“It’s looking like you’re going to be ready after all.” I stood on the steps of The Cocoon Inn with one hand gripping a commercial coffee carafe and the other holding a to-go Bean Hive coffeehouse box filled with Lunch Lady Brownie Bars.
“I’m not sure, but Camey sure is working me like crazy.” “I’m not sure there are enough hours in the day, but I’m doin’ my best.” Newton Oakley hunched over the flowerbed next to the front steps, digging up enough dirt to place an orange mum. Pepper, my curious little Schnauzer, was standing next to him, watching his every move.
Newton sat back on his haunches, took his gloves off, and gave Pepper a few scratches under his salt and pepper beard.
“I think we’re all working hard to make sure this year’s Neewollah Festival is the best yet.” The name of our three day fall festival – Halloween backwards – still did not roll off my tongue easily. It was something I was going to have to learn to say since making the small, quaint town of Honey Springs, Kentucky, my home. “You be sure you grab a cup of coffee this morning. It’s a new fall blend that I’m sure you’re going to love.”
“I’ll have to come in and warm up after I get this row of mums planted.” He gestured over his shoulders at the orange, yellow, and red mums sitting in the leafy grass behind him, ready to be planted.
“Good morning!” Camey Montgomery met me at the top of the steps. There was a plaid blanket draped over her forearm. “Let me throw this on the rocking chair and I’ll help you.”
The sound of Camey’s voice made Pepper dart up the steps. My nosey little dog loved everyone, but he particularly loved Camey. She was the treat lady.
“I’ve got it.” I protested, but she’d already put the blanket over one of the many white rocking chairs lining the large plantation porch.
“Don’t be silly.” She pushed her long red hair over one shoulder and took the box from me. “I can’t risk you dropping my box of goodies,” she laughed and nodded towards the door.
“Every time I walk in here, it still takes my breath away.” Pepper and I stepped into the white mansion, built circa 1841, that was situated right on Lake Honey Springs and I turned around to look out one of the floor to ceiling windows that offered guests a spectacular view.
“Yeah. I’m so lucky,” she said, reaching into the bowl of dog treats she kept on the counter for the furry guests that accompanied their families.
“Yes, you are.” I heard the familiar voice of Walker Peavler, Honey Springs’ most recent transplant.
“Walker.” I couldn’t stop smiling while he and Camey embraced into a sweet kiss on the lips. “I’ve not seen you in a while, but I’ve seen Amelia. I can’t believe how she’s grown.”
Walker had been a single man with custody of his granddaughter. He’d stolen Camey’s heart while staying at the Cocoon Inn. Since he had a sales job and traveled all the time, he could live anywhere. It truly was a perfect union. He and Camey were both in their fifties and Honey Springs was a fantastic place to raise a child. If you didn’t know their back story and saw Walker, Camey, and Amelia out and about around town, you’d never know that Amelia wasn’t Camey’s biological granddaughter. The only thing the three of them did not share was the same last name. Camey had decided to keep her last name when they got married due to her business and how much time it’d take to get all the documents changed.
“Amelia sure is something special.” He leaned back and looked into the hospitality room. “She’s going to be late for school if she doesn’t hurry up.”
“She’s eating her oatmeal. Run upstairs and grab her coat.” Camey shooed him off to their living quarters in the inn.
I followed her into the hospitality room where I replaced the commercial coffee carafe with the new one. The focal point of the room was a large, beautiful fireplace directly across from the entryway. A few snaps and pops filled the room as the wood crackled in the fireplace, making the unseasonably cool morning cozy and the room very inviting.
“Roxy! Pepper!” Amelia jumped up from a small café table and ran over to greet us. “Did you see my pumpkin?” She giggled as Pepper gave her a sweet kiss along her nose.
“I didn’t, but I know without seeing it that it’s going to win the pumpkin carving contest.” I bent down and gave her a hug. Pepper demanded one too, so of course I gave him one.
“Your granddaddy went to grab your coat, so you better eat up before you’re late to school.” Camey gave Amelia a scrub on the head with her fingertips, sending her back to the table. “She’s more excited about the pumpkins than her costume.”
“To be a kid again.” I laughed and took the box of brownie bars from Camey. “I’ll get these arranged and then I’ve got to get back. I left Bunny alone.”
“Oh, dear.” Camey and I both knew my senior citizen assistant, Bunny Bowowski, wasn’t the best person to leave alone. “I hope the Bean Hive is still standing when you get back.”
Both of us laughed, me a little more nervously than her.
“Let’s go, squirt.” Walker shook the lightweight coat with an extended arm, summoning Amelia.
“Don’t forget to look at my pumpkin,” she reminded me as she darted past us. “Love you, mama,” she called to Camey. “Bye, Pepper.”
“I love you too. Have a great day,” Camey called out to Amelia.
“Come down to the coffeehouse later and I’ll let you take Pepper for a walk.” I waved goodbye.
“I will,” Amelia said with a giggle and waved over her granddad as he lifted her in the air and placed her over his shoulder.
“I’m so happy for you,” I said to Camey as I arranged the brownies on the three-tiered platter. “You look so happy and content.”
“I am and I can’t wait for you to join us.” She peeked around my arm and reached for a brownie. “Have you and Patrick set a date yet?”
“We have plans to meet that Justice of the Peace, Brandy Cliff.” The thought of marrying Patrick Cane sent a wave of joy through my body that I never thought I would experience.
I had been married once before and it wasn’t pretty. I knew when he asked me to marry him something was off when I didn’t get the giggles and squeals. But with Patrick, I instantly knew the first time I saw him and that was when we were teens. Life went on and we ended up losing touch. Here we were eleven years later and happy as could be.
“I told him it was fine for Brandy to perform the ceremony, like she did for you and Walker. I’ve gone through one marriage and another lifetime to get back to Honey Springs, so any way I become Roxanne Bloom Cane is perfect for me.” I smacked Camey’s hand away when she went for another brownie. “If you don’t stop, your customers aren’t going to get any.”
“It’s crazy. I’ve been craving chocolate and I just can’t get enough of your fresh baked goodies.” She licked her lips and brushed her hands together. “I better get to work before I lose my customers.”
“You’re not going to lose anyone. Not only do they love you, but you’re the only place for them to stay during the Neewollah Festival.” I picked up the empty coffee carafe and followed her out to the entrance.
“Not from what I hear.” She shook her head with a frown on her face.
“What did you hear?” Apparently, the gossip hadn’t gotten to me yet, which was unusual.
“There’s been this guy snooping around the courthouse and PVA office about land near or on Honey Springs Lake. Asking about how the economy is each season.” She gnawed on the edge of her lip as she referred to the Property Valuation Administration office.
“A guy?” I questioned. “There are a lot of tourists that come into the Bean Hive asking about our small town, but it was just chit-chat. I’d chalk it up to just being nosey.”
Her brows pulled. “Some property along the lake over at the Bee Farm.”
“The Bee Farm?” The more she talked, the more confused I got.
“Ask around today,” she leaned over and whispered as a mom and dad and their little boy walked up to the check in desk.
It wasn’t the whispering that made me want to call my mom right away, but the quick head nod Camey had gestured towards the family standing inside her inn. My mom was a local realtor, so maybe she’d heard.
“Have a good day, Roxy,” Newton called as I hurried down the steps to get back to the coffeehouse. He’d only gotten a couple more mums planted.
“Bye!” I yelled, with a ton of questions in my mind about the possibility of the Bee Farm selling its land. “Come on, Pepper.”
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