Title: Sugar and Ice
Series: Kitten and Blonde, Book 1.5
Author: Eule Grey
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 11/21/2023
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Holiday Paranormal, Contemporary, paranormal, lesbian, British/Yorkshire, holiday/Christmas, news bloggers, mystery, witch, ghost hijinks, bakers, holiday baking, humorous, over forty, disability-confident, neurodivergence
Sugar, ice, and bumps in the night…
After a thrilling year of ghost-whispering, monster-chasing, and blogging for the Echo, Mave Kitten is keen to abandon her witchy hat for a well-earned break. Snowflakes are drifting in; the office is stuffed with fruit cake. How to win the pub karaoke without cheating (too much) is all that’s left to worry about.
Aside from fiddling the office’s debts and choosing a suitable karaoke costume, Lisa Blonde is also ready for the party season, not forgetting a crate of beer. As long as Mave’s happy, Lisa’s happy.
But best-laid plans can come unstuck for witches and their leather-clad familiars. The ghost of Jacky Frost blows in with the snow, demanding a playmate. How can Mave and Lisa say no to the dancing queen of ice? Even ghosts deserve a Christmas.
The playful ice queen goes viral, and the Echo unexpectedly gains hundreds of readers. Only a few gremlins remain: What of the Echo’s overdraft? Who’ll win the karaoke? Where’s Lisa’s motorcycle?
Kitten and Blonde: Holiday Baking Hijinks Mostly Paranormal. Sometimes alien. Always gentle.
Sugar and Ice
Eule Grey © 2023
All Rights Reserved
The first fluffy snowflakes floated past the office window on Friday afternoon three weeks before Christmas. Mesmerised by crystalline sugar bombs descending in battalions of tiny white parachutes, bursting with glee, I hurried to the window.
“Eeeeee. Ooooo. Snowwwww.”
The weightless descent of the snowflakes eased the tension gnarling up my muscles. My shoulders—hunched past my ears from stress—relaxed for the first time in months.
I’d always loved the snow and everything it brought. Frozen puddles, frost-stiffened leaves, snow angels, death-defying sledges, snowball fights, hot chocolates heaped with marshmallows, and sweet kiddie choirs.
During the annual festivities the Echo was due to close for two weeks, and I couldn’t wait. Everyone was reeling from a long and arduous year, including yours truly. Fifteen hauntings, two monster searches, an alien brothel, and a tryst with the lizard lady of Ladybower Reservoir had fallen into my pile of to-dos during the last twelve months. Consequently, I was ready to hang up my witch toolkit for a few days of well-earned rest.
“Oo, Lise, look!”
The boss held up one finger, rigid with tension. “Two minutes.”
I held my breath.
The root of our anxiety was the financial report Lisa had all but completed. Compiling the lengthy document had taken months of work and required much patience from each member of the Echo’s employees—me, Lisa, and Penelope.
Our workforce enjoyed an equal distribution of labour. My contribution had been to make tea and to keep the biscuit jar filled to bursting. Lisa’s had been to manipulate monetary figures through a sweary haze, one eye closed. Penelope snoozed, paws in the air, perhaps dreaming of overdrafts.
Finally, at three anxious minutes to two, Lisa furiously poked one finger against her keyboard before heaving an expansive sigh that probably reached the northern pole. “Finished. Delivered. I doubt we’ll still be in business by Easter.” She pulled her Medusa face and made the slit throat gesture. “Accountants, ugh. Why must they be puritanical about zeros? It wasn’t like I meant to mix up the thousands with the tens.”
I was too relieved to listen well. The report had been on my mind since autumn when the accountant had unexpectedly appeared, brandishing threats of closure. Now it was finished, my brain demanded a rest. “Mm. Easily done. Well done, babe.”
It had been fifteen months since my employment commenced at the Echo. A day hadn’t passed without Lisa proclaiming the tiny newspaper where we worked debt-ridden and doomed. And yet, the journal continued churning out local stories and offering a home to our resident kitty, Penelope Sardine. Somehow, we three made the Echo work. My blogs about the paranormal and Lisa’s ‘cunning’ grant proposals brought in enough revenue to continue another month and then another, even if our wages had plummeted to the frugal depths of bugger all. With all of my heart, I trusted Lisa to secure the necessary dosh—she was leather-clad, six feet tall, and oozing with grr.
There were other concerns to think about. Lisa’s Christmas present, Dad’s arthritis, and—elixir of life—the fast-approaching Christmas karaoke showdown at The Grouse. Lisa and I had won the big prize back at Easter but later lost the Halloween crown to the vampire sisters of Whitby. Heck, I was bitter. A free tankard of Witches Tipple ale was not to be belittled. With finances tricky, any win was a grin, especially when accompanied by thunderous cheering. Even the pub gremlin, Pat, had admitted our rendition of “Bat out of Hell” had been impactful enough to shatter glass, though the stingy bastard hadn’t said we were good. Huh.
A firm grip on my shoulders saved me from the murky world of memories and brought me back into the office. I loved Lisa’s shoulder massages, often coinciding with a wee cuddle.
She pushed aside my hair and tickled my neck. “I’m on edge now. What’re you dreaming about, Mauvery? Is it me?”
I answered honestly; my voice turned mushy from the intimate pressure of her hands against my skin and the subsequent promise of spending the night at hers. “Always.” Lisa filled most of my waking hours and most of my sleeping time. “Forget about the report. It’s done, and there’s nothing more we can do. What are we going to sing at the karaoke? Only three weeks till the big day.” I couldn’t help a soupçon of yippee from entering my voice. “We’d better get cracking with rehearsals if we’re going to beat the fanged sisters.”
She nibbled my neck. “True. Did you know you taste of gingerbread?”
We hugged into Friday afternoon, a cherished time to forget niggly worries and welcome in the heady pleasures of pub singing. Lisa and I adored karaoke. Our weekly practice precipitated a wealth of welcome shenanigans, such as snogging and boogie-boogie. Both were vital components of a healthy life.
As Lisa’s nibbles reached the point of no return, more substantial snowflakes floated down in ever-increasing battalions.
I waved my pen towards the window. “Have you seen the forecast?” Because we both biked to work, we scrutinised the weather like meteorologists. A patch of black ice could potentially mean a broken wheel or worse. In our mountainous part of the north, snow could mean a total shutdown of roads and passes. At the first hint of snow, Yorkshire folk took up arms. Bus drivers refused to leave the depot, trains remained safely at stations, and workers hurtled through the white to get home however they could.
I wasn’t worried about a little white stuff. Lisa would take care of things, and her cottage was only a few miles from the Echo. We could walk to hers during heavy snowfall and snuggle up with Tom, her younger brother, for the weekend.
She blew a raspberry on my neck. “Meant to be a flutter today and then nothing till next week. The gritters have been out. He’s a devil in disguise.”
My poor brain—scatty at times—struggled to follow the conversational thread from ice into devils. I naturally assumed the devil to whom she referred was the accountant who’d chastised Lisa for glossing over the size of the Echo’s overdraft. “Disguised as what?”
Lisa perched her lovely self on the only posh stool we possessed—pink, transparent, bought from Salts Mill, no less—and squinted into the snowflakes gathering on the window ledge. “Oh? I never thought of costumes.” An irresistible energy lit her face. She rubbed her hands together gleefully. “Now you’re talking! We’d need wigs, and you could get away with a sexy white suit.” She flashed her molars. “The vampire sirens won’t stand a chance. You’re a genius, Mauve Mave.”
By then, I’d exited the arena of confusion and skidded right into the land of clueless. The only answer written on Lisa’s face was a glowing excitement you didn’t see enough of anymore. People were more often pinched about money and how to heat the house. The pursuit of fun for no other reason than its own sake seemed to have passed into yesterday, along with other stalwarts such as yo-yos.
I willingly dived into the glee shining from her eyes. Weary of the stresses and strains of life, I, too, ached to forget about adulthood, if only for a while. To live within a moment rather than being hammered by the past and the future.
So I agreed to her suggestions though I had no clue what she was on about. “Yeah! Wig and white suit.”
Lisa leaped to her feet and punched the air energetically. Her top rode up to reveal a very kissable belly button. The spectacle was marvellous, and I’d rather have turned into a toad than crush her enthusiasm. Hence my mini Friday dance. In the heady chaos, I clean forgot to worry about the dreaded report or if we’d have a job come January.
Just as a sprinkle of pure magic illuminated the afternoon, Lisa had to throw a figurative spanner into my happy cauldron. In a sexy, lasso-like action, she deftly threw me my coat.
“C’mon, chick. We’ve done enough work for one day. Let’s visit Jalila. There’s something you need to see. The roads are meant to be okay until Sunday. If we run, we’ll catch the twenty-past bus.
Meet the Author
Eule Grey has settled, for now, in the north UK. She’s worked in education, justice, youth work, and even tried her hand at butter-spreading in a sandwich factory. Sadly, she wasn’t much good at any of them!
She writes novels, novellas, poetry, and a messy combination of all three. Nothing about Eule is tidy but she rocks a boogie on a Saturday night!
For now, Eule is she/her or they/them. Eule has not yet arrived at a pronoun that feels right.
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