Chapter One

The turkeys moved on, the Haldemanns’ feathered nemesis pausing only long enough to give her a beady-eyed glare and a gobble of warning that sounded as though he’d already been strangled. In the peace that descended in their wake, the two chipmunks that lived in the tree shading the gazebo clattered over the roof, scrambled down a supporting pillar, and chased each other across the clearing to the copse of trees that shielded the creek meadow from view. Their game of chase dislodged two early butterflies from the trees, and they winged their disjointed way toward the inn.

Her eyes tracked their progress until she caught a glimpse of movement from a larger being: her husband, heading leisurely but purposefully toward the gazebo and – bless his heart – carrying two travel cups that she hoped were full of coffee. The sun set fire to his russet hair, but even from here she could see its golden kiss on his skin. Some anomaly of genetics had made him a redhead but spared him the freckling, burn-to-a-crisp-in-the-sun pale skin. In fact, he tanned like a California blond – this California blonde, to be specific. She spent so much time out of doors, with only the harshest winter weather keeping her inside, that her summer tan barely had a chance to fade.

“Am I disturbing you?” Ever courteous, Gus nodded toward her sketchbook, pausing at the gazebo steps.

“Nope.” She made a face and held up the sketch for him to see. He chuckled at the very accurate depiction of the rafter.

“That tom needs an attitude adjustment or it’ll end up as this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. It chased Pop two days ago and pecked his calf. He’s looking for his bow to skewer it.”

“I thought you had his bow.”

“I do. And I loaned it to Kasey, just to be safe.”

Sarah snorted. “Safe? I should think you’d want to skewer the little bastard yourself, seeing as it speared both Benj and me in the ass.”

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