I stared up at the crooked, faded sign. “You sure this is the place?”
Trina shrugged. “Says Delacourt’s Pumpkin Patch. Gotta be it.”
I eyed the overgrown weeds and skinny-branched trees lining the neglected drive and considered leaving. Surely the farmer’s market pumpkins would make good pies, too?
But I didn’t want to make a good pie. I wanted to make a spectacular pie.
An award winning pie. One that would bring home the blue ribbon in the Apple Creek Harvest Festival’s pie contest. At seventeen, I’d be the youngest winner in the event’s history. Something I wanted so badly I could taste it. No pun intended.
“Why are we taking advice from your biggest competitor again?” Trina asked.
I gave her a look. “Norma is my grandma’s best friend. I trust her.”
Was my grandma’s best friend. I swallowed the lump in my throat. Norma was the reigning champion ten years running, but she’d known me since I was a baby, and she’d been there for me after my grandma’s death. She was rooting for me. And I had a good chance, too. I had my grandma’s secret heirloom pumpkin pie recipe and a burning desire to win the two-thousand-dollar grand prize.
Trina looked unconvinced. “You could always try getting a loan for the bakery. Maybe if your mom and dad co-signed.”
I pulled down the driveway. “I want to do it on my own.”
My grandma had built her seamstress business by working hard and saving. I’d do the same. The prize money combined with what she’d left me in her will would buy the bakery of my dreams. I smiled as I pictured the quaint, brick building with its glass front and blue awning. My smile dissipated as I also pictured the “For Sale” sign in the window. Eventually someone would buy it. I just hoped it was me.
The estate came into view as we approached. It was a great, sprawling thing that’d seen better years. The once-grand porch roof sagged. The many windows were dark and ominous. Ivy crept up the sides like a spiky, green plague. I shivered as I turned the car off. “Doubt the grass has been mowed in this century,” I murmured.
Trina nodded. “Straight out of a scary movie.”
As we got out, I squinted in the late afternoon sun. “Where do we go?”
“There.” Trina pointed to what looked like a greenhouse off to the right.
As we neared it, we discovered it was in equally poor repair. Sections of the bluish glass panels were cracked and missing altogether in some places. Vines grew rampant up the sides, obscuring the already dirty windows. I stared up at the soaring, arched double doors with their rusted iron filigree work, reminding myself that it was for the pie.
“Let’s do this,” I said and pushed open the doors with an incredibly loud creak.
And nearly collided with the man waiting on the other side.
Trina and I froze, startled. He looked like a dusty relic. Wispy white hair. Frayed and tattered butler’s suit. Scuffed shoes. Sunken, pale face. Yet his posture was ramrod straight and the set of his nose imperious. He bent slightly at the waist. “Welcome to Delacourt’s.”
We both took an involuntary step back. “We’re . . . here to buy some pumpkins,” I managed.
“Of course you are.” His smile was yellow and gappy. He gestured with a flourish of his arm. “Do come in.”
I exchanged a tense look with Trina as we stepped past him. When the heavy doors closed behind us with a jarring clank, we both jumped.
And then I saw the pumpkins.
Neat rows of them lined the weedy floor of the arboretum, their skins shiny and orange in the muted light. They were the most beautiful pumpkins I’d ever seen. No blemishes. Uniform roundness. Magazine quality.
If it wasn’t for the plastic tubes, much like a hospital patient’s IV line, connected to each one. Like some kind of . . . feeding system. Only it wasn’t liquid fertilizer being pumped into them.
It was blood.
Trina squeaked and grabbed my hand as we stumbled backwards—right into the chest of the creepy old man.
We froze in unison. He leaned in and spoke in our ears, his voice skittering across my skin like cockroaches. “You wouldn’t believe how thirsty they are.”
As his iron fingers clamped down on our shoulders, our screams echoed off the grimy glass walls of the greenhouse.
Amanda Carney grew up barefoot and freckle-faced in the beautiful hills and valleys of rural Ohio. She resides there still with her husband, loyal old dog, and menagerie of beloved cats. When she’s not writing, you can find her with a book in one hand and a crochet hook in the other. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for updates on new releases, appearances, contests, and more.
You can connect with Amanda here:
Amanda, congratulations on the release of your new book, First Fruits! Awesome cover :-) Here's the pitch for this new adult paranormal romance:
She ran from her past--now she's running from her future.