Kauffman Donna - Here Comes Trouble

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Donna Kauffman

Here Comes Trouble

Copyright © 2010 Donna Kauffman

Chapter 1

Where was all the damn snow?

She’d even begged Santa, but none of the white stuff had magically appeared under her tree. Or any other tree in Pennydash, Vermont, for that matter.

“Enough with this gorgeous weather crap.” Kirby Farrell drummed her fingers on the sides of her ceramic mug as she gazed out at yet another perfect, springlike morning. That would have been ever-so-lovely, really. If it were, you know, actually spring. Not the first freaking week of January. In the middle of high season. For skiing. Which was damn hard to do on bare grass and rock-strewn slopes, as it turned out.

What the hell had she ever done to piss off Mother Nature anyway? Or Santa.

She thought she’d done everything right. No, she had done everything right. She’d found the right house in the right location for the right price. She’d been smart with her hard-earned money, working for eight months straight, starting the last few weeks of the previous winter season. She’d done as much of the renovation on her weathered, neglected yet charming, and character-filled little Victorian as she could by herself. She’d worked with local contractors on the rest, which had earned her a good reputation in her newly adopted hometown.

Kirby had haunted area antique shops and flea markets, refurbishing some old furnishings and discovering secondhand treasures for use in her guest bedrooms and public rooms. She’d also found the best resources for everything from food and wine, to handwoven blankets and rugs, right down to organic soaps and shampoos. She wanted to offer a unique experience, enhanced by the use of local and regionally made products. One her guests could only get by staying at the Pennydash Inn.

She’d made sure her little inn would meet the specific needs of the hoards of skiers who would be descending on the new nearby Winterhaven resort, but who might prefer her more intimate, less pricey digs. Racks for guest’s snow gear had been built in the detached garage, which was now accessible right from the house through a short, enclosed walkway. She had overhauled an aging Chevy Suburban for transporting skiers to the nearby resorts when needed, and was also available to rescue a stranded skier when the snow proved too much for their often unsuitable rental car.

Everything was in place. And had been for going on nine weeks now, since the beginning of November. She’d known it would take some time to reap the rewards of her hard labor, but she’d been fairly optimistic about her first season. Given the otherwise rural and, as yet, undeveloped locale, she’d envisioned her place bursting at the seams right now, with guests who preferred intimate and specialized care at a more economical price than the resort hotel could offer.

However, all the research, preparation, hard work, and reasonable, optimistic attitudes in the world were not going to have even the remotest impact on Kirby’s one, unavoidable vulnerability: the weather. Or record-breaking lack thereof in this particular case.

Kirby continued drumming her fingers as she glared out the bay window of the breakfast nook. A freshly shaken snow globe. That was the view she should be having right now. Everything blanketed in a fluffy layer of white, with fat flakes swirling in the air, smoke curling from the chimney tops, the smell of homemade hot chocolate brewing in the kitchen…the picture postcard of a perfect winter wonderland playground.

Oh, it looked like a postcard all right. “But the only snow that goes with this picture is Snow White.” In fact, all she needed was a few dancing butterflies and adorable chirpy bluebirds flitting about to complete the scenario. Walt Disney would be orgasmic.

Kirby Farrell, on the other hand, not so much.

She’d stopped listening to the news completely. If she heard one more report about this being the warmest winter in the history of recorded weather, she was going to throw something.

And to think how smug she’d been. This area had been about as goof-proof a location as she could have hoped to find. Well, east of the Rockies, anyway. Pennydash was tucked up against the highest peaks of the Green Mountains in such a way as to create a perfect winter effect. Even when other parts of New England experienced less than optimal snowfall conditions, Pennydash and the surrounding area were generally blessed with the most of whatever snowfall came their way.

Historically, it had been mostly a mining and farming community, until advances in technology made it possible to bring in the kind of supplies needed to build a world-class-level resort. One she’d known about through her connections back in Colorado before they’d even been publicly announced. It had been the exact break she’d needed at exactly the right time. And, historically for Kirby Farrell, the good breaks were very few and far between.

Now Pennydash, Vermont, would become an exciting new vacation spot for skiers, and at the moment, Kirby’s inn was the only other game in town. She was well aware there were other start-ups under way, but she’d been the only one to open up on time for the new resort’s inaugural season. A prime, once-in-a-business-launching chance to build a loyal customer base before the competition started.

Right.

She sipped her hot chocolate, defiantly made despite the seventy-degree temps, her own personal little nose-thumbing at Mother Nature, and studiously avoided going into the office she’d created behind her bedroom in what had once been the mudroom by the back of the house. Now the attached garage served that function and kept her from having to scrape clean her lovingly restored hardwood floors from all the muck her vast numbers of boarders would surely be tracking in, what with all the mud, snow, road sand, and salt out there. Or so she had planned, anyway.

Besides, she didn’t need to look at the books to know how broke she was. And even after spending close to a year renovating the three-story, gingerbread-laced, lone house up on the hill, there was still a long list of things she needed to do. Those were slated for the off season, later this spring and summer, bankrolled by the profits made from her first successful ski season as an independent innkeeper.

Mm-hmm.

Now her main objective was to keep the bank from rolling over on her business, which also happened to be the roof over her head. Either the snow had better start falling, or she’d better come up with another way to keep a full house and quick. She didn’t think she could handle having her dreams crushed twice.

Although, at least this time she’d see the end coming.

“Yeah,” she muttered, turning her back to the window. “Like train lights in a very short tunnel.”

She sat her half-empty mug down on the counter and walked into the front parlor where she’d been working on repairing a wedding ring quilt she’d found at a flea market the weekend before. It was going to make a gorgeous bedspread for the third-floor queen suite. But she wasn’t feeling up for the intricate needlework required. And quite frankly, sitting around indulging in another pity party for one was simply too pathetic, even for the mood she was in. Instead she grabbed a notepad and pen and went outside. Might as well utilize the sunny skies and bare ground to plot out the design for her spring flower and vegetable garden.

Take that, Mother Nature.

She was crouching in front of the weathered mulch at the base of a small willow, frowning at a tidy circle of crocuses that had the absolute nerve to even think about poking their little purple heads out of the dirt, when the loud, rumbling sound of a motorcycle vibrated through the warm, morning air.

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