Rudie’s Collection Book 2
Rudie Hollybrook, here! I love my quaint, magical town of Holiday Haven. It’s basically like living in a snow globe.
I’m killing it (oops) directing my family’s funeral home where I work with my two zany sisters and am head over heels for my boyfriend, the editor of the local paper. It’s all going swimmingly until the annual Summer Solstice pool party…when it all goes down in an avalanche of trouble.
Suddenly, I’m not the only witch in town who can see ghosts! My arch nemesis, Hayley Swift, is being haunted by the spirit of a dead beauty queen who died sixty years ago amid rumors of murder.
Even worse? The ghost seems to be warning Hayley that she’s in for the same, tragic fate!
Now, I’ve got to team up with my least favorite grinch to solve the decades old cold case and keep her out of trouble (even though Hayley seems to go looking for it). And to complicate matters, I overhear something that makes me fear I’ll soon have to pick between my beloved hometown and the man who has my heart!
Can I melt the mystery around the beauty queen’s death in time to save Hayley? And how will I make an impossible choice?
While Holiday Haven is really close to the North Pole, they still, with the help of magic, celebrate the Summer Solstice with a beach pool party. Complete with sand and hot weather, and a wave pool.
It’s in the middle of this town wide event that Rudie sees what she thinks is Hayley her nemesis, in the water wearing a glittering dress, tiara and a sash holding a bouquet of dead roses. She’s more than a little startled when Hayley calls her name from directly behind her very much alive.
When Rudie looks back the specter is gone. Unfortunately, not for good. It’s the middle of the night when Hayley comes pounding on her door, hysterical over the appearance of a ghost.
This is a favorite scene.
I blinked in surprise. I was more shocked at who my late-night guest was than if it had been a ghost or ghoulie. I turned the lock, and icy-cold air flooded in as I cracked the door open.
“Finally! What took you so long?” She shoved past me, forcing Snowflake to jump aside. She tracked muddy footsteps through my kitchen and over the rug. Great. Just what I wanted to deal with at… I blinked, trying to focus on the clock on the wall… four in the morning.
I swept a hand toward the kitchen table in the middle of the small space, my tone flat. “How good to see you. Please come in.”
I shut and relocked the door, then turned around to face the pacing blonde. I rubbed roughly at my stinging eyes, then fumbled around in the dark until I found my wand on the kitchen counter beside the sink. I mumbled a quick spell, and a fire shot to life in the fireplace. I followed up by spelling a couple of lamps on to give us some light.
Snowflake crouched behind my ankles, her hackles raised and lips curled back, snarling. My snow fox familiar was wary of new people in her space, but I’d never seen her take such a strong, instant dislike to anyone before. I shot the little white floof a wan smile. She had good instincts.
Hayley whirled to face me. She wore pink silk pajamas under her fur coat, the pants tucked into shearling boots. A matching pink eye mask, embroidered with the word “Princess,” sat above her forehead. She looked as though she’d just woken up.
Her blue eyes, wide and wild, bored into me. “Rude! You have to help me!”
I rankled a bit at the hated nickname but forced myself to stay levelheaded. Hayley had never been to my cottage before and made no secret of her dislike of me. If she’d rushed over here in the middle of the night, this had to be serious.
Her panic faded as she blinked and glanced around the kitchen, seeming to take in her surroundings for the first time.
She wrinkled her nose. “This is where you live? This is the size of, like, one of my closets.”
My nostrils flared as I sucked in a deep breath and clenched my fists at my sides. Dear Santa, give me strength.
I jerked a hand at one of the mismatched kitchen chairs around the table. “Why don’t you have a seat. I’ll make us some tea, and then you can tell me what’s going on.”
I shuffled over to the sink and filled the copper kettle, Snowflake glued to my side.
Her chair scraped across the hardwood as Hayley settled into her seat. “Coffee for me. Cream and sugar.”
My back stiffened, and I squeezed my eyes shut. Would a “please” kill her?
I turned the knob on the stove, and after a few clicks, the fire under the burner leapt to life. I set the kettle to boil, replaced the fire poker in the holder, then scooped Snowflake into my arms and settled into the seat across from Hayley.
“Okay, Hayley. What in the snow globe is the matter?”
Hayley licked her lips, then pressed them tight together. She leaned forward, oblivious to Snowflake’s increased growling. She looked around, though there was clearly no one besides us in the cottage, then whispered something incoherently quiet.
I sighed. “Hayley, I can’t hear you.”
She huffed and narrowed her eyes. “You have to swear to secrecy. I’m serious, Rude. You can’t tell anyone!” She curled her lip and shuddered. “I don’t want anyone to hear about this and think I’m a freak like you.”
Her eyes darted back to me, as if she’d just realized what she’d said. She spun sideways in her seat and waved a hand at me. “I mean, no offense, but you don’t have a reputation to lose.” She pressed her dainty fingertips to her chest and looked aghast. “I’m a Swift.”
Welp. I’d had it. I shoved back from the table and stood, my fox in my arms. “So great to see you, Hayley. So nice of you to stop by.” I hiked Snowflake onto my hip and threw my free arm at the door.
She rolled her eyes and spun back to face me. “Don’t be so dramatic.”
I shot her a flat look. That was rich, coming from her.
“I’m sorry, okay?” She flashed her eyes at me. “I’m just freaked out. I saw…” She looked around again, and once more lowered her voice to a whisper. “I saw a ghost!”
I jutted my hip out and raised a doubtful brow. “You sure about that?”
Her eyes blazed. “Positive.”
I wasn’t buying it. I cocked my head. “Because, as you love to remind me, I’m the only one around here who sees ghosts.”
I’d spent a good part of my life feeling like an outsider because of my unique ability to see and speak with the spirits of the deceased. In fact, I’d never heard of anyone in Holiday Haven or the North Pole with similar abilities… not even my sisters!
While it was a skill that came in handy at the funeral home, allowing me to pass along messages from the deceased to their loved ones, it was something I’d always felt self-conscious about. Which was due in no small part to Hayley’s constant mockery of me for it since middle school.
Ever since last Christmas, though, when my special powers had helped me solve a murder, I’d been learning to embrace my abilities. I now felt like what made me different also made me special and even more valuable to the community and people I loved.
Hayley nodded vehemently, her messy blond braid bouncing over her shoulder. “I’m positive! I know who it is too.”
Well, now she’d piqued my curiosity. I slid back into my seat. “Who?”
She leaned forward, almost halfway across the table. “My great-aunt Holly Swift.”
The piercing kettle whistle made us both jump.
“Hold on a sec.” I rose and placed Snowflake in my seat. My little fox narrowed her golden eyes and bared her teeth at Hayley, who seemed to notice her for the first time. She frowned at my familiar across the table, locked in a stare off.
I grabbed the kettle and bustled about the kitchen, brewing a pot of chamomile tea for myself and spooning some coffee into the French press for Hayley. A few minutes later, I returned to the table with two steaming mugs.
As I settled Snowflake back into my lap, Hayley frowned down at her coffee. “Is this reindeer creamer?”
Was she serious? “Nope, just regular cow creamer.”
She let out a disappointed sigh, then pushed the mug away.
Great. So glad I went to the trouble of making it. I sighed. I needed to help her figure out what was going on so I could get back to sleep.
I bit my lip and studied her. “Now, how do you know that the ghost was your great-aunt Holly?” I lifted a palm. “You sure it wasn’t just an old portrait you saw in the dark or something?”
She huffed and shot me a challenging look. “I’m sure.” She leaned back in her seat and crossed her knees. “I’ve seen pictures of her. She was like, super rich and glamorous and beautiful, and everyone says I look almost identical to her.” She flipped her braid over her shoulder. “She was even crowned Miss North Pole like sixty years ago, or something.”
I froze, icy chills dancing down my spine. Holly Swift! She must’ve been the ghost I saw in the wave pool! She and Hayley did look almost identical. I frowned, another piece sliding into place. I’d thought Holly was glaring at me, but Hayley had been standing right behind me at the time. The ghost was probably trying to get Hayley’s attention, not mine.
I raised my eyebrows. Now that was a first.
Her bravado evaporated, and she pouted. Hayley turned to me and whimpered, pitiful. “You’re the only one who knows about ghost stuff. So I came straight to you.”
I let out a heavy sigh. Oh boy. Did the baby-voiced whining act usually work for her? I waved her off, just wanting this to end.
“Okay, I do believe you.”
So strange, though, that Hayley’s ancestor would be appearing to her. Truly, I’d never heard of anyone else seeing a ghost before. In a weird way, I was kind of excited to talk to Hayley about it. I’d never spoken to anyone who understood what the experience was like. “Why now, I wonder? Any idea why she’d be haunting you?”
Hayley huffed and rolled her eyes. “No idea!” She blinked, and her expression closed off. She glanced to the side, then bit her lip.
I watched her carefully. “What is it?”
She winced. “There is this one family rumor…”
Johnson, Erin. Winter Witches of Holiday Haven Boxset Books 1-3: Rudie’s Collection (Winter Witches of Holiday Haven: Rudie’s Collection) Kindle Locations (2098-2163). Kindle Edition.
Investigation a cold case isn’t easy however, surprisingly Hayley is cooperative. Archer is very helpful with this, well at least in finding newspaper articles about Hayley’s great aunt, but he’s been acting strangely toward Rudie lately.
It’s clear right from the start that Hayley has no clue as to how to treat employees. She seems to just take what her father’s always said as the way things are supposed to be.
The Pettigrews go back generations in service with Leona the one currently working in the house barely making ends meet as she cares for both Hayley and her granddaughter Penelope. Her daughter has gone to the North Pole for work to supplement the finances.
I love the way this plays out, with the ghost of Holly Swift leading the way to Hayley’s redemption.
I do love these creative retellings of the classics. There’s suspense, laughter, tears, romance and so much more in this book.
5 Contented Purrs for Erin!
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A native of Arizona, Erin loves her new home in the Pacific Northwest! She writes paranormal cozy novels– stories that are mysterious, magical, and will hopefully make you laugh.
When not writing, she’s hiking, napping with her dogs, and losing at trivia night.
Erin’s had a ton of different jobs, from blackjack dealer to PA on a horror movie to Pilates instructor but has finally embraced her true calling as a writer. Thanks so much for your interest and for supporting her!