by Mindy Starns Clark
From the bestselling author of Shadows of Lancaster County comes an exciting new romantic mystery set in Amish country.
Sienna Collins owns a Bed and Breakfast out in Lancaster County, built in a house she inherited from her grandfather. Run by an on-site manager, her B&B turns just enough profit on a regular basis to make it her only solid investment.
As the book opens, Sienna learns that she has been suspended from her job in the city and is under investigation by the US government. When she hears from Troy, an ex-boyfriend who is calling from her B&B, she realizes the investigation has something to do with him—and with her inn.
Desperate to figure out what's going on, she drives out to Lancaster County to confront Troy and to question her B&B's manager, Floyd.
This excerpt begins as Sienna nears the B&B.
Traffic ended up being exceptionally heavy, and by the time I turned from the main road onto the street that led to my final destination, it was after 7:00 p.m. Even in my current state of mind, the beauty of the scenery took my breath away, as it always had.
Passing one patchwork farm after another, barely visible now in the fading light, I couldn't help but think how different my life would have turned out if my grandfather hadn't broken away from the Amish faith back in the forties and gone down a different path. If my father had been raised Amish, would he have stayed in the fold? If so, if he had raised me to be Amish too, would I now be living on a farm of my own somewhere, wearing a kapp and picking vegetables with my five children and cooking meals on a propane-powered stove? Would the man who took me in his arms after a long day have a beard with no mustache and wear broadfall trousers I had sewed for him with my own hands?
Slowing as I reached the entrance to Harmony Grove Bed and Breakfast, I put on my blinker and turned into the driveway. Flanked on the right by thick woods and on the left by an open pasture, the long driveway made for a spectacular sight when there was light enough to see.
Despite the little bell that jangled over the door as I stepped inside, no one seemed to realize I was here.
"Troy? Floyd?" I called out both men's names several times, and when they didn't reply I checked the kitchen and the office, both of which were empty. Then I went to the far end of the hall and knocked on the door to the downstairs room Troy usually used when he was here. He didn't answer, but I pushed it open anyway to see that his suitcase was near the window and what looked like a wallet and keys were on the dresser. The bed was made but not neatly, as if he had simply gotten out of it and smoothed the covers. His window was open, and white lace curtains fluttered gently in the evening breeze.
I closed the door and returned to the main sitting area, coming back around to the door of Floyd's room. I knocked but he didn't answer, and so again I opened it up anyway and peeked inside. Floyd's bed was neatly made, with a navy duffel bag sitting on top. Floyd was nowhere in sight, though, and through the open door to his darkened bathroom I could see that no one was in there, either.
I decided they must be outside. Taking one more quick look in the kitchen just to be sure, I saw that at least one of them had recently been in there making themselves a sandwich. On the counter was an open jar of mayonnaise with a knife sticking out of it, and beside that a bag of bread and a plate with half of one sandwich made.
It was growing so dark out that I flipped on the exterior lights. Going down the back steps. I didn't see or hear anyone, but I called out their names again several times, each time progressively louder. When still no one answered, I stood there in the silence for a moment, trying to see if I could hear anything.
Unlike Troy, I had always appreciated the outdoors and enjoyed getting back to nature, but that didn't mean it didn't take some adjusting for me too. Ears used to city noise always had trouble getting a handle on such complete country silence.
With only the chirp of crickets as accompaniment, I called out the men's names yet again and decided they must be further out back or maybe over in the grove.
Thinking of my aborted call earlier with Troy, I was gripped by a disturbing sense of urgency. I dialed Troy's cell phone one last time, but he still didn't answer. Taking a deep breath, I decided to try Floyd's phone. If he didn't answer either, I would call the police. Hoping it wouldn't come to that, I punched in Floyd's number and waited for it to ring at the other end of the line.
Much to my surprise, however, not only could I hear it ringing through the phone, but I could also hear an actual phone ringing somewhere not too far away.
"Floyd?" He didn't answer, so I followed the sound, moving toward the solid fencing that surrounded the pool area. Could he be inside there? If so, why? It was too late in the year to go swimming, that was for sure. His phone went to voice mail, so I disconnected the call and then redialed it again.
"Floyd!" I yelled as I reached the gate and pulled it open. That's when I saw Troy's body. He was lying on his back beside the pool, dripping wet, with a huge, gaping wound that had been ripped through his trousers and clean into his thigh. There was blood in and around the wound and also around his mouth. His eyes were open, frozen in a horrifying death stare.
Troy was dead. Looking at him, there was no question that he was dead. Yet still, instinctively, I ran to him—or I tried to, anyway. My foot caught on something on the ground beside the gate, something soft but solid that caused me to trip. I fell forward, landing on my knees and on both hands. Screaming from the surprise more than from pain, I turned to see what had caused me to fall.
It was Floyd, lying on the ground, facedown, a gun clutched in his lifeless right hand. Near his other hand was his cell phone, face up on the cement, and still ringing from my call. After one more ring it stopped, no doubt having gone into voice mail again. As I sat trembling—from pain, from fear—rocking back and forth, I couldn't help thinking, absurdly, that it didn't matter if I left a message or not.
He wasn't going to be answering it now anyway.
Once she finds the manager unconscious and her ex-boyfriend dead, Sienna's life and livelihood begin to spin wildly out of control. She soon begins to doubt everyone around her, even the handsome detective assigned to the case.
As Sienna tries to clear her name, she is forced to depend on her faith, the wisdom of her Amish cousins, and the insight of the man she has recently begun dating. She'll need all the help she can get, because the secrets she uncovers in Harmony Grove end up threatening not just her bed-and-breakfast but also her credibility, her beliefs, and ultimately her life.
Visit Mindy's websites at www.mindystarnsclark.com and www.morefrommindy.com, and her blogs at www.amishreader.com and www.thehousethatcleansitself.com. Secrets of Harmony Grove is available wherever books are sold, including christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and amazon.com.
Copyright © 2010 by Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.