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Hot on the Trail Mix - ACB 15 paperback

Hot on the Trail Mix - ACB 15 paperback

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Spelunking isn’t for sissies.

When Vic and Willie discover human remains in a cave they are exploring, the shock waves are felt throughout Bald Eagle Falls. When Willie falls under suspicion, Erin has to do more than just make her awesome new granola bars and trail mix.

Erin’s investigations reveal that there is more to the case than meets the eye, and if she is going to uncover the truth, she had better watch her step.

Like baking mysteries? Cats, dogs, and other pets? Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author P.D. Workman brings readers back to small town Bald Eagle Falls for another culinary cozy mystery to be solved by gluten-free baker Erin Price and her friends.

Have your gluten-free cake and eat it too. Sink your teeth into this sweet treat now!

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Erin pushed Orange Blossom to the side with her foot, ignoring his meows of protest, so that she could get into the pantry cupboard for the food she had set aside for Vic. In order to keep him from getting into something that would make him sick, Blossom was not allowed in the pantry, even though it had now been determined that he hadn’t gotten sick from getting into something he shouldn’t have, but had been intentionally poisoned. It was still safest if she only fed him cat food she knew to be safe. Or meat that she prepared for him while making her own meals.

“I made you some sandwiches too, they’re in the fridge.”

Vic, a slim transgender woman, Erin’s best friend and employee at the bakery, opened the fridge. Orange Blossom hurried over to her to see if Vic would be more cooperative about feeding him. Erin grabbed what she needed and shut the pantry.

“I made these granola bars. See what you think. I made some of them with certified gluten-free rolled oats, and some with buckwheat flakes. So the people who can’t tolerate oats still have an option as well. If you can’t really tell the difference, I’ll just make the buckwheat, so I don’t have to make two different kinds.”

Vic nodded. “They look good. No nuts?” Vic knew that Auntie Clem’s didn’t sell anything containing nuts. But of course, granola bars frequently had nuts.

“No. I put in some pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. And some raisins and goji berries. And I made this trail mix.” Erin put a baggie down on the counter. “Sunflower seeds, hemp seed, and chia—loads of protein.”

Vic swept her long, blond hair out of her face as she leaned over and packed the goodies into her backpack. “Sounds great. This should be more than enough to get us through the day.”

“Make sure you have plenty of water.”

“We do.” Vic pulled the zipper of the pack closed. “You sure you don’t want to come along with us?” she teased.

Erin flashed back to being trapped underground—no light, no water, bound hand and foot with no idea how to get out of the labyrinthine caves. She had been terrified she was going to die there, injured and alone. No one would be able to find her. She wouldn’t be able to find her own way out. The oxygen had been thin and she had been dehydrated.

“No,” she told Vic firmly. “I am never going into a cave again.”

Vic squeezed her arm. “And you never have to,” she assured Erin. She gave Erin a mischievous smile. “But I’m going to keep asking. Spelunking is so much fun.”

“It’s just not for me.”

It amazed Erin that Vic was still into spelunking. After having been trapped in a collapsed mine, Vic should have hated dark, enclosed spaces as much as Erin. But she had bounced back quickly and, as soon as she and Willie had their casts off, they were back at it again. Maybe it was because she was so young, just barely an adult, that she had bounced back so fast.

“You can keep asking. As long as you don’t think I’m going to change my answer.”

Vic nodded. She shouldered the pack. “We’re off, then.” She looked at the clock. While early, it wasn’t nearly as early as when they usually had to get up to bake the day’s goods and open up Auntie Clem’s. Considering their usual schedule, it was a relaxed morning.

“Saw ‘hi’ to Willie for me.”

“Will do.”


Once Vic and Willie were on their way, Erin sat down to work on her plans for the day and consider the upcoming week. In an effort to get control over the clutter in her purse and on her desk, she had actually purchased a planner. It had been a lengthy process. First, looking over the planners available at the stationery store in the city and considering all of the possibilities of size, layout, and binding type. And, of course, the price point. She didn’t want something that would become a craft, with all kinds of stickers and accessories and time required to decorate it. Just somewhere she could keep her lists, plans, and appointments together and organized.

After finally settling on a book that would fit in her purse, she had started to use it. Breaking the habit of years of writing on scrap pieces of paper, napkins, and an assortment of notepads was not easy. She had to train herself to reach for her book instead and write her lists and thoughts in the appropriate place. Where hopefully she would be able to find them again later when she wanted them.

But she was growing to love her little planner. She didn’t waste as much time searching for lists and notes that she had written and then ‘filed’ in her purse, wallet, or pocket for later reference. Her purse, while still full, was a lot less cluttered.

Erin sat on the couch with her feet curled under her. In a few minutes, Orange Blossom jumped up beside her and cuddled up.

She enjoyed the peace and quiet of the morning. Terry was still sleeping and could continue to sleep for however long his body let him. He didn’t go on shift until the afternoon. If he got up in good time, they would have some couple’s time together and maybe go out for lunch.

Everything was finally calm and peaceful in Erin’s life.


When Erin heard Terry stirring in the bedroom, she looked at the time on her phone. She had promised Vic that she would check on the new dog, Nilla, and make sure that he got a break and a bit of exercise. That would hopefully keep him from destroying Vic’s loft apartment over the garage.

She went down to the bedroom and poked her head in to look at Terry. “Morning.”

Terry stretched and groaned. He scratched the stubble on his cheek and smiled. Not enough to show the dimple in his cheek, but it warmed Erin’s heart to see him happy in the morning instead of worn out and miserable because he hadn’t been able to get any sleep and had a migraine.

“Mmm. Come here.”

Erin obliged, going around to his side of the bed and giving him a good morning hug and kiss. His body was warm, his hair mussed, and he smelled faintly of sweat. Erin buried her face in the hollow of his shoulder, enjoying their closeness and the looseness of his body.

“I’m just popping out for a few minutes to take care of Nilla.”

There was a whine from K9 in his kennel.

“Yes, you can come too,” Erin agreed. “Come on.”

K9 jumped out of his kennel, tail wagging excitedly. He stopped to give Terry a nuzzle and get his ears scratched, then headed out the bedroom door, leading the way for Erin.

“See you in a few minutes,” Terry told her.

Erin blew him a kiss and followed K9 to the back door. She disabled the alarm and followed him out.


Once in the yard, Erin could hear a frantic yipping coming from the direction of Vic’s apartment.


K9 was on his way to his dog run in the corner of the yard. He looked back at Erin with a comical eye roll. Sometimes his expressions seemed very human. Erin left him to his business and went up the stairs to the loft apartment. She unlocked the door, calling out to the little dog.

“Nilla! Come here, boy! What’s the matter?”

The apartment was a mess and Erin knew it wasn’t because Vic had left it that way. When Nilla got into a mood, he could be a little tornado of destruction. Kind of like the Tasmanian devil in the cartoons.

The yipping continued. Erin tried to home in on him.

“Nilla? Where are you? What are you doing?”

She was afraid at first that he had gotten himself into trouble and was stuck somewhere. But she found him in Vic’s bedroom, wrestling with a pair of leggings.

“Nilla! No!”

Nilla turned on her, growling. If he’d been a big dog, Erin might have been concerned, but the little white fluff-ball was not very intimidating. Although he threatened, when the critical point was reached, he would run, not attack.

“No,” Erin repeated firmly and bent down to pick up the leggings. She didn’t want to start a tug-of-war, which might cause worse damage to the clothes than just leaving them on the floor. “Shoo. Get back.” She waved her hands at the dog. Nilla remained, growling fiercely until the last minute, and then he ran away. Erin picked up the leggings and any other clothes that Nilla had pulled to the floor. She folded them and put them into the top drawer where they would be safe. She made sure to shut the drawer tightly so that he wouldn’t be able to open it, and pushed the others closed, making sure they were all tight so that hopefully Nilla wouldn’t be able to drag any more out.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” She called out to Nilla. “Outside? Walk?”

Nilla growled, but when Erin left the bedroom and headed back toward the front door, he immediately dropped all pretense of being threatening and jumped at the doorknob. It was amazing the height that the little dog could achieve.

There were scratches on the door already from the past few weeks that Nilla had lived there. Erin should probably have told Vic no, no pets allowed, but since Erin had taken in two pets of her own and K9 also spent most of the week there, it was pretty hard to deny Vic the privilege.

It wouldn’t have been a problem if Nilla had been better behaved.

She thought about texting Vic to let her know that Nilla was causing problems once more, but decided against it. Vic wasn’t likely to have cell coverage where she was. Even if she did, there wasn’t anything she could do to fix the problem and Erin didn’t want her worrying about it the whole time she was away.

Erin managed to hold Nilla still long enough to get his walking harness on him, then took him outside and down the stairs. She always worried with how hyper and excited Nilla got that he was going to end up getting hung falling down the stairs, or falling off the side through the railing. The dog seemed incapable of moving in a straight line. But using a harness instead of a collar helped allay her worries. He didn’t have something around his neck that was going to strangle him.

She managed to get down the stairs without getting tangled up in the leash and gently encouraged him toward the dog run. Unlike K9, Nilla seemed resistant to the idea of training to one area of the yard and always wanted to sniff and pee everywhere.

“Come over here. Come on. This is where you’re supposed to go. Watch K9. He knows what to do. Don’t you want to be a big dog like K9?”

By the time she got him over to the dog run, she suspected he was empty, but she stayed there with him for a little while, encouraging him to make use of the run.

K9 was sitting watching them patiently, but Erin knew he wanted to go for a walk to stretch his legs. He was a big dog and needed a lot of exercise.

“Okay, you done, Nilla? Let’s walk.”

Nilla allowed himself to be coaxed toward the gate. He knew that walking was next, and though he was slower than K9 and easily distractible, he was pretty good for his walks.

“Come on, K9,” Erin called. K9 bounded after her, quickly falling in at her heel and showing the little dog proper behavior. Nilla gave him a little growl, pretending that he could take K9 on if he had to, and went on with his explorations, ranging out on the leash as far as Erin would let him go.


Even though Nilla was just a little dog, Erin was always tired after walking him. He pulled and moved erratically and she was always worried about what he was going to do next, so the emotional effort took more than the physical. Nilla was also tired, and Erin was able to pick him up and carry him up the steps so that she didn’t have to worry about him shooting off the side or between the slats. She took him to his kennel and shunted him inside. She shut the door while she got him some food and water. He was chill enough after his walk that he didn’t whine or try to get out. She gave him his bowls and left, locking up behind her.

Terry had already let K9 into the house, and he opened the door for Erin as she approached. “How was it?”

Erin shook her head. “About usual! I’m sure glad that K9 is so well-trained and calm.”

“Yeah. Vic really needs to get that dog trained.”

“She’s trying. And I think he’s improved in the time that she’s had him. But Beryl obviously didn’t know anything about training.”

Terry nodded. “Some people shouldn’t have pets. Did you put him in his kennel?”

“Yes. But Vic doesn’t want him to be kenneled all day.”

“Won’t hurt him for a while.”

“If he was better-behaved, then I would just bring him over here. He gets along with K9. They could hang out together and Nilla wouldn’t be lonely.”

“After seeing the destruction that little dog can cause, I would not want to see how he would treat a cat or a rabbit.”

“They’re both bigger than him. He would probably end up with the wrong end of the stick. But I don’t want to try it. I don’t want any of them to end up hurt.”

“No,” Terry agreed. “We can try introducing them gradually but, since Orange Blossom still hasn’t made friends with K9, I don’t know how that would go over.”

Erin sighed. “They’re as bad as people. I wish that everyone would just get along.”

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Hot on the Trail Mix - ACB 15 ebookHot on the Trail Mix - ACB 15 paperback

P.D. (Pamela) Workman is a USA Today Bestselling author, winner of several awards from Library Services for Youth in Custody and the InD’tale Magazine’s Crowned Heart award, and has published over 100 mystery/suspense/thriller and young adult books.

Workman loves writing about the underdog. She has been praised for her realistic details, deep characterization, and sensitive handling of the serious social issues that appear in her stories, from light cozy mysteries to darker, grittier young adult and mystery/suspense books.

P. D. Workman does not shy from probing the deep psychological scars of childhood trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Also characteristic of this author, these extremely sensitive issues are explored with extensive empathy, described with incredible clarity, and portrayed with profound insight.
—Kim, Goodreads reviewer