away from her grand opening when the police mark off the area as a crime scene.
Wynona has a solid alibi, but the chief of police has Wynona at the top of his suspect list and the grumpy vampire seems determined to put her behind bars. Despite that, it isn’t until customers begin cancelling their appointments that Wynona knows she has to step in and solve this crime or lose her dream forever.
Without any magical powers, she’s going to need all the help she can get.
A wingless fairy, a too-handsome landlord and a purple mouse are not exactly what she had in mind.
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.
Murder By the Cup by Abigail Thornton
Series Le Doux Mysteries | Genre Adult Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher Angel Music | Publication Date July 27, 2021
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MURDER BY THE CUP
A Le Doux Mysteries Novel
© 2021 Abigail Thornton
At the thought of her grandmother, the usual sharp pang of longing struck Wynona’s chest. Granny Saffron had been gone for close to three months now, and yet there were times when it still seemed like only yesterday.
It was made worse by the fact that Wynona had not been able to give her grandmother a proper goodbye. Unbeknownst to Wynona, her grandmother’s passing was the distraction that had allowed Wynona to escape the clutches of her cruel but powerful family. The loss still hurt deeply, but Wynona found gratitude amidst the pain. Without Granny’s help, Wynona would still be her family’s dirty little secret, stuck in that large castle with no hope for a future.
Instead, she was just about to open her own tea shop in honor of Granny Le Doux, using all the skills Granny had taught her in her greenhouse when the rest of the family was too busy running the paranormal world.
Setting aside her morbid thoughts, Wynona brushed the contents of the mortar into a jar already labeled and ready to put on the shelf for her grand opening next week. Because of Granny’s tutelage, Wynona was able to offer a unique experience to her customers. Personalized, custom made teas. There were some teas that Wynona made in large batches, meant to cure certain ills and help in specific ways like the mixture she was shelving. The mix of gingko, rosemary, lavender and a hint of peppermint should work wonders with anyone, from fairies to werewolves, in helping grow thicker, more luxurious hair.
For a higher fee, however, Wynona was also offering herself out for private consultations. Teas made specifically for an individual that resonated with their body chemistry and more importantly…their magic.
Granny Saffron had been one of the paranormal world’s most powerful witches and her specialty had been in earth gifts. Growing plants and knowing how to use them was a coveted hobby and since Wynona had no powers of her own to claim, Granny had taken the lost child under her wing and taught her everything she knew that didn’t require magic.
The warmth and kindness of the powerful woman had been the only thing that had helped Wynona keep going when life became hard. Having been cursed since birth so her powers were bound and useless, Wynona had become an instant disappointment to her family. Instead of embracing and consoling Wynona for something that was out of her control, Marcella, Wynona’s mother, had passed her off to a nanny and never looked back. Without powers, Wynona was worthless.
Her family, and most witches in general, viewed magic as power. Lucky for Wynona, or unlucky, depending on how one looked at it, Wynona’s family was the most powerful of all. An unbroken line of powerful political succession…until Wynona.
“No more,” Wynona whispered to herself. She pushed out a short breath, put her hands on her hips and surveyed her storage room. The space was clean and neat, with every jar and plant labeled and put precisely in its place. Much smaller than the palace Wynona had grown up in, the room was small and cozy with a wonderful warmth emanating from the cheerful fire in the corner.
It was perfect.
With a firm nod, Wynona walked out of the room and into her small home. On the night she’d escaped from her family, Granny had given Wynona the information for a bank account with enough money to allow Wynona to take care of herself for a couple of years, but not enough that her family would come after her when Granny’s inheritance was passed out to the masses.
Instead of relaxing for a time, Wynona had taken her newfound freedom and instantly jumped into running a business. With her money she’d been able to rent a building in town, renovate it to her liking, and still buy a small cabin farther out of town with a small attached greenhouse. It had belonged to a dryad at one point in time and was perfect for Wynona’s nature loving ways.
She could grow her own inventory right outside her house with the magic of the forest close enough to infuse the plants with a little something extra, yet close enough to town to keep Wynona safe and have easy access to her shop.
She snorted. Safe. As if there’s anything anyone could do to me at this point that would be worse than taking away my powers.
Her good humor faded. There were plenty of things that would be worse than that, but sometimes they were hard to imagine. Dangerous hexes and wild paranormals were things that Wynona had only ever read about or heard in the news, despite the fact that she had turned thirty on the night she’d escaped. Her family had not only kept her out of the limelight, they had never even acknowledged that she existed, which meant her experience with the outside world had been isolated to media outlets and servants’ gossip.
The media had been unaware of Wynona’s existence until she’d started to advertise her tea shop’s grand opening. In fact, Wynona was almost positive that the fact she’d had so many advance bookings was largely due in part to her last name. Le Douxs rarely condescended to mingle with the peasants, so having access to one, even if she had no powers of her own, was enough to have people booking her tea shop months in advance.
“Good for business,” Wynona said with a sharp grin. “It might actually be the only good thing my family has ever done for me.”
A soft tinkling sound caught her attention and Wynona looked around for her cell phone. The technological advances money could buy were the closest Wynona got to magic and she had enjoyed having access to many of the luxuries her family had denied her.
Finding the device on her kitchen counter, Wynona opened the screen and groaned.
Scones will be available tomorrow. No earlier.
Chef Atherton Droxon was the best baker in town. It had taken a lot of finagling and name dropping for Wynona to get a contract with him to supply the baked goods for her shop. It was going to cost her a bundle, but anyone who ate one of Chef Droxon’s goods always came back for more. There was some speculation that he was using some kind of gnome magic to keep people addicted, but Wynona knew that had to be false. Gnomes didn’t have much magic. Not enough to tamper with baked goods, that was for sure.
Every species contained a certain type and limit of magic, all except witches and warlocks, that was. Which is exactly why witches and warlocks were the ones who ruled. Witches were born with a limited number of powers, but with the right combinations and genetics, they could create offspring with much greater abilities than any other species. And that didn’t take into account the increasing of their natural born abilities through study and work. Just like any creature, what they could accomplish as children was nothing compared to what they could accomplish as an adult.
Wynona punched the call button. She wasn’t about to let this deal go sour. Chef Droxon had promised to have a taste test with her tonight and Wynona had planned her entire schedule around it. He couldn’t cancel or it would throw off everything she was doing in order to be ready for her opening next week.
“No sooner!” Chef Droxon answered the call with a loud yell. His accent sometimes made him difficult to understand, but Wynona had no trouble at the moment.
“Hello, Chef Droxon,” she said conversationally. Perhaps that was another thing to be grateful to her family for. Wynona was extremely cool under pressure. It didn’t matter how rude, cruel or dramatic another person was, she had learned how to keep a level head. She’d been forced to, or her family would have destroyed her long ago. “How are you doing today?”
“It is no good,” Chef Droxon snapped. “I cannot bake like this. The scones will not be ready.”
“Now, Chef Droxon, I know that you’re a man of your word,” Wynona said pleasantly. “You told me everything will be ready for our little get together this evening, and I’m so looking forward to it.” She paused, but he didn’t speak right away, so she continued laying the sugar on extra thick. “You’re so wonderful at what you do that I’m sure if you put your mind to it, you can have everything ready just like you promised.” Wynona held her breath. She didn’t like working with spoiled personalities. She’d had enough of that at home, thank you very much. But she needed his food. If she truly wanted her tea shop to stand out, Wynona knew she had to offer things no one else could offer. She couldn’t magic up her own offerings, so she needed to rely on the magic of others. Right now, that meant dealing with the drama that was Atherton Droxon.
“The scones do not want to bake,” he grumbled, but Wynona could hear the softening in his voice. She might lack magic, but she had learned to compensate by learning to read people.
“How wonderful then that the scones aren’t in charge,” Wynona said with a smile. “You are the master of your kitchen,” she cooed. “And I just know that all the patrons I have coming to the opening will simply adore your food!”
“You’ll be an absolute sensation!” Wynona continued. “Why, I’m sure that the news reporter who has promised to come will want to speak to you more than me!”
She had him. Now to seal the deal. “Imagine all the freepublicity you’ll get! In fact, you’re being paid to be there and yet you’re the one who everyone will want to meet.” Gnomes were notoriously cheap, and when he didn’t automatically argue with her again, Wynona gave herself a mental clap on the back and relaxed, knowing it was all going to be okay.
“I suppose I can come tonight,” he muttered.
“I’m so excited,” she said brightly. “I’m just going to freshen up and then I’ll meet you at the shop.”
“Will be an hour,” he said sharply. “No more. No less.”
“An hour is perfect,” Wynona said, a triumphant smirk on her face. She tried to wipe it off, but it was difficult. Any victory felt so good after thirty years of failure. She glanced at her watch. An hour gave her enough time to make sure the shop was in perfect order. Having a neat facility would help her vendors know that she meant business. “I’ll see you then.”
The line went dead without another word, but his abrupt leaving didn’t worry her. Gnomes weren’t always easy to deal with, but their word was their bond. He couldn’t go back on it.
She hurried to the bathroom, making sure her hair was in place. Wynona had thrown it up in a messy bun earlier in the day, and half of it had fallen out as she’d been working. Tsking her tongue, Wynona let down her waist-length black hair. No matter what her family said about the curse, Wynona still looked every inch the witch.
Her family had been bred for power and glamor for generations and even Wynona had been the recipient of decent genetics. Her hair was thick and silky, an attribute she was very proud of. Her skin, however, was another matter. She was so pale it looked as if she’d never seen the sun, and even since being free, Wynona could not get her body to recognize that the sun actually existed. It appeared that she would be milky white until the day she died.
Rewrapping her bun, Wynona let a few pieces of hair down to soften the sharp lines of her face, then pursed her lips and put on her favorite lip gloss. Her lips, plump and naturally red, had been a gift from Wynona’s mother. Celia, Wynona’s older sister, was constantly remarking on how distracting they were. They were rather large, but Wynona knew her mother was a renowned beauty. Surely her mouth wasn’t going to be enough to keep Wynona from finding love…if she ever got to that stage of life.
She’d spent so much of it alone that it was hard to imagine sharing something more than a casual greeting with another person, but secretly, in her heart of hearts, Wynona hoped a soulmate would eventually cross her path. She might never have spoken the words out loud, but they were there nonetheless. And who could blame a girl? It was a natural inclination after all. Now that she was out from under her mother’s thumb, Wynona could marry for love rather than position and that, above all, had been a victory for her. Soulmates were not common, though not unheard of, among the paranormals, and for the first time ever, Wynona had the freedom necessary to look for hers…provided he actually existed.
“But first…” Wynona looked herself over and nodded. “Business.” There would be time for romance later, after she had turned Saffron’s Tea House into the best tea shop in all of Hex Haven.
She grabbed her purse, computer bag, a couple jars of newly created tea tinctures and headed out. If she was as powerful as her mother, Wynona knew she’d be able to snap her fingers and arrive at the tea shop without messing up a single hair. Unfortunately, that little trick required a skill Wynona didn’t own. Magic.
She sighed. It always seemed to come back to that. Would her life ever feel normal? Or would she always long for something she didn’t have?
“Get a move on,” she told herself. Walking to the small attached garage, Wynona punched in her code and the door slowly lifted. Inside was an array of boxes and bubble wrap that she had yet to throw away. The first few weeks of homeownership had been filled with purchases to add onto the few possessions she had managed to smuggle out of her family home.
Clothes, furniture, kitchen supplies… She’d started with literally nothing, but Parazon had been all too happy to help supply her with anything she needed at the touch of a button. Their fairy delivery service was almost instantaneous and Wynona had been grateful for it.
Amidst the aftermath of unpacking, Wynona pulled a mint green Vespa out onto the gravel driveway. Her computer bag and purse were wrapped around her shoulders, but the jars were carefully placed in the storage basket on the front of the scooter.
Throwing her leg over the seat, Wynona settled herself comfortably, then pushed back the kickstand and started off. It was only a ten minute ride and, unless she was in inclement weather, it was a beautifully scenic adventure.
Sighing in contentment, Wynona let her eyes wander as she rode. She was building a good life for herself. One to be proud of and one Granny would approve of. She just needed to get through the grand opening next week, and then life should be nothing but roses.
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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.