Chapter One

She stuck her tongue out in the direction of the pantry but poured herself a tumbler of orange juice and joined Sarah on a bar stool at the butcher-block table. She scanned the sketch with feigned nonchalance.

“Nice work, Aunt Sarah.”

“Thanks.” Sarah closed the sketch book. “I was thinking of heading out to the Grower’s Market, see if they have anything I don’t really need but would like to have. Wanna go with?”

Stef grinned. “You just want to check out the other artists and how much competition they are. Sure, I’d love to go.” She cocked her head, listening. “But is that a car I hear coming up the road?”

“It better not be. This is my last free week before we open, and I have plans.”

But she could hear the car, too, coming up the road at a good clip, far too fast to be safe or courteous. She shared a look with Stefanie, and they moved at the same time, heading for the door into the dining room. Stef was faster on her feet, and she reached the front door seconds before Sarah, who lagged behind, feeling torpid and slow.

“It’s Aunt Mags.”

She barely managed to bite back a frustrated growl. Maggie was her least favorite of her husband’s sisters-in-law. She didn’t want to have to deal with her today; she wanted to go to the Grower’s Market and check out the other artists, weigh her own talent against theirs, see if Josef’s suggestion was crazy or smart.

“Don’t call her that to her face. And what’s she doing – practicing for NASCAR?” Slightly breathless, Sarah stepped out onto the porch beside Stefanie.

Gus had been working in the yard at the side of the inn. He abandoned his rake in the grass behind him and pulled off his gloves just as Maggie brought her sedan to a skidding halt. Dust plumed from beneath the tires, creating a cloud around the car that reminded Sarah of the stink lines drawn around Pig-Pen in the Peanuts comics.

Maggie spilled out of the car – a Maggie the likes of which she’d never seen. Wild-eyed, her hair in disarray, and uncharacteristically dressed in an artsy gauze skirt and lacy camisole – and nearly euphoric with rage – she seized her brother-in-law by the front of the shirt and shrieked into his face.

“I’ve had enough! I’m bored out of my mind and I’m not going back! And you can’t make me!”

The squirrel in the pine chattered angry reprovals at the noise intrusion until Maggie flung her arms open wide and let loose a feral whoop. The wildlife – and the Haldemanns – were startled into silence.

Then, with a mastery of understatement Sarah hadn’t thought a ten-year-old could possess, Stefanie said dryly, “Something’s wrong.”

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