H.Y. Hanna
H.Y. Hanna
H.Y. Hanna
H.Y. Hanna

'Bewitched by Chocolate' Mysteries - sneak peeks!

Am hard at work on the final book(s) in the ‘Bewitched by Chocolate’ series, which will be releasing in early 2024… but for eager fans, here are a couple of sneak peeks of the upcoming story:
(* this is from my current unedited, working manuscript so please excuse any mistakes & typos!)

 

     Caitlyn shut the door of her bedroom behind her and made her way softly down the corridor, her feet making no sound on the plush carpet. The Manor was unusually quiet this next morning and she wondered if any of the other guests were up yet. She herself had only had a fitful rest but she had woken up soon after sunrise and been unable to go back to sleep. Instead, she had lay wide-eyed in bed, replaying the events of the night before—in particular, that awful moment when she had come across the body…
     Sighing, Caitlyn quickened her steps, heading for the staircase that led down into the front hall. She had barely turned the corner of the corridor, however, when she was startled by a bloodcurdling shriek. The next moment, a door on her right was flung open and Katya came running out. From her flushed face, tangled hair and the rumpled state of her pyjamas, she had obviously just got out of bed.
     “There’s… there’s… there’s a man… hanging from my ceiling!” she gasped, grabbing Caitlyn’s shoulders, and pointing a shaking figure back at her room.
   “What?” Caitlyn’s heart lurched as she instantly imagined a lifeless body swinging from a neck noose.
     Before she could ask more, however, doors were flung open further down the corridor and they were joined by Tori and Benedict. They were both bleary-eyed and dishevelled too, and had obviously rushed straight out of bed after hearing the commotion.
     “What is it? What’s happened?” asked Benedict, stifling a yawn.
     “Yes, I heard a scream—was that you?” demanded Tori, looking at Katya accusingly.
     “You would have screamed too if you woke up and saw a strange old man hanging upside down from your ceiling!” retorted Katya.
     Caitlyn caught her arm. “Wait a minute—did you say ‘old man hanging upside down’?’”
     Katya nodded and pointed to her bedroom doorway again. “Yes! You go and see for yourself!”
     Caitlyn had a sinking feeling that she knew exactly who was in the girl’s bedroom. Her worst suspicions were confirmed when she went in and saw the old man who was hanging upside down, seemingly attached to the ceiling by only his feet. He was wearing an ancient black suit, with coat tails that were now flopped over and hanging down past his ears, and he had a few wispy grey hairs carefully combed over his balding head. His sunken mouth looked like it was missing more than a few teeth but his rheumy eyes were bright as he peered down at Caitlyn.
     “Ah… Caitlyn, my dear! How nice to see you.”
     “Viktor!” hissed Caitlyn, glaring up at him. “What are you doing up there?”
     “Having a good night’s kip—what does it look like? I normally prefer the east corner of the Library but there were so many people in there last night, making an infernal noise! Police and paramedics and whatnot… I decided to find a quieter spot upstairs.” He glanced approvingly at the ornate plaster moulding on the ceiling. “Very comfy cornices here. I might start sleeping upstairs more often—”
     “Viktor, you can’t just randomly wander into guests’ bedrooms like this,” said Caitlyn in exasperation. “Come down now! Quick, before the others come in!”
     “All right, all right… no need to get your fangs in a twist,” muttered the old man.
     He bent his knees and seemed to push off from the ceiling, turning a somersault in mid-air before landing nimbly next to Caitlyn. She glanced hastily over her shoulder and was relieved to see that the others were only just stepping into the room and hadn’t seen Viktor’s strange acrobatics.
     Tori and Benedict came slowly forwards, eyeing the old man with some surprise. Given the strength of Katya’s hysterics, this was not what they were expecting to see. The girl herself approached Viktor warily, stopping just behind Caitlyn and asking in a quavering voice:
     “Who… who are you? Where did you come from?”
     Viktor swept her a gallant bow. “Allow me to introduce myself: I am Count Viktor Dracul of the Megachiroptera Order of Vampi—”
     “Er… just Viktor will be fine,” cut in Caitlyn hastily. “And now, shall we get dressed and go downstairs for breakfa—”
     “How were you hanging like that?” asked Katya suspiciously. “I saw you: there was no rope or anything. Your feet were just stuck to the ceiling, as if… as if by magic!”
     “Oh, Viktor’s a… um… ex-circus performer,” Caitlyn said. “He’s very… er… athletic still and can hang from all sorts of—”
     “Eh? What are you talking about?” said Viktor, looking at Caitlyn irritably. “I’ve never been to the circus in my life! Dreadful places, full of bendy people…” He turned to Katya and gave a modest cough. “Suspending from any structure is a fortunate facet of my shapeshifting abilities, due to my other form being a—”
     “Shapeshifting!” cried Katya, her eyes bulging. “Are you a Púca? Or… or a spriggan? I know the veil between the worlds is thinnest at Samhain and malevolent spirits are everywhere!”
     The old man bristled. “A Púca? How dare you! Do I look like a grubby gnome? And while I have occasionally shifted into creatures different to my fruit bat form, I draw the line at goats, thank you very much. Mangy, flea-bitten beasts…” Viktor drew himself up to his full height. “I am a vampire, an Ancient Guardian Protector of the Other Realms, and as a member of that noble race, I always conduct myself with dignity and decorum—”
     “You’re a what?” said Benedict with a laugh.
     “Er… what Viktor meant to say is that he’s my… my uncle!” said Caitlyn quickly, trying to give everyone a breezy smile. “He’s… um… got a very vivid imagination.”
     “Your uncle?”
     “What is your uncle doing in my room?” demanded Katya, starting to sound hysterical again. “How did he get in? I’m sure I locked my door last night—”
     “Pff!” said Viktor with a dismissive wave of his hand. “What are locks to a master infiltrator like me? I can enter any room I wish—”
     Katya gave a squeal of horror. “Are you saying you broke into my room while I was sleeping?”
     “You dirty old man!” exclaimed Benedict. “Are you some kind of Peeping Tom?”
     Viktor looked confused. “Eh? Who’s Tom?”

***

  “Pomie, stop it!” said Caitlyn uneasily. “You’re supposed to be searching for a book, not snooping through the Widow Mags’s personal things!”
    “Hey, I’m snooping with a purpose,” said Pomona indignantly She lifted another thing out of the tray. It was a diamond-shaped, pale-green stone attached to a long silver chain. The stone had strange markings across its surface, which looked almost like snakeskin. 
   “Oh! That’s a dowsing pendulum,” cried Evie, pushing past Caitlyn to join Pomona at the chest. 
    “A what?” said Caitlyn,
    “It’s a divination tool,” Evie explained. “It gives you answers to questions or helps you find the location of things.” 
    “Yeah, and this is a serpentine crystal,” added Pomona, touching the green stone reverently. “I’ve seen a couple of these in an occult shop back in LA. They’re really powerful, with strong magical energy. They’re used in Kundalini activation—that’s a kind of divine energy,” she explained to Caitlyn, who was watching them sceptically. 
    “Uh… okay…” said Caitlyn, feeling totally lost. 
    Not for the first time, she reflected that it should really have been Pomona to have discovered that she was descended from witches. Her American cousin had believed passionately in magic all her life and had always been fascinated by the paranormal, spending the better part of her teens dabbling in tarot cards, crystal healing and various other occult practices. When they’d arrived in England and discovered that witches and magic really did really exist, Caitlyn had struggled to reconcile her feelings of bewilderment and disbelief. Pomona, however, had instantly taken it in her stride, embracing it all with a gleeful “I told you so!”. 
    Now she held up the serpentine pendant triumphantly and said, with a smug smile: “I’ll bet this will help us find the grimoire.” 
    She stretched her arm out in front of her, holding the end of the chain with a thumb and forefinger and letting the serpentine pendant swing freely. The green stone twirled through the air, catching the light as it swung first one way, then another. 
    “Show me where the grimoire is,” Pomona intoned as she began walking slowly around the room. “Show me where it’s hidden!”
    The serpentine pendulum swung and twirled, winking in the dim light. In spite of herself, Caitlyn held her breath, her eyes following the green stone expectantly. The whole thing seemed silly and ridiculous. But she had been wrong to scoff at the existence of magic so perhaps she ought to keep an open mind for once. 
    When a few minutes had elapsed, though, with Pomona doing nothing more than walk aimlessly around, Caitlyn spoke up impatiently:     “Well? Is it telling you anything?”
    “No,” Pomona admitted, looking slightly crestfallen. Then she brightened. “Maybe it needs a spell! Yes, that’s it. It probably needs a spell to activate it or something. Go on, do something to make it wake up.”
    “Me? I don’t know what to do—” Caitlyn started to say but Evie interrupted her.
    “Oh, I do! I know just the spell,” cried the younger girl eagerly. “I learnt it last week. Well, it’s actually to activate the compost heap in Mum’s garden—you know to draw forth the natural energies and speed up decay—but I’m sure it’ll work just as well.” 
    “Um, Evie—are you sure?” asked Caitlyn nervously. “You know your spells often seem to backfire and… er—”
    “You don’t think I can do magic at all, do you?” said Evie, looking hurt.
    “No, it’s not that,” said Caitlyn quickly. “I just…” She hesitated, seeing the wounded look in the younger girl’s eyes, then she forced a weak smile. “Of course, I believe in you. In fact, we’re… we’re lucky you know a spell.”
    “Yeah, go on, Evie—do your thing!” urged Pomona.
    Evie flushed, looked pleased. “Hang on a minute—let me try to remember the words…” She raised a hand, hovering it over the serpentine pendant. “Elicio lumina, invigorus vita emergere!”
    There was a puff of smoke and Pomona yelped and jerked back her hand, as if she had been burnt. The pendulum dropped to the stone floor with a clatter and Caitlyn cried out in dismay.
    “Oh no—is it broken?” she gasped, peering through the smoke. “Can you see the stone? Is it still in one piece?”
    Then the smoke cleared and she saw what lay at her feet: a slithering, rolling mass of green scales and sinuous muscle. 
    “Aaaahh!” she screamed, jerking back from the huge green python coiled on the floor. “Evie—what have you done?”
    “Holy guacamole, you’ve really activated the…um… serpent in serpentine,” said Pomona, laughing. “Wow, this thing must be, like, ten feet long. And look at those scales!” She leaned closer to the giant snake. “You know what… it’s kinda cute. It’s sort of cross-eyed and there’s this adorable little notch in its mouth where its tongue comes out—”
    “What are you doing, Pomie?” gasped Caitlyn. “Get back! It might bite you!”
    “Pythons don’t bite,” Pomona scoffed. “They just wrap around you and squeeze you to death.”

***

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(* You’ll also receive downloads of an exclusive ‘Bewitched by Chocolate’ short story, plus the Prequel to the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries for FREE!)

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Teresa
Teresa
1 month ago

Can’t wait to get the final book, also sad to see the last of Bewitched by Chocolate series. I pray your husband will return to good health and 2024 will be a great year for you and your family.

Teresa Maher

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