Read Lyndsey Cole - Lily Bloom 05 - Hidden by the Hydrangeas Online

Authors: Lyndsey Cole

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Flower Shop - Vermont

Lyndsey Cole - Lily Bloom 05 - Hidden by the Hydrangeas (4 page)

Chapter 4


Black Horse Farm was at the northern edge of Misty Valley
; a farm of several hundred acres with immaculate barns and rolling fields. It was a beautiful time of year to drive up the winding roads with the trees turning to their spectacular fall colors. Lily saw the sign for the farm and turned right through an open gate that led up a driveway bordered by fields with horses peacefully grazing. Several looked up with curiosity at the sound of her minivan. Rosie sat alert in the back seat with her nose twitching in overdrive at all the smells that were drifting in through the open window.

“This is
fancier than I expected. What do you think Rosie?” Lily slowed the minivan so as not to stir up too much dust as she looked around at the beauty.

A cluster of
whitewashed barns appeared as she crested the knoll. To the left of the barns was a large, rambling, white updated farm house. It looked like several additions and wings had been added over the years. Lily parked her minivan under a big old maple tree that was glowing in its fall splendor. “You need to wait here. I know you’d like to get out and explore but I don’t know how they feel about a dog sniffing around.” Rosie’s ears drooped with disappointment as Lily got out and closed the door.

Lily walked to the front door and her knock was met almost immediately by an attractive woman
, a bit taller than Lily. The outside edges of her eyes crinkled when she smiled in greeting.

ily held out her hand. “Hi, I’m Lily Bloom. Emma asked me to stop by to discuss some flower arrangements she needs for an event.”

Lily’s hand was encompassed by a war
m, rough palm. “I’m Anna Sparks, I work for Emma. Emma isn’t back yet but she told me you were stopping by. Please, come in.”

Anna led Lily through a spacious entryway into a sun
filled living room, tastefully decorated with antiques. A silver tray was loaded with delicious pastries, a tea pot and a selection of herbal teas.

Anna motioned for Lily to sit
in an overstuffed, dark blue chair facing the window and she took the matching chair on the opposite side of the small table holding the silver tray. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

selected a green tea bag and accepted the steaming cup. “Help yourself to a pastry, I made them.” Anna smiled shyly. “Baking is a passion of mine. I’m always trying new recipes and I love to get feedback.”

Lily carefully sipped her hot tea. “
You should meet my sister, Daisy. She loves baking too and is always experimenting with new recipes.” Lily put her cup on the tray and selected a pastry. It had a flaky crust with a thin cream cheese layer topped with swirls of chocolate and fresh raspberries. She took a bite and was pleasantly surprised with the burst of tanginess mixed with the sweet chocolate. “This is delicious, the best crust I’ve ever had. My sister could learn something from you. Do you do most of the cooking for the Turners?”

Anna smiled broadly, obviously pleased by the compliment. “Yes, I do the special meals and oversee the daily menu planning and the housekeeping. The Turners have been wonderful to me and Kari
and I’m extremely grateful for my job.”

“Your daughter Kari?
Tamara Biotchi told me about your daughter. I hope you don’t mind me bringing this up, but have you heard from her yet?”

Anna sighed a deep sigh and relaxed back into the chair. “I was a nervous wreck when she didn’t come home
last night, but she strolled in just before you got here. She hasn’t told me any details, but I can read her. Something’s wrong.”

Lily tried not to show her surprise. Her instinct had told her the body she had seen must be Anna’s daughter.
“I’m glad she’s back. I can imagine how relieved you must be.”

Anna stood up. “Follow me and I’ll explain what Mrs. Turner is planning.” They left the living room and
Lily followed Anna into a large dining room with a long cherry, hand cut farmer’s table with matching chairs. “She’s planning a baby shower for her niece and wants to serve a buffet lunch which I will be planning. She was hoping you could make several arrangements.” Anna looked at Lily to gauge her reaction. “Pinks and blues for the table, and also a big arrangement for the entryway and the living room. It’s scheduled for this coming weekend.”

Lily scanned the room, nodding. “That won’t be any problem
. I can deliver everything first thing Saturday morning.”

Anna and Lily walked back to the front door. Anna put her hand on Lily’s arm, stopping her before they went outside. “Thank you for asking about Kari. She’s a good kid but she needs t
o find a direction for her life and I’m not crazy about some of the friends she has at the moment.”

“Does Kari have a job?”

“No, and that’s part of the problem. She has too much time on her hands and she hangs out with this one girl in particular who is on the wild side, if you know what I mean.”

As they walked outside, Lily
caught the sound of an angry female voice. Looking toward the barns, she saw a tall young woman and a man in a heated disagreement. The woman was pointing at the man, jabbing her finger to make a point. The man grabbed her hand and shook his head.

Anna’s face turned hard. “Kari! Gabe! What i
s going on?” She jogged to them and Lily followed, hoping to find out what was going on.
Who is that muscular guy holding an axe?

Kari’s face fell
and her body went rigid. She looked at the ground as her mother grabbed her arm. “Are you going to tell me what is going on?”

Kari mumbled, “Nothing, M

The sound of a
helicopter broke the tension as they all looked up and watched it disappear behind the barn.

suddenly remembered Lily was still standing near them and she introduced her. “Lily, this is my daughter, Kari, and this is Gabe, the farm manager.”

Kari and Gabe both glanced at Lily and mumbled a hello.
Gabe used his shirt to wipe the sweat from his forehead before he returned to splitting wood. He swung the axe powerfully, striking the wood and shattering it with one blow as Kari marched off to the house. He paused and glanced at Kari before swinging the axe through the next piece of oak on the chopping block. His skin glistened in the afternoon sun and his muscles rippled as he lifted the axe again.

Anna walked Lily to her minivan
and Lily had to keep herself from glancing back at Gabe as the sweat ran down his back. “Don’t mind them, it’s probably a lover’s spat.” Rosie stuck her head out of the open minivan window, startling Anna. “Oh. You have a dog with you. Can I meet her?”

Lily’s face brightened. Her estimation of
Anna moved up several notches since anyone who was an animal lover was high on Lily’s list. Lily opened the door and an excited Rosie jumped out and stretched her legs before she sniffed Anna’s outstretched hand, wagged her tail and gave her a goofy grin.

Lily looked around at all the space. “This would be a great place for
a dog, or lots of dogs.”

“Mr. Turner has several hunting dogs that are in a kennel and
Mrs. Turner has her spoiled Labrador retriever, Abby, short for Lady Abigail.” Anna leaned close to Lily. “Abby goes everywhere with Mrs. Turner, even sleeps with her. I don’t know how Mr. Turner can put up with that.” Rosie darted toward the barn as Mrs. Turner and Abby emerged, followed by the pilot.

Abby’s hair ruffed up when she saw Rosie. They sniffed but when Rosie went down in a play bow, all the tension was released and the two dogs took off chasing each other.

Lily noticed that the pilot laughed at their antics but Emma looked annoyed so Lily called Rosie over and made her sit.

Emma approached and greeted Lily. “
It’s nice to see you again. Did Anna explained everything for the shower?”

“Yes, I’m all set. I told Anna I would drop the flowers off on Saturday morning.” Lily bent down to pat Abby, noticing the colorful scarf around her neck instead of a collar. “What a sweet dog you have.”

Emma smiled politely but ignored the compliment, answering simply, “Saturday morning will be perfect.” She snapped her fingers and walked to the house with Abby plodding behind.

Lily raised an eyebrow as she looked at Anna. “Is she always so

“She has good days and bad days
. I think it all depends on Mr. Turner’s business schedule.”


Anna looked around. “That’s a story for another day. I have to get back to work.”

Lily climbed into her minivan
, but as she tried to pull the door closed it wouldn’t budge. She looked to her left and saw the pilot holding it open. His face was cracked with a smile and his shaggy sun-bleached hair made him look young and carefree.

“Fancy seeing you here.” He held out his hand. “I never introduced myself yesterday. My name is
Nick Sampson.”

grasped his strong hand. “I’m Lily Bloom, but I have a feeling you already know that.” She held his gaze. “I was getting used to thinking of you as ‘the pilot’. Nick doesn’t have the same mysterious charm.”

Nick laughed out loud. “Mysterious? I like that. So, did you think about my offer to go trail riding? With your friend?
I would love to meet her.”

“That would be fun. I haven’t talked to Nina yet but I’m sure she’ll be up for it.”
Lily looked up as the gentle breeze ruffled the leaves.

Mr. Turner is gone for a few days, so as long as her highness,” Nick nodded toward the house and rolled his eyes, “doesn’t need me to take her anywhere, I should have a lot of free time.”

“Okay. Give me your number and I’ll let
you know after I talk to Nina. She’s a newspaper reporter and a workaholic.”

“That sounds serious. Are you sure she likes to have fun?”

“She manages to squeeze fun in.” They exchanged phone numbers and Nick closed the minivan door.

Lily watched him walk back toward the barn.
I wonder where his apartment is?
His swagger gave him an air of self confidence and he oozed sexy. She shook her head and opened her phone. A quick check for messages and Lily saw she’d missed one from her reporter friend, Nina Baldwin.

Disappointment surged through her body
. She had hoped to see a message from Ryan since he hadn’t called or stopped by the store like he had promised. Listening to the message, she felt the air get sucked out of her lungs. “I heard over the scanner that a body has been found. Do you know anything about this? Your hot cop boyfriend isn’t giving me any details.”

Lily gripped the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white. As she looked back toward the house, thoughts flew through her brain.
It can’t be Anna’s daughter, I just saw her, but I suspect she knows something.
She watched Gabe for a few more moments as he furiously swung the axe, over and over, splitting the chunks of wood effortlessly like he was ridding himself of a demon.

Chapter 5


Nina? Got your message. Call me back. I’m heading to the Stone House Inn to meet my mom and Walter for dinner.” Lily snapped her phone shut and threw it into her tote, frustrated that she hadn’t gotten a message from Ryan. She sighed, dropped Rosie off at her house and headed to pick up Daisy.

When Lily
walked into Daisy’s house, Daisy was ready to go but she took one look at what Lily was wearing, crinkled her nose and shook her head in disbelief.

“What?” Lily
asked as she looked down at her jeans and polo shirt. “Oh. I guess I didn’t think this through very well. Do you have something I can wear?”

Daisy laughed. “You know the answer to that. You always raid my closet.
Come on, let’s go take a look.”

Daisy was dressed in a flowery
waffle knit long sleeve dress with a dark orange bolero jacket and black high heels. She was all fall colors, oranges, blues, reds and yellow with her auburn hair pulled back in a loose twist.

You look great, like usual. What have you got for me to wear?” Lily looked in Daisy’s closet and pulled out a mid-length dark green skirt and a cream silk blouse. She held it up in front of herself and faced Daisy. “How’s this?”

“Nice. You can wear these too.” Daisy held up a pair of dark brown heels.

Lily grimaced. “Do I have to wear those shoes? I hate heels.” She looked down at her favorite, worn in flip flops and knew the answer to her question.

Hurry up and get changed. You know Mom is going to be fit to be tied when she sees us so we’d better not embarrass her with a ratty appearance.”

Lily’s eyebrows jumped up.
“Embarrass Mom? Really? Is that possible?” They both chuckled. “Mom, who always likes to push the envelope and shock everyone? Like going commando on her wedding day? Not really any harm in that, but still, for a fifty five year old, she acts more like a teenager at times.” Lily buttoned up the blouse and inspected herself in the mirror. “Am I presentable now?”

u’ll turn all the heads at dinner, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

Lily linked her arm through Daisy’s. “We’re a knockout couple, don’t you agree?”

“Passable, I guess.” Lily swatted her sister tenderly. “We’d better get going or we’ll be late.” Daisy picked up her fancy box with the fruit tart inside and they left for the Stone House Inn.

Lily turned the radio down and looked at Daisy. “I got a message from Nina.” She checked to see if Daisy was paying attention. “She heard on the scanner that a body was found.

Daisy’s eyes grew large. “A body? Where? Who? Do you think it’s the body we saw?”

Nina didn’t have any other details, she was digging for information from me.” Lily also told Daisy about what Tamara Biotchi had shared about the missing girl and the conversation Lily had with Anna Sparks at the Black Horse Farm. “Anna’s daughter came home but something odd was going on when I was there. Kari, Anna’s daughter, was arguing with the farm manager but Anna shrugged it off as a lover’s quarrel. Maybe. Maybe not. Anna is a nice woman so I’m glad her daughter is safe, but I got a strange feeling about the whole situation. I watched Gabe, the farm manager, splitting wood and he looked like he was working on an anger issue. On top of that, the pilot arrived with Emma Turner who acted distracted.”

“That hot pilot?

“Yeah, he sure is easy on the eyes. He as
ked me again about going riding, and to bring my friend. I’m going to ask Nina but you could come too. What do you think? Want to go?”

“Definitely.” Daisy looked out the window. “Easy on the eyes? What about your hot cop? He’s pretty easy on the eyes too. Are you two not getting along?”

Lily slowed the minivan down and sighed. “I don’t know what’s going on. It seems that all we do is play phone tag lately.”

Lily turned into
the parking lot for the Stone House Inn. It was a beautiful setting, nestled in a stand of maple and oak trees with the Green Mountains peeking out in the distance. The main house was built in the eighteen hundreds from local granite blocks. The elegant dining room and kitchen were downstairs and the honeymoon suite was upstairs. More recently, several small cottages had been added behind the main house, all a little different and quite private. The restaurant drew people from all over with its reputation for high quality and local meats and vegetables whenever possible. The chef prided himself on his herb garden and edible flowers, giving helpful information on the menu about which flavors to expect. There was usually a long waiting period to book any of the accommodations, especially the honeymoon suite.

Daisy whistled.
“Walter’s friend, Lance, must have some pull with the owners to have been able to get the honeymoon suite for Mom and Walter. I heard this place can be booked up to a year in advance.”

“He seems to have connections with everyone. He set up the balloon ride, got the honeymoon suite, and lets his employee bring guests to go riding. His name seems to pop up connected to everything lately.”

Lily parked next to Walter’s dark blue convertible and looked at Daisy. “Ready for the fireworks?”

“Do you think Mom is going to be that mad?”

Lily shrugged. “There’s only one way to find out.” Daisy carried the box with the fruit tart and Lily locked her minivan.

“What are you doing here?” A familiar, but not too pleased, voice from behind startled her.

Lily turned around.
“It’s nice to see you too, Ryan,” Lily said sarcastically. “As a matter of fact, Daisy and I are surprising my mother and Walter for dinner tonight. What are you doing here?” Lily glanced around to see if he was alone.

Daisy whispered to Lily
, “I’ll meet you inside.”

Ryan took Lily’s
arm and pulled her off to the side of the parking lot. “Sorry. I thought maybe you were planning to do some investigating and get yourself into trouble. I don’t want to be worrying about you all the time.”

Her eyes blazed. “And what makes you think that
, Mr. Steele?” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.

“You haven’t heard? Someone found a body and I’m on my way
back to the scene. I thought your friend Nina would have already eagerly shared that info with you. She’s called me, I don’t know how many times already.”

Lily couldn’t help but
be curious. Her arms fell to her sides. “Do you think it’s the same body I saw yesterday?”

“The victim is a female.
If it’s not the same body, then there could be more than one victim out there.” Ryan looked around at the layout of the Inn and the cottages. “Which one did you think that person you saw was coming out of?”

Lily scanned the area. “I’m not sure. It would be easier to figure out with an aerial photo of the layout.”

“Listen Lily, please be careful. I haven’
t talked to the Inn owners yet so it’s probably better if you don’t let anyone know what you told me about seeing that body, just in case. Alright?”

She nodded
, stood on her tippy toes and leaned toward Ryan, pulling his head down so she could give him a quick kiss. Her annoyance at him was gone as she saw the vulnerable gentle look on his face. “Don’t worry. Call me when you can.” She nodded toward the Inn and started to walk in that direction. “Now I have to get in there and save Daisy from my mom. She doesn’t know we’re crashing their dinner and she might not be thrilled about it. But Walter thought it was a good idea and Daisy made a fruit tart as a peace offering.” She turned back to look at Ryan. “You remember that phone call you got from Anna Sparks, the manager at the Black Horse Farm, about her daughter not coming home?”

Ryan nodded.

“Her daughter came home earlier today, so the body isn’t her.”

“How do you know this?”

Lily walked back to where Ryan was standing. “Emma Turner asked me to come to plan some flowers for an event on Saturday at the Black Horse Farm and Anna Sparks showed me around. Her daughter, Kari, was outside arguing with the farm manager, Gabe somebody or other. Neither one of them looked happy. I just thought I’d let you know that the victim isn’t that girl.”

Ryan’s brow creased in thought. “Are you absolutely positive it was Kari Sparks
you saw?”

“I never met the girl before but Anna introduced me to her
as Kari Sparks. She said she was her daughter, why would she lie about that?”

Ryan kicked the dirt in the parking lot and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’m not saying she was lying, but t
he driver’s license found near the victim said Kari Sparks.”

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