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Morgana Best

Spell of Silence (PAPERBACK)

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PAPERBACK. Book 19 in The Kitchen Witch paranormal cozy mystery series.

Amelia's day is inundated with an overflow of men lining up to explain things to her. But when even Alder jumps aboard the mansplain train, Amelia can't bite her tongue any longer. She lets loose a wish that zaps the chatter right out of every man in town.
Bayberry Creek is now quieter than a library during naptime. With the local police reduced to a series of shrugs and hand gestures, Amelia is left to investigate a murder. 
Amelia soon discovers that even when the volume's turned down, danger still knows how to make a scene. 
Can she unravel the cryptic clues or will the killer silence our spellcaster forever? 

PAPERBACK. 

 Paperback  270 pages
 Dimensions  5 x 0.58 x 8 inches (127 x 14.5 x 203 mm)
 ISBN  9781923098121
 Publication date  September 30, 2023
 Publisher  Best Cosy Books 

 

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Chapter 1

Exhausted, I sat at a spare table in my bakery, alternating between forking chocolate cupcake into my mouth and leaning down to whisper sweet baby noises into the ear of my naughty one-year-old daughter. Arabella was what my mother referred to as “a real firecracker,” always running after stray animals, perhaps to rally them into some sort of unholy toddler-feline alliance. She loved laughing when old people fell over in the park, screaming “help” at the top of her lungs in the supermarket to trick people into thinking I was a stranger attempting to kidnap her, and swatting urns off mantlepieces when pretending to sleep in her daddy’s arms, laughing as ashes rained onto the carpet. Okay. That was only one time, but Mrs Fitz had not invited us back since.
“You know, I come here every afternoon.” A man stopped by my table and peered down his nose at me hunched over the table, crumbs all over my face. “My name is Jeff. I’ve noticed that you could really use some fashion advice. Let me help you upgrade your wardrobe."
Arabella giggled. I lowered my fork onto the table, placing it out of her reach. A fork in the hands of my child could very much be considered a weapon. “Is that so, Jeff? Well, I’m quite happy with my style. Thanks anyway.”
That was a big fat lie. I hated my style; in fact, it was a crime to call what I was wearing a “style.” I’d worn my Crocs, and although I maintained they were not as offensive as many people claimed, these Crocs were from the KFC collaboration Alder had bought me as a joke. Not only were they striped red and white, but they’d come with chicken drumstick charms attached to the plastic. To add to the glamour, I was wearing jeans I’d split down the bottom while running after Arabella, and a shirt covered from top to bottom in an excessive number of ruffles, making me look like an oversized Frilled Neck Lizard.
"First things first,” Jeff said, ignoring me. “Let's talk about colour coordination. You should always stick to neutral tones. They're timeless and sophisticated."
“Maybe I don’t want to be timeless and sophisticated,” I said while Arabella snatched up my cupcake, sneezed on it, and tossed it onto the floor.
“I assumed as much.” Jeff turned his nose up at my daughter. That is when he caught sight of my footwear. “Hmm, well, maybe you haven't realized that high heels are essential for looking elegant and feminine. You should wear them more often."
“Wait, are you telling me that Crocs are not the height of sophistication?” I muttered sarcastically.
“Are those drumstick charms, Miss Spelled?”
“They came with the shoe. I’m sure you understand that comfort is a priority for my day-to-day activities. I have a toddler.”
He looked at my toddler again, but this time he winced. “I never understood the appeal of children.”
Arabella stuck out her tongue at him.
“Thank you, Jeff. Whoa—look at the time. We’re closing. Thank you. Goodbye.”
“But…”
“Goodbye!” I said. I scooped Arabella up with one hand and shooed Jeff out the door. Like I wanted style advice from a man who wore a monocle. “Get a real set of glasses!” I called after him, as I kicked the cupcake into the corner of the room. My back could not handle bending over to pick it up, not when I had a squirming child in my arms. I’d get the cupcake tomorrow.
“Did you just kick a cupcake?”
I turned to see Kendall, yet another of my daily customers, poking his head around the door.
“Nope,” I lied at the exact same time Arabella said, “Yes!”
“Please, please, please,” Kendall said, darting inside. “I know you’re closing, but I ran late at work and I need a coffee and a cupcake before I drown myself in a river.”
“That kind of day, huh?”
“You have no idea.”
“I think I might,” I said. Shifting Arabella to my other hip, I went behind the counter to prepare Kendall’s order.
“Thank you so much.”
“My pleasure.”
“I know,” Kendall said, looking me up and down. “Let me explain the latest fashion trends to you. You need to keep up with what's hot and in style, and I can help you.”
"Actually, I keep up with fashion trends quite well,” I said, “But I am a mother of a young child, and sometimes clothes, as much as I love them, are not my number one priority.”
"Well, I think you should try wearing more form-fitting clothes. They'll accentuate your figure and make you more attractive."
"Thank you for your concern, but I'm comfortable in clothes that allow me to move freely and express my personality, rather than focusing solely on my appearance."
"Hmm, I suppose you have your own ideas about fashion. But trust me, as a man, I know what looks good."
I placed the coffee and cupcake in front of him with a thud. My jaw clenched in anger, my nostrils flaring at his words. “Thank you for your opinion, but I don't think my fashion choices are up for discussion. Is there anything else I can get for you?"
He shook his head, taking a sip of his coffee. "No, that's all for now. But I hope you'll consider my advice. I'd hate to see a pretty girl like you vanish behind such an ugly sense of style. Or lack of sense, if you get my drift. I know you are an old married girl now, but don’t you want attention?”
I gritted my teeth, forcing myself to keep up the polite facade. “I'm not interested in attracting attention for the wrong reasons."
He chuckled, leaning in closer to me. "Oh, come on now. There's no such thing as bad attention..."
Before he could finish his sentence, a deep voice interrupted him from behind.
“Is there a problem here?"
It was Alder! He was dressed in a crisp white shirt which emphasised his muscular frame, and my heart skipped a beat. Alder stared down my customer until Kendall shuffled out of the bakery without another word, looking embarrassed.
"Thank you," I breathed out, feeling a rush of relief flood through me.
“Distract me,” Alder said, reaching for my hand.
“Why?”
“If you don’t distract me, I’m going after that man, and I’m going to teach him a lesson about what is and isn’t appropriate to say to my wife.”
I handed him Arabella, who was fussing for her daddy, and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re so sweet, but I don’t have the time to bail you out of jail today. Do you want anything before we go home?”
“A coffee would be great.”
I made my husband a coffee while he threw Arabella up and down. “You’re an angel,” he said when I handed him his coffee and took our child back. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Let’s just get home.”
“How about we order dinner tonight. Pizza?”
“Pizza!” I agreed.
When we got home, Alder bathed Arabella. I spent a couple of minutes standing by the bathroom door, listening to them laugh, before ordering a pizza. Before long the two of us were cuddled up on the couch, full of melted cheese, our eyelids drooping, while our child slept in her nursery.
“I just had an idea,” Alder muttered. “Why don’t I pick out your outfit?”
I froze. “What?”
“Well, you do so much for us, so I’ve been thinking and thinking of what I can do to help you out. Tomorrow I should go shopping. I have the morning off. I can pick you up some dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and even a few daring pieces that you would never have considered wearing.”
“Alder,” I warned.
“What?”
“I am a grown woman. I don’t need any help choosing an outfit.”
“But today you wore Crocs.”
“Yes.”
“With chicken drumstick charms stuck to them.”
“You bought me those Crocs!”
“As a joke,” he said happily, clearly not aware of the dangerous territory on which he was encroaching.
“What is wrong with my style?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m trying to be helpful. Have you thought of wearing more neutrals?”
“Why?”
“Neutrals are just so timeless. And, baby, I love you, but you look like a pirate in those ruffles.”
I shoved him away from me and stood, my face burning red. “Why does every man in the world think he has a right to comment on my clothes?”
“What’s wrong?” Alder said.
My face grew hotter. “I’m so tired of men expecting me to dress like a pretty little princess when I have a toddler and a cupcake store and a life, and all that comes before picking out an outfit!”
“I’m sorry,” Alder said, suddenly nervous. “I was trying to help you pick a more stylish outfit, is all?”
“I don’t want to wear a more stylish outfit!”
Alder put his hands up and said, gently, “Okay, okay. What do you want, baby?”
“I want every man in this town to stop mansplaining! I want every man in this town to be quiet for once!”
There was a loud bang. Alder and I jumped. We ran into our daughter’s nursery, but for once she was not the cause of a random loud bang. She was fast asleep, a smile on her perfect, devious little face.
“That was weird.” I turned to Alder. “Do you think that was weird?”
He opened his mouth to reply, but no sound came out.
“Alder?”
His eyes widened. He reached his hand up to his throat, shaking his head.
“Are you okay?”
He shook his head.
“Can you talk?”
He shook his head again.
“Maybe you’re coming down with something?” I offered, but that didn’t feel right. He was completely fine a moment ago. He was completely fine before we heard the bang. He was completely fine before I said—
“I want every man in this town to be quiet for once,” I repeated, and then I gasped. “Wait right here.”
I moved the purring Hawthorn aside and reached for my phone. I called Thyme. “Is Dawson with you?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she replied. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”
“Is he able to talk?”
“Of course he can talk, Amelia,” she replied. “Wait. No. No. He’s signalling to me that he’s lost his voice. Maybe he’s coming down with something.”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“What’s going on?”
“Alder has lost his voice too. Hold on a second. Ruprecht is calling.”
I put her on hold and answered his call. “Hello?”
No one replied.
“Ruprecht?”
Nothing.
“You’ve lost your voice too, haven’t you?” I said. I could imagine him nodding his head. After five minutes of me speaking and no one replying, I hung up the phone. Alder was standing next to me, pointing to his throat, panicked.
“I think I might have done something,” I said to him. “I think I might have done a spell that silenced every man in this town!”
Alder motioned something along the lines of, “Yeah! I know!”
I started to laugh then. It wasn’t a cute laugh. It wasn’t a pretty laugh. It was a laugh I’d kept hidden from Alder until his ring was well and truly on my finger, because if he’d heard this laugh on our first date, there would not have been a second. I laughed until I was red in the face and tears were streaming down my face.
“I’ve silenced every man in town!” I cried out softly, but I wasn’t worried. I was positively delighted.