A Gala Event (An Orchard Mystery)

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9780425275818: A Gala Event (An Orchard Mystery)

Wedding bells are ringing for Meg and Seth in the latest Orchard Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Picked to Die...

The fall harvest may be just about over, but orchard owner Meg Corey is busier than ever planning her wedding to Seth Chapin. Who knew picking apples would be less work than picking out rings and a dress? And even though the happy couple has invited most of Granford, Massachusetts, to the ceremony, they might have to make room for one more guest...

Ex-con Aaron Eastman has unexpectedly reappeared in his hometown, searching for answers to the tragic fire in his family’s past that put him behind bars twenty-five years ago. Moved by his sincerity, Meg vows to do everything she can to help him solve the cold case. As she cobbles together the clues, it becomes increasingly clear that Aaron may have been considered the bad seed of the family, but someone else was one bad apple...

Includes Delicious Recipes!

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About the Author:

Sheila Connolly is the New York Times bestselling, Anthony and Agatha award–nominated author of the Orchard Mysteries (Picked to DieGolden Malicious), the Museum Mysteries (Razing the DeadMonument to the Dead), and the County Cork Mysteries (Scandal in SkibbereenBuried in a Bog). She has taught art history, structured and marketed municipal bonds for major cities, worked as a staff member on two statewide political campaigns, and served as a fundraiser for several nonprofit organizations. She also managed her own consulting company, providing genealogical research services. In addition to genealogy, Sheila loves restoring old houses, visiting cemeteries, and traveling. Now a full-time writer, she thinks writing mysteries is a lot more fun than any of her previous occupations. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Acknowledgments

1

“Hey, ladies, how’re you doing?” Meg Corey leaned on the fence that surrounded the goat pen outside her house and watched her two goats, Dorcas and Isabel, munching on their hay. They stared back with their weird eyes, then returned to pulling out clumps of hay from the bale.

“I know, food is more interesting than I am,” Meg said. Still, she kept watching, mostly because she could: for the first time in the past few months, she had the leisure to pursue unimportant things, like goat-watching. The harvest from her orchard was almost complete, with only a few apples lingering on the trees now in November. She’d put in plenty of hours picking apples alongside her hired pickers and her orchard manager, Bree, and now she gave herself the right to take a break. She was management, wasn’t she? Not that the goats seemed to care, as long as their food showed up on time.

But after a few more minutes, she was feeling the chill in the autumn air. A cup of coffee sounded good. Meg turned around to head for her kitchen door—and came face-to-face with an unfamiliar creature. Its head was about five feet off the ground, and it was covered with fuzzy wool. Not a sheep—she would recognize that, and besides, its neck was too long. Short ears, doe-like eyes. It regarded her steadily, checking her out much as she was checking it out.

“Seth?” she called out. The last time she’d seen her fiancé, Seth Chapin, he’d gone up the stairs to his office over the shed at the back end of the driveway. Of course, if the windows were shut he probably couldn’t hear her. At the sound of her voice, the animal had taken a startled step backward, but it was still staring at her. “Seth?” she called a bit more loudly.

She heard a window opening, and Seth stuck his head out. “You want something?”

“Uh, we have company?” she told him, waving her hand at Large Fuzzy Creature. Creature had turned its head toward Seth at the sound of his voice, but now returned to its steady contemplation of Meg.

She could have sworn that Seth smiled, but all he said was, “Be right down.” She heard the window shut again. The goats had come over to the fence line and were now doing their own checking out of the newcomer, who showed no particular interest in them. He—or she?—seemed to prefer Meg. She thought briefly about trying to shoo it away, but it didn’t look hostile, or seem afraid of humans, and she wasn’t sure where it belonged or which way it would go.

Seth came up behind her, now definitely smiling. “Oh, I forgot to tell you—we have new neighbors. This is one of them.”

“Yes, you did forget to mention that. First of all, what is it?”

“It’s an alpaca.”

“What I know about alpacas might fill an index card. Don’t they produce yarn?”

“So I’m told. I can’t speak from experience.”

“Okay, Alpaca, nice to meet you,” Meg said, in the interest of interspecies friendship. “I assume the alpaca didn’t sign a lease or take out a mortgage?”

“No, that would be the Gardners. They retired from city jobs and decided to find a place in the country and raise alpacas. They bought a chunk of land up toward Amherst—it’s too steep for most farmers to bother with, but apparently alpacas like hills, at least sometimes. I think they originated in Peru—that’s where the Andes are, if you recall.”

“Should we tell the Gardners that one of their, uh, flock is here?”

“Probably—and I think it’s called a herd. They aren’t supposed to roam around. I’m pretty sure there’s a town ordinance about livestock getting loose, although I can’t remember if it says anything specific about alpacas.”

“A phone number for the Gardners would help, Seth, unless you want to make friends with this fine specimen of alpaca here. Although I think it likes me better than you, but I wouldn’t want Dorcas and Isabel to get jealous.”

“I’ve probably got it in my office—I’ll be just a sec.” With that he turned and walked quickly toward the stairs to his office, leaving Meg face-to-face with the alpaca, who did not seem at all disconcerted. At least it wasn’t a bull or something large and hostile. “I wish I knew your name. How’d you get loose, anyway? I bet your people miss you. And your friends.” How many alpacas were there in the herd? Meg wondered.

The alpaca appeared to become bored with Meg, and wandered over to the goat pen, where the animals exchanged tentative sniffs across the fence. At least they weren’t fighting.

Seth reappeared quickly. “Someone is on the way. Their place is only a couple of miles from here, as the crow flies. Or, in this case, as the alpaca . . . what? Lopes? Trots? Shambles?”

“Take your pick. I’d offer you some coffee or something, but I don’t want this lovely creature to get into any trouble or wander off. I don’t know anything about their habits, and I’d hate to see it end up in front of a car on the road. It seems kind of trusting.” Meg eyed the animal’s shaggy fur. “I’d like to pet it, but I’m not sure it would be happy about that.”

“Better not to, for now. We can ask its owner if it’s friendly. Although I see what you mean—you kind of want to bury your fingers in the fur.”

Only a few minutes had passed when a battered car towing a small animal trailer crept into Meg’s driveway. A large woman with short, silvery hair climbed out. “Sorry, sorry—I hope she didn’t cause you any trouble. Lulu, get your hairy butt over here!” The alpaca just stared at her. “Well, it was worth a try—they seldom come when called, unless there’s food involved. I’ve got a bridle. Mind opening the back gate on the carrier, Seth?”

“No problem, Patty.” Seth walked over and opened the gate, while the woman sweet-talked Lulu the alpaca while slipping the bridle over her head. Meg almost giggled, because it looked like the alpaca gave a small sigh of regret at losing her short-lived freedom.

“Come on, baby, be a good girl,” the older woman said, leading the animal to the carrier. It walked in peacefully enough, and the woman secured the gate behind it, checking it twice. Then she came back to where Seth and Meg were standing. “I’m really sorry about that. Oh, I’m Patty Gardner—I just moved in a couple of weeks ago, a mile or two north of here. You must be Meg—Seth’s mentioned you. Our house is in pretty good shape, and there’s some okay pasture, but the fences leave a lot to be desired, and we haven’t had time to make the full circuit and patch them. But I didn’t mean to barge in on you like this.”

“Don’t worry about it, please. Yes, I’m Meg Corey—I live here, and I have an orchard up the hill, as you can see. I haven’t even been here two years myself. I’d ask you in for coffee or tea, but I’m guessing you want to get Lulu home again?”

Patty smiled. “Yes, I do, and I need to figure out where she broke through the fence and if any of her pals followed her—I could be chasing alpacas all night.”

“How many do you have?”

“Fifteen at the moment. It’s a small herd by most standards—what they call a foundation herd. We’re pretty new at this, so we’re starting small, but we’ll be breeding them. We want to expand once we get the hang of it, and get some more of the pasture fenced in.”

“Why alpacas, if you don’t mind my asking?” Meg said. Seth had said the woman was retired, but she looked strong enough to handle an alpaca.

“Well, they’re not too big—Lulu here is full-grown—and they’re sociable, at least with each other. They can look after themselves. They’re pretty quiet, except they hum now and then. They don’t eat too much. And there’s a market for their wool. And I should warn you—they spit, mostly at each other, but sometimes at people. It can be kind of nasty.”

“Got it. So if I see another alpaca wander by, I should call you?”

“I’m the only herder around, as far as I know. Right, Seth?”

“At least within town limits. You’re breaking new ground here, Patty.”

“Beats wrangling government regulations—I’ve had my fill of that.” Patty turned to Meg. “Can I get a rain check on that coffee? I’d like to get to know my neighbors.”

“Sure. My harvest is almost over, and now all I have to worry about is planning our wedding, which is less than a month away. Right, Seth?”

“You’ve got it.” Seth smiled. Meg smiled back.

“Then I guess congratulations are in order. Look, I’d better get Lulu back and hope she doesn’t tell all her herd buddies how much fun it is out here. Thanks for snagging her. See you later, I hope.” Patty strode off to her car, carefully maneuvered the trailer behind until she was pointed toward the road, then pulled away. Meg and Seth watched them go.

“Well, that was fun,” Meg said when they were out of sight. “Is it just me, or is an alpaca a supremely silly-looking creature?”

“What, you’re judging solely on appearance?” Seth exclaimed in mock horror. “As Patty informed us, they’re fairly nice animals. You’ve been lucky with Dorcas and Isabel, right?”

“I have, although I don’t think goats and alpacas are related. But I stand corrected: I will reserve judgment about the nature of alpacas, especially since now I have to live with them as neighbors. Can we go inside now? I’m freezing.”

“Shoot, I was hoping to get something done this afternoon. Never does seem to work out that way, does it?”

“Not often enough. But the alpaca invasion was not my fault. If anything, it’s yours. Doesn’t Granford have a fence-walker or something?”

“Not for the past couple of centuries. I vote for coffee—I think you’re turning blue.”

“Not my best color,” Meg said, leading the way into the kitchen. Once inside, she shucked off her coat and set about boiling water. “Would you rather have tea?” she asked Seth.

“Coffee’s good. Where’s Bree?”

“Still up the hill, I think. But we’re down to the last couple of varieties. Maybe she’s hiding out just to avoid the paperwork. She owes me the year-end summary, or at least an estimate. Maybe it’s bad news and she doesn’t want to know.”

“I can sympathize—I hate the paperwork part of my business, but if I don’t send invoices, I don’t get paid. Where are we on . . . well, everything else?”

“East of nowhere, I’m afraid.” Meg poured water over coffee grounds. “We’ve asked Christopher to officiate, but I don’t know if he’s done anything about getting the special license, and I’m not sure how long that takes.” Christopher was a professor at the nearby University of Massachusetts campus and had managed the orchard, mainly as a teaching tool, before she had shown up and decided to take it on. And he’d recommended Bree, for which she would be forever grateful to him. “I told Nicky and Brian to hold the date at the restaurant, but we haven’t talked about food or drink or even set the time. You and I need to get our own paperwork in order, for the state. Have you decided what to do about a best man?”

“I figure it’s got to be Art.”

Meg filled two mugs with coffee and brought them to the kitchen table. She sat down with a sigh of relief. “That’s fine with me, although of course it’s your choice. And if anything goes wrong, we’ll have the law on hand to handle it.”

“Heaven forbid. What about you?” Seth asked.

“Maid of honor? Or matron? Normally I’d ask Rachel, but either she’ll be about to pop with the baby, or she’ll be exhausted from dealing with a newborn. Of course she and her family are invited, but I’ll leave it up to her to decide whether she can face coming and how long to stay. So that kind of leaves Gail, who’s the best friend I’ve got around here. Do you know, I’ve probably spent more time with her than almost anyone else in Granford? Except you, of course. But I haven’t asked her yet.”

“I like Gail. See? We’ve made a pair of decisions already: Art and Gail. You know, it’s a wonder we ever managed to get invitations sent out.”

“Don’t remind me,” Meg said fervently. “I cringe every time I go into town, worrying that I forgot to invite someone. But the restaurant holds only so many people safely. Anyway, it’s your fault—you grew up here, and you know everybody in town. I think my own list had about ten names on it.”

“They’ll understand, I’m sure. If it turns out that the other half of the population of Granford is miffed at us, then we’ll just have to throw another party. Maybe a solstice party.”

“You can plan that one,” Meg said. “But I guess we’re making progress. I’ve alerted my parents, but we haven’t pinned down when they’re going to arrive. I’d really rather they didn’t stay here. Oh, and we need rings, don’t we? And I have no idea what I’m wearing.”

“About them staying here . . .” Seth began slowly.

“You don’t want them to? Or you do?” Meg protested before he could finish. She wasn’t sure which answer she wanted to hear.

“No, I’m happy to have them. But I’m guessing that one reason you don’t want to put them up is because of the bathroom situation.”

“You’d be right. The one bath is barely adequate for the three of us, and I can’t imagine adding two more people to the mix. Why do you bring that up?”

“I’ve been thinking . . . I want to give you something special as a wedding present, and I thought maybe an overhaul of the plumbing of this place would be good. Are you horrified?” Seth looked uncharacteristically uncertain.

Meg was momentarily speechless, and then she burst out laughing. “I love it! Nothing says true love like plumbing.” Seth looked bewildered, as if unsure of what she was saying, so she took pity on him. “Seriously, Seth, I think it’s a terrific idea. What did you have in mind?” And when will you find the time? Meg added to herself.

“I was thinking that I could carve out a smaller bath from that niche in the master bedroom—shower only—without taking anything away from the main bathroom. Although all the pipes there definitely need to be replaced. And if I’m going to have things opened up anyway, I thought I could add a powder room directly beneath it at the same time.”

“That would be amazing, Seth,” Meg said, and meant it. “But we will have one functional bathroom throughout the whole construction process, right?”

“Of course. And everything that shows will be historically accurate, at least on the surface. I figured you’d want some say in picking out the fixtures. Whenever you have the time.”

“I love the way you think, Seth Chapin. I think it’s a brilliant idea. And I have no idea how I’m going to match it.”

He smiled, clearly pleased by the success of his suggestion. “Don’t worry about it. This is kind of a shared gift anyway—I’ll be happy not to have to fight either you or Bree for time at the mirror while I’m trying to shave.”

“I haven’t dared ask Bree what she wants to do about living arrangements. I’m sure she’d rather not intrude in our newlywed bliss, but I can’t afford to pay her enough to rent someplace nearby. Or at least, I don’t think I can. I won’t know until after she’s run the numbers for our sales and expenses. Are we really supposed to figure all this out in the next couple of weeks? Oh, and by the way, are we planning a honeymoon?”

Seth looked stricken. “Do you want one?” he said anxiously.

Meg burst out laughing at the look on his face. “If you could s...

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Descrizione libro Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Wedding bells are ringing for Meg and Seth in the latest Orchard Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Picked to Die The fall harvest may be just about over, but orchard owner Meg Corey is busier than ever planning her wedding to Seth Chapin. Who knew picking apples would be less work than picking out rings and a dress? And even though the happy couple has invited most of Granford, Massachusetts, to the ceremony, they might have to make room for one more guest Ex-con Aaron Eastman has unexpectedly reappeared in his hometown, searching for answers to the tragic fire in his family s past that put him behind bars twenty-five years ago. Moved by his sincerity, Meg vows to do everything she can to help him solve the cold case. As she cobbles together the clues, it becomes increasingly clear that Aaron may have been considered the bad seed of the family, but someone else was one bad apple Includes Delicious Recipes!. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425275818

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Descrizione libro Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Wedding bells are ringing for Meg and Seth in the latest Orchard Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Picked to Die The fall harvest may be just about over, but orchard owner Meg Corey is busier than ever planning her wedding to Seth Chapin. Who knew picking apples would be less work than picking out rings and a dress? And even though the happy couple has invited most of Granford, Massachusetts, to the ceremony, they might have to make room for one more guest Ex-con Aaron Eastman has unexpectedly reappeared in his hometown, searching for answers to the tragic fire in his family s past that put him behind bars twenty-five years ago. Moved by his sincerity, Meg vows to do everything she can to help him solve the cold case. As she cobbles together the clues, it becomes increasingly clear that Aaron may have been considered the bad seed of the family, but someone else was one bad apple Includes Delicious Recipes!. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425275818

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Descrizione libro Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Wedding bells are ringing for Meg and Seth in the latest Orchard Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Picked to Die The fall harvest may be just about over, but orchard owner Meg Corey is busier than ever planning her wedding to Seth Chapin. Who knew picking apples would be less work than picking out rings and a dress? And even though the happy couple has invited most of Granford, Massachusetts, to the ceremony, they might have to make room for one more guest Ex-con Aaron Eastman has unexpectedly reappeared in his hometown, searching for answers to the tragic fire in his family s past that put him behind bars twenty-five years ago. Moved by his sincerity, Meg vows to do everything she can to help him solve the cold case. As she cobbles together the clues, it becomes increasingly clear that Aaron may have been considered the bad seed of the family, but someone else was one bad apple Includes Delicious Recipes!. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780425275818

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