Paws for MurderToday is no ordinary day. After four years, today is the day I get my life back.

Okay, my sister Dru would chide me for being too dramatic, my sister Lucy would argue that I’m still woefully in need of a life, and my best friend Rena would slap me on the head and insist that I’ve had a life this whole time, I just haven’t been living it well.

Potato, po-tah-to. I’m getting my life back.

Here’s the skinny. I started dating Casey Alter during our sophomore year at Merryville High, and I’d stuck with him through undergrad, med school, and his residency, all the while putting off my own dream of being a fashion designer. When he left Merryville with a perky little nutritionist instead of me, I fell into a bit of a slump. I worked part time at the Merryville Gift Haus, lived above the store, and spent my spare time reproducing the latest runway fashions for my cat Jinx and my dog Packer. (Don’t judge. I was depressed.)

But about a month ago, my boss and landlady, Ingrid, announced that she was moving to Boca to rekindle an old flame and permanently closing the doors of the Gift Haus. With Ingrid’s moral support and my Aunt Dolly’s financial support, I decided to take over the Gift Haus space and open up my very own pet boutique, Trendy Tails, catering to Merryville, Minnesota’s high-end tourist trade. Today’s the day I sign the lease and launch this next chapter in my life.

Sure, it’s not quite what I had in mind when I went to design school, but I love the challenge of reconfiguring the latest styles into creations that will fit four-legged fashionistas. In addition to my hand made pet couture, I’ll sell toys, leashes, trendy collars, and adornments. Rena, who’s a wiz in the kitchen, will sell organic homemade pet treats, too. It’ll be great. Or we’ll go under in a week. Who can say?

Rena and I are supposed to meet Dolly and Ingrid downstairs in about ten minutes so we can sign papers and exchange checks. I take a deep, trembling breath and give myself one last look in the mirror. I can’t help but notice that the barrette holding back my night-black hair is a bit askew, but otherwise I’m looking pretty sharp. White blouse, gray slacks, a swath of crimson scarf at my throat . . . I look like I might just be an entrepreneur. Me, Dizzy Izzy McHale. Proprietor.

Rena’s waiting for me in my kitchen. Even with a ladder of earrings marching up her ear, her purple hair spiked straight to heaven, and a pair of combat boots on her feet, she looks perky, excited, and sweet. The yellow sundress billowing from her tiny body, the basket of blueberry muffins hanging from her forearm, and her ferret Val draped over her shoulder all soften my friend’s usual tough-pixie look.

“Izzy,” she yells, her excitement tinged with just a bit of impatience, “let’s go.”

“I’m coming,” I yell back. I scratch Packer and Jinx behind their ears, just for luck, and, with a deep calming breath I leave my bedroom to begin my day.

Today. The day I get my life back.

You can read more about Izzy in Paws For Murder, the first book in the new “Pet Boutique” mystery series, published by Obsidian. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on January 8, and you will be entered to win a copy of Paws For Murder. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
annieAnnie Knox doesn’t commit–or solve–murders in her real life, but her passion for animals is 100% true. She’s also a devotee of 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. While Annie is a native Buckeye and has called a half dozen states “home,” she and her husband now live a stone’s throw from the courthouse square in a north Texas town, in a crumbling historic house.

Visit Annie at her website or on Facebook

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