I’m posting something a little different. This is the first chapter of the sequel to A Frosty Reunion published under my RD Fitzgerald author name. If you haven’t read the book it can be bought here
This blurb is my unedited first chapter of the sequel. It is a paranormal cozy mystery and it’s not m/m but still fun 🙂
Some mornings it doesn’t pay to peel back the covers, get out of bed, or even open my eyes. This was definitely one of them.
“What about this one?” My oldest sister Jane waved a fuchsia monstrosity, drowning in lace and swathed in bad taste. I clenched my jaw so I didn’t recommend setting it on fire.
“I wouldn’t put that dress on my dog.” Luckily my middle sister, Farah had no such compunction.
I could have hugged her.
“You don’t have a dog,” Jane snapped.
For the hundredth time that morning I wished our mother hadn’t bowed out of the shopping trip. She and Jane had already bought her Mother-of-the Bride dress. She had pitched this outing to us as a ‘bonding’ experience. If Farah and I bonded any more with Jane, she’d be bound in ropes and thrown off the pier before she ever had the chance to hold her overpriced, overblown, wedding extravaganza.
Between trying on bridesmaid dresses, each more horrifying than the last, Farah and I have been subjected to a pompous glorification of her perfect impending nuptials.
I’m almost certain she was trying to see how much we’ll tolerate before we snap, so she can tattle to our mother about our bad behavior. That was the only excuse that could explain why my exquisitely tasteful sister could possibly believe fuchsia was a valid choice in any form.
Farah shrugged. “I’ll get a dog just so I can refuse to dress it in that.” She ate another teacake and scowled at the dress selection from her padded window seat. Apparently giving birth to twins had also eliminated her brain to mouth filter. I flashed Farah a fond smile.
“What do you think Hanna?” Jane’s narrow-eyed glare dared me to say anything negative about her abysmal choice.
“I agree with Farah, not my favorite color.” I offered a cheery grin hoping to soften my harsh words, but not really caring either way. Maybe if I pushed my luck I could be banned from the wedding. I’d only have to listen to mother scold me for the next thirty years or so. I tapped my chin as I considered my options.
Jane growled and tossed the dress onto the couch to join the pile of other rejects. Her engagement ring caught a stray sunbeam and almost seared out my eyeballs. I turned my head and stepped to the side, away from the reflected glory of her enormous rock. It could be a diamond or a small planetoid. Either way, unless she planned to change careers from businesswoman to guiding planes down a runway, she should’ve chosen a smaller stone.
“Gaudy isn’t it,” Farah whispered.
“Amazingly,” I whispered back.
Last month Jane had become engaged to Greg Hardin in a practical merging of cold finance and family magic. I could only hope they planned to hire nannies for their future spawn, because they couldn’t produce a warm emotion between them with a gallon of lighter fluid and a forest-worth of kindling.
“How about this one!” Jane’s voice had taken on the brittle quality of someone who had been shopping far too long and would snap at the next negative response.
I examined the quarter length, midnight blue dress she crumpled in one white-knuckled fist. It had less lace and sparkle than the others and I might be able to wear it as an evening gown later if pressed for a fancy outfit. The glint in Jane’s manic eyes alerted me to the perils of refusing.
“What do you think Farah?” With a breathless disregard for her safety I transferred responsibility over to my other sister.
“It has possibilities.” For the first time Farah stood to examine a dress. She brushed the sugar crumbs off her fingers and onto her neatly pressed jeans before approaching the gown. Snatching it from Jane’s clutches, she carried the dress over to the full-length mirror and held it against her body. She twisted left then right watching how the garment moved. “I like it.”
“You could try it on.” Jane’s biting tone had me holding back a laugh.
The only reason we agreed to participate in this farce of a wedding was because mother had promised Farah a new roof for her house and me that I wouldn’t have to attend any more formal events for an entire year. I still think I’m getting the better deal no matter how much Farah complained about roofing costs.
Farah peeked at the size tag. “My birthing hips won’t fit into this. Hanna, come try this on. You can model for both of us.”
“Fine.” I accepted the dress from her, then scampered to the changing room. I’d agree to pretty much anything to get out of this shop except the previously mentioned fuchsia horror. I had minimal interest in what I wore for a single day. As long as I didn’t have to listen to Jane whine about our wedding outfits for the rest of my life I was pretty happy with anything.
“Let me know if you need a different size, dear,” the shop owner offered.
I’d forgotten her name. No doubt it was etched on the frosted glass of the exclusive boutique’s front door, but I had buried that memory beneath a mountain of scratchy organza and sparkling rhinestones. I referred to her in my head as the Toothy Lady. I suspect her sharp, white incisors will follow me into my dreams like a human Pac Man. I grudgingly held back the urge to ask if she were a vampire. It took the little resolve I had remaining after examining dozens of dresses, but I ruthlessly resisted.
Times like this I wish I had a female twin. A girl Harvey would’ve been a hysterical shopping partner. I would’ve invited Harvey himself to our shopping odyssey, but Jane banned him after he referred to her engagement ring as a the ‘bad taste boulder’. I’m not even sure if he’s still invited to the wedding. Lucky man.
As I tried on the dress I wondered how long this merger, I mean wedding, would last. Jane’s strong will, aka bitchiness, had caused issues in all of her previous relationships, and Greg appeared to have a similar temperament. I had a bet with Harvey whether one of them would snap and kill the other before the ink had dried on their marriage certificate, or if they would wait until after their first-born child to insure their genetic immortality.
My macabre thoughts kept me amused while I tried on the dress. The blue silk flowed nicely across my figure and hid my flaws in the way only really expensive clothing can. I headed out for my critique as soon as I zipped the gown as far up as the sample would allow. I might be able to get it on, but it would take a month of living on air and ice chips to slide the zipper to its final destination.
I swept the dressing room curtain aside then sashayed into the main area, placing my hands on my hips, and sucking in my cheeks in my best super model pose. Mother had reserved the entire store for Jane’s shopping trip so I didn’t have to worry about strangers judging my ridiculous behavior.
Jane rolled her eyes before assessing my attire. “That’s nice.” Jane circled, studying me at every angle.
“What do you think Farah?” I asked. After all we were the ones who’d have to wear it.
Farah tucked a hank of hair behind her right ear as she examined the garment. Several minutes later she nodded her approval. “I think we have a winner.”
“Good.” I didn’t bother hiding my relief as I rushed back to the dressing room as if my feet were on fire.
“We still need to shop for shoes,” Jane shouted after me.
“Have some dyed. We’re both a size seven.” Isn’t that what fussy bridezillas did?
“Good idea,” Jane replied. I tried not to let her obvious surprise dint my ego.
“I have them sometimes,” I replied in a dry voice.
“Not very often.” Jane smirked.
I had to remind myself it would be bad etiquette to punch the bride before her wedding. Mother would probably double my formal events if I gave in to temptation.
“Give me a minute to measure you, then you can be on your way,” the store owner said.
She must have taken Jane’s disdainful sniff as agreement because she led me to a small pedestal in the corner of the shop.
“Sorry about her, she’s high maintenance.” I mentally patted myself on the back for my lack of foul language.
The seamstress flashed me a sharp-toothed grin. “I’m used to it. A lot of people don’t like vampires, but they come here because I have the best selection.”
I gave my imaginary inner me a high five. I totally nailed her species. “Don’t worry, Jane would’ve been rude no matter what you are. She’s an equal opportunity hater.”
The vampire giggled as she quickly finished my measurements and declared me done.
“Make sure you get these delivered on time,” Jane snapped.
“There’s a form on the counter. Please write down your address and the date you need them by.” She spoke in a kinder tone than I would’ve been able to pull off. Probably why she’s still in business.
People like Jane are the reason I have someone else running my coffee shop. I dislike the public as a group. Luckily I can use my eccentric artist personality to get away with mood swings and introversion. Jane didn’t have the same handy excuse.
A few minutes later we were done. A subtle nod to Farah had her making our excuses while Jane was distracted by the shoe catalog. Not to say we had organized a signal ahead of time…but we did.
“Well, now that we have that all finished. I’ve gotta get back home. I’m sure Brent needs a break from the twins by now. I’ll drop Hanna off on the way to save you a trip.” Farah flashed Jane a sweet smile as she grabbed my wrist in a bruising grip, and dragged me out of the shop behind her.
I didn’t speak until we were in Farah’s minivan and gleefully driving away. “I don’t think Brent has set those babies down for more than five minutes since birth. In fact he smacked the hand of your oldest when he tried to cuddle his new sister.”
“Mmhmm.” Farah pressed her foot harder on the gas pedal.
“So why the rush to go home?”
“Oh, we’re not going home. We’re eating lunch at this new place I found. I couldn’t spend the rest of the afternoon listening to Jane discuss her imported hand-knotted bridal veil, or whatever the hell she wants to brag about next. You don’t mind, do you? I didn’t think to ask you if you had time.” She took the corner a bit sharp. I clutched the seat and tried to speak over the roar of my thundering heartbeat.
“I think Jane’s trying to make up for the fact both of us eloped. Mother has never actually been able to plan a wedding before. Jane is taking full advantage of her enthusiasm.”
“If they hadn’t objected to our choice of husbands we would’ve let mother plan them. We eloped because we didn’t want to listen to her complaining.”
“Well now she can live out her wedding fantasies with Jane.”
We both let out happy sighs.
“Don’t forget she still has Harvey to torture,” Farah reminded me.
“I think Harvey is running away from marriage, not toward it. If he ever elopes there will be a shotgun involved.”
Farah laughed. “True.”
“Where is this new place?” We’d been driving for ten minutes and we had just left the town limits.
“Remember that old seaside diner? The one that went under when the owner ran off with a mermaid?”
I searched my memory. It’s a small town so it didn’t take very long. “You mean the one that’s been abandoned since we were in high school?”
“Yep. Apparently one of their kids got ownership. I heard about it in my mothers’ group. They say the food is really good.”
“What do they serve?”
Farah gave me a strange look before thankfully turning her attention back to the road we were careening down. “Seafood of course. What else would they have?”
“Tacos?” I grinned.
“Maybe fish tacos,” Farah offered.
“Maybe.” I thought about it for a bit. “Now I really want fish tacos.”
We spent the rest of the drive bantering over how many stock options father would have to sell to finance Jane’s wedding. After a few more hairpin curves we reached our destination. The old seaside restaurant showed signs of life. A glossy coat of paint across previously weathered boards, a shiny new front door, and fresh gravel covering the parking lot screamed of new occupation. Smoke puffed from the small chimney in silent welcome and a neon blue open sign buzzed cheerily in the window.
Making our way to the entrance I inhaled the delightful fragrances of cooking meat and toasting spices. “Smells great.”
“Let’s hope it tastes as good as it smells.” Farah opened the door and led the way inside.
Warmth wrapped around us taking away the afternoon chill I hadn’t noticed before. Since gaining my frost magic the cold didn’t bother me as much, both a plus and a minus. I didn’t freeze when I went outside, but warm days were extra miserable.
“Hello dears, welcome to John’s Salmon Shack. Take a seat wherever you’d like,” a raspy voice called out from the greeting podium.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust from the brightness outside to the darker interior, but when they did I tried not to squeak out my surprise. The ugliest woman I had ever seen stood before me, and that was the nicest I could say about her appearance. I nodded my greeting, not daring to speak. Not everyone could pull off seaweed colored hair and yellow eyes.
Appearing unfazed Farah slid into the closest booth and motioned me to join her. Without a word I sat on the other side.
“Here you go. Let me know if you have any questions.” She handed us each a glossy menu. “Can I get some drinks started for you?”
“Just water for now,” Farah said.
I nodded my agreement, still not speaking until she left. “You didn’t tell me the restaurant was owned by a hag!”
“Shh, she might hear you. Maybe the mermaid story wasn’t true after all. Besides who cares who runs it if the food is amazing.” Farah perused her menu with the avid greediness of a treasure hunter examining the map to a treasure trove.
I didn’t bother arguing. Farah never listened to anyone but her husband and even then it was on a limited basis. Instead of wasting my time trying to convince her to leave the restaurant, I read my menu. If I ignored the circumstances I had to admit that I wanted to eat all of the food described. “What are you going to get?”
“I’m thinking the sea bass with fennel fronds and basil sauce.” Farah made yummy noises like a little kid offered a bar of chocolate.
I shook my head at her antics. “The snapper with pasta looks good.” If the food was half as tasty as described I would be coming back.
After the hag returned with our water, we placed our orders. She jotted them down in a faux leather notepad before vanishing into the kitchen.
Farah propped her right elbow on the table and planted her chin on her palm giving me her entire focus. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. “Tell me, has Harvey caved on any of mother’s marriage choices?”
I took a sip of water before speaking. “He took Mari, something or other, out last week. He called me when he got home early.”
“Oh, that’s not a good sign.” Amusement gleamed in her eyes.
“According to Harvey, she’s a manager at one of dad’s companies and spent the entire date telling him everything she thought he was doing wrong with his bakery. Apparently he lacks business acumen and should put someone more experienced in charge. I have a feeling if they got married she’d take over whether she can operate an oven or not.”
“Huh, I’m sure he didn’t appreciate her comments.”
“No. He didn’t. You know how careful he’s been with his expansion. In his words. ‘she offered to come up to my apartment and I told her I had to go run my business into the ground.’”
“Poor Harvey,” I agreed. “You’d think on a first date she’d try to be more charming and work her way toward complete domination over time.”
Farah scrunched up her nose. “It would be like marrying mother. Harvey is too laid back for that.”
“I don’t think he’s in a rush for date number two.” I smirked, remembering the outrage in Harvey’s voice when he told me about his date.
“Mother will be disappointed.” Farrah grinned.
I swirled the ice cubes around with my straw. “I’m not sure. From past comments she’s made I think she sees his lack of a love life as a challenge. It gives her the thrill of the hunt without having to kill anything, kind of like a really good shoe sale.”
“I’m sure she’s fonder of Harvey than a pair of shoes.” Farah frowned.
“You didn’t see her at Holly Haven’s last week.” I refused to take back my analogy. The crazed look in mother’s eyes when she saw her favorite designer pumps fifteen percent off had me snatching back my fingers. Why someone as rich as Mother feels the need to go to sales I’ll never understand. I do it out of necessity, or did. Now I can buy whatever I wanted, but I still have a frugal heart. Hmm, maybe that’s how she feels.
“He might just prefer to be single,” Farah said.
I shrugged. “His last five dates had nothing in common. Do you think he just doesn’t know his type?” I tried to remember the women Harvey had dated in the past, but didn’t see a pattern.
Farah shrugged. “He could just be trying to keep his options open. No sense ruling someone out unless you know for sure you won’t get along.”
“Yeah, like Greg.” I shuddered. It baffled me how my sister could be so excited to marry such a slime ball. Maybe Jane’s strong personality could keep him in line.
“Here you go, ladies.” The waitress set plates of food down before us. The smell alone caused saliva to pool in my mouth. I swallowed to keep the drool from spilling out.
“Thank you,” we said in unison.
“You need anything else?” she asked.
“No. I think we’re good.” I looked at Farah who nodded her agreement without taking her fascinated gaze from her food.
“Enjoy.” The waitress’s knowing chuckle made me smile in response.
“I think you made an amazing restaurant choice.” I scooped up a fork of pasta.
Farah hummed over her bite of fish. She chewed it carefully closing her eyes at one point before popping them back open when she swallowed. “I did pick a good one, didn’t I?”
“Yes you did. Good job. We’ll have to bring Harvey here sometime.” He loved seafood.
“Or you could bring the sheriff, or that hot selkie who works for you. I think you’re too invested in Harvey’s love life, you should get one of your own.”
I set my fork down. It took more effort than it should to swallow the pasta. “I can’t. I’m not ready yet.”
Farah nudged my foot under the table. “You’re never going to be ready, but you do have to move on. Don would want you to be happy.” Her soft, understanding tone increased my urge to cry.
“I am happy,” I protested. “Well, as happy as someone who has to participate in Jane’s wedding. I’ll never understand why mother just didn’t hire a wedding planner.”
“Mother wanted to be involved.” Farah rolled her eyes. “And stop changing the subject.”
“I wasn’t changing the subject, I was pondering mother’s lack of common sense. A wedding planner would’ve been a good idea. Maybe that should’ve been our gift.”
“I already got her an enchanted tea set,” Farah admitted. “It keeps any beverage at the perfect temperature.”
“She’ll like that. Maybe I should check out the attic. She likes old things and I haven’t examined everything in there yet.”
“I thought you set the kobold on that problem.” Hannah took another bite and made a sound suited more for the bedroom than a diner.
“I did but he put things he didn’t know what to do with aside for me to look through. It’s a pretty big pile. At least he got rid of everything broken or cursed. I boxed up all Aunt Phyllis’s clothes and sent them to charity and I’m going through her collection of old newspaper articles to see if I missed anything. There has to be a reason she kept them.”
It would be an understatement to say Aunt Phyllis had been a packrat. Hoarder would be a better description.
“Well, that’s a start at least. Let me know if you want any help. If I need to escape the kids for an afternoon I can use you as an excuse to come over.”
I snorted. “You and Brent are disgustingly happy parents. Those kids are going to be hopelessly spoiled. I doubt the twins will need shoes before they start kindergarten the way you and Brent carry them around.”
“They’re babies. You tend to carry them when they can’t walk.” Farah’s nose crinkled. “The older ones walk.”
I shook my head and took another mouthful. We spent the next hour on small talk and making obscene noises over our food. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell Harvey about this place. Who knows what kinds of sounds he’d make in front of his date. It could be embarrassing.”
Farah laughed. “I think he’d be fine. He might enjoy the attention.”
“Maybe.” I didn’t have as much confidence as my sister about Harvey’s dates. I tended to be overprotective of my twin, not that he appreciated it.
We finished our delicious lunch but declined the seductive call of the dessert menu. I did look the list over and make a silent vow to come back later to try their blackberry cheesecake.
Farah dropped me off at my house before heading to her own. I waved goodbye and entered the Victorian monstrosity I now called home. I’d become quite fond of the mansion I’d inherited, even with the freeloading gargoyles.
“Hey, you’re back.” Roan, my selkie employee, stood below the archway that led to the coffee shop portion of the house.
“Were we terribly busy?” I had left during the least hectic time of the day, but sometimes we got an odd rush. Not that I cared if we lost customers, but I had to at least pretend to worry about the solvency of my business, or my employees got cranky. The last one tried to kill me so I did at least pay better attention to who I hired if not their employee performance.
“No. Everything was fine but we do need to hire another person soon, unless you want to pitch in.” He gave me what he probably considered a winning smile. After growing up in a family where my father’s business acquaintances tried to sweet talk me to strike a deal, I was immune to charm. I could admire a good-looking man with the best of them, but one couldn’t change my mind.
“Good idea. I know Willow was trying to hire more help before she turned into a homicidal maniac.” I offered a bright, innocent smile of my own.
Roan chuckled; a low gravelly sound that I had to admit persuaded me more than his shiny, white teeth. “I’ll ask around. I’m sure someone around here needs a job.”
“All right.” I didn’t know how diligently Willow had searched. She wouldn’t have wanted anyone watching her too closely. “Do you have any relatives who need a job?”
Roan froze. “You’d hire another selkie?”
I shrugged. “Sure, why not?” Roan might need days off to swim around in his sealskin, but he proved to be a reliable employee and any entrepreneur would tell you dependable workers were worth their weight in pearls.
“Not worried we’ll rob you blind and pawn all your stuff?”
“I’m pretty sure the kobold would curse you if you tried to steal anything or the gargoyles would hunt you down, and don’t forget my house is semi-sentient.” I really didn’t care for most of the stuff inside and I had questionable trust in the gargoyles after they allowed the last home invasion. If a robber stripped down the house I would just call Farah and have a redecoration party. Despite the house supposedly decorating to my needs it had a different idea of my taste than I did.
“Oh. So it’s not that you trust me.” Roan looked oddly disappointed.
“No, I do trust you. I’m just saying I’m not foolishly naïve. My last employee did try to kill me.” I’d researched selkies since Roan came to work for me. The seal people didn’t respect anyone who couldn’t or didn’t at least try to protect their belongings. In their opinion if someone couldn’t keep their stuff from a selkie’s grasp, they didn’t deserve it.
“Good.” Roan smiled again, before turning back to the coffee bar.
Why did it feel as if I’d just passed some kind of test?