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Authors: Mindy Starns Clark

The Trouble with Tulip

BOOK: The Trouble with Tulip
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HARVEST HOUSE PUBLISHERS

EUGENE, OREGON

Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
®
. NIV
®
. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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

Cover by Terry Dugan Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota

THE TROUBLE WITH TULIP

Copyright © 2005 by Mindy Starns Clark

Published by Harvest House Publishers

Eugene, Oregon 97402

www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Clark, Mindy Starns.

The trouble with Tulip / Mindy Starns Clark.

p. cm. — (A smart chick mystery ; bk. 1)

ISBN 10: 0-7369-1485-4 (pbk.)

ISBN 13: 978-0-7369-1485-7 (pbk.)

1. Advice columnists—Fiction. 2. Women detectives—Fiction. 3. Photographers—Fiction.

I. Title. II. Series.

PS3603.L366T76 2005

813'.54—dc22

2005001511

All rights reserved
. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, digital, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 / BP-CF / 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

Acknowledgments

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

About the Author

Other Books by Mindy Starns Clark

With tremendous gratitude and affection,
this book is dedicated to the Smart Chicks in my own life,
those women who have always known how to dish out
not just good food and good housekeeping, but also good sense:

Lucille Dickerson,
Mildred Taylor,
Fan Starns,
Alma Beard,
June Ann Murphy,
Alice Clark,
and
Joyce Hammel.

Ladies, your love and care has helped
to shape my world. Thank you!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many special thanks to…

John Clark, my husband and best friend. Thank you, honey, for working with me in so many ways to bring these books to life. You're amazing!

Debbie Clark, for sharing your heart in helping me to find the character of Jo.

Fran Severn, for giving me Chewie.

Robert Bruce Thompson, Mary C. Chervenak, and Paul B. Jones, for incredibly brilliant (and devious) minds.

David Starns, for giving me much-needed humor injections.

Robert M. Starns, M.D., for excellent medical advice.

Jackie Starns, for eagle-eyed proofreading.

Russ Bishop, for teaching me about the wide world of professional stock photography.

Steve Brewer, for an insider's look at being a newspaper columnist.

Shari Weber, for guiding and assisting in ways too numerous to count.

Emily and Lauren Clark, for story help, character names, and endless encouragement and love.

Kim Moore and all of the amazing folks at Harvest House Publishers.

Dave Sharpes and the ministerial staff of FVCN—especially Tracy Tucker and Doug Moister, for answering all of my crazy questions.

Ned and Marie Scannell, for incredible hospitality when I needed it most.

The members of Murder Must Advertise and DorothyL, especially those whose ideas and suggestions made it into this book, including Alison Moore, Sharon Wildwind, Maria Hudgins, Jayne Barnard, and Kate Bulman.

To ChiLibris, for unwavering support, ideas, suggestions, information, and brainstorming. You are such a blessing!

1

J
o Tulip was suffocating.

As the digital clock glowed 11:48
P.M.
from her bedside table—fully two hours after she had climbed in bed and turned out the lights—Jo finally threw off her covers and sat up. Her mind was so full of thoughts and her house so full of people that she felt as though she could hardly breathe.

Air. She needed to get some air.

Jo pulled some clothes on over her pajamas, slipped her feet into her sneakers, and grabbed the rechargeable flashlight from the plug across the room. She tiptoed through her small house, passing one snoozing body in the spare bedroom, another on the couch, and more in sleeping bags on the floor of the living room. Quietly, she continued to the back door, grabbed her key ring from the hook, and stepped into the cool September night, pulling the door shut behind her.

Already, just being outside, she felt better.

Inhaling deeply, Jo tucked the keys into her pocket, clicked on the flashlight, and made her way along the side of the house to the driveway. She followed it forward to the road, intending to take a short walk around the block. It was a cool night, very peaceful, and her hope was that the air would clear her head and help her relax.

It was no wonder she was feeling crowded. When her fiancé, Bradford, had asked if she would mind hosting a few of his relatives for the wedding weekend, she didn't know he would be sticking her with the intrusive branch of the family. They were friendly enough, she supposed, but they had scattered their belongings from one end of her home to the other, and their three boys were so wild that they had already broken the doorbell, a planter by the back door, and the towel rack in the bathroom. Those same boys had looked so innocent as they lay dreaming on the living room floor, but Jo knew looks were deceiving. Come morning they would no doubt be at it again, probably setting her house on fire as their beleaguered mother tried to make cheese omelettes.

Oddly, though Jo was barely tolerating them, the whole family had really taken to her, which made it even more difficult to deal with their chaos. The boys were constantly fighting for her attention, and their mom seemed eager to become friends and confidants. Already, the whole family was trying to make elaborate plans for Jo and Bradford to come up to Connecticut and visit with them. Jo was pleased that they saw her as a welcome addition to the family, but if she had her way, that visit wouldn't be happening any time soon.

Autumn leaves crunched under her feet as she walked down the sidewalk, her stride taking on a soothing rhythm. She practiced some deep breathing: in, out, in, out. Jo usually preferred in-line skating to walking, but if anyone were to glance out of their window at this hour and see her whizzing past on a pair of 'blades, they might think she was crazy! Better to be out for a simple stroll. And it was a lovely night. She reached the end of the street and turned right, careful not to trip where the sidewalk buckled near the big maple tree.

BOOK: The Trouble with Tulip
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