It was nice to see someone else's love life turning out well, especially when her own was such a train wreck, Libby Morgan decided. Now that her big brother Trey was married, Mom could turn her obvious desire for grandchildren to Trey and Jessica and stop asking her only daughter if she'd met anyone special yet.
Libby put down the bridesmaid's bouquet she'd been clutching for what seemed like hours and picked up her camera instead. She'd discovered long ago that the camera could be useful camouflage. It would help her get through the rest of the wedding reception without, she hoped, too much conversation with people who'd known her from childhood and seemed compelled to try and find out how her life was going.
Then, once the flurry of wedding-related activities were over, she'd be free to dig into the other reason she'd come home to Spring Township, deep in Pennsylvania's amish country.
"You know the Amish don't go to the law." Esther's last letter had sounded almost frightened, and esther Zook, teacher at the local Amish one-room school, didn't frighten easily.
But I fear this is one time when we should. I must talk to you as soon as you get home. You know the Englisch world. You'll be able to tell me if I'm right about this.
Libby snapped off a few shots, more to keep the camera in front of her face than anything else. She hadn't reached Pennsylvania from San Francisco as early as she'd intended, partly because of the weather, but mainly because of the upset at the newspaper that had led to a final showdown with her boss.. final in more ways than one.
Well, maybe she could set up in business as a wedding photographer. She framed Trey and Jessica in the pine-wreathed archway of the Springville Inn's ballroom, seeming oblivious of everything but each other, and snapped several quick shots.
"No doubt about how those two feel."
That particular deep male voice, coming from close behind her, made her hands jerk so that she undoubtedly got a great picture of the parquet floor. She turned, arranging a smile on her face. She'd had plenty of practice since fate, in the form of the bride, had paired her with Police Chief Adam Byler for the wedding.
"There isn't, is there? This is one relationship that's destined to last."
As opposed to ours, which lasted for about a minute and a half. That being the case, why did she persist in comparing every man she met to Adam Byler?
Adam's slate-blue eyes didn't show any sign he caught an undercurrent in her words. But then, he wouldn't. Strong features, brown hair in a military cut, equally military posturestoic didn't begin to describe Adam. Whatever he felt wouldn't be easily read on his face.
"I was beginning to think Trey would never take the plunge, especially after your dad's death, when he had to take over the company." Adam flicked an assessing glance at her face, as if wondering whether she could take a casual reference to the loss of her father, over a year and a half ago now.
She tried for a stoic expression of her own. "Trey's had his hands full, I know." She raised an eyebrow, casually, she hoped. "Or were you implying that I should have come home to take on some of the burden?"
Adam lifted his hands in quick denial. "Never thought of it. Trey probably wouldn't have let you, anyway. He was born for the job."
Trey, the oldest, had been groomed from birth to take over the extensive holdings that made up the Morgan family company. Link, her twin brother, the best man today, hadn't had that pressure on him, but since an injury cut short his military career, he'd come home to recuperate, fallen in love and stayed to take over the construction arm of the family business.
And then there was Libby, always considered the baby, even though Link had been born only twenty minutes before her. She'd been Daddy's princess. Too bad that role hadn't prepared her very well for the outside world. For an instant a fierce longing for her father's warm, reassuring presence swept through her.
Adam shifted his weight slightly, looking as if he'd rather be wearing his gray uniform on his six feet of solid muscle than the rented tuxedo. Or maybe she had actually succeeded in making him uncomfortable.
"I guess I'd better get back to my groomsman duties." A smile disturbed the gravity of his face. "Your mother gave strict orders. I even have a detailed list."
"That's Mom, all right. She might play the featherbrain at times, but she's the most organized person I know."
Funny, that only her mother could bring that softness to Adam's expression. Or maybe not so funny. Geneva Morgan had looked at a ragged eight-year-old Adam and seen a person worth cultivating instead of the son of the town drunk. Adam wasn't the sort to forget that.
Libby watched Adam walk across the room through the shielding lens of the camera, lingering a bit on those broad shoulders. He was as solid now as he'd been back in high school.
The family had gone to every Spring Township High football game to cheer on Trey, the quarterback. Nobody had known that Libby's eyes were on his best friend, the lineman who'd been that same six feet of solid muscle even then. A crush, she told herself now. It had been nothing but a crush, turned humiliating when she'd thrown herself at him.
In an odd way, when the rumors started going around that he'd gotten Sally Dailey pregnant, she'd felt better about his rejection of her. If that was the kind of girl he wanted, she was done with him.
Only she hadn't been, not really.
Enough, she chided herself. Being home again was having a ridiculous effect on her
her emotions had been riding a roller coaster all day. At least, after another hour or two of the reception, the bride and groom would slip away.
Lucky them. Libby had no doubt that Mom had another of her famous lists ready for the rest of the family. Still, there should be time tomorrow to talk with Esther.
It was impossible to do it before then. Even if she could have left the reception, it grew dark early in December. Amish families, like the Zooks, would be in bed by this time.
"Well, now, if it isn't Libby Morgan, all grown-up."
She wasn't quite fast enough to escape the arm that snaked around her waist. .probably because she'd been watching Adam.
"Mr. Barclay." She grabbed his cold hand and shook it, using the move to get him at arm's length.
Owen Barclay, manager of the Springville Inn, did a marvelous job of running the Revolutionaryera show-place for its distant owners, so everyone in town said. Everyone also said he'd chase after any attractive female who crossed his path.
"Owen, please. After all, we've known each other a long time, haven't we?" He made the words sound ridiculously intimate.
"The family is so pleased with the reception." She turned the conversation to the only business they had between them. "The setting is perfect." Her gesture took in the spacious, Christmas-decorated room that could and did host everything from the local high school prom to political rallies.
Owen nodded, flashing a white smile. Everything about Owen was polished, from his sleek dark hair to the tanthat had to come from a tanning boothto the expensive cut of his suit. He might have been made for the position he held as manager of the historic inn.
"My staff is well trained to handle an event like this. Naturally we want to provide the perfect setting for any wedding, but your brother's is very special. It isn't every day a member of the Morgan family gets married."
"It's so nice that the bride decided to have the wedding here in Springville." Sandra Smalley paused next to them, patting her silver-blond hair. "One does wonder why she didn't have it at her home, of course."
Libby's smile tightened. Sandra had always had aspirations to be the social leader of Springville, and she probably still did. More to the point, she was a notorious gossip. Libby certainly wasn't going to mention Jessica's strained relationship with her father, who was her only relative.
"Well, I can answer that." Libby leaned close to Sandra, as if about to impart a secret. "She actually thinks people here are nice."
"Oh. Well, of course." Sandra blinked, perhaps wondering if she'd just been insulted. "That's good, isn't it?" She backed up, nearly stepping on her husband, waiting behind her. "Come along, Leonard. I'm sure Libby has a great deal to do."
They moved away between the tables, and Owen shook his head at her in mock disapproval. "Shame on you. What would your mother say about your baiting Sandra that way?"
"She'd say I should know better, which I should." She raised her camera. "So I'd better get back to taking photographs. Good seeing you, Owen."
While she was at it, she really needed to readjust her thinking to the small-town mindset. Libby moved among the tables, snapping photos, agreeing that the bride was beautiful, the ceremony had been perfect, and yes, it was sad that her father wasn't here to see this day. This last one required gritting her teeth a few times, but she managed. Mom would be proud of her.
Her gaze sought out her mother in the crowded room. Geneva Morgan was doing her duty, of course, speaking to every single person here. She probably hadn't had a bite of her dinner, but her smile was radiant as she greeted guests.
Would Mom be proud when she learned that her only daughter was now unemployed? Possibly, when she knew the circumstances. Mom was a great one for standing up for what was right. As for Libby's own sense of that
maybe living in the competitive world of news photography had blurred her vision. If so, it was past time to regain her moral compass.
She stopped at the Smalleys' table, taking several photos of them out of a delayed sense of social guilt. Sandra beamed, adjusting the collar of her pink sequined top. Leonard, whose habitual expression was one of faintly worried absentmindedness, looked like a white rabbit that had strayed into the party by mistake.
"Smile, Leonard. You're happy for the bride and groom, aren't you?"
He produced something that was more of a grimace, and she snapped the photo.
"That's great," she said. At least when she photographed car smashups, she didn't have to coax a smile from people. A faint memory teased at her mind. "By the way, didn't I see"
She stopped, glancing across the room, her gaze caught by Adam Byler. He stood a little apart from the crowd, cell phone pressed to his ear.
A small, icy thread traced its way down her spine. Adam looked solemnthere was nothing in that. He always did. But something about the call had frozen him into immobility for just a moment. Then his gaze swung around the room. It reached her. It stopped.
Something was wrong. The thread became a torrent of cold. Something was very wrong, because Adam was moving through the crowd toward her, his eyes never leaving hers.
She clutched the back of the nearest chair as he reached her. "What is it? What's happened?"
He took her arm, leading her a few steps away from the interested glances of the people at the table.
"I'm sorry." His voice was low, for her ears only. "I don't want to disrupt the reception, but I know how close you two are." He paused for the space of a heartbeat, his hand firm and strong on her arm. "There's been an accident. Esther Zook's buggy has been hit."
"How bad?" Her frozen lips could barely form the words.
"Bad," he said, clenching his jaw. "She's on her way to the hospital, but