Here Comes Trouble

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