Beyond a Doubt (Rock Harbor Series #2)by Colleen Coble
Nothing seems beyond a doubt when Bree opens a cold-case file with clues too close for comfort.
Arson. Theft. Murder. When Bree Nicholls discovers a corpse in her own basement, a whirlwind investigation ushers an unbidden danger to all she holds dear. Without safe haven in her lighthouse home--or in the arms of a new love--the young widow struggles to free/p>
Nothing seems beyond a doubt when Bree opens a cold-case file with clues too close for comfort.
Arson. Theft. Murder. When Bree Nicholls discovers a corpse in her own basement, a whirlwind investigation ushers an unbidden danger to all she holds dear. Without safe haven in her lighthouse home--or in the arms of a new love--the young widow struggles to free her family from the tentacles of an age-old crime that strikes at the heart of Rock Harbor.
Beyond a Doubt is second in the acclaimed romantic suspense series from best-selling author Colleen Coble. Set in the untamed beauty of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Rock Harbor novels deftly draw readers into the life and operation of a canine search-and-rescue team as they help unravel the secrets of an enchanting wilderness.
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BEYOND A DOUBT
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2004 Colleen Coble
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe North Woods crowded in around her, cutting off all possibility of escape. The brambles tore at her skin and left trickles of blood where they touched. Davy was calling for her, crying out for her to find him. Perspiration matted her hair to her forehead, and she pressed on through the thorns. She had to find him. He was depending on her.
They said he was dead, but she knew it wasn't so. He was out here somewhere. Samson barked, an urgent sound that propelled her past the thicket. A cabin lay in the valley before her. He was down there. Her son was waiting for her. Samson barked again and rushed forward.
Bree Nicholls awoke with a start. She forced herself to take deep breaths. In and out, in and out. She and Samson had found Davy in a cabin very much like the one in her dream. He was just fine. But the terror of the nightmare didn't leave her. Had Samson really barked? Maybe something was wrong.
She slipped out of bed and tiptoed down the hallway to her son's bedroom. Moonlight filtered through the Superman curtains at his window. Her bare feet whispered across the smooth oak floor until she reached the bed. She touched a small hump in the covers, and her hand sank to the mattress. She gasped, and her hands roamed the tousled blankets and sheets.
She stepped to the wall and flicked on the light. "Davy?"
The doctor had said to make sure she didn't startle him when he was having one of his night terrors. She went to the closet and looked on the floor. Only a jumble of baseballs, his father's mitt, and some Playmobil pirates lay on the floor. She looked under the bed. Not there. Panic rose in her chest in a rush of cold dread.
She ran to the door and called for her dog as she rushed down the hallway. "Samson!" The dog could lead her to her boy. At the top of the stairs, she touched the light switch and a welcome brightness lit the way.
She reached the bottom of the steps. "Samson, come!"
She heard the click of his nails on the hardwood floor of the entry. He came through the door into the living room, his tail down, a sure sign of distress. He pressed his cold nose against her leg, bare below her knee-length nightgown.
Bree rubbed his ears. "Where's Davy, boy? Find Davy."
The dog whined and padded down the entry hall toward the back of the house. Four years old now, he had the stamina of a German shepherd mixed with the heart of the true mutt he was. She followed him. He pushed through the swinging door to the kitchen. A musty scent wafted up from the open basement door. Surely Davy wasn't down there. What if he'd fallen? Frantic now, Bree flipped on the basement light, grabbed the flashlight on a shelf at the top of the landing, and rushed past Samson down the stairs.
There was no sign of Davy at the foot of the stairs, and she felt the tension in her shoulders ease a bit. At least he hadn't fallen. "Davy?" she called, still careful to keep her voice soft and as unconcerned as she was able.
A whimper answered her, but in the cavernous shadows of the basement, she couldn't tell where it came from. Samson pushed past her and padded toward a shadowy recess. The dog lay on his paws and stared under a bulky table laden with Rob's tools. He looked back toward Bree as if to ask what was taking her so long.
She went to the table and dropped to her knees. "Davy, I'm here. It's okay. You're safe."
The flashlight's beam revealed her son's small form. Wedged under the table in a small hole where the concrete had broken away from the wall, Davy lay curled in a fetal position, his thumb in his mouth. His favorite book, The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt, was clutched against his chest. Right now he looked even younger than his four years. Bree reached out and touched his face. "Hey, pumpkin, found you. You ready to quit playing hide-and-seek and get back to bed?" It was all she could do to keep her voice light.
Davy blinked slowly and pulled his hand away from his mouth. "Mommy," he said. "I'm thirsty."
"Well, come on out from there and I'll get you a drink of juice." She shoved the table out of the way then scooped him into her arms and held him tightly. She could feel his heart beating as rapidly as hers.
He buried his face against her neck. "I was trying to find you, Mommy. But she wouldn't let me go."
Davy never called the woman who found him after the plane crash by her real name, Rachel. It was always "her" or "she." Bree stroked his damp hair. "You're safe now, pumpkin."
The doctor said it was very important not to let him know how his night wanderings upset her. They more than upset her. They took her back to the terrible year she and Samson had spent searching for the plane wreckage and his body.
Instead, a wonderful miracle had awaited her, but the trauma of separation had scarred them both. She clutched her son more tightly until he stirred restlessly. "Let's get you upstairs," she said with a cheeriness she didn't feel.
She snapped her fingers at Samson, but the dog was busy scratching at the hole Davy had burrowed into. "Come on, Samson. It's late."
She started toward the steps, but still the dog didn't follow. Frowning, she watched Samson. As one of the best search-and-rescue dogs in the country, he could find a flea in a haystack. Right now he was acting as if he was on a mission. He whined and scratched at the wall again.
Bree flicked on the flashlight and shone it on the open hole. The beam revealed a bigger space than she had originally perceived. What was back there that had Samson so upset? He growled and dug tenaciously.
The flashlight's beam flickered, and she turned it off. "Come on, Samson. We'll see what's back there tomorrow." Still holding Davy in one arm, she reached down and tugged at the dog's collar. He ceased digging reluctantly, then followed her up the stairs. She made a mental note to call Kade tomorrow and have him help her take a look.
Julia Child's gravelly voice was enough to compete with fingernails on a chalkboard, but Bree didn't notice, so intent was she on the woman's instructions. His night terror of just hours before forgotten, Davy sat on the bar stool, his thin legs swinging and his gaze on his mother as she watched Julia on a small kitchen television mounted under the cabinets. Floury hand prints marked Bree's jeans, but she would change into a clean pair of slacks before dinner.
Samson lay on the floor in a patch of sunshine streaming through the kitchen window. The Snow King had tightened his grip on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Outside the Nichollses' lighthouse home, thick floes of ice floated in Lake Superior like great white whales stretching in the morning sun. Spring's gentle touch would wrest the U.P. from winter's clutches in a few more weeks.
Bree kept stealing glances outside as she worked. She loved Rock Harbor, Michigan. Small but quaint, it perched along Lake Superior with the water to its west and massive stretches of North Woods surrounding the rest of the small town. Good people lived here, many from Finnish stock, hardy and sometimes painfully honest. She couldn't imagine living anywhere else now.
Her tongue poking the side of her mouth, Bree measured the cinnamon and dumped it in the bowl with the apples. She would turn out a great pie if it killed her. Her mother-in-law, Anu, had told her not to bother, that she could make the pies for Easter. But with the store's twentieth anniversary bash going on, Bree didn't want Anu to have to do it all. Besides, now that Davy was home, Bree needed to learn to cook better. It was fine for her to live on peanut-butter sandwiches and canned soup, but it wasn't good enough for her son. She'd been working on her culinary skills for several months now, but cooking wasn't something that came naturally.
She took a moment to glance at her son. He'd only been home a little over three months, and she still didn't get enough of looking at him. His heart-shaped face was a miniature version of Bree's own, though his nose was his father's, as were his ears. The best of them both, Rob had always said. The thought of her late husband was both a pain and a pleasure. But slowly she was getting on with her life. At least that's what she told herself.
"Can I have some 'stachios?" Davy asked.
He coughed, a hacking sound that brought a frown to her face. "You doing okay?" she asked, wiping her hands on her jeans again.
He sneezed. "My tummy feels funny."
Was he getting sick? Last night's excursion to the basement might have given him more than bleary morning eyes. She put down the wooden spoon and went to him, putting her hand on his forehead. It was cool and dry. He sneezed again. "Are you getting a cold?" she asked anxiously.
"I want to eat."
Surely that meant he was fine. But she wouldn't take any chances. She reached for the phone and dialed Dr. Parker. He promised to come by, and she hung up feeling guilty. She hated to take advantage of an old family friend, but Davy was still weak from his ordeal, and she wanted to make sure he got well as quickly as possible.
She pulled the bag of pistachios to her and dug out a handful for him. "You want me to help you open them?"
"I can do it." He worked his mouth as he struggled with the nut then smiled in triumph as he succeeded in cracking it.
She turned back to her pie. Maybe she could get it in the oven before the doctor got here. Julia was droning on about aluminum foil on the edges of the crust, but Bree didn't have any foil. She listened with half an ear and finished the pie, then flipped the channel to the Cartoon Network for Davy.
The doorbell rang just as she slid the pie into the oven. She wiped her hands on her abused jeans and went to the door. Dr. Max Parker stood smiling benignly on her front porch. Tall with regal bearing, he'd always reminded her of an aging lion with his head of white hair and eyes that seemed to see right through her.
"I'm being silly, aren't I?" she laughed, stepping aside for him to enter. Her spirits always perked up when he was around.
"We can't be too careful with our star boy." His deep voice was as calming as rhythmic waves along the lakeshore.
"You are always so gracious, even when I call at inconvenient times."
"You know I never mind checking in on this little guy. I brought him into the world, but he'd be special even if I didn't."
Her anxiety decreased a notch just looking into his imperturbable face. "He's coughing and says his tummy feels funny." She led the way to the kitchen where Davy was still watching television and eating pistachios.
Bree watched as Dr. Parker listened to her son's chest. His "uhhuhs" and "hmms" took her anxiety back up again. Surely it was just a cold.
Dr. Parker straightened. "I think you'll live, young man," he said.
Davy was paying no attention to the doctor. His focus was on Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Bree, however, felt almost giddy at the prognosis.
Dr. Parker put a hand on her shoulder. "You worry too much. He's fine—maybe just a slight cold or allergy from the furnace heat. It looks like he's even gained some weight. My colleague says his counseling sessions are going well."
"I guess." Bree moved restlessly. The topic was not one she enjoyed.
"You don't sound too sure." The doctor put his stethoscope in his bag and closed the clasp. "What's wrong?"
She glanced at Davy, then led the doctor out of the kitchen into the entry. "I almost think the counseling is making things worse. Davy goes wandering several times a week."
"Give him time. He's been through a lot. You both have. I'll talk to Dr. Walton about it next week." He turned toward the door, but his attention was caught by the newspaper on the table. "Good picture of Anu." He picked it up. "She's quite a lady."
The admiration in his voice made Bree hide a smile. "I don't know what Davy and I would do without her. She's really excited about the store's twentieth anniversary. Big sale. She's in Helsinki buying for spring. You'll have to stop over when she gets back."
"I will," he agreed, heading toward the door.
Bree followed him. "Thanks for coming over like this. I really appreciate it."
"It's what friends do," he said, smiling. He squeezed her shoulder as he exited. "Davy is recovering nicely. Spend plenty of time with him, and he'll soon be himself again."
As he went down the walk, Kade Matthews's pickup pulled into the drive. She waited with the door open, flinching at the cold wind that blew down her back. Across the road, puffs of snow nestled in the nooks of tree branches as if they'd been left behind in a snowball fight.
Kade came toward her, and just looking at him gave her pleasure. He was all male, from his wide shoulders to his strong, capable hands; Bree felt safe in his presence. That was something she'd never felt with another man, not even Rob.
He kissed her, a lingering touch that left her breathless. He brought feelings to the surface she'd thought were dead and buried. She broke off the kiss with a smile of apology and stepped back.
He grinned then flexed the muscles in his arm. "Me Tarzan. I bring big sledgehammer. Lead me to concrete wall." Bree grinned and poked him in the solar plexus. He grunted and acted as though he was hurt. She laughed. "We might not have to take it down, you know."
He flashed her a cocky grin. "Maybe we could just take it down for fun," he said. "I was ready to get out of the house, and I can use the workout. Besides, exercise is good for what ails you."
Kade shrugged and rolled his eyes then strode toward the kitchen. "Hey, Davy," he said.
Davy looked up from watching his cartoon. "Hi, Kade," he said, his attention quickly shifting back to the cartoon.
Kade turned back toward Bree. "Spurned for a cartoon," he said. "I'm crushed. But I should be used to getting the cold shoulder." His tone was wry but held affection.
"He's still missing his daddy." Bree patted Kade's arm.
"Is he still wandering around in the night?" Kade asked, staring into her face.
Bree nodded. "Several times a week. I'm taking him to see Dr. Walton again on Monday."
"It will just take time. He was cooped up in that cabin with Rachel for nearly a year. Who knows what makes someone like her tick, or how long what she did will affect him? A normal person would have notified his family right away. Have you heard anything from her?"
"No. Davy mentioned her last night though, when I found him in the basement. And the other day he asked where she was. I just told him she'd gone to start her new job. He asked if she was living where she didn't have to carry wood for the fire." Suddenly cold, Bree clasped her arms around her. She didn't like to think of those dark days. At least Rachel had taken care of her son, even if she'd tried to steal him.
Kade slipped his arm around her. "He's safe now," he whispered.
Tears pooling, she nodded against his chest. "Yes, and I thank God for that every day." The strength of his warm arms was a haven she didn't want to leave. She stepped away reluctantly. "You ready to get to work?"
"Lead me to it."
She grabbed a flashlight and went to the basement door, pausing to flip on the light.
"Davy," she called, "we'll be downstairs." Stepping carefully, she led the way down the narrow steps to the basement and across the damp concrete floor. The back corner was lit with a bare bulb attached to a joist.
"Right here." She shoved the table. "Let's move this out of the way."
Once the table was out of the way, Kade inspected the concrete wall, running his hands over the smooth surface. Bree loved his hands. They reminded her of bear paws. He was a good man. She picked at the loose concrete around the hole. "Samson seemed almost driven to get back here." She aimed her flashlight beam inside but couldn't see anything.
Kade squatted beside the wall. "Wonder why they even put it up? It's newer than the other walls. Look at the concrete—it's a different color." He flashed a slanted grin at her. "Maybe someone buried a treasure here."
The wall was about six feet wide and went from the concrete floor to the floor joists of the first floor above them. The other walls were stained and dark, and this concrete was much lighter in color. Bree had never noticed the discrepancy before. Some investigator she was.
She grinned. "I'm never that lucky."
"It shouldn't take much to knock it down and find out."
"You promise my home's not going to cave in when you do?"
"Nah," Kade said. "This is no support wall."
"Let's get it down then."
"You got it." Kade hefted the sledgehammer to his broad shoulder and took a wide-legged stance. "Stand back. I don't want you to get hit by flying concrete."
Bree stepped back, stifling a giggle. Was there anything a man enjoyed more than power tools and demolition? Kade brought the heavy tool down in a wide arc. It struck the concrete with a sound that made her wince. The sledgehammer barely chipped the surface of the wall. Kade cleared his throat and stood a bit taller and uttered a hoarse cry, the equivalent of his Tarzan yell. Gripping the sledgehammer more tightly, he swung at the wall again and then continued to pound at it. The ringing in her ears increased, and she clapped her hands over them.
Excerpted from BEYOND A DOUBT by Colleen Coble Copyright © 2004 by Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written several romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com Twitter: @colleencoble Facebook: colleencoblebooks
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Another great read. I love the characters suspence action and the christian message
loved this series of books! Well written, page turner, Christian author, love story, mystery novel!!! It was a love series for me!!
I enjoyed this book and plan on continuing with the series as soon as I'm done writing this review :)
It was a good book for summer reading and interesting enough that I will buy the next book in the series.