Secret of the Hall (The Eden Hall Series, Book 3)

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9780310265610: Secret of the Hall (The Eden Hall Series, Book 3)

Grieving after a miscarriage, Araminta 'Minty' Sands has set aside the demands of running Eden Hall for a season of healing. But her convalescence in Europe is cut short when a crisis back home requires her husband Patrick's immediate attention. Minty returns to Eden Hall early, unexpected . . . and utterly unprepared for what awaits her. In Minty's absence, plans for an enormous concert on the estate grounds have got underway with neither her knowledge nor approval. Minty first learns of it when she is refused admittance at the gates by security guards. It is the first of many outrages in a battle of wits and will between the interlopers and the Lady of the Hall. At stake is the future of Eden Hall, and more is afoot than greed, corruption, and the struggle for control. A deeper, hidden evil has gained root. Beautiful, seductive, and deadly, it threatens to tear apart everything Minty holds dear. Defeating it will require courage and intelligence and the help of friends . . . and something more: the power of prayer, and the weapons only God provides.

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About the Author:

Veronica Heley (www.veronicaheley.com) has published more than fifty books, including crime fiction, historical, and children's titles. She is currently involved in the Ellie Quicke series of crime stories and a variety of other projects. A full-time writer, she has been married to a London probation officer since 1964, and has one musician daughter.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Secret of the Hall Copyright 2006 by Veronica Heley Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Heley, Veronica. Secret of the hall / by Veronica Heley. p. cm. --- (The Eden Hall series; bk.3) ISBN-13: 978-0-310-26561-0 (pbk.) ISBN-10: 0-310-26561-4 (pbk.) 1. Young women---Fiction. 2. Inheritance and succession---Fiction. 3. Administration of estates---Fiction. 4. Home ownership---Fiction. 5. Villages--- Fiction. 6. England---Fiction. I. Title. PR6070.H6915S43 2005 823' .92 --- dc22 2005013744 Veronica Heley asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. 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, photocopy, recording, or any other --- except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Interior design by Michelle Espinoza Printed in the United States of America Chapter One Patrick didn't panic, though Minty could see he wanted to. He wouldn't have got the call at all if he hadn't left his mobile switched on by mistake. That was strange in itself, because he usually switched it off after work every morning. The call had come through as they sat in a cafe in St Mark's Square in Venice. The bronze giants on the Clock Tower had just struck the hour of three and they were discussing, lazily, where they should eat that night. Minty turned her head away as her husband answered the call. She resented the intrusion on their holiday. The agreement was that Patrick would work for one hour every morning, but from the moment he shut off his phone and closed his laptop, they were to devote themselves to pleasure. Or rather, to getting through the day while avoiding the topic of her miscarriage. May in Venice. Beautiful. Warm enough to sit outside. Wonderful coffee. Pigeons to feed if you were so inclined. Gondola rides if you wished to be romantic. Art galleries . . . restaurants . . . the theatre . . . so much to distract her. Patrick being amusing, kind and tender. Perhaps they'd move on to another city next week. They'd been comparing the merits of Pompeii or Rome, Minty hiding the fact that she didn't care much where they went or what they did. Amid the sumptuousness of Venice, Minty had a sudden flashback to her beloved Eden Hall, the beautiful stately home she'd unexpectedly inherited in England. There it would be much cooler. The trees in the Park would be green and shady. She knew in her head that coming away with Patrick was the sensible thing to do, given her inability to do anything but sit and stare at the wall after her fall down the stairs. Had it been a boy or a girl? Don't think about it. So now she smiled, dressed herself in pretty clothes and faked enthusiasm for all Patrick's suggestions for passing the time. But that's all they were really doing. Just passing the time. He wasn't fooled, of course. They'd been childhood sweethearts and knew one another's strengths and weaknesses. He watched her all the time, the outer corners of his eyes wincing when she went through a bad patch. But she was gradually recovering. Wasn't she? As her strength returned she'd begun to realise that Patrick was worried about what was happening back in England. His best friend and partner was carrying their busy solicitor's practise by himself, and though Patrick tried to hide it, she gathered that all was not going well. The upright line between Patrick's brows became more pronounced day by day, while Minty buried the knowledge that he was needed back home, telling herself that she needed more time away, that she wasn't strong enough yet to cope. Until the phone call came. He turned slightly away from her as he took the call. His longfingered hand, playing with his coffee spoon, grew still. Minty averted her eyes. Whatever the phone call was about, it was nothing to do with her. The agreement was that he should take her away until she was better, and she was only half-way back to normal. She was coping on the surface, yes. But not underneath, where it counted. The call went on and on. Patrick turned his dark head even farther away from her, concentrating. He didn't speak. Minty's hearing was good. She could tell it wasn't his partner on the phone but a woman, probably his office manager. The woman was speaking without urgency. Matter of fact. Minty had met her. She was a charming, competent woman. She would deal with --- whatever it was. Patrick took a deep breath. 'I'll get the first plane back.' He shut up his phone and turned back to Minty, frowning, knowing he was about to give news she wouldn't want to hear. 'Jim's in trouble. You don't need to come back with me. I could fly out again at the weekend.' Jim was his partner. Minty liked him but hardly knew him or his wife, Anthea. They had a frail little daughter who caused them a lot of anxiety. Minty lifted her empty coffee cup to her lips. Her hand was trembling. 'Is their baby back in hospital? I thought she was doing quite well at the moment.' There; she'd actually said the word 'baby' without bursting into tears. 'It's his wife. She had a minor op, nothing much, but she's got a raging infection and they say . . . Jim's been called to the hospital. There's a nasty court case brewing at work and a backlog they're not coping with. If you can manage for a few days, I'll go back, see what I can do.' Once she'd have urged him to go, quickly. Once she'd have been really distressed by the news. But now? No, she couldn't yet cope with anyone else's problems. She put her cup down, slowly, very carefully. She wanted to scream and shout that she still wasn't well, that he mustn't leave her, that he'd promised to look after her always. She clutched at common sense. Patrick would never willingly let her down. If she cried and made a scene, if she asked him to do so, he'd stay . . . and let his career and his partner take their chances. But would that be the right thing to do? She'd chosen to follow Christ when she was a small child, and it was not difficult for her to work out what Jesus would do in the circumstances . . . which was . . . ouch! No, she really did not want to follow Him in this matter. She prayed, Lord, help me to be unselfish! She could feel panic rising in her throat and pushed it down again. Could she manage to stand on her own two feet again? With God's help, perhaps she could. But stay on here without him? No. 'I'll come back with you.' Patrick had light grey eyes which saw farther than most. 'Are you sure?' She shook back her mop of fair hair and forced herself to sound positive. 'Yes. It's time I went back, anyway. I haven't a clue what's been going on at the Hall without me. The place might have burned down for all I know.' Patrick summoned the waiter, laying money on the table. His mind was obviously racing ahead, but he knew how to reassure her. 'Nothing will have gone wrong with the efficient Annie Phillips in charge. Didn't she run your father's financial empire for years? Running a stately home for a few months will have been a doddle for her. Now if it had been left to your beautiful but daft half-sister . . . !' Minty smiled, as he intended her to do. 'Of course Annie will have managed perfectly. Shall I pack while you get the plane tickets organised?' That was when their luck ran out. The flights to London were all fully booked.

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