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 (5 page)

Chapter
6

 

Ryan put his hands on Lily’s shoulders. “Are you okay?

Lily steadied herself by leaning on the car
behind Ryan and nodded. “I’m okay, just shocked. How was she killed?”

“She was strangled.”

“Do you know what this could mean?”

“It could mean many different things. Don’t jump to any conclusions yet
, and please, don’t think you can solve this. I have to go but I’ll try to stop at your house later. What time will you be home?”

“Um, I don’t know, but it shouldn’t be too late, I’m sure
Mom will try to get rid of us as quick as she can without being too rude.”

Ryan curled his arm around Lily’s waist
, pulling her close as he whispered in her ear. “You look amazing. Did I tell you that yet?” He kissed her and reluctantly let her go as he climbed into his car and drove off.

Li
ly watched his car disappear as she ran all the possibilities through her head.
Was Kari the murderer or does she know what happened?
She felt sick for Anna if Kari was involved in the girl’s death.
Who is the girl and where was the body found? Why didn’t I ask Ryan these questions?

An SUV drove into the parking lot, stirring up a cloud of dust. Lily did a double take when she realize
d it was the pilot with Emma Turner.
This guy is full of secrets
. She walked into the Inn, hoping to find Daisy before her mom and Walter arrived.

“May I help you?” A middle aged woman smiled as she waited for Lily to reply.

“I’m meeting some people for dinner—Walter Nash and Iris Bloom, and my sister Daisy is already here.”

“Oh, yes,
welcome to the Stone House Inn, my name is Betty and you must be Lily. My husband Bob and I have been running the Inn for about ten years now. Follow me, I’ll show you to your table.” Betty put her hand on Lily’s arm and guided her to the back of the restaurant to a private table where Daisy was sitting and sipping a glass champagne.

“You girls are surprising your mother
and Walter tonight?” Betty asked.

Lily and Daisy looked at each other. “Yes, we are. Do you know Walter?”

“Oh yes. He’s a sweetheart. He used to come in with Harriet.” She lowered her voice. “His previous wife? The one that was murdered? Anyway, I’ve heard from Lance Turner that he finally got the chance to marry the love of his life and I’m so happy for him. He certainly deserves some happiness after that shrew he was married to.”

Lily coughed and put her hand over her mouth to hide a choking sound. “We are the ones that found Harriet dead in the sunroom
at the Lyman Estate. It was quite a difficult time for Walter and we were almost killed when we stumbled onto the murderer.”

Betty stood back in shock. “Oh dear, I didn’t know that. Well, that’s all in the past and Walter deserves all the happiness he can find now. Enjoy your dinner, it’s on Lance Turner, so don’t be shy about what you order.” Betty hustled away to the front of the restaurant to meet the next diners.

“Do you believe that?” Daisy whispered to Lily. “Lance Turner is footing the bill for dinner. Have you looked at the menu yet? Let’s get some scallop appetizers while we’re waiting. I need something to go with this champagne Betty gave me.”

“Great idea, I’ll order it when they come with my champagne.” Lily slid closer to Daisy. “You won’t believe what Ryan told me out in the parking lot.”

Daisy’s eyebrows went north. “Is this a guessing game or are you going to tell me?”

She whispered.
“A body was found with Kari Sparks’ driver’s license.”

“Kari Sparks?”

Lily sipped her champagne. “The daughter of the house manager, Anna Sparks, at the Black Horse Farm. Anna had called the police about her daughter not coming home but Kari was there when I went to the farm about the flowers for Saturday, just before I picked you up.”

“Slow down, this is really confusing.” Daisy ticked off details on her fingers. “Kari Sparks was missing
and her mom called the police. The dead girl had a driver’s license with Kari Sparks’ name, but you saw Kari at the Black Horse Farm? Who is the dead girl? And is that the body we saw?”

A sexy voice interrupted their conversation. “What are you two beautiful
ladies doing here all by yourselves? Mind if I join you?”

Lily saw Daisy’s eyes
stare above her head and she turned around to see Nick, the pilot, standing behind her chair. She felt her cheeks flush and got annoyed with herself for letting this guy get to her that way. “Join us? Don’t you have a date with you?”

Nick moved and stood behind an empty chair next to Lily and chewed on his cheek. “No, no date, I just dropped
her highness
off to meet a friend. She didn’t want to drink and drive or maybe she’ll spend the night here.” He shrugged. “I don’t know her plans, she just informed me she wanted me to drop her off here.”

Lily smiled. “She can get a room on such short notice? I thought this place was always full.”

Nick leaned on the back of the chair, bending down more to Lily’s level. “Mr. Turner has one of the cottages reserved for himself all the time. It’s his go-to place when he wants a little more privacy.” Nick started to pull the chair out from the table. ”So, can I join you two?”

“Oh, actually, we’re surprising my mom and her new husband and they should be here any second, so
…”

Nick
straightened, pushing the chair back in and put up his hands. “I understand, I certainly don’t want to crash anyone’s good time, but don’t forget about the invitation to go riding because I’d really like to meet your friend.” He winked before turning and walking away.

Daisy fanned her face. “He’s one steamy hot piece of maleness.” She said as she watched his
tight jeans move toward the front door. “So, what do you think?”

“Think?” Lily
asked distractedly.

“Yeah, about that hot pilot. What did you think I meant?” Daisy quizzed Lily.

“Did you hear what he said?”

“Yeah, he invited us to go riding and he wants to meet Nina. She’s gonna owe you big time for this date.”

Lily turned a serious face to Daisy. “No, not that stuff. Did you hear him say that Lance Turner has one of the cottages reserved for himself so it’s always available if he wants some privacy?”

Daisy blanched. “Oh my god. The body we saw. Do you think it was
Lance Turner carrying that body?”

“Shhhh, Ryan told me not to tell anyone what we saw.” She looked around and caught a glimpse of
a black jacket turning the corner to the bathrooms.

Daisy nudged Lily with her foot. “Here comes
Mom, I hope she isn’t mad at us.”

Iris’s hands covered her mouth. “This day is getting better and better, my two favorite girls.” Iris looked at Walter and winked. “You have some steep competition for my attention now, you know.”

Walter pulled a chair out for Iris. “Competition? I think I’m surrounded by beautiful ladies for dinner tonight, I don’t see that as a problem at all.” Walter sat down between Lily and Daisy and across from Iris.

“This is a lovely surprise,
” she whispered to her girls. “You should see the honeymoon suite—all cherry furniture made locally and a handmade double wedding quilt, absolutely beautiful. And the view.” She patted her heart. “You’ll have to come upstairs to see the view before you go home tonight.” Iris looked at Walter with stars in her eyes. “I’m so happy and so lucky. Whose idea was it for you two to join us for dinner?” Iris looked from Walter to Lily to Daisy.

Lily raised her hand slightly, sighing with relief. “Guilty. We weren’t sure if you would be upset that we’re barging in on your romantic evening.”

Daisy handed her box to Iris. “I made this for the two of you but I’m not sure if you’ll need it tonight after I glanced at what’s on the menu.”

“Upset? Not in the least.” Her face turned serious. “You aren’t planning to stay the whole night are you?”

Lily and Daisy replied at the same time. “Of course not.” Lily continued. “It would be nice to see that view though.”

Their conversation was interrupted as the waiter arrived wi
th another bottle of champagne and the scallop appetizers. “Compliments of Mr. Turner.” He popped the cork and poured champagne all around.

Walter lifted his glass. “To the three beautiful Blooms and especially to Iris. I’ve waited my whole life for this.”

They clinked glasses and Iris beamed from ear to ear and was also a little misty eyed as she sipped the champagne.

Lobster dinners were ordered all around along with locally grilled corn and arugula salad. The conversation buzzed about the hot air balloon ride, the antics of Walter’s puppy falling into the swimming pool and how pleased they were with all the surprises Lance was showering on his old roommate Walter.

“How did Ollie get out of the pool?” Lily wanted to know.

Iris laughed. “Walter scooped him out with the leaf net. Fortunately, he’s still small enough to fit in it. You should have seen him, looked like a drowned rat but it didn’t faze him one bit. That puppy is going to be a handful.”

Lily was feeling quite relaxed after all the champagne and decided to pry a little about Lance Turner. “So, Walter, what’s the story with your friend, his name seems to pop up connected to everything lately.” Daisy kicked her under the table but Lily just moved her legs away without even a flinch.

Walter smiled happily. “He’s a great guy and has always been generous to me. Ya know, I was working my way through college but even with all his family’s wealth, he never made me feel unworthy of his friendship. He’s a genuinely good person, at least that’s how I see him. I know
not everyone likes him but that’s not the side I’ve ever seen.”

“How did he meet Emma? They seem to be a little mismatched.” Lily raised an eyebrow hoping Walter had some good gossip to share.

Walter took the lobster bib off his collar and wiped his face. “The problem with lobster is that it’s quite messy.” He laughed. “You asked about Emma? Emma has a background deep in the horse world. She’s a world class dressage rider but doesn’t compete anymore. I’m not sure how Lance and Emma first met but he told me it was love at first sight for him and he had some convincing to do to get her to marry him. I don’t know her very well since they got together well after we graduated from college, and even though we stayed close we didn’t see each other much. At least, not until Harriet and I bought the Lyman Estate and moved back here to Misty Valley.”

Iris eyed Lily carefully. “Why all the questions?”

“Nothing in particular. Emma hired me to make some arrangements for a shower she’s having for her niece on Saturday, and after seeing their farm I just got a little curious.” Lily drained the last of her champagne and set her glass down, avoiding Iris’s piercing glare.

“Well, I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with that body you think you saw.”

Lily jumped when she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned her head to see Ryan Steele standing next to her.

Ryan
politely excused himself for interrupting their dinner as he zeroed in on Lily. “I need to talk to you.” He looked at the others. “I hope you don’t mind if I steal Lily away for a few minutes, but it’s urgent.”

Chapter 7

 

Iris winked at Ryan. “I know that feeling,
take all the time you need.” She said as she shooed Lily off.

Ryan held his hand on the small of Lily
’s back, guiding her between the tables to the front door as Daisy jumped up and followed.

Betty darted over
, looking concerned, just before they managed to get outside. “I hope everything is fine, you’re leaving kind of abruptly?” Betty said, more as a question than a statement.

“Everything was perfect
and we’ll be right back for dessert, they needed a little alone time.” Lily nodded toward Iris and Walter who were already cuddling at the table with their heads bent together studying one dessert menu.

Betty smiled
and nodded in understanding of the situation

Ryan leaned close to Lily when Betty was out of earshot. “That was quick thinking. I wonder if she thought it was weird that I showed up in my uniform looking for
you.”

Lily shrugged. “Maybe if you put your arm around me and give me a kiss, she’ll just assume we’re lovers or something like that instead of some sinister story good for the gossip mill.”

Ryan didn’t hesitate to take Lily up on that idea, pulling her close and bending down to give her a toe curling kiss.

Daisy hissed at them, pulling them out the door
, “This is not very professional behavior, Mr. Police Chief Steele. You’ll have the whole restaurant staring.” After the front door closed behind them, she added, “Maybe this cold air will cool you two down long enough so you can tell me what’s really going on.”

Ryan reluctantly let Lily go
as his gaze swept over her from head to toe. “You’re irresistible when you get yourself all dressed up.”

Lily raised one eyebrow
and put her hands on her hips, pretending to be annoyed. “And I’m not when I have my tight, comfy jeans and t-shirt on, Mr. Steele?”

Ryan stuttered
, “Umm, that’s not what I meant. Of course you’re also irresistible even without your fancy clothes on.”

Lily and Daisy roared with laughter as Lily managed to sputter out some advice to Ryan. “Maybe you’d better try not to explain, it’s just getting worse and worse. I know what you mean and thanks for the compliment.”

“Okay then, that laugh felt good but I need to get back to the serious business I came here about. I’ve got some aerial photos I want you to look at. Can you both come to the station first thing in the morning?”

“Of course.” Lily looked at Daisy for confirmation before continuing. “
How about seven? Do you have more information?”

Ryan winked at Lily. “Seven sounds perfect and you know
I can’t tell you any details. You’d better get back inside and see if your dessert is there yet.”

Iris had ordered
hazelnut coffee and was cutting into the fruit tart that Daisy had brought. “So what was so important that couldn’t wait until you’re done with dinner?”

“Nothing.” Lily took a plate
, waving off her mother’s question. “This looks fantastic Daisy, you’re so talented in the dessert department.”

They chatted while eating and drinking their coffee. Iris sat back
with her hands over her stomach. “I ate way too much. Let’s stroll around outside and stretch our legs, then you two need to see the view from the balcony of our suite.”

Betty hovered
as soon as they stood up. “Was everything satisfactory?”

“Everything was perfect, thank
you so much,” Iris assured Betty. “We’re going to stretch our legs outside and give this delicious food a chance to settle while we get some fresh air.”

“That’s a good idea. Just follow the paths that wind around all the cottages. You can make a big loop
, but don’t turn onto the trails that take you into the woods or you might get lost.”

The air was chilly and the stars were twinkling in the crisp October air. Walter put his arm protectively around Iris
, asking if she was warm enough. “Yes, dear, you’re making me hot.”

Daisy and Lily stayed back a little, coughing to remind the
ir mother that there were others within hearing distance. The trail circled behind the Inn and looped around a half dozen or so cute cottages that were each nestled privately among the pine trees.

Lily whispered to Daisy
as they walked behind their mother and Walter, “Do you recognize which cottage we saw from the hot air balloon?”

Daisy shook her head but then she stopped, grabbed Lily’s arm and pointed. “Look at that big hydrangea bush, it’s the only cottage with one. That looks familiar.”

“I think you’re right,” Lily said excitedly as she looked around. Each cottage was lit with a lantern by the door and this cottage that was the farthest away and most secluded. It had a big hydrangea bush covered with the dried white flowers.

They hurried to catch up with Iris and Walter
who were waiting back at the Inn’s entrance gazing at the stars. Lily wrapped her arm around her mothers’ shoulders. “Let’s see that view. Do you think we can see anything in the dark?”

“We’ll see something. We can sit on the balcony and have a glass of wine if you aren’t in a huge rush to get home.”

Lily looked at Daisy who nodded. “That sounds nice.”

They all went up the stairs and Iris opened the door of the honeymoon suite
, extending her arm with a big fanfare. “Ta-da, what do you think?”

“Wow
” was all both girls managed to say. “This is quite the treat.” Lily’s eyes took in the stone fireplace on one wall that was all ready to light if they wanted a little warmth. A dark green leather couch faced the fireplace with a rustic coffee table on a square braided rug. Joining this sitting area was a door leading into a spacious bedroom with a king size bed covered with a beautiful quilt. Everything was simple but tasteful. French doors opened to a balcony that overlooked the back area of the Inn.

Walter told the three women to get comfortable while he got glasses and wine and he also brought out wool lap blankets for each of them.

Iris looked at her daughters. “Isn’t this nice?”

They both sighed their agreement as they accepted a glass of wine from Walter.

It was dark but they could see the lights of each cottage faintly glowing through the trees and the path was edged by solar lights. It was quiet except for the crunching of someone walking on the path. Lily saw Betty heading toward the Inn carrying a big bag. She glanced up and when she saw the four of them sitting on the balcony, she clutched the bag tight to her side and almost ran the rest of the way inside.

Iris said, “She must be chilly out there without any jacket on.”

Lily stood up and stretched. “I’d better get Daisy home before she falls asleep out here. I don’t think you two want any company tonight.”

Daisy yawned and stood up. “This was a great night, thanks for letting us crash your party.” Hugs went around the circle and Lily and Daisy found their way back to the car.

As Lily backed out she asked Daisy, “So what do you think of how Betty was scurrying along that path with a big bag clutched to her chest?”

“Don’t read something into everything you see. She has to clean the cottages, it’s probably just someone’s trash.” Daisy leaned her head on the headrest and closed her eyes.

Lily pictured how Betty looked when she’d seen Lily looking down.
I think there’s something in that bag that could be evidence.

***

Bright and early the next morning, Lily and Rosie left to pick up Daisy and they drove to the police station. After their late night of star gazing and wine drinking, neither of them had much to say and they made the drive in silence.

Ryan was waiting for Lily
outside the station. She parked and the three of them walked toward the front door together, Lily and Ryan holding hands and Daisy wishing Adam was there to hold hers.

N
ina Baldwin hustled over to them before they made it to the front door and Ryan groaned at the thought of what might be coming next.  She was ready with her pad and pencil, hoping to jot down any quotes she could use for her newspaper article.

“Mr. Steele, has the body been identified yet? You haven’t given me any information.”

“Ms. Baldwin, I don’t have a statement at this time, the family of the victim hasn’t been notified. You know the routine. Once I’m ready to make a statement, your editor will be notified.” Ryan ushered Lily and Daisy inside, ignoring any more questions Nina shouted out.

Lily hissed at Ryan,
“What’s going on, are we in trouble?”

“No, come on in here and I’ll explain everything.” Ryan
led the way to the back, passing Anna and Kari Sparks sitting in the main part of the station.

“Why are they here?” Lily asked Ryan.

Ignoring her question, he opened the door to a small room, ushering them both in.

Daisy shrieked when she walked in. “When did you get back?”
She looked daggers at Ryan. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought you would like the surprise
,” he said as he smiled at Daisy’s response at seeing Detective Adam May sitting in the room.

Adam
stood up, grinning at Daisy. “Ryan said he needed my help on this investigation. I just got here about five minutes before you walked in.”

Ryan took charge
, telling everyone where to sit at the table before he sat down. “To answer your question, Lily, we originally thought the victim was Kari Sparks because of the driver’s license, but obviously, Kari is alive and well. I brought her here hoping to find out why her driver’s license was found near the body, but she isn’t talking. Her mother insisted on coming too.” Ryan opened a folder, sliding a copy of an aerial photo to each of them. “Now, I need information from the two of you. Can you figure out which cottage was the one you saw when you were in the hot air balloon?”

Lily stabbed her finger at a spot on the photo. “This is the cottage we saw that person carrying the body
from.” She looked at Daisy who nodded in agreement with her finger on the exact same spot.

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“Yes, I remember it had two chimneys and none of the other cottages do. See? Take a look.”

Daisy added
, “Last night, when we took a walk around after dessert, we saw that only one cottage had a hydrangea bush in front and we both remembered seeing that too.”

“Think back to that moment. Was there a car parked in front, like there is in this photo?”

Lily scrunched up her face. “I don’t think there was a car. You asked me before and I wasn’t sure but seeing a car in this photo just doesn’t look the same as what I remember seeing from the hot air balloon.”

Ryan slid another photo
across the table, this one without the car. “How about this?”

“I think that’s how it looked. Except, of course, the person isn’t in this photo.” Lily studied it some more. “There isn’t a lot of open space so if there was a car, I think we would have seen it, right Daisy?”

Daisy put both photos next to each other. “I don’t think there was a car in this open space, but someone might have pulled between these trees and the leaves would have made it hard to see from above.”

Lily put the photo down and folded her hands in front of her on the table. “Now I have a question.” She watched Ryan’s face carefully. “Daisy and I saw a body and you
found a body. Where did you find it and is it the same one we saw?”

Ryan hesitated before answering and Lily knew he didn’t actually want to tell them.
“The body was found about a mile south from the Stone House Inn, in the woods, between the road where it gets close to a popular walking and riding trail. We don’t know if it’s the same one you saw, but I think it is. Now that you’ve identified the cottage, we have to search it.” Ryan pointed toward Adam. “That’s why I’ve asked for Adam’s help. If we can connect the body to that cottage, then we’ll know that someone moved her.”

“Do you know who it is yet?”

Ryan hesitated. “We know who it isn’t, but we don’t have an ID yet.”

Lily cocked her head to the side.
“Did you know that Lance Turner has one of the cottages reserved exclusively for his use?”

Ryan
flinched. “How did you find that out?”

“His pilot told me during a conversation about Lance’s wife
, Emma. I wonder which cottage is his. He certainly seems to have an eye for younger women,” Lily said with disgust, implying that Lance could be involved.

Ryan stood up and told Lily and Daisy they could leave and he thanked them for looking at the photos and helping with the investigation. As
they were walking out, Lily nodded to Anna Sparks who was sitting with Kari.

Anna got up and
followed Lily outside. She looked at Lily with red, swollen eyes as she clutched Lily’s arm. “Can you help us?”

“What’s going on? Is Kari alright?”

Anna looked away and in a small voice she said, “I don’t know, she won’t talk to me. The police have been asking her where she was two nights ago and who she was with but she won’t say anything. I’m really scared, Lily.”

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