Were Elizabeth and Scarlett ready to buy an inn and settle in Maine? Scarlett wasn’t so sure of the answer.
Scarlett’s car bumped along the winding road, farmhouses peeking at us from behind thick clusters of trees and bushes, the afternoon sun warming the inside of the vehicle with its hazy glow.
“Are you sure you know the way?” I asked. “I thought the inn was in Blue Harbor.”
“It is.” Scarlett squinted at me. “Not everyone lives near the main harbor.”
Ten minutes later, she said, “We’re here.”
A red-bricked building appeared between two thick groves of maple trees. A lush green lawn and white picket fence fronted the house. Four wide steps led to the wrap-around porch, dotted with white wicker chairs and tables. A chubby, middle-aged woman stood on the top step between two white pillars supporting the steep overhang.
“That’s Lucy Green.” Scarlett parked on the graveled driveway to the right of the house.
Lucy descended the steps, wiping her hands on the yellow frilled apron tied around her waist. “I’m happy you could meet with me today, considering the recent excitement.” Her short, brown curls fluttered in the cool breeze as she crossed the blue paving stones to the driveway.
“We were at the ice cream parlor when the guy ran inside bleeding.” Scarlett halted in front of her. “The customers ran from the place screaming and yelling.”
“How awful.” Lucy wrung her hands. “I hope you’re still interested in my inn.”
I drew alongside Scarlett. “We’re rethinking our move to Blue Harbor.” I ignored Scarlett’s sidelong glare. If Lucy believed we were reconsidering, she might lower the price. I grew up in New York City and couldn’t help my big city frame of mind.
Lucy pursed her lips. “Chief Lively will clean the riffraff from Blue Harbor, he’s done it before, and our town will be peaceful again.” She motioned for us to follow her into the house. The warm glow from the Victorian lamps, sitting on small end tables, lit the spacious room dotted with comfortable-looking couches and chairs. We followed her through an open archway to the right. Leather couches and chairs faced a red-bricked fireplace. Across the room, a set of glass doors overlooked a side garden bursting with red and yellow rose bushes. When she swung open the doors, a rose-scented breeze drifted toward us.
“Lovely,” I said.
She gave a sweet smile before shutting the glass doors. We trailed her from the den and the front room to the dining room, where glasses and silverware sparkled on the five tables set with white linen. The doorway on the back wall led us to an industrial-sized kitchen with a white marble island dead-center, surrounded by yellow stools. The view from the picture window took my breath away. Rose bushes lined the pebbled path through the green landscape to a lake filled with floating Canada geese.
“Nice,” Scarlett said.
“Thank you.” Lucy hovered behind us. “Are you ready to see the guest rooms?”
“Sure,” Scarlett replied.
A narrow door in the kitchen, wedged between the double wall ovens and built-in refrigerator, led back to the front room. We climbed the carpeted stairs between the curving wood banisters as Lucy regaled us with tales of the house’s vibrant history. On the second floor, doors stood open on either side of the hallway, revealing canopied beds and flat-screen TVs. At the end of the hall, we stepped into the owner’s apartment. The two bedrooms, eat-in kitchen, and sitting room offered impressive views of the lawn and sparkling blue lake.
“Iced tea and pastries in the sunroom?” Lucy asked as we descended the staircase.
“Sounds good. I’m thirsty,” Scarlett replied.
Lucy led us through the den to the bookshelves spanning the left wall, where she tilted a group of books forward. The bookcase shifted, and a hidden door creaked open.
“Neat,” Scarlett said as the door of bookshelves shut behind us.
I asked, “Does the house have hidden passageways?”
“There might be.” Shirley’s round face wrinkled into an eager grin. “This is an old house. A hundred years old next year.”
The sun shone through the picture window on the far wall, throwing bright squares of light across the mint-green couches and chairs. A pitcher of iced tea and a tray of pastries waited on the glass coffee table. We took seats as Lucy poured the tea into tall glasses.
“Are you still interested in purchasing the inn?” Lucy asked, handing a glass to Scarlett.
“We are.” Scarlett glanced at me. “But I’m confused.”
Lucy’s chocolate brown eyes widened.
Scarlett continued, “You have tables set in the dining room, but I didn’t see any preparations in the kitchen. Where are your guests and staff?”
“The guests aren’t arriving until Friday.” Lucy’s eyes twinkled. “And the staff have left for the day.”
I asked, “How large is your staff?”
“I have a maid, chef, and waitress.”
“Do they work every day?” Scarlett asked.
“The cook and waitress work when we have guests, and the maid cleans twice a week, even if we don’t have guests. This past year, we began offering dinner twice weekly, and the chef and waitress have increased their hours.”
“Once you sell the inn, will they be willing to continue working here?” I asked.
“They love the bed-and-breakfast. I have a contract ready to be signed.” Lucy huffed to her feet. “Relax and finish your tea and pastries.” She grinned before hurrying from the room.
“We have decisions to make.” Scarlett bit into a red velvet cupcake.
“I’m not ready to make them today.”
Lucy returned with a stack of papers. For the next hour, we discussed the price and conditions of the contract. We departed with a promise to call her in the next few days. Scarlett needed to show the paperwork to her lawyer, who will now be our lawyer. Even though the price was within our budget, we needed time to decide whether Blue Harbor was right for us.