Twenty-seven-year-old Minnie Wells is in hot water.
First, a popular fast-fashion store down the street from the tea room in Bath, England, is burned to the ground and a dead retail worker found inside. Then, the authorities confirm the fire was arson and the young woman was murdered.
Even worse, suspicious bite marks were found on her neck. Bites marks that might’ve come from a vampire or shifter.
And since some of Minnie’s best friends at the tea room are vampires and shifters, she vows to find the killer to keep her innocent pals (and her crush) safe. Even if she’s still barely learning to use her witchy powers and already has a bit of a history with the handsome local detective.
The very same detective who’s teamed up with a brash vampire hunter, leading both of them to grow ever more suspicious of Minnie’s snooping into so many local murders. Hey–it’s not her fault if she happens to be better at putting together the clues than the local police force.
Besides, she’s got a handsome Mr. Darcy-esque vampire boss, a wise witchy mentor, and her adorable talking black cat familiar on her side. Together, they’re bound to catch the killer and arsonist–whether they be human or supernatural–and to get justice for the poor murdered girl. If only she could be so certain that her romantic feelings for her boss Fitz would lead to something more than friendship.
But when her sleuthing leads to wild a goose chase through the tunnels criss-crossing below the quaint streets of Bath, a run-in with the infamous vampire council, and local shop keeps to internet influencers with much to hide, Minnie’s in over her head.
Can Minnie tap into her witchy powers in time to catch the killer and save herself and her friends, or will this brew death and disaster?
It’s the start of a typical day form Minnie, until it isn’t. She’s looking at the tea leaves in the dregs of her tea cup and then she’s transported into a vision. Flames, the Tea Room sign, a red glow and a vampire hunter. The ominous feeling has her bargaining with Tilda to wait for her breakfast and get to the tearoom as fast as she can.
The fire thankfully wasn’t at the tearoom but rather down the street in a newly renovated and just opened store front. She sees Fitz in the crowd and is relieved he’s okay. They are preparing to detour around to get to the tearoom when they see a body being brought out of the building.
Not wanting to stay around any longer Fitz and Minnie start toward the tearoom only to be stopped by DI O’Brian. He doesn’t like Minnie and doesn’t bother to hide his feelings. He’s accompanied by DI Prescott who once had a date with Minnie, but it didn’t work out between them. With Fitz’s vampire hearing she already knew the victim’s name and that arson was suspected. She just couldn’t let on she knows.
It’s more the presence of the hunter that has her concerned, as the building is too close to the tearoom and Fitz. She also warns Leo so he can let his family know and gets invited to his family’s mid-winter gathering. But for now, it’s business as usual for the tearoom although with an early close to cater High Tea for the Bath Preservation Society.
Cho forgot to lock the door and Zoe from All Wool and Good comes in for coffee and a scone. Minnie fills the order quickly, but the conversation takes an awkward twist when Zoe mentions having a fire sale. She backtracks quickly when she realizes how insensitive that sounds especially since she’s not a fan of B&C and their clothing line. She does concede to change the name of the sale to something less offensive and encourages Minnie to stop by.
Now the High Tea is an interesting affair, with many prominent business owners present, including the owner of the building where the fire occurred. He seemed more concerned about getting his insurance money than the young woman who died in the fire.
Now Minnie has two suspects right off the bat, Zoe and Wesley Spaulding. Then Calvin shows her a viral video of an influencer Freddie Fowler causing a scene at the store with Aniya complete with threats. At the shifter party she’s expands her list adding one of Aniya’s coworkers to the list, Alfie Sallow was stalking Aniya yet the manager wouldn’t even change her shifts around to help protect her. Instead of this list getting smaller it seems to be growing exponentially.
While working on expanding the distance in communicating with Tilda, Minnie runs into the hunter. He formally introduces himself as Kurt Alpenjager and it seems he wants her to move away even though he’s the outsider here. He’s not even clear about why.
It’s not until Gus and Fitz do some inquiring of their own and a little break in that she finds Aniya Brown had bite marks on her neck. That says vampire, and that’s why the hunter was hanging around.
Once again Minnie ends up going to a council meeting.
“Thank you for accepting our invitation, Miss Wells. Quite the little sleuth, aren’t you, witch? We were hoping you might have information for us.”
At least someone had called me a sleuth instead of a snoop. Of course it had to be Darius, though. Fitz stiffened, looking not at all pleased that Darius wanted me involved in the situation.
One of the council members, a little girl in a frilly blue dress, tapped her tiny foot and huffed. “I’m bored.”
Darius cast a cursory glance her way, then addressed the crowd as a whole. “Quite right, Millie. Let us get to the point of this emergency meeting.”
Interesting. Gus and Fitz had just told me that it was forbidden to make child vampires. How had Millie not only survived, but come to be part of the council?
Darius’s deep, commanding voice boomed over the crowd. “One of our own, Alfie Sallow, is believed to be responsible for the public murder of a young human woman. He savagely ripped out her throat, then burned down the B&C building to cover his crimes.”
A buff male vampire called out, “Alfie? He was behind it?”
Darius gave a solemn nod, and frightened murmuring broke out among the crowd.
A pale man dressed in black velvet coattails stepped forward from the shadows behind the council and shouted, “Order! Order, I saaaay!”
I covered my mouth to keep from snickering. This guy was here the last time, too, and his oddly high voice rose a pitch with every other syllable. It was difficult not to giggle.
The vampires quieted and turned their attention back to Darius and the rest of the council who stood before us, as the courtier disappeared back into the shadows.
“This obviously puts our very existence here in Bath in grave jeopardy.” Darius shook his head, his brows pinched as if quite distraught. “This one vampire’s dastardly acts may very well expose us all and lead to being hunted to death—to destruction and chaos!”
Gasps sounded out and Lady Cordelia, a gorgeous redhead whose age I couldn’t guess, lifted her chin, eyes blazing. She turned to the other members of the council. “Alfie Sallow must be punished.” She slammed a fist into her open palm.
Yikes. From the murderous glint in her beautiful eyes, I wouldn’t want to be Alfie right about now. The retribution from his own community was going to be much worse than anything the human police could do to him.
Darius splayed his pale palms. “And he shall be punished… if he can be found.”
“What? He’s missing?” someone shouted.
“I’ll find him,” a woman cried.
The tall, dark gray-skinned gentleman in a neon green tracksuit who stood between Darius and Lady Cordelia looked between them, his hands raised. “Hold on. Before we grab our pitchforks, do we know for certain this Alfie guy is responsible?”
I raised my brows. This was the first indication that the entire council might not be on the same page.
Darius pressed his lips together, a flash of anger passing across his eyes, before he regained his smooth composure. “’Tis a fair question.” He turned to face me. “Perhaps our detective witch could enlighten you on the case, Marcel.”
Marcel pulled his dark sunglasses (why would he wear them at night?) on top of his bald head and crossed his arms. He raised a challenging brow at me, and I cleared my throat.
I didn’t tend to agree with Darius on much (he’d basically forced Fitz to serve him for decades, so I wasn’t a fan) but I had to agree with him about Alfie. Gus gave my shoulders another encouraging squeeze, and I raised my voice to be heard by all.
“Alfie Sallow, who appeared to be a teenager, worked alongside Aniya Brown at B&C, a popular human clothing store. She complained to friends and supervisors that he was stalking her and making her uncomfortable. He appeared to be obsessed with her.” I swallowed. “The night of the fire, a witness saw someone who matched Alfie’s description, fleeing from the scene of the crime.” I shrugged. “The witness is a known drunk and no one was captured on camera, but… Alfie certainly seems to be our most likely suspect.”
The crowd murmured, a new current of anger spreading.
“He’s endangered all of us!”
“I have a life here! I can’t just pack up and flee!”
“He deserves to be staked!”
Darius gave me an approving, cruel smile, and I shuddered. I’d told the truth, but I couldn’t help feeling dirty, like I’d played right into Darius’s plans.
The head of the council spread his arms wide again, drawing everyone’s attention. “You see how the seeds of chaos have been planted. And we still have a vampire hunter roaming our streets, ready to attack. We need order!”
Fitz huffed and muttered, “And here it is.”
Darius’s eyes blazed. “Anyone who knows about this vampire’s whereabouts must come forward. We shall also be organizing search parties for Alfie Sallow.” He nodded thoughtfully. “In the meantime, it may be prudent to consider bringing everyone back into the nest… for the safety and good of all.”
My breath caught. I now understood Fitz’s comment. Darius was using the situation to further his agenda. Fitz had barely escaped Darius’s iron grip and had lived in the nest for decades. How much more power would Darius have if he managed to get all the vampires of Bath under his roof—and control?
Marcel, in the bright green tracksuit, looked less enthusiastic about the plan. “I’m not sure it’s come to that yet.” His deep, James Earl Jones type voice, held a heavy note of skepticism.
Millie stomped her little foot. “Yeah. I don’t want to have to share with roommates.”
Lady Cordelia and Balthazar, a white-haired vampire, held their tongues.
Darius looked to his left and right at the line of council members and nodded, his tone placating. “Oh, I agree. We aren’t quite there… yet. But I want it known that my gate and doors are open to any vampire seeking safety and security while we hunt down this rogue vampire.” He smiled in a way that didn’t reach his eyes. “You’re all welcome under my wing, my children.”
I chilled. Earlier, he’d called them brethren—now they were his children? This dude was making a not-so-subtle power play. I glanced at the vampires around me. Many were nodding and hugging themselves, murmuring their worries about being hunted. It appeared that in many ways, Darius’s plan was working.
“In the meantime,” Marcel interjected. “Let us focus on finding Alfie Sallow and bringing him to vampire justice.”
Hissing filled the air. This, all the vampires could agree on. I would not want to be Alfie right about now.
Soon after, the council meeting wrapped up and most of the vamps took to bat form, winging off into the dark skies. Fitz, Gus, and I opted to stroll the short distance back to Gus’s townhome. Though it was way past my bedtime, my mind raced and my body buzzed with nerves.
Johnson, Erin. Steeping Secrets: The Magical Tea Room Mysteries. Kindle Locations (1682-1738). Kindle Edition.
Gus and Fitz are going to team up to search for Alfie, and Minnie comes up with some ideas on how to find him. But it’s Fitz who remembers the tunnels and they find him but don’t do anything right away.
Things get all kinds of twisty as this story unfolds, I couldn’t tell what was going to happen next. Of course, it’s Minnie who does solve it but I won’t say how or whodunnit.
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!