Kristiana Lundrigan is making her dreams come true. She has a home of her own, a pair of very companionable cats, and she's about to become a business owner! She's buying a Montana quilt shop, one overstocked with gorgeous quilting cottons. As soon as the papers are signed, Kristi is ready to begin the remodel that will make the shop her own. But her plans take an unexpected turn when she discovers a body at the shop's back door. Now Kristi has to uncover the truth before she's stitched into the fabric of the crime!
"I have enjoyed Ms. Mumford's quilting stories… We quilters are stitched together with strong small stitches and not even a seam ripper can destroy our joy of accomplishment."– Reader review
"…a fast and enjoyable read with strong characters and a nice touch of romance."– Reader review
"Super easy read. I love Kristi. I love the Garnet Gateway (Montana) setting."– Reader review
Kristiana Lundrigan, Kristi to her friends and family, stared out the picture window beside her breakfast table. She adored the view, showing as it did the majestic Absaroka Range, including Mount Cowen, the highest peak visible from her Paradise Valley home. Scooping the last bite of scrambled eggs onto her fork, she concentrated on allowing the peace of the mountain scenery to soothe her soul. Today would be exciting, perhaps even nerve-wracking. She wanted to start it as calmly as possible.
Her small house sat on the eastern edge of Garnet Gateway, Montana, giving her an unimpeded view of the open valley as it approached the foothills of the 'Sorkees. Kristi had known it was the home she'd been searching for the moment she saw it. Single story, three bedrooms, and a nicely updated bathroom with an old fashioned claw footed tub. The view from the breakfast nook had been the cherry on top as far as Kristi was concerned.
She'd converted the east facing bedroom into a quilting studio, leaving the other two for a guest bedroom and her own use.
Designing her studio had been a delight. She'd finally had the space to create a floor-to-ceiling design wall by installing sheets of flannel-covered Homasote board on the largest unbroken wall. The flannel was the perfect touch. No need to pin her blocks to the wall (though the Homasote board was porous enough to allow for that if needed), they adhered to the flannel effortlessly.
Her sewing table, with its state-of-the-art Viking machine, sat in front of the room's only window, with the large cutting table on her left and the design wall to her right. Her ironing station stood behind her, near the closet, which had had its sliding doors removed and shelves built in to hold Kristi's fabric stash, stored quilts, and as-yet-unfinished projects. The final touch had been turning one of her early quilts into a Roman shade and hanging it over the entrance to the closet, protecting her stash of brightly colored fabric from too much light.
Kristi picked up her mug of mint tea from the scrubbed oak breakfast table and sipped the fragrant brew.
The divorce had been a painful blow, but it was in her past now. She was her own woman at last, with a home that suited her, and— in less than a week!— a business of her own. She was no longer Jason's wife, nor was she her father's little girl. She was Kristiana Lundrigan, quilter, teacher, and soon-to-be business woman. An upstanding member of the Garnet Gateway community.
Garnet Gateway. She loved this small Montana town, nestled serenely in the Paradise Valley and guarded by the imposing Absaroka Mountains. She wasn't a native, hadn't been born in the town or even on one of the surrounding ranches, but Garnet Gateway was her home. Had been since she followed Jason here after her graduation from Montana State University in Bozeman. She'd been ready to follow him to Denver, where he'd worked his way up from patrol officer to homicide detective, but Jason had chosen to return home to Montana, to Garnet Gateway.
She'd married in Garnet Gateway. Established her first real home here, and had planned to grow old and die here. Still did, as a matter of fact. Only now she was alone.
Well, maybe not exactly alone.
As if summoned by her thought, Stitches and Between, her moggy cats, strolled into the kitchen and hopped lightly onto the window seat beside the table to join her. Stitches, the older of the pair, was a gray tabby female with four white paws. Between, named for the tiny, sharp needles used in hand quilting, was a little tuxedo male with the personality of a perennial kitten. Though Stitches was hardly a big cat, she outweighed Between by a good two pounds. The pair were best friends and excellent companions for Kristi.
"Well, good morning, you two," Kristi said, taking a moment to scratch behind first Stitches' ears and then Between's. "What have you been up to while I was eating?"
Stitches settled onto the cushioned window seat, front paws folded beneath her chest, purring contentedly, while Between nipped Kristi's finger gently… always ready to remind her that she was his human. He was happy to share her affection with Stitches, of course, but Between was a possessive little fellow.
Kristi nodded. "I love you too, Between." She understood possessive. And loyalty. And trust.
Jason, her ex-husband, had failed in all three areas. He'd had a brief affair during an out of town convention, and while he'd been honest enough to confess (when she confronted him with clear evidence), he'd failed to understand her possessiveness, or her expectation of loyalty, or that he'd forfeited her trust. He'd expected her to forgive and forget and for their lives to continue as if his indiscretion had never happened.
Unfortunately for him, Kristi wasn't built that way. She was too aware of her own worth to allow herself to be treated with such casual disrespect.
None of that changed the fact that she loved him.
But she'd divorced him anyway.
She refused to live with a man she couldn't trust, so despite a broken heart, she did what needed to be done and moved forward into a new, solitary life.
But when she closed her eyes…
…it was Jason's face that floated to the top of her consciousness.
He might not fit every woman's definition of handsome, but he had always been her gold standard. High forehead, strong jaw, steely gray eyes that could go all soft and almost blue when his emotions were high.
She tried to keep him out of her thoughts, and was mostly successful during the day… but nights were a different matter.
When she climbed into bed each night, usually with a cat curled on either side, she'd dream of Jason. Of running her fingers through his wavy chestnut hair, the thick mass of it like silk between her fingers. Or she'd giggle again as his unshaven chin scratched her cheek after a sensuous night of intimate pleasure.
And… Oh!… did she dream of the pleasures of making love to him!
Only to wake at dawn mourning the loss of the life they'd built together. The life she'd expected to continue until death parted them.
Busyness kept her going. She exorcised Jason from her days by constant activity. Meetings with the divorce attorney. Moving from the home they had shared into an apartment until their affairs (what an appropriate word!) were settled. Designing quilt patterns and then choosing fabrics and making sample blocks. Anything to keep herself from remembering that he had betrayed her. That he didn't love her… or at least didn't love her enough.
When the dust settled and the divorce was final, Kristi found that she had sufficient funds to buy a house in Garnet Gateway. She launched herself into the real estate market, determined to find the perfect home. She knew exactly what she wanted: a small house with enough space for a dedicated quilting studio; and when she found it, she didn't hesitate.
Not quite a year as a single woman and Kristi had taken back her maiden name, bought a home, and adopted Stitches and Between. She'd just begun to think about quitting her part-time secretarial job and establishing a career as a quilt artist when she'd learned that the local quilt shop was for sale.
Talk about perfect timing!
She'd made an appointment with her accountant, crunched some pretty amazing numbers, and determined that the inheritance her maternal grandmother had left her would be enough to not only make the down payment, but would allow for some remodeling if she planned carefully.
Nanna Van Oss would be proud to know she'd helped Kristi realize her dream of owning her own business, and a quilt shop was an apt use for the money. After all, Nanna was the one who had infected Kristi with the quilting bug.
Kristi had toured the quilt shop that very day, jotting down ideas for how she would use the space, as well as noting renovations that she'd want to see made. She'd made an offer that same afternoon, and then, praying for a quick acceptance, had begun to load her stitches, nice and even, so that when she pulled the needle through she wouldn't have to stop and pick any of them out.
She'd filled out the application for a small business loan, set up telephone interviews with several contractors, and used her notes to draw up plans for the renovations she hoped to make. With her plans in place, she'd settled back to wait for the current owner's response.
Mattie Stebbings, while not exactly a friend, was someone she knew on sight. Kristi often bought her quilting cottons from Mattie's shop and the women were both members of the statewide quilt guild. Kristi had hoped that Mattie would find her an acceptable beneficiary for the shop.
The wait hadn't been long. Less than twenty-four hours after the offer was made, Mattie accepted. Kristi's small business loan was also approved in short order, and the closing for the quilt shop was fast-tracked. In a mere thirty days, Kristi would own Delectable Mountain Quilting!
That was twenty-five days ago. Closing was now only five days away. Come Monday, the shop would be hers.
Time to meet with her chosen contractor and set the wheels in motion.
That was her agenda for today.
She'd arranged to meet Mark Robards, her contractor, at the shop this morning. Mattie, who seemed unusually anxious to consummate the sale, had closed the store as soon as she'd accepted Kristi's offer for the business, which included the building, land, and inventory, so the realtor, Stacy Akins, would also be present. Kristi intended to outline her desired changes and expected Mark to provide a detailed estimate of the cost.
Turning her gaze to the mountains once more, Kristi took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then released it slowly. Everything was going to work out. She just knew it. Mark would give her a reasonable bid; the remainder of Nanna Van Oss's gift would more than cover the work; and the closing papers would be signed on Monday.
Each stitch in the last twenty-five days had followed the last, neat as a pin. These final steps would as well.
Glancing at the cats, she grinned. "It's going to be an exciting day, kids. You two will soon be quilt store cats!"