The early summer sun warmed Samantha Kaneâ€™s shoulders as
she tacked the advertisement to the outside display window
in front of Community Craft. The air was warm and dry
outside her storefront; not humid yet. She wished the
summer would stay this picture-perfect temperature, but she
knew it wouldnâ€™t last. She couldnâ€™t complain, as it sure
beat the cloudy winters of Wisconsin that seemed to roll on
The smell of sweet alyssum wafted on the subtle breeze from
the recently planted oversized terra-cotta pot placed
strategically by the front door to welcome her local
customers. Dainty white flowers, contrasted with deep-blue
lobelia, spilled generously over the sides and encircled
orange and pink geraniums. Sammy wished she were on a long,
leisurely stroll with her golden retriever, Bara, to view
the flower beds set in the freshly tilled soil along the
river walk. Instead, she was stuck indoors on this
beautiful June day working at her craft store, where
members of the community sold their handcrafted wares.
Hopefully the dry air would hold and she could sneak away
from the store as soon as her sister Ellie came to work
later in the afternoon.
The urgent cry swiftly caught the shop ownerâ€™s attention.
Samantha dropped the Scotch tape to the cement sidewalk.
Her auburn ponytail swung and slapped her hard in the face
as she turned abruptly in the direction of the yelling of
â€śOh Marilyn, you startled me! Is everything okay? You all
right?â€ť Sammyâ€™s round hazel eyes widened as she searched
her harried next-door neighbor for signs of distress. The
owner of the Sweet Tooth Bakery approached at a rapid pace.
â€śNo. Iâ€™m absolutely not all right.â€ť The baker fanned her
overheated plump red cheeks with one hand, sending flour
falling like snow. If only it had been snow and not flour,
it might have cooled off the agitated baker. â€śSammy! Iâ€™ve
gone and burned the cupcakes for the book signing!â€ť
Sammy tilted her head back and laughed. Her eyes crinkled
like half-moons when her amusement transformed into a large
smile. â€śYou have four days before the book signing; no need
to get your panties in a knot.â€ť She pointed to the newly
attached advertisement on the window, then leaned over to
pluck the Scotch tape from the ground. â€śWith all your
bellowing, Marilyn, I thought something tragic had
happened. Iâ€™m just hanging the sign with the time and
details of the event now. If you made the dessert today,
wouldnâ€™t it be stale by Saturday afternoon anyway?â€ť Sammyâ€™s
pencil-thin eyebrows came together in a frown.
â€śYes, but this was the sample batch. I wanted you to taste-
test them first. These cupcakes must be ab-so-lutely
perfect! Theyâ€™re for Jane Johnsonâ€™s book signing, after
all. The Jane Johnson!â€ť Her chubby fingers came together in
air quotes. â€śI still canâ€™t believe sheâ€™s coming here to
little olâ€™ Heartsford! Well. I guess that will put us on
the map for sure.â€ť Marilyn placed her hand atop her large
round bosom, transferring the remnants of flour to her
chest. â€śAnd Iâ€™ve gone and ruined the sample!â€ť The baker
shook her hairnet-covered head in disgust.
â€śYouâ€™ve plenty of time to bake another batch.â€ť Sammy waved
her off casually. â€śNo need to fret just yet. Iâ€™m the one
hosting the signing for her latest book, and Iâ€™m going to
be interviewed for her next book, Behind the Seams: A
Journey of Why We Love to Craft. If you can imagine the
preparation on my end. I have so much left to organize, and
I also have to clean the store.â€ť Sammy began ticking off a
mental list of what needed to be tackled first.
â€śWell. I suppose youâ€™re right . . . Iâ€™ll have time to try
again.â€ť The baker must have sensed she wouldnâ€™t receive any
sympathy from her neighbor, so she quickly changed the
subjectâ€”to digging for dirt. â€śHas Jane Johnson made it to
town yet? Whereâ€™s she staying? I heard a rumor that sheâ€™s
booked a room at Pine Haven Bed and Breakfast. Annabelle
saw a stretch limo driving in that direction! Have you
already met her?â€ť Marilyn placed her hands on her overrun
hips, demanding answers.
â€śArenâ€™t you full of questions today?â€ť Sammy laughed and
rolled her eyes.
Just then, Sammy and Marilynâ€™s attention was diverted to
Main Street by the sound of a honking horn, causing the two
to check and see who was pulling up to park beside them on
the sidewalk. Sammy was relieved to have a reprieve from
the bakerâ€™s demands of juicy gossip. She wasnâ€™t sure how
private the bestselling author was, and she didnâ€™t want to
offend the new guest to their hometown by spreading
â€śHi, Mayor Allen!â€ť Sammy waved to the mayor of Heartsford
as he stepped from his newly washed black SUV, drops of
water still visible on the Toyota.
His hand rose in a friendly wave as he stopped momentarily
to greet the women. â€śBe-a-u-tiful day, Sunshine Sam! And
Marilyn, good afternoon to you. Connie will stop in soon to
order a few of your famous strawberry pies. The wife and I
love to indulge this time of year on your seasonal sweet
The mayor tipped his silver head, which shone in the sun
like mounded strands of glitter, to regard the baker before
looking both ways, crossing the street, and stepping inside
Liquid Joy for his daily afternoon caffeine pick-me-up.
Although Sammy was trying to cut down on her daily caffeine
intake, iced coffee did sound delicious. Her mouth began to
thirst for the cool, creamy liquid.
â€śSunshine Sam? Why, I wasnâ€™t aware the mayor had a special
name for you, Samantha Kane. Why doesnâ€™t he call you Sammy
like the rest of us?â€ť Marilyn searched her with inquisitive
â€śHeâ€™s called me that ever since I was a kid hanging out
with his daughter, Kate.â€ť Sammy explained. Although she
didnâ€™t think it needed an explanation. Everyone in town
knew she had taken over the mayorâ€™s deceased daughterâ€™s
store, Community Craft, after a tractor accident took her
life far too soon. Everyone knew she and Kate had been best
friends since childhood. Why wouldnâ€™t Kateâ€™s father have a
nickname for her? Suddenly Sammy was weary of Marilynâ€™s
â€śYouâ€™d better get back into that kitchen quick,â€ť Sammy
urged. â€śYouâ€™re right, those cupcakes have to be perfect.
Good luck with the next batch. I canâ€™t tell you how much I
look forward to that sample. And it sounds like the mayor
is licking his lips for a few of your strawberry pies.
Youâ€™d better get back to work. Busy, busy!â€ť Sammy moved
closer to the front door of her shop. â€śI should get a move
on and get back to work too. Have a great afternoon,
Marilyn,â€ť she said as she dismissed the baker and swung
open the door to retreat to the safety of Community Craft.
Bara lifted his golden head as Sammy approached. Her golden
retrieverâ€™s bed sat directly beside the cash register on
the right-hand wall toward the back of the store. He wasnâ€™t
a guard dog but rather a welcome furry face that made the
customers smile and linger to pet him. When Sammy stopped
to scratch his head, he lifted his weary body from its
comfortable position and stretched his hind legs.
â€śOh, the life you have,â€ť she said to the dog. The tinkle of
the bell on the front door alerted them both that a
customer had entered. Bara, so accustomed to the sound
after spending years in the store by the register, didnâ€™t
go and greet the customer but instead slumped lazily back
to his original position. Sammy shook her head at him and
Sammyâ€™s eyes lifted from her lazy dog to the newcomer. She
instantly knew it was not one of her regular customers. A
real live celebrity had officially stepped inside Community
Jane Johnson held out a manicured hand in greeting. â€śYou
must be Samantha Kane?â€ť
The bestselling author stood about Sammyâ€™s heightâ€”barely
over five feet. Her hair was cropped short in a wispy
blonde cut and was obviously sprayed in place to
perfection. Her azure eyes were friendly and alert and held
an air of mystery. Janeâ€™s casual dress surprised Sammy, as
she had always seen the celebrity dressed to the nines on
TV. Although, even in her sleeveless navy blouse and white
cropped pants, she looked as though she had just stepped
from a cruise ship and not Main Street in a small farm
For a moment, Sammy was speechless. If only Kate had been
alive to witness the bestselling author in the craft world
standing right here. The woman who was the queen of all
crafts, hobbies, and home, standing just armâ€™s length away.
The one all the fiber artisans in her store aspired to be.
The one who had been interviewed on HGTV sharing her
crochet talent. The one with her own monthly magazine. And
numerous bestselling books!
Sammy reached for the authorâ€™s hand and shook it gently in
greeting. She could feel her mouth moving and the words
tumbling out. â€śIâ€™m Samantha Kane. Most people call me
Sammy. Only my mother calls me Samantha. And lately sheâ€™s
been calling me Sam, unless of course weâ€™ve had wordsâ€”then
sheâ€™s back to calling me Samantha. But she lives in Arizona
with my dad now that the Wisconsin winters have become too
brutal for them . . . Theyâ€™re flying in for a visit this
week. Actually, Mom should be here for the book signing.â€ť
Sammy could feel the flush rising from her neck to her
cheeks. â€śIâ€™m rambling. Sorry.â€ť
The author smiled. Sammy wanted to crawl under the rug. Or
hide under Baraâ€™s dog bed. Even Bara seemed to shake his
head. Why was she acting like an idiot? Sammy justified the
nervous energy as a normal reaction. After all, it was rare
to have anyone of stature here in Heartsford, never mind
her store. She could barely feel her feet on the ground,
and she suddenly felt uncharacteristically befuddled.
â€śSo, this is Community Craft. Iâ€™ve heard so much about this
place.â€ť Jane turned from Sammyâ€™s gaze and fingered a hand-
dyed aqua silk scarf that hung close to her touch.
â€śThe one and only,â€ť Sammy said, before sneaking slow yoga
breaths that her cousin Heidi had taught her to calm her
jittery excitement. She really needed to relax. Right now.
Breathe in . . . one . . . two . . . three . . .
â€śIâ€™ve been actively researching the original owner. I was
so sorry to hear about the loss of Kate Allen. Her tragic
and early death led me to seek out the communal bonds she
nurtured in this store. Very special and unique, from what
Iâ€™ve gathered thus far in researching my next book, Behind
the Seams. Very rare indeed.â€ť
This comment from the famous author instantly stirred Sammy
from her awkward stance. â€śThank you,â€ť she said sincerely.
â€śKate was the brains behind all of this, and of course she
encouraged a sense of community and kindness that Iâ€™ve
tried to keep alive. We donâ€™t just create and sell
handcrafted items here. We hold many community fund-raisers
and the like. Whatever the people of Heartsford need, weâ€™re
here to build each other up, work together, and lift each
â€śYes, itâ€™s that very nature of community spirit and what
you all do to support each other in this town that so
intrigued me. I find it very unusual nowadays, donâ€™t you
think? Thatâ€™s what inspired me to visit Heartsford, to be
honest; news has traveled. I had to come see and experience
this place firsthand. Do people actually live in genuine
community anymore? Seems to me people are so preoccupied
with their own lives and social media that they donâ€™t reach
out personally anymore . . . Everyone is so isolated. The
idea of returning to the old-fashioned hooking circle
certainly fascinates me. Or maybe Iâ€™m just not privy to
that type of lifestyle, as my life is so different now. It
seems because I spend the bulk of my time in the public
eye, people have a way of treating me as if Iâ€™m above all
that. But Iâ€™m not, you know. Iâ€™m really not. Iâ€™d love an
afternoon working my hands through some yarn while chatting
with other women. I wonder why people seem to think I
wouldnâ€™t enjoy that anymore?â€ť
It was more of a statement than a question. Sammy remained
Sammy then noticed Janeâ€™s eyes scanning the space to take
in her surroundings, and she pointed a finger to a room
enclosed in glass on the opposite side of the open-concept
store. â€śAnd whatâ€™s that room?â€ť
â€śOh, thatâ€™s our craft room. We hold art classes and host
meetings for various fund-raisers and community events in
that space. We keep it open, as people tend to get involved
when they see things happening back there. We actually hold
our monthly book club there, too, when the community room
at the library is otherwise occupied.â€ť
Jane nodded. â€śInventive idea.â€ť Sammy thought for a moment
that the author seemed honestly impressed.
â€śI think it will be too small to host the book signing in
that enclosed room, though, as weâ€™re expecting a very large
turnout. Heck, the whole town will probably show. Iâ€™ll have
to move a few things around and have a table set up for you
here. Maybe on the back wall . . .â€ť Sammyâ€™s voice trailed
off as her attention diverted and her eyes pinballed around
the room, seeking the perfect location to host the book
signing for the authorâ€™s previous bestseller, Hooked for
Life: Crocheting Through the Generations.
At that moment, the back door of Community Craft opened and
Sammyâ€™s sister Ellie rushed into the room. â€śSorry Iâ€™m
late,â€ť Ellie said without raising her eyes. She stepped
behind the register and dropped her oversized purse to the
floor behind the expansive polished wooden counter.
â€śYouâ€™re an hour early,â€ť Sammy corrected, pointing to the
clock that hung behind the cash register.
When Ellie finally raised her hazel eyes to argue the fact,
it was obvious the time wasnâ€™t her only surprise. â€śJane
Johnson! Youâ€™re here! In the flesh!â€ť Ellie blurted, her
voice raised to an unusual octave. Sammyâ€™s sister suddenly
bubbled over with excitement.
Sammy couldnâ€™t help but let out a nervous giggle. She
clearly wasnâ€™t the only one who was star-struck.
â€śYes, in the flesh.â€ť Jane shrugged, nonplussed. She seemed
mildly uncomfortable with the two sisters gawking at her
and quickly redirected the subject. â€śYou two look so much
alike. Iâ€™m guessing youâ€™re related?â€ť Her watery blue eyes
danced between the two of them.
Ellie touched her shoulder-length russet hair and twirled
â€śSisters,â€ť Sammy and Ellie said simultaneously, and the two
shared a grin.
â€śBut her hair has never been as red as mine. Sammy will
have natural blonde highlights by the end of the summer if
she spends any time outdoors. Iâ€™ll just end up with a face
full of freckles and hair like Raggedy Ann.â€ť Ellie regarded
her sister. â€śBut I was lucky to at least get a little more
height from my fatherâ€™s side of the family.â€ť
Sammy smirked and nudged her sister playfully.
The author smiled. â€śCan I set up a time to interview you,
Samantha? Iâ€™m only in town a few days. Iâ€™ll be leaving
right after the book signing on Saturday. I have so much
Iâ€™d like to discuss with you for my latest manuscript
before I leave.â€ť
â€śAbsolutely! When would you like to meet?â€ť
â€śWhenever you have time. How about now? I was thinking of
visiting that lovely coffee shop across the street. Can I
pull you away? Or is this a bad time?â€ť
Annabelle Larson, owner of the Yarn Barn, suddenly
approached out of nowhere, interrupting the three women,
and rushed toward the counter at record speed. â€śJane
Johnson! Oh, what an honor!â€ť Sammy must have missed seeing
her gregarious neighbor enter the store in all the
excitement. She knew her work neighbor was a bit miffed
that Sammy had been chosen as an interview subject for the
book and not her. Annabelle had assumed owning the yarn
store would make her a shoo-in, but the famous author was
more interested in the history of Community Craft than
crochet or any other fiber art, apparently. Annabelle
snapped her mint gum annoyingly as her eyes bored into the
author with curiosity. â€śAre you going to be here awhile?
Iâ€™ll go run and grab my cell phone for a selfie! Or maybe
youâ€™d like to come see my shop too? The Yarn Barn . . .
Itâ€™s just a few doors down. Please come over and take a
peek! Wait until you see all the natural fibers I sell.
Itâ€™ll make you drool, I promise!â€ť
Ms. Johnson seemed instantly overwhelmed or less than
pleased as another customer overheard and barged toward the
author, nearly knocking her from her feet. Sammy wondered
if Jane was tired from her journey to Heartsford and
suddenly felt protective of the new guest to her store. She
stepped between the author and the overexcited crowd of
fans, which was growing by the minute.
â€śYes, ladies, and sheâ€™ll be here again on Saturday to meet
with you,â€ť Sammy said firmly as she raised a hand to block
the lookie-loos. â€śBut for now, she has to be on her way.
Iâ€™m sure Ms. Johnson has prior engagements to tend to at
Sammy protectively ushered the author toward the back exit
of the store. When the two reached the safety of the door,
Sammy turned to apologize for their collective behavior.
â€śIâ€™m sorry about that. We donâ€™t have many famous people
pass through our area. I apologize if weâ€™re all a little
â€śOh, itâ€™s perfectly all right. Iâ€™m quite used to it. Iâ€™m
afraid Iâ€™m still suffering a bit of jet lag. Iâ€™ve spent the
last few days crossing the country in airports and hotels.
After a few long days of travel, I think I might need some
Sammy nodded. It was then that she noticed the dark shadows
under the authorâ€™s eyes, concealed under heavy makeup.
Jane continued, â€śBut I do want to meet with you soon. Would
you like to walk with me? I have some rather sensitive
information I need to discuss with you. Iâ€™d really like it
to be a private conversation, if thatâ€™s possible. Is there
a place we can talk?â€ť The author searched Sammyâ€™s eyes with
growing intensity. â€śIâ€™m thinking the coffee shop across the
street probably isnâ€™t the best place?â€ť
â€śI have a thought,â€ť Sammy suggested. â€śWhy donâ€™t you follow
the trail down along the river walk?â€ť Sammy pointed across
the expansive parking lot behind Community Craft to where
the trail began. â€śThis time of day, itâ€™s usually quiet.
Thereâ€™s a set of stairs that will take you to a bench by
the dam where the waterfall cascades. A very soothing spot.
And private, too. Iâ€™ll go pick us up an iced coffee or tea
from Liquid Joy and meet you there. How does that sound?
Itâ€™ll give you a few moments to catch your breath and
regroup. Iâ€™ll join you in about twenty minutes or so. Would
â€śSure. Sounds perfect. And Iâ€™d love an iced coffee; that
sounds wonderful. Thank you so much, Samantha. Iâ€™ll meet
you there, then.â€ť Jane was about to step out the back
entrance when she stopped, turned, and reached for Sammyâ€™s
wrist with sudden urgency. â€śI uncovered some rather
sensitive information in my research regarding the previous
owner of Community Craft. I have something to tell you . .
. something that could change everything. Please come
alone.â€ť The bestselling author released Sammyâ€™s arm and was
out the door in an instant, leaving an air of mystery in