Overview


Welcome to Twin Oaks—the new B and B in Cooper's Corner. Some come for pleasure, others for passion—and one to set things straight…

Check-in: TV news reporter Laurel London has booked a room at the new Twin Oaks B and B, and so has noted travel writer William Byrd. Owners Clint and Maureen Cooper are hoping for a great review!

Checkout: Then suddenly, William Byrd vanishes. Policeman Scott Hunter is on the case—and Laurel is determined to be ...

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His Brother's Bride

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Overview


Welcome to Twin Oaks—the new B and B in Cooper's Corner. Some come for pleasure, others for passion—and one to set things straight…

Check-in: TV news reporter Laurel London has booked a room at the new Twin Oaks B and B, and so has noted travel writer William Byrd. Owners Clint and Maureen Cooper are hoping for a great review!

Checkout: Then suddenly, William Byrd vanishes. Policeman Scott Hunter is on the case—and Laurel is determined to be in on the action. But Scott and Laurel share a painful history. His brother—her fiancé—died tragically. Can cop and reporter mend their heartbreak, join their hearts…and get to the bottom of Byrd's disappearance?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459250017
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 3/1/2013
  • Series: Cooper's Corner
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 357,524
  • File size: 374 KB

Read an Excerpt

She shouldn't have come. The determination that had driven her to return to Cooper's Corner that Founders Day weekend seemed to have deserted her. Or perhaps it had been overshadowed by emotions much more powerful than determination.

Three hours on the road up from manhattan, highway 8 had merged into Highway 7, and the lush beauty of the Berkshires surrounded her. Rolling green hills and towering trees—it was a beauty she'd almost forgotten. Or perhaps she had buried it deep inside of her with other things she'd been unable to bear losing. Yet, it would always be a part of her.

Elation at coming home was mixed with a devastation she couldn't endure. Everything was rushing at her too quickly, overpowering her until she could hardly breathe.

Oh, Paul. It hurts so badly.

Cooper's Corner was just ahead.

It had been three and a half years.

She was healing.

Glancing at herself in her rearview mirror, forcing herself to face the gray eyes staring back at her, laurel london couldn't run from the truth.

Coming home had been a bad idea.

Three of the four guests had checked in. Maureen Cooper wasn t so much worried about the late arrival of the fourth as she was antsy to know that the woman would show up—that opening day was indeed going to be the success she and her brother, Clint, had envisioned in all of their best dreams.

Careful not to drip water on the off-white slacks and light green blouse she d changed into to welcome her guests, Maureen finished arranging the flowers she'd brought in from the greenhouse, her long chestnut hair uncommonly free and falling around her shoulders as she worked. All of the vases in the guest rooms were full. This one in the gathering room was the last.

It was late August, less than a year since she and Clint had made the final move from their former lives to become proprietors of Twin Oaks Bed and Breakfast. The decision to open during Cooper s Corner Founders Day celebration was a good one. Ready-made festivities awaited their guests in town the next day. A barbecue. Fireworks.

Small-town revelry.

That revelry was what Twin Oaks boasted about most. She and Clint were hoping to cater to New Yorkers and Bostonites: big-city families with children longing for fresh air and wide-open spaces; parents visiting their sons and daughters at Williams College or the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, both just a few miles away; hon-eymooners seeking a romantic hideaway. Twin Oaks would give them a taste of small-town pleasures. There were no fax lines, no Jacuzzi tubs—what Twin Oaks offered was a peaceful respite in the lovely Berkshires.

Tucking in a couple of daisies, Maureen stepped back to assess the results, still listening for the late arrival.

Admittedly, a bit of her nervousness had to do with the guest she'd just shown upstairs a short while before. William Byrd, author of New England's Best Bed and Break- fasts. His book was the bible for travelers looking for just the right place to stay. And he'd mentioned when he'd called to reserve their last remaining room for the grand opening that he was getting ready to put out his next edition.

Of course, the lock on their best guest room had to be the one that was still sticking. Not that he'd seemed to mind. Maureen had offered him another room, but he'd understood that there were always little glitches in any big renovation. He'd been quite effusive in his praise of the house.

And if he included Twin Oaks in his upcoming book, their new and somewhat risky venture would gain the exposure it needed to ensure success….

''Mommy, can we…"

''…have a cookie?"

Maureen turned as her three-year-old angels, dressed in identical denim overall shorts and high-top tennis shoes, came barreling into the gigantic gathering room—the heart of Twin Oaks with its great stone hearth and vintage piano.

Her daughters were this generation s contribution to the forest of trees lining the front drive. The Coopers were known for producing matching pairs, and each time a new set of twins was born, the family would plant a pair of oak trees on either side of the drive to commemorate the event.

Randi and Robin raced toward her, tripping over their feet, their blue-green eyes alight with anticipation. ''Uncle Clint's…" ''…baking cookies."

Light chestnut wisps curling around cherubic faces, the twins skidded to a stop in front of Maureen. Robin grabbed her mother's little finger, Randi her thumb on the opposite hand.

"Please?" they asked together.

Maureen hid a smile. ''If Uncle Clint is baking, then you can each have one cookie, she said, stressing the one. The girls both had a sweet tooth, and she knew she had to set a limit or they would wangle the whole tray from their uncle.

"Yeah!" The little girls bounced up and down, still holding on to her fingers.

''Just one!" Maureen reminded. ''Show Mommy how many one is."

The little girls looked at each other, then held up their pudgy pointer fingers.

"Okay," Maureen said, taking hold of both fingers at once. ''You keep them just like this and tell Uncle Clint this is all you can have. Promise?"

The three-year-olds nodded as solemnly as if they held a life in the balance. Then, their fingers stretched out in front of them, they marched purposely from the room.

They were the reason Maureen anxiously awaited her fourth—and tardy—guest. A former detective with the New York City Police Department, Maureen could weather just about anything. But her babies' futures were at stake here. Twin Oaks was more than just an opportunity for her and her brother, Clint, to move their children home to Cooper's Corner. More than a means to support their kids. It was a way to hide Randi and Robin. And herself, too. It was a way to keep them safe. She didn't want anything to go wrong this opening weekend.

Maureen was so lost in thoughts of the past—the trial of New York mobster and murderer Carl Nevil; the threat against her life; the release of Carl s brother Owen from prison; the ensuing ''accidents that were certainly proof of Carl Nevil's threats being fulfilled—that she missed the Lexus pulling into the drive.

But she heard the car door shut and saw the slender woman climb out. Her lemon-blond hair was an unusual but beautiful shade, and she wore it shoulder length and pushed back behind one ear. She looked to be about the same height as Keegan, Clint's twelve-year-old son, who was still inches short of Maureen's own five-eleven frame. The woman was dressed casually, albeit elegantly, in designer jeans and a short-sleeved black sweater that fit her snugly and moved as sleekly as any fine silk should.

''Hi, you must be Laurel." Maureen greeted the woman at the door before her guest could even get up the front steps.

Cool it, Cooper, she admonished herself, no need to be overeager and make your guests uncomfortable—or worse, suspicious ofjust how much you have resting on this deal.

''Yes, I'm Laurel London," the other woman said. Her look was forthright, her handshake strong, yet Maureen sensed an odd kind of detachment in her. ''I'm sorry I'm late. I, uh, had to stop…on the way in."

''No problem," Maureen assured her. ''Afternoon tea has already been served, I m afraid, but if you re hungry I m sure I can get Clint to put something together for you."

''That's okay." Laurel shook her head and looked around. ''This place is great," she said softly.

And for a moment, as she was taking in the carefully arranged surroundings, Laurel London seemed to relax—to let down the guarded detachment she d shown since arriving.

Maureen was glad to see the effect the room was having on her reticent guest. Letting out a silent sigh of relief, she relaxed a bit, too. Twin Oaks was doing just what she and Clint had designed it to do.

She ran a mental check over the guest list. Joining them for the grand opening were a New York university professor and his wife, a single father with school-aged children, William Byrd, of course, and Laurel London. So far they seemed a great group. Easy to please.

Everything was going to be okay.

''What brings you to Twin Oaks? she asked with real interest as she walked Laurel over to the desk to sign in.

''Just wanted to visit."

''Have you ever been to Cooper s Corner? Named for Maureen s ancestor, Theodore Cooper, the town attracted many tourists every year.

''I used to live here when I was younger."

''So did I," Maureen said in surprise, looking up from the computer. Laurel appeared to be close to her own thirty-three years. ''I was born and lived here until I was seven, and then moved to New York when my father took a teaching job at New York University. My brother, Clint, and I just relocated here a little less than a year ago when our great-uncle left us this place after his death."

Laurel took another lingering—almost yearning?—glance around. ''You're lucky. I take it you're related to the Theodore Cooper we all learned about when we studied local history in school?

"Yeah."

''He was a farmer, right?

''Among other things." Maureen experienced a surge of a pride she'd forgotten during her years in the city. ''He first farmed the area in 1809, and generations of Coopers followed in his footsteps. We turned out to be good at raising cattle. And fruits and vegetables, too."

''And twins, if I m remembering correctly, Laurel added. ''The Coopers are pretty famous for the number of twins in the family—at least one set every generation, right?" she looked questioningly at Maureen. ''So are you a twin?

Maureen shook her head. ''No, but I'm the mother of twins."

The two women chatted for a moment about Randi and Robin, and Laurel s eyes softened as Maureen related a couple of the twins' most recent antics.

''So if your family was so good at farming, why aren't you still at it?" Laurel asked. She seemed in no hurry to get up to her room.

Resting her arms on top of the computer monitor, Maureen explained. ''My great-uncle Warren started out as a farmer, but he broke his leg. It was improperly set, which left him with a short leg and pronounced limp, and when he realized he couldn t do farm work any longer, he switched to newspaper writing."

''I remember he owned the local paper when I was in high school."

''He owned it until he retired just a few years ago." Maureen straightened. ''So, do you think maybe we knew each other as kids? There couldn t have been more than one first-grade class."

Laurel shook her head. ''I didn't move here until I was in high school."

''Your parents relocated?

''I was placed with a foster family here."

''Oh. I'm sorry." Maureen ripped a form out of the printer and slid it across the desk for Laurel to sign.

''Don't be," the other woman said, scrawling an almost illegible signature across the dotted line. ''Those were the happiest years of my life."

The expression on Laurel s face didn t support her words. Maureen, always the detective, suspected that the blank look was hiding a good amount of pain. Pain that had its roots in Cooper s Corner?

''How long has it been since you've been back?" Maureen asked, filling in the old-fashioned ledger next to the computer.

''Three and a half years." There was no doubting the bone-deep sadness emanating from the other woman at those words.

''So you must know everyone in town pretty well."

''Not really." Laurel shook her head, standing almost perfectly still in front of the desk. ''The family I lived with moved away years ago. I left for college right out of high school and haven t been back except for visits since then. A lot has changed."

Maureen supposed it had. And yet, in some ways, Cooper's Corner never seemed to change. It was what she loved most about the place.

''I noticed you're from New York," Maureen said now, giving Laurel her copy of the form she'd signed.

''Uh-huh. Manhattan."

''What do you do there?

''I'm a television news reporter."

"Really?" Maureen tensed.

A New York reporter? Was this more than just the nostalgic visit Laurel had claimed? What did Laurel London know? Had someone sent her?

If the media had figured out who Maureen was, where she was…

If they were planning to air that information…

Laurel was nodding, her face momentarily stress-free as she smiled and named the network for which she worked. A major network.

So why hadn't Maureen recognized her? She'd become intimately acquainted—at least by sight—with almost all of New York's television news personnel. While there'd been times the reporters and NYPD had been able to support each other on the job, there d seemed to be as many or more when they'd been at cross-purposes.

Damn. Was she not even going to be able to escape that old life long enough for their opening weekend? She'd had such hopes for this move.

''You obviously like your job, she said, keeping her tone as neutrally friendly as it had been. Keeping up a facade was something Maureen could do while unconscious.

''I do, Laurel slid her folded receipt into the straw purse on her shoulder. ''Though I've really only been on the air for the past six months. The last two and a half years I've been working my way up."

Which would explain why Maureen didn t recognize her.

It didn't, however, make the woman any less suspect.

''You re in room four, Maureen said, handing Laurel the big brass key that would unlock the door. ''I'll take you up now."

Declining help with her bag, Laurel hoisted the leather satchel over her shoulder and followed Maureen.

''You saw that the front porch looks down the hill over the village, Maureen recited as they climbed the stairs to the guest rooms. ''There's a large deck out back that overlooks the flower and vegetable gardens, and there's an open meadow behind if you care to do any reading or lazing in the sun. And if you're feeling more energetic than that, there are steeper hills farther back that have some great bicycle trails….''

By the time Maureen had told Laurel about the buffet breakfast served every morning in the dining room, including walnut griddle cakes that were Clint s specialty, and reminded her that afternoon tea was served in the gathering room she d just left, they d reached Laurel s door.

''This is lovely!" the reporter said. Maureen's gaze swept the room with a practiced eye, taking in the casual country decor and the queen-size four-poster pine bed covered with a colorful handmade quilt. A tin of Clint's freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were on the night-stand, alongside the fresh bouquet of flowers she'd left there. An antique bureau stood along one wall, and there was room in the corner alcove for a couple of roll-away beds. Laurel's room was also one of the two with a fireplace.

''You ve got a view of the meadow, Maureen said, loath to leave without more information, though the other woman was certainly not encouraging her to linger.

Dropping her satchel on the bed, Laurel moved over to the window. ''I'd forgotten how beautiful it all is," she said softly, almost as though speaking to herself.

''Don't see much of this in the city," Maureen agreed.

Why was the woman really here?

''No, you sure don't." Laurel turned, her expression distant. ''But there's the theater in the city."

''And a job you love."

''There is that."

''So—'' Maureen leaned against the doorjamb ''—you have someone in particular you re visiting here?

A woman alone at a B and B. It was hardly unheard-of, but it made Maureen uneasy. Especially when the woman was as beautiful as Laurel London.

So, was she there on a job? Was that why she'd come to Cooper s Corner by herself?

Maureen had to know.

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