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Burning Secrets - A Whispering Pines Mystery, Book 11 (PAPERBACK)

Burning Secrets - A Whispering Pines Mystery, Book 11 (PAPERBACK)

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Things are heating up in Whispering Pines, and it’s not just the weather.

Sheriff Jayne O’Shea is on edge. Hopeful applicants have taken over the commons area, all of them begging to become residents. Villagers who left long ago have returned, causing an uproar among the locals. The slow burn feud between the sister witches has reached the boiling point. And her parents are acting just plain weird.

Fortunately, it’s time for the annual Beltane celebration, the last opportunity for everyone to gather before tourists invade the village for the summer. Attendees dance around the Maypole, decorate fairy chairs, weave witch ladders, and nibble Green Man cake. Good, innocent fun.

Except, this year’s fire festival is being held during the driest spring the Northwoods has seen in a decade. And like bees to honey, the event has attracted an arsonist intent on burning the place to the ground one little fire at a time.

BURNING SECRETS is the eleventh book in the Whispering Pines mystery series about a woman determined to return her grandmother's village to the idyllic haven it used to be ... before all the secrets started rising to the surface.

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Chapter 1
THE MEMBERS OF THE VILLAGE council started warning me about April 30th at the end of March. They rarely exaggerated. In fact, events that I considered alarming were often dismissed as normal. So I should have been prepared. I wasn’t.
The thirteen of us were in our seats in the boardroom at The Inn by five thirty. In the morning. At that time, the line of people already stretched most of the way around the pentacle-shaped garden at the center of the commons area. Apparently, the annual attempt to relocate to our little community of less than one thousand souls was as predictable as nature waking up in the spring. The thing was no one could just move to Whispering Pines. One had to apply and receive permission. Turned out, so many people would show up here after the winter thaw looking for a fresh start, the council eventually set aside an entire day to hear the pleas. That day was today.
This year, the council claimed, the number of hopefuls was especially long, so we imposed a time limit. Each person or group was allocated fifteen minutes. That broke down into ten minutes for them to give us their pitch, four for the members to debate, one for us to announce our decision, and zero to appeal. Not a second more. We even stationed our village bouncer, a man who closely resembled a bull, Jagger, to remove the candidates at the exact fifteen-minute mark if they hadn’t left the room.
I had to give them credit, the pleas were quite creative. One woman said she knew about the trouble Whispering Pines had been having with murders and claimed to be able to deflect negativity by placing a magical bubble over the village.
A desperate mother insisted the energy surrounding the village was exactly the thing her hyperactive child needed to calm down. Then she slung every curse word imaginable at us while Jagger hauled her out of the room.
A man claimed he could cure the village witches of their belief in Wicca. He got one minute to speak, three seconds for us to say “No” in unison, and as many seconds to restate his request as it took for Jagger to drag him out.
After ten hours, with a one-hour lunch recess and a fifteen-minute bathroom break now and then, we hadn’t approved a single new villager. At four o’clock, our last applicants of the day entered the conference room. This group reminded me of the coven that had visited us during Ostara last month. They were all dressed in black and wore either pentacles or crescent moon pendants. They looked like witches, except it was the clichéd version of how people assumed Wiccans dressed. Granted, some legitimately preferred the look. Others were content to wear jeans and T-shirts or yoga gear.
“Tell us your name,” began Flavia Reed, the self-professed leader of the council, “and explain why we should allow you to move to our village.”
“I’m Rex Bennefield,” explained a man with sleek black hair pulled into a ponytail and a goatee with an exceptionally long beard tied every few inches with a hairband. “The four of us represent our coven, and we live in west-central Wisconsin on the border with Minnesota. The people there don’t understand us. They think we’re Satanists and are sacrificing calves beneath the full moon.”

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