Bidding War Break-In A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Bidding War Break-In A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery


When Bramblett County Realtor Lily Sprayberry puts her deceased client’s townhome, the last in a sought after mixed-use development community, on the market, she winds up in the throes of a bidding war.

Knowing a portion of the money will go to a scholarship in her client’s name, Lily schedules a realtor only open house to raise the bids even higher. But on the day of the event, she discovers the home’s been vandalized, and every potential offer is taken off the table.

Someone is out to stop the sale, and ruin Lily in the process.

With her reputation hanging by a thread and the community up in arms, Lily sets out to fix things, and lands right in the middle of a hot mess of vandalism, lies, theft, and cheating. Lily soon discovers that some people don’t want their secrets known, and they’ll do whatever it takes to keep them under wraps.

Available on Amazon.

Read Chapter One of Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Read Chapter One of Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery










Signed, Sealed and Dead

A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Chapter One


Small town folk don’t always take care of their own.

“It’s perfect.”

I swiveled my head toward my best friend and business partner, Belle Pyott. “What—oh, my gosh. It is.” I gawked at the large, framed painting. “Carter would love this.”

“Uh, obviously. Why do you think I’m putting a hold tag on it?” She stuck a pink sticky note on it with a hold for Belle Pyottlabel already applied to it.

“How many of those did you make?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe fifty or two hundred?”

“Bless your heart, you’re so cheap.”

“I prefer to think of it as thrifty.” She wiggled her head. “Or efficient. Yes, efficient.”

“Belle, the community sale hasn’t even started yet. Technically, we’re supposed to be making sure everything is ready to go, not shopping, and you’ve stuck, what, at least ten of those sticky notes on items already? That’s cheating.”

She stuck another one on a gray pillow with white script that read, Welcome Home. “It’s more like seventeen, and it’s not cheating, it’s supporting a good cause.”

“You have a problem.”

“If we end up buying a flip, we’re going to need things to stage the place anyway, so consider this a business opportunity.”

She did have a point, but I wasn’t going to give her credit for it. We’d been discussing the possibility of purchasing a house and flipping it, but it was just a discussion, nothing serious, to me at least, so snatching up décor at the community sale and fundraiser for the Bramblett County High School sports programs for possible staging was a reach, and a big one at that.

I chastised myself for searching the rest of the items in that particular section for the flip after she mentioned it, but I couldn’t help myself and continued doing it anyway. I found myself scanning over the other over-sized portrait and wondering if Carter would like one of Michael Jordan, too. I ran my finger across a wooden vase, fought the urge to pick it up and lost.

The chips on the top made me wonder about its story. How old was it, and what hidden secrets did it hold? Who’d first bought it, or was it ever even bought? I flipped it over and read the small engraving on the bottom. Handmade by JC. Who was JC? A professional vase maker, maybe, or perhaps just someone who’d lived in Bramblett or nearby and made vases for a hobby? The wood was white hickory, that much I knew. I’d spent years sitting on my front porch whittling the stuff with my father and brothers, so I’d recognized it immediately. I glided my hand along the smooth surface, wondering who had touched it before me, what their lives were like, who they loved, what had mattered to them.

So much had happened recently, and it had touched my heart in such a profound way, I’d changed, or at least, I felt as though I had. And that little vase represented something more significant to me than just a knick knack. It was a piece of someone’s life, their history, maybe even their soul, yet there it sat, in the Bramblett County High School gymnasium on a cold and rainy Saturday morning along with thousands of other items, ready to be sold to a stranger, for a measly two bucks.

“Hey, may I have one of your stickers, please?”

Belle chuckled. “I knew it.”

I didn’t argue. I placed the sticky note on the vase. I didn’t want or feel the need to explain that I wasn’t saving the vase because of a possible house flip, but for myself, because I felt a need to save the vase to retain its integrity and value, to appreciate its history. I couldn’t quite make sense of it myself, so how could I explain it to Belle? Instead, I smiled, and let her think she was right. “Hey, I’m going to go find Carter and let him know about the painting. I’d rather not keep it on hold if he doesn’t want it. It’s a big ticket item.”

The painting, one of the football greats, Walter Payton, was a dark wood framed thirty by forty inch of his upper body, mostly his head and shoulders, but with his trademark number, 34, well displayed on the side of his shoulder. Even though I was born and raised in Georgia, and my loyalty was to the University of Georgia Bulldogs, I didn’t dislike professional football, but I didn’t much care about it either way. I understood the impact of the late Walter Payton, though, and how people from all parts of the country loved him.

Carter Trammell was a recent real estate client and a new friend for both Belle and me. He’d moved from Chicago and into one of the recently built condos on the old Redbecker property a month before taking a position at the high school as both a teacher and the new head of the lacrosse program. The position also included the varsity head coach position, which, from what I’d heard, was a big deal.

Lacrosse was a growing sport in the South, and highly competitive from what he’d said, and the school paid a lot of money to bring on a coach with actual playing experience. Mike Longley, the previous coach, and the assistant varsity football coach, had his knickers in a knot because of it, too. At least that’s what I’d learned through the grapevine, and by grapevine, I meant the local gossip shop, Millie’s Café, and the head gossip herself, Millie, the café owner.

One didn’t have to be the county sheriff to find out relevant information in a small town, or like me, date one either, at least not in Bramblett County, Georgia. In Bramblett County, Georgia, when someone needed to know something, they just had to grab a cup of coffee or an iced tea and a freshly made scone and chat up Millie, and they’d get an earful of the who’s who and the what’s what.

And that was that.

But a word to the wise, don’t ever call Millie a gossip, not if you ever planned on sticking around town. Crossing Millie was like crossing a railroad track when two trains were heading toward each other, and standing there like a deer blinded by headlights. You just had to be crazy to do it.

The school principal stopped me on my way to Carter’s office. “Hey, Lilybit, how’re things shaping up?

Everyone in town that knew me growing up called me Lilybit. I wasn’t a fan, but I’d learned to deal with it. My brothers had started it, and though most people thought of it as a term of endearment, I’d considered it more of a, look there’s little Lily who’s still a kid and hasn’t grown up, kind of thing. I was almost twenty-seven, owned my own real estate business, and I had worked hard to establish myself as a professional in the community. Being called Lilybit seemed so unprofessional. It yanked my cord at times, but I did my best to let it go. “Looking great, sir. We should be ready when the doors open.” I checked my iWatch. “In twenty-two minutes.” I wave of panic rushed through me, though there was no reason for it. The event was set. I’d been a part of this for three years in a row already, and it had been going on for as long as I could remember before that. It would be fine, and I knew that. “Have you seen Coach Trammell? I wanted to run something by him.”

“Not recently, but I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. Have you checked his office?”

“On my way there now, thanks.”

The high school was one of the older buildings in the county, but with the recent growth in suburban Atlanta and the surrounding counties, Bramblett had seen a surge in new residents, too. Our small county had a twelve percent population increase over the past year, which of course, was great for businesses, including real estate, but change didn’t come easily to the people of my small community. One of the benefits, though, was the planned and already completed upgrades to the high school.

I walked through the backside of the gymnasium and straightened my shoulders as a feeling of Bramblett County Bulldog pride came over me as it always had when I saw the hard work of the Bulldog athletes that came before and followed after me displayed on the gym walls. The rows of regional and state championship banners for basketball and cheerleading hanging from the white and red painted cinder block walls showed true sportsmanship and dedication.

A nightmarish image of my sweaty gym uniform, the one our evil gym teacher, Mrs. Settles, God rest her soul, picked out, came rushing back to me. I despised that thing. Somewhere in her late sixties when I was a freshman, and entirely out of sync with anything in fashion, Mrs. Settles fought for the old-school gym uniforms and won. I spent my freshman year in a one piece jumper style, zip up gym uniform with horizontal stripes. Our particular colors were light blue and white, but Mrs. Settles called it sky blue, like the crayon, as if that made it any less horrifying. My mother, for reasons I’d yet to understand, had saved her gym uniform and had we been the same size, would have offered hers because it was the same exact one.

The exact same one.

Bad gym uniform fashion aside, I’d had such fun there with my friends cheering on the basketball teams and being a part of pep rallies for the football teams. Mostly, I cheered for my boyfriend, Dylan Roberts, who, as fate would have it, was my significant other again, too.

I found Carter next to the front side of the bleachers in a somewhat heated conversation with Ginnie Slappey, the lacrosse booster club president. They stood face to face, barely inches apart, so I scooted off to the side and did what any polite person would do; I gave them a moment to finish their conversation.

Carter whispered, but his tone was forceful, and I watched the veins in his neck bulge. “You fix it, or I’m going to the principal.”

Ginnie touched the finger where her wedding ring should have been but wasn’t. She must have forgotten to put it on that morning because if her marriage had hit a tough spot, the rumor mill would have already processed that tasty bit of information and spit it out within seconds of it happening. The skin around her eyes tightened, and I knew then something was up. She hadn’t just forgotten her ring. How she’d kept that secret must have taken a miracle. “I just need a little more time to take care of a few things, Coach. Please.”

“Two days, Ginnie. You hear me? Two days.”

I didn’t want to just walk up unnoticed, so I coughed as I stepped out from behind the bleachers. The two of them separated as I approached, and both smiled like they’d been best friends for years. “Hey Carter, Belle found this great painting of Walter Payton. It’s pretty big, but we thought it would be perfect for your family room wall. Do you want to come take a look?”

His eyes shifted to Ginnie’s. He spoke to me, but clearly, he was talking to her. “Sure. We’re done here.”

“But Carter, we still need to talk about—”

“I said we’re done here.”

Ginnie nodded, and as she walked away, I couldn’t help but wonder what their argument was about. We walked back to the community sale and the table with the painting, chatting along the way. “Everything going okay with the new job?” It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to be nosy.

He nodded. “So far, so good. Can’t officially start coaching just yet, but I do have the team coming in for workouts in the mornings a few times a week, and I’m observing their box lacrosse games, so I’ve got an idea of their strengths.”

“Box lacrosse?” Lacrosse was utterly foreign to me. Back in my day—that wasn’t something I was accustomed to saying since I hadn’t yet reached thirty—lacrosse wasn’t a school sport, or even one played anywhere in the South as far as I knew.

“Indoor lacrosse. It’s basically the same but still a bit different than field lacrosse.” He sort of smiled, but more to himself. “So, really, it’s not the same, but it’s the same concept.” He laughed. “You just have to know the sport to get it.”

I nodded. “Ah, got it. I guess. Maybe.”

“You really don’t know anything about lacrosse, do you?”

“Not a thing.”

“Why don’t you come to a game? We’ve got one this evening. It’s fun to watch. I promise you’ll love it.”

His face lit up when he saw the painting. “Is that it?”

I nodded. “Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect.” He flipped over the tag and grimaced. “Ouch. That’s a lot on a teacher’s salary.”

“Don’t sweat it. Belle is a wiz at negotiating at these things. Trust me.”

He tapped the pink sticky note. “She’s already got it saved. Is that for me?”

I nodded. “I’ll let her know you want it. What’s the minimum you’ll pay?”

He shrugged. “It’s for a good cause, and you did get me a good price on the condo.” He rubbed his stubble-free chin. “You know what? I’ll pay the seventy-five.” He patted his flat stomach. “I can afford to go without a few beers for the rest of the month anyway.” He removed his wallet from his back pocket and searched the area for someone to pay.

“Oh, you can’t buy it just yet,” I explained how the sale worked. “You take one of those stickers over there.” I pointed to the sold stickers. “Write your name on it, stick it on the item, and when the sale officially opens, you can take it over to the registers and pay. If you want to negotiate, you’ll have to come back and do that with the person who’s selling the item individually.”

“Got it.”

“If you see anything else you like, I’d mark it quickly because as you can tell, Belle’s got her own personalized hold stickers so she can negotiate her own prices once the sale officially starts. I think she got here late last night to check everything out.”

He laughed, but cut it short when I didn’t laugh, too. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“The woman doesn’t play around when it comes to saving money. The county commissioners asked her to review the annual budget before it was approved for 2019.”


I crossed my heart.


“You have no idea.” I checked my watch. “Oh, wow. I have to run. Fifteen minutes till blast off.”

“About tonight, you really should come.”

“I’d love to. Text me the details.”

“Will do.”

* * *

“I can’t believe I let you drag me here.”

Belle tapped the ignition button on her car, and the engine shut off. “Come, it’s not as bad as it seems. Consider it a diamond in the rough.”

“I’m not sure that’s the right comparison I’d make. How are we supposed to get inside, squat jump over the holes in the steps?”

“Well, you haven’t gone to spin class a lot lately, so…” She let that dig trail off for full effect.

“I’ve had a pulled calf muscle because of the dog you got me for my birthday. The dog I didn’t want, remember?” A twinge of guilt pinched my heart for bad mouthing Bo, my Boxer mix, and the sweetest dog ever. Ugh. Bo was the bomb, and I was a horrible person for using him as a guilt weapon like that. I apologized to my smelly buddy, even though he wasn’t there.

“And you’re a better person because of him.”

“That’s not the point.” I stared up at the monstrosity of a house, or what was left of the house, in front of us. “This is practically a teardown. We’d have to start from scratch. That’s a little more than I’d planned. Not that I’d actually planned any of this.”

We’d spent a few nights munching on potato chips and M&Ms, chatting about buying a fixer-upper, maybe doing some of the work ourselves, but definitely hiring out most of it, and selling the property. Belle had thoughts of owning a bed and breakfast or becoming the next Chip and Joanna Gaines, minus the Chip part, but neither of those options worked for yours truly.

The metropolitan Atlanta area had spread far and wide, and counties like Dawson, just one county over from Bramblett, was quickly becoming a hot spot for families that wanted the comforts of small town life with the convenience of suburbia. Bramblett hadn’t been hit quite yet, but some of the locals feared it was coming, while others prepared for the excitement of the possibilities.

Belle and I had researched those possibilities, noted the trends, and saw the potential. We expected growth, but nothing compared to what counties like Dawson and Forsyth had experienced. Bramblett was just too far north of Atlanta, and the state’s infrastructure couldn’t support the increased volume, not without substantial improvements, anyway, and those weren’t even yet planned. I was happy to know our county would stay a close-knit community with a small town feel indefinitely.

Belle groaned. “Look at those columns though. Aren’t they beautiful?”

I gazed up at the long abandoned Civil War era home. “They are, but I don’t think it’s the right place for us. And we agreed we both need to be one hundred percent in to do this, remember?”

She nodded, and as she did, she pressed the start button on her car. The engine hummed back to life. “On to the next property we go.”

“Hey, Carter asked if we’d like to go to a box lacrosse game tonight. You up for it?”

She backed down the long, gravel driveway. “He asked us, or he asked you?”

“Well, technically he asked me, but we’re a team, so that means us.”

“Did you mention you’d ask me to go?”

“I can’t remember. Why?”

Belle turned left onto Highway 369 and headed further away from town. “Because if you didn’t mention me, then I don’t have to go, and I won’t feel bad about it.”

“You’re so going now.”

“I have to wash my hair.”

“Honey, that don’t work with me, and you know it.”

“Do my nails?”

“You get manicures.”

“Pay my bills?”

“It’s the digital age.”

“Take out the garbage?”

“They don’t collect on Sunday.”

“Walk the dog?”

“He’s my dog.”

She pounded her steering wheel with her fist. “I don’t know a thing about lacrosse. Why doesn’t he coach football? That’s a sport I know.”

“He’s our client and our friend. Besides, he’s new in town. It’s a nice thing for us to do.”

“I know. It just sounds so intimidating.”

“What does?”

“The game, or learning it, I mean.”

“It’s not that hard to understand,” I lied. “It’s kind of a mix of hockey, soccer, and basketball, but you know, different.”

“Bless your heart, you don’t have a clue either.”

“Not a bit.”

“And it sounds boring.”

“How would you even know that if you don’t know a thing about it?”

She ignored me.


“Fine, I don’t know that, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.”

“You are a hot mess for sure.”

She made another left and pulled off onto a dirt and gravel mixed road. There were so many potholes, my voice sounded the way it did when I was a kid and I talked into a fan, vibrating and humming. “Where are you taking me now?”

She pointed ahead and to the right. “There.”

I glanced at a white mini-mansion. “Uh, no. You might as well turn back around and go home.”

“What? Why? I love this place.”

“We talked about this already.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m not backing down on this one.”

“But it’s a true antebellum style home, and you love them.”

“I do, but it’s not a flip. These homes don’t sell well, and you know that.”

“But it would make a perfect bed and breakfast.”

“Belle, I’m not opening a bed and breakfast.”

“Can we just look inside? Please? Just for fun?”

“Fine, but just for fun.”

The sprawling mini-mansion must have been a looker during its prime, but it was way past its prime. What was left of the place was a skeleton of its past, like a dead tree in the woods left to rot through the seasons until it became a pile of dust and dirt. Only the house wasn’t a pile of dust and dirt just yet. The wide front steps and large round columns with intricate carvings on their tops framing the base of the front porch needed work, but still held their historic beauty, and showed that once upon a time, someone had loved the home enough to pay attention to detail. The wrap-around front porch with its mini columns serving as banisters was the perfect match for the civil war era home, and it didn’t take much of my imagination to picture the daily happenings of the people that had once lived there.

I saw children playing with wooden blocks and cards like in old Southern movies. I imagined debutantes in fluffy hoop skirted gowns with big bows, flitting around the porch, laughing and drinking from expensive crystal, at least until the war. During the war soldiers had stolen most everything, they’d taken to hiding what they treasured, or sold what they needed to for money, and women made due with what they’d had. They’d made their own dresses from drapes, bed covers, and other materials. They’d lost so many of their belongings, things they’d never recover. Even as kids we’d find things buried deep in the ground, things the women hid from Union troops—silver, china, family photos, things they cherished but never came back for, or maybe couldn’t come back for.

I had to admit, the home kidnapped my heart at first sight, but that didn’t mean I wanted to own a bed and breakfast. Just the thought of that made my pulse increase, and I started to sweat.

“So, what do you think?” Belle draped her hand along the old stair railing. “Isn’t it amazing? I mean, seriously. Think of the history. We could restore it to its original design, and it would be incredible.”

All I saw were debt collectors knocking on that beautiful door, not guests. “Exactly where do you think the money for this would come from?”

She sighed. “I’m not sure, but I’m sure we could finagle it somehow.”

I headed toward the door. “When you figure that out, I’ll come back.” I glanced at my iWatch. “In the meantime, we have a lacrosse game to get to.”

She lagged behind me dragging her feet like a child in a toy store during the holiday season. “But you have to admit it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is, but I’m a real estate broker, not a bed and breakfast owner.”

“You’re right, but gosh, I really love the idea.”

“In theory, it sounds great, but in reality, I’m just not the bed and breakfast owner kind of person.”

“I’m probably not either, but couldn’t we own it and have someone else run it?”

“Did you answer one of those internet scams where the person wanted to leave you all of their money and it actually worked or something?”

She laughed. “I wish.”

“Then, no, we can’t own it and have someone else run it.”

Local Realtor Threatened by Community in Bramblett County, GA

Local Realtor Threatened by Community in Bramblett County, GA

Local Realtor Threatened by Community

Involvement in Recent Murders has Locals Questioning her Actions

By Rufus Fulton

EDITOR, Bramblett County Gazette

We all know Lily Sprayberry, or as she’s been called for years, Lilybit. Many of us have bought and sold properties with her successful realty business, Bramblett County Realty. She’s a local, and comes from good stock.

Sprayberry’s been involved with the recent rise in murders in town, but not in a bad way. She’s simply been at the wrong place at the right time, and people are talking. Some are concerned Lily’s cursed, while others fear she’s secretly involved. I met with Sprayberry to discuss and possibly dispel the rumors.

“Involved?” she asked. “Of course, I’m not involved, and I’m most certainly not cursed, though admittedly, the thought did cross my mind.”

When asked how she feels being the target of discourse in Bramblett, Sprayberry said it’s been tough on her emotionally.

“I’ve grown up in Bramblett. People know me, and they should know I’d never be involved in a purposeful death. In fact, my involvement is just to help find justice and do right by the people in my life.”

She said discovering Myrtle Redbecker’s body was shocking, but she doesn’t have a link to any of the murders in town. “Myrtle wasn’t the most liked resident in town, but nobody deserves to be murdered. And with a cast iron skillet? I can’t even imagine how tragic that must have been, but I’m innocent in what’s going on here.”

Sprayberry didn’t intend to start her own investigation into the old woman’s death, or cause trouble in the recent murder in town.

“It’s my own natural need for answers—my curiosity. That’s the reason I’ve attached myself to each of these tragedies.”

She said losing her lifelong friend a few short months later was shocking. “She was so young. Such a tragic way to end such a promising, young life.”

But why then, did Sprayberry get involved in the recent murder here in Bramblett?

“Because it was the right thing to do, for my client.”

Sprayberry goes on to state the victim, Carter Trammell, was attempting to do right by his students.

He wanted them to succeed academically. That was his priority, and it should be their parent’s priority, too.”

She said she’s been shocked by the behavior of certain parents associated with the school’s athletic program.“This insanity needs to stop. Sports aren’t everything, and neither are scholarships, but an education can last a lifetime. And no one, no one deserves to die, especially for wanting to help kids succeed.”

Some people don’t see Lily’s actions that way.

“She might could stop interfering in the lives of others,” one local who requested to remain anonymous, said.

“She’s hurting the community by sticking her nose where it don’t belong,” another commented.

But Sprayberry has a lot of support in Bramblett, too, and people don’t want to see her reputation damaged for being a faithful community member.

“I just don’t get it. Lilybit’s family to us, and we got to protect our own. Whoever killed that coach needs to come out of hiding and do what’s right,” Old Man Goodson said.

Locals Bonnie Bass and Henrietta Harvey agreed.

“She ain’t done nothing I wouldn’t have done,” Bass said.

“Me, too,” Harvey agreed. “And you can tell all of Bramblett I said so.”

County Sheriff Dylan Roberts is working on the case, but said things are moving along in the investigation, and they are satisfied with the suspect they’ve arrested.

“We’re confident this case will go to trial, and the killer will be held accountable for their crimes.”

Keep up with this case in follow up articles in the Gazette at









Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Signed, Sealed and Dead A Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy Mystery

Small town folk don’t always take care of their own.

As Bramblett County, Georgia realtor Lily Sprayberry preps for the annual community yard sale fundraiser, she discovers the body of the newly hired lacrosse coach lying in the high school gym.

At first, all signs point to natural causes, but when Lily finds an empty syringe lying under the bleachers, the coroner decides the coach was murdered.

Lily learns the coach wasn’t liked by the lacrosse parents, and when word got out about his murder, the state athletic association suspended the program entirely.

When a few of the lacrosse moms decide to take matters into their own hands, they threaten someone close to Lily—her county sheriff boyfriend and his reelection status–by bullying Lily herself.

And soon, Lily’s had enough. As she searches for answers, she’s dragged deeper into an angry mob of high school sports parents all seeking revenge and gunning for their kids to sign with the most elite schools offering the best scholarships.

And some of them are willing to do whatever it takes, including murder.

When the killer figures out Lily is close to cracking the case, things take a dangerous turn, and Lily’s life is on the line. Can she save herself, or will she be the next victim in Bramblett County?

Available on Amazon here


Unexpected Outcomes Coming in October!

Unexpected Outcomes Coming in October!

Angela, Mel, and Fran are Back for Another Exciting Adventure!

                 When a frantic 911 call stumps a suburban Atlanta police department, psychic medium Angela Panther steps in to assist. With the help of her best friend and celestial super sleuth mother, Angela soon realizes things aren’t as they appear. Now Angela must choose between trusting her instincts or following the clues. If she chooses wrong, she won’t be crossing the dead over to the other side, she’ll be one of them

Unexpected Outcomes will be available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and paperback via all other online outlets. Read for free on Kindle Unlimited. 


Book Release! Goodbye,  My Love By Paranormal Romance Author Maggie Tideswell

Book Release! Goodbye, My Love By Paranormal Romance Author Maggie Tideswell

Today is release day for paranormal romance author Maggie Tideswell and her book, Goodbye, My Love. Check out the blurb and first chapter! I love supporting other authors, especially those who write paranormal stories! To purchase the book on Amazon, go here.

Roxanne’s Ghost Saga, a new mystery series from internationally acclaimed author Maggie Tideswell, is set against the stunningly beautiful backdrop of modern day South Africa. It is a compelling ghost story of identical twin sisters’ love for the same man, and the magical connection the women share.

And the theme?  Nothing is what it seems.

Here, we move into the realms of the mists of time that could either reveal or conceal.

Book 1, Goodbye, My Love, sets the scene. It introduces country vet, Ben, his four-year-old autistic daughter and the would-be nanny, Jessica James. Jess’ interview with Ben for the nanny position takes place on Friday the 13th. An attraction between the two is immediate, which by all accounts isn’t entirely normal.

Ben’s three oddball sisters-in-law descend on him for the anniversary of his wife Roxanne’s death. They try to convince Ben that Roxanne isn’t dead, more than likely to put an end to whatever might develop between Ben and Jessica. But Ben knows that no one could have survived what led to Roxanne’s death.

His daughter, diagnosed as autistic, only sometimes does she display the symptoms that led to her diagnosis. Autism is not a disease, it’s a condition. A condition with symptoms that can’t be turned on and off at will. So…what is the child really suffering from?

Ben’s wife’s twin sister, Millicent, is accompanied by an over-board caricature of a psychic to Ben’s home in order to help them find Roxanne. Of course, Millicent isn’t happy to find Jess already in Ben’s house—trouble is imminent. But only as far as Ben’s ancient housekeeper, will allow her to. What does the housekeeper know that will keep Millicent’s ruffled feathers under control?

More importantly…

Where is Roxanne?

Chapter One

Does anyone live here?

The house looked deserted, kind of spooky. Jess couldn’t see any other houses nearby. Sally had not been kidding—this was a rather isolated place.

Dilapidated outbuildings behind the sprawling house looked as unused as the house itself. Some sort of creeper-covered most of the buildings except the house—it looked far too fragile to bear the added weight.

There were what looked like turrets on each end of the house, and a domed one in between. That might be a skylight. Jess worried her bottom lip. What century was this place built?

Lightning played over the majestic mountains behind the house, silhouetting it against the darkening sky, but down here in the valley, the late sun cast long shadows over the overgrown garden.

It all fit so well with Friday the thirteenth because this was creepy. What had she been thinking? She should have postponed the interview until Monday. One weekend surely wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.

Jess studied the map on her tablet, which she held propped up against the steering wheel. This could be the right place, but she had thought that about both the previous two places, and neither had turned out to be Weltevreden. Neither had been as eerie as this place, either.

No, this couldn’t be it. Tapping her finger against the edge of the tablet, she studied the house again. This whole thing smacked of a Friday the thirteenth Sally-prank.

Sally, her bestie since high school, ran a very successful employment agency. The professional image notwithstanding, she still loved pranks of any kind—she would never outgrow them.

Her eyes had lit up that morning when Jess sat in front of her desk, mugs of coffee steaming on the polished wood between them. The platter of doughnuts had been for Jess’ benefit. Sally and her perpetual dieting.

“Something different,” Sally mused, tapping her pen against her front teeth, then pressed a button on her laptop, and reached for the sheet of paper the printer spewed out. “This might be just the thing. It came in just now.” She’d tossed her platinum curls over her shoulder, grinning at Jess.

Another thing Sally would never outgrow, her Barbie-doll looks.

“It has my name on it, then.” Jess leaned her forearms on Sally’s desk. “Tell me, tell me, tell me.” She grinned back, barely able to contain her excitement. “Does it involve a man?”

Neither Sally nor Jess had found their Mr. Full Potential yet, although both had been ready for wedded bliss, the kids and the house in the suburbs thing, a long time ago.

“As a matter of fact it does, but he doesn’t seem to be in the market. It says here that a nanny is required for a four-year-old autistic girl. Dr. Arnold specifically requested that only older women be put forward for the position.”

“How old-fashioned. Where is this job?”

“In the Wellington area.” Sally frowned at the monitor.

“There you go. He won’t find anybody qualified to work that far from Cape Town. It is his child, I presume?”

“It is, but do you seriously want to give this a go?” Sally looked worried as only she could. It went with the Barbie look. “I’m intrigued. What kind of doctor is he?”

“A veterinary surgeon. And a widower, it says here. That is all the information I have for you, I’m afraid.” Sally sat back in her chair. “I shouldn’t disregard so specific an instruction, Jess, but just this once, I’ll make an exception. Then it’s up to you to change his mind for him. It’ll be in his own best interest in the end.” She passed an information sheet across the desk. “I’ll tell Dr. Arnold to expect you at four. I’d pack an overnight bag if I were you. Call me, okay?”

Now, sitting in front of the house that might or might not belong to Dr. Ben Arnold, Jess didn’t feel all that confident anymore. And it didn’t really sound like a prank, unless Sally had kept some information to herself.

There was only one way to find out, and that was to knock on the door and ask.

If there was anybody in the house to ask.

Switching the engine off, she consulted the rear-view mirror to apply some color to her lips and pat her shoulder length bob into place. She took a moment to admire the rich auburn color in the late afternoon sunshine and sighed.

I don’t know about this. It was a long way from Cape Town.

What did people do around here for fun?

Trying her best to ignore the goose bumps on her forearms, she opened the car door and stepped out. Her heels sank into the gravel, her shadow stretching all the way back to the gate.

Only when she turned toward the house did she see the man sitting on the top step in the shadows, his shoulder against the railing, one knee pulled up with his arm resting on top of it. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and it looked as if his feet were bare, too.

Was he there a moment ago? Why didn’t I see him?

Smoothing her palms down her red pencil skirt, she started toward the house and the man on the steps. If he wasn’t Dr. Arnold, maybe he could give her directions.

Taking a deep breath, Jess reminded herself that she wasn’t superstitious about this Friday the thirteenth nonsense. People liked to scare themselves with the silliest things. What was supposed to happen on this day? It was a day like any other.

That certainly looked like a real man on the steps. He wasn’t going to bite her. Today being a Friday and the thirteenth meant nothing, but now that she’d thought of it, the idea would stick with her like the taste of garlic.

Leaving the car door open for a quick escape should she need it, she’d gone no more than a few steps when she heard something other than the crunch of her shoes on the gravel. It sounded suspiciously like a dog whining.

She slowly turned her head, curling her fingers into the fabric of her skirt. It couldn’t be a dog. She hadn’t seen any dogs when she drove through the gate.

I don’t do dogs!

Her breath hitched in her throat when she saw them. They were right next to her car, beside the door she’d deliberately left open, a whole pack of them. Their lips curled away from their teeth, their tongues lolling out the sides of their mouths, dripping saliva onto the gravel. Yellowish eyes watched every move she made.

Where did they come from?

How many were there?

They cut her off from the safety of the Fiesta!

Now she had only one way to go—into that house. Why hadn’t that man called them off? Why wasn’t he helping her?

Slowly, making no sudden moves, she took another step toward the porch. The dogs followed her. Her heart hammered against her ribs. Another couple of quick steps toward the house. The dogs did the same. She broke into a trot, her scream shattered the still of the afternoon.

Missing the first step, she stumbled, recovered her balance, and took the rest of the stairs two at a time. The dogs were on her heels, whining and yelping, their breaths hot on the backs of her legs.

Just as a sharp whistle rent the air, but looking at the dogs, she careened into the man before the noise had even died down. Her momentum sent them both crashing to the floorboard. She landed on top of him, but with the dogs all around them, she hid her face in his neck. Another whistle— right in her ear—made her cringe, but the dogs were gone.

He lifted his head off the floorboards to glare at her, his hands at her waist, as if he was about to lift her off him. Stubble covered his jaw, his lips pressed into a tight line. A muscle jumped in his cheek. He dragged his eyes out of her gaping blouse to meet her stare.

They had to be the greenest pair of eyes she’d ever seen, and he was clearly not amused.

Then she noticed how much leg was exposed by her skirt bunched around her hips and she quickly scrambled to her feet, pushing her skirt back down her legs.

“Sorry,” she muttered, her face on fire. She couldn’t bring herself to look at him, but from the corner of her eye, she saw the stranger slowly unfold himself from the floor. Up and up he went, until she felt him looking down at her. Even in her heels, the top of her head barely reached his nose.

With fists on his hips, he glared at her. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she lifted her chin and stared back.

Despite her bravado, she was intimidated and she had no idea if she had reason to be. She didn’t have a clue who he was. For all she knew, he was a vagrant taking advantage of an abandoned house.

She quickly looked him up and down, hoping he wouldn’t notice. A vagrant—looking like that? This man looked too strong, too well-fed, and clean, to be homeless. He smelled good too, of soap and sunshine. Wide shoulders tapered to a flat stomach and slim hips in a pair of well-washed denim cutoffs. The button was undone and the zipped half down. And he had a hard-on!

Jess swallowed with difficulty, forcing her eyes to the garden. Maybe he was the gardener or something.

If he was the gardener, he wasn’t very good at it, judging by the state of the place. The flowerbeds were overgrown with weeds, and grass seeds reached for the sky. With a bit of care, it could be a rather pleasant garden.

Her attention whipped back to the man when he spoke. “What’s wrong with you, woman? Those are lap dogs.” His voice was deep, the timbre vibrating on her skin. “They thought you were playing with them.”

She’d forgotten about the dogs. Erections did that to her, they made her forget everything else. She took another look at the animals. There were only four of them, and now that they were at a safe distance and there was a man on hand whom they seemed to obey, they didn’t look all that fierce, or even very big. By panicking, she’d unnecessarily gotten them both in a rather embarrassing situation.

The veranda was shadowed, despite the lightning dancing over the mountains, yet the peeling paint was clearly visible. She should ask this man for directions so that she could be on her way, but at that moment her nose itched and she sneezed instead. She just barely managed to get her hand across her nose. The dust from the floorboards, and she most likely had it all over her face now. She needed to freshen up before she met with Dr. Arnold. Rubbing her hands over her face was probably making matters worse.

“Bless you,” the man said, his jaw clenched. “Explain yourself.” Fists planted on his hips, his bare chest rose and fell. Jess’ fingers itched to test the contours more fully before she realized that the man was actually angry.

Who was he? And what was he so angry about? Knocking him over had been an accident, which he could have avoided it if he’d controlled the animals sooner. His annoyance didn’t stop him from giving her a thorough inspection, though.

Barely suppressing the urge to stamp her foot, Jess snapped, “Those animals should be locked up.” The hand she pointed at the dogs was streaked with dust. Dropping it, she rubbed at the smudge with her other hand.

“They were, until a few minutes ago. When the visitor I expected didn’t show up, I let them out again. Who are you and what do you want?”

“How rude!” Jess gasped. “Do you welcome all visitors half naked?” His arousal was disturbing her.

“Uninvited visitors never come into the yard,” he growled. He knew she knew about his condition. “That’s what the clinic entrance is for. And I’m not half naked, I’m shirtless because I took it off when my visitor failed to show up for her four o’clock appointment. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot. If you’re Jessica James, you’re way too late—”

“The directions weren’t very clear,” she interrupted. “I got lost.” Hesitating only a moment, she stuck her hand out to him. “You’re Dr. Arnold?”

He ignored her hand and question, reaching instead for the shirt draped over the railing behind him and shrugged it on. Doctor or not, the man has no manners.

Buttoning the shirt, he leaned in closer. “So, it’s my fault you can’t follow a set of simple instructions? Look, miss, you might as well go back to wherever you came from. The position has been filled. Good day.” He started to turn away.

“What? When? I had an interview for this afternoon!”

He glanced at his wristwatch. “You missed the appointment. You wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway. Sorry for the inconvenience. It was nice meeting you. Goodbye, Ms. James.”

She noticed his eyes on her lips as he dismissed her. “Just a minute. You’re going to disregard my application because I’m a few minutes late? I have excellent credentials, and the agency—”

“Had been told that only older women need to apply.”

“So you’re dismissing my application because of my age, is that it?”

“Yes. And you’re more than a few minutes late. The appointment was for four o’clock sharp, and it’s nearly six now. Take your gripes up with your agent, Ms. James. Your timekeeping actually has very little to do with it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, you’re wasting my time.”

Jess narrowed her eyes. “I pity the person you’ve employed, if that is in fact the truth. You are a very rude man,

Dr. Arnold.”

He wasn’t exactly what she’d expected—in his early to mid-thirties and attractive, in a wildly blond caveman kind of way. And hot.

If only he had some manners.

It had sounded quite romantic when Sally first told her about this position, but the reality was far from romantic. She didn’t need this man or his job, and especially not his erection. There had to be other positions available in Cape Town. Sally would find her a good job, with interesting work. She would get into her car and drive away without a backward glance.

Not being given a fair interview had nothing to do with Friday the thirteenth. A damp gust of wind blew her hair into her eyes as she turned toward the stairs. It had everything to do with him being turned on by her.

Jess remembered the dogs when they jumped to their feet, tails wagging.

She froze, clutching her skirt. They might be small, but they were dogs. They had teeth. Damn it, she was going to need his help to get back to her car. Gnawing the corner of her mouth, she glanced at him. Would he help her, or would he cross his arms and enjoy the spectacle from the veranda?

Before she could do anything, the door behind them creaked open and pale, gnarled fingers curled around the edge of the wood. Jess took an involuntary step closer to the doctor, goosebumps covering her entire body, her hand to her throat.   Oh, God.


You can purchase the book here.

About the Author

Maggie lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with hubby Gareth. Over the years she’s worked in everything from nursing to catering, and then she started writing love stories. With three kids, a girl and two boys, and eleven cats at that time, life could become quite interesting.

The paranormal, things that happen for which there are no logical explanations and ghosts, are of particular interest to Maggie. What events in a person’s life would prevent that person from ‘resting’ after death? The ‘Old Religion’ is another special interest.

And love, of course. Why do people fall in love? What keeps them together for a lifetime when so many relationships fail?

Street Team Members Wanted!

Street Team Members Wanted!


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