Killer Sweet Tooth - By Gayle Trent



IT ALL began with a little bite of innocent sweetness. It was mid-January, and Brea Ridge—deep in the heart of Southwest Virginia—had been experiencing the type of “Desperado” days the Eagles would describe as “the sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine.”

Ben—my boyfriend . . . significant other . . . man I date?—was working late to make sure an article was included in the Saturday edition of the Brea Ridge Chronicle. He’s not only the newspaper’s editor in chief, he also writes articles and is a perfectionist who has trouble delegating. This isn’t the first Friday night he’s had to call and cancel our plans at the last minute. We’d only been planning to go see a movie in nearby Bristol, but I was still disappointed. However, there were worse things than disappointment. My ex-husband Todd’s idea of a fun weekend evening had been to berate me and to prove how superior he was to me in both size and strength. Oh, yeah . . . good times.

Violet, my sister, was visiting her mother-in-law Grammy Armstrong this evening with her hubby Jason and their twins, my precious tween nephew and niece Lucas and Leslie. Anyway, Grammy was celebrating her seventieth birthday. I’d made the cake for the occasion. It was a ten-inch round cake with a basket-weave border and an assortment of flowers—roses, carnations and daisies—in the center. I’d finished it off with a Happy Birthday pick in the center of the flowers. Violet and her family, as well as the rest of the Armstrong clan, were having a small gathering to wish Grammy Armstrong well.

I must selfishly admit, I felt as if everyone had left me out in the cold that night. Pardon the pun. But I was lonely. Lucky for me—or at least I thought so at the time—Myra was lonely too. Myra is my favorite neighbor. She’s a sassy, sixtysomething (you’ll never get her to admit to any specific age) widow who knows everything about everybody in Brea Ridge (or can find out), who has a heart of gold, and who is as entertaining as they come. I saw her arriving home (she lives right next door), gave her a call, and she agreed to come over around eight for some freshly made cashew brittle and a game of Scrabble. Myra tends to make up words when playing Scrabble, but that merely adds to the challenge of the game.

At the sound of the doorbell, Sparrow, my one-eyed formerly stray gray-and-white Persian cat, raced down the hall toward my office. She has a little bed in there under the desk, and it’s her favorite hiding place. She has begrudgingly made friends with me, but she isn’t comfortable around other people yet. Don’t worry about the one eye. The veterinarian said she was probably born that way. Plus, it’s how she got her name. My nephew and niece, Lucas and Leslie, named her Sparrow in honor of Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. They said having one eye made Sparrow look like a pirate.

I opened the door and Myra came in wearing jeans, an oversized blue sweater, and a pair of tan Ugg boots. She deposited the boots by the door and rubbed her hands together.

“I’m so glad you called,” she said. “I’ve been bored out of my mind today. That’s why I went out to the mall for a while.”

“Did you buy anything good?”

“Not a thing. I just window-shopped until the stores started closing. That made me even more depressed.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Cake orders have been slow since New Year’s . . . even with the Daphne’s Delectable Cakes lawn sign I put up last week. Do you think I should add ‘It’s okay to stop by anytime and order a cake’ to the sign?”

“Nah. Things’ll pick back up. Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it,” Myra said as we walked into the kitchen. “Who knows? You might even get to make a wedding cake.”

“That would be wonderful,” I said.

I’d only been back in Brea Ridge for four months—after more than a twenty-year absence—and opened a cake-decorating business, which I run out of my home. I hadn’t had the opportunity to make any wedding cakes yet, although I had been given the privilege of making a large, tiered cake for a guinea pig’s birthday celebration. It was the closest thing to a wedding cake I’d prepared so far.

I had the Scrabble board set up on the