USA Today Bestselling Author
Accepting my new gig could be my doom…
After fifteen years of marriage, I catch my husband cheating on me. What do I do? I laugh, which probably wasn’t the reaction he expected. And then I laughed some more. So, when a job comes my way from The Twilight Hotel—a paranormal hotel in midtown Manhattan that serves as a sanctuary and residence—I take it.
Cue in tattooed, sexy as sin, grumpy restaurant owner Valen, who can’t do drama or high-maintenance women. The problem? He’s cruel and dangerous. And he’s hiding something.
Rumors arise of a dark spell that would mean the hotel’s closure, and I don’t know who I can trust. Do I have what it takes to fight this new evil? We’ll see. Brace yourselves. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
This book opens as Leana walks in on her cheating husband. It’s the last straw for her and she announces that she’s a witch, throws a bit of revenge, packs up her bags and as she’s leaving, he threatens her life.
Leana is a Merlin (Magical Enforcement Response League Intelligence Network) as such she has just received a job offer from the Twilight Hotel. The hotel is exclusive to all paranormal beings and can only be seen by them.
After literally running into a rude, hot, and growly werewolf, she arrives at her destination. The hotel has a gothic look that makes you think of Dracula. It shimmers with the glamour that keeps humans out, you also enter through a powerful protective ward which impress Leana. She certainly doesn’t expect the hostility she gets from the concierge as she tries to keep her appointment. Just as the concierge is about to throw her out the manager Basil Hickinbottom interrupts. With no other than a brief introduction he announces she’s hired. Since she’s not said a word yet, she asks for more specifics.
There have been two murders a week apart, he needs her to investigate and find the murderer as quickly as possible. Basil is desperate to keep all this away from the guests. Leana takes the files, asks about salary, and also about a room in the hotel before accepting the job.
She actually gets an apartment on the thirteenth floor which is convenient, as Basil gives her the keys, she accepts the position and Basil informs her they just found another body.
As she begins her investigation of the latest victim, she’s interrupted by Julian and then Elsa both residents of the hotel. It’s Elsa who informs her the victim Eddie Franky is the Merlin who was investigating the murders. Seems Basil left that fact out of the information he gave her. When another resident Jade shows up they drag her to the restaurant next to the hotel even before she can drop off her bag.
As they start discussing the case, the last person she expected to see arrives at their table with a bottle of wine. It seems the grumpy guy she ran into earlier is Valen, the owner of the restaurant and no one knows what kind of shifter he is.
Even after that encounter Leana can’t escape the residents as more of them invade her apartment. It’s late when they finally leave, and she can get some rest.
The way she’s woken the next morning is quite the surprise.
This is a favorite scene.
I didn’t know how long I lay in bed, refusing to open my eyes. I knew once I did, it would mean I was awake. My head throbbed like I had miniature jackhammers smashing against my skull.
I felt a sudden pressure on my chest.Martin.
Martin was trying to choke me again. It wasn’t the first time I’d woken to him with his hands wrapped around my neck, his idea of fun sex. He’d nearly killed me the last time, and I’d had a ring of nasty bruises around my neck to prove it. Enough was enough.
“Martin, stop!” My eyes flashed open in a jerk of adrenaline, and my breath came fast.
A wooden dog’s face was staring at me. And when I say staring, I mean its eyes blinked.
“Ah!” I screamed, scrambled back, slipped, and fell hard on the carpet. When my head hit the side table, all fragments of sleep fell away. My husband—soon-to-be ex-husband—wasn’t here. The room was different. The smells. And then it hit me. I wasn’t in my old apartment. I was in the Twilight Hotel.
The toy dog rolled to the side of the bed. Its eyes blinked again as it stared down at me. “That’s going to leave a nasty bump.” Holy shit. The toy could speak!
“Definitely had way too much to drink last night,” I grumbled, blinking the sleep fuzz from my eyes.
“I’ll say,” said the toy dog, its voice strangely human and male. Its painted eyebrows twisted in a bemused expression. “You snore like a trucker in your sleep.”
Okay. Now I was freaking out.
I sat up in a flash, my heart thumping in my throat and trying to squeeze through my teeth. The toy looked like a beige beagle with dark spots covering its back. Instead of legs, it had four red wheels, a metal spring tail, droopy wooden ears, a head that rotated on a metal joint, and a moveable jaw, like a ventriloquist puppet, which I suspected enabled it to speak. To speak!
This was definitely not a dream. The toy dog was real. It was male. And it was in my room.
“Who are you, and what the hell are you doing in my room?” I clasped my arms around myself, content I had a T-shirt on and wasn’t naked. That would have been much worse. Still pretty creepy to wake up to a magical toy staring me in the face.
The toy dog wagged its tail. “The name’s Jimmy.”
I frowned at the toy. My pounding headache etched around the backs of my eyes and made its way to my eyebrows. “What the hell do you want?”
The wooden dog blinked. “I came to see you, of course. The hotel’s buzzing with news of the new Merlin. I needed to see you with my own eyes.”
I didn’t sense any dark, magical energies coming off the toy, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t sent by the ghost or whoever had murdered those people. “Do you belong to one of the kids?”
The dog’s ears swung back. “I don’t belong to anyone. I’m not a toy.” “You sure look like one.”
Toy dog Jimmy’s eyes narrowed. “I wasn’t always like this. I was once a man, you know.”
“That’s even creepier.”
Jimmy watched me a moment, and then he sprang off my bed and rolled out of my bedroom. “Get dressed. We’ve got work to do,” he called back.
“Excuse you?” Part of me wished I was still sleeping, but I found myself getting up and locking myself in the bathroom. I didn’t trust the damn toy.
After a shower, I pulled on a pair of dark jeans and a T-shirt before grabbing the bottle of Tylenol from my bag and walking into the living room. The air smelled of fresh coffee, and I found Jimmy on the counter next to the coffee maker.
“You don’t have legs,” I told him, wondering how the hell he got up there and then made coffee.
“How observant of you,” snapped the toy dog. “Did anyone ever tell you how grumpy you are in the morning?”
“Yeah. My husband.” I moved to the coffee maker and poured myself a cup. “How did you get on the counter?” And my bed, for that matter. Even more disturbing was that he’d made coffee without hands.
Jimmy swung his ears forward. “Magic.”
“Funny.” I downed two Tylenols with a sip of coffee. “You said you used to be a man. What’s your story? Cursed?” I’d heard of people being trapped in animals before, but a toy dog was a first.
Jimmy’s tail lowered. “I was thirty-seven, in my prime, when the sorceress cursed me. She loved me, see, but I didn’t love her back. So, she decided if she couldn’t have me…”
“No one else would.” Damn. Poor bastard. “How long ago was this?” “Nineteen fifty-four.”
I choked on my coffee. “Damn. That would mean you’ve been inside that toy for…”
Jimmy sighed. “A very long time.”
Okay. That did change things a bit. I couldn’t imagine being stuck inside a toy for that many years. Here I thought I was in hell, stuck with my husband for the last few years of our marriage. This was a lot worse.
“Has no one ever tried to break the curse?”
“Many have tried, and they’ve all failed. It’s fine. I’ve accepted my fate. This is who I was supposed to be.”
The dog frowned with his painted eyebrows, which was really trippy. “A helper. A guide. I help people.”
“Hmmm.” I took another gulp of coffee and finished my cup. “Elsa asked me to help you with your investigation,” said the toy dog. “She’s at her sister’s place in Brooklyn, weeding her garden. Her sister has a bad case of arthritis.”
“I usually work alone,” I told him, though a guide or guide dog sounded pretty helpful since I still was new to the hotel and didn’t know where everything was. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.
“Not anymore. Well, at least not while you’re staying at the hotel. Your business is everyone’s business.”
“I noticed.” Last night was an awakening. I set my empty cup on the counter next to Jimmy. “Did you help the last Merlin?”
“Eddie?” said the toy dog, his metal spring tail wagging. “I did. Good lad. Decent witch.”
That was good news. “Do you know what he discovered? He found something out, and it got him killed. I’m sure of it.” That was the only logical explanation.
“Well,” said the dog as he rolled back in what I imagined was his attempt to sit. “I remember him saying that there was no connection between the two victims, excluding him, of course. And that the killer, or killers, killed only at night and somehow were able to move through walls.”
“Move through walls?”
I raised a brow. “You’ve been talking to Elsa.”
The dog dipped his head. “It’s the only thing that makes sense. We can see the victims entering their rooms. Only them. And then the maids finding them in the morning.”
It was Elsa’s theory. But I didn’t buy it. “I’d like to see that footage. I’ll ask Basil to show me.”
“Eddie has copies on his laptop,” said the toy dog. “He showed me.”
“You know where the laptop is now?” I didn’t remember seeing a laptop in the room. If I had, I would have grabbed it.
The toy dog nodded. “Yes. I’m betting it’s still there. The maids haven’t touched the room yet. They’re afraid the ghost will kill them if they come inside the room.”
“So much for keeping this discreet.” If one of the maids had found the body of poor Eddie, I was sure the entire hotel staff knew by now. It wouldn’t be long before the guests knew as well. But a laptop with notes from the previous Merlin was golden. It meant I would know what Eddie knew before he was killed.
It also meant I would be a target. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“You’re a Dark witch. Aren’t you?” asked the toy dog after a moment. “You channel your magic through demons? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But are you?”
I looked away from the toy dog. It was too early in the morning for that conversation, and the Tylenol hadn’t kicked in yet. “I’m a witch. Let’s just keep it at that.”
The toy dog’s ears swiveled forward. “Fine. Keep your secrets. It’ll come out eventually.”
Richardson, Kim. The Starlight Witch (Witches of New York Book 1). Kindle Locations (599-661). Kindle Edition.
The residents of the hotel are just as interesting as the employees and the murders. They are fun and nosey but Jimmy who has been trapped as a toy dog for a long time is by far my favorite character and he’s very helpful in this case. I also finally start to like Valen as well as this mystery unwinds.
There are more than a few twists and turns in this book. From Rifts opening letting in demons, to sorceresses to corrupt council members this book will keep you on your toes until the very end.
5 Contented Purrs for Kim!
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Kim Richardson is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of urban fantasy, fantasy, and young adult books. She lives in the eastern part of Canada with her husband, two dogs and a very old cat. Kim’s books are available in print editions, and translations are available in over 7 languages.