Home > A Haunted Hallow-whiskers

A Haunted Hallow-whiskers
Author: Addison Moore

Chapter 1

 

 

“Welcome to the Haunted Hallow-whiskers Ball, Shepherd Wexler!” My sister snaps her rubber gloves on as she ogles him with a devilish gleam in her eye. “You know, I didn’t dress up as a naughty nurse for nothing. It’s time for your examination, big boy.”

“Naughty nurse?” I muse. “You’re wearing a French maid’s costume, Stephanie,” I snip at my ornery younger sister who hasn’t stopped hitting on Shep since she arrived in Starry Falls last week. She just dyed her hair back to black this afternoon after a brief stint as a blonde, and her eyes look amber in the light. We’re both in our late twenties and share the same pig-headed disposition in life, which almost always gets us in trouble.

It’s the beginning of October, and Opal has agreed to transform the entire Mortimer Manor into a haunted mansion for the duration of this monstrous month, thanks to a brainstorm I had a few days ago. Let’s just say after Shep laid that kiss on me, I wasn’t exactly able to get a wink of shut-eye that night. Instead, I relived every last morsel of that dreamy smooch, and I also happened to come up with a dozen new ways to get the townspeople of Starry Falls to part with a little of their hard-earned cash.

Opal Mortimer is a wealthy socialite in her eighties who was taken to the cleaners by her wily ex and left with nothing but this haunted manor that sits crooked on a hill and her collection of strays that have morphed into furry little feline family members going on a thousand strong. And I sort of made a pact with Opal to help get her back on her feet by way of tapping into my wicked moneymaking ways and coming up with ideas that might prove prosperous.

You see, I’m in need of a cash infusion myself. A few months ago, back in my home state of New Jersey, I sort of took the mob to the cleaners. It was mostly the fault of my boneheaded ex. Instead of quietly laundering money like good little mobster minions by way of a donut shop and car wash, we siphoned some of that dirty money off the top for ourselves. Along the way, I may have accidentally tipped off the feds. And now, well, Johnny Rizzo, the ex in question, is behind bars awaiting trial.

Me?

I’m on the run.

Not only does the mob want to fit me with a new pair of concrete stilettos, but the feds would like to have a waterboarding word with me, too.

As for my nonsensical little sis and her uncalled-for presence in my life at the moment, last month I started getting a few strange notes here and there and I thought I was dealing with your run-of-the-mill stalker. But, as it turned out, Stephanie broke up with her boyfriend and, instead of eating a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s, she tracked me down and decided to set stakes right here in Starry Falls. Not a good idea by a long shot, but I still haven’t been able to convince her of it. As soon as my Uncle Vinnie found out I was at the top of the mob’s hit list, he outfitted me with a new identity and an old beat-up Honda that I aptly named Wanda.

Wanda and I were on our way to Canada when she had a little vehicular meltdown, and Starry Falls, Vermont was about as far as I got on my run for freedom.

Stephanie makes a face. “So I’m a doctor turned French maid who not only makes house calls, I make the bed. And I get in the bed while I’m at it.” She winks over at Shep. “How about a drink, hot stuff?”

“No,” I answer for him.

Stephanie makes a face. “Then how about giving me my tennis bracelet back?” She tries to snatch me by my diamond-laden wrist, but I pull it just out of reach.

Last month, while my so-called stalker—aka my naughty sis—was dropping hints regarding her identity, Stephanie happened to stuff this sparkly gem into my mailbox, not only to clue me in on her presence, but as a means for me to hock it in the event I was low on cash.

“No to that, too,” I quickly inform her. “I happen to look good in compressed carbon.”

“Fine,” she says before sauntering past me. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll offer my services to Mud at the bar. He seems like a man who can really appreciate the finer aspects of latex gloves.” She snaps her head my way. “And for the tenth time, my name is Lola!”

Lola would be the name she’s using as a cover. I’ll admit, it’s kind of fun and flirty, just like Stephanie herself. Other than me, the only person who knows her proper moniker is Shep.

She growls as she heads for the bar—or more to the point, the bartender. Mud is a tall, thin, sinewy, scraggly-haired blond that has worked as the handyman around the Mortimer Manor far longer than I’ve been in Starry Falls. He’s essentially Opal’s go-to man for all things broken. And seeing that the manor is in a bit of a dilapidated state, he is one busy person.

At the moment, the ballroom at the Mortimer Manor is dimly lit, while each of the rows and rows of crystal chandeliers that hang above are covered with cobwebs and all sorts of creepy-crawlies dangling from them. Strings of silk fall leaves are draped around the periphery of the room, giant spiders and rats have been strategically placed here and there, bubbling cauldrons sit on every free surface, and a plethora of glowing orange lanterns hang from above, each one with a friendly jack-o’-lantern’s face painted on the front.

My name is Stella Santini, or at least it was. I go by the name of Bowie Binx now, and I’ve got long black hair, light brown eyes, stand at an average height of five-foot-five, and I can see the future.

Okay, fine.

Confession: I’m no psychic. Nor have I ever come close to predicting what the future might hold, not with any accuracy anyway.

You see, ever since I was a little girl, I had what my Nana Rose called the shakes. Technically, it’s more of a shiver, and when you get down to it, there’s a warm, fuzzy feeling involved that makes me want to forget about the world around me for a moment and retreat to the dark recesses of my mind where a thought plays out like a movie and I see things. And trust me when I say I have been wrong about interpreting the things I see on more than one occasion.

My sister, Stephanie, happens to share my quirky gift, although it’s never really benefited either of us. In fact, it often does quite the opposite.

As for my sister’s unexpected visit, it’s safe to say I didn’t see her coming.

And as for that kiss Shepherd Wexler planted on me last week? I definitely did not see that one coming, but boy, was it a welcome surprise.

Shepherd Wexler steps in front of me with his tall, commanding frame, and a spear of heat rides through me. Shep has dark hair, light blue eyes rimmed with navy, and both a face and body that makes every woman in the room sit up and pay attention. He’s not overly friendly by nature. He’s a part-time homicide detective-slash-best-selling thriller writer, and a full-time gorgeous pain in my side. He’s wearing a dark suit, black tie, and his somewhat infamous perpetual scowl. I’m guessing he’s dressed as his go-to, an ornery detective.

I happen to be dressed as a waitress, and considering the fact I manage the Manor Café, I didn’t exactly venture off into foreign territory either.

“You did it, Binx.” He flexes a dry smile. “The place looks great.”

“The place looks great because I hired that event planner Regina recommended.” I try not to scowl when I say Regina’s name.

Regina Valentine is one of Shep’s many exes. She used to manage the Manor Café before I did. But Opal gave her the axe, and that, more or less, was a segue into my fruitful employment right here in Starry Falls.

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