Love Sweet Romance?
Love Cozy Mysteries?
Read the first full-length book in the Fable Town Mystery series.
“Soon, I’ll be free of this curse and then Fable Town and the Oldenberg family will pay!” The threats puffed from Elsa’s mouth, warming the frigid air around her. It was the same everywhere. Cold. So very cold. An endless winter. Even her lair was frozen. The bits and bobs she collected over the years were covered in sheets of ice. The light dangling from her ceiling looked like a frosty chandelier, the jagged crystals angling toward her.
Her only warmth came from a small fire in the hearth where her cauldron boiled. Above the mantel hung an oval mirror. She glanced at it, studying the empty room that had once belonged to her when she was a resident in the Oldenberg house. “Soon,” she repeated again, shuffling over to her work-table and collecting the final ingredient needed for her potion. The one that would allow her to escape her prison.
She called her arctic residence the mirror realm. Cursed here more than fifty years ago, Elsa’s only social interaction was to catch glimpses of those in Fable Town. Any mirror would do, including a makeup compact as well as mirrors in bathrooms, entryways, bedrooms, and even offices.
“In you go, frozen frog toe,” she whispered and dropped it into the boiling potion. With anticipation, she watched as the ingredients swirled together and gurgled, changing colors from green to red to blue and finally fuchsia. “You’re ready,” she said and cackled. Quickly, she ladled some of the potion into a glass, plugged her nose, and drank.
It went down like chunky soup and she forced herself not to gag. Tingles ran the length of her body and she shivered. It was working.
Anytime now she would be able to return to Fable Town. She didn’t care if it was as a witch or an opossum. As long as she could be free.
Though it had been more than five decades, she remembered the moment she was cursed and worse, when they added a failsafe to the spell. If Elsa ever escaped the mirror realm, she would return as an opossum. Why an opossum? She knew it was so she would stand out. For most witches, they had cats as familiars. Everyone would know exactly who Elsa was and would steer clear.
Creature or no, she had to get out of the mirror realm and when she did, she would do everything in her power to steal enough magic to break the opossum spell and become herself once again.
“But freedom.” She sighed. That was her top priority.
“This thing is strangling me,” Miles said, pulling at the knot on his tie. “I’m going to pass out from lack of air.”
Nate Decker, offensive tackle for the Colorado Cowboys, snorted. “Sorry, man.” He adjusted his own tie while he tapped his foot to the music, trying to make the best of the situation. He, Miles, and several of his other teammates huddled in one corner of the venue. They were all dressed to the nines in tuxedoes and masks for the Winter Masquerade Ball, a charity event to support Multiple Sclerosis. This year’s theme was Romeo and Juliet. While he had to admit the décor looked amazing, he wasn’t a fan of how the story ended, probably because he understood the lovers’ pain. Sure, he and his ex hadn’t taken poison and died, but their marriage had ended, killing off his belief in love conquering all. He snorted again, glancing around the room where several couples were already on the dance floor.
“What’s wrong?” Miles asked, adjusting his mask. He was the team’s right guard. They were similar in height and weight but where Miles had dark hair, Nate’s was light, almost white-blond. Mainly because he spent so much time out of doors, even in winter. He loved to hike, ski, snowboard, snowshoe, ride horses… You name it, he liked to do it.
“Nothing.” Nate usually didn’t mind charity events, especially since the money would go to a good cause. Plus, there were a lot of beautifully masked women here tonight. He didn’t even mind dressing up. Style was one of his favorite ways to show off his physique. He worked hard for it and liked dressing to impress. Tonight’s ensemble consisted of custom black and white checkered pants with a matching double-breasted vest and a medium blue jacket accented by a crisp white shirt, a medium gray tie and pocket square. His mask was the same gray as well.
His only issue was the timing. Once the season ended, he booked himself a vacation. He planned to surf, scuba dive, snorkel, swim with sharks, and whatever else he could think of. But because of the ball, he had to push things back. Still, he was leaving tonight. His jet was fueled and ready to leave as soon as he arrived at the airport.
“Guess we better ask someone to dance?” Miles made a beeline to a woman in a blue dress.
“I suppose,” Nate mumbled, perusing the room. Each ticket to the ball had been enormously expensive. The team’s owner purchased tickets for all of the players and then ordered everyone to attend with the threat of dire consequences if they failed to show.
There were many beautiful women, but when his eyes landed on her, he couldn’t continue. It was something about the way she held herself, as though she didn’t want to be there any more than he did. Her arms were crossed, and she leaned back, a serious look on her face. Her hair had been swept up off her neck, revealing a delicate heart-shaped face. She wore a butterfly mask, the “wing” on the left slightly higher than the one on the right. It glinted and sparkled in the low lights thumping to the beat of the music. Her fuchsia dress hugged against her body and cascaded at the waist with yards and yards of gauzy fabric. She looked exquisite and he found himself moving toward her as though enchanted and determined to ask her to dance.
She caught him looking at her and took a step back like she intended to bolt. He didn’t think he was that scary, but he slowed his walk, knowing his size, well past six feet and two hundred fifty pounds, could be intimidating. When he was no more than two feet in front of her, he smiled, his cheeks rubbing against his mask. “Hello, I wondered if you’d like to dance?” He held out his hand.
Her eyes met his and a flicker of recognition filled his heart. “Nate. Um, hi.” Her voice was familiar, soft yet purposeful. Also, slightly confused.
“Have we met?” It was hard to tell with the masks on.
She snorted and chuckled. “Nate Decker. Seriously?” She took his outstretched hand and placed it on her waist. “Are you telling me you don’t recognize your ex-wife?” She reached up, wrapping her hands around his neck.
Realization dawned. His heart raced with a combination of horror and exasperation. “Ana?”
“Hey.” She giggled and his heart clenched as memories of all the times he made her laugh bombarded his mind. He’d never admit how much he missed her.
“You look different. Good.” He tried to smile though he wasn’t sure he accomplished the feat. “Beautiful,” he added.
“So do you,” she responded, her gaze faltering.
In that moment, their pasts rushed back through him. Their relationship started out like a fairy tale. They met through a friend. Ana was on her final year of medical school, intent on becoming a pediatrician. They were drawn to each other after just one date. By their one-month anniversary, he knew she would be his wife. After four months, he asked. They married a year later. It was the happiest day of his life, even more than when he accepted a position in the professional football league. After six months, Ana got pregnant. Nine months after that, she gave birth to a perfect baby boy and Nate had fallen in love all over again. It was a different kind of love. They named him Gus. For three years, they were blissfully happy. Then their perfect son started to fall down. After many terrible tests, the specialist they consulted revealed their son had cancer. It was terminal.
Hearing the news, it was as though someone had ripped his heart out through his chest. Some days, he struggled just to breathe. As hard as he took the news, it was worse for Ana. As a pediatrician, she blamed herself for not seeing the signs earlier. Nate had tried to comfort her, but he’d been too wrapped up in his own grief.
Gus died a few months later. Six months after that, Ana filed for divorce. That was over two years ago.
Now, as he held her, he pulled her closer to him. “Ana.” He whispered her name against her hair and felt her shiver. The song ended, and Ana pulled away, but he held her fast. “Don’t go,” he said. She glanced up at him. There were tears in her eyes. He guessed she’d been thinking about their past and their beautiful son, the same as him. He twined her fingers with his as the next song started. “Shall we?” He thought for a moment she would leave. Instead, she leaned into him, resting her head against his broad chest.
They stayed like that for the next several songs. As he held her, he couldn’t help but think about how much he missed her. He also felt guilty for the way he handled himself during Gus’s sickness as well as after he died. He’d been a mess. For days after the funeral, he couldn’t pull himself out of bed. He completely withdrew into himself. The fact was, he hadn’t been there for Ana. He could’ve supported her and asked for her support in return. Instead he’d been a ghost. A shell of a man. Their divorce was his greatest regret.
As they swayed to the music, his heart seemed to unclench and start to beat again. In that moment he realized he still loved her. But could she love him again? Could she forgive him for pushing her away? His mind went through all sorts of different scenarios about how he might convince her to let him back into her life. They hadn’t spoken in two years. At that time, she was still a pediatrician. Since she was at this charity event he guessed that hadn’t changed. He was glad. She believed Gus’s death was on her. It’d taken her a month to go back to work after the funeral. Then she’d only gone in for two weeks before telling him she needed more time and had gone to stay with her family in Fable Town, Montana. He offered to go with her, but she refused. It wasn’t too many weeks after she returned that she asked him for a divorce.
He agreed out of anger, allowing the grief that was eating him up inside to fester and turn his feelings against her. Once she was moved out, the team’s owner, who’d just suffered a loss of his own, had called Nate into his office and ordered him into grief counseling. He still went once in a while. Nate had learned a lot about himself over the last two years, including how to better communicate his feelings. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair.
She lifted her head, confusion dancing in her glorious hazel eyes. “Nate,” she began, but at that moment her phone rang. She took it from her handbag, checking who was calling. “It’s my mom. I need to take it.”
“Of course.” Nate released her and she answered.
“Hello.” She pushed a finger to her ear and started away.
Nate followed as though he were tethered and listened intently, noticing the necklace around her neck. A butterfly covered in flowers hung from a silver chain dotted with fuchsia beads and small pearls. It was delicate and beautiful, and it reminded him of Ana.
She ended her call. “Thanks for the dance, but I need to go.” She started to walk away, but Nate caught hold of her bare arm. Soft, yet strong. Muscled.
“What’s wrong?” He couldn’t help the feeling of dread spreading through his stomach.
“It’s my sister, Lox. She’s in the hospital in Fable Town.” As she spoke, worry filled her voice. “I need to catch a flight. I need to get to Montana. It’s important I’m there for her.” She glanced at her phone, the light illuminating the anxiety on her beautiful face. “I need to cancel my appointments for the next—I don’t know—few days, a week.” Her eyes welled with tears as she clenched her hands together around her phone, strangling it.
“I can take you. I have a plane gassed and ready to leave.” His recently unbound heart filled with determination. He hadn’t been there for her before, but he could be there for her now.
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the book. It's free as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.