Brewing Love, страница 1часть #1 серии Tree's Hollow Witches
After her latest breakup, Lenora “Lenny” Brewer has had it up to the tippy top with her life in the city. Her job as an online gossip writer isn’t what she had planned when she graduated from college with a Journalism degree, and making it to her early thirties without a husband or children wasn’t exactly what she’d planned either.
The day after she had to dump her almost-fiancé for emptying out her savings account, Lenny goes into work, and her dreadful boss tells her she’s got to write a scathing story about her favorite pop music princess.
Well, that’s a step too far. Lenny quits her job, packs her things, and flees the city for her Aunt’s bed and breakfast just outside the Shawnee Forest.
When she finds out that the small town where her Aunt lives still has a local paper, and they need an investigative reporter, it’s almost too good to be real.
Add in a hunky park ranger, and Lenny starts to think that Tree’s Hollow is a wish come true. There’s only one thing that could mess up her perfect new home, and that’s a touch of magic.
What Lenny doesn’t know is that she’s a dormant witch, and taking control of her life unlocks powers inside of her that she didn’t even know existed.
Oh, and there’s the small matter of the murder that occurs shortly after Lenny arrives at the Tree’s Hollow Bed and Breakfast. The death of a local curmudgeon has the town on edge, and the county sheriff stumped.
Will she learn to harness the craft brewing inside of her, or will trouble boil over and destroy everything she comes to love?
This book is a cozy mystery with no swearing, violence, or adult content. It is the first book in a new series, and Brewing Love is suitable for all ages.
This book is dedicated to the woman who has picked me up every time I have fallen down. I love you, Mom. I’m glad I could make you smile.
I'm Lenora, "Lenny," Brewer, and my life is a mess. I want to tell you about last night. It was the worst, and it would be funny if it weren't so sad. The man, if you can call him that, which I thought I was going to marry, dropped a pretty big bombshell on me.
It all started when he invited me out to dinner at the fanciest restaurant in the city. We'd been dating for a couple of years and Devon, that's his name, had never taken me there. I was so excited. I thought this was "the" dinner. You know, the one where the guy pops the question over a fancy meal. I figured he was going to wine me, dine me, and then ask me to be his wife with a big diamond ring fit for a princess.
I'm not sure what gave me that idea because Devon has never treated me like a princess, but his choice in the restaurant made me think that maybe he was turning over a new leaf. The fact that he asked me to meet him there for a six-o-clock dinner reservation probably should have tipped me off that things were not going to go as I imagined, but I digress.
The restaurant, The Chef's Table, is pretty busy when I arrive. It's also noisy because, at that hour, the place is full of business people schmoozing clients and celebrating work victories for the day. It's not the most romantic atmosphere, but life is what you make it, right?
Anyway, the restaurant won't seat you until all of your parties arrive, so I had to sit in the waiting area until Devon showed up. He was twenty minutes late, and the hostess threatened to give our table away twice. I ended up slipping her twenty dollars because I didn't want this night to be ruined. It never occurred to me that I was trying and Devon wasn't.
I told myself he was stuck at work or held up in traffic. Perhaps he was at the jewelry store getting my ring, and it was taking longer than he anticipated. It's not as if he'd ever bought an engagement ring before.
Well, that's not true. He'd been engaged once before me, but it had ended badly. His ex-girlfriend kept the ring, and from what he'd said, the breakup had been hard on him.
Okay, so Devon finally shows up, and all he offers me is a "Sorry I'm late babe." and a quick peck on the cheek.
Now, I don't want to complain, but I went home after work and got all dolled up for this dinner. I'm talking little black dress, diamond studs my father gave me for my twenty-first birthday, and black pumps I bought at Saks on the way home. That's right, I didn't even own high heels, but I purchased a pair for this dinner. I put my hair up in a fancy braid ponytail thing I saw on the internet, and I applied just the right amount of makeup. I wanted to look classy, elegant, stylish for the moment Devon asked me to be his forever.
Not only was Devon still wearing his khakis and polo from work, but he didn't compliment me on my dress either. He didn't even really look at me as the hostess was seating us, and he stared at the menu like his life depended on it once we were sitting at our table.
That’s when I started to let go of the imaginary evening I had planned for us, and I started paying attention to what was really going on around me. Devon was sweating, red-faced, and super nervous. His clothes were rumpled as if he'd pulled them out of a laundry basket. Clearly, he was not doing so hot.
The waiter came and took our order. Devon ordered the most expensive steak on the menu and a bottle of champagne. I ordered my absolute favorite meal of crab and rosemary pomme fries. Those are basically fancy French fries, but they taste better when you call them that. I've never had them at a place this swanky, though, so I assumed I was in for a treat.
"Hey, sweetie. What's wrong?" I asked and offered him a reassuring smile after the waiter left.
"I need to talk to you about something." He said very quietly.
Oh, here we go. It's not exactly how I thought it would be, but it's happening.
"And, I don't want you to be mad at me." He whispered.
Oh, crud. Maybe Devon just means the ring is smaller than what he wanted. Maybe he's worried about proposing this way. Perhaps he had something even more romantic planned, and it just didn't pan out. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's fine.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure it's fine," I say aloud, and I mean it.
I'm not the kind of woman who is obsessed with a massive diamond engagement ring. It doesn't even have to be a diamond. A sapphire or a ruby would be just as lovely, and I would cherish it.
"I don't know any other way to say this other than to just spit it out. So, that's what I'm going to do." He says a little louder, but not much.
Let's pause for a moment. I want to make sure you understand just how delusional I am at this point. I actually held my hand out for him to slip the ring on my finger. It wasn't nearly as embarrassing as it sounds, though, because Devon didn't even look up from the spot he was staring at on the table.
"I got your pin number out of your desk, and I borrowed your debit card when you were out for a run yesterday." His words hit me like a truck, and I started to feel myself getting queasy. "I went to the ATM on the corner and withdrew most of what was in your savings account."
"What?" I yelled and shot up out of my chair.
If his plan was to bring me to this fancy restaurant and tell me he stole my savings here so that I wouldn't cause a scene, Devon didn't know me at all. That's when it hit me that he didn't know me. Did he really think he could take my life's savings and then just smooth things over with a fancy dinner? A dinner he was late for.
"Please sit down, Lenny. You're making a scene." His lip was quivering, and big, fat crocodile tears were pooling in his eyes.
"You're darn right I'm making a scene. You stole my money. And, don't call me Lenny. My friends and family call me Lenny. You are neither of those things." I hissed.
"Lenny. I mean, Lenora, please calm down. I didn't steal your money, I swear. I just borrowed it. I had an excellent reason."
"Lenny, please calm down. Please hush." Devon said a little louder.
"I told you not to call me Lenny, and when in the history of the world did telling a woman to calm down ever result in her calming down? And, did you really just tell me to hush?"
"I'm sorry Lenora. My cousin really needed to borrow the money, and I didn't have it. I thought you might be a little upset, but I figured we'd work it out. We can work this out. Please, baby." The crocodile tears started to spill over his cheeks now.
"You stole my life savings to give to your greasy cousin? To what? To pay off some loan shark? Did you really think that was something we could work out?" I sat down when I saw the restaurant manager walking towards our table. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to get kicked out of this place before I decided if I was going to call the police or just kick his butt.
"I didn't want to take it without asking, but I knew you'd say no." He sniveled.
"That's because I don't want you giving my money to your slimy cousin." I tried to keep my voice down. I really did.
"I didn't give it to him. He's going to pay you back. I swear."
"No, he isn't. You know that as well as I do. I'm never going to see that money again. That was everything I've saved since I graduated from college. I was going to use that money to put a down payment on an apartment." I said and started to take out my phone.
"What are you doing, sweetie?" He said as I started to dial the non-emergency number for the police.
"I'm calling the police. You stole my debit card and emptied out my savings account. What did you think I was going to do?"
Devon started to do that big, ugly cry thing with the snot and body shaking. I almost felt bad for him, except that he stole all of my money. Before I could hit the last number to dial the police, Devon got up and ran out of the restaurant. Just got up out of his chair and bolted.
Leaving me with the bill.
The restaurant was nice enough to box up all of the food I paid for, and a couple of gentlemen offered to run after Devon. I declined their offers even though it was pretty tempting. I needed to get home and call the bank as soon as possible.
I was pleased to find that the restaurant had generously thrown in a crab cracker with my meal, so I wasn’t going to have to smash the legs with a hammer I kept in my hall closet. Also, my butter was still warm. I put everything on a plate and put what would have been Devon's meal into my fridge. It wouldn't be as good reheated, but it would still be pretty dang tasty tomorrow for lunch.
Jezebel, my cat, was more than happy to see me since I'd brought crab home. Generally, she ignores me for the most part, but tonight she was at the door waiting for me like a faithful and loving family pet. Jezzy rubbed against my legs and purred as I sat down on the sofa and flipped on the television. She laid her head in my lap, and I almost fell for it.
"You just want some of my meat, don't you?" I said and gave her the skeptical eye.
I swear she winked at me, but that would have been nuts. I'd been single for approximately a half an hour, and I was already turning into a crazy cat lady. That seemed fitting. Here I was thirty-three, single again, no kids, and I worked as a gossip writer on a celebrity website. Most of the people I worked with were ten years, or more, younger than me.
Half of the office called me "grandma" and thought it was funny. I don't remember which little jerk gave me that nickname, but I'm pretty sure he's already been fired. The only reason I'm still working there is that the money is good, and I was saving for an apartment. I wanted a nice place close to the top floor in one of the skyscrapers downtown.
That reminded me that I needed to call the bank. I dialed the number, put the phone on speaker, and set to cracking the crab legs open as quietly as possible in case I got through to a representative in mid-crack.
It must have been a busy night in the customer service department at my bank because, by the time I was off hold, I'd opened all of the crab legs and shared them with Jezebel. Full and happy, she forgot I existed again and wandered off to go take a nap on my pillow.
I talked to Maria, the customer service rep, for ten minutes and my money was back in my account. Apparently, my bank covers me for lost or stolen cards. Maria told me I had to file a police report within seven days, or the bank would take the money back out.
"So, I have to turn him in, or I can't keep my money?" I asked just to be sure.
"Yes, Ma'am. The sooner, the better." Maria answered.
"I can live with that."
I looked at the clock, and it wasn't even eight p.m. yet. It was too early to go to bed, or I'd be up before four. I didn't have any plans, so I decided to head down to the police station and file my report tonight. Maria had given me some numbers and other information to give the police as evidence, so I tucked the paper I'd written it down on into my purse. Once my shoes and jacket were on, I called Uber. A driver showed up in under ten minutes, and I was on my way to the police station.
Looking back, I kind of wish I'd waited until daytime to file the report. Have you even been in a police station at night? It's not exactly what I'd call a wholesome environment. If I'd waited, I'd probably still have my job, and I would have gotten to go on pretending that humanity isn't as bad as I thought.
About the job thing, we'll get back to that later.
For now, the police station was teeming with life. People were crying, cursing, and the man sitting next to me in the waiting area smelled like baby powder and gasoline. His name was Herb, by the way.
Wanda, the front desk officer, looked at me like I was crazy for coming in when I did to fill out a theft report, but she took my information and only made me sit in the waiting area for seven minutes before taking me back to another room. It was exactly seven minutes because I was watching the time go by on my phone.
I filled out the forms she gave me, and Wanda handed them off to a detective. His name was Gary, and he was happy to have someone who hadn't been stabbed to talk to for a few minutes. So, we chatted and drank a Styrofoam cup of bad coffee until he couldn't ignore the people in the waiting room anymore.
"I'll get this over to the District Attorney tomorrow. I'm sure they'll make an arrest. I'll also send the bank the paperwork they need. It's been a pleasure, Lenny." Gary said and shook my hand.
He was smiling when we were done with our conversation, mostly him telling me about his grandkids, but his shoulders slumped a little, and he looked sad as I followed him back out to the waiting area. He ran his hand through his mussed gray hair and called out a name that I didn't entirely listen to.
I just wanted to go home. I got outside and realized I hadn't called Uber yet. The thought of going back inside and waiting for my ride was daunting, but fortunately, for me, a cab pulled up and let a woman and child out. They were both crying, and I wished I could do something to help.
I knew there was nothing I could do, so I needed to get out of there as fast as possible. Getting away from the negative energy emanating from that place felt frantically vital.
Just as I was about to get into the cab and escape, it happened. A black limousine pulled up to the cab, and the back passenger door swung open. Starla Lex stumbled out as if she were pushed and fell onto the sidewalk. I looked at her face, and her cheeks and eyes were all swollen like she had been crying a lot. There was also a nasty bruise on her arm just below the cap sleeve of her red, sequined dress.
"You think I'm such a bad man, why don't you just go in and tell the police all about me!" The voice of her long-term boyfriend Boyd Cotts yelled out from inside the car.
The limo driver was out of the car and around the vehicle in no time. Starla's purse came flying out of the car and landed next to her even as the driver tried to help her up off
"Get back in the limo and drive me home!" Boyd yelled at the driver, but the man used his foot to kick the door closed.
He helped Starla get up and walk into the police station, and as I watched in shock, my cab drove away. I took a few steps back from the scene and called Uber. I begged them to hurry and then walked down the block so they wouldn't be picking me up in front this horror show.
I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. As I watched from down the block, two uniformed police officers came out of the station and dragged Boyd out of the limo. They had to cuff him because he wouldn't cooperate, and as I got into my Uber to go home, they were leading him inside.
"Was that Boyd Cotts?" The young woman exclaimed as I clicked my seatbelt in the back of her immaculate Prius.
"I think so," I answered and hoped she would just pull away.
"I'm not sure. I haven't been here long. I came from the other direction." I lied, but I didn't want to talk about it.
"He probably beat up Starla. Everybody knows that guy is a dou..."
"Can we go now? I'm sorry. I'm just so tired." I pleaded with the young, star-struck woman.
"Oh, sure. Sorry."
Okay, so about my job. That's where Starla comes in. You see, Ms. Lex is the pop music world's biggest princess right now. She and Boyd have been the "it" couple for the last three months. Starla has never held onto a man for longer than a couple of weeks since her career began, and the whole world thought that Boyd was her Prince Charming.
That guy is no Prince Charming.
The fact that he's an alcoholic, abusive, jerkwad was starting to come to light slowly. Well, it was slow until last night. Last night was one of those incidences that can make or break a celebrity gossip writer's career, and I had a front row seat.
There is just one problem. I didn't want it. I adore Starla Lex, and it took every ounce of strength I had not to hop into the back of that limo and claw that jerk's eyes out. Especially after what Devon did to me. I was ready to burn my bra and kill all men.