Of Potions and Portents
Of Potions and Portents is the first book in the Sister Witches of Raven Falls Cozy Mystery Series. Join a set of magical sisters as they solve paranormal cozy mysteries that fans of Charmed, Hocus Pocus, and The Good Witch will love. ***Bonus recipes and craft instructions in every book!
I’m Spring Whitethorne, kitchen witch, and I’ll be honest—I long for love and a “normal” social life, just like everyone else. Finding the time—not to mention the right guy—however, is a lost cause. My days are spent cooking up products for the Lotions, Potions, and Herbs line for Conjure, the metaphysical shop I run with my sisters, and my specialty love potion blend is helping everyone else in Raven Falls find romance, while I’m working my broomstick off preparing for the upcoming Beltane celebration.
That is until Tristan McGregor, the sexy chief of police, threatens to shut down my kitchen and accuses me of murder. Two people have died, entangled in—ahem—a compromising position, and covered in my love potion.
On top of that, I discover an unsettling portent about the chief in his tea leaves, and when he steals a kiss after catching me at the crime scene, I try to convince myself it's only because he’s under the influence of the love potion enchantment.
But is he?
With my cursed mockingbird familiar, Hoax, my sassy sister witches, and a whole lot of peppermint tea, I have to solve the mystery before Tristan puts me behind bars. Even so, as the fires of Beltane nip at my heels, introducing the chief to the world of magick could send my chances at love up in smoke.
**Note: While this story is intended for grown-up audiences, this story is clean and shareable with younger readers 13 and up!
Cool, crisp air caresses my face as I look at my expanding garden. It’s a perfect spring day in the Pacific Northwest, even though the land is still wrapped in the tentacles of winter.
The sun glows brightly as it fights back the shadows and burns off the overnight frost—one of the last, I hope. The faintest mist rises from my plants as heat melts away the cold.
The smell of fresh growth fills my nostrils—tree buds, green leaves, spring bulbs pushing up through the soil. I close my eyes and let the sun work its magick on me. Winter was long and hard this past year, not only for me and my sisters, but for the land. I lost several garden staples and I'm grateful for the greenhouse that saved many others.
My wheelbarrow is full of lavender, rosemary, and thyme, grown in the greenhouse over the winter and hardened for my new poet garden. The itch that’s been in my blood for weeks to get out here and create the sections I've drawn on paper is finally melting like the frost.
As the sun warms my body, I feel tension draining away. I absentmindedly run my hand over one of the small rosemary plants and bring my fingers to my nose, inhaling deeply. There is nothing I love better, outside of my family, than herbs, flowers, and trees.
I sense my sister Winter before I hear her come out the back door of our shop, Conjure, and pause on the small porch behind me. Her energy is heavy and dark—more so than usual—and for a brief instant, I'm slightly annoyed she’s interrupted my moment of peace.
But she is the eldest of us, and her path is one I wouldn't want to walk, surrounded by spirits and knowledge about what waits for us all on the other side of the veil.
I do my best to lighten her load, to bring fun and breathing room into her life. After our mother passed, she became not only the head of the family, but also the leader of our small coven. She took over the unglamorous side of running a business—taxes, insurance, accountants, and lawyers. The mantel of her responsibilities rides heavy on her shoulders, and aside from being grouchy about it—which she is about everything—she wears it well.
Hoax, my familiar, hops up and down on the steps, sounding a high-pitched alarm. “Winter is here. Winter is here. The she-devil is here.”
The bird is a spirit cursed into the form of a mockingbird who can't fly from an evil sorceress I have never been able to break. He’s bigger than average, and he actually speaks for all to hear, mimicking customers in our shop, hexing them on occasion, and using foul language every chance he gets. Most think he’s cute and funny, but I spend a lot of time reversing the curses he bestows on them.
He’s not far off the mark calling Winter a she-devil, but of course, I have to admonish him or she’ll put a fresh curse on the dastardly little guy. Even though she has tight rein over her emotions, I pick up on the fact she’s about to kick him off the porch.
“Cease,” I command, “or I’ll tie a knot in your tongue.”
“Good morning, sister,” I greet her, reaching for my trowel and a lavender plant, hoping to divert further damage to Hoax. “There’s peppermint tea in the thermos.”
Winter’s preferences run more along the lines of black coffee in the morning and old brandy at night. She makes a face, looks toward her cabin, probably because she wishes to be there. “Spring…I’m sorry about the pie bird.”
The first thing she has said to me in two weeks, and it’s an apology. Color me surprised.
“She-devil witch,” Hoax sing-songs. "May you rot in Hades, you hoor's melt.”
“Hoax!” He loves to sink me into more trouble than he's worth. I scoop him up and place him on the scarecrow several yards away, chastising him under my breath before walking back.
Winter continues to stare off in the distance at the wild area I leave for the fairies. I follow her gaze, but I don't see any fair folk or spirits. I catch the briefest glimpse of her familiar, a ghost cat named Shade. He appears to walk right into my greenhouse without using the door.
A tiny pentagram made of twigs swings from a low hanging hemlock branch. A gift from the fairies who inhabit the forest and often visit when I work in the garden. The Whitethorne sisters have a touch of Fae blood in us, and the fairies are distant kin. I, especially, am deemed a cloverhand, able to find four-leaf clovers and interact with the Fae.
The pie bird was our mother’s favorite and became mine after she died. I can’t think of it without getting teary, remembering all the times I pulled a chair to the counter and helped her make pies. Mixing the fillings, rolling out the crusts, laying the strips on top…along with the still raw grief over losing her, I’m irritated that Winter threw the innocent pie bird at me in anger—although the name I called her may have warranted it—and, in the process, busted it into a dozen parts. I glued them back together, yet, I feel as if I’ve lost something intangible…another piece of my mother. Even if I were to use magick to seal the seams, it wouldn’t be the same.
I squint at Winter who still sees something invisible to me in the fairy garden. “Come help with the planting," I say, accepting her apology the best I can. Working the soil is good for the soul, and can mend many a bridge. “It'll do you good.”
She looks as though she’d rather drink the peppermint tea. She intertwines her fingers in front of her, her knitted, fingerless gloves a silver gray like the strand of hair hanging limply along the left side of her face. Our Mom made those glove, her fingers ever weaving and knitting.
Winter’s chin lifts. “I shouldn't touch the plants.”
Her touch can drain the life from certain things, at least that's what she believes. I’ve seen no proof of it, but then again, my green thumb is envied by all my sisters. We each have our gifts, and while my earth magick is powerful, I only use it for simple things like growing hundreds of plants and mixing potions we sell in the shop.
There’s no point in arguing with her, she is the most stubborn of all of us, so I resume my digging. “What's with the Beatrix LeStrange hair today?” I ask, using the trowel to point at the mess of curls jutting from the top of her head.
One hand brushes the straight silver streak, the rest of her jet black hair corkscrewing in all directions. The Harry Potter reference isn't lost on her, and I see the corner of her mouth twitch—the equivalent of a grin. "I need a treatment. I'm out of Aragon oil.”
I sink to my knees and plant the lavender. “Just made a fresh batch of Mermaid’s Dream hair tonic yesterday. The combination of chamomile and yarrow will tame your frizzies. I'll steep some walnut shells and coffee later to deepen your natural color.”
“Is there anything I can help you with to prepare for the Beltane Sabbat?”
I survey the rich, black soil around me that has been turned over in preparation for this new garden. Summer has promised to help me later with making posies for the celebration, and if Winter is offering assistance now, I should take her up on it.
I pat the soil around the lavender plant, toss my gloves and trowel into the wheel barrel. "I need to make another batch of Sex Magick and Love Potion No. 9. We sold the last bottles yesterday. Can you help with that?"
“As long as there's coffee," she quips.
I pass the scarecrow and allow Hoax to light on my shoulder before following Winter inside. In the commercial kitchen, I pull out the Damaria that’s been steeping in a pot of spring water for two weeks while Winter chats with Autumn and gets herself a cup of coffee.
From the bakery case out front, she snags one of the scones I made yesterday and munches on it, one hip leaning against the counter as I explain the process of creating the two products we'll be making today.
An hour later, the scent of dried roses infuses the air, along with vanilla, as I split vanilla beans and scrape out the precious insides. Each bottle gets a carnelian gemstone chip to improve the potency of the herbs and oils.
Crystals are Summer’s area of expertise, and I’ve found combining them with my herb potions works, well, magick, in increasing sales of our products.
The compound energy in my Sex Magick essential oil blend, full of aphrodisiacs, increases libido, improves performance, and heightens pleasure. I can't keep either it or Love Potion No. 9 in stock, especially this time of year between Valentine’s and Beltane.
For the next hour, I have my favorite romance playlist on and Winter and I hum and sing along as we work. She's not much of a talker, but music soothes her nerves and the atmosphere is relaxed. I’m secretly ecstatic to have her here, since the last time we spent together ended in the argument that wrecked the pie bird.
I may have time to get everything done on my list today, thanks to my sisters’ help. We all have different responsibilities with the business and have our own long list of individual clients we work with. Some days, we barely have time for each other, but we make it a point to come together for Sunday dinners as much as possible. I've missed Winter at those—she's been absent from them since our argument about Mom.
Hoax isn't allowed in the kitchen and I hear him hopping around outside the door, pecking at the wood and throwing curses at me as well as Godfrey, our big black cat with long white whiskers who believes he is Einstein incarnated. He was our mother’s familiar and helped her with her prosperity magick. She had the ability to conjure treasure and bring fortune to bear…just not for herself.
Godfrey is no doubt teasing Hoax, like he often does, about his inability to fly.
"I'm going to kill that bird one of these days," Winter mumbles as she hands me a finished rollerball of Love Potion No. 9.
“You don't want to do that." I add the rollerball to the row of bottles and begin labeling them. Autumn did the artwork, the scrolling words and lush colors a form of sensual magick.
From outside, Hoax squawks as though he heard her threat. “Witchy She-devil!”
It's all I can do not to laugh.
Through the door strolls Shade. He’s one of the few disembodied spirits I can see. Hoax goes crazy, beating his useless wings at the door and damning Shade to Hades.
I’m sure the ghost cat walked right by him just to rub it in. Since Shade is dead, and ghost cats don't violate health codes, there’s nothing I can say or do if he wants to be in the kitchen.
Winter’s energy is lighter now and she grins evilly—a true she-devil—as she takes a sip, Shade curling around her ankles. “Pretty sure I do.”
Hoax is annoying but he's mine and I feel slightly responsible for him. “If you kill him, he becomes a spirit and you’ll never get rid of him. At least now, he's in physical form, which means you can get away."
She sighs and rolls her eyes, knowing I'm right. She’s warded her cabin at the far end of the grounds to make it a ghost-free zone, but sometimes they sneak through. I can't imagine seeing them everywhere, and I know what a toll it takes on her soul. Many of the disembodied she can cross over, others simply don’t want to move on.
I'm labeling the last bottle when Summer bursts in, Hoax on her heels, ignoring my no animals in the kitchen rule. Her eyes are wide, fingers twirling her strawberry blond braid, the color only a shade darker than mine. “There's someone here to see you at the front counter.”
Hoax jumps up and down. “Trouble is abrew! Trouble is abrew!”
Winter straightens, immediately reacting to the fear coming off Summer. She wipes her hands on a dish towel. “Who is it?"
Summer glances toward the shop, back to us, lowering her voice to a notch just above a whisper. “Chief MacGregor. He wants to talk to Spring.” She steps closer. “It’s about something suspicious that happened last night.”
Winter looks at me and Hoax’s pronouncement rings in my ears. “Why does he want to talk to me about such a thing?” I ask.
Before either can respond, Tristan MacGregor strides in. The man who visits me nightly in my dreams and needs no Sex Magick potion to light up certain parts of my anatomy, stares at me with his cornflower blue eyes and there’s a sudden lump in my throat.
“Chief MacGregor.” My voice comes out like a nightclub singer’s sexy rasp. I clear my throat and try again. “What can I help you with?”
He tosses a picture on the counter next to my lineup of Sex Magick bottles and I see two matching labels in the shot. There are also human limbs entwined, partial faces contorted in what looks like frozen, but lifeless, ecstasy.
“You can tell me what exactly is in your…products,” he says, his voice pebbling my skin as though he’s caressing me. He’s much taller than I am, and leans forward, those beautiful eyes scrutinizing my face. “And why I have two people dead from using them.”