PRAISE FOR THE SOUTHERN QUILTING MYSTERIES
Also by Elizabeth Craig
“Isn’t it wonderful to have a wedding to plan? I don’t know when I’ve been so thrilled.” Meadow Downey gave a most un-Meadow-like squeal to emphasize the point. She waved a hand to express her excitement and knocked her red-framed glasses askew in the process. Her long gray braid swished from side to side, punctuating her enthusiasm.
Her friend Beatrice Coleman repressed a wide smile as she pushed back a strand of platinum hair from her face. But she couldn’t hold back a grin. “Especially when it’s not one’s own.”
“Well, but for you it’s practically a family wedding,” continued Meadow. “Wyatt’s sister is finally tying the knot after fifty years. It’s all very exciting.”
Meadow and Beatrice were following up on Meadow’s resolution to work in more exercise by walking their dogs through their neighborhood in the tiny mountain town of Dappled Hills, North Carolina. Now that it was April, the air had warmed enough that a morning walk required only a light sweater. The dogwoods were blooming, daffodils were waving in the breeze, and the women could feast on the view of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains returning to vibrant life after the starkness of winter.
Meadow was wrestling with her gigantic beast, Boris, while Beatrice was taking an easy stroll with her corgi, Noo-noo. Boris was part Great Dane and part Newfoundland, which were clearly visible. It was Meadow’s claim that Boris was also part corgi that Beatrice found doubtful. With Meadow always a couple of yards ahead of Beatrice because Boris was pulling her along at great speed, Beatrice wasn’t sure if the walk could be considered a success. Or if it really could be termed a walk at all.
“It really is,” said Beatrice. “Although I would hardly call it a family wedding, Meadow. I haven’t even properly met Harper. And Wyatt and I have only just started to date. It’s not as if we’re married.”
Meadow completely ignored this detail, continuing on with her line of thought and yanking back on Boris’s halter as he tried to race off after a terrified squirrel. “Can you imagine marrying at fifty? She must be very set in her ways, don’t you think? It sure would be tough trying to train a man at that point in your life. Actually,” she said in a ruminating voice, “I can’t imagine trying to train a man at any point in life. You can see what a disaster my training of Ramsay was.”
Ramsay was Meadow’s long-suffering husband and the police chief of Dappled Hills. He seemed very housebroken to Beatrice. Yes, he had a fondness for losing his reading glasses, writing poetry, and quoting Walden a bit much. But he was kind and hardworking. And even seemed to pick up after himself.
“Harper was just waiting for the perfect match—that’s all. Wyatt is so happy for her. He felt terrible that she and I haven’t met each other, so he invited Harper and her fiancé to have supper with us tonight at his house,” said Beatrice.
“What are you bringing to the dinner party?” asked Meadow, a little breathlessly. Beatrice wasn’t sure if the breathlessness was because she was always trying to persuade Beatrice to win Wyatt’s heart through food, or the fact that Boris was pulling her along as if she were water-skiing.
Beatrice’s already brisk walk turned into more of a jog. Noo-noo gave her a despairing look, as if her short corgi legs couldn’t possibly keep pace. “I’m not cooking anything,” said Beatrice slowly. “I’m just bringing a bottle of wine.”
“But it’s the perfect opportunity for you to impress Wyatt with your culinary skills,” said Meadow, disappointed. “A bottle of wine just shows you know how to shop.” She neatly sidestepped a puddle left by a brief spring shower earlier that morning. Meadow finally reined in Boris as he skidded to a stop to inspect a mailbox that apparently smelled fascinating. Beatrice gave a grateful sigh as she slowed to a walk and completely caught up with Meadow again. Noo-noo, tongue hanging out and panting, seemed relieved, as well.
“I think we’re keeping it really low-key, actually.” Beatrice shrugged. “And my culinary skills are nothing to brag about, as you know.”
“A low-key dinner party?” asked Meadow. She sounded a bit scandalized.
“It’s not even a dinner party. It’s really just supper. That way I can meet Harper and her fiancé and we can have a nice evening together.”
“I think it’s a little odd that you haven’t been introduced to Harper before now. After all, she does go to church quite a bit,” said Meadow.
“I’m still pretty new to town, you know. Besides, I don’t know everyone who goes to church, and there was no real reason for Wyatt to have introduced me to his sister before we started dating. Harper doesn’t live in town, anyway.”
“She doesn’t, but she doesn’t live far from Dappled Hills, either. Just let me know how it goes,” said Meadow. “I’m curious about Harper’s fiancé, Daniel. I know he grew up here, but he was gone for so long. It’s been ages since I’ve last seen him. I remember him as a serious kid. He’s younger than I am, and the same age as my youngest sister. He was very smart and kind of quiet. The kind of kid who always had good manners when speaking with adults. He’s a lawyer, isn’t he? Not that we don’t have enough of those around town.” Meadow rolled her eyes.
“He is, but I think he works pro bono half the time. Daniel sounds like a good guy.”
“Well, be sure to give me the scoop. I’m interested in his best man, too—I’ve been hearing some gossip lately about Trevor Garber.” Meadow waggled her eyebrows in what was supposed to be a telling manner.
“Considering this is Dappled Hills, I can’t say I’m surprised. Everyone seems to know everything around here. What are you hearing about Daniel’s best man?”
“I hear he’s behaving sort of out of character. And there are rumors”—here Meadow dropped her voice into her usual loud whisper, as if someone could hear them out on the quiet road—“that he might be having an affair.” Then she jerked forward abruptly as Boris took off at a full gallop again.
“I doubt I’ll hear much about that at supper tonight,” said Beatrice, jogging ahead again. But you never knew. Not in Dappled Hills.
Meadow gave a gasping laugh as Boris dragged her forward. “Do you think I’m really getting exercise doing this? It feels like I’m just being pulled along. If I put roller skates on, I bet I’d end up across town in minutes.”
“Whatever you’re doing, it’s exertion, all right.” Beatrice smiled ruefully as Meadow went flying forward again. Beatrice decided she and Noo-noo were done with running to catch up and instead ambled toward their friends.
Eventually Meadow was able to tighten her grip on the leash and slow Boris down to a more leisurely pace. When Beatrice caught up with them, she gave Beatrice a curious look. “Have you been able to see much of Wyatt these past few weeks? It seems like he’s been in charge of tons of activities at the church lately.”
Beatrice cleared her throat. “We’ve seen each other, yes. Maybe not as much as I’d like to, but I understand about how busy he’s been. And when you’re a minister, you’re never really off. There are always people to visit—folks in hospitals, things like that. It’s sort of the point of the job.”
“I’m guessing,” said Meadow archly, giving Beatrice a sideways glance, “that the best way for you to spend more time with him is probably by spending more time at the church. Right? Volunteering there, helping set up events, attending events. That sort of thing. After all, you’re the one who’s retired. So, technically, you have more free time.”
Beatrice admired a row of azalea bushes as they walked past. She’d have to take a more scenic walk with Noo-noo tomorrow. This one was flying by. “Technically I do have more free time,” said Beatrice. She was amazed lately how the days seemed to just disappear in a puff. Retirement was growing on her. But Meadow had a point, and it was one that Beatrice had been considering, too. The only thing that was really holding her back was the thought that a lot of extra socializing was going to be in order if she really started spending time at the church. Beatrice didn’t mind a little socializing, but always quickly felt as though she wanted to retreat. She thought longingly of her hammock and her book.
“It’s something to think about, anyway,” said Meadow. She was fond of planting ideas in people’s heads. “Although I’ll miss seeing you if you spend more time with Wyatt. The sacrifices I make! Well, I’m sure tonight there’ll be lots of talk of wedding planning. I hope it will be a beautiful wedding. Although the other night on TV, I saw this really horrifying show. It was sort of like watching a train wreck—I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from it. It was called Worst Wedding Day Disasters Ever! and there was everything from a typhoon to the groom not showing up and a deer running into the ceremony and charging around the sanctuary. Scary stuff!”
“Well, none of that is going to happen during Harper and Daniel’s wedding next month. When was the last time you saw a typhoon here in North Carolina? Daniel sounds too responsible to skip out on his own wedding. And I’ll personally ensure that the door to the sanctuary remains closed throughout the ceremony. I defy any deer to run through. It’s going to be a lovely service.”
Why did Beatrice feel as though she should be knocking on wood?
* * *
Wyatt’s house was a stone cottage very similar to Beatrice’s. It sat on the property of Dappled Hills Presbyterian Church and had been the manse for years.
Shortly after Beatrice rang the doorbell, Wyatt’s sister, Harper, greeted her with a warm smile and a hug in Wyatt’s small entryway. “I feel as if I know you already—Wyatt has spoken so much and so highly of you, Beatrice. I’m sorry we haven’t met before now. I have a bad habit of sneaking into church right before the service starts and then hurrying back out afterward.”
Harper was tall and thin like her brother, but didn’t yet share his silver-streaked hair. She appeared to be in her early fifties and had an understated elegance about her, reflected in her crisp chinos and cotton button-down blouse with a leaf-and-dot print. She had high cheekbones and a wide, generous mouth. Beatrice followed her into a sparsely but comfortably decorated living room with thick throw rugs on the wooden floors, colorful paintings with scenes from nature, and ultrasoft sofas and armchairs.
Her fiancé, Daniel Kemp, rose to shake Beatrice’s hand. He looked as if he had a tendency to be on the serious side, but his eyes were kind and his smile was genuine.
Beatrice took a seat next to Wyatt on a cushy, warm brown sofa. She asked Harper, “So, how did you and Daniel meet? Did you know each other when you were children? Daniel, you are originally from Dappled Hills, aren’t you?”
Daniel nodded, carefully adjusting his black-framed eyeglasses. “I knew Harper growing up, but we weren’t friends then.”
Harper laughed. “That sounds awful. It’s just that Daniel seemed much, much older when we were kids. You know how it is when you’re in school. He was two grades ahead of me, and that felt like decades. We were in the same youth group at Dappled Hills Presbyterian and saw each other there a little. Wyatt’s and my father was the minister then, so we were at about every youth event there was. And Daniel was also there often, although he hung out with the older kids, of course. When he moved back to Dappled Hills from Charlotte, he rented a house right down the street from me, and that’s when we finally found out how much we have in common.”
Beatrice asked Daniel, “What made you decide to move back home from Charlotte? It must be a huge change for you after so many years.”
Daniel smiled at her but seemed to choose his words carefully. “My mother lives in assisted living here and I wanted to move closer to her. And I always planned on coming back home to Dappled Hills . . . because that’s how Dappled Hills feels to me. Like home.”
Harper quickly changed the subject, perhaps sensing that Daniel wasn’t comfortable as the center of attention. “Beatrice, I understand that you were an art-museum curator in Atlanta, and that you know a lot about setting up exhibits and making displays appealing. I wanted to get your thoughts on some flower arrangements I’m making for the wedding.” Harper’s intelligent brown eyes gazed earnestly at her.
Daniel gave a good-natured groan. “Wyatt, I guess this is where we bow out of the conversation. We’ll have to talk about fly-fishing or football or some other manly activity to counteract the wedding planning.”
“I want your opinions, too! You just aren’t as experienced in this area as Beatrice is. And, honestly, the biggest parts are already taken care of. We’ve got the catering set up and the reception location reserved. Now I need to catch up with the decorating, and I’m in a bit of a time crunch, since the wedding is in a month. My thought is that although I want to keep the wedding simple and traditional and low-key, I really want to incorporate quilts and quilting into the ceremony and reception—as a tribute. You’ve probably heard that Wyatt’s and my mother was a member of the Village Quilters,” added Harper.
Wyatt looked abashed and Harper said, “You didn’t tell her?”
Beatrice blinked. “I’m surprised that Meadow didn’t tell me. After all, she lives and breathes the Village Quilters guild.”
“Not only Mother, but Granny was also in the guild. And I have a feeling that Granny’s mom was in it, too, but I never asked Mother. You always think you have so much time with your family, and then one day they’re gone and you never had the chance to ask questions.” Harper swallowed hard and then continued in a firm voice, “So, that’s why I want to bring quilting in. Besides, quilting has been a big part of my life, too. One of my earliest memories was of Miss Sissy guiding my hands as she showed me how to quilt my first pattern.”
Beatrice gaped at her. “Miss Sissy?”
“Yes. She’s Wyatt’s and my godmother.” A pause. “Don’t tell me—Wyatt didn’t mention that to you, either?”
Beatrice reflected on Wyatt’s patience with the old woman, his continuing visits, and courteous kindness toward her. She should have guessed, she supposed, but he was like that with his entire church congregation.
Wyatt said, “You know, I think I heard a timer go off in the kitchen.” He winked at Beatrice and moved quickly toward the door. “Why don’t y’all move into the dining room?”
Beatrice decided to help him out by changing the subject. “How do you want to incorporate quilting into your big day?” she asked, as they obediently filed into the dining room and sat around a weathered pine table on farmhouse-style benches. The room was small but warm, with a rug in bright reds and blues under the table, bright lighting, and cheerful yellow paint on the walls.
Harper said, “Oh, I was thinking about several different things. And, Beatrice, you don’t know how excited I was to learn that you’ve become a quilter yourself. I’m so hoping that we’ll be able to spend time together, working on projects or showing our quilts at a few local shows. As far as the wedding goes, I’d love our guests to sign quilt blocks that I can sew into a wedding quilt. And Miss Sissy said she was working on a double wedding-ring quilt for us as a gift. I’ll be sure to display that somewhere prominently at the reception. And I’ve got a great idea for putting quilt blocks on the sides of the food and beverage tables. I meant to tell you that Posy said the Village Quilters and I could take over the Patchwork Cottage back room tomorrow to discuss the plans for integrating quilting into the wedding. Will that work for you?”
“Sounds like the perfect plan.”
Wyatt walked into the tiny dining room that adjoined the living room and carefully laid down a dish of baked salmon. “All right, I think we’re ready,” he said, hurrying back into the kitchen for the rest of the supper, which consisted of roasted vegetables, wild rice, and fruit.
Harper blinked at her plate in wonder. “Wyatt, this is a feast! I’m positively amazed. I’d no idea you could cook this well, or I’d have been over for supper way before now. Marian’s fabulous cooking must have rubbed off on you.” She flushed and put a hand up to her mouth. “Sorry,” she muttered, looking irritated with herself.
Beatrice remembered that Marian was Wyatt’s late wife. She gave Harper a bright and reassuring smile, but inside her heart sank. She didn’t exactly excel in the culinary arts.
“You’re right,” Wyatt said mildly. “Marian was a great cook. She’d have been proud of me tonight. And surprised. I never displayed any culinary talent during our marriage.” He smoothly moved on to another topic. “How are things going for the ceremony itself? In my experience, getting the wedding party organized can be one of the toughest things.”
Harper and Daniel exchanged glances. Daniel said, “We’ve put it together fairly quickly, although it’s been a bit harder than we thought. We wanted to keep it small and intimate—and that meant an intimate wedding party, too.” Daniel added quickly, “Wyatt, if you weren’t officiating, I hope you know you’d be best man. As Harper’s brother . . .”
Wyatt’s eyes twinkled. “I’ve no doubt that’s the case, Daniel. And I’d be honored to step in. But you’re right: it would be tricky to take both parts.”
Harper hesitated. Then she said, “There is one thing that’s been on my mind that I wanted to bring up. Wyatt, I know you see and counsel many people in your line of work, and I hoped you might be able to offer your opinion on something. I’m afraid that Trevor has been acting out of character.” She gave Daniel something of an apologetic look.
Wyatt frowned. “Trevor. He’s your best man, isn’t he?”
Daniel said, “That’s right. Trevor Garber is an old friend. We grew up together here before I left Dappled Hills. We kept up pretty well through the years, and then picked up where we left off when I returned to town. He’s always been a fairly upright guy—an anesthesiologist, a good husband to Eleanor, a friend who was always ready to listen. But lately?” He glanced over at Harper to help him fill in.
Harper cleared her throat and said diplomatically, “He’s been unpredictable.”
“That’s right. Unpredictable.” Daniel nodded. “He’s been acting really erratically—seems to be drinking a lot; speaks without thinking. It’s almost as if he’s a different person.”
Wyatt said slowly, “I haven’t seen a problem to that extent, but I’ve seen dramatic personality changes before. They were almost always caused by drug use of some kind.”
Daniel considered this for a moment and then shook his head. “I can’t see it. I think he’s definitely drinking too much, but I just can’t see drug use. After all, he’s a doctor.”
“Did anything happen in his life to trigger this?” asked Wyatt. “Some sort of personal tragedy that perhaps he needs to seek counseling for?”
Daniel said, “Nothing that I know about. He hasn’t lost a close friend or family member. He still has a job . . . Although if he keeps going at the rate he is, I have to wonder if that’s going to continue.”
“But there’s something,” said Harper, looking at Daniel. “Remember? You said there was something that Trevor said.”
“He has a secret. Something he’s not telling me. I don’t know what it is that he’s trying to keep under wraps, because he shuts me down whenever I try asking about it. I have to wonder if it’s his secret that’s causing him to act this way.” Daniel looked down at his plate.
Beatrice said, “So, you’re wondering, obviously, if you can trust him to be part of your ceremony.”
Harper sighed. “That’s right. What if he shows up intoxicated to the church? What if he makes a big scene at the reception?”
“But, at the same time, he’s our best man. I asked him months ago . . . before he started acting so oddly. Remember how proud and excited Trevor was to be part of our wedding?” Daniel asked sadly. “I’m not sure I can take that away from him . . . Not without just cause.”
Wyatt said, “Maybe it would be a good idea to talk with Trevor about it. Tell him you’re concerned about him. Ask him again what’s happened to make him start showing this behavior.”
“And think of a good replacement for best man,” added Beatrice grimly, “just in case.”
The Patchwork Cottage back room is like a war room, mused Beatrice. Except the generals were the Village Quilters. In attendance were Miss Sissy, Meadow, Posy, June Bug, and sisters Savannah and Georgia. Posy’s and Harper’s friend Lyla, who was also in the wedding, was the only non–Village Quilter there besides Harper. “Does everyone know Lyla Wales?” asked Posy. “She’s not only a dear friend of mine, but she’s helping me introduce quilting to a younger generation. Lyla is giving the quilting workshop that will be held soon after the wedding.” Posy looked as if she were about to bubble over with excitement. “And maybe we’ll even have a quilting booth at the spring festival!”
Lyla was an attractive middle-aged woman with a sleek bob of brown hair and an athletic build. She gave a jaunty wave. “Hi, everyone!”
Miss Sissy gave Lyla a rather rheumy glare. “Foolishness!”
Clearly, Miss Sissy was having one of her bad days. Her wiry gray hair was falling out of her bun, and her checkered dress was nearly as wrinkled as she was.
Everyone decided to ignore Miss Sissy’s little outburst. They were used to her temper, and it was definitely worth putting up with her hostility to get her input. After all, she’d been quilting for seventy years; she knew more about the craft than anyone else at the table.
Harper beamed at everyone. “Thanks so much for coming today and for being part of Daniel’s and my special day. It means a lot to us—especially having the Village Quilters help out, since Mother was a member of the guild long ago. I wanted to talk about how I wanted to incorporate quilting into the wedding. And if y’all have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.”
“Boutonnieres!” barked Miss Sissy.
“Yes, and we’re really looking forward to those,” said Harper to her godmother. Seeing that everyone looked confused, Harper explained, “Miss Sissy is going to make wool boutonnieres for the groomsmen.”
Beatrice couldn’t quite picture it, but she knew that everything Miss Sissy created was amazing.
“And June Bug is in charge of our marvelous cake,” said Harper with a grin at the little woman who was regarding them all very seriously with her large, buglike eyes. June Bug bobbed her head in shy agreement.
Meadow’s stomach announced that she hadn’t had breakfast that morning. “How are you incorporating quilting into the cake, June Bug?”
June Bug smiled at her. “It’s going to be squares of sheet cake that look like quilt squares.”
“It’s going to be so pretty that we’ll all hate to eat it,” said Harper with a laugh.
Meadow shook her head. “I doubt it. It sounds exactly like the kind of cake that I would eat with gusto.”
Miss Sissy suddenly lurched to her feet. “Intruder!” she hissed, waving an arthritic fist at the door leading into the shop.
They swung around to see a man with a flushed face and a slight receding hairline peering in through the wooden door of the storeroom. “Can I help you?” asked Posy uncertainly.
Lyla’s cheeks were darkly flushed. “Excuse me one minute, please. I’ll be right back.”
The quilters could hear Lyla’s voice whispering angrily to the man in the store. He didn’t seem inclined to whisper back. They heard him clearly say, “But I want to see you! When can we talk?”
Lyla furiously whispered back, “Not now. Not ever! Why are you pestering me like this? Leave me alone!”
The quilters looked at each other, startled. Harper leaned over and murmured to Beatrice, “That’s Trevor with Lyla . . . the best man that I’ve been worrying about.” Her eyes were clouded with concern, and her voice was tight.
The other quilters were clearly uncomfortable by the whisper. Harper said, “Savannah, tell me about that cute kitty of yours.”
Savannah, holding herself stiffly in her starched, high-collared floral dress, relaxed a little. “Smoke? He’s wonderful. Let me tell you what he did yesterday—you won’t believe it! He’s smart enough to know when it’s suppertime, but I was busy working on this very tricky section of my ‘Tumbling Blocks’ quilt, so I was holding off. So he jumped on the coffee table and started pushing off papers and magazines one by one to get my attention. Isn’t that amazing?” Savannah positively glowed.
Beatrice said in an undertone to Savannah’s sister, Georgia, “It sounds like Savannah is still just as much in love with little Smoke as the day she got him. And hopefully that means she’s still giving you more space?” The two sisters were roommates.
Georgia nodded. “It’s wonderful. Savannah is happy and distracted and learning about being a pet owner. And I don’t feel as if she’s is right on top of me—trying to organize my cluttered room, or making plans for the two of us to do things without checking with me first. I’m so glad you introduced Smoke to Savannah. It was love at first sight for both of them, I think.”
Meadow homed in on their conversation while the others shared their own pet stories. “What do y’all think that was all about?” she asked, nodding her head toward the door until her gray braid swung out over her shoulder. “Do you know who Lyla was talking to?”
Beatrice said in a quiet voice, “Harper said it was Trevor Garber.”
“Did I miss something about Lyla and Trevor? I thought they were both happily married. To other people,” said Meadow.
Georgia said sadly, “I did hear Trevor and his wife, Eleanor, squabbling one day recently when I was in the grocery store. I never know what to do when I come across a scene like that. I just fled. And I really needed that box of cereal, too, but they kept standing in that aisle, until I started worrying that my ice cream was going to melt all over the store.”
Meadow said, “Did you hear what they were arguing about?”
Beatrice frowned at Meadow. “Gossiping?”
“Well, I’m one of the people helping to make this wedding a successful event,” said Meadow, drawing herself up proudly. “I need to know if there are factors at play that might create a big problem during the wedding.”
Georgia looked thoughtful. “I didn’t really hear what they were arguing about, no. I did hear Lyla’s name mentioned, though.”
Meadow and Beatrice looked at each other. But they didn’t comment further because Lyla quickly came back into the room. “Sorry about that,” she said. Her face was flushed and her voice sounded gruff, as if she were trying to hold back some sort of strong emotion.
Harper quickly resumed the information session with more details about the types of quilting elements she wanted to include at the wedding reception. She needed quilt squares tilted like triangles to hang from the food tables at the reception. Harper also needed a special quilt, stationed near the guest book, for all of her wedding guests to sign. And she was hoping for quilts to be used for decoration at the reception. The quilters offered up their own ideas, too.
When they were done with planning, they all stayed to chat for a few minutes. Savannah and Georgia joined Posy and Beatrice to talk about the wedding. Beatrice peered surreptitiously over at Lyla, who appeared to be back to normal and was visiting with some of the other ladies.
Savannah said, “I haven’t seen a wedding for so long. I’m looking forward to this one.”
Georgia smiled. “I know. There’s just something about weddings. They’re full of hope, aren’t they?”
Posy said, “They surely are, Georgia. And this one is going to be lovely. I’m so thrilled that the quilts are going to be part of the ceremony and reception. Harper’s mother would be so pleased if she knew. The guild meant so much to her.”
Beatrice thought that Georgia looked wistful, as happy as she was for Harper and Daniel. Her own marriage hadn’t been a very happy one and had ended in divorce. Although she’d enjoyed living with her sister—at least to a point—it wasn’t quite the same.
The women gradually moved to the front door of the Patchwork Cottage, with Posy staying behind to lock up for the evening. As they left, Tony Brock, who worked at the hardware store next door, greeted them. Beatrice thought again how much she liked this nice young man, with his gentle smile and always-neat jeans and T-shirt. She especially liked that he gave a special greeting to Miss Sissy, who preened under his attention. Tony helped Miss Sissy around her house, ran errands for her, and even drove her around town—the few times he could persuade her not to terrorize the town in her ancient Lincoln.
After greeting all the ladies, Tony flushed and said, “Georgia, could I speak with you a minute?”
Georgia blinked with surprise and unconsciously put a hand to her hair, which was loose and flowing today, to smooth it.
The quilters continued walking toward the parking lot. “What does he want with Georgia?” asked Savannah crossly. “I’m ready to head home.”
Beatrice thought the young man’s flush and Georgia’s response might mean that there was a hint of romance on the horizon. But knowing how protective Savannah could be of her sister, Beatrice asked mildly, “Did y’all drive here? Or bike?” Savannah and Georgia biked nearly everywhere in Dappled Hills. Beatrice was never quite sure how Savannah managed it in her long skirts.
“We biked,” said Savannah, gesturing across the parking lot to the bike rack, where two bikes with white baskets were parked.
“You could head on home if you wanted. I can wait for Georgia and let her know that you left ahead of her.”
They heard the sound of footsteps behind them and turned to see a rosy-cheeked but smiling Georgia swiftly catching up with them. “Sorry, Savannah . . . I know you were ready to leave. But Tony just . . . well, he asked me out on a date!”
Beatrice said, “Georgia, that’s wonderful! I was thinking what a nice young man he is. I hope you have a good time on your date.” She glanced over apprehensively to see what Savannah’s reaction might be.
But Savannah was much more relaxed about Georgia’s news than she could have imagined. She did look confused for a moment at the announcement, but then quickly asked, “You’re going to supper?”
Georgia nodded, also looking worried about Savannah feeling left out.
Savannah said briskly, “Okay. Be sure to let me know what night that will be so I won’t cook for both of us. Can we head home now? I’m sure Smoke is wondering where his lunch is.”
Beatrice winked at Georgia, and she winked back. The little cat was working out even better as a distraction for Savannah than they’d hoped.
* * *
It was about a week later when Wyatt called Beatrice to invite her out to dinner. “I thought we could meet up with Harper and Daniel, too, if you don’t mind. They’ve been so busy with wedding plans that I haven’t seen them at all since we had supper at my house.”
Beatrice was proud that she managed not to remind Wyatt that she hadn’t seen much of him since that night, either. There had been a busy week of events at Dappled Hills Presbyterian—from a consignment sale to benefit the church preschool program to a book-donation drive for a local elementary school and a middle-school car wash that the youth put on to fund a beach retreat. These were all good activities—important activities. But it meant that she hadn’t seen Wyatt apart from her volunteering at the consignment sale. And although she was pleased with herself for not harping on his busy schedule, and she certainly didn’t feel as if she needed constant companionship, there was a part of her that deeply missed spending time with Wyatt.
Beatrice said lightly, “That sounds like a great idea. And then maybe you and I can spend some time alone together, too. Maybe a walk on Thursday at lunch? The weather is supposed to be beautiful then.”
Wyatt sounded abashed. “You’re right: we haven’t really been able to see each other, either. I’m so sorry. I’m hoping that things will ease up right after the wedding.”
“I miss seeing you—that’s all. I understand your huge commitment to the church and your congregation. It’s not a regular job. When I was curator at the art museum, I left work and I went home, and that was it. I worked some odd hours because of the museum hours, but basically when I was at home, I wasn’t working. But you never know when you might need to be called away.” If Beatrice was being completely honest, this was the part that rankled the most. It was somehow tougher to have planned something fun and then abruptly have it canceled than not seeing Wyatt at all.
“I think the fact that it’s such a small town and a small church and that I’m the only pastor makes a difference,” said Wyatt. “In a larger church, there might be several ministers to divide duties among. Here I’m the only one.”
“And you’re doing a wonderful job handling all those responsibilities,” said Beatrice. “I’m just wanting to keep you all to myself. Or maybe more to myself.”
“Not at all,” said Wyatt staunchly. “And I’ll try to work out some ways for me to delegate more to elders and deacons or church volunteers, and make some more time for us. For picnics. I do enjoy going on picnics,” he said wistfully.
* * *
Although Beatrice would have preferred a quiet dinner with Wyatt, she had to admit that she did enjoy Harper’s and Daniel’s company that night. She gave an appreciative sniff of the air as they walked into the Italian restaurant. There were red tablecloths with bright white napkins on every table, and each table had a wrought-iron lantern with a lit candle inside. Daniel regaled them in his dry voice with tales from years practicing law, and had them all in stitches. Then Beatrice curiously asked Wyatt and Harper what it was like having Miss Sissy as a godmother.
Wyatt smiled at her, eyes twinkling. “Well, you know, she wasn’t always like she is now.”
Harper said with a laugh, “She was great, actually. Spry. Childlike. We made her play hide-and-seek with us when we’d play over at her house.”
“Miss Sissy was tough to find, too,” said Wyatt in a reminiscent voice. “Remember that one time, Harper?”
Harper’s eyes opened wide, remembering. “You mean the time we lost Miss Sissy? We gave up and kept calling for her to come out. But she wouldn’t! She was determined to keep playing the game until we found her. We were starting to wonder if we should call the police and file a missing-person report.”
“That’s what we thought,” said Wyatt. “But remember? She’d fallen asleep in her hiding place. She was curled up in a ball, snoring away, when we finally found her on the floor of her linen closet, under a comforter.”
Beatrice laughed and was about to comment on Miss Sissy’s hide-and-seek expertise when she noticed that Daniel had grown tense and was staring at something across the restaurant.
“What’s wrong, Dan?” asked Harper, noticing. Then she stiffened, too. “Oh no,” she muttered.
At the far end of the room, a man was stumbling toward a table partially hidden by a column. He seemed as if he had once been a good-looking man, but his looks were starting to go to waste. His face was bloated and ruddy, and he looked a bit soft around the middle. Beatrice frowned. Although she could swear she didn’t know the man, there was something familiar about him.
The biggest problem was that he was talking very loudly to his dinner companion, a shaggy-haired, middle-aged man with deep-set, concerned eyes. In fact, he appeared to be threatening him.
Beatrice gazed thoughtfully at the man, who was clearly intoxicated. In an instant, she realized he was the same man who’d argued with Lyla at the quilt shop: Daniel’s best man, Trevor.
Trevor’s belligerent voice now attracted the attention of the restaurant’s manager, who hovered nervously nearby. “I know all about it!” said Trevor, staggering a bit as he clutched the back of his chair in an attempt to stand still.
His chair crashed to the floor, and Harper gave an embarrassed groan. Daniel’s face turned nearly as ruddy as Trevor’s.
“I know all about it, Patrick. And I’m going to tell everybody. You always thought you were so much smarter than me—made all the great grades in med school. I think everybody needs to know more about their favorite doctor.” Trevor’s voice was slurred and angry.
The manager, gaze darting anxiously around at the other diners, moved quickly next to Trevor and murmured to him in a low voice the others couldn’t hear. Trevor said, “What if I don’t want to leave? What if I’m not done talking?”
Wyatt moved his chair back and said swiftly, “Daniel, let’s talk with Trevor before this situation gets worse.”
Daniel, who’d been frozen in his chair, snapped to. “Of course,” he muttered, also pushing his chair back. The two men hurried across the restaurant. Wyatt spoke with the manager, while Daniel appeared to be quietly trying to persuade Trevor to let him drive him home.
Trevor’s dinner companion decided to make his escape. He threw down some money, told the manager to keep the remainder, and rushed out, shooting worried glances at the other diners as he left.
Unfortunately, Daniel didn’t appear to be making much headway with his approach. Trevor became even more combative. He shoved Daniel, but the shove turned into a bit of a stumble, with Trevor already so off-balance. Daniel quickly caught himself, but Trevor fell over the chair that he’d knocked to the floor.
The entire restaurant appeared captivated by the scene in front of them. Trevor lay on the floor, looking as if he might stay down there for a while to fully recuperate.
Wyatt squatted down next to Trevor and spoke gently to him. Although Beatrice couldn’t hear what he said, the words seemed to be effective, and Trevor accepted the hand that Wyatt held out to him.
Since Trevor didn’t seem inclined or able to pay his dinner bill, Daniel quickly paid it with his debit card, as Harper collected Trevor’s reading glasses and windbreaker from the table and Beatrice helped Wyatt take Trevor outside.
Daniel caught up with them once they were out the door, which wasn’t difficult, since they were moving slowly with Trevor weaving from side to side and occasionally stumbling. Daniel remotely unlocked his car. “I’ll drive him home,” he said grimly. “Trevor and I have something to discuss.” He looked at Wyatt. “Do you mind giving Harper a lift home?”
“Of course not,” he said.
After Daniel and Trevor left, Beatrice, Harper, and Wyatt got into Wyatt’s car. “Well, that was interesting,” said Harper. “I knew Trevor’s behavior was getting worse, but I had no idea things had gotten quite this bad.”