Melody is back for one last adventure!
You guys, Melody is such a fun character. I love all the books BUT I think this one is my favorite. Maybe because autumn is my favorite time of the year. The energy and anticipation that comes with autumn puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step 🙂
AND there are recipes in this book! They’re at the very end (or check out the table of contents). There were a few I left out (ahhhh!) so I’ll be posting some blog posts in October for recipes like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Such a delicious, autumn treat. Plus, they’re a bit more healthy than a “normal” cookie, so if indulging in sweets that aren’t as sweet is your thing, you’ll enjoy these cookies.
Enough chatter! Enjoy the sneak peek of Autumn Adventure! And when you purchase it, please let me know what you think. Would love to hear from you.
AUTUMN ADVENTURE Sneak Peek
The wind whipped through Melody’s curls and she absently brushed them out of her face with one hand, taking a curve at a smooth 40 mph in her compact, gently used, suede-colored car.
“Woops, that was a little fast,” she spoke aloud, gripping the steering wheel tighter before reaching over and rolling the window down the rest of the way. The wind rushed in harder as she started to turn another corner. “Jiminy Crickets, this is one gorgeous fall day.”
Melody smiled and twisted the radio’s volume knob, turning up the music to let Brown Eyed Girl belt out from the speakers. Autumn made her delirious with joy, sometimes so much so that she had a hard time putting her love for it into words—the way the trees seemed to catch fire with color and light, or the fact that she could go to her favorite spot of the season, Apple Haven, and buy apples, twenty pounds at a time, to bake with the next day. Even coffee started tasting better as the weather cooled off.
Thinking about how the day had started—with an unexpected half-day off from her boss, Natalie—brought a grin to Melody’s face. She recalled her morning conversation with Savannah, one of her best friends and fellow Friday Friends Dinner Club members, as she breathed in the cool, rushing air.
“Not my idea of a great time,” Savannah had said when Melody told her what she would be doing that afternoon. “If I had an afternoon off from work, I’d be shopping or playing soccer, not driving up to Apple Haven to buy a bunch of apples I could get at the grocery store.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing; I can’t believe you’ve never been up there,” she’d replied as she hugged Savannah goodbye.
Melody worked for Savannah’s mom, Natalie, at From the Heart Jewelry as the Content and Social Media Manager. As needed, she also led the Photo Shoots, getting everything ready for the photographer, which, some of the time, turned out to be her too. That was the life of a start-up. And Melody loved every minute of it.
Bobbie, the sales trainer for the reps, was out on maternity leave, so Melody had picked up that job while Natalie tried to figure out if she needed to hire another person. The hours had been grueling, but mostly energizing, and she had fallen in love with Natalie’s business and the heart behind it. It was a blast helping women start their own mini-businesses by selling gorgeous, quality jewelry. She’d also acquired her own huge jewelry collection, which was a fun side perk.
Even though Melody loved her job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else, she had to admit that she was getting a bit weary. Just a bit. She kept it to herself, but the hours and travel were getting to her: affecting her sleep, her energy, and her life outside of work, which mostly consisted of keeping up with her own baking blog, baking classes, and various events with friends.
“Those bags under your eyes are not good,” Natalie had told her that morning, when Melody first walked through the door of the office, a huge coffee in one hand and a stack of training materials, binders, and magazines being pressed against her chest by her other arm.
“It’s all part of the startup lifestyle, right?” Melody said, with as big a smile as she could muster. “I’ll catch up on sleep later in the year.”
Natalie reached out and took Melody’s hands, “Listen to me, young one.” Her dark hair fell over her shoulders and her olive colored skin beamed with a natural glow that most women paid a lot of money to try to obtain; the only sign of her age were the fine lines around her eyes, which deepened when she laughed. “You young women—you think you can burn the candle at both ends and it won’t catch up with you. But I know . . .” She paused and pointed to her chest. “I know the cost that too much work has on your person. Your relationships, your soul. Finish the social media announcements for the morning and take the afternoon off. Do something fun and then get some sleep tonight.”
Before Melody could say thank you, Natalie let go of her hands and turned to another employee calling for her, moving swiftly toward the meeting room. She stopped one step inside the door and turned, wagging her finger. “I don’t want to see you here afternoon. And don’t you dare check your email.” She then disappeared, her long flowy skirt swirling around her ankles.
Melody stood in a daze for a moment, still holding her coffee in one hand. She shook her head lightly and walked to her desk, pulling open her computer and finishing the morning’s work with renewed energy. Savannah popped into her office at noon with a sandwich and a reminder that the Friday Friends Dinner Club was meeting at her house the following evening for their monthly cooking group.
“Why don’t you teach us how to make some sort of fancy apple dessert?”
“Got it,” Melody said. “And I’m going to nab you for a date to go up to Apple Haven; you really don’t know what you’re missing.”
Savannah rolled her eyes. She was constantly in motion; either combing the mall for deals or kicking soccer balls into a net with the adult rec team she belonged to. Slow, quiet drives to even slower, country style places like Apple Haven were not quite up to her preferred speed. “We’ll see,” she said. “See ya tomorrow night.”
Only Thirty minutes later, and Melody had been eating her turkey and avocado sandwich on sliced sourdough bread, meandering in her car up the near empty highway to historic Apple Haven.
Now, she travelled back down the hill with two bushels of fragrant apples in her back seat, already feeling more relaxed and imagining what she was going to do for a quiet evening. “Besides making homemade caramel to dip these delicious apples in, what am I going to do?” she said out loud. “Read a book? Finally peruse through the stack of magazines piling up by my bed?”
She took in the view all around her as she drove; fields of apple trees interspersed with stretches of vineyard covered hillsides—a new site for the region. Local wineries had started gaining popularity a few years back and it seemed there were now more of them than apple orchards, these days. They wove up and down the hills, stretching out in regal rows, most of the vines bare now that the cool weather of autumn was here.
The loud noise of a motor shifted Melody’s gaze away from the scenery and to her rear-view mirror.
A black sedan was quickly approaching, its engine roaring as it ate up the distance behind her car. Melody gripped the steering wheel. The sedan was just a few feet behind her now, directly on her tail—she quickly looked at the road in front of her; this portion of the highway was a simple two lane and curvy—and glancing in her mirror, she found the windows dark. She couldn’t identify any distinguishing characteristics of the driver.
“Get a grip,” she shook her head at herself.
Melody knew the road opened into two lanes on both sides a few miles ahead, and she strained her eyes, looking to find a place where she could turn out. “There’s joyriding and then there’s stupid,” she muttered. “I’d love to get out of this crazy person’s way.”
With another roar, the black sedan pulled into the opposing lane, passing her by in a blur and pulling in front of her. A minute later, the car disappeared around a curve, and Melody exhaled, loosening her grip on the wheel. She turned on Brown Eyed Girl again, took a sip of her hot apple cider, and tried to get back into her nice relaxed zone.
She turned the curve and continued down the road, keeping a watchful eye for more cars behind her, but none came. It wasn’t unusual for the road to be empty at this time of day; in another few weeks, Apple Haven would be packed, but for now it was the perfect time for a lonely drive through the colorful hills outside Stonybrooke.
At the next curve, she slowed down a bit and leaned forward, staring at the sight ahead. The black sedan was farther down the hill, racing through the curves at a breakneck speed. Melody bit her bottom lip, her anxiety level rising as she watched. Crazy driver, slow down. There had been a bad accident here last year. If she remembered correctly, the driver had been speeding and under the influence.
The car took another curve, before suddenly started to spin. The brake lights flashed. Melody cried out as she watched it spin out of control, dust flying up as the wheels screeched. It veered to the shoulder, then went over, right through a split rail fence and came to a shuddering stop, its rear end sticking up slightly on the hilly slope.
“Jiminy Crickets,” Melody said. She took in a sharp breath. “I can’t believe that just happened!”
Melody held her breath as she sped up, driving down the hill. The crash site moved in and out of view as she rounded each curve and as a group of tall evergreens or brightly colored maples blocked her view. After one final turn, she approached the wrecked car, the tinted windows preventing her from seeing anyone inside.
Now Melody could better see what had happened—the black sedan hadn’t run into the fence as she’d thought; it had launched partly over, the back half tilted into the air and the nose buried inches into the ground. Steam rose from the engine.
Melody pulled onto the shoulder of the road and grabbed her phone, punching in 9-1-1 as she stepped out of her car.
“Are you okay in there?” she called out, hoping that someone would respond, just so she’d know they were alive. Even though she’d worked as a nurse for ten years, she had never gotten used to seeing dead bodies; it was one of the hardest parts of the job.
No one answered. The only sound was the soft hissing of the steam rising from the hood of the car. Even the birds, normally full of song, were silent.
“Come on, come on, come on, come on,” Melody whispered into the phone, slowly moving toward the car. She kneeled and investigated the driver’s seat; a man was slumped over the steering wheel, his head twisted unnaturally away from her, his shoulders limp. Melody felt her stomach turn. She took a deep breath.
“9-1-1, what is your emergency?” A no-nonsense voice suddenly asked.
Melody explained what happened as quickly as she could.
“Ma’am, where are you?” the voice interrupted her.
Melody stood and looked around. “Oh, I’m on my way back from Apple Haven, on highway 109, probably about ten miles outside of Stonybrooke.” She searched for a sign or landmark that could help her give a more concrete description. “We’re in a vineyard, right between two fields with cows in them,” she finished, realizing the inadequacy of this.
“Going east or west?” the voice continued, completely calm.
“West.” She leaned over to peer past the driver and into the back seat. “Oh, there’s someone else in the car,” Melody said. “I think I saw her move.”
The woman in the back seat lifted her head, her dark eyes meeting Melody’s. She opened her mouth to say something but started coughing hoarsely.
“Tell her not to move,” the operator told Melody. “You said the car is not on fire, correct?”
“Correct,” Melody said. “I’m getting help,” she spoke clearly to the woman in the car.
“Keep her calm,” the operator instructed. “Don’t move her. I don’t want the car to topple and have worse harm come to her, or for you to get hurt.”
“Okay, okay.” Melody forced herself to breathe. There was a reason she never worked in the ER—handling emergency situations where trauma was involved was not her strong suit. Neither were falling cars. “Help is coming,” she said to the woman. “Try not to move.”
The woman shook her head and tried to push herself away from the head rest. As she did, the car jerked and started to lean.
“Oh no!” Melody cried out. She backed away, holding up her hand and calling out, “Don’t move! Don’t move!”
But the woman didn’t listen. She continued to push herself up. Melody could see her unhook her seatbelt and try to open the door. The fence wasn’t strong to begin with, and the weight of the sedan was making it heave and sway.
“No, no!” Melody yelled. “The fence will collapse.”
“Move away ma’am,” the 9-1-1 operator said in a steady, firm voice. “Now.”
Melody did as she was told.
The passenger side door behind the driver began to open, but the jerking movement of the car was too much pressure for the fence. With a sudden crack it gave way, and the car—already precariously perched on the slope—fell. It rolled a few hundred feet down and to a stop, with a groan, at the bottom of the hill.
Melody kept her eyes on it. No one got out. No one moved.
The operator instructed her to stay where she was and to not go to the car, assuring her that help was on the way. “I’m going to stay on the line with you until the police arrive,” the operator said.
“Thanks.” Melody walked along the ruined fence to get a look at the other side of the car. Was there another passenger there? The front passenger door was open. That was odd.
Then Melody looked down at her feet. She was standing where the car had been draped over the fence seconds before, and in the wet grass were shoe prints, stepping away from her.