Hey there! I'm excited to share this first chapter of my book Desperate House Witches with you. This is a paranormal cozy mystery featuring a witch, a movie star, and couple murderous vampires. Eek! Hope you enjoy this sneak peek.
My mentor, Morty, licked his fingers like he was trying to suck down the last few calories left on earth. “Mm. Now, that’s a good sticky bun.” He picked up the paper wrapper and gave it a lick, too.
I didn’t want to stare, but I couldn’t look away. This guy could eat.
After vacuuming up some of the milkshake he ordered with his second breakfast, he said, “Hey Lexi, what do you think about Chinese food?”
“What do I… think about it?”
“Yeah. I mean, for lunch. This airport’s got the best. Panda Palace. It’s right over there.”
I turned to check out the neon sign of a panda nibbling bamboo. Then I looked at my watch. It was 10:30 in the morning.
A gaggle of travelers hurried past, dragging luggage. In the distance, a baby cried, and the intercom system announced the boarding of a flight, one gate over. Boston’s International airport buzzed with activity and bright lights.
“Maybe we’d better look over our notes for our meeting,” I suggested. I’d budgeted twelve bucks to get me through the day and I wasn’t about to spend it on overpriced airport food. Plus, we had work to do.
“What, you don’t like Chinese food? They got the best Kung Pao chicken I ever tasted, you know.”
I pulled out a folder I’d prepared for our trip and started flipping through. If Morty wanted to go get an early lunch, he could. We had a half hour to go before our flight to Denver would start boarding, and I wanted to use that time to work.
“You’re overthinking this, you know.” Morty gestured to the fat folder.
“What do you mean? Isn’t it good to be prepared? Public Relations is about people. You’re always saying that. I’ve printed out everything I could find about Myles Bradley—”
“You think you’re gonna get to know about a person by reading about him? Bah!” He waved dismissively, then slurped down more of his drink. The straw squeaked against the bottom of the cup as he hoovered up the remaining drops.
I waited attentively. Morty was head of Public Relations at the dating agency we worked for, and he was known for fixing messes—no matter how bad the wreckage. I was beyond lucky to have landed a position as his intern, after my previous business failed. This was my second stab at a career, and I really wanted to succeed. Cupid Connections paid Morty top dollar. If I played my cards right, I could land a gig as one of his minions in a year or so… if the company survived the current catastrophe.
If anyone could pull us through, it was Morty. The guy knew his craft. During my first week in the gig, he managed to get an article about Cupid Connections on the front page of Boston’s biggest newspaper, along with a photo of one of our recent matches canoodling in the park, holding a one-month-old chocolate lab. Who doesn’t like puppies? The day the paper published, the dang website nearly imploded from all the new dating profiles.
I wondered if Morty had any cute-puppy photos up his sleeve this time around.
Though, I suspected it was going to take more than a happy couple and their fur baby to fix this mess.
He set his empty milkshake cup down on the seat beside him and rocked to the side so he could reach for his wallet. “Nope. You can’t know a guy based on research. That’s not how it works. That’s like trying to know what a banana tastes like by reading all about banana farming regulations. You catch my drift?”
I closed my folder. “Okay, then, what’s our strategy? Cupid Connections was hacked, and because of it all Bradley’s personal info has been leaked. Of course he’s upset! I can’t believe the company’s sending us rather than a team of lawyers. Cupid Connections could go under for this if he sues."
“He’s not gonna sue.”
“How can you be so sure? And even if he doesn’t, we’ve got a PR nightmare on our hands—Myles Bradley may not be in the movies anymore, but he used to be a big-time celebrity. The media’s going to have a field day with this, and Cupid Connections will look bad.”
I gave him a blank look.
He stared right back at me. “Who says we’re going to look bad? Lexi, we’re going to spin this around, make sure all the media attention casts us in a good light. Piece of cake.”
“How? How are we going to do that? Just give me some direction. You’re the expert, Morty, and I want to learn from you.”
I folded my hands and set them over my folder, trying to look the part of a good student.
“Okay—let me give you the quick and dirty version. Because if I don’t get in that Panda Palace line soon, I’m gonna miss out on the best Chinese food on the east coast. My wife watches my diet like a hawk, thanks to that trouble with my heart last summer. When I’m away I gotta indulge a little, for Pete’s sake. Here’s the big secret of PR. You listening?”
“We give him what he wants.”
“But Morty… he probably wants to sue us.”
“No, he doesn’t. He’s got more money than he knows what to do with.”
“Then what does he want?”
“That’s what we’re gonna find out at the meeting. We find out what he wants, and we give it to him. We make a win-win situation. That’s what PR’s all about, see? Finding a way for everyone to save face. We help him look good to the public, we spin the whole thing so Cupid Connections gets some good press, too, and then we take the next flight home to Boston.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“It is. No problem. I’ve worked thousands of situations just like this one. We’re going to be in Desperation Valley for one night, two nights tops. Now, I’m gonna go get me some of that —Arrrgh!” His eyes popped open wide, and his face took on a reddish hue.
Then it got sort of blue.
At first I thought he was choking.
“Morty? Morty, you okay?” I jumped up out of my seat, ready to perform whatever rendition of the Heimlich maneuver I could, given the fact that I surely wouldn’t be able to wrap my arms around his girth.
He clutched his chest, gasped, “My heart!” and then fell forward, knocking the empty shake cup down to the ground with him. I had a feeling, then, that he wasn’t choking.
The following hour was chaotic. Paramedics showed up, shocked Morty with special electrical pads, gave him all sorts of fancy-sounding medicine, and pounded his chest to beat the band. None of it helped.
They could not save Morty.
I wasn’t surprised when the lead paramedic informed me that “my friend” had suffered a massive, fatal heart attack.
Needless to say, he never did get his Kung Pao Chicken.
I found a quiet alcove by a window that looked out over the tarmac, and called Cupid Connections’ Boston Headquarters.
A receptionist picked up, and I was relieved that she was one I knew pretty well.
“Sadie! Oh, thank goodness it’s you. It’s Lexi. I’ve run into a sort of… problem… here.”
Way down the hallway, I could see the mountain of white-sheet-on-stretcher that was Morty, being carried to the nearest morgue. “Morty is…” Somehow I couldn’t get the word dead out. It had all happened so fast. My hand, holding the phone, shook a little bit. I reached out to hold onto the rail by the bank of glass. “Morty is… uh… not with us anymore.”
“Lexi, what are you talking about? Hey—you’re supposed to be in the air right now. Don’t tell me you missed your flight! And what’s up with Morty?”
“He—” I gulped. “Sadie, this is pretty crazy, I know, but he just had a big heart attack here in the airport, and he died.”
Sadie gasped, muttered a few very unprofessional curse words, and then said, “Hang on—let me get Stavros on the line.”
I gulped again. I’d only met Cupid Connections’ head honcho once, after I landed the intern gig, and I remembered feeling like a clumsy kitten sitting in front of a hungry lion as I perched in front of his massive desk.
My mouth felt dry and I clutched the phone.
“Hi! Um… Stavros? This is Lexi Wilder. I’m the PR intern working with—well, I was working with Morty Bottom.”
“Well, I’m here at the airport. Morty and I were going to fly out to Colorado, Desperation Valley—”
“Yeah, yeah. Get to the point.”
“Morty died. I’m guessing you want me to come back to headquarters?”
“Did you miss your flight? We’ll book you a new one.”
Maybe he didn’t hear me. I tried again. “Sir—um. Morty—he died. Like, an hour ago. Yes, I—we both missed the flight. The paramedics here asked me to contact his next of kin, or I’m supposed to call the police and have them do it.” I pulled out a little instruction card the paramedic had given me. My hand was still shaking. “He’s being taken to the… um… It says here, the Boston Civic Mortuary, on East—”
“Yeah, yeah. Okay. I’ll have HR and admin take care of all that. Just message over the details. You’re going to have to get on the first flight you can. Just get back with Sadie and work out the specifics. We need this mess with Bradley cleaned up.”
“I’m an intern. I can’t go out there alone.”
“Sure you can. You’re at the airport. You’ve had training with Morty. What, a year?”
“I’ve interned with him for three weeks.”
“You two had some sort of tactics mapped out, for Myles Bradley?”
Give him what he wants. “Um… in a way,” I said.
“Good. Lexi—look. If I had someone else to send, I would, but you’re it. It should be a straightforward situation. If you can pull it off, you can have Morty’s position when you get back. Got it?”
I gripped the rail because I suddenly felt woozy. “I can have his job?”
“And the six-figure salary that goes with it.”
I felt like I was dreaming. I knew Morty made the big bucks. And ever since I graduated from Madame Suquet’s Magical Boarding school, I’d been failing at life. We’re talking barely scraping by. Witchcraft wasn’t for me, so I’d put it behind me. But that left me pretty ill-prepared for anything else and I’d made a major mess out of my career life over the past decade. I was thirty-two, and I’d never been able to afford more than instant noodles for dinner. Business classes at the local community college led to the internship with Cupid Connections.
I was so excited about the possibility of the promotion that I forgot, momentarily, that I was talking to a guy that made me quake in my boots, in person. “And how about his vacation days?” I asked. “Morty was telling me he gets three weeks a year, paid vacation time. Will I—”
“Don’t push your luck. And I want a written update after you make contact with Myles. I’ll expect it on my desk in twenty-four hours.” He hung up.
I stared down at my phone for a minute, trying to process things.
I’m supposed to go meet with this celebrity, alone?
Then, even though my legs felt a little like jello, I walked to the nearest cafe and bought a coffee.
Morty said it was going to be a piece of cake, smoothing things over with Myles Bradley. Stavros seems to think it’s going to be pretty straightforward, too.
Maybe I can handle this.
Sadie called me back with a flight itinerary, and I had to move to a different boarding area.
The coffee was the last thing I needed, after all that I’d just been through. I felt so anxious as I took the last sip that I had to tap the toe of my pumps against the linoleum. At 2:15, the flight started to board. I was shuffling along in the line, dragging my rolling carry-on behind me, when the banner below a news broadcast caught my eye.
“Movie star Myles Bradley suspected for murder in Desperation Valley, Colorado: Is his illegal jaguar to blame? Bite marks found on victim.”
Maybe my vision was playing tricks on me. I blinked a few times, and then tried to read the news banner again.
The ticker tape played in orange across the screen. The same message paraded along. Murder. An illegal jaguar… bite marks. It was all there.
Maybe my visit to Desperation Valley wasn’t going to be so straightforward, after all.
Okay, readers, here's my question for you based on this first chapter: What state is Lexi about to fly to? Put your answer in the comments section below. I'll announce the winner here in the blog comments section by noon EST tomorrow, March 23rd 2022. Be sure to check back and see if you won!
And if you want to read more, check out Desperate House Witches: Cupid's Curse Mystery (Book #1) on Amazon.
Amorette Anderson writes warm-hearted cozy mysteries that star witchy characters. She lives in Colorado with her husband and furbabies, pups Marley and Teddy. When she’s not writing or reading she’s dreaming up ways to make life a little more magical.