The entire Sweet & Sour series in one box set!
A scoop of a lifetime drops into Trixie Lyal’s lap, but she finds herself falling far down the rabbit hole when a bite into a mysterious apple transforms her into a furry beast of legend. With the help of the handsome Orion, a local of her new hometown, she tries to make sense of her new world, and herself.
I never wanted, or expected, to be a part of the news, especially in a story I couldn’t publish, but such was my life as a small-town newspaper reporter with seriously bad luck.
But first, I had to do a little bitching about my old job as I stumbled upon my new job, and new life.
“I hate snow. I hate snow. I hate snow.”
That was my mantra as I eased down the wintry county road. I was alone in my small, beat-up old sedan. It was fifty-thousand miles overdue for a checkup, but the wealth of a newspaper reporter wasn’t exactly counted in dollar amounts. It was more like a calling. An urge to know the truth. A longing to shed light on the facts.
Or that’s the bullshit I kept telling myself as I inched past the two-foot high snowdrifts that stood as sentinels along either side of the road.
“Why couldn’t they have waited to lay me off some other time? Like July?” I muttered to myself.
It was true.
I was unemployed, or rather, in-between jobs. The old job was two-hundred miles behind me, and the new one was a hundred miles and a mountain pass in front of me.
I glanced out the windshield and sighed. The freak weather storm had been predicted, but I never thought I’d see such weather for early October. The only excuse was the road I found myself on sat somewhere around oxygen-tank elevation.
A flurry of thick, white snowflakes fell from the dark gray sky above me. The whiteness stretched forever, as did the rest of the scenery. I was in a stretch of the country that had few houses and even fewer cities. The hamlets and valleys I’d passed through could have been missed if I blinked. Clumps of small forests and rolling hills pocketed the land to my left. On my right was the constant companion of an ice-filled river with its banks peppered with tall, bare-bone trees occupied by the occasional unfriendly predator bird. Above me the sky showed that there was only an hour left until dark.
“Why couldn’t you have asked them for a little more time?” I scolded myself as I rounded another corner in the country road.
‘Them’ was my soon-to-be employer, a newspaper in a far-off city. I would be at the bottom of the totem-pole, a novice reporter in an unfamiliar metropolis. The city I left behind was my hometown, but it had done me wrong by not offering me any job opportunities. My flight from the unemployment line hadn’t been well-received by my mother.
“What do you mean you’re moving?” she’d shrieked after I told her the good news that I’d found a job.
“They’re the only ones who offered me a job,” I’d pointed out.
“Well, maybe you didn’t look hard enough.”
“Mom, I contacted two dozen. Only three even got back to me.”
“But why that far?” my mom persisted.
“I don’t have much of a choice.”
A hulking shadow jumped into the road ten yards in front of me. I slammed on the brake and the car decided to do a dance across the slick surface of the road. Its rear slid left and right as skidded to a stop a few feet from the shadow. My headlights glistened off a bunch of brown, wet fur that covered something that stood on two legs. Yellow eyes glared at me from an elongated face before it turned away and loped across the road to my left. The thing jumped the growing snowdrift and disappeared into the white wilderness.
I leaned back in my seat and clutched at my heart. “Easy there, girl, easy. It’s gone. You’re safe.”
My heart was somewhat soothed. I turned the steering wheel so the car faced forward and inched my way into a straight path. The snowflakes fell faster and the day grew darker as night threatened to scare me silly. It’d have to really try after that terrifying creature scare.
“Stop letting your imagination get the best of you. There’s nothing out here but snow and crazy old miners. . .” I mumbled to myself. My eyes flickered to the side of the road where the creature had disappeared. “Wish I’d find one of those crazy old miners so they could tell me where the heck I am.”
My prayers were answered by the sight of a road block on my side of the road. Two vehicles with state trooper markings were parked in front and behind the road block, and the drivers stood together on my end of the block. They both wore the large-brimmed hats and uniforms of old. One of them held up his hand and walked towards me. I slowed to a stop, this time without the dance moves, and stuck my head out my open window.
“Something wrong, officer?” I asked him.
He walked up to me and smiled. “Sorry to tell you this, miss, but the road’s closed ahead.”
“Closed? Why?” I asked him.
“This storm might not look like much here, but there’s winds on the top and the snow’s coming down too fast to see,” he explained.
I leaned back and threw up my hands. “Perfect. Just perfect.” A fitting end to a two-thirds completed hellish white road trip.
“If you need some place to stay there’s the last town you passed. Apple Hollow,” he suggested. “They’ve got a good motel with clean rooms and you won’t meet a friendlier bunch of people. Tomorrow you might be able to get through. The weather’s a little funny up here. One day we’ll have a blizzard and the next it’ll be all melted.”
I furrowed my brow. “I didn’t see any town.”
“That’s because it’s set a ways back from the state highway and they don’t really advertise themselves,” he explained. He pointed at the road behind me. “You go back about a mile and take the first plowed road on the right. Go for about ten miles around two corners and you should find the hollow it’s in.”
I sighed and shrugged. “Why not? I’ve got time.” I raised an eyebrow and my eyes flickered to the trooper. “How much time do I have?”
He shook his head. “I couldn’t say, but it won’t be today. This is one of the last roads the state plows,” he warned me.
“Well, thanks for the tip,” I told him. I went to roll up my window, but he put his hand on the sill.
“Just a friendly warning, though, miss. The people in the town are a suspicious folk for gossip hounds, so you might not want to tell them you’re a reporter,” he advised me.
I frowned and my eyes narrowed. “How’d you know I was a reporter?”
He grinned and pointed at my rear view mirror. A press pass hung from the neck. “It doesn’t take a reporter to see that,” he teased.
I sheepishly smiled and pulled down the pass. “Thanks.”
“Anyway, good luck,” he called to me as he stepped back.
I had no idea how badly I’d need it.