Things heat up for Chris and Adam as trouble close to home brings them closer to each other. Chris has a big question for Adam, but trouble interrupts their alone time when Doc needs saved from hungry squirrels. They’re warned about weather and waifs while at the general store and return home to find worse trouble. Someone’s intent on stealing Chris’ water and when they spoil the thieves plans they find themselves neck-deep in trigger-happy neighbor problems.
“Ah, this is the life,” I murmured.
I sat on my porch with a hot mug of cocoa in one hand and a good book in the other. In front of me was my property in all its full fall glory. The trees shed their leaves and needles atop the wet, cool ground. Birds flew overhead heading south and wouldn’t return until spring sprang back. The squirrels and chipmunks raced each other here and there collecting food for the long, cold winter. Their chatter mixed with the snow birds and created a chorus of nature’s sounds. Bunny rabbits with their white coats hopped beneath the bushes and nibbled on the few pieces of grass not bit by Jack Frost.
I sighed and slid down in my chair. All was peaceful and serene. Perfect until I noticed when those squirrelly squirrels scattered to the far winds and, I watched as the chipmunks dove into their holes in the trees. The bunnies raced for their burrows and the birds flew off to partake of seeds from someone else’s yard.
The corner of my lips twitched up in a smile and I glanced down at the page number of my book.
“Only two pages. One of us is getting better,” I mused.
I snapped the book shut and set it on a small table beside my chair. On the opposite side of the table was another chair like mine. An extension chord hung from the table and ran into the house. It was connected inside to a socket, and outside to a tiny fan. The fan faced toward a forest trail on my right that led up the hill, and in front of the fan was a second mug of hot cocoa. Its scenty steam rose up and wafted in front of the spinning blades which then sent the scent up the trail to my scent-sensitive neighbor. I thought of the devil, and he came in the form of Adam, my boyfriend and neighborhood werewolf.
Adam walked down the path with a grin on his face and stepped onto the porch so that he stood in front of me. He leaned down so that our noses nearly touched. “I think you might be abusing my ability to smell over long distances,” he teased me.
I shrugged and took a sip of my cocoa. The mug bumped into his nose. “Just think of it as my calling card,” I suggested. Adam grinned and pushed aside my mug. He captured my lips in a passionate, longing kiss that left me breathless and hot. We separated only for air and I playfully scowled at him. “I think you might be abusing my fondness for you,” I added.
Adam chuckled and plopped himself into the spare chair. He grasped the spare mug in his hand and took a large drink. “Maybe, but you know I am unable to resist your cocoa.”
“It’s the extra scoop of chocolate,” I informed him.
He leaned back in his chair and glanced out on the view I’d been enjoying. “So what do I owe the pleasure of this call?”
I opened my mouth, but a yowling cat interrupted my sentence. I blinked at Adam. The sound came from him. “Identity trouble?” I asked him.
“Not quite,” he sheepishly responded. He pulled out his cellphone and glanced at the number, winced, and put the phone to his ear. “Hey, Doc, what’s up?” The volume was too low for me to make out Doc’s reply. “You know, it completely escaped our recollections, but we can have it to you tomorrow-oh, I see. Well, close all the windows and doors, and we will fulfill our promise. Goodbye.” Adam terminated the call and sighed.
“Something wrong with Doc?” I asked him.
Adam smiled and shook his head. “It seems we forget about the promised bag of squirrel food, and the squirrels are attempting to invade his home to get at his pantries.”
I cringed. My first adventure here was of a similar intrusion. “So we need to get that bag right now?”
“He would appreciate it,” Adam agreed. He stood, but paused and glanced down at me. “But you must have wanted more than my company to bring me down here on such short notice.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but I hesitated and clapped my lips shut. I stood and shook my head. “It’s nothing I can’t say later. For now let’s go save Doc before the squirrels develop a taste for human flesh.”
We took my car down the road to the general store. Agnes and her dad Abner were at their usual chores, the first in one of the aisles and the second in his customary chair to the left fast asleep. The bell over the door heralded our coming, and Agnes looked up from stocking a shelf.
Her face brightened and she creakily stood to her feet. “Well, well, about time you two showed up. We were starting to wonder if you’d up and died on us. What brings you two into these parts?”
“We need a bag of squirrel food for Doc,” Adam told her.
Agnes brushed off her dusty jeans and sidled around the rear of the counter. She flipped through some inventory slips like a mobster flips through wads of cash. We followed her and stood before the counter. “They trying to rebel against him again?” she mused without looking up.
“I’m afraid so,” Adam replied.
“I’m guessing this has happened before,” I spoke up.
“Oh, just about every other month or so,” Agnes answered. She paused on a slip. “Ah-ha. Here we are. We should have a bag in the back. Dad, could you help-Dad!”
Abner started and his rocker rocked a few inches forward. He whipped his head around and his eyes were wide. “What? Where?”
“Dad, could you help Adam find the bag of squirrel food? It’s somewhere in the back with the rest of the pet food Doc makes me order,” she told him.
Abner frowned, but inched himself from his rocker and shuffled behind us. “Come on, you know the drill, Adam,” he commented.
“We’ll be back in a moment,” Adam promised me, and he followed Abner behind the counter and they disappeared through the door in the back wall.
“So were you needing anything for yourself?” Agnes wondered.
I shrugged. “To be honest we drove down here so fast I can’t remember.”
Agnes walked around the counter, wrapped a friendly arm around my shoulders, and led me into the aisles. “You might want to think about stocking up. Fall’s here to stay and winter is always at its heels here in the mountains,” she advised me.
I glanced around the store with its well-stocked provisions and tapped my chin. “Well, I guess I could take a few of all the essentials. I did just get paid.”
“And we’ll be glad to have you part with your money here,” Abner spoke up as he shuffled forth from the back room. Adam was just behind him with a forty-pound bag of squirrel food draped over one shoulder.
Agnes started removing some of the items from the shelves, but had skill enough to turn and scowl at her parent. “Behave, Dad! We’re not here to fleece any of our customers.”
Abner resumed his spot in his rocker and frowned. “Ya might make more if you fleece those damned city folks,” he suggested.
“No fleecing, cheating, swindling, or bamboozling,” Agnes scolded him. By this time there was a small pile of canned and powdered goods at our feet, and Agnes scooped the mess up in her arms. I followed her to the counter and Adam leaned the squirrel food bag against the front. Agnes rang up my supplies first and bagged them so fast I got whiplash watching her. “All right, that’s eighty-five ninety for the pretty young lady.” I cringed, but forked over the dough.
Adam gently kicked the bag at our feet. “How much for the squirrel food?”
Agnes leaned over the counter and squinted her eyes. “A twenty pounder is fifty-four forty-nine, including tax.”
Adam glanced at me. I nodded at the bags of food stuff and I pulled my pockets out. Nothing fluttered to the floor except my driver’s license. Agnes already cleaned me out of my available cash. Adam sighed and pulled his wallet out as I picked up my license.
Abner’s beady eyes watched me. “Better be minding that better, miss. No telling who’ll pick it up around here. Ya might not get it back,” he warned me.
I shrugged. “I don’t know what any of my neighbors would do with it if they found it,” I pointed out.
He shook his head. “Ain’t the fancy folk I’m talking about.”
“Dad, stop scaring the customers. Now you two go out and enjoy yourselves. This nice weather won’t last for long,” she advised.
Adam smiled. “You can feel it in your bones?”
She snorted and waved her hand at him. “Heavens no. I checked the weather channel this morning and there’s a cold front moving in. Might bring some snow with it, too.”
Adam hefted the squirrel food over his shoulder and gave a nod. “We’ll be sure to stay around our cabins.”
Agnes set her arms on the counter and leaned toward us. Her eyes and the corners of her lips took on a decidedly teasing aspect. “Cabins? Still not rooming together yet?” she asked us.
Adam chuckled and gave her a wink. “Not yet.”
I grabbed the paper bags off the counter and scowled at the pair. “Time to go,” I scolded my companion.
“The boss orders me, and I shall obey,” Adam replied, and he led me toward the doors.
“Wait a moment, you two love birds,” Agnes called behind us. We paused at the entrance and turned to her. She leaned over the counter and her smile slipped into a frown. “I just wanted to warn you two about those Owens boys. I haven’t seen them around for a while and that means they’re up to no good.”
“They’re always up to no good,” Abner mumbled.
Agnes scowled at him. “You know they get worse when nobody’s seen them. They started a forest fire the last time nobody saw them for a week, and it’s been four.”
“We’ll keep our eyes out for them,” Adam promised.
Agnes smiled and nodded her head. “You do that, and you two have fun.”