Love and danger collide in Rock Harbor in this riveting romantic suspense.
As a 911 dispatcher, Dana Newell takes pride in being calm in tough circumstances. In addition to her emotionally-charged career, she’s faced enough emergencies in her own life. She recently escaped her abusive fiancé to move to tranquil Rock Harbor where she hopes life will be more peaceful.
But the idyllic town hides more danger and secrets than it first appeared. Dana is continually drawn to her new friend Boone, who has scars inside and out. Then she answers a call at her job only to hear a friend’s desperate screams on the other end. Soon the pain in her past collides with the mysteries of her new home—and threatens to keep her from the future she’s always wanted.
This full-length romantic suspense can be read as a standalone but is also part of the Rock Harbor series.
- Book one: Without a Trace
- Book two: Beyond a Doubt
- Book three: Into the Deep
- Book four: Cry in the Night
- Book five: Beneath Copper Falls
Includes discussion questions.
"I loved returning to Rock Harbor and you will too. Beneath Copper Falls is Colleen at her best!" —Dani Pettrey, bestselling author of the Alaskan Courage and Chesapeake Valor series
"Beneath Copper Falls is a twisting, turning thrill ride from page one that drops you head first into danger that will leave you breathless, sleep deprived, and eager for more!" —Lynette Eason, award-winning, bestselling author of the Elite Guardians series
About the Author
Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series. Connect with Colleen online at colleencoble.com; Instagram: colleencoble; Facebook: colleencoblebooks; Twitter: @colleencoble.
Read an Excerpt
Beneath Copper Falls
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Colleen Coble
All rights reserved.
A military ball was the last place she expected to be tonight. Dana Newell craned her neck and looked around the ballroom filled with dress uniforms and women in formal gowns. She'd barely managed to remember her name as her unsmiling brother steered her through the receiving line, but she had to pull herself together. She had to do Chris proud. She forced herself to smile and act the part of an elegant companion.
They stopped in front of his superior, Major White. Though middle aged, he held his trim body erect, and his brown eyes were sharp below his short salt-andpepper hair.
The major took her hand and pressed it firmly with strong fingers. "Ah, this must be your sister, Lieutenant. Thanks for bringing her. Ms. Newell, I wanted to thank you personally for talking my wife through the Heimlich when our grandson choked on that cracker. It saved his life. We're most appreciative. She wanted to thank you as well, but she fell ill with the flu today."
Heat washed up Dana's face. "I'm glad I was able to help, sir." The terrifying dispatch call had lingered with her because she'd heard the little guy choking on the other end of the phone. It was outcomes like this that drove her to stick with the difficult job of emergency dispatch.
They chatted a few more minutes, then Chris guided her on down the receiving line. Her face hurt from keeping the smile pinned in place. She couldn't let her brother down by gawking or acting ill at ease. He hadn't wanted to bring her, but his protective streak often chafed. She found herself relaxing just a tiny bit as they finished the receiving line, then found chairs.
"I'll get us something to drink," Chris said.
She watched him stop and flirt with a pretty blonde on the way to the food table. Few women could resist her brother's blond good looks and genial manner. Dana studied the room while he was gone. Thank goodness Chris had helped her pick out her dress, a demure tea-length number in royal blue that didn't show too much skin. All the women were adorned like they were attending a Hollywood premiere, though in modest necklines. Left to herself, she would have picked her best church dress and called it good enough.
She tapped her toe a bit to "God Bless the USA" playing in the background. The back of her neck prickled, and she glanced around before her gaze collided with the most handsome man she'd ever met. Four women clustered around him, and snippets of their conversation floated above the sound of Lee Greenwood's voice.
"Garret, I heard you won the marksmanship medal. I'm not surprised. You can do anything."
"Garret, would you get me something to drink? I'm parched."
He didn't seem to hear the women vying for his attention. His blue eyes never left Dana's, and he wove his way toward her through the women as they plucked at his uniform sleeves and demanded he stay to talk with them.
Dana couldn't have moved if a tornado was sweeping through the place — not with those eyes burning into hers with a question her heart responded to immediately.
It was as if she'd been waiting for him all her life. Her lips parted when he reached her, but she couldn't speak. He stopped only six inches away, well within her personal space, but she didn't step back.
"I haven't seen you before."
"I–I came with Chris." She forced the bright smile again.
He reached out and brushed a curl off her cheek. "You're Dana? He didn't mention how beautiful you are."
Beautiful, her? Dana's light-brown hair was neither blonde nor lustrously dark brown, and she was average in every way. But he could believe what he wanted about her as long as he looked at her that way.
"I love your eyes. They're like the sea, full of mystery and promise." His fingers lingered on her face.
Heat spread across her skin in a slow, delicious wave. "Y-You know my brother?"
He nodded. "I'm Garret. Garret Waterman. We're buds, well, at least we were. I'm not so sure now that I know he's been holding out on me." He took her hand. "Let's step outside for some air. It's too hot in here."
Her lonely heart soaked up the admiration in his eyes. And just like that she was his.
* * *
"You know I hate pot roast." Garret lifted the tray of food and glared at her over the top of it. "This was supposed to be a special night. I've been gone for two weeks, and this is how you show me you've missed me?"
Her fingers went to the tiny scar by her right eye, and she bit her lip. Where had the charming man she'd fallen in love with nine months ago gone? She swallowed hard. "You never said you didn't like pot roast. Besides, you might like mine. Everyone loves it. It's my grandmother's recipe."
What was she thinking? She shouldn't have argued with him, not when he was in this state. She'd seen what happened when he got mad.
His mouth tight, he carried the entire tray of roast over to the trash and dumped everything into it.
All thought of placating him vanished, and she leaped up from her chair. "How dare you! I bought an expensive cut of grass-fed beef and worked all day on this meal."
She snatched the empty plate from his hand and walked to the oversized stainless-steel sink already filled with soapy water. She plunged the tray into the water, but before she could wash it, his hard fingers clamped onto the back of her neck. "Let go of me!"
She wasn't afraid, not while the adrenaline from her righteous anger raged through her. She tried to twist out of his grip, but he still worked out even though he'd gotten out of the military. "I said let go of me or I'll call the police!"
"You're not calling anyone." His voice pitched low to a calm and deadly timbre. He pushed her head down into the sink. Warm water filled her nose and mouth and the suds stung her eyes. She gripped the counter with both hands and tried to pull out of the water to breathe, but he held her neck relentlessly in place until her chest burned and spots danced in front of her eyes.
He's going to kill me.
Panic gave her a new surge of energy, and she fought with all her strength, though her efforts were useless.
Then his fingers moved to her hair, and he yanked her head out of the water. She drew a sweet lungful of air and sank to the floor where she gulped in oxygen as fast as she could until her vision began to clear. By the time she found the strength to stand he'd gone.
She staggered to the bathroom in time to vomit.
Surely he hadn't really meant to hurt her, had he? She hugged the cold porcelain of the toilet and let the tears fall for the ruin of a dream that she should have seen was too good to be true.
* * *
Three Months Later "Nine-oneone, what is your emergency?" Dana rested her fingers on the keyboard to enter the last call of her night shift.
The familiar background noise of talking and keyboards in the dispatch room enfolded her. A room she would say good-bye to today. Her departure couldn't come too soon for her.
"My husband's had a heart attack! Please, I need help." The woman's desperate voice quivered.
Dana inputted the nature of the emergency and checked the address on the computer. "What is your address?" The woman rattled off the same address on the screen. "Stay on the line with me while I send paramedics on the way." Dana put reassurance into her voice and keyed in the request for an ambulance.
"He's not breathing!"
"The ambulance is on the way. Do you know CPR?"
"No, I never took any training. I should have learned! I knew he had a heart issue."
"Take a deep breath, ma'am. This is not your fault, okay?" Dana badly wanted to pray with her, but after glancing sideways at her coworker, she opted to shoot up a silent prayer. Even though this was her last shift, she'd gotten into trouble so many times that it had become impossible to speak up any longer.
Dana stayed on the line and tried to keep the woman calm until the siren's wail came over the phone.
"The ambulance is here! I have to get the door. Thank you for being here with me." The line clicked and went dead.
Dana rubbed her tight right shoulder. Clear emergencies always left her tense and upset. Another call rang through. "Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?"
"Miss me, baby?" Garret's deep voice impaled her.
Her fingers went to her throat. "How dare you call me here, especially after what you did."
His voice always got to her. Was she wrong to run away? Maybe he could change. She gave a slight shake of her head. Not this time. She wouldn't let him talk her into going back again. She absently rubbed at the tiny scar by her eye.
"Look, I just lost my temper, okay? I've got a lot of stress right now."
The lump in her throat kept her words locked down for a long moment. A year ago life had seemed so different. The first time Garret had looked her way she'd been shocked. With his sun-streaked blond hair and blue eyes, he looked like a gorgeous surfer instead of a crack sniper for the Marines. Once upon a time she'd thought his expertise was fascinating. Now it terrified her. Friends kept telling her to be patient, that he probably had PTSD, but she didn't want to end up dead.
And really, why had she even thought true happiness could find her? From the age of eight, she'd learned life could change in an instant into something twisted and unrecognizable.
She blew out a shaky breath. "I'm hanging up now, Garret. Don't contact me again." She disconnected the call on her keyboard and leaned back in her chair.
Sandy Corson, a coworker in her fifties, swiveled in her chair to look over at Dana. "Garret again?"
"Yeah." Dana tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "But he won't be able to contact me for long."
"I hate that you're leaving!"
"I'm tired of looking over my shoulder, and I want a fresh start where other people aren't always telling me to give him another chance. Once I'm sure he's off my trail, I'll give you a call and check in."
A month ago an old friend, Bree Matthews, had held a training seminar for search-and-rescue dogs up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Dana had taken her six-month-old puppy, Phantom, to start learning SAR. A dispatcher job had just fallen into her lap while in Rock Harbor, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. God had opened a door, and she intended to slam it shut behind her as she entered a new phase of life.
Going home seemed the right thing to do, even if Garret knew where she went. Family and friends would support her if he showed up. While she had friends here in Washington, they were the superficial kind, not the heart-to-heart sort who would put themselves in the way of danger for her.
She punched out for the last time at 5:00 a.m. and hugged her coworkers good-bye before she hurried to the exit. All her belongings were on their way in a moving truck, and she intended to drive until she got sleepy today.
The parking garage lights flickered and hummed as she exited the staircase on her level, and the place smelled of tires and oil. The sun wasn't up yet, and the dimly lit space held too many shadows to count.
She fished her car keys out of her purse, then frowned when her gaze lit on her blue Toyota Prius leaning to one side. Both tires on the driver's side were flat, and her pulse kicked as she knelt to examine the front one. There was no mistaking the slash at the rim. The back tire was in the same shape.
Her heart drummed against her ribs as she rose and looked around. "Garret?" She thrust her hand into her purse and wrapped her fingers around her cell phone. "I know you did this."
His mocking laugh echoed against the concrete walls of the nearly empty parking garage, then fell silent. Where was he? The shadows made it difficult to see. She swallowed hard and eyed the staircase to her left. Could she escape before he tried to grab her? No, he was too fast.
She hit the unlock button on her keys, then threw herself under the steering wheel and locked the car. She punched 911 on her phone as a shadow to her left came at her. She ducked as a crowbar smashed into the window beside her. The window shattered but held together.
She screamed and cowered in her seat. His blue eyes narrowed in a hard glare as he lifted the crowbar again. This blow would break the glass and bash her head. Shaking and crying, she brought up the bear spray and aimed it at the largest crack in the window. But before she could press the button, shouts rang out. Garret whirled and ran for the exit.
She exhaled and, with a trembling hand, reached for the door handle. She wouldn't be leaving for Rock Harbor today.CHAPTER 2
He couldn't see the last of these folks any too soon. Boone Carter shook hands and thanked the family as they piled into their Mercedes SUV. The parents had been more interested in squabbling with their teenage daughters than with hauling in the salmon along the Ontonagon River. He'd taken them out for the day, and by the time they'd been out for half an hour, he realized it was an exercise in futility.
His cabins squatted in woods along the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He'd bought the land from his uncle, then built every one of the ten cabins himself. Carter's Cabins had become known as one of the best places to stay for the adventure seeker, a reputation he'd fought hard to gain.
He gave a final wave to his departing guests, then went toward the large red barn housing his outfitter business. His cousin's small red convertible had pulled into the gravel parking lot a few minutes ago. She got out of her car and hurried to join him as he neared the front door.
Allyson was a beautiful young woman. She and his sister, Renee, had worked at a small newspaper in Washington. Allyson had been a bulldog about finding out who had killed Renee. She'd arrived a couple days ago to talk to him about what they'd turned up so far. All their efforts had come to a big fat zero. He'd talked to the lead detective just two weeks ago, and the police were stymied too.
A familiar wave of grief swamped him, and he tamped it down and smiled at her. "Coffee? I need some after dealing with that family."
She put her hand on his arm. "There's been another murder, Boone. It's eerily like Renee's."
Some other family was going through the trauma they'd endured.
He shoved open the door and wished he could push away the memories that easily.
He led her past the rough wooden counter where one of his employees explained the various backpacking options to two men.
In his office Boone closed the door behind them and went to the coffeepot. The stuff had been sitting there for hours, and he grimaced at the bitter taste.
He handed her a cup of the atrocious brew. "You should be finding a good man instead of pursuing an impossible quest like this. It's been three years since Renee's death. If the police can't pin down a lead, what hope do we have?"
Allyson dreamed of being a bonafide investigative reporter, but she was grasping at the wind with this case. His smack down didn't dim the light in her hazel eyes as she pushed away the coffee, then waved a blue folder his way.
"Faith Rogerson, an elementary school teacher in Portland, Oregon. Twenty-six, light-brown hair and blue eyes. She was supposed to get married the next day, just like Renee. Her engagement ring is missing too, just like Renee's." Allyson's mouth flattened to a grim line. "This is his second murder, and I'm going to nail him. I thought of a name for him in the exposé. The Groom Reaper."
The media would eat up that title. "What makes you think this murder is connected to Renee's?"
Allyson perched on a ledge at the window. "Both deaths were the night before the wedding. Not a week, not three days, the night before. And the murder method in both cases was drowning. You have to admit that's not the usual way a bride might die on the eve of her nuptials."
She had a point. "Who was she engaged to?"
"Justin Leyland. He sells pharmaceuticals. He got back in town just in time for the bachelor party that night and had tried calling her several times. When she didn't answer, he went over around midnight and used his key to get into the house. He found her in the kitchen. The sink was still full of water."
"How'd you find all that out?"
"I went to school with the lead reporter at the paper and weaseled it out of him."
Renee had been drowned in a stock tank outside. While not the same location as this one, it did hold similarities. And both fiancés had been at a bachelor party. "Did you call Leyland?"
"I tried but his voice mail was full. The local media is probably all over it. I'm sure no one has connected the two cases yet."
"If they're connected."
Allyson flipped open the folder. "Look at Faith's picture."
The woman in the picture held a vague resemblance to his sister. His interest stirred. "Anything else?"
Excerpted from Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble. Copyright © 2017 Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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