Winter's Secret (Northern Intrigue Series #1)by Lyn Cote
Sheriff Rod Durand is desperate to solve the snowmobile burglaries. As the one link to the crimes against the elderly, Wendy Carey is determined to risk anything to protect those she loves. As they follow the thief's trail, Rod and Wendy discover much more than they bargained for.
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By Lyn Cote
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Lyn Cote
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFighting the November gloom, Wendy Carey winked at the gray-haired woman who sat beside her in the front seat of Wendy's station wagon. "I saw Bruno Havlecek flirting with you-with my own eyes."
"What would I want with that old fool?" Ma Ukkonen snapped.
"I think he's cute, Ma," Wendy teased. Everyone loved this woman and called her "Ma."
As Wendy turned off Highway 27, the wagon fishtailed. Oh, Lord, keep us safe, she silently prayed. Easing off the accelerator, she hugged the middle of the slick Wisconsin county road. The windshield wipers flicked away tiny snowflakes. She glanced at Ma. Ma's blood pressure had certainly worried her yesterday. Ma still looked worn down. Another dreary, gray morning offered no cheer. Wendy decided to go on teasing till Ma smiled. "And I love those little bow ties he wears."
With a humph, Ma folded her arms over her generous middle, padded by an outmoded wool coat. "If you keep talking like that, I'll paddle you like I did when you was little."
The older woman's blustery answer pleased Wendy. She'd get Ma to laugh before she had to leave her this morning. "You never paddled me. You fed me pancakes and maple syrup!"
Ma chuckled. "You sure could put away my pancakes. Now why are you asking about me and Bruno? I want toknow who you're sweet on."
Wendy shook her head, trying to ignore the flicker of irritation this question, a frequent one, always brought. She repeated her routine answer, "Nobody around here to date."
Ma wagged her finger. "If I was twenty-five and as good-looking as you, do you think I'd be wasting my days taking care of a bunch of sick people?"
Wendy picked up the new topic. "Nursing is all I've ever wanted to do."
"I know. When you was little, you read me that book-"
"Nurse Nancy." Wendy grinned with real pleasure at the memory.
"A million times. So now you're all grown up, Nurse Wendy. Time you find you a man."
Wendy shrugged. Back to that! I should be used to this by now, but can't everyone just let it go? But she kept her voice light. "I have plenty of time for that." She turned up Ma's rutted drive. "Now I want you to promise me you'll take your blood pressure medicine every day. High blood pressure is nothing to play around with."
Ahead was Ma's white farmhouse with its large bay window in the front. An image flashed in Wendy's memory-a little towheaded girl looking wistfully out the bay window, waiting for her tardy mother to come and pick her up-long after all the other children had been taken home. Remembering the loneliness jabbed Wendy like a dull needle.
Ma's voice interrupted Wendy's thoughts. "I hope Jiggs didn't miss me last night. He's getting too old to be left alone."
Wendy gave Ma a sly grin. "Jiggs is a sharp old dog. He probably entertained some old hounds he hadn't seen in a while."
Ma slapped Wendy's arm. "Hush."
Parking the car behind Ma's house, Wendy glanced at the back door and froze. The beaten-in door hung open on one hinge. Another burglary! Dear God!
"Oh no!" Ma gasped.
Protective fear rushed through Wendy. "Stay here. I'll-"
Heedless, Ma turned the handle and kicked open the car door. She lurched toward her house over the frozen ground.
"Ma! Wait!" Wendy raced after her. She caught up, took Ma's arm, trying to slow her.
Ma shook her off. "Jiggs! Jiggs!" She shoved against the splintered door.
Wendy crowded close behind her. Just inside on the scuffed linoleum, the black-and-white dog lay motionless, silent.
"Jiggs! No!" Ma staggered.
Wendy threw her arm around the older woman, who slumped weakly against Wendy. Supporting Ma, she guided her through the kitchen into the living room, where she eased her onto the sofa. Wendy didn't need her blood pressure cuff to see that Ma was in bad shape again. Her own heart quickened at the sight of the disarray around her. She took Ma's pulse-one hundred and fifty and threadlike. Worse than yesterday. Ma tried to speak, but her words came out garbled. Suddenly Wendy's fear became reality. Stroke!
Wendy pulled out her cell phone and ordered the ambulance. Then she quickly dialed the sheriff's number and tersely told dispatch about this third break-in. A sick feeling settled in her stomach. Finding Jiggs like that had been a shock. She knelt beside the sofa and chafed the old woman's icy hands. Poor Ma. Poor old Jiggs. Wendy blinked rapidly to ward off tears that wanted to fall. "Don't worry, Ma. We'll get you back to the clinic right away."
The mantel clock ticked loudly in the stillness. Ma moaned on and off. Praying for the ambulance to hurry, Wendy checked Ma's vitals and tested her limbs for weakness. All the while she tried to avoid looking at the mess that the thief had left behind. She would have gladly strangled the person responsible.
Finally she heard a siren coming up the lane. She rushed to the front door and peered out the frosted window. The sheriff's Jeep Cherokee swerved to a stop, scattering snow-crusted gravel against the steps. What? The sheriff? How did he beat the ambulance here?
As Sheriff Durand bounded up the steps, she threw wide the door. The cold made her gasp. He shouldered his way in, and she slammed the door behind him.
The sheriff's formidable presence drew her like shelter in a storm. She stepped near him-her cold hands clasped together. Where were the EMTs? "Did you pass the ambulance?"
He glanced around at the disarray, then laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "They radioed dispatch. They swerved to miss a buck." His deep voice wrapped itself around her raw nerves. "They slid off the road south of here, but no one was hurt. They're just waiting for the wrecker to pull them out." Nodding toward Ma, he murmured, "What's wrong with your patient?"
"I think she's having a stroke," Wendy whispered. "The shock ..." She collected herself and led him back to Ma. "I just brought her back from spending a night at the clinic."
From the sofa, Ma reared up, her jumbled words sounding her distress. Wendy put an arm around her. "We've got to get her to the clinic for medication-right away!"
"I'll drive you in." The sheriff bent to lift Ma into his arms. "Get the door, please."
Wendy scrambled ahead of him, opening the front door, then outside, the car door. "I'll get in first. You lift her in and I'll cradle her head in my lap."
"Fine. Fasten your seat belt first." He eased Ma into the backseat with Wendy, then hurried to the driver's seat.
Wendy's heart beat a rat-a-tat. The roads into town were slick. The snow-splattered roadside weeds spun by the car window. Clutching Ma to her, Wendy remembered all the times Ma had wrapped her soft plump arms around her.
The sheriff glanced back at her, asking her wordlessly how Ma was doing. Her heart in her throat, Wendy looked into his ice blue eyes. Their depths-so clear and calm-steadied her. She nodded, telling him just to get them to the clinic. Ma would get the medication she needed there.
She gave Ma a gentle squeeze and prayed to get to Steadfast safely-without running into a patch of glazed ice or another buck. It was hunting season and the deer were on the move. Lord, keep us safe.
The miles flew past. At the outskirts of town, he radioed ahead to the clinic. At its entrance, a nurse wearing a heavy white sweater burst through the emergency-room doors, pushing a gurney ahead of her. The sheriff gently lifted Ma onto it.
Wendy slid across the seat to him. He lifted her out, too, as though she didn't weigh anything at all. His touch-or her worry-made her breathless. "Thanks, Sheriff," she managed. Then, her feet on the ground, she hurried after Ma. She felt his gaze follow her inside.
* * *
Sheriff Rodd Durand watched the automatic doors close behind Wendy. The young nurse's angelic, anxious face lingered in his mind. Keyed up, he felt drawn to follow her to see the end of the drama they'd just shared. Instead, he climbed into his Jeep. He had another burglary investigation to conduct and sick cattle at home.
Four miles out of town back at the Ukkonen property again, he bumped along its rutted road and pulled in, parking next to the nurse's dark station wagon. He radioed his location to dispatch, then got out.
Dread clumped in his midsection. Examining a crime scene here hit him harder than it had in Milwaukee. Here, the people who depended on him were individuals, not just the law-abiding public. As Steadfast's new sheriff, he'd expected drunkenness and disorderly conduct, petty theft, minor drug offenses, and the occasional drunk-driving case-stuff like that. He'd never expected a string of burglaries aimed at the most defenseless-the infirm, the elderly, the poor. Pathetically easy targets.
The thief-whom he'd nicknamed "the Weasel"-had used the same simple MO again-hitting the isolated house of an older person away from home.
Shivering in the brisk wind, Rodd paused next to the back door and glanced down at the footprints. The pretty nurse and her patient had trampled over the same brand-new, generic men's boot prints he'd seen twice before. The thief must have bought them just to use in the burglaries. They showed no unique wear patterns.
With his toe, he nudged the remnants of the door open and walked into the shadowy kitchen. He stopped short, the body of an aged black-and-white mixed-breed dog blocking his way. Out of habit, Rodd knelt and felt for a pulse. But the old dog had been gone for hours.
A picture from the past flashed into his mind-Bucky, his father's hunting dog and his own first pet. How many times had he wakened and found that Bucky had become his pillow for the night?
He ruffled the shaggy fur at the dog's neck. "Poor old fella."
A sudden spurt of anger whipped through him like the icy wind outside. An old widow living all alone and now her dog killed. And all for a few lousy bucks! Rodd felt himself steaming with the callousness of it.
Then Uncle George's words came: "Ride your anger. Don't let it ride you." Rodd sucked in air and rose. You won't get away with this again, Weasel. I won't let you. This is your last job.
With that pledge pulsing inside him, even and true, he began the first methodical examination of the crime scene, routine to him after more than ten years in law enforcement. Room by room, section by section, he viewed the upheaval-furniture upended with the bottoms slit open, old books dashed helter-skelter on the floor. Alongside the worthless bric-a-brac, expensive antiques lay shattered and scarred-one, a smashed, green-glass hurricane lamp over a hundred years old. A perp with brains might have taken this and fenced it successfully, but not the Weasel-a thief in a hurry, who took only cash. Rodd let out a sound of disgust and quit the house.
Outside, he scanned the snow-covered ground around the house and behind the precariously leaning barn looking for-there! Snowmobile tracks under the new snow.
The Weasel always traveled on a snowmobile. At the first two burglary scenes, Rodd had followed the machine's tracks, but each time the tracks had led him to a popular snowmobile trail where many snowmobiles had already crisscrossed. He'd lost the trail then, in the morass of tracks.
And using the cover of trees, this thief worked after dark. That explained the lack of leads. At night, a snowmobile was only a headlight and a roar-impossible to identify.
Icy wind whistling around his ears, Rodd stared at the bleak horizon. He went over the first two crime scenes in his mind and compared this one to them. Wearing snowmobiler's gear, complete with face mask, helmet, and gloves, meant that the thief left nothing-not even a hair-behind at the crime scenes. Rodd would supervise a couple of his new deputies in examining this latest crime scene and lifting a few latent prints, even if they wouldn't be the thief's. The experience would be good for them. He tromped back into the house.
In a kitchen drawer, he unearthed a used blue-gingham vinyl tablecloth. Kneeling, he gently wrapped the old dog inside its flannel backing, then carried him out to the barn. There, he carefully secured the long bundle up high across the open crossbeams, where it would be untouched until someone could come out and dig a grave in the frozen ground. He rested his gloved hand on the bundle. "Good-bye, old fellow," he whispered.
Back at the house, while he reinforced the splintered kitchen door to keep wild animals out, he thought of one constant that hadn't seemed significant to him until now: Wendy Carey, Harlan Carey's granddaughter. In only that scant time together, she'd caught his attention-as though he read her heart through her clear, honest eyes. He usually wasn't very attracted to women with such short hair, but her appealing face held a rare sweetness.
Suddenly his thinking cleared. He needed to talk to her, and she'd need a ride back to her car. As he headed back to town, he radioed the clinic and told them he was on his way to pick her up. He hoped she'd be able to tell him what he needed to know. But questioning a woman always put him on his guard. Raised by a father and a great-uncle, he considered women a mystery. He'd need Miss Carey's cooperation. Would he know how to get it?
* * *
Wendy waved good-bye to the clinic receptionist and stepped outside into subzero chill. She scurried down the snow-packed path to the waiting sheriff's car. Her head bent against the wind, she couldn't see him until after she opened the passenger door and jumped in.
Her breathing came quickly-not merely from running in the scold. Hearing that Sheriff Durand was coming back for her had set her all on edge. She avoided looking at him directly, afraid making eye contact would rattle her even more. "Thanks for coming to take me back to my car."
"No trouble. How is Mrs. Ukkonen?"
Taking strength from his matter-of-fact tone, she steadied her nerves. "We got her here in time. Thanks for arriving just when I needed you." A shiver shook her. Feeling the warmth blowing from the heater, she shook off her brown parka hood and braved a glance at him.
"Just part of my job."
Why was she feeling so fluttery all of a sudden? She never reacted like this to a man. Were her jitters due to all the anxiety over Ma? She tried to settle herself comfortably on the seat.
The sheriff started down the drive. "I need to ask you some questions."
She nodded, fighting her awareness of the long, lean man just inches from her. His presence filled the small space, making her breathing shallow. What's gotten into me? She drew in a calming breath. "You have me as long as it takes to reach my car, Sheriff."
Taking refuge in her role as nurse, she glanced at her watch. "I'm running behind.
Excerpted from Winter's Secret by Lyn Cote Copyright © 2002 by Lyn Cote
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Enjoyed this...a little slow in some spots, and some of the characters you would have thought would be important didn't really develop, but otherwise a good story. Liked the suspense, the clean romance, and the faith factor. Would recommend. Review by CherishD
Winter's Secret by Lyn Cote Northern Intrigue Series Book One Sheriff Rodd Durand is a loner and not well-worded with women. As the new sheriff in the town of Steadfast, he finds that he needs to prove himself in a big way. They have a thief breaking into homes of the elderly while they are in the hospital. And he sees that the pretty nurse seems to be the line connecting the dots. Wendy Carey has decided to stay single and work at the job she loves so much. The new sheriff is handsome enough but his words set her off. She has had to prove herself continually to this town. Between her mom's poor choices after the death of Wendy's dad and her uncle Dutch's activities—the past rises up and chokes her. Welcome to the town of Steadfast, Wisconsin where you never know who is watching you so they can gossip. And gossip travels fast. There are quite a few interesting characters in town and now one of them is a thief. Great mystery and romance story. There are two more books after this one; Autumn's Shadow and Summer's End.
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Winter's Secret is an exciting story of intrigue and romance! I enjoyed the setting, a small Wisconsin town, and shivered at the descriptions of its cold, wintry climate. I also enjoyed the ongoing mystery that Sheriff Rodd Durand struggles to solve, as well the romance that develops between he and Wendy Carey. The conclusion surprised me and left me eager to read the next book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed Winter’s Secret! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. All thoughts expressed in this review are my own.
Winter’s Secret is a story about letting God have control. Both of the main characters struggle with an aspect of this. Rodd struggles to turn to God for the everyday things in life and Wendy struggles to accept the fact that God does not hold the past sins of her family members against her. Rodd and Wendy are a complex couple. I liked them, but felt sorry for them as they struggled to work through events that caused them pain. This book has an exciting mystery to solve and interesting side characters that made the community truly feel real to me. And the author did a great job of making me feel immersed in the harsh winter of northern Wisconsin. I enjoyed the twists and turns in this book. The mystery was not easily solvable and kept me guessing all of the way through it. This was a very enjoyable story. I received this book from the author. I was not required to write a review, but happily do so.
Winter's Secret ( Northern Intrigue book 1 ) I really enjoyed this book and the way Lyn Cote keeps you on the edge of your seat till the last page. This is one more page turner. I could not read fast enough to see what was going to happen next. Winter's Secret is full of action, mystery, and romance. Someone in this small town of Winconsin are stealing and vandalizing the homes of the seniors. Windy is the town nurse and when someone is sick she goes to check on them , if she thinks they need to go to the clinic she carries them. If these patients have to spend the night , then their home is broken into. Rodd Durand is the sheriff and he gets a call when these homes are broken into. Now he thinks this is really strange that the homes that are broken into is Windy's patients. The thief is always on a snowmobile and is not always easy to follow. The sheriff needs some help on this one. Can Windy help catch the snowmobile thief? All she wants its do her job and she cars for her patients. Who's home will be next? There is also some romance budding in Winter's Secret . Just when you think it is over, the sheriff saves a baby from a car accident. Can't wait to read book 2 of this series. I was given a copy of this book by the author for my honest review, which I have given.
I liked all three books in the series. There some minor problems, some breaks in context but cause only a slight pause.
Very good book