When doggie-yoga instructor Elle Pressley’s eccentric Greek client tells her she’s been cursed by the evil eye, Elle shrugs it off – until she discovers a body hanging from the kitchen rafters at a Halloween party.
Finding herself dragged into the ensuing investigation, Elle turns to her new boyfriend, Devon Burke, the hunky local P.I. But while she’s learning to trust again and open her heart, she’s also discovering that trusting the wrong person can be a deadly mistake. With Devon distracted by new evidence in his parents’ murder case and Elle’s streak of bad luck continuing, is fate about to deliver them both into the hands of a determined killer?
About the Author
Shannon Esposito lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. She shares this little corner of paradise with her husband, twin boys and dogs. If she’s not writing, you'll find her coddling one of the above, hiding with a book or daydreaming with her toes in the sand.
Read an Excerpt
I cringed as my 1976 VW Beetle shuddered and belched a black plume of smoke before falling silent in the driveway of the Beckleys' thirty-million-dollar mansion.
'Drama queen,' I huffed.
Buddha, my faithful seventy-pound bulldog mix, licked my arm from the passenger seat. I wrapped him in a full body hug and kissed him between his alert brown eyes. 'Made quite the entrance, didn't we?' Shaking off the embarrassment that seemed to be my fate on Moon Key – a private Gulf coast island for the rich and insanely rich – I grabbed my yoga mat from the back seat. 'Let's go meet our client.'
As we approached, I eyed the monstrous home with trepidation. An elaborate stained-glass front door sat beyond flat marble steps. Royal palm trees stood guard like sentries beside the steps and a half-moon balcony hung over the entrance. It seemed like a good place to ambush visitors. I imagined ninjas falling gracefully from their perch to thwart salesmen, thieves and lowly doggie-yoga instructors.
A short-statured man with a shiny, polished head, clad in a white moisture wicking shirt and red track pants emerged from the front door. Hopping down the steps with the confidence that comes from living in a multi-million-dollar mansion, he approached us. Definitely not ninja material. His smile was too bright, his demeanor too welcoming and there was no place to hide a sword.
'Hello.' His eyes flicked from me to Buddha – who, to my horror, had a sling of drool about to drop on the man's spotless pavers – and then over to my old Beetle slumped behind us. I had to give the man credit for his composure. He only twitched a little as he asked, 'And you are?'
I cleared my throat and tried to exude confidence. 'Elle Pressley. I'm here for a doga lesson with Flavia and Athena. Selene set it up.'
'Ah.' He glanced behind him and then, coming to some decision, held out his hand. The crinkles in the corners of his bright eyes held a touch of humor. 'I'm Michael, Selene's other half. Not the better half, according to her.'
I shook his hand, relaxing under his non-judgmental demeanor. 'Nice to meet you.'
'Well, come on then. I'll take you around to the back kitchen. My mother-in-law practically lives in there while we're on Moon Key. People think I'm obsessed with running, but to be honest I'm just trying to avoid weighing three hundred pounds because that woman is most definitely obsessed with cooking.'
I laughed politely as Buddha and I followed Michael Beckley around the left side of the mansion and down a beautiful, curving stone path that cut through tropical gardens. Mini palm trees provided shade on the path with their lush, full fronds, while other plants had been carefully layered throughout to give texture, color and scent to the walk. Silver saw palmettos, fountain grass, elephant ear lilies and bright pink cordyline; various blooming hibiscus and orange bird of paradise ... the variety was overwhelming, and I kept stopping to touch or smell each one. Michael was kind enough to wait and not be put off by my awe and reverence of his landscaping. However, awe and reverence quickly turned to embarrassment as I realized Buddha was tugging at the end of his leash, and I turned to find he'd shoved his muzzle into a decorative fountain, helping himself to a slobbery drink.
'Sorry,' I mumbled, giving his leash a tug. 'Buddha, come here.'
Michael chuckled as Buddha trotted happily back to me, his dripping tongue dangling from his wide mouth. I smiled down at him, despite my embarrassment, glad this man had a sense of humor. 'Come on, boy.' I decided not to stop and admire anything more lest Buddha decide that he now needed to empty his bladder on any of the perfectly kept foliage. I imagined alarms would sound and those ninjas would swoop down upon us for such a crime.
The path opened up to an equally amazing backyard, the main attraction being a rectangular pool of sparkling dark blue water in the middle of impeccably cut emerald grass. Four bordered landscape beds filled with date palms, bromeliad, various blooming annuals and ground cover were equally spaced around the pool. Tall, graceful coconut palm trees studded the perimeter of the yard and beyond that lay the seawall and private boat slip complete with a docked yacht big enough to blot out the sun.
A loud crack sounded on the other side of the bushes. Jerking my head in that direction, I could have sworn I saw a head peeking over. It was gone in an instant. I glanced at Michael as he eyed the bushes, his face hardening. What was that all about?
I ran my hand self-consciously over my sales rack T-shirt, wiping at the dog hair, as Buddha and I were led to French doors set off to the side of a large stone lanai. Massive pots full of cacti had been placed on either side of the door. More unwelcoming guardians.
He opened the door and peeked in. 'Yiya, you still alive in there?'
A slew of angry foreign words echoed from inside, along with a sharp yipping. I assumed it was Greek since Michael had called her yiya, which in my understanding meant 'grandmother'.
Michael grinned at me. 'She's not my biggest fan. Selene was supposed to marry a good Greek boy.' He winked at me and opened the door further, making a sweeping motion with his arm. 'No sense of humor, that one. Anyway, she's all yours. Good luck.'
I smiled back at him. 'Thanks.' I stepped into the kitchen with Buddha by my side and was instantly overwhelmed by delicious smells. A plump Chihuahua wobbled toward us, tiny nails clicking on the floor, yipping a high-pitched warning. Buddha sat down and licked his lips, a sign that the little dog was making him nervous. I rested a hand on his head and tried not to make eye contact with the tiny canine guardian. My rule was not to make eye contact with small angry dogs or large drunk men.
'Athena! 'Nough!' An elderly woman in a wheelchair rolled herself away from her work at the counter and moved toward us, waving a hand at the dog. The dog leapt into her lap and stared at us with the same slightly yellowed, dark brown eyes of her owner.
The woman stuck out a weathered, trembling hand. Her voice also trembled and held a thick Greek accent. 'I am Flavia. Nice to meet you.'
I bent to take her hand but Athena bared her tiny teeth, her ears flattening on her head. I pulled my hand back and heard an immediate rumbled response from Buddha beside me. He'd never been aggressive toward another dog before, but he'd never seen me threatened by one, either. Loosening my grip on his leash to let him know I didn't feel threatened – dogs apparently translate tightened grip with fear energy and get protective – I stood back upright and smiled. 'Nice to meet you, too, Flavia.'
'Sorry.' Flavia wrapped her hand around Athena's chest and pulled her close, chastising the little dog in Greek.
'It's fine. She probably just needs some time to warm to us.' Changing the subject to a more pleasant one, I asked, 'What are you cooking? It smells amazing.'
A smile wrinkled her cheeks as she pushed a lever on her chair and turned toward the oven. 'Dis, I make spanakopita for lunch.' She glanced back over her shoulder and eyed me suspiciously up and down. 'You eat, no?'
'Yes, I eat.' I grinned. I liked this woman. 'Maybe we should do a little doga first, Flavia. So Selene doesn't feel like she's paying me to eat lunch.' I slipped off my flip-flops at the door and walked deeper into the massive Mediterranean-style kitchen. The brick floor felt cool on my soles. Now that I was paying attention, I noticed the whole kitchen – from the low-slung double oven to the marble counters with cut-a-ways beneath them – was designed for wheelchair access. The Beckleys must've designed this kitchen just for her.
'Bah,' Flavia motioned with a pot holder, 'I get plenty exercise cooking. My daughter, she worries for nothing.'
Burying a smile, I continued surveying the custom kitchen with awe as I worked to convince her to let me earn my keep. This was my first lesson out of the studio at the Pampered Pup Spa & Resort – where I taught doga classes thanks to my best friend, Hope, getting me a job there last year – and I intended to give Selene and Flavia their money's worth. Especially because Selene had offered an obscene amount of money for a thirty-minute lesson.
'You might, but Selene did tell you I teach doga, right? It's actually yoga for dogs, so really, I'm here for Athena. To help you help her get a little exercise.' My gaze wandered up to the thick, exposed wood beams hanging low across the ceiling. They'd been stained a rich chocolate color and contrasted perfectly with the rough-textured white walls.
A loud burst of laughter startled me and I quickly glanced at Flavia. She had her hands perched on the wide hips spread under a flowered apron. Her grin almost completely hid her eyes. 'Fine. We do this doga.'
The look she gave me let me know she wasn't falling for my crap line, but she would humor me nonetheless. I really liked this woman. My heart ached for a moment as I wondered what it would be like having a grandmother, but I quickly shook that thought off. No use wanting something that would never happen. That was a sure-fire way to be miserable.
Flavia untied her apron with precision slowness and tossed it on the counter, revealing a black Mumu and a large round pennant hanging around her neck. It was blue with a wide-open eye painted in the center and it was startling. Athena watched me suspiciously from beneath it. 'What you need me to do?'
'Well ...' I cleared my throat, trying not to stare at the blue eye in the center of her chest. It was unnerving. Focus, Elle. Selene hadn't mentioned her mother being in a wheelchair, but luckily I'd brushed up on teaching chair yoga before I came, since she'd mentioned they'd recently celebrated her mother's eightieth birthday.
'Just follow along as best you can, let me know if anything hurts so we can modify it and just have fun.' Smiling, I slid my mat from my shoulder and unrolled it with a flick of the wrist. Buddha immediately flopped down on it, stretching out his back legs in his version of cobra pose.
I grabbed a chair from the table and slid it beside the mat. 'Let's start with our hands and then we'll move on to Athena's paws. First, roll the wrists like this.' I demonstrated, watching her expression for any signs of pain as she followed along. I led her to switch directions. 'Good, Flavia. Now let's start there with Athena.' I patted my leg and Buddha pushed himself off the mat and came to sit in front of me.
'You can teach Athena to listen like that?' Flavia grunted.
I glanced down at the little dog. As soon as I made eye contact, her lip raised. She definitely considered herself the queen of this castle. Pressing my own lips together, I shook my head and held out my hand for Buddha's paw, which he happily plopped in my palm. 'Flavia, I have a feeling Athena would never let anyone tell her what to do.'
'You are right about that,' she chuckled. She picked up the tiny paw – which I now noticed had sparkly tangerine nails – and followed my lead as I massaged Buddha's paw. 'I think dis is why she live so long. She's twenty-seven, you know.'
My eyebrows rose as I appraised Athena. I knew smaller dogs lived longer, but that was an unbelievably long time. She didn't look a day past ten, though her white face hid any gray that might have crept into her fur. Still, that had to be a record. 'That's extraordinary. You must cook for her, too.' My stomach growled. I was having a hard time ignoring the scent coming from the oven. We switched paws.
She nodded once. 'She eat what I eat. But she is too ornery to die, I think. God knows she would cause trouble in heaven.' Chuckling to herself, she patted the dog's back affectionately.
I laughed. 'I don't doubt it. OK, Flavia, let's stretch our arms and shoulders. Please, don't force anything. Lift your arms only as high as is comfortable.' I led her through a few minutes of stretches and shoulder rolls and then moved to stand on my mat with Buddha seated in front of me. 'The pup's turn. Place your hands right under Athena's armpits like this.' Hinging at the waist, I demonstrated on Buddha. 'Then using your body to support her, pull her against your chest and lift her into a stretch.' I pulled Buddha against me and he rose with me, his two front legs up in the air, his belly exposed. His long, wet tongue caught me on the chin before I could raise my head, making me laugh.
We went through about ten more minutes of stretches with the dogs and then, since we couldn't finish with savasana, I tried to lead Flavia in a few minutes of meditation with her eyes closed. She was having none of it.
She waved me off. 'OK. We finished.'
I opened my eyes and watched her twirl her wheelchair around and head back to the business end of the kitchen. 'Time for lunch.'
'Finished,' I repeated, nodding from my mat. I smirked at Buddha. His squinty-eyed pant looked like he was as amused as I was. I stood and moved the chair back to the table. 'Anything you need help with, Flavia?'
'You can come get the Caesar salad,' she called.
My stomach rumbled in anticipation as I retrieved the large wooden bowl of creamy, crouton-filled salad. Flavia had dispersed Athena from her lap perch and replaced the little dog with a tray full of steaming spanakopita.
'This is really lovely of you, Flavia.' I hadn't had authentic Greek food since Hope had taken me to The Greek Garden in Clearwater two years ago. And even then, I'm not sure that was entirely authentic. There was no feta to be found.
Flavia plopped a piece of the spinach pie in a dish by the table – which Athena proceeded to gobble up with little growling sounds – and waved her hand at me as she rolled by the table with another piece of the pie on a dish. 'Is nothing. Everybody has to eat.'
When I realized where she was headed with that dish, I tried to stop her. 'Oh, Flavia, he doesn't do well ...' Too late. Buddha only sniffed the piece of spinach pie once before woofing it down in two bites. ' ... With people food,' I finished under my breath.
I smiled and shoved a forkful of salad in my mouth. I would pay for that later. As I chewed, Flavia maneuvered her wheelchair to the table and made the sign of the cross over herself before picking up her fork. She rolled her shoulder. 'Ah. Much more loose. I like this doga.' Her smile lit up her eyes.
Nodding, I grinned and held up my fork. 'And I like this food. It's as delicious as it smells.'
Flavia chuckled. 'We have baklava for dessert, so save room.'
I shook my head, wondering if I'd be able to walk out of here or if I'd have to borrow Flavia's wheelchair.
Flavia entertained me throughout our meal with tales of her childhood in Greece, and the time flew by. Near the end of the meal, I wiped my mouth with a napkin and decided we were acquainted enough for me to ask her about her unusual jewelry. 'So, Flavia, can I ask you about your necklace?'
She reached up and rubbed the eye between knotted fingers. 'This is mataki – charm to ward off the evil eye.'
'The evil eye?' I repeated, intrigued.
'Yes. You see, the evil eye, it can harm you even when the person does not intend for this to happen, by complimenting you. The eye protects you.' She waved her fork. 'Also, the cactus out by the door is protection.'
She sure felt like she needed lots of protection. I chewed slowly, trying to work out the logistics of her beliefs. 'So when I complimented you on the food, I could have accidentally given you this ... evil eye.'
'If I no wear this charm to ward it off, yes.'
'Then what would this evil eye do? What would happen?'
'Many things. All bad. You compliment my food and I no wear this charm ... I could drop the whole pan on the floor. Ruined, you see?'
My mouth hung open for a second more than was polite. I snapped it closed and nodded as a sudden sense of foreboding washed over me.CHAPTER 2
Twenty minutes later, with the divine taste of honey and flaky filo lingering in my mouth, I packed up my mat, clipped on Buddha's leash and waddled after Flavia through the mansion as we searched for Selene.
I held my flip-flops in my hand so the sleek, inlaid marble floor felt cool and heavenly on my bare feet. Peeking into some rooms as we passed, I saw a theatre with a massive movie screen and four rows of leather recliners; a billiard room with two full-sized pool tables and a bar; a library with a living room set in the middle and some kind of massage room. I bet fifty people could live here without ever running into each other. A young, dark-haired girl was picking up towels from the floor. We shared a smile as I passed.
We emerged from the hallway into a grand living area in the center of the mansion. Floor-to-ceiling windows dressed in cream curtains framed the blue sky and water. It was a stunning view.
Flavia stopped abruptly at the sound of voices. I almost ran into the back of her chair but managed to only tilt awkwardly over the top of her. She grumbled under her breath and flicked the lever on her chair with obvious agitation.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "High Jinx"
Copyright © 2016 Shannon Esposito.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved the first book in the Paws & Pose series so I was so excited to see High Jinx and the book didn't disappoint. The story follows Elle & her faithful companion Buddha as they lead dog yoga classes at a posh pet resort. She also is in love with a hot PI, Devon, & together (with his dog Petey) the 4 take on another murder mystery on the ubber rich island of Moon Key. I love how the author mixes the love of dogs & mystery..... as a dog lover I just want to be on the island hanging out & as a mystery buff I enjoy the murder investigation. Can't wait to read more in this series! Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is a great book; this book is A Paws and Pose Mystery by Shannon Esposito. Elle Pressley is a doggie yoga instructor, her eccentric Greek client tells her she’s been cursed by the evil eye, Elle shrugs it off – until she discovers a body hanging from the kitchen rafters at a Halloween party. Finding herself dragged into the ensuing investigation, Elle turns to her new boyfriend, Devon Burke, the hunky local P.I. But while she s learning to trust again and open her heart, she s also discovering that trusting the wrong person can be a deadly mistake. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. This book will keep you reading long into the night. This was such a great read and full of surprises. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
I am new to this author and the description of the book was interesting so I gave it a try. This was a quirky story and I enjoyed reading the book. Elle Pressley is a doggie yoga instructor and when a client asks her to teach her eccentric mother and dog some exercises, Elle is in no position to refuse, she needs money and she sees no reason not to take the job. Elle enters the world of the rich, and before long she is wrapped up in a family of secrets, betrayal and murder. I received a cop of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.