Lost Lake

Lost Lake

Chapter 1

Amazing Grace
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
The peaceful quiet of Lost Lake gave a man a chance to ponder his path and his past. Sometimes it was
hard to look back…like tracing the ragged edge of a scar and reliving the pain that etched it deep into your
Wyatt Long leaned back in the porch rocker, resting his boots on the lowest rung of his cabin
railing. He looked out at the lake, tinted liquid gold in the lingering light of the setting sun. Reaching
down for his usual longneck, Wyatt encountered a water bottle instead, and remembered that he didn’t
drink anymore…or was trying hard not to.
Startled by the unconscious lapse, Wyatt set his feet flat on the worn pine boards. He zipped his
jacket against the cold and grabbed his guitar, busying his hands with the steel strings…trying to drive his
demons away.
He started with a honky-tonk melody, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be

Cowboys ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold.
They’d rather give you a song than diamonds or gold.
If you don’t understand him and he don’t die young,
he’ll probably just ride away.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars or drive them old tucks.
Let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone,
even with someone they love.

Wyatt’s mom had chided him about that very pursuit, but he’d become a cowboy anyway, just
like his pa. The adrenaline rush of the bucking chute and the camaraderie of the hard-living rodeo lifestyle
had helped numb the pain of his childhood. The fast-paced circuit almost made him forget about the pa
who’d left and the mama who drank and attracted men to the house like stray cats.
Wyatt left home at sixteen, slept in his truck and bussed tables to pay off what he still owed on

Copper, his quarter horse and best friend. When he couldn’t stick around a minute longer, he’d traded his
i-pad and an extra saddle for a used horse trailer and hit the road. He grew to love the rodeo smells of
leather, horseflesh, and cattle dung. Along the way he developed a taste for dim, smoky bars and strong
Wyatt earned his ranking in steer roping, relying on tenacity, luck and a natural athleticism. He
and Copper made a great team, securing a grub stake until he got his chance to compete on the rank bulls
—the most terrifying and invigorating eight seconds on earth. Wyatt competed on the rodeo circuit for
almost ten years, getting his share of broken bones. He earned enough to buy his cabin on Lost Lake and
the bit of serenity that came with it.
Lost Lake. The name had appealed to a cowboy who’d lost his way, grinding the grit of arena
sand and disappointment between his teeth. Eight seconds of glory came at the price of fractured ribs,
long months of travel and too many sleepless nights in cheap motels. He needed a place to call his own. A
place to stash his few belongings and hear the silence, or maybe the wild call of an eagle. A place to get
away from the nameless faces in the stadium seats and the parade of wanna-be and washed-up cowboys
he knew, each as lonely and lost as he was.
Not many folks had found Lost Lake yet. It was hidden in the hills at the foot of Lonesome
Mountain, isolated by old growth forest, bad roads and worse weather. The good people of Buttermilk
Falls, ten miles away, chose mostly to keep it a secret from strangers. But an enterprising real estate
saleswoman had pitched the place to Wyatt over coffee at Maggie’s Diner, hoping to unload the run-down
hunter’s cabin situated on twenty forested acres. “Yeah, it’s pretty isolated,” she allowed. “But lots of
“Let it stay lost, I say.” Maggie winked, refilling his hefty mug. “Let it stay wild. Sounds like it
might be just what you need, Wyatt.”
So he’d bought the place, sight unseen. Had to wait for the spring thaw to move in. It had taken
him six months to shore up the sloping floor, rebuild the log walls and porches, replace the broken
windows and put new shingles on the leaking roof. Even longer to get rid of the vermin. But the fireplace
was sound and his rocker on the front porch overlooked the water just a few yards away. Lost Lake. It
was beautiful…a big natural lake with 35 miles of winding shoreline. He’d built a short dock and brought
in a small motorboat for fishing and for cruising the placid bay and surrounding waters. Just this week
he’d added a kayak for a quiet paddle across the lake to what were becoming his favorite spots.
The cabin on Lost Lake fit him like a calloused hand in a rosin-darkened cowhide glove. Wyatt
named his cabin Heart-Song, and hoped it would be a place for him to dream a little and maybe even put
down some roots. He bought a four-wheel-drive truck and used a snowmobile in winter when the roads
grew impassible. Wyatt holed up there between rodeo gigs, happy to adapt to the natural rhythms of
sunrise and sunset; to gaze up at dark night skies studded with stars, a welcome change from the harsh
glare of stadium floodlights.
He’d mostly enjoyed the rodeo life until his drinking spiraled out of control. The reality check
came the night he crumpled the front end of his truck against a utility pole, lucky to escape with minor
injuries. The resulting arrest for DUI had sobered him enough to join AA. Still, he’d bellied up to the bar
on occasion until that last mean-eyed bull tossed him, snorted and turned back to stomp him into the dirt,
crushing his sternum and compelling him to find a saner line of work. He still battled to stay sober, one
day at a time.

Wyatt shook his head. Rank bulls and strong drink were best left in the past. Now in his mid
twenties, he’d found a new life, working as an certified electrician. Compared to bull riding, wiring and
wrangling current was pretty tame.
With a place to call home, he wondered what Amy would think of it—this small lakeside cabin
hidden in the woods. They’d only been dating for a short time, but he could picture her here in that empty
porch rocker. Might happen…if he didn’t get cold feet and run like he’d done in the past. Typical cowboy.
He’ll never stay home and he’s always alone, even with someone he loves.
He strummed his guitar and shifted to the plaintive melody of the hymn he’d known as a child:

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
that saved a wrench like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.

Was blind,
but now I see…

His rich baritone rang out as the lake shadowed and a cold moon rose over snow-capped
Lonesome Mountain. He wondered if someday he’d come to fully know the truth of those words. Wyatt
licked his lips. He’d have to get to a meeting tonight.
He set the guitar back inside and lit the lantern hanging from a porch beam. The oil lamp was an
old-fashioned form of illumination for someone who was an electrician, but he liked its soft glow against
the darkness.
Wyatt dressed like the cowboy he was in jeans and well-worn boots. A black Stetson shaded his
dark eyes from the lamp light, covering sun bleached coffee-colored hair. In the lantern glow he walked
to the corral to feed his gelding a carrot and a flake of alfalfa. He kept Copper sheltered in the nearby barn
and well fed on five acres of summer pasture. The horse, his coat shiny in the lamp light, nickered and
came over for a rub behind the ears. “Good boy, Copper.” Wyatt stroked the animal’s neck, taking
pleasure in the feel of soft, warm horsehide against his fingers.
Horse and rider rode trail most days, when work allowed, even in winter. On weekends they
often headed out on longer loops to Cattail Lake, Horseshoe Meadows, or Grebe Lake. This remote area
of Plumas County was dotted with smaller lakes, meandering streams, and sub-alpine meadows. The
forest, while quiet and moody on winter days like this one, would be glorious when crowned with flowers
in springtime.
On one of those rides last Fall he’d noticed a “For Sale” sign on the group of cabins nestled
along the shore at the far end of Lost Lake. He’d reined Copper in for a closer look. Five cabins, badly in
need of repair. Gorgeous setting.
Surrounded by pines and old growth forest, the cabins fronted the lake, accessed by a usable, if
somewhat rutted, dirt and gravel road. A bad road like that would have the advantage of keeping the
riffraff out. The track would be impassible in winter, but would open up nicely in spring after the
snowmelt. A dilapidated dock gave boat access to the sprawling lake and some of the best bass, trout and
freshwater salmon fishing in northern California. Hunting, too. His mind started working.

These days, since he earned his living as an electrician, his income was good and the trade let
him stay closer to home. He lived frugally and had saved up a sizable chunk of money to invest. What if
he bought the cabins, fixed them up and rented them out to seasonal tourists or short term tenants? They
were far enough from his own location to keep his privacy, but close enough to manage. How hard could
it be to become a part time landlord?
As Wyatt rubbed Copper’s nose, he thought of those buildings once again. It would be a lot of
work getting them back in shape, but he loved a challenge. He could always hire some help. Maybe he’d
put in an offer now while the cabins were still snowed in—while their true potential was buried beneath a
record snowfall, and the access road closed. No other potential buyer could get to the locale this winter,
except by snowmobile. So they’d be buying a pig in a poke. Maybe he could get a bargain price if he
struck now while the land slept beneath a blanket of white.
As the sky darkened, Wyatt gave Copper one last pat on the neck. Then he got in his truck and
drove the winding roads toward Buttermilk Falls to a meeting. On nights like this, he and other friends of
Bill W. needed each other.
When he got back to his cabin several hours later, Wyatt lit a fire in the hearth. As the wood
caught flame, he sat on the couch and thought about Amy. The attractive vet from neighboring Deer
Creek Mills had brightened up his winter considerably. He smiled just thinking about the petite brunette
with the soulful brown eyes.


Snipping the suture material of the last stitch, Dr. Amy Mills finished the surgery. It had taken
several hours to screw a plate in the broken femur of a shepherd mix who’d darted beneath a moving
tractor. After a time of healing, The injured animal would likely make a full recovery. Amy enjoyed this
part of her job—doctoring animals and stopping their pain.
She moved the heavy dog to a recovery cage and made sure he was resting comfortably. Then
she stripped off her latex gloves, washed her hands and went to the break room of Mountain Aire Animal
Hospital. She grabbed a bottle of water and downed a few slices of apple, glancing at her watch. Twenty
minutes left before the scheduled spay of Mrs. Walsh’s cat, Fluffy. She sighed and took time to return her
father’s phone call.
Amy wondered why she bothered to call him back at all. It was one of those mysteries wrapped
up in equal parts duty, guilt and the vague hope that somehow this time would be different. It wasn’t.
After he picked up, she held the phone away from her ear to moderate the volume of his usual tirade.
“I hear your practice is struggling, Amy. Your mother told me some farmer actually paid his vet
bill with a ham hock and a slab of bacon.”
Amy had found the barter endearing—an old school gesture, neighborly enough she’d wanted to
share the gesture with her mother. Obviously that sharing had been a mistake. “Well…I…”
“Don’t be too prideful to admit you’ve made a blunder by trying to become a country vet. Are
you ready to pack it in and come back to Beverly Hills, yet?” He didn’t wait for a response, moving on to
his next point of contention. “It’s fine to have a career and all, but how in hell will you ever find a suitable
husband, hidden away in some podunk town way out in the boonies? I bet right now you’re wearing

scrubs and no makeup with your lovely hair pulled back in a spinster bun.”
Thanks a lot, Dad, she thought, looking down at her animal print scrubs. Hidden beneath her
utilitarian uniform, was a petite figure some men admired. She had intelligence, an even disposition, and a
way with animals. She glanced at her reflection in the glass door of a wall cabinet. She saw a pleasant
face that looked fine without make-up. Dark eyebrows arched above warm brown eyes, flecked with hints
of gold. She had her mother’s full lips which, she noticed, had pulled into a pout after her father’s opening
salvo. Her long fall of dark sable hair was indeed pulled back into a bun. Her work demanded it be neatly
tucked away.
Amy looked away and gripped the phone harder. With a full day ahead, she wasn’t in the mood
for another cataloging of her shortcomings. Unfortunately, her father knew how to push all her buttons,
bringing out the worst in her.
“…and we’d like some grandkids before we’re too old to enjoy them. Your mother knows several
men in town who’d be perfect for you. Professional men with good incomes. You wouldn’t even have to
“Dad, I like it here. I enjoy working with animals.” Next, he’d launch into the praises of her
brother, Brad, who could do no wrong.
“Did you know that Brad’s cosmetic surgery practice is expanding every day? He’s had to take
on a resident to help handle the workload.”
Checking her watch, Amy could feel her blood pressure rising. She was happy for Brad, really
she was. But why did he always have to be the perfect one? Why couldn’t one of his clients pay for their
botox injections and nose jobs with a trendy gym membership or something tacky like free shirts and
yoga pants at their upscale boutique?
She squeezed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, dredging up old grievances. “You’ve
always supported Brad’s dreams, Dad. I wish you’d do the same for mine.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Stewart Mills II huffed. “You’d be happily married with a few babies of
your own by now if you’d let your mother orchestrate your coming out debut the way she’d planned.”
“You wanted to market me like a side of beef?”
“I wanted to see you married.”
“But, I wanted…”
“You wanted to raise a 4-H calf. In Beverly Hills, of all places. The neighbors would have gone
ballistic. Why couldn’t you have just played tennis at the country club or attended the dance cotillion like
your brother?”
As usual, he saved his praise for Brad, a fact that should have snuffed out any chance at sibling
harmony. But fortunately for Amy, Brad was not only brilliant and charming, but a caring big brother as
well. He’d always been in Amy’s corner, running interference whenever she got short shrift from their
parents. His brotherly love and genuine caring made up for the overt favoritism. And she loved him
fiercely in return. The two were tight as tics.
Amy and her father…not so much. She wondered what he’d think of Wyatt, the intriguing man
she been dating. He’d never understand how a rugged guy in boots and a cowboy hat could send her pulse
racing. She wasn’t about to mention him now.
“You know I’ve offered to set you up with a vet clinic right here in Beverly Hills. Why would
you turn up your nose at that?”

“Because I want to make it on my own. And I’m partial to the country.”
“Pig-headed and foolish. That’s what you are.”
Amy sighed. “You called me just to go over these same old notes again?”
“Your mother’s not doing well,” he added, having saved the big guns for last. “At least you could
come by for a visit. Spend a week or two here, cheering her up. You know how depressed she gets with
you gone.”
“Is she still popping pills?”
“Don’t disparage your mother, Amy. She deserves a little respect in spite of her problems.”
“Dad, we all have to grow up and leave the nest sometime. I can’t make her well. Lord knows
I’ve tried.”
“Pretty cheeky for someone who’s never around.”
“Are you around, Dad? Have you cut back on work to care for Mom?”
“Don’t you be judging me,” he snarled. “If your mother gets worse, you’ll regret your flippant
attitude. I called hoping you’d come to your senses by now. But I guess you’re not as smart or as caring
as I gave you credit for.”
The words stung and the fight drained out of her…like fetid air escaping from the puncture tube
in a bloated cow’s stomach.
Her father would never see the value of her work. He actually disliked animals. Any animal. Too
hairy, too messy, too much trouble. Growing up she’d never been allowed to have a pet. Not even a
hamster. She snuck in a kitten once. But when she got home from school, the hapless creature had been
discovered in its blanket-padded carton in her closet and dispatched to the animal shelter…where it
Hearing her father’s harsh words now, Amy felt small and powerless, like a five-year-old called
on the carpet for spilling milk at the dinner table.
Her mother’s depression had gotten worse over the years. And a growing number of prescription
pill bottles crowded her medicine cabinet. By the time Amy was out of college she’d given up on trying to
make her mother happy. Of course she’d run. From her mother’s neediness and her father’s manipulation.
She’d run away to save herself.
Amy sniffed. Maybe she wasn’t smart or beautiful, married, or any of the things her parents
wanted her to be, but she liked her life. And right now she had a feline patient waiting for her. “Dad, I
have to go.” She clicked off before her father could hurl any more venom.
There was nothing for it but to keep on living her life. Keep on doing her job. Keep on letting the
unconditional love of the animals heal her, while she used her training to heal them. Amy scrubbed up,
pulled on surgical gloves and entered the OR to deal with Fluffy.


Since the Christmas dinner she’d hosted, Lizzy had been floating on a cloud. Love could do that
to a woman. When she’d first inherited Aunt Daffodil’s farm, six months ago, Lizzy couldn’t imagine
living in the country, let alone growing apples and selling Christmas trees at Sweet Apple Farm. Yet here
she was in Buttermilk Falls, with an engagement ring on her finger, a farm of her own, and a teaching job

come late January at Pine Ridge Elementary.
She hummed as she made up her bed. Lizzy picked up the framed photo from her nightstand. She
studied the picture of Gabe, his five-year-old daughter Chloe, and herself sitting in the front porch swing.
Plump pillows were piled behind, and the three of them wore goofy grins, love shining in their eyes.
Gabe was too handsome for words, with thick dark hair, blue eyes, and a smile that still took her
breath away. He was loving, a talented carpenter, steadfast, smart, and a devoted dad. Okay…maybe she
was laying it on a bit thick. He had his faults after all. But love, as the old saying went, was blind. She
even loved the small scar on his cheek and the way he always left an inch of cold coffee in the bottom of
his mug, afraid of encountering grounds in the dregs.
He came as a package deal, with a daughter she’d grown to love. Chloe had her mother’s violet
eyes and a head of dark curls, falling to her shoulders. It had taken months to coax a smile from the
frightened child, who tugged at her heart. In the picture, the girl’s hand rested on Buddy, the Australian
Shepherd stray, who had come to the farm to stay.
This was her family now. Only God could have brought them together here in Northern
California in the shadow of Lonesome Mountain. He was hers and she was his. Soon, they would be
After the wedding, Gabe and Chloe would move into the inherited farmhouse she’d hired him to
renovate. They’d had their spats along the way, getting to know each other. Country living had been a big
adjustment for a city girl like herself. She loved the motto he’d carved into the mantle of the living room
fireplace. Live Simply, Love Deeply. Words to live by.
Would this be the life she’d always dreamed of? Lizzy ran her fingers across the soft hand-made
quilt on the bed—the bed she would soon share with her husband. She smiled. Love would lead the way.
Lizzy had always wanted a winter wedding, but as the date approached, she had to admit that the
logistics were a bit tricky. The date had been set for mid January and Pastor Luke had agreed to do the
wedding at Good Shepherd Chapel. The reception was harder to plan. The chapel and the farmhouse were
both too small for an indoor reception, and the town of Buttermilk Falls lacked a suitable space for a large
gathering. It was Gabe who suggested the old Ice House.
They went to see it on a Tuesday, just three weeks before the wedding. “Thing is, it’s only a half
mile from the church, so folks could manage the trip easily, even with the snow.”
But the Ice House didn’t make a great first impression. Made of cinder blocks, sheltered beneath
a tin roof, the cavernous space was dark and dank, with only a few bare bulbs to illuminate the gloom.
“Not bad,” ventured Gabe, shining his flashlight into the corners and up to the rafters. “Look at
all this space.”
“I know you’re a talented craftsman,” replied Lizzy. “But even you can’t turn this monstrous
pumpkin of a building into a ballroom in only three weeks.”
“Care to bet your glass slipper?”
Lizzy leaned closer, squeezing his arm. “This is why I love you. Always the optimist.”
Lizzy’s red hair glinted in the faint light. Gabe gave in to the impulse to run his hands through
her soft copper curls. Her green eyes glowed with pleasure, like those of a half-tamed wildcat. Some
people thought gingers didn’t have souls. But he knew better. Lizzy was the most soulful person he knew,
warm and giving and full of fun. She’d welcomed him into his heart and taken in his wounded daughter,

Chloe as well. No wonder he’d fallen in love with her. Did gingers steal souls? Maybe…perhaps his own
soul had been caught up in one of her freckles.
Gabe used his work boot to scrape aside some dirt and thumped his heel down, testing the wood
beneath. “The floor’s pine…solid, too.”
Lizzy’s hands went to her hips. “The floor’s filthy. The place is too dark. And the whole building
is totally lacking any warmth or ambience.” Lizzy kissed Gabe’s cheek. “Why…I doubt that even that new
gal in town, glittering Gloria, could do a thing with it.”
Gabe laughed. Buttermilk Falls had never before seen the likes of Gloria Gilbert. The energetic
woman, pushing forty, wore rhinestone accents on everything and brought new meaning to the words,
cowboy chic. Gloria was a busty gal who maintained a nicely rounded figure and exuded a magnetic
energy. Dolly Parton could have been her role model, from the long blond hair and glitzy get-up to the
easy laugh. She had just opened Sparkles, an upscale boutique in the old Rafferty building. Gloria’s new
place of business had, until recently, been used to store a rusty collection of abandoned farm equipment.
In the past weeks, Gabe had worked with her on the store remodel. The woman was a whirlwind,
scouring away decades of grime in no time. Her specialty was repurposing things: wagon wheels, old
fencing, chicken feeders, bird baths and the like into brightly lit chandeliers, headboards, and kitschy
plant stands. Her blond hair featured a stripe of pink along one side, and her blue eyes glowed with both
inspiration and mischief.
Gabe tweaked Lizzy’s nose. “Great idea. Gloria is exactly who you need. Why, I bet she could
turn this place into palace, showcase her work and make some sales in the process.”
“You’re kidding.”
“No. Dead serious. Have you been in her store?”
“Think of what all of those chandeliers, twinkling lights, and be-glittered barn finds could do for
this bare space.”
Suddenly, Lizzy could imagine it. The polished wood floor, the eclectic tangle of twinkle lights,
the candles glowing on wagon beds. She envisioned satin fabric woven through the tines of a pitchfork or
draped from the rafters. There could be mismatched tables and chairs, and a violin and banjo tuning up in
the corner on a stage fashioned from chicken crates and split rail fencing.
“You’re a genius, Gabe.”
“Don’t I know it,” he said, as he bent to kiss her.


Gloria Gilbert bent over the headboard, fashioned from a reclaimed section of metal fencing,
sanding away the old paint. Her wavy blond tresses were pulled back and tied with a bandanna. The
bright pink swatch in her hair matched her sweatshirt, which was decorated with a dark pink flamingo
outlined in rhinestones. Gloria was all about the bling, from her fuchsia painted nails to her lavender
cowgirl boots with silver-studded heels and tips. Glittery, dangling earrings brushed her shoulders,
moving with each sweep of her electric sander against the metal frame.
She was a newcomer to Buttermilk Falls, having fallen in love with the sleepy little town on a

sightseeing detour last summer. She’d seen the potential in the boarded- up Rafferty building, which
she’d been told had once been the town’s livery stable. She’d bought it on a whim, cobwebs and all, with
the accumulated piles of junk scattered inside thrown in to the bargain.
Gloria thrived on junk: old washboards, metal milk cans covered in rust, chairs with broken
rungs, plow blades, barbed wire, bedsprings, lamps missing their shades…most anything she could
imagine transformed into a thing of beauty. She had a gift for searching out the hidden beauty in a found
object and in the people she found in her life, as well.
Her knack for repurposing things, known as cowboy chic, had been gaining an online following
over the past few years. She’d always wanted to live in a small town and relocating from LA made sense.
Go to where the good junk was easy to find. Hadn’t she just bought a building full of potential projects?
Selling to the locals or the occasional tourist was just a frosting on the cake of her internet business. She
could ship anywhere.
Sparkles could thrive here as well as anywhere, just as she planned to do herself. Country air.
Friendly folk. And all the castoffs she could want. I was also, she admitted to herself, an escape from
some painful memories best left in the rear-view mirror.
For now, she slept on a cot in a corner of the building, thankful for the added on restroom in the
back. Soon she’d find something more substantial with a kitchen and a shower.
Gloria knew how to use her table saw, belt sander, welder, and assorted paint brushes with the
best of them. And she wasn’t afraid of hard work. She wore work gloves in deference to her manicure,
and safety goggles to ward off the sawdust, but put on a full coat of war paint each morning—false
eyelashes, eyeliner…the works.
“Hello, anybody here?”
Gloria turned off the belt sander and lifted her goggles. “Back here.”
She spotted a woman edging around a dusty camelback sofa marred by the coiled spring popping
through its green upholstery. The customer seemed younger than Gloria and looked like a woman on a
mission. Always good for business.
Reaching out a hand, Gloria smiled. “Hi, welcome to Sparkles. I’m Gloria.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Lizzy.” She squeezed Gloria’s hand and looked around at the lovingly
distressed furniture, then up at the makeshift chandeliers hung from the rafters, trailing silk ribbons.
“Quite a place you have here.”
“Thank you.”
“You do all this yourself?”
“Mostly. Once in a while I have to bring in some muscle or an electrician for the more tricky
Lizzy grinned. “Well…I need some help myself. I have a wedding reception to outfit in the old
Ice House.”
“Your wedding?” A fleeting look of annoyance, or was it pain, flickered in Gloria eyes, but was
quickly reined in, replaced by genuine warmth.
“It is. On the 15th of January.”
“Only three weeks away, then…”
“Yes. And the bad new is, the building hasn’t been used since 1956. It’s all bare block walls,
wood floors and open rafters. I’ll be bringing in a cleaning crew first thing.” She looked around at

Gloria’s eclectic inventory. “If we could rent some of your tables, chairs and decor, it could be perfect.”
“You’re up for cowboy chic?” asked Gloria.
“Love it.”
“Willing to go a little bit country as well?”
“I own Sweet Apple Farm, outside of town, so I’m good with country.”
“Well, then…” Gloria gestured to a room with large French doors letting in light from an outside
patio. “Come in to my office so we can chat.”
Unlike the controlled chaos of the workspace, Gloria’s headquarters was high tech and neat as a
pin. A comfy, modern office chair sat behind a cherry wood desk. Along the walls, other chairs fronted
work stations, which held computers and several printers, with neatly labeled file drawers beneath.
“This is…unexpected,” Lizzy said.
“I love creativity, but my online business requires organization. The shipping department is in
the back. I’ve already hired a part time employee to help me.”
“Who knew?” said Lizzy, as her earlier perceptions collided with the real deal.
“Some think I’m just a ditzy artist.” Gloria shrugged. “But I’m a pretty good business woman as
well.” Gloria’s flashy earrings swung with the toss of her head, a bit incongruous with the safety goggles
still perched on top of her head.
“I can see that. I’m impressed.”
“Sounds like you’re also a business woman.”
“I’m learning to be. But my real love is teaching.”
“Brave then, too…”
Gloria liked Lizzy right away. In spite of their outward differences, she sensed a kindred spirit.
Someone down to earth, and comfortable enough in her own skin not to try to hide her freckles or tame
her wild halo of red curls. Lizzy was as naturally beautiful as Gloria was flamboyant.
“Will you give me a free hand with the decorating?” Gloria asked.
“No last minute freaking out?”
“I’m not really the freaking out type.” Lizzy pointed to her jeans and sensible shoes. “I’ve
adapted pretty well to country living… got the chickens to prove it.”
Now it was Gloria’s turn to grin. She pulled out a pricing list and project order form and gave
Lizzy a quick hug. “Let’s talk about what you’ll need.”
“I’ll need your help with that. It’s a big reception,” said Lizzy. “It’ll be a great chance to
showcase your items and let the people get acquainted with you and what you do.”
“You know what?” Gloria smiled. “I appreciate your head for business. I think we’re going to be
great friends.”
“I’d like that,” said Lizzy.

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Chapter 3