Authors: Bailey Cattrell
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Cozy
Praise for Bailey Cattrell writing as Bailey Cates and the
New York Times
bestselling Magical Bakery Mysteries
“Katie is a charming amateur sleuth, baking her way through murder and magic set against the enchanting backdrop of Savannah, Georgia.”
New York Times
bestselling author Jenn McKinlay
“A smooth, accomplished writer who combines a compelling plot with a cast of interesting characters that are diverse and engaging . . . while the story’s magical elements bring a fun, intriguing dimension to the genre.”
“[A] promising series.”
“With a top-notch whodunit, a dark magic investigator working undercover, and a simmering romance in the early stages, fans will relish this tale.”
“A tight mystery packed with charming characters and drool-worthy baked goods.”
“Be warned—[this book] will work its spell on you, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to more enchantment.”
—Kings River Life Magazine
“An enchanting treat. . . . Well written, well put together, with characters that stay with you long after.”
“Cates does a fantastic job of creating a magical atmosphere that is both believable and enchanting.”
—Debbie’s Book Bag
Published by New American Library,
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
This book is an original publication of New American Library.
Copyright © Bailey Cattrell, 2016
Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.
Obsidian and the Obsidian colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.
For more information about Penguin Random House, visit
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
This book is dedicated to Jessica
I’m so grateful to the many people who helped this book come into being. Kim Lionetti provided great suggestions as well as being my staunch ally and friend. My brilliant and hardworking team at Penguin Random House takes a manuscript and makes it fit for public consumption—thanks to Jessica Wade, Isabel Farhi, Ashley Polikoff, Karen Haywood, and Danielle Dill. I also consider myself incredibly rich to have so many wonderful writers in my life, friends and colleagues who give me advice, encouragement, and are happy to chat about all things writing ad nauseam. They include (but are not limited to) Mark Figlozzi, Laura Pritchett, Laura Resau, and Bob Trott. Amy Lockwood told me about
The Elves of Lily Hill Farm
, which sparked the idea for the Enchanted Garden Mystery series, while Stacey Kollman inspired my interest in aromatherapy oh so many years ago. And from the genesis of the proposal to the words “The End,” Kevin Brookfield has been my anchor and my wings—whichever I needed more.
sweet, slightly astringent aroma of
teased my nose. I couldn’t help closing my eyes for a moment to appreciate its layered fragrance drifting on the light morning breeze. Spanish lavender, or “topped” lavender—according to my gamma, it had been one of my mother’s favorites. It was a flower that had instilled calm and soothed the skin for time eternal, a humble herb still used to ease headache and heartache alike. I remembered Gamma murmuring to me in her garden when I was five years old:
Breathe deeply, Elliana. Notice how you can actually taste the scent when you inhale it? Pliny the Elder brewed this into his spiced wine, and Romans used it to flavor their ancient sauces. In the language of flowers, it signifies the acknowledgment of love.
Not that I’d be using it in that capacity anytime soon.
But Gamma had been gone for over twenty years, and my mother had died when I was only four. Shaking my head, I returned my attention to the tiny mosaic pathway next to where I knelt. Carefully, I added a piece of foggy sea glass to the design. The path was three feet long and four inches wide, and led from beneath a tumble of forget-me-nots to a violet-colored fairy door set into the base of the east fence. Some people referred to them as “gnome doors,” but whatever you called them, the decorative miniature garden phenomena were gaining popularity with adults and children alike. The soft green and blue of the water-polished, glass-nugget path seemed to morph directly from the clusters of azure flowers, curving around a lichen-covered rock to the ten-inch round door. I wondered how long it would take one of my customers to notice this new addition to the verdant garden behind my perfume and aromatherapy shop, Scents & Nonsense.
The rattle of the latch on the gate to my left interrupted my thoughts. Surprised, I looked up and saw Dash trotting toward me on his short corgi legs. His lips pulled back in a grin as he reached my side, and I smoothed the thick ruff of fur around his foxy face. Astrid Moneypenny—my best friend in Poppyville, or anywhere else, for that matter—strode behind him at a more sedate pace. Her latest foster dog, Tally, a Newfoundland mix with a graying muzzle, lumbered beside her.
“Hey, Ellie! There was a customer waiting on the boardwalk out front,” Astrid said. “I let her in to look around. Tally, sit.”
I bolted to my feet, the fairy path forgotten. “Oh, no. I totally lost track of time. Is it already ten o’clock?”
The skin around Astrid’s willow-green eyes crinkled in a smile. They were a startling contrast to her auburn hair and freckled nose. “Relax. I’ll watch the shop while you get cleaned up.” She jammed her hand into the pocket of her hemp dress and pulled out a cookie wrapped in a napkin. “Snickerdoodles today.”
I took it and inhaled the buttery cinnamon goodness. “You’re the best.”
Astrid grinned. “I have a couple of hours before my next gig. Tally can hang out here with Dash.” She was a part-time technician at the veterinary clinic and a self-proclaimed petrepreneur—dog walker and pet sitter specializing in animals with medical needs. “But isn’t Josie supposed to be working today?”
“She should be here soon,” I said. “She called last night and left a message that she might be late. Something about a morning hike to take pictures of the wildflowers.” I began gathering pruners and trowel, kneeling pad and weed digger into a handled basket. “They say things are blooming like crazy in the foothills right now.”
Astrid turned to go, then stopped. Her eyes caught mine. “Ellie . . .”
She shook her head. “It’s just that you look so happy working out here.”
I took in the leafy greenery, the scarlet roses climbing the north fence, tiered beds that overflowed with herbs and scented blooms, and the miniature gardens and doors tucked into surprising nooks and alcoves. A downy woodpecker rapped against the trunk of the oak at the rear of the lot, and two hummingbirds whizzed by on their way
to drink from the handblown glass feeder near the back patio of Scents & Nonsense. An asymmetrical boulder hunkered in the middle of the yard, the words
etched into it by a local stone carver. He’d also carved words into river rocks I’d placed in snug crannies throughout the half-acre space. The one next to where Dash had flopped down read
. Mismatched rocking chairs on the patio, along with the porch swing hanging from the pergola, offered opportunities for customers to sit back, relax, sip a cup of tea or coffee, and nibble on the cookies Astrid baked up each morning.
“I am happy,” I said quietly. More than that.
A sense of contentment settled deep into my bones, and my smile broadened.
“I’m glad things have worked out so well for you.” Her smile held affection that warmed me in spite of the cool morning.
“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s true that time smooths a lot of rough edges.” I rolled my eyes. “Of course, it’s taken me nearly a year.”
A year of letting my heart heal from the bruises of infidelity, of divorce, of everyone in town knowing my—and my ex’s—business. In fact, perfect cliché that it was, everyone except me seemed to know Harris had been having an affair with Wanda Simmons, the owner of one of Poppyville’s ubiquitous souvenir shops. Once I was out of the picture, though, he’d turned the full spectrum of his demanding personality on her. She’d bolted within weeks, going so far as to move back to her hometown in Texas. I still couldn’t decide whether that was funny or sad.
I’d held my ground, however. Poppyville, California, nestled near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was
hometown, and I wasn’t about to leave. The town’s history reached back to the gold rush, and tourists flocked to its Old West style; its easy access to outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and fly fishing; and to the small hot spring a few miles to the south.
After the divorce, I’d purchased a storefront with the money Harris paid to buy me out of our restaurant, the Roux Grill. The property was perfect for what I wanted: a retail store to cater to townspeople and tourists alike and a business that would allow me to pursue my passion for all things scentual. Add in the unexpected—and largely free—living space included in the deal, and I couldn’t turn it down.
Sense & Nonsense was in a much sought after location at the end of Corona Street’s parade of bric-a-brac dens. The kite shop was next door to the north, but to the south, Raven Creek Park marked the edge of town with a rambling green space punctuated with playground equipment, picnic tables, and a fitness trail. The facade of my store had an inviting, cottagelike feel, with painted shutters above bright window boxes and a rooster weathervane twirling on the peaked roof. The acre lot extended in a rectangle behind the business to the front door of my small-scale home, which snugged up against the back property line.
With a lot of work and plenty of advice from local nurserywoman Thea Nelson, I’d transformed what had started as a barren, empty lot between the two structures into an elaborate garden open to my customers, friends,
and the occasional catered event. As I’d added more and more whimsical details, word of the Enchanted Garden had spread. I loved sharing it with others, and it was good for business, too.
“Well, it’s nice to have you back, sweetie. Now we just have to find a man for you.” Astrid reached down to stroke Tally’s neck. The big dog gazed up at her with adoration, while I struggled to keep a look of horror off my face.
“Man?” I heard myself squeak. That was the last thing on my mind. Well, almost. I cleared my throat. “What about your love life?” I managed in a more normal tone.
She snorted. “I have plenty of men, Ellie. Don’t you worry about me.”
It was true. Astrid attracted men like milkweed attracted monarch butterflies. At thirty-seven, she’d never been married, and seemed determined to keep it that way.
“Astrid,” I began, but she’d already turned on her heel so fast that her copper-colored locks whirled like tassels on a lamp shade. Her hips swung ever so slightly beneath the skirt of her dress, the hem of which skimmed her bicycle-strong calves as she returned to the back door of Scents & Nonsense to look after things. Tally followed her and settled down on the patio flagstones as my friend went inside. I saw Nabokov, the Russian blue shorthair who made it his business to guard the store day and night, watching the big dog through the window with undisguised feline disdain.
Basket in hand, I hurried down the winding stone pathway to my living quarters. “God, I hope she doesn’t get it into her head to set me up with someone,” I muttered around a bite of still-warm snickerdoodle.
Dash, trotting by my left heel, glanced up at me with skeptical brown eyes. He’d been one of Astrid’s foster dogs about six months earlier. She’d told me he was probably purebred, but there was no way of knowing, as he’d been found at a highway rest stop and brought, a bit dehydrated but otherwise fine, to the vet’s office where she worked. Of course, Astrid agreed to take care of him until a home could be found—which was about ten seconds after she brought him into Scents & Nonsense. I’d fallen hard for him, and he’d been my near constant companion ever since.
“Okay. It’s possible, just possible, that it would be nice to finally go on an actual date,” I said to him now. Leery of my bad judgment in the past, I’d sworn off the opposite sex since my marriage ended. But now that Scents & Nonsense wasn’t demanding all my energy and time, I had to admit that a sense of loneliness had begun to seep into my evenings.
“But you know what they say about the men in Poppyville, Dash. The odds here are good, but the goods are pretty odd.”
A hawk screeched from the heights of a pine in the open meadow behind my house. Ignoring it, Dash darted away to nose the diminutive gazebo and ferns beneath the ancient gnarled trunk of the apple tree. He made a small noise in the back of his throat and sat back on his haunches beside the little door I’d made from a weathered cedar shake and set into a notch in the bark. Absently, I called him back, distracted by how sun-warmed mint combined so nicely with the musk of incense cedar, a
bright but earthy fragrance that followed us to my front door.
Granted, my home had started as a glorified shed, but it worked for a Pembroke Welsh corgi and a woman who sometimes had to shop in the boy’s section to find jeans that fit. The “tiny house” movement was about living simply in small spaces. I hadn’t known anything about it until my half brother, Colby, mentioned it in one of his phone calls from wherever he’d stopped his Westfalia van for the week. The idea had immediately appealed to my inner child, who had always wanted a playhouse of her very own, while my environmental side appreciated the smaller, greener footprint. I’d hired a contractor from a nearby town who specialized in tiny-house renovations. He’d made a ramshackle three-hundred-twenty-square-foot shed into a super-efficient living space.
There were loads of built-in niches, an alcove in the main living area for a television and stereo, extra foldout seating, a drop-down dining table, and even a desk that tucked away into the wall until needed. A circular staircase led to the sleeping loft above, which boasted a queen bed surrounded by cupboards for linens and clothing and a skylight set into the angled roof. The staircase partially separated the living area from the galley kitchen, and the practical placement of shelves under the spiraling steps made it not only visually stunning, but a terrific place to house my considerable library of horticulture and aromatherapy books.
Most of the year, the back porch, which ran the seventeen-foot width of the house, was my favorite place to hang out when not in the garden or Scents & Nonsense.
It looked out on an expanse of meadow running up to the craggy foothills of Kestrel Peak. Our resident mule deer herd often congregated there near sunset.
After a quick sluice in the shower, I slipped into a blue cotton sundress that matched my eyes, ran fingers through my dark shoulder-length curls in a feeble attempt to tame them, skipped the makeup, and slid my feet into soft leather sandals. Dash at my heel, I hurried down the path to the shop. I inhaled bee balm, a hint of basil, lemon verbena, and . . . what was
My steps paused, and I felt my forehead wrinkle. I knew every flower, every leaf in this garden, and every scent they gave off. I again thought of my gamma, who had taught me about plants and aromatherapy—though she never would have used that word. She would have known immediately what created this intoxicating fragrance.
Check her garden journal.
Though without more information it would be difficult to search the tattered, dog-eared volume in which she’d recorded her botanical observations, sketches, flower recipes, and lore.
A flutter in my peripheral vision made me turn my head, but where I’d expected to see a bird winging into one of the many feeders, there was nothing. At the same time, a sudden breeze grabbed away the mysterious fragrance and tickled the wind chimes.
Glancing down, I noticed the engraved river rock by the fairy path I’d been forming earlier appeared to have shifted.