A Dead End Thanksgiving Disaster

For those of you who don’t like to download from BookFunnel (which I promise you is easy and has great customer service), here is the “short” story about that day Tess hosted Thanksgiving dinner and the turkey ended up in the washing machine…

Only in Dead End!!

A Dead End Thanksgiving Disaster—a short story

By Alyssa Day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author



I mean … I had to write it.

The turkey stuck in the washing machine?

Only in Dead End.

NOTE: For continuity, please note that this story takes place on the Thanksgiving Day just before A Dead End Christmas.

Also note: The Jell-O salads came both from my own memories of truly awful “desserts” showing up at church potlucks when I was a kid, and from this hideous but entertaining article: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-disgusting-failed-Jell-O-recipes-2012-5.

Enjoy! But I recommend you DON’T try them at home. 😊



St. Augustine, Florida

PS: Are you dying to know what happens when a pregnant witch finds a dead body on the field at Dead End’s official annual softball game? Preorder EYE ON THE BALL now!!




Chapter 1


In my defense, everything was going fine until Grandpa Jed showed up with the turkey.

Well, no.

Everything was fine until the turkey disappeared.


Okay, no.

But “fine” is a tricky word, isn’t it?

Especially in Dead End.

Here’s what actually happened:

* * *
Thanksgiving Day, my house

My first-ever time hosting Thanksgiving Dinner was not starting off well, and it was only eight in the morning.

“No, Aunt Ruby,” I said into the phone yet again, completely patient and calm.

Okay, not entirely patient and calm. This was the seventy-billionth time we’d had this conversation since I’d first offered to host the dinner at my place. Now, to have to go over the same ground on the actual day was a bit much.

“I don’t need you to take over. I really have this under control. It’s time you got to relax and enjoy a holiday, instead of doing the lion’s share of the work.”

Jack, busy setting up an extension to my kitchen farmhouse table, snorted. “Lions. King of the jungle, my butt. Tiger’s share would be a better expression.”

Since he was a Bengal tiger sometimes, he was sensitive about stuff like that.

I heard muffled speaking on the phone, and then my uncle came on the line.

“She’s just fussing. We know you’re going to have a wonderful feast for us, Tess. See you soon.”

“Thanks, Uncle Mike,” I said, relieved. He’d been the voice of reason throughout my entire childhood, when Aunt Ruby’s overprotective, overly nosy style of parenting and my stubborn, “I wanna do it myself” style of being a kid had smashed into each other.

Some things don’t change, luckily.

“Just tell that boy not to eat all the food before we get there.”

Jack, who had Superior Tiger Hearing (capital letters implied), as he often reminded us, laughed. “Tell him to get a move on. I promise nothing.”

I shook my head. “Uncle Mike, just round up Aunt Ruby and Shelley and the side dishes you’re bringing, even though I asked you not to. Jack’s Grandpa Jed isn’t here with the turkey, but I’m not getting worried. Yet.”

“I promised to pick him up at nine,” Jack said. “No worries.”

“Okay, honey,” Uncle Mike said. “See you soon. Do I need to bring stuff to change the oil in your car?”

“No, you don’t need to change the oil in my car on Thanksgiving Day.” I blew out a sigh. “I’m not due for an oil change yet, and I can do that myself, anyway.”

“Or I could do it,” Jack put in, and I rolled my eyes at him.

“Love you. See you soon.” I clicked the phone off before my uncle could offer to paint my house or plow the back field and plant a garden while my aunt moved into my kitchen and cooked our Thanksgiving dinner from scratch. With me, those two were overachievers times one thousand. I loved them more than life itself, but sometimes they made me want to move all the way from Florida to Alaska. Or even farther away.

Just for a week or two.

Lou, my beloved cat, meowed up at me and twined around my feet.

“I know, sweetheart. Let’s get some more coffee for me and some breakfast for you, and then I can recreationally bang my head against the wall.”

Jack poured me another cup of coffee while I fed Lou her morning salmon delight, his beautiful green eyes laughing at me. “He wanted to change your oil for Thanksgiving?”

I dumped sugar and cream into my cup and took a gulp. “Of course he did. Because he’s Uncle Mike. Now, I need to get started on the side dishes, and you need to go pick up your grandpa and the turkey.”

“Remind me again why my three-hundred-plus-year-old grandfather, who has no car and doesn’t know how to drive anything not pulled by horses, is in charge of the turkey?”

I was regretting that. Especially now that it was going on eight-thirty. “He insisted. And Aunt Ruby brought me up on the Big Book of Southern Manners, which exists entirely and only in the brains of generations of Southern women. I can’t not respect my elders. Since he’s the eldest elder I know . . .”

“You were doomed, er, destined to agree,” Jack said, his lips quirking at the edges.


He finished his coffee, hugged me, kissed the top of my head, and headed for the door. “No worries. I’ll go get him and the turkey. If he doesn’t have one, we’ll pick one up on the way back here. I’m sure we can find a turkey somewhere.”

My knees went weak, and I had to clutch the back of a chair to keep from stumbling. “You … you’ll just find one somewhere? You realize it’s Thanksgiving Day, right? Most stores are closed! Even if you could find a turkey, it would be frozen, and one big enough to feed all of us would take at least three days to thaw!

Jack’s steps quickened. “I’m sure he already has it.”


“And it’s thawed out!”


“And dinner will be glorious!” With that last, he bolted out the door, running for his truck.

“IT BETTER BE!” I shouted after him.

Because I had a list.

Of course, I had a list. Napoleon had invaded Russia with less planning than I’d put into this Thanksgiving dinner. And it was timed.

I poured myself more coffee and looked at my perfectly organized list. Right there, in big, bold letters:


It was coming up on nine, and I had no turkey. Okay. I did a quick deep-breathing exercise and moved on. Step two:


“We have this,” I told my cat.

Note to reader: We didn’t have this.



Chapter 2

I let Lou out to sit on the back porch in the sunshine and put on some music in the kitchen to sing along to, since nobody was around to wince, grimace, or put earplugs in their overly sensitive ears, and got to work. I prepped the onions and celery for the stuffing and pulled out the cornbread I’d made the night before while I baked pies.

Cooking tip: Day-old cornbread makes better stuffing than fresh-baked. I don’t know why. It just does.

I peeled and cut potatoes and put them in cold water to wait for their turn on the stove and double-checked that my gravy ingredients were ready to go. We were going traditional all the way: roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, dinner rolls, cranberry and citrus sauce from fresh cranberries and tangerines, and three kinds of pie: pumpkin, apple, and Key lime, because a pawnshop customer had brought me some Key limes recently.

We had plenty of room around my old farmhouse table for all of us, so there would be no relegating Shelley to a kids’ table. I took a moment to admire the table because it was really pretty. I’d put out a medley of gorgeous antique plates I’d bought at the shop and glassware I’d gotten the same way. I’d also made a fresh flower centerpiece, and I had a few new colorful platters and bowls ready to be filled. One was a funky avocado-green glass bowl from the 70s. I wasn’t sure what I’d put in that one. Maybe cranberry sauce—the red would look striking against the green.

I sighed happily. Everything looked perfect. I loved the unique flair of the mismatched but complementary dishes.

Mismatched and complementary also described my family who’d be at the table, I realized. My Uncle Mike and Aunt Ruby, who’d taken me in when I was only three, after my mom died and my dad ran off. Shelley, my newly adopted sister, who was almost ten and on the cusp of some pretty serious magical powers. Jack’s great-however-many-greats granddad, who’d been trapped in a statue for centuries. (It’s Dead End. These things happen.) And Jack. My friend and now boyfriend, a tiger shifter who’d been a rebel soldier and commander during the vampire wars.

This oddly shaped family had come together with friendship and love, and—like my table—we all glowed just a little brighter when we were together.

My first timer buzzed, snapping me out of my fancifulness, and I got back to work, but I cast a worried glance at the clock.

At ten-fifteen, Jack finally called me, which was lucky for him, because I was contemplating violence.

“Where is my turkey?” I growled into the phone.

“Ah … we had a little—” he sounded breathless. It takes a lot to make a tiger sound out of breath, so my anxiety ratcheted up to a nine on a scale of one to ten. Or maybe an eleven.

“If you say ‘problem,’ I’m going to let Uncle Mike shoot you.”

“Issue. Just a teensy issue. We’ll be right there. Ten minutes, tops.”


But he’d hung up.

And he didn’t answer when I tried to call back. Neither did his Grandpa Jed.

That wasn’t ominous at all.



Chapter 3

Everybody showed up at once, as always happens. It was already ten-thirty, so I was behind on my carefully planned schedule, but not horribly so. I raced out the front door to meet them. Jack’s truck led the way to my house, and Uncle Mike’s truck followed. I leapt down the stairs and skidded to a stop in front of Jack’s truck, my stomach twisting.

Because the only Shepherd in the truck cab was Jack.

No Jed.

If no Jed meant no turkey …

My brain had just started to smoke when Jed popped his head up from the back of the truck, which raised a few questions. Since he was human and not in his tiger shape, I didn’t know why he was riding in the back. I also didn’t know why his hair was standing straight up, either, or why a huge grin practically split his handsome face in two.

The grin made me nervous.

“I got the turkey,” he called out, shoving a hand through his hair. Something white and fluffy, like dryer lint, floated down from his head, and I got a bad feeling.

A really, really bad feeling.

“Jed,” I started, not sure how to finish my sentence, hoping beyond hope my suspicions were unfounded, but before I could say another word, my sister Shelley burst out of the backseat of Uncle Mike’s truck and ran over to Jed.

“It’s a turkey!” she shouted. “You brought me a turkey!”

She twirled in a circle, hopping up and down, and then ran over to hug me. “Tess! Tess! Tess! Grandpa Jed brought me a turkey!”

(We’re hoping she’ll quit communicating solely in exclamation points sooner rather than later, but no luck so far. Not that I blamed her, in this instance.)

After all, Grandpa Jed had brought her a turkey.

And there was no way she was this excited about a grocery store turkey, thawed or not thawed.

The floating white stuff suddenly made sense. Those had been feathers. Feathers floating down all around us, just like the ashes of all my careful plans.

Jack, the coward, still hadn’t climbed out of his truck. I marched over there, yanked open his door, and scowled at him.

“You brought a live turkey?”


“You brought me a live turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?”

He tried a sheepish grin. “Well, I—”

I poked him in the chest. “You are a dead man.”

He laughed and hopped out of the truck, wrapped an arm around me, and kissed me. When I pushed him away, sputtering, he grinned at me.

“Hey, I wanted to get one last kiss in before you kill me.”

I threw my hands up in the air and reluctantly walked toward the back of the truck, following the sounds of a very unhappy turkey. By this time, Uncle Mike and Aunt Ruby had gotten out of their truck, and Uncle Mike walked over to Jed and the turkey while Aunt Ruby, arms full of side dishes I had asked her not to bring, headed for my house, shooting me a disapproving look.

“It’s not my fault,” I yelled after her, but the door closed behind her before I got to “my.”

“What kind of turkey is that Grandpa Jed? Can I keep her? Can I, can I, can I?” Shelley danced around Uncle Mike.

“It’s not a girl turkey,” Jed said.

“It’s a boy turkey, Shelley. A tom,” Uncle Mike said at the same time.

“Oh. Sure. Because the live turkey’s gender is what’s important here,” I gritted out.

The turkey evidently agreed with me because he started gobbling.


“Only male turkeys gobble, Shelley,” Uncle Mike said. “The sound attracts girl turkeys.”

“My Thanksgiving dinner is looking for a girlfriend?” I marched over to the back of the truck, almost afraid to look.

“I—I—” I couldn’t get the words out. “That—that—”

“Turkey,” Shelley said, still jumping up and down. “It’s a turkey, Tess! It must be four feet tall! How did you catch him?”

Jed smiled modestly. “Well, once I turned tiger—”

“You didn’t BITE him, did you?” Shelley’s little face was a study in horrified shock.

“No, of course not,” Jed said, looking horribly guilty and surreptitiously brushing more feathers off his shirt.

I noticed the tom’s feathers looked kind of ragged and deliberately did not think about how that had happened. “You were meant to get a turkey from the store that we could have for dinner! Not—”

“Probably twenty-five or more good pounds of meat, too,” Jed said, beaming at me as if waiting for me to thank him.

I blew out a breath. Things could not get much worse than this. A live turkey would destroy my schedule. “If you think—”

And then fate proved me wrong again. Things got worse. Much worse.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” Shelley shouted at him. “Did you say MEAT? What are you talking about? Do you think you’re going to cook Leroy?”

Jack nudged me, looking confused. “Who’s Leroy?”

“The turkey is obviously Leroy,” I hissed at him. “Now he has a name, so we’re never going to eat this turkey. Have you even met Shelley?”

“We’re not TURKEY MURDERERS!” she shouted, stomping her foot.

I closed my eyes and asked God for patience. Just a teensy bit of patience.

“Honey,” Jed began, worried gaze on Shelley. “It’s just—”

But we never got to hear the end of that sentence because several things happened simultaneously:

The turkey flapped his wings and shrieked out another gobble.


Shelley shouted “NO!” and thrust her hands forward, palms out, toward the truck.


Jed flew up and off the truck as if a gale-force wind had smashed into his belly and landed on the ground hard.


The turkey flew up out of the back of the truck and across the yard toward the side of my house, with Shelley racing after him.



Chapter 4

“Shelley, we talked about using your magic powers on people,” Aunt Ruby sternly called out from the front porch, and then she turned and went back inside.

“He deserved it,” my sister shouted over her shoulder, before she and the turkey disappeared behind the house.

“Huh,” I said. “I’ve never seen a turkey fly before. I knew they could, but never saw it.”

“They usually don’t fly much,” Uncle Mike said, his lips twitching as he fought laughter. “Up into the occasional tree is pretty much it.”

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me,” Jed said, coughing.

Uncle Mike, Jack, and I walked around the back of the truck and stared down at Jed, who was still flat on his back on the ground, rubbing his chest and looking rueful.

“That girl packs a punch,” he said. “Hand up?”

Jack leaned down and gave his granddad a hand, which was good, because I was inclined to leave him there all day.

“What were you thinking, Grandpa Jed?” I threw my hands up in the air. “That you’d just pop over with your live turkey, borrow my axe, and kill the poor thing right here?”

He blinked. “Well, of course. We’d have to pluck it and clean it, of course, but I thought you might want to do that part—”

Jack took a careful step back, probably to get out of the line of fire.


“You thought that I, a modern woman of the twenty-first century, would want to clean and de-feather a turkey? In my yard? At the same time that my carefully planned schedule calls for my store-bought turkey, already dead and plucked and cleaned and thawed, to be in the oven?”

Jed couldn’t meet my eyes anymore. “Um, well, Tess, I just—”

“No. No, no, no, no.” I put my hands over my ears. “Nope. I don’t want to listen to any more of this.”

I swung around and started toward the house, gritting my teeth, and didn’t stop when Jack caught up to me. “Nope.”

“Listen, I’m really sorry. It’s just that he was so proud of himself,” he said, laughter in his voice. “I didn’t think about Shelley.”

I stopped walking and swung around to face him. “I don’t even know what to say right now. We’re not going to have a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, which will prove Aunt Ruby right in all her fears that I couldn’t handle this.”

I was nearly in tears, even though I realized this was a minor catastrophe in the grander scheme of things we’d faced during the year. It was just that I’d wanted the day to be so special.

Jack moved to hug me, but I shook my head. “No. Just go … go figure out what to do with Leroy. And make sure that wild bird doesn’t hurt Shelley.”

As I opened the door, I heard Jed confiding in Uncle Mike. “Turkeys in Florida sure don’t know what to think about a tiger.”

I rolled my eyes, shut the door a little more firmly than usual, and trudged into the kitchen to deal with Aunt Ruby.

“It’s not my fault—”

“It’s not your fault—” she said at the same time, and we both laughed.

“How were you to know that man would show up with a live turkey?” She was busy finding room on my counters for all the various dishes she’d brought.

“To be fair, I should have known.” I sighed and wandered over to investigate what she’d brought. “I mean, he’s a three-hundred-year-old man with no driver’s license. Of course, he’d think he needed to go out and hunt a turkey. Also, I already made cranberry sauce.”

“With oranges?”

“I tried tangerines,” I admitted. “But otherwise, your recipe.”

Her lovely blue eyes lit up. Aunt Ruby, with her English rose coloring and “Only my hairdresser will ever know” blonde hair, was pretty as a picture and dressed in one of her Sunday dresses, which touched my heart. “That sounds delicious. I’ll just stick mine in the fridge for later. Or do you want it in the freezer?”

“Just the fridge, so you can take it home later. And unless one of these casserole dishes has a turkey inside, we’re going to need to find a main dish. I have a ham, but it’s just a ten-pounder. For Jack, that’s barely an appetizer.”

“I could run back home and check. I think I have a chicken, but it’s frozen.”

I tapped my fingers on the counter, thinking. “You know what? Who says we need to have poultry? I have a dozen steaks in the fridge. Let’s have those plus the ham, and I’ve got a potato-cheese casserole for Shelley with spring onions.”

Aunt Ruby walked over and gave me a big hug. “Tess, you’re amazing. Do you know that? I feel like I spend so much time worrying about you, especially after this year, that I don’t tell you often enough how proud I am of you.”

I teared up a little and hugged her back, hard. “I’m proud of you, too, Madam Mayor.”

“Okay, that’s enough of that,” she said briskly, stepping back and wiping her eyes. “You’ll make me mess up my makeup.”

“Shelley will be okay, won’t she?” I stared out the window but didn’t see either her or Jack. Or the turkey, for that matter.

“Leroy,” she said, laughing. “How did she come up with that?”

“It’s hard to tell. That girl has quite an imagination.”

“Um. Tess?” There was a question in her voice. “What in the world is this?”

I turned to see her staring down at my green bowl from the shop. “Oh. Isn’t that pretty? Someone sold it to me in the shop, and I thought—”

“No. Not the bowl.” She picked up the dish and turned to face me. “This. What is this in the bowl?”

I blinked. I hadn’t put anything in the bowl yet, and from here, whatever was in there looked … green.

And lumpy.

“I have no idea,” I said slowly. “It was completely empty and freshly washed ten minutes ago.”

I moved closer, and we both stared down into the bowl.

The Jell-O filled bowl.

“Is that … onion?” I felt my lips curl. “And … pineapple with green peppers?”

She blinked. “I think it is. Oh, Tess! I know what this is!”

“Please share.” I poked the jiggly mass with one finger. “What flavor is the Jell-O? It’s green, so lime?”

She bent down and sniffed it, then jerked her head away. “Oh. Yes. It’s … lime Jell-O. With a lot of salad vegetables in it. Plus, pineapple.” Her lips twitched. “I … you … you made a 1970s Jell-O salad for Thanksgiving? Tess, where did you even get such an idea?”

I sighed, my shoulders slumping. “I didn’t. Get the idea, or make it, or have anything to do with it. I should have known he sold that bowl too cheap. The bowl must have some weird enchantment on it.”

“What?” She kept poking the veggie Jell-O with a finger and grimacing. “This is really unpleasant. And I say that as the veteran of far too many church potlucks where Jell-O was a staple back in the day.”

“The day? What day? And stop poking it!”

“The 70s. And the 60s, really, too. There was this obsession with making Jell-O into a main dish. People put all sorts of … unpleasant ingredients in it.”

“Nope. It’s bad enough our turkey is named Leroy and running around playing tag with my sister. I’m not serving enchanted Jell-O for Thanksgiving dinner.” With that, I lifted the bowl, which was surprisingly heavy with the magical mélange in it, carried it over to the wastebasket, and dumped the Jell-O. “Sorry, Jell-O. Not today.”

First, Leroy. Now, the self-filling Jell-O bowl. This was turning out to be a very weird day. All I’d wanted was to host one holiday dinner without the day turning into a disaster.

When I was washing the bowl and chatting with Aunt Ruby about potlucks, I glanced out the window to catch sight of Shelley, but only glimpsed her pink shirt as she dashed into the woods that bordered my yard. Jack was right behind her, so I didn’t worry. I didn’t see Leroy either but assumed that’s what—who?—whom?—she was chasing.

Just then, the front door banged open, and my uncle strode into the house.

“Tess! Did you know your cat just raced off into the woods following that dang turkey? Shelley and Jack are going after her.”

Leroy. The Jell-O. Now, my cat.

Disaster: 3

Tess: 0

It was turning out to be a Dead End Thanksgiving Disaster kind of day.



Chapter 5

After a good fifteen minutes of calling my cat and getting no response, Jack, Shelley, and I gave up and headed for the house. Shelley’s bottom lip was quivering, and I was afraid we would be in for a storm of emotion any minute—she was at that age—but Jack swung her up into his arms and whispered something that made her giggle. Then he gave her a piggyback ride to the house. Despite her laughing protests that she was “way too old” for it, she didn’t let him go. Jack had been good for Shelley, and she’d been good for him, too. I smiled despite my twinge of worry for Lou, but my cat had been a stray, and she still enjoyed roaming around and exploring the woods during the day. She’d never stayed out past dusk, thankfully. I always thought she’d encountered enough predators during her early life and didn’t want to face them ever again. Life at my house was pretty cushy for a cat.

I glanced at Jack and grinned. For both of my cats.

Just then Jed, looking remorseful, wandered around the side of the house and stopped, hands jammed in his pants pockets. He gave me a woeful expression, and I had to clamp my lips together against the laugh trying to escape.

“Tess, I’m so sorry. I just—”

“You should be sorry!” Shelley’s face was implacable. She was a tiny arbiter of justice in pink sneakers. She hopped off Jack’s back and stalked over to Jed. “You were going to eat Leroy.”

Jed blew out a breath, and I caught the hint of impatience that flashed through his eyes before he nodded and apologized again. Grandpa Jed came from a time where children were probably seen but not heard, and at the very least they knew where the dinner on the table had come from and probably had helped hunt it, clean it, and cook it. Shelley’s tender sensibilities were likely as foreign to him as automobiles and airplanes.

“All right, Shelley. Let’s go inside and finish getting dinner ready. Jack, Jed, you’re on grill duty. We’re having steaks—”

“But the cooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwws,” Shelley wailed.

I cut her off with a raised hand.

“We talked about this, sweetheart,” I said gently. “You may be a vegetarian, and we support that completely. You can get involved in animal rights activism. But you can’t criticize others at our table for their choices, right?”

She narrowed her eyes, but then sighed and nodded. “Yes. That’s fair. My friend’s mom makes her sit at the table until she eats whatever’s on her plate. Even if it’s liver and lima beans.”

Jack and I immediately grabbed our throats and began making exaggerated gagging noises and grimacing.

“Not lima beans,” I moaned, not having to exaggerate much. I despised lima beans.

“Actually,” Jed said. “Liver is—”

“No!” Jack pretended to cough up a hairball. “No, definitely never liver. Come on, munchkin. Help Tess and your Aunt Ruby with the dinner stuff, and we can get this Thanksgiving rolling!”

She put her hands on her hips. “Are you saying that the women should do the kitchen work?”

I grinned.

Jack put a hand on his heart, widening his eyes in indignation. “Shelley! You know me better than that. We divide chores up by way of who’s best at what around here. Tess and your Aunt Ruby are amazing cooks, and I am the best washer of dishes in three counties. So, Jed and I will handle the cleanup.”

Jed shook his head but smiled. “Well, it’s a new century. I’m glad to help clean the kitchen if I’m forgiven for the turkey … for Leroy. And if there’s pie.”

“What do you think, Shelley?”

She tapped her lips with one finger, but her natural kindness shone through in less than twenty seconds. “Of course I forgive you, Grandpa Jed! And there’s LOTS of pie!”

Then her expression flashed through a series of emotions, too fast for me to interpret, but the final one was definitely triumph. “And everything is going to be just fine.”

“Let’s get this dinner going, then.” I smiled at everyone. Steak was a perfectly good Thanksgiving dinner, after all. “Wait till you see all the wonderful side dishes Aunt Ruby and I prepared!”

“I’m going to have a big scoop of every single one of them,” Jack promised.

A few minutes later, we all crowded around the new green glass bowl, staring down into it.

“I take it back,” Jack said, his nostrils flaring in a very catlike way. “I am definitely not eating any of that.

“What IS that, Tess?” Shelley’s eyes danced with horrified delight. “Is that … tuna fish?”

“Is that Jell-O?” Jack took a step back, as if the hideous concoction might jump up and bite him. “And that color … that green. That’s the shade of—”

“Gamma radiation,” I said glumly.

My lovely new bowl, the very same one I’d just washed, was now filled with a new Jell-O creation. This one also featured lime-flavored gelatin, from the looks of the virulent green, but this one was more … elaborate than the first one.

It had layers.

Layers of … horrible, awful things that should never, ever be found in lime Jell-O. Possibly in gamma radiation, but maybe not even that.

“Are those olives and radishes?” Jack said, shock reverberating in his tone.

“Olives, tuna, radishes, and cucumbers,” Aunt Ruby said gleefully, walking over to where we stood clumped around the jiggly disaster. “And, I believe, bits of pineapple.”

“Why?” I threw my hands up in the air. “I know you guys were weird back in the 60s, but why would anybody do this to—”

“Perfectly good tuna,” Jack finished my sentence.

I’d been about to say pineapple, but cats had different priorities.

“They called it—” Aunt Ruby started laughing, clutching her stomach. “You have to hear this. I looked it up, and they … they … they—”

She bent over, howling with laughter, whatever she was trying to say completely unintelligible. We all stared at my normally quite proper aunt, who was now almost hyperventilating, she was laughing so hard.

“They called it ‘Ring Around the Tuna,’” my Uncle Mike’s dry voice said from behind me.

“And people ate this?” Jed had doubt written all over his face. He stuck out a single finger and poked it, making it jiggle. “On purpose? People who were not prisoners?”

“Worse,” Uncle Mike said. “They considered it a delicacy.

That did it. I started laughing.

My new, obviously enchanted bowl kept presenting me with hideous Jell-O creations.

My turkey dinner was running off somewhere in the woods, probably planning to start a colony of poultry escapees that would terrorize Dead End for years to come.

I laughed and laughed while I dumped the horrible tuna disaster into the garbage. Jack took the bowl and washed it for me. When I could finally catch my breath, I reached behind Jack and grabbed my list from the counter. I ceremoniously ripped it into several pieces and tossed it into the trash on top of the other Jell-O delicacy. Then I turned to my family, most of whom were laughing now, too.

“Who’s ready to fire up the grill?”

But before anybody could answer, a horrible banging and gobbling noise started up from my laundry room. I ran down the short hall, followed by everybody else, only to skid to a stop in front of the door in shock.

“Okay,” I said, clutching my head. “Who put Leroy in the washing machine?”



Chapter 6

Shelley started backing away, and I pointed at her. “Busted!”

“Um …” She bit her lip and tried to look innocent. “I don’t know what—”

“No lying,” Uncle Mike said sternly. “We tell the truth in this family, even if it gets us into trouble.”

Her tiny shoulders slumped. “Fine. I was worried about Leroy, so I zapped him, but I only told my magic to put him somewhere safe.”

“My washing machine is safe? For a turkey?”

Behind me, Leroy banged his head against the little window on the front door of the washer. If a turkey could be indignant, this one definitely was.

“Well, I was kind of also thinking about that time I put my red sneakers in the washing machine with the other laundry, and it turned all of Uncle Mike’s T-shirts pink,” she admitted, wincing. “Maybe my magic got mixed up?”

I sighed. “Maybe your magic got mixed up.”

Jed started snickering, and I whirled to face him. “This seems like a job for you, Grandpa Jed,” I said sweetly. “You’re in charge of getting Leroy out of the washer and into the woods.”

His mouth fell open. “In my day, women didn’t—”

“Better not go there, Grandpa,” Jack said, grinning. “I’ll help you. Mike, will you start the grill?”

“On it,” my uncle said, and I could see how hard he was fighting not to laugh.

Aunt Ruby closed her eyes, shook her head, and muttered something about going to put a cold compress on her head.

“I’ll help!” Shelley shouted.

Deciding I had way too much to do in the kitchen to be part of the turkey-rescue expedition, I left the battlefield, er, my laundry room. “And take him out through the front door, not the kitchen, please!”

When I got back to the kitchen, following Uncle Mike, who grabbed the steaks and headed outside to the grill, the freshly washed glass bowl was filled with Jell-O.


This time, it was orange.

Virulently, malevolently, terrifyingly orange.

And it had tomatoes inside. And cucumbers. And … sliced onions.


Aunt Ruby, holding a washcloth to her head, walked over, stared down into the bowl, and started laughing again.

“Why?” I asked the universe.

My aunt pulled up a photo on her phone that looked exactly like the creation inside my kitchen and read the caption:

“‘Here’s the Crested Tomato Salad, which calls for lemon or orange Jell-O, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Set in this artful mold to impress your lunch party guests.’”

“Why?” I asked again.

“This is from an article about the ‘most disgusting failed Jell-O recipes,’ dear,” she helpfully informed me.

“Okay. You know what? This bowl really, really wants us to eat Jell-O. So, I’m not washing it out again. Who knows what it might come up with next?” I carefully covered the bowl with plastic wrap and placed it on the counter near the fridge.

“Good call,” Aunt Ruby said, grinning at me. She put the cloth down on the edge of the sink, and we got busy setting the table, pretending not to hear the squawks and yelps and gobbling noises coming from my laundry room.

The turkey was making noise, too.

Half an hour later, the turkey was free to roam the woods to his heart’s content. The steaks were done and sizzling on a platter, and we all sat down to enjoy one of the oddest Thanksgiving days on record.

(Jack tried to put the Jell-O on the table, but I told him if he did, he had to eat it, so he put it back on the counter.)

“Welcome to my first-ever Thanksgiving dinner.” I blew out a breath and felt myself relaxing as I smiled at my family. “Let’s continue Uncle Mike and Aunt Ruby’s tradition and go around the table and say what we’re grateful for.”

“I’m grateful we didn’t tell Jed we were having ham for dinner. Getting a wild boar out of the washing machine might have been considerably harder,” Uncle Mike said, slanting a sly grin at Jed, who narrowed his eyes and then laughed.

“I’m grateful Leroy is safely in the woods,” Shelley said.

“I’m grateful to be out of that statue,” Jed said. “And to find out that I had a grandson who has grown up to be a fine man. I’m also grateful for all of you and your kindness.”

“I’m grateful for this wonderful food and for our family and friends,” Aunt Ruby said. “It has been a trying year, but we’ve all come through it safe and healthy and loved.”

“I’m grateful for pie,” Jack said, grinning, but then he cleared his throat. “I’m grateful for all of you. And for having a home, after so long without one. I’m grateful that you took me in, and that I’m part of your family.”

“Well—” Uncle Mike began, and I elbowed him.

“I’m grateful for my wonderful family,” I said, feeling my throat get tight. “For all the love and support and laughter and hugs. For Grandpa Jed, who keeps me on my toes. For Uncle Mike and Aunt Ruby, who set an example of how to be a good person every day of their lives. For Shelley, my amazing new sister. And for Jack, who …” I had to take a breath and fight back tears. “Sorry to get so mushy. For Jack, who loves me.”

Shelley held up her hand. “I have another one. A real one.”

She looked around the table at all of us and blinked back her own tears. “I’m so thankful for my new family. After my mom died, and after my horrible relatives tried to … well, you know what they tried to do. I was so afraid. I didn’t know what would happen to me. And then, well, you all happened to me. In the very best way. And I love you all so much.”

By this point, Aunt Ruby, Shelley, and I all had tears running down our faces, and the guys were clearing their throats and brushing their eyes. We all jumped up and did a big group hug, right there in the kitchen, and then found our seats again.

“We’re so grateful for you, buglet,” I told her. “Now, enough mushiness. Let’s eat!”

And so, we did. We had good food, great conversation, and lots of laughter at my table until every last bite was gone.

(But not the Jell-O.)



Chapter 7

After a bit of preliminary clearing and pre-dishwashing organization (Jack called dibs on doing the dishes), we trooped out to sit next to the pool to eat dessert. Jack turned on the outdoor heaters, and we enjoyed pie and ice cream and even the chocolate cake that Aunt Ruby had smuggled into the house and hid in my guest room.

“I know you had plenty of desserts,” she said apologetically, but I just smiled at her and forked up another huge bite of cake.

“There is no such thing as too much dessert,” Jack said, happily studying his plate, which was actually a platter, and held samples of the cake plus all three pies. “In fact, maybe—”

When he stopped speaking in the middle of his sentence, I looked up from my cake. “Maybe what?”

“Oh, my word,” Aunt Ruby whispered.

Jack, mouth open but no words coming out, pointed. I turned my head to glance over at the pool, but it wasn’t the water catching his attention.

It was the turkey.

And he wasn’t alone.

“Leroy!” Shelley jumped up. “He’s back! With all his friends!”

Jed stood. “What is happening? What is that?”

I put my plate down on the table and grinned. “That’s not a ‘what.’ It’s a ‘who.’ Pixies, to be exact. Lots and lots of pixies.”

And it was. An army of pixies, led by my friend Frazzle, who was riding my cat Lou, and another pixie who looked male at this distance, who was riding Leroy.

The pixies were riding my cat and our Thanksgiving-dinner-that-wasn’t, because of course they were.

“Onward!” Dozens of tiny voices shouted. “Vanquish the rodents!”

None of the battles in any epic fantasy movie had anything on the scene playing out before our eyes. What looked like a couple hundred pixies, none over six or seven inches tall, raced across the field behind my yard following Frazzle, Lou, the boy pixie, and Leroy. Some ran, some flew on delicate gossamer wings in a rainbow of colors.

In front of them, three squirrels chittered and ran for their little squirrel lives.

“Do pixies eat squirrels?” I looked at Jack. It seemed like something he would know.

“We used to eat squirrels,” Jed said.

Shelley was outraged. “What? Is nothing safe from you, Grandpa Jed?”

Jack started laughing. “I don’t think they do. But if I were those squirrels, I’d be running faster. Those pixies are armed.”

It was true. Frazzle and the rest carried swords the size of toothpicks, and they brandished them as they ran and flew. When the squirrels reached the edge of the woods and vanished beneath the trees, a giant “Huzzah!” roared up from the pixies, who immediately stopped their chase and turned toward us.

“To Tess of the Callahan,” Frazzle shouted, and the entire army surged toward us.

“Uh oh,” Aunt Ruby said, putting an arm around Shelley.

“It’s okay. She’s a friend.” I stood to greet the faery I’d first met when she’d landed in my flowerpot. “Welcome, Frazzle! Hey, Lou. I see you’ve been busy.”

The wave of pixies flowed around and over the pool and came to a stop in front of our chairs.

“Greetings, Tess of the Callahan! The vile rodents encroached on our harvest feast. With the help of the valiant Lou and the sturdy Leroy, we have vanquished them.”

“Huzzah!” I cheered. “We’d be honored if you’d join our feast if you don’t have to go right home. And, ah, please let me make introductions.”

I crossed my fingers mentally that she wouldn’t introduce every single pixie individually, but you never wanted to offend a faery. I’d met their queen, and she was scary.

“Everyone, this is Frazzle, our friend. And Frazzle, this is my Aunt Ruby, Uncle Mike, Grandpa Jed, sister Shelley, and boyfriend, Jack.”

Jack stood and offered an elegant bow. “Frazzle. I’m curious: how did you know the turkey’s name?”

Frazzle tilted her head. “He told us, of course.”

“Of course,” Jack murmured, his lips twitching.

The little pixie flew up into the air and hovered. “We are honored to meet you all. And this is my true love, Cranberry, my seventy-three sisters and one brother, and Cranberry’s eighty-nine brothers and two sisters.”

The pixie riding Leroy swept a bow that was just as elegant as Jack’s. “My … Frazzle speaks much of the kindness of Tess of the Callahan and the courage of the valiant Lou.”

“Well, we have lots of pie left, and I made more of the homemade strawberry jam you like. Will you please join us?”

Frazzle’s eyes lit up. “And honey?”

“So much honey.”

She flew up and landed on my shoulder. “I will help.”

We raided the kitchen and brought out every bit of pie, cake, jam, and honey for the pixies to feast on. Jack helped. He even brought out the horrible Jell-O as a joke.

Turns out Cranberry loved the Jell-O.

Loved the Jell-O.

Also, onion/tomato/cucumber Jell-O evidently gave pixies gas.

(Don’t ask.)

“What have you done on this wondrous day, Ruby and Mike of the Callahans?” Frazzle asked after all the food was demolished, and she was lazily licking honey off her fingers.

Aunt Ruby, clearly enchanted with the tiny faeries, explained about Thanksgiving and being thankful for our blessings. Shelley chimed in with how we’d all said what we were thankful for. I suddenly worried we’d be there all night listening to what one hundred and sixty-seven pixies were thankful for, and then I felt bad for being uncharitable on Thanksgiving.

But when the high-pitched chatter of all the pixies weighing in on this topic rose to an ear-ringing clamor, Frazzle held up a tiny, imperious hand, and everyone settled down.

“I like this tradition. We are thankful for good friends, family, Lou the Mighty Cat Warrior, Leroy the Gallant, who will come home with us, and strawberry jam,” she proclaimed.

Her true love, Cranberry, burped and then giggled. Then he stood up and waved a hand in the air. “And we are thankful for Jell-O.”

Jack, sitting next to me, wrapped his arms around me and kissed my cheek. “Words to live by.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, everyone,” I said, sighing happily, deciding to give the magical Jell-O bowl to Frazzle and Cranberry as a gift. “This has been one of the best days ever.”

Everyone—pixie and human and tiger shifter and baby witch—agreed, and life in Dead End was absolutely lovely until December, when somebody killed Santa Claus.

Respectfully submitted,


# # #

Not caught up? Find out what happens when somebody kills Santa Claus in A Dead End Christmas.


Are you dying to know what happens when a pregnant witch finds a dead body on the field at Dead End’s official annual softball game? Preorder EYE ON THE BALL now!!

# # #

Note from Alyssa Day:

I have loved Jack’s character since he first showed up in my brain in 2006, surly and snarling, in the first book of my Warriors of Poseidon paranormal romances. When he was left alone and lonely at the end of that series, he kept asking me when I was going to give him a story.

I did one better: I gave him his own series! And Jack needed to find a new job, and a new life, so when he went home to the craziest town in Florida, he found both. . . and he found Tess.

I’m thrilled to announce that the Tiger’s Eye Mysteries will continue for at least twenty books, and you’ll be able to read the continuing adventures of Jack, Tess, and the gang for years to come!

If you want the scoop on all the new releases, behind-the-scenes details, and the chance to win prizes, please sign up for my newsletter at www.alyssaday.com/newsletter  I promise never to sell, fold, spindle, or mutilate your information so you will get no spam—ever—from me.

And/or follow me on Instagram at @authoralyssaday, or like my Facebook page at http://facebook.com/authoralyssaday. You can also follow me on BookBub if you only want new release news. Or join my VERY SPECIAL group of superfans for fun chatting, sneak peeks, prizes, and more: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DayDreamersAlyssaDay

Thanks again for reading—you rock!

Hugs, Alyssa



Thank you!

Thanks so much for reading my book! I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Review it. My family hides the chocolate if I don’t mention that reviews help other readers find new books, so if you have the time, please consider leaving one. I appreciate all reviews and thank you for your time.

Try my other books! You can find links to all my books at http://alyssaday.com.

Thanks again for reading—I appreciate you!




Books by Alyssa


Dead Eye

Private Eye

Travelling Eye (a short story)

Evil Eye

Eye of Danger

Eye of the Storm

Apple of My Eye

Blink of An Eye

Eagle Eye

A Dead End Christmas

Eye for an Eye

Eye on the Ball

More Than Meets the Eye



Bane’s Choice

Hunter’s Hope

Redemption’s Edge



Alejandro’s Sorceress (a novella)

William’s Witch (a short story)

Damon’s Enchantress (a novella)

Jake’s Djinn (a short story)



Atlantis Rises—COMING SOON!!

Atlantis Awakening

Atlantis Unleashed

Atlantis Unmasked

Atlantis Redeemed

Atlantis Betrayed

Vampire in Atlantis

Heart of Atlantis

Alejandro’s Sorceress (a related novella; begins the Cardinal Witches spinoff series)


Wild Hearts in Atlantis (a novella; originally in the WILD THING anthology)

Shifter’s Lady (a novella; originally in the SHIFTER anthology)



Halloween in Atlantis

Christmas in Atlantis

January in Atlantis

February in Atlantis

March in Atlantis

April in Atlantis

May in Atlantis

June in Atlantis

July in Atlantis

August in Atlantis

September in Atlantis

October in Atlantis

November in Atlantis

December in Atlantis



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About the author

Alyssa Day is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty novels filled with kissing, laughter, mystery, and magic. Alyssa’s paranormal series include the Poseidon’s Warriors, Vampire Motorcycle Club, and Cardinal Witches paranormal romances and the Tiger’s Eye Mysteries paranormal mysteries. In an Alyssa Day book, good always wins and happily ever after always prevails!

Alyssa’s many awards include the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Paranormal Romance novel of 2012 and Romance Writers of America’s RITA award for outstanding romance novella. She’s a recovering trial lawyer who loves life outside of a courtroom. Her books have been translated into a zillion languages, but she’s still holding out for Klingon.

Go to https://alyssaday.com/newsletter/ to sign up for the newsletter and get release day news, behind-the-scenes scoop, notice of contests, news about where Alyssa will make personal appearances, and more!

Q: “What is the reading order of your books?”

A: Here!

You can hang out with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AuthorAlyssaDay) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/authoralyssaday/), where she talks about her rescue dogs and her future pug ranch, and her blog, where she talks books, movies, and mental health (www.alyssaday.com/blog). Love talking about books? Be a DayDreamer! Join Alyssa’s VERY SPECIAL group for superfans for fun chatting, sneak peeks, prizes, and more: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DayDreamersAlyssaDay.




This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A DEAD END THANKSGIVING DISASTER copyright © 2024 Alesia Holliday

Cover design by Alesia Holliday

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