Birch Trueblood—a proud Ojibwe healer, who now works as a shaman, performing rituals for New Age believers and tourists.
He does what he has to in order to support his young daughter. But when he’s called on to help communicate with ghosts at an historic bed and breakfast, he never guesses it’ll be the woman who runs the place that will haunt his dreams.
Rochelle LeClaire—owner of Rosewood B&B.
She and Birch have crossed paths before, and she has no reason to believe he’s anything but a fraud. But then her eccentric aunt hires him—to communicate with the spirits haunting the house of all things! Suddenly he’s in her space, in her thoughts . . . and eventually, in her bed.
But when long-hidden secrets come to light, will their fragile bond be strong enough to hold them together?
Kathleen Eagle published her first book, a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award winner, with Silhouette Books in 1984. Since then she has published nearly 50 books, including historical and contemporary, series and single title, earning her nearly every award in the industry. Her books have consistently appeared on regional and national bestseller lists, including the USA Today list and the New York Times extended bestseller list. Kathleen Eagle lives in Minnesota with her husband, who is Lakota Sioux. The Eagles have three children and three grandchildren.
Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Kathleen Eagle published her first Silhouette Special Edition, an RWA Golden Heart winner, in 1984. Since then she has published more than 40 books, including historical and contemporary, series and single title novels, earning her nearly every award in the industry including Romance Writers of America's RITA. Kathleen lives in Minnesota with her husband, who is Lakota Sioux and forever a cowboy.
Read an Excerpt
Little Falls, Minnesota, present day
ROCHELLE SMELLED grass burning somewhere in the cold night. And it was no ordinary Kentucky Blue.
The light was still on in Aunt Meg's bedroom window, even though she had sworn that she was too tired to eat or bathe or brush her teeth before going to bed. But it was just the two of them at Rosewood tonight, and somebody was burning something. It wasn't Rochelle. In her condition, Aunt Meg was liable to set her precious old mansion on fire. Hadn't she had enough smokus pokus for one day?
Rochelle hated to go back inside. She had just gotten comfortable on the stone bench overlooking the river, tucking herself in a blanket to keep the early-autumn chill at bay while she listened to the water lap against the rocks below. She loved this time of year in this place she would always call home. She particularly loved to wrap herself in the seclusion of this tranquil spot at the edge of the gardens and dream, especially after a day of being painfully nice to some very strange people and an evening of tallying the columns in all-too-familiar books. What a pleasure to count stars for a while instead of pennies!
The granddaughter of Minnesota lumber baron Martin Bruner, Aunt Meg didn't know how to be anything but wealthy. But the Bruner money no longer grew on trees, and Rochelle had all she could do to keep the two roofs of Rosewood over the old woman's head. The Bruner estate had been named for Great-grandmother Rose, Martin's beloved wife. Dear wife. Precious wife. During the years that had passed between her death and his, the terms of endearment had been applied with such consistency that even now the name Rose or the words Martin's wife were never spoken at Rosewood without one of his favorite qualifiers.
The rambling vestiges of Bruner family life on the upper Mississippi — a far cry from Mark Twain territory in almost every way imaginable — were all Aunt Meg had left, whether she realized it or not. From all indications — the variety of books shelved in every room in either house, the music, the letters from prestigious acquaintances — Margaret Bruner had been a woman of independent thought in her day, if not independent means. As near as Rochelle could tell, she had not spent money so much as she had donated it. She had given it away hand over fist, which was fine. It was her money.
But Rochelle would not allow the houses to go before Aunt Meg did. Now, as the threat of fire smelled more imminent than bankruptcy, Rochelle dragged herself off the bench, tossed a corner of the wool blanket over her shoulder, and trudged up the gravel path toward the "new" house, the home Martin Bruner had purchased from his partner for his only son, Ernest, who had enlisted in the army against his father's wishes in 1941 and gone missing somewhere in France. Ernest's wife had then gone missing somewhere in Chicago. Family tradition, the old woman was wont to say without elaborating, but Rochelle imagined two poor little rich girls who would one day be her mother and aunt left to rattle around Rosewood with their grandfather and his household staff.
Aunt Meg had modernized the new house when she'd taken charge after her grandfather's death in the early 1950s, but she had not seen fit to change much since that time. Its dark green siding and Father Knows Best furnishings were right in style with the current retro craze. But for the main house, dear Rose had known best. It remained white. Inside, Martin Bruner had kept every stick of dark wood, every scrap of Victorian wallpaper, every glass lampshade, and every bit of embroidered linen the way his precious wife had left it. The main house was perfect for the business Rochelle was now struggling to establish in what had become an out-of-the-way town after its single industry had dried up. And the new house was perfect for preserving two generations of girlish daydreams.
"Aunt Meg, is everything all right?"
"Some things are. Some aren't." The old woman turned from the window, lifting her chin to welcome the sound of Rochelle's voice even before she angled the wheelchair for a frank look. "I'm feeling restless. It's still too early in the season to turn the heat on, but the night's chill has a way of sinking into dry old bones. I feel old and cold, and that makes me restless."
"This is what you used to call good sleeping weather, isn't it? Are you burning something in here?" She'd lost track of the smell, but she scanned the room for other signs.
"After I caught hell for burning a few little candles the other night? I should say not."
"It was only because you fell asleep."
"Oh, yes, that's right. You said something about a warning label. Everything comes with a warning these days. Be afraid, they say. Be very afraid. But technically, they weren't burning unattended. I was only half asleep."
"And you only caught half a hell." Rochelle smiled as she claimed the window seat — her own special place in her aunt's bedroom ever since she could remember — putting them knee to knee and eye to eye. "I was outside, sitting by the river on Cupid's Bench, and I'm sure I smelled grass or incense — something was burning. If I didn't know you better, I'd swear you were up here smoking a joint."
"Do you smell anything now?"
Rochelle diffidently lifted one shoulder, easy with being quizzed. Looking after the woman she had looked up to all her life felt awkward at best. She wanted her old role back.
"It must have been from before," Meg said absently, turning her attention beyond the window, into the darkness.
"But they've been gone for hours." Worried about coming across as a cynic rather than a bemused skeptic, Rochelle had carefully avoided the odd group of women who had spent the weekend at Rosewood. She didn't want to make the Daughters of Earth feel uncomfortable. They were good for several weekend retreats a year.
"Some of them have been gone years," Meg mused. "Centuries. But I sense their presence more all the time — those who were here before our time."
"What are you saying, Aunt Meg? Be —"
"Afraid," the old woman chimed in, a sign that she was, in Rochelle's mind and much to her relief, back from beyond. Smiling at each other, they chanted in unison, "Be very afraid."
"But you're not," Rochelle said.
"Of course not. They've done no harm yet, and I don't expect them to start now. Do you?"
"Oh, Aunt Meg." Rochelle laughed and shook her head. "I don't know what to say to you on that score."
"Then don't say anything. I don't want you to start patronizing me in my dotage, dear girl. I never patronized you, did I?"
"You never treated me like a child, even when I was one."
"You've always been a worthy companion, no matter what your age. Age is nothing, Shelly. An open mind is ageless and boundless, you know. You've never been stingy with your views, and I've never been offended by them. So feel free to say what's on your mind. After all, to say a thing is or is not doesn't make it so."
"What about seeing it or not seeing it? Doesn't that make a difference?"
"I have a friend who is blind. She sees nothing through her eyes. Does that mean we're all invisible?"
"She can feel our physicality," Rochelle reasoned.
Dim lamp light softened Aunt Meg's crafty smile. "And you smelled their scent-sitivity."
"I smelled something," Rochelle admitted. "It was real, though, really in the air — right now, tonight. In the moment. Clear and present smell, and that's all I know for sure. Whether one of our weekend guests was still lurking in the bushes, I couldn't say, but do know that I saw every one of them off with a very polite smile — even that crabby old Marilee."
"I'm sorry that woman turned out to be such a poop," Aunt Meg said with a sigh. "When she approached me about offering her program at Rosewood, she seemed pleasant enough, and the topic sounded interesting — finding your creative spirit."
"That's the way I worded the announcement, but I now stand corrected. Repeatedly. The title was The Road To Creativity — Getting Acquainted With Your Spirit Guides."
"She certainly turned out to be a sour soul, didn't she? Ariel's friends seemed to take her in stride, but I think Ariel's right. We need to purge the grounds of her bad vibes. Although, if you're smelling something burning, maybe the spirits have already taken care of it."
"Ariel!" Rochelle wagged an aha finger. "She must be burning some of her herbal delights."
"Oh, no, she went home earlier. I spoke with her on the phone a few minutes ago. We're going to have a ceremony as soon as she can arrange something."
A warning light flashed in Rochelle's mind. "What kind of a ceremony?" "We'll see what Ariel can come up with," the old woman said with a shrug. "A cleansing ceremony. The road to the spirit guides runs right through Rosewood, and I don't want it littered with bad vibes."
"You made another donation to the Indians at Mille Lacs, didn't you?" Rochelle surmised.
"A very small one."
"Aunt Meg, you have to consult with me first," Rochelle pleaded. But her aunt looked away. She was a proud woman, unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of a consultation, and Rochelle wasn't taking well to the giving end. "Or at least tell me right away so I can —"
"Five thousand for a new display at the museum. That's all." She lifted her hand, gnarled fingers splayed. "Five thousand. And it's all tax deductible."
Rochelle nodded. No use scolding the woman. After sisters Margaret and Selena had inherited the Bruner fortune, each one had practiced her own method of relieving herself of the burden of wealth. Rochelle's mother had spent hers on old wine, new clothes, young men, and unreliable advice. She had been the proverbial prodigal daughter. Rochelle always believed that her mother had lived and died exactly the way she chose.
Aunt Meg, on the other hand, had given much of hers away. She had supported fledgling artists, talented prodigies, and gifted scholars, particularly those whose eligibility for funds was tacitly undermined by their gender or race or some other fact of life that should not have put them at a disadvantage. But Margaret Bruner understood that it did. She invested in the "underfunded," as she called them — both people and programs — with her mind and her money. She would not say heart, which sounded too much like charity.
When she had divested herself down to the two hulking houses, their contents, and the barely manageable grounds, her own heart revealed its frailty. She claimed to be experiencing her mother's "spells," and her doctors agreed that she was in trouble. The summer Rochelle had planned to spend taking care of her had turned into more than a year spent devising ways to stall off selling the property and thereby save her aunt's peace of mind. She had agreed to take charge of the bookkeeping in return for Aunt Meg's consent to a business experiment, "just for fun." Rochelle's claim that teaching in Minneapolis had become increasingly difficult and proportionately less fulfilling was true — talk about under-funding. ... No, she could not talk about it, not with Aunt Meg. Any more donations and she would be out in the street.
She was also unwilling to admit that she didn't intend to give up entirely on her career as a teacher and become a full-time innkeeper. If Rochelle could get the business started, she hoped that Ariel might be able to keep it running. In fact, the promise of keeping Ariel on the payroll was the best part of Rochelle's pitch. While Aunt Meg couldn't imagine doing without her housekeeper and personal assistant, she already suspected that Ariel had cut her own wages. If she found out that she had nothing left to give away, Aunt Meg might well decide that her job was done and that it was time to join her invisible grass-burning friends in the next life.
But Rochelle was not ready for that to happen.
"Do we have any bookings for the first week in November?" Aunt Meg couched her surprising question in a casual tone. She rarely asked about bookings. It was understood that hosting guests in her home for money was fundamentally distasteful to her, and so they spoke little of the details of the business or the necessity to make it work.
"They normally taper off around then."
In fact, they had no bookings for November. Or December.
"What about the writers' retreat we talked about? It's so peaceful here. You promised me that we'd be hosting artists and writers and musicians if we opened our home for these so-called retreats. So far it's been bankers, salesmen, and Ariel's interesting but half-a-bubble-off-plumb friends."
"So you're not really buying into that stuff?"
"I'm not buying into their stuff, Shelly. I have my own ideas, my own stuff. Look around you, dear." Her sweeping gesture directed her niece's attention to a fraction of the book collection she housed at Rosewood. "There's a lifetime of study on these bookshelves. My lifetime, and my studies. I didn't suddenly notice this aging face in the mirror one day and start hatching reassuring notions about the spirit world."
"I know that, Aunt Meg." She also knew that the woman had read every book on the premises and loved nothing more than a lively discussion of any idea they might contain. "And we do have the Midwest Ghost Photography Association booked again for next spring, which should lift your spirits."
"Indeed." Aunt Meg smiled, leaving Rochelle to wonder what her knowing look was all about.
Sometimes it was better to wonder than to ask. All too often the knowing was really an invitation to one of those lively discussions, which could be exhausting. Rochelle couldn't remember a time when she hadn't longed to impress Margaret Bruner with an original thought about some enduring question. She continued to come up short, probably because her curiosity only stretched so far. Beyond earth, flower, river, or bird in the bush, Rochelle was on shaky ground. And like most Midwesterners, she didn't much like shaky ground.
"Don't you think our ghosts would appeal to writers?" her aunt persisted.
"I'm working on it, Aunt Meg. It seems that writers would rather retreat to places like Hawaii or southern California. Minnesota isn't top on the retreat list."
"Not even in the fall?"
The disappointment in her aunt's voice was enough to send Rochelle out on a writer hunt. "Maybe if we —"
"I'm sure a painter would be enchanted by the way the spiritual presence in the garden enhances the fall colors. Your great-grandmother was a wonderful painter, you know. What do they call those photographs with the showers of colored lights?"
Trick photography, Rochelle thought, but she said, "Orbs?"
"The orbs are the circles — those wonderful white bubbles. But the colorful shower of tiny lights that shows up in some of the pictures taken in the garden would surely inspire a lovely watercolor."
"And we could call it The Thousand Points of Light in Rosewood's Bushes."
"Oh, Shelly, we used to have wonderful parties here when I was a girl," Aunt Meg enthused without so much as a chuckle for Rochelle's show of wit. "I would invite people I'd met in New York. Van played the grand piano in the music room. Chloe Finch read her poetry on the river porch. Oh, there were some whispers about town when Marian Anderson visited. In those days, you know, people raised a fuss when I entertained people of color, but I didn't give a fig for that kind of attitude. And, oh, that woman had the voice of an angel."
"You were a generous patron of the arts, Aunt Meg."
"As I see it, that's our job. What did I do to deserve all this money? I was born a Bruner. My only gift is in recognizing the gifts of others. Grandfather didn't always approve, but he indulged me. And when he died, well ..."
"You went all out."
"Those are the people we must bring to these retreats of yours, Shelly. I want you to enjoy the company of gifted people." She patted Rochelle's knee. "Not that you aren't gifted yourself, my dear, but mixing with interesting and talented people helps us develop our gifts. I've gained far more than I could ever give, and so will you."
"You had a reason for asking about the first week in November?"
"Oh, yes." She took a pale blue envelope from the pocket of her robe. "I have a letter from your sister."
"Crystal wrote you a letter?"
"She's getting married again."
"Really." That her older sister would remarry was no surprise, but it was the kind of news Rochelle would expect to be the first to hear in gushing detail. "And she wrote to tell you about it?" "I'm sure the letter was meant for both of us. She must not have our phone number."
Excerpted from "A View of the River"
Copyright © 2005 Kathleen Eagle.
Excerpted by permission of BelleBooks, Inc..
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.