The apple pie knights, p.1
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       The Apple Pie Knights, p.1

           Deborah Smith
 
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The Apple Pie Knights


  Praise for award-winning author Deborah Smith

  “As enchanting as Tallulah’s biscuits . . . This novella truly captured the essence of what [coming home] means to the heart.”

  —Teresa Medeiros, NY Times Bestselling Author

  “An extraordinarily talented author.”

  —Mary Alice Monroe, NY Times Bestselling Author

  “A storyteller of distinction.”

  —Book Page

  “An exceptional storyteller.”

  —Booklist

  “Deborah Smith just keeps getting better.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  Praise for The Crossroads Café

  Winner of a HOLT Medallion and a Reviewer’s International Award (RIO)

  “Unforgettably poignant.”

  —Booklist

  “A top five romance of 2006.”

  —Library Journal, starred review

  “A perfect 10.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “The best romance of 2006.”

  —The Romance Reader

  “A true treasure.”

  —Romantic Times BookClub

  “A book that readers will open again and again.”

  —Romance Designs

  Other Novels by Deborah Smith

  A Gentle Rain

  Sweet Hush

  On Bear Mountain

  The Stone Flower Garden

  Charming Grace

  Alice at Heart

  Diary of a Radical Mermaid

  The Mossy Creek Series (contributor)

  The Sweet Tea Series (contributor)

  The Crossroads Café Series

  The Crossroads Café (novel)

  The Biscuit Witch (long novella)

  The Pickle Queen (long novella)

  The Yarn Spinner (short story)

  The Apple Pie Knights (short story)

  The Kitchen Charmer (novel coming Fall 2014)

  Available in Audiobook

  A Place to Call Home

  Blue Willow

  Silk and Stone

  Miracle

  When Venus Fell

  The Apple Pie Knights

  A Crossroads Café Short Story

  by

  Deborah Smith

  Bell Bridge Books

  Copyright

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  Bell Bridge Books

  PO BOX 300921

  Memphis, TN 38130

  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-537-9

  Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

  Copyright © 2014 by Deborah Smith

  (Excerpt) The New England Cook Book, or Young Housekeeper’s Guide—Being a Collection of the Most Valuable Receipts; Embracing all the Various Branches of Cookery, and Written in a Minute and Methodical Manner—Author Unknown.

  Published 1836 by Hezekiah Howe & Co, and Herrick & Noyes, Connecticut

  (Excerpt) Dishes & Beverages of the Old South, by Martha McCulloch Williams

  Published 1913 by McBride Nast & Company, New York

  Printed and bound in the United States of America.

  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.

  We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers.

  Visit our websites

  BelleBooks.com

  BellBridgeBooks.com

  ImaJinnBooks.com

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  Cover design: Debra Dixon

  Interior design: Hank Smith

  Photo/Art credits:

  Woman © Chesterf | Dreamstime.com

  Sunburst/compass textures (manipulated) © Sofka_QWE | Fotolia.com

  Textures (manipulated): © Yobro10 | Dreamstime.com

  Title Letters © Jaguarwoman Designs

  :Epak:01:

  Dedication

  For Smudge

  Chapter One

  Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

  Rainbow Goddess Farm, North Carolina

  Autumn

  Via e-mail

  [email protected]:

  So there I was, Lucy, without a clue how to connect with the village women. I knew I looked like some kind of Terminator in full combat gear, except for the crochet hooks tucked in my helmet strap and one of your scarves tied over my gear. But then I held up a picture of you I’d printed out back at the base.

  They stared at your hair. It’s so pale it’s almost white in the photo. The way you dress was perfect for that picture, Luce—thank you. The scarves, the head covering. They expected an American woman to be shocking, half-naked, to be foreign, to be different from them. But you look . . . modest, like them. Yet still different and exotic.

  I could see their eyes moving hungrily, even over the edge of the fabric that covers their faces.

  Even with their brothers and husbands and uncles there to chaperone, and Master Sergeant Riley beside me to translate—because as a man who’s not their family, I can’t speak to them directly or look straight at them—even with those barriers between us, I felt a swarm of tasty swharma—I felt this mental aroma of warm, spicy stew. I had their attention.

  No, you had their attention, Lucy.

  “My wife,” I said, with Riley translating from beneath a scarf wrapped over her helmet. “She lives with my sister and my sister’s husband in a village called the Crossroads Cove, in a province called North Carolina.”

  The concept of me having an unmarried female friend who lives alone would horrify them, make my job harder, and bring shame on you, Luce. So, for the sake of foreign relations and maybe even the future of world peace, do you mind being married to me in the eyes of a small village in Kandahar Province?

  [email protected]_Mail.com:

  For the sake of world peace, I accept.

  G.MacBride:

  Good. The women have given you an Afghani name. Tabana. It translates roughly to “The light of the moon.” It’s because of your blond hair and your skin. You have beautiful skin, just saying. Milk skin, my mama used to call it.

  Yarnspinner:

  Thank you. I spend too much time indoors, but pale skin is one of the benefits. Tabana. I like it.

  G.MacBride:

  I prefer my own translation of that name. Meet my wife, Moonshine.

  Yarnspinner:

  Moonshine MacBride. I’m honored, sir.

  G.MacBride:

  I’m sending pictures of the women and their children. They want my wife to see them.

  Yarnspinner:

  Dear Husband, tell them I’ll look at their pictures every day.

  ———

  January 1

  Kandahar Province Afghanistan, 5:00 a.m.

  Rainbow Goddess Farm, North Carolina, 8:30 p.m.

  Via phone

  Gus: Happy New Year, Moonshine.

  Lucy: Happy New Year, Husband Gus. I love this present.

  Gus: The tips made me sweat. I reworked them at least five times each. I wanted to fit your contours exactly.

  Lucy: You bring such military precision to
knitting. So much discipline. And control. I admire that. Yet the stitches are relaxed. And this yarn you found . . . oh! It’s like stroking the softest wool on a lamb. That undercoat they have along their bellies, where the skin shows through, smooth and pink. I could sit here the rest of the night, rubbing the texture with my fingertips.

  Gus: I bought it at a bazaar in Kabul. The dealer knows me; I’ve traded yarns with her. She set this aside for me, special.

  Lucy: This . . . Gus, this is cashmere. I’m getting the word “pashmina.”

  Gus: That’s what the dealer said. The same yarn they use in the scarves.

  Lucy: A yarn this delicate . . . the weave will feel like a second skin.

  Gus: Try it out, Luce. See if I got your curves right.

  Lucy: Here goes. I’m moving slowly. Don’t want to stress the material.

  Gus: I accounted for some stretch. But your proportions are perfect.

  Lucy: No, I’m a little flat.

  Gus: Luce, I made 3-D models of you . . . with homemade paper-mâché.

  Lucy: For both sides? The left is flatter than the right.

  Gus: Not from my point of view.

  Lucy: Oh. Oh. It’s like a sheath of warm oil. I’m pulling it all the way up.

  Gus: Too tight a fit? I wouldn’t want you to feel restrained.

  Lucy: Noooo. It’s just right. Secure. Like a firm hand.

  Gus: Try moving. See if it moves with you.

  Lucy: Oh, yes. The motion is smooth. So fluid.

  Gus: See how the other one fits.

  Lucy: I’m a little breathless. I’m getting impatient. The next one will go faster.

  Gus: Faster. I’m good with that.

  Lucy: Over and in. There. Gliding. One little thrust was all it took. Snug as a bug. And up, and arching, and down, and up again, and then closing around me. That firm hand. Oh. Oh, Gus.

  Gus: I’m a little breathless, myself. Would you mind texting a picture? It’s all right if you don’t.

  Lucy: You know I’m camera shy, but in this case, certainly. I’m feeling wild. Reckless.

  Gus: Oh, me too, Luce.

  Lucy: Give me a minute to move and set up a nice background.

  Gus: No, you can just keep sitting on your bed . . . I’ve never seen a picture of your bed . . . Luce? Luce? Damn. Missed my chance.

  A minute later.

  Lucy: I’m back. Okay, I’m putting the camera app on ‘Timer’ and perching it across from me. I’m sitting at my desk. Here goes. Five, four, three, two, one. Snap. Let’s see how that came out . . . Oh. I need a few moments.

  Gus: Luce? What’s wrong? Are you crying?

  Lucy: Just a little. I’m fine. There. I dried up. Sorry. I’ve never seen myself like this photograph makes me look. At least, it’s been a long time. How it feels to feel this way. Thank you.

  Gus: Luce, I put a lot of affection into that gift. You can sense that, can’t you? And a lot of respect? But most of all, I hope you feel safe. Whatever you need to tell me about yourself, your past, when you’re ready, I’ll be here. Got it, Moonshine?

  Lucy: I love that nickname. Yes. Yes. Thank you.

  Gus. All right, then. Text that picture across the world. Let’s share a big pat on the back for my manly knitting skills. Let me see.

  Lucy: Here goes.

  A minute later.

  Gus: Well, I gotta say, Moonshine, your feet look good in those socks.

  Lucy: My feet are very happy to know you, Captain MacBride.

  ———

  January 2

  Via radio

  “HELLO, FOLKS, AND Happy New Year! This is WTUR AM, a clear-channel favorite with an antenna on Devil’s Knob, the third highest peak in the mountains of Western North Carolina; broadcasting from our beautiful studio behind the courthouse in Turtleville, seat of Jefferson County. This update sponsored by The Crossroads Café, ‘Where the Lard Cooks In Mysterious Ways.’ Come taste the lip-smacking love of Delta Whittlespoon’s famous Biscuit Queen biscuits.

  “Bring in the pets, the chickens, and that uncle who lives in the shed with the tin foil hat on his head. We’ll continue to have icy roads, snow, sleet, and temperatures that are colder ’n hell freezing over when Congress does something right.

  “Your next update will be sponsored by FritzBear’s BBQ, Turtleville’s only state-licensed restaurant that serves delicious, exotic meats. Farm-raised ostrich, deer, gator, and bison. If you want a little something strange on the side, FritzBear’s is the place to eat.

  “Deputy Franny Claymore at the county sheriff’s department says it was a pretty quiet night. She had another report of minor theft from the Free Wheeler road area. Some Barbie dolls were taken off a back porch. That’s the sixth minor theft in two weeks in that neighborhood. Deputy Claymore says she thinks it’s kids pulling pranks or raccoons taking things for their nests. Well, we want to know what the raccoons are doing with Malibu Barbie, right? This is WTUR AM, the voice of Jefferson County . . .”

  ———

  January 5

  Via phone

  Lucy: Tal, you have to confess. Someone is lurking in the woods behind Free Wheeler. Last night they gave mohawk haircuts to my sheep. I have five Bluefaced Leicester ewes who look as if a lawn mower ran down either side of their spines. They weren’t hurt, but they do look humiliated.

  Tal: You sent those sheep down to the hollows to do reconnaissance, didn’t you, Lucy?

  Lucy: Don’t tell me they were shaved by some of Doug’s whimsical “beasties” or a family of Santa Joe’s giant “nightwalkers,”—which we all know he cooked up to keep kids away from his weed patches. Is it some kind of survivalist group? If so, they’re tough if they can take this weather. Talk to me, Tal. I’ve touched my sheep. Their wool talks to me. I know more than you think.

  Tal: I come from a family of food witches. I smell baking auras around people, Gabby smells pickles, and Gus smells beer. So I’m not going to laugh at what you’re saying about your sheep.

  Lucy: I had a vision of you and Doug leaving boxes full of food in the buildings at Free Wheeler. I saw your apple pies the instant I touched my mohawked ewes. You’re encouraging these strangers with apple pies.

  Tal: Lucy, on your honor, you can’t tell anyone. Only you, me, Gabby, and Doug can know the truth. Your lurkers are mostly young, almost none of them older than thirty. They’re all serious PTSD sufferers. Military vets. Army. Marines. Some of them are wanted for minor crimes. One of them is from a local family. You can’t tell a soul.

  Lucy: You’re hiding a soldier whose family are people we know? They’re probably desperate to find him! But you don’t feel it’s wrong to keep that secret? And I repeat: those people attacked my sheep. Why?

  Tal: The soldier wants his family kept out of this. We gave our word. Just like Gabby and I gave you our word that we won’t tell Gus that you’re a patient at Rainbow Goddess Farm, not just an employee. About the sheep . . . we don’t know the reason for the drive-by shearing yet. Are you sure your sheepies are okay?

  Lucy: My ladies haven’t lost enough of their fleeces to suffer from the cold, but they look awful. But no one has the right to take that wool. The money we make from it goes to support the counseling programs here. You know that.

  Tal: I guess you won’t accept that one of the veterans might be a yarn spinner like you? After all, my brother knits and crochets. A lot of soldiers do. You send Gus yarn all the time.

  Lucy: You don’t understand the danger of trusting strangers. These wool thieves are on your family’s land, so that’s your business, but Free Wheeler is right in the middle of the Cove. That makes it next door to the Rainbow Goddess Farm on one side and the Crossroads Café on the other. They could travel unseen all over this end of Jefferson County. Why aren’t you and Gabby telling Gus about
this? Does Jay know?

  Tal: Jay just got out of the hospital with a bullet wound in his chest. And Gus? We’re not telling him while he’s in the worst part of Afghanistan and he’s doing dangerous work that we can only guess about. He wants nothing to do with the bad memories here . . . at least, he didn’t until a certain wistful blond shepherdess named Lucy Parmenter became his e-mail pen pal last fall. Ahem. Eh? Hmmm?

  Lucy: Do not change the subject. Why are you encouraging those vets to stay at Free Wheeler?

  Tal: Grandfather built Free Wheeler to enlighten people and empower them. He’d want me to feed those campers in the woods.

  Lucy: Campers? That’s like saying Wolverine is just a man with extendable knuckles.

  Tal: Lucy, those ten veterans are just like you. They’ve been through horrors.

  Lucy: Ten? There are ten men with anger management issues?

  Tal: Two of them are women.

  Lucy: Eight of them might be abusers.

  Tal: I get a lot of reassuring aroma-auras off them.

  Lucy: But not all of them.

  Tal: I don’t get liver off anyone, and that’s the only aroma-aura that’s a guaranteed threat.

  Lucy: I should tell Alberta and Macy. This is a security issue for the farm. You know that. You know how careful we are up here about men. There are two dozen women here for the winter. Most of them with small children. And what if those soldiers rob the café? Pick fights with customers in the parking lot?

  Tal: They’re not going to invade either the Cove or Rainbow Goddess. They’re not here to stalk people. They’re not going to prey on an isolated farm full of abused women. They’re not going to pillage and loot and rape . . . Lucy? Lucy, I smell rotting fruit. Lucy?

  Lucy! Sorry sorry sorry sorry. I’m so sorry. Lucy!

  Fifteen minutes later.

  Lucy: Back now, ’kay. ’Pology ’cepted. You hit a trigger.

  Tal: I’m so sorry. Eve is with Doug at the chicken hatchery in Turtleville. He put snow chains on the mobile unit’s tires so he could make his rounds. He’s teaching her how to spot fertilized eggs for first grade show and tell. I’ve got four-wheel drive on my Bronco. I’ll come up. The café is closed, so I’m on temporary vacation as the biscuit baker. I can come up.

 
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