So there I was, at the opening of the Neptune Aquarium in Charleston, South Carolina. A private party for big buck donors where I’d been tapped to cater tea and scones. That’s what I do, you see. I’m the proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop, a cozy little place with tea tins stacked floor-to-ceiling, stained glass windows, and a stone fireplace.

Taking a break from the party, I ducked out to view the Ocean Wall exhibit, an enormous tank filled with huge ocean-going fish. I’m minding my manners, sipping my tea, and leaning against the glass. When, suddenly, I sensed a subtle pecking. I turned around and stared into the tank. And for a few moments I’m not sure what I’m looking at. The thickness of the glass magnified and distorted whatever creature was peering at me.

Then my eyes focused and a face bobbed close to mine! A human face! With papery white skin leached of color and eyes rolled back so far only the whites were visible! I clapped a hand over my mouth, horrified but unable to look away. My darting eyes took in the entire bizarre scene of a man gently bobbing in the tank, hopelessly entwined in some kind of net. His facial expression was a death grimace. Then, a floating, almost disembodied hand slowly rose up and scratched tentatively at the glass.

Oh no! Please, no!

My world lurched crazily on its axis. Because, bizarrely, I recognized the signet ring on the dead man’s left hand! It belonged to my former boyfriend!

“Parker?” I gasped, as my legs turned to jelly and I sank to my knees. My respiration came in short, biting gasps and I felt close to blacking out.

Balling both hands into fists, I beat futilely against the glass wall. How could this happen? My former boyfriend bobbing like a cork before my very eyes!

Clawing at the glass, I let out a moan as Parker’s body twisted in the netting that wrapped around him, scattering fish like frightened lemmings. Could they sense his death, too? Did they feel my shock and dread?

It was only when a moray eel made a lazy circle about Parker’s head that I thought to scream out loud.

You can read more about Theodosia in AGONY OF THE LEAVES, the 13th book in the “Tea Shop” mystery series. The first book in the series is Death By Darjeeling.

** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of AGONY OF THE LEAVES to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends March 17. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **

Meet the author:
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Agony Of The Leaves, her newest Tea Shop Mystery, publishes on March 6, 2012. Visit Laura at

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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