Pages of the Past (Bellingwood Book 9)

BOOK: Pages of the Past (Bellingwood Book 9)
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PAGES OF

THE PAST

 

 

DIANE GREENWOOD MUIR

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication / use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

 

 

 

Cover Design Photography: Maxim M. Muir

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Diane Greenwood Muir

All rights reserved.

 

Don’t miss all of the books in
Diane Greenwood Muir’s

Bellingwood Series

All Roads Lead Home – Bellingwood #1
A Big Life in a Small Town – Bellingwood #2
Treasure Uncovered – Bellingwood #3
Secrets and Revelations – Bellingwood #4
Life Between the Lines – Bellingwood #5
Room at the Inn – Bellingwood #5.5
A Season of Change – Bellingwood #6
Tomorrow's Promises – Bellingwood #7
Through the Storm – Bellingwood #8
A Perfect Honeymoon – Bellingwood #8.5

 

Look for a short story based
on the Biblical Book of Ruth (Kindle only)
Abiding Love

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

"After thirty years of marriage, I don't know what's happening with him," Lydia said. "He keeps telling me it's nothing, but it's been over a month. He mopes around the house and doesn't come to bed until long after I'm asleep. I don't hear from him during the day unless he's responding to a specific question. I don't know what's going on."

"What do you think?" Polly asked. "Surely not..."

"No, no, no," Lydia said, her head snapping up to look Polly in the eye. "Aaron wouldn't do that. At least I don't think he would. For heaven's sake, Polly. I guess I don't know anything right now."

Everything that was bright and cheerful about Lydia Merritt had evaporated in the last month. She'd lost weight and the small amount of makeup she usually wore wasn't enough to cover the dark circles under her eyes.

"Is there anything I can do?" Polly asked. She smiled as little Han tried to jump up on the sofa between the two women. He'd grown, but his cute puppy face still captured her heart. Han and his littermates were settling in to life in Bellingwood after being rescued by Polly and Henry on their honeymoon. Kirk and Khan were having fun out on the farm with Eliseo and Padme was in seventh heaven at the Donovan's. Andrew adored her, Jason was in love with her and even Sylvie talked about her like she was a member of the family.

Polly reached down, picked Han up, and put him on her lap.

Lydia sagged into the sofa beside her and reached out to scratch Han's head. "I don't think so." She looked up again and gave Polly a weak smile. "Unless of course, you could find a dead body or two to kick him back into gear."

"Does he talk to anyone?" Polly asked.

"It's always been me. I listen when work is stressful, when he's annoyed with people in town, or just mad because his deputies make poor decisions. So much has to be kept confidential and he's trusted me with it all." She rubbed her hands on her pants, then went back to wringing them in her lap. "We did that for each other. No one else needs to know how we feel about their idiocy. But now I don't know what to think."

"Is he at least talking to you about regular things?"

"Not unless we're with the kids. He's almost normal when he's with the grandkids, but then we get in the car and he clams up again."

"Lydia. I'm so sorry. I can't believe you've been dealing with this alone for so long."

"It's only been a couple of months. In the beginning, I pressed him pretty hard. He never said anything, so pretty soon all I was doing was nagging." Lydia reached over and took Polly's hand. "I feel like I'm losing my husband and I don't know why."

Tears flowed from her eyes and Polly pulled her in close.

Lydia pulled back and said, "I'm sorry to dump this on you. I wasn't going to and then you asked like you really meant it and I couldn't shut up."

"Have you talked to Beryl and Andy?" Polly was really hoping that someone else had advice for Lydia. She'd known them for just a few years, but if there were two people that were her rock, it was Aaron and Lydia Merritt. To have their lives fall apart meant everything was upside down.

"They know something's up. How could they not? I'm with them every day. Neither of them know what to think. But then, they're more my friends than Aaron's. Beryl thinks she should spy on him, tracking his every movement. Andy wants to host an intervention."

"How far did Beryl get with the spying thing?"

Lydia chuckled and brushed tears from her cheeks. "No further than talking about it. She's terrified that she'd get caught without a good explanation for being where Aaron was. Especially if he was working on a case."

"Could it be a case that's bothering him?"             

"No, that's what doesn't make sense. Aaron has told me about some incredibly delicate cases. He says that having someone listen to him think out loud helps him hear the details and they come together to make sense. I've been through the very worst of what he's dealt with, day in and day out."

Polly shuddered. "I can't believe that hearing about those things doesn't upset you more."

"Oh honey, I learned early in our marriage that Aaron's job was who he was. I could either be part of it or ignore it. I had friends who told their husbands to leave the job at work. That's just baloney. If we're going to be a team, I have to be able to accept every part of him, even the fear of having him out there
and
the gory stories." She winked at Polly. "Because I expect him to accept every part of my life, too. Even the crazy little old ladies."

"If you look ahead six months," Polly started, "do you think things will be back to normal or do you feel like this is going to last longer than that?"

Lydia pursed her lips to one side, pondering the question. "I don't know what to think. Fear tells me this is a new normal or that something horrible is going to happen and our lives will turn upside down. I'd like to think that it's short term and Aaron will pass through it and come out on the other side, but I just don't have any confidence right now."

"I wish I could do something more for you," Polly said, patting Lydia's arm.

"You listened. That's enough. But I wanted you to know why I've been so distant. I felt awful when we didn't come up for the Christmas party and I hid during January. You've probably needed me and I wasn't here."

Polly nodded. "I wondered, but assumed you were busy. I'm glad you said something."

"I should have trusted you earlier, but I've always protected Aaron's reputation, no matter what. He's a wonderful man."

"You're very patient, Lydia Merritt. I'm afraid that by this point, I would have strung him up by his toenails until he talked."

"Maybe that's what I should do, but I'm not ready for extreme measures yet."

"When you are, let me know. I'll be glad to help."

Lydia's phone chimed and she swiped it open. "Oh my goodness, look at the time. I have to be at church in fifteen minutes." She leaned over and hugged Polly. "Thank you for listening and please, don't be angry at Aaron until we know what's going on."

"I'll do my best," Polly said. "But if he doesn't realize that he's hurting you, he's the idiot."

Lydia smiled. "Thank you. I have to believe that it's all going to work out." She reached over and stroked Han's head again. "Maybe I need a dog to keep me company."

"You wouldn't have time for that. You're never home." Polly stood up with Lydia and put the puppy back on the sofa. He stood at the edge and looked down at the floor, then yipped at Polly.

"I know, I know," Polly said. "But you're going to sit there while I say goodbye. I still don't trust you to stay on this side of the door."

"Has he gotten out?"

"He tries to go out the front door whenever it opens," Polly puffed out an indignant laugh. "The only problem is that he's terrified of the steps, so he doesn't get very far. I want to start training him to go up and down steps independently, but right now this is safer for everyone." She opened the front door and walked out with Lydia. "Maybe it's time for us girls to get together. I should call Beryl."

"I'm up for a girl's night out any time," Lydia responded. "Just let me know."

"Now I can put you on the floor, Mr. Cute-ums," Polly said when she was back inside her house. "And you have to be pretty darned cute to inspire Lydia Merritt to consider owning a dog. In all the time I've known her, pets haven't interested her." Polly sat down on the sofa and put Han on the floor, then picked him back up when he whined. Obiwan jumped up and settled in beside her.

"How could a person not have animals?" Polly asked them. Sometimes you're the only sanity I have."

Polly's phone rang and Jeff Lyndsay's face popped up at her.

"Hi there," she said. "Aren't you just downstairs?"

"No, Miss Smart-Aleck, I'm not. If you ever checked your calendar, you'd know I'm in Ames this morning at a gathering of area Bed and Breakfast owners."

"Are you telling them how to make money?"

"I might if they'd listen, but this group is talking about things that don't have much to do with us."

"What's up?"

"I have a favor to ask. I thought Rachel was available, but she has a doctor's appointment and I need you to go over to the hotel."

"Sure, what time?"

"Can you be there by eleven? People are coming in for the weekend."

"I'd be glad to. Anything I need to know?"

"No, everything's on the computer. All you have to do is..."

"I know how to work the system," she said, interrupting him. "Just because I don't pay attention to the calendar doesn't mean I can't do this. I mean, really. How many times have I been over there checking people in and out?"

"Okay, okay. You're right. I feel bad asking you to do this, though."

"One of these days you're going to hire someone to run that place, right?"

"Soon. I promise. Soon. So far, it's not been a lot of trouble, but I do hate putting you out."

"You can just get over that. I own the place and a little work hasn't turned me into mush yet."

"Thanks, Polly. I'll be back in the office this afternoon."

"Then I'll see you later. Be nice to the little old B&B ladies."             

"You have no idea. I'm their favorite. Two of them want me to meet their sons."

Polly sighed with laughter. "You're really something, Jeff Lyndsay. I just love you."

"Will that get me a raise?"

"Only if you're a very good boy."

"What does that mean?"

"Whatever you want it to mean. You know I can be bribed."

"Yeah. That's what worries me."

"Okay, I need to take Obiwan outside if I'm leaving for the hotel. I'll see you later."

Polly took her dogs down the back steps. Obiwan ran for the tree line and sniffed the snow, then ran back to Polly and Han. The puppy was doing better on the leash and paid attention to Obiwan. Having the older dog made house training much easier. She opened the door for Obiwan to go back upstairs and carried Han to her truck. He could spend time at the hotel with her today.

There weren't any cars parked at Sycamore Inn yet, so Polly pulled in behind the caretaker's cottage. Once inside, she hooked Han's leash over a drawer pull behind the counter. Today was going to be busy. The wedding in town must be bringing guests in, many of the last names were identical. She looked up when a burst of cold air came through the front door.

"Hi," she said. "Welcome to Bellingwood."

For the next three hours, Polly checked people in and sent them on to their rooms. Rachel called and offered to come over, but Polly enjoyed meeting people. She was so proud of what they'd done at Sycamore Inn, it was a joy to show it off.

Han had fallen asleep on a blanket she'd brought from the truck, but when he got up and started to pace, Polly figured she had time to take him outside for a walk. They went out the front door, just in case the last guests arrived.

She walked with him across the parking lot, practicing some of the commands he'd been learning, until they stopped at the grassy area under the sign. Han sniffed the pole and the flowers underneath a thin layer of snow. When he finally stopped to piddle, Polly bent down to tell him what a good boy he was.

An old pick-up truck pulled in under the canopy and a man got out.

"Hi there," she called across the lot. "I'm your host. I'll be right over." Han wasn't in any hurry to leave the grass, but before Polly could bend over to pick him up, the man walked to greet her.

"He's pretty young, are you training him?"

"I am," she replied and put out her right hand. "I'm Polly Giller, the owner of Sycamore Inn."

"Nice to meet you, Miss Giller. My name is Albert Cook. I should have a reservation."

"You sure do." Polly bent at the knees and scooped Han into her arms. "If I let him, he'll stay out here nosing around all day. Let's go inside."

She started across the parking lot and heard a thump. Turning, she was surprised to see her guest slumped on the ground.

"Mr. Cook! What happened?" Polly rushed to him and put her hand on his shoulder in order to turn him and see his face. "Oh my god! What?" A small hole in his forehead was seeping blood. It took her a moment to grasp what had happened. This was insane. This was Bellingwood. Her heart started to race and she broke into a cold sweat. Han tried to reach out from her arms to sniff at the man's body and she clutched him even tighter to her.

BOOK: Pages of the Past (Bellingwood Book 9)
5.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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