ONE

 

 

The twinkling Christmas lights that wrapped around the wooded deck of the Watershed Restaurant added a shimmer atop Lake Honey Springs. A nice romantic evening with Patrick was exactly what I needed to get into the spirit of the season.

Since I’d been working so many long holiday hours at the Bean Hive, my coffee shop, I’d been busy getting all the holiday coffee blends and special-ordered baked sweet treats  ready for my customers, so I’d not taken much time for my relationship with my husband or our fur babies, Pepper and Sassy.

 “You look beautiful.” Patrick Cane reached over and laid his hand on mine.

Patrick’s big brown eyes, tender smile, and sensitive heart drew me into him when we were just teenagers and I came to Honey Springs during the summers to visit my aunt. “I’m glad we made time for me and you.”

“Me too.” I put my other hand on top of his and rubbed it. I couldn’t stop blushing. My heart skipped a beat.

Patrick owned Cane Construction, and the economy had been booming around our small town of Honey Springs, Kentucky, so he was just as busy as I had been at the coffee shop.

Neither of us were complaining because we certainly had seasons of dry spells in which the money just trickled in. 

 “Geez, buddy!” A man sitting next to us jumped up when the busboy accidentally knocked his table and spilled the man’s water in his lap. “Watch what you’re doing.”

“Calm down, Ryan.” The woman across from him had turned red, though she was trying to hide her face behind her blonde hair. She looked around the restaurant to see if anyone was watching.

Of course everyone could hear them. They were louder than the jazz band playing Christmas carols in the corner of the restaurant.

“Are you joking?” Ryan glared over at her. The poor waiter looked to be a busboy, and he quickly replaced the man’s glass with another glass of water and apologized before hurrying away.

“No, I’m not joking,” she spat. “You can be such a jerk. Things happen.”

The man grabbed the glass and took a drink, glaring at the woman across from him before he went back to finishing his meal.

“That looks delicious.” Patrick and I pulled back our hands so Fiona Rosone, our waitress, could put our plates on the table, taking the attention off the couple next to us.

Patrick’s loving gaze had turned from me to the honey-glazed salmon on his plate.

I had ordered the panko-encrusted chicken, one of the Watershed’s specials, along with a plain sweet potato and asparagus. I would definitely take some of the sweet potato home with me to give to Sassy and Pepper. Not only did they love it, but sweet potato was good for their digestion and their coats.

On most days the dogs came to work with me, and I tried to keep an eye on them so customers wouldn’t slip them something they’d ordered from the counter, but it was hard to police that. Plus, Pepper was a wonderful vacuum and sniffed out any little morsel of food.

“The babies?” Patrick’s smile lit up his face when he noticed I was saving some of my food.

“Of course.” I shrugged knowing how much I treated them like real human babies. Having children was something Patrick and I did want, but it wasn’t in the foreseeable future.

We’d only been married a year after many years apart, during which time I’d gone to college, attended law school, started a law firm with my now-ex-husband, and then moved here to open the Bean Hive. It took all that time to find the life I considered to be…well…perfect.

“It’s so pretty here tonight.” I looked out the window of the floating restaurant.

Logsdon Landscaping had done a fantastic job decorating. The Christmas tree on the outside deck glowed with colored lights and fun lake-themed ornaments. The Christmas trees inside the Watershed were decorated a little more elegantly, with white lights and fancy ornaments with glitter, large ribbons, and bows. Beside the tree sat a sign on a fancy gold stand declaring Logsdon Landscaping Co. the decorator.

Amy Logsdon had taken over the dying family landscaping business. When she did, she saw a need for people’s help in decorating for all the seasons because we did celebrated and decorated every holiday on the calendar. We  even had our annual Christmas festival in the town square last weekend.

The Pawrade was still my favorite event of the entire festival. In the Pawrade, we dressed up our fur babies and raised money for the local Pet Palace, Honey Springs’s local SPCA.

But what Amy did to turn the company around was amazing. She took the landscaping business to a whole other level. She took clients, like the Watershed, and completely decorated the exteriors and interiors of buildings in addition to storing the decorations all year long instead of having the business try to find a place to store them. This part of Logsdon Landscaping focused primarily on the outside decorations. Some people had hired the company to come to their homes and put up their lights, their large yard displays, and more.

It really did help cut back on all the work the beautification committee had to do, freeing up their time to focus on more of the business side of the festivals.

Focusing on that was a very nice option to have, but I loved to decorate and had made it part of my life, which helped me get so excited for the holidays.

 “It is pretty.” Patrick looked over the candlelight at me. “You make it prettier.”

“We are already married. You can stop laying it on thick.” I couldn’t stop smiling.

Fiona knew us so well, she’d already brought a to-go box over to the table. She knew I needed the box so I could take home the dog’s portion.

“That was so good.” Patrick pulled his wallet out of his pocket, took out the cash for the bill, and leaned back in his chair. “Now we can go home, snuggle with the kids by the fire for a few minutes before we decorate our tree.”

“Heaven.” Sometimes I couldn’t believe I’d hit the jackpot in my thirties. In my twenties, it was a bumpy ride but worth every up and down it took to get to this moment right here. Plus, Patrick was such a romantic. He loved cutting down a live tree and decorating it. He had a full night planned, and I would definitely go along with it.

We smiled at each other before the couple next interrupted with their loud argument.

“I told you that I’ve had it.” The woman pointed with her the steak knife at the man. “I won’t put up with this behavior anymore.”

“Keep your voice down,” the man shushed her. “When we got married, you knew exactly what you were getting into.”

“I’ve had enough.” She picked her napkin up from her lap and wiped her mouth. “After Christmas, I’m filing for divorce.”

“Over my dead body.” He threw his napkin on his plate.

“So be it.” She slammed her napkin on the table, and the water splashed out of her glass.

The scooting sounds of their chairs did cause others to look around, but since they were next to me and Patrick, I think we were the only ones who heard them arguing.

Patrick and I watched the couple rush out of the restaurant.

“I hope we don’t ever get like that when we reach their age.” Their sadness gnawed in my gut, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were once all goo-goo eyed like Patrick and I were.

“Never. Ever.” He shook his head. “Unless Penny and Maxi stop getting along, then we might have a problem,” he said, joking about the sudden friendship between my mom and aunt.

“I wouldn’t be joking about them because they’ve already had a falling out this week about who was going to bring the fruitcake on Christmas.” I let out a long sigh.

“You decide.” Patrick thought it was as easy as that when it clearly wasn’t.

You see, my mom, Penny Bloom, and my aunt Maxine Bloom had never gotten along in my entire life, until recently. My mom had been really jealous of my relationship with my aunt Maxi. And well… let’s just say that I’ve always had a connection with my Aunt Maxi I’d never had with my mom, and when I got divorced, it was of course Aunt Maxi I’d run to. Here we were a few years later with some history under my belt, and my mom had moved to Honey Springs. They were the reason Patrick and I were married by the justice of the peace.

“I’ve got enough people to coordinate besides refereeing them.” I was now rethinking my decision to host a big Christmas Day supper for my friends and family at the Bean Hive Coffee Shop.

My friends had become family in our small community, and I wanted them to surround me during the holidays. Everyone had something special to bring to the occasion, which would be a joyous one even if Mom and Aunt Maxi decided not to get along.

“Will that be all?” Fiona asked and picked up the check with the cash.

“Yes. Very good.” Patrick leaned back and patted his stomach. “Keep the change.”

“Delicious as always.” It was a treat to come to the Watershed, and it took some effort to actually get dressed, put on makeup, and look presentable. Not like when I went to work at the coffee shop with my hair pulled up and baking clothes on underneath my Bean Hive apron.

Patrick, being the southern gentleman he was, got up from his chair and walked over to help me out of mine.

“Let’s get home and decorate our own tree.” Patrick reached his hand out to me. 

“Fire, snuggles, decorating.” I took his hand in mine. “Patrick Cane, you are something else.”

“I just want to keep you happy during this Christmas get-together.” We walked toward the back of the restaurant so we could go outside to look at the decorations. “I know how stressed you can get, and if I can help out, I’m going to. So you”—he opened the door to the outside and had me walk past him—“my dear, will be pampered by me.”

He pulled me to him once the door shut behind us and shielded me from the winter night wind, which whipped across the lake and over us, sending chills along my body.

Patrick stood behind me with his arms wrapped around me, and we looked across the lake to the Bee Farm, where Kayla and Andrew Noro had put up a big display of wood cutouts of bees wearing Santa hats. The display was all lit up so the people on the land side of the lake could see and enjoy it.

The Bee Farm was a small island in the middle of the lake. It was amazing to visit and see exactly how the bee farm worked. I got all my honey from Kayla. It was so fresh and tasty, not only in the coffees and teas I served at The Bean Hive but also in the baked goods.

“Everyone seems to be really ready for this season compared to last year.” Patrick’s warm breath tickled my ear. He rested his chin on my shoulder.

“Why did you mention that?” I jerked around and looked at him. “You are giving us bad juju.”

Last year, a murder took place during the Pawrade at the annual Christmas tree lighting in Central Park located in downtown Honey Springs. I wanted to forget that forever.

“It’s not bad juju.” He laughed and grabbed my hand. “Let’s get home to the kids.”

We walked along the Watershed’s pier toward the parking lot when we heard the same couple from inside the restaurant arguing outside near their truck.

“I’m telling you that I’m not going to stand for this. Do you understand?” Ryan yelled at the woman, who I assumed was his wife, since he’d said something about how she knew before they got married this was how it was.

“You know what?” The woman jerked the door open. “I’m going to call a lawyer!”

The couple both slammed their doors. The tires squealed as their truck took off.

Patrick’s grip tightened on my hand.

“I think that’s Ryan Moore’s truck.” Patrick seemed to recognize people’s vehicles more than their faces. “He owns the butcher shop where I pick up those steaks and chops you like so much.”

“They seem very unhappy.” I frowned.

“I don’t think they are going to have a good Christmas.” He opened the passenger-side door for me.

“Don’t worry.” I kissed him before I got in. “It took me a divorce to find you. I’m for sure not going to let you go.”

I hooked my seatbelt while he got inside the truck.

The Watershed was on one far left side of the boardwalk, which held many specialty shops along with the Bean Hive.

My coffee shop had a perfect location right in the middle of all the shops. Directly in front of the coffee shop was a long pier that jutted out and was perfect for people who liked to fish deeper out into the water.

“I love how they put the lighted garland around all the carriage posts,” Patrick said about all the lights along the boardwalk. “It’s prettier than just the wreaths the committee has put up in past years.”

“Yes, but the beautification committee did the best they could with what they had.” I still had to give Loretta Bebe credit. She did work hard on trying to make Honey Springs gorgeous during the festive times of the year. 

Our cabin was located about a seven-minute drive from the boardwalk, which was a very windy road running along the lake. I usually rode my bike with Pepper nestled in the front basket while Sassy went to work with Patrick at the construction sites for most of the day until he stopped in for a cup of coffee. That was when she liked to stay at the coffee shop with Pepper and me.

Lately, it was either too cold or there was too much ice on the road to ride the bike.

“Be careful.” I warned Patrick when he took one of the sharper curves. “The weather report said there could be some black ice on the road.”

The taillights of Ryan Moore’s truck showed the vehicle had started to cross over the center line of the small road.

“There must be some up there.” Patrick pointed at the car. We watched as the driver jerked the truck back over. “Whoa!”

“Oh no!” I yelled as we watched the truck cross over again, this time going through the trees and down the embankment toward the lake.

I eased up in the seat of Patrick’s truck and looked down to see if the people in the truck were okay when we got to the place they’d gone off the road.

“Call 911!” Patrick yelled at me. He put his truck in park when we saw the other truck had actually gone into Lake Honey Springs, with the front end heading underwater.

I fumbled for my phone and dialed while trying to see Patrick through the pitch dark of night. The headlights of the sunken truck were fading fast into the depths of the water.

I rattled off the information to the dispatch operator and jumped out of the car when I saw Patrick had jumped into the lake. I grabbed the blankets and his work flashlight out from behind the seat and headed down to the lake.

“Patrick!” I screamed when I didn’t see him come back up. “Patrick!” I frantically screamed, dropping the blankets on the beach and shining the flashlight in the water. “Patrick!”

I ran up and down where the truck had gone in, but I was not sure where it was because I could no longer see the headlights. When I heard some splashing a few yards out in the lake, I moved the flashlight and saw Patrick.

“I’ve got the woman!” Patrick swam toward the bank with the woman in the crock of his arm. She was coughing and wheezing. “She’s alive!”

In the distance, I could hear the sirens. They echoed off the lake. I ran to meet Patrick and the woman, holding one of the blankets to wrap around her.

“I’ve got to go and get Mr. Moore.” He laid her gently on her side on the ground before he went right back into the water.

“Here,” I told her, picking up more blankets and then wrapping around her. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She looked up at me.

“My husband,” she tried to say but was shivering. “My husband!” She jumped up as the shock of it all started to set in. “Ryan!” she screamed.

“Please, put this around you until the ambulance gets here.” I tried to put the blanket back on her shoulders, but she attempted to run back into the water. “Stop! Don’t go back in there!”

“Ryan!” It was all she seemed to say while I jerked her back. Literally held her back.

The ambulance and police showed up, taking over just as Patrick came back up from the depths of Lake Honey Springs with the limp man over his shoulder.

After Patrick got him to shore, we let the emergency crew take over.

“What happened?” Sheriff Spencer Shepard asked when he got there.

“I think they hit black ice because we saw them swerve, then correct, then swerve again, ending up in the lake,” Patrick told Spencer while we stood to the side and watched the EMTs give Ryan CPR. “We saw them having supper at the Watershed. It’s Ryan and Yvonne Moore. He owns the butcher shop in town.” 

 “Yeah.” Spencer’s brows furrowed as he nodded.

The bright yellow lights of the tow truck circled, lighting up the darkness. The people in the tow truck were working on retrieving the Moores’ truck from the depths of the lake while the emergency workers continued to attend to Ryan.

“No!” Yvonne fell to the ground, lying on Ryan and grabbing our attention.

Spencer excused himself and hurried over to see what was going on. We watched as the emergency workers looked at Spencer and shook their heads.

“Oh no.” I gasped, bringing my hand up to my mouth, knowing Ryan Moore was dead.