In snowy Swift River Valley, unexpected romance is just around the corner
Heather Sloan has landed her dream jobthe renovation of Vic Scarlatti's stately 1912 country home overlooking the icy waters of Echo Lake in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. It's the perfect project for the family business, but for once, Heather is in charge.
Diplomatic Security Service agent Brody Hancock left Knights Bridge at eighteen, a few steps ahead of arrest and the wrath of Heather's older brothers. Though Brody had never planned to return, Vic, a retired diplomat and friend, needs his help.
Staying at Vic's guest house makes it impossible to avoid running into a Sloan at every turnespecially Heather. Seeing her again has affected Brody more than he wants to admit. But Heather is wary of Brody's sudden interest in her, and she suspects there's more to his homecoming than he's letting on .
Set against the scenic backdrop of a New England winter, Echo Lake is a captivating tale of family, friends and the possibility of new love
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By Carla Neggers
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All rights reserved.
As much as Heather Sloan loved a bright New England winter day, chasing a puppy through knee-deep snow in seventeen degrees wasn't her idea of fun. Rohan—the runaway puppy, a twelve-week-old golden retriever—wasn't quickly tiring of his romp or sticking to the plowed driveway and shoveled walks, either. Not a chance. She spotted his tracks, leading through the woods straight for quiet, frozen Echo Lake.
She wasn't following a rabbit or deer by mistake. They definitely were puppy tracks. She paused, noting that the trail veered to the right, parallel to the lake. Something must have caught Rohan's attention. A bird, a breeze, a noise.
Heather followed the tracks through a deeper drift, but they disappeared under the low-hanging, snow-laden branches of two gnarly hemlocks. Rohan could easily fit under them. She couldn't. The trees grew so close together that trying to squeeze between them meant getting snow down her back. Going around them would risk a delay in finding the tracks again.
She was already cold. She wasn't dressed for a puppy rescue. Ankle boots, leather gloves, a wool scarf and her three-quarter-length chocolate-brown wool coat. Why? Of all days, why hadn't she worn her Car-hartt jacket and L.L. Bean boots? It wasn't as if her attire would impress Vic Scarlatti, the newly retired diplomat whose renovations she was overseeing. His 1912 lake house was out of sight now, up through the trees past a small guesthouse. He was searching the garage, shed and porches. Adrienne Portale, the wine-expert daughter of one of Vic's Foreign Service friends, was searching the house, in case Rohan hadn't slipped outside, after all.
But he had, and he would be in serious trouble in this cold if Heather didn't get to him soon. What was a little snow down her back? With five older brothers, it wasn't anything she wasn't used to. They'd had an epic snowball fight on New Year's Day.
She plunged between the hemlocks, moving as fast as she could, but there was no way to avoid disturbing the snow clinging to the evergreen branches. She got a spray in her face and a clump down her back and almost lost a boot, but when she emerged on the other side of the hemlocks, she was practically standing in Rohan's tracks.
She went still, quieting her breathing as she listened. Her cheeks were numb, and her fingertips and toes ached with the cold. She'd pulled her scarf over her head as best she could in lieu of a hat, but it was loose now, one end dangling down her front. The late-January afternoon sky was cloudless, the air as crisp and clear and cold as it had been since the latest storm earlier in the week. She glanced to her left toward the snow-covered lake. Echo Lake wasn't big, but it was one of the largest lakes in out-of-the-way Knights Bridge, Massachusetts.
Heather spun around at a sound up ahead and forced herself not to move. She listened, positive she heard something besides her own breathing.
A high-pitched, mournful cry. It had to be Rohan.
With a mix of worry and relief, she surged in the direction of the distressed yips and cries, following the tracks through bare-limbed maples and oaks and past white pines. The ground was uneven, the snow sometimes drifting up past her knees. Snowshoes or back-country skis would have helped, but she had left hers in her truck and Vic wasn't much on winter sports. "I like looking at the snow," he'd told her. "I don't necessarily like going out in it for fun."
She came to a shallow, rocky brook that emptied into the lake but now was mostly frozen. Water trickled and swirled in a few spots among the snow and ice where the current was stronger.
"Rohan," Heather called softly, not wanting to startle him by yelling. "Where are you, buddy?"
She heard panting then a whimper. She eased closer to the edge of the brook and peered upstream. Her heart jumped when she saw a golden ball of fur—little Rohan, struggling to climb out from the midst of the water, snow, ice and rocks.
"Oh, Rohan. You are in a mess, aren't you?"
Trees crowded the bank, and it was steeper up where Rohan was stuck. Getting to him wasn't going to be easy. Staying close to the brook, she grabbed hold of saplings and branches, using them to help her keep her balance in the difficult conditions.
Once she was parallel to Rohan, he let out an eager, full-fledged bark.
He must have frolicked his way out here, got stuck in the ice and snow and had run out of steam. He was, after all, only a puppy. Heather could see there was no way he could get out of his predicament with just a bit of encouragement from her. She would have to grab him—preferably without ending up trapped in the cold brook herself.
"Easy, Rohan," she said, holding on to a thin tree and reaching with her free hand to the shivering puppy. "Let's get you warm and safe, okay?"
She stretched, her fingertips within inches of him, but she slipped in the snow. She couldn't regain her footing and went down on one knee, planting her free hand in the snow to keep herself from falling in the brook. She felt cold water flowing into her left boot and up her lower leg but bit back a yell lest she panic Rohan. She finally righted herself, losing her glove in the process.
She didn't hesitate. She scooped up the puppy and moved quickly, launching past the tree she was using for balance then sinking against another one. She anchored her feet in the snow to prevent her and Rohan from skidding back into the brook.
She cuddled the furry dog against her. She could feel his little heart racing. "I've got you," she whispered, her own heart thumping madly. "I've got you."
She wanted to sit in the snow and catch her breath, but she knew that wasn't wise. Her shivering was a warning she was in danger of hypothermia. It would be a cold, wet trek back to Vic's house, so she had to get on with it and keep moving.
As she stood straight, she thought she smelled wood smoke—from a fireplace or a woodstove, perhaps. How was that possible? She was too far from the main house. It had to be her imagination or her natural optimism at work.
She heard the snap of a twig and looked up through the trees behind her, away from the brook. A man she didn't recognize stepped comfortably down to her and Rohan. He wore a black suede jacket and solid boots but no hat or gloves.
He scanned her from head to toe before he spoke. "Nice job with the puppy rescue."
"Yes, ma'am. I didn't want to startle you."
Heather felt Rohan stir in her arms, but he didn't bark. Probably too tired. "Ready to come to my rescue if I fell in, were you?"
"You did fall in," he said, pointing to her wet lower left leg.
"Not all the way in."
"You'd be a popsicle if you fell all the way in. I was on my way to rescue the little guy myself. I'm staying at Vic's guesthouse. I got in late last night. My name's Brody, by the way."
"Heather Sloan," she said. "Good to meet you."
Except she felt as if she should know him. Did know him.
He narrowed his eyes—dark, flecked with gold—on her. He had short-cropped dark hair, a square jaw, a cleft chin. She shook off the idea that he was familiar somehow. She didn't know anyone who would be a guest of Vic Scarlatti.
He stepped past her and picked up her fallen glove out of the snow. She took in his broad shoulders and his dark canvas pants covering muscular thighs. He looked strong and incredibly fit. Another diplomat? Somehow Heather didn't think so.
He stood straight and tucked her glove into her jacket pocket. "It's filled with snow. It's not going to keep you warm. I can take the pup if you'd like. Give you a chance to pull yourself together."
"I'm fine, thanks, and I can handle Rohan."
"Rohan?" Brody stroked the soft fur behind the puppy's ear. "He doesn't look much like a rider of Rohan at the moment, does he?"
Heather agreed the Tolkien-inspired name was in-congruently regal for such a rambunctious, cute-as-the-devil puppy. He was getting heavy in her arms, but she noticed his heart rate had settled down.
"He's not my puppy," she said. "I just helped look for him."
"Vic Scarlatti has a puppy?" Brody grinned as if the prospect both amused and surprised him. "I guess retirement will do that even to a guy like Vic."
"He's a stray. Rohan, I mean. Vic found him wandering around alone out here a few days ago and took him in."
"Well, good for Vic."
"Another guest named him Rohan. Adrienne Portale. Are you two friends?"
"Nope. Don't know her."
Rohan snuggled deeper into Heather's arms. "I should get back. It's cold even for January."
"I'll walk with you."
She sucked in a breath. When it came right down to it, she had no idea who this man was. "Thanks, but I can manage."
"Mind if I walk with you as far as the guesthouse?"
"How do you know Vic?"
"We go back a ways."
A vague answer. "You're a lot younger than he is."
"Yes, I am."
Heather hesitated. "I should let Vic know that Rohan is safe."
"I already texted him that a dark-haired woman in a brown coat had just rescued a puppy from the brook."
"That was efficient."
"He hasn't responded. I also told him you could use some dry clothes." Brody nodded up through the woods toward the main house. "Shall we?"
Heather could feel Rohan settling into her arms. He wasn't a light puppy. She needed to get moving if she was going to carry him all the way back to the house.
She took a step up the hill. "I guess if you're one of Vic's friends, it's safe to go off with you. You're not going to bonk me on the head and dump me in the guesthouse cellar. It doesn't have a cellar, for one thing."
"That's a dramatic imagination you have there."
"It's not drama. It's being practical. I'm very practical."
"Do you say everything you think?"
"No. Do you?"
His gaze slid over her. He smiled. "No." Despite the frigid temperature, she felt heat in her cheeks. Maybe she should think before she spoke. She adjusted Rohan in her arms again as she took another step up the hill. "I'm also good at taking care of myself."
"Come on. You pushed hard through the snow, and you're frozen. Let me take Rohan."
Heather didn't protest when Brody scooped up the half-asleep puppy. She tried not to shiver or let her teeth chatter, but with the cold weather and her partial dip in the icy brook, she had to admit she was frozen. "I didn't expect Rohan to end up down here by the lake."
"He bolted past the guesthouse. I saw him out the window but couldn't get out fast enough to grab him before he hit the brook. You're okay to walk, aren't you?"
"Yep. No problem."
"Didn't think it would be. Tough as nails, right?"
"Just used to New England winters."
There was something in his tone Heather couldn't quite place. Familiarity? Sarcasm? Amusement? A mix of all three? She couldn't deny she was madly curious about him, but maybe he just had funny ideas about Knights Bridge and the people who lived there.
She resisted asking him the four thousand questions she had. She needed to get Rohan back to Vic's. With her wet pants and case of the shivers, she ought to get dry and warm herself She was happy to let Brody lead the way back to Vic's house, thus allowing her to step in his footprints instead of in virgin snow. It was much less tiring, and the snow didn't seem to faze him.
"How do you like Knights Bridge so far?"
He glanced back at her. "Do you really want to ask me that right now?"
"Seventeen degrees, snow, ice, a golden retriever puppy on the loose?" Heather grinned at him. "What's not to like?"
"Oh, yeah, Heather Sloan." Just the faintest of smiles. "What's not to like?"
Vic Scarlatti bought his house on Echo Lake twenty years ago, when he was a rising star in the US diplomatic corps, and had done virtually nothing to it since. That suited Heather. The previous owner, the granddaughter of the Boston financier who'd built the house, had updated the plumbing, wiring and heat about ten years before the property went on the market upon her death. It was classic Arts and Crafts, oriented to take in the best views of its long-neglected garden and the lake.
Brody showed no sign of appreciating the house's charms and potential as he set Rohan on his puppy bed in the small, cluttered mudroom off the kitchen. The little golden retriever immediately gave a deep sigh and rolled onto his side, dozing.
"The bed looks new," Brody said.
"It is," Heather said, walking past him through the open doorway into the kitchen. "I bought it at the country store in town. I figured Rohan needed a bed."
"Does Vic plan to keep him?"
"He says absolutely not."
She sank onto a chair at the kitchen table. She was stiffer than she wanted to admit after her adventure, but at least she was warming up fast. She pulled off her ankle boots. Both socks were wet, but her left one was sopping. Another of her out-into-the-cold sins was her choice of thin cotton socks. She peeled them off and stuffed them in her boots. She'd figure out what to do about them later, when she didn't have Brody for an audience.
He grabbed Rohan's water bowl and filled it at the deep porcelain kitchen sink, one of the granddaughter's additions. He brought the bowl to Rohan and set it close to his bed. The puppy stirred. At first he was too lethargic to care about anything except yawning, but he managed to get onto all fours and lap at the water.
"You should have some water, too," Brody said as he rejoined Heather in the kitchen. "It's easy to get dehydrated in this dry cold and not realize it."
"Water would be nice."
Before she could stand, he had a cupboard open and a glass in hand. He filled it with water and set it on the table in front of her. "Drink up."
"You remind me of my brothers. They never look cold, either. You don't even have a red nose. I do, don't I?"
"You were out in the cold longer than I was."
"A diplomatic answer. My brothers won't go easy on me for almost freezing to death while chasing a puppy."
"What would they have had you do?"
"Not take chances. Wear wool socks, at least." She smiled suddenly. "But all's well that ends well, right?"
"And you don't have to tell your brothers."
"True, but it's too good a story not to tell. I wish I'd spotted your footprints instead of Rohan's, though. I'd have let you do the rescuing."
Brody unbuttoned his jacket but didn't take it off. He had on a dark sweater over his taut abdomen. Heather was accustomed to fit guys, and he was obviously and decidedly fit. She averted her gaze and drank her water. She was noticing too much about this man. Maybe dehydration and adrenaline had put her senses on overdrive.
"Do you have dry clothes here?" he asked.
"Why would I?" She snapped up straight, almost knocking her water glass off the table. "Wait. You don't think—" She gulped in a breath. "I'm almost forty years younger than Vic. No. Absolutely not."
Brody grinned, his dark eyes sparking with humor. "That's not what I was thinking. I was just wondering if you kept a change of clothes here given your work. You and Vic Scarlatti? Damn, that's funny. Seriously funny."
"What do you mean, seriously funny? You say that as if I'm not. "She stopped herself, abandoning that train of thought in the nick of time. "Never mind."
"As if you're not attractive, you mean? That's not what I'm saying." He paused, warmth replacing the humor in his eyes now. "Trust me."
Heather jumped to her feet, baffled by why she was blurting out things she had no business blurting out. She'd never been good at policing what she said, but she didn't know this man—never mind that he seemed familiar. A trick of her imagination, no doubt.
"Right. Well." She took a quick breath. "Main point is, I'll be fine in these clothes. Obviously, I didn't show up here dressed for a puppy rescue. I'm from Knights Bridge— I live in the village a few miles from here."
"Have you always lived in town?"
"Except for college, but I went to UMass Amherst.
That's not far."
Excerpted from Echo Lake by Carla Neggers. Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Retired Ambassador Vic Scarletti has retired in the town of Knights Bridge. He is living in a 1912 country house that is being remodeled by Heather Sloan and her family’s construction business. While there, some strange things seem to be happening to Vic. He is starting to think that someone is pulling pranks on him. He calls in his DDS friend Brody Hancock to look into things. Brody grew up in Knights Bridge and he has history with Heather’s five older brothers. They had some disagreement and Brody left town shortly there after. But things have changed and that includes Heather. Heather is very protected by her brothers but she is also good at standing up for herself. But having Brody back in town is going to make things interesting. There is a lot going on in this story which makes it a little difficult to get into the romance between Brody and Heather. I really would have liked to know what happened between Heathers brothers and Brody to make him leave town. I liked how Heather has decided that she doesn’t want anything to do with Brody but with his perseverance they end up together. This was an interesting mystery that had a nice little ending. The book was wrapped up pretty well. This is a cute little romance story in a little town. Although it was the fourth in the series you will have no problem finding your place by starting with Echo Lake or Secrets of the Lost Summer. I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Enjoyed immensely! Story line keeps you going
Carla Neggers brings readers the fourth book in her Swift River Valley series. Set in a quaint town in New England, this book has all the hallmarks of a good romance. A sweet and capable heroine, making a living in a man's world. An alpha male hero, that will have readers heaving a sigh or two. And a bit of mystery to keep things interesting. Readers looking for a fresh, interesting story that will keep them up at night, need look no further. A good addition to an already wonderful series! This is my first book in the Swift River Valley series and I'll have to say it was a bit surprising. I am used to reading Carla Neggers romantic suspense novels and this one was more of a contemporary romance. There was a mystery, but Neggers was very light handed with that aspect of the story. It was definitely a change from what I was used to with the author, but I still enjoyed it very much. It proves that Neggers has a lot of versatility in her writing. She was able to keep me interested without all of the usual bells and whistles. Since this was book four in the series, I felt a little out of the loop for the first few chapters. It took me a little while to learn the ins and outs of Knight's Bridge, Massachusetts, but I absolutely loved the setting. Neggers does such an amazing job with the scenery and describing the area that it will probably make the reader long for their own home in New England, especially in winter. The characters start popping up all over the place and it took me a little sorting through to figure out who was who and which ones were regular characters in the series and who was new, but eventually it all started to gel. I wouldn't say this one has to be read in order, but remember it has a bit of a slow start and you might need to be on your toes to sort it all out, if you haven't read the previous books in the series, but if you give it a chance I think you'll really enjoy the style of writing and the atmosphere that Neggers creates. I would say most of the story is really about Vic, rather than Heather and Brody. Yes, it is a romance and that part of the story is one of the most important parts, but I felt like it was a bit overshadowed by all of the inner drama with Vic and his issues with retiring. It made for a slightly slower pace than I'm used to with Neggers writing, but that didn't take anything away from the enjoyment of the book. Eventually, the hero and the heroine get down to the business of finding each other and finding out what they want from each other. I liked the issue with Heather's five brothers and Brody and thought that added a sort of light element to the book that was refreshing. Bottom Line: This isn't your average Carla Neggers book. I like her hard boiled romantic suspense novels, but this was a nice change of pace. I think I will most likely read the other books in the series because I am intrigued to see more of this kind of writing from this author. Echo Lake has a bit of a slow beginning but once it heats up, readers won't be able to put it down. A great addition to the series and I'm looking forward to going back and catching up!
This was a fantastically well written novel, allowing Neggers’ style to really shine through. I really like how she develops Swift River in such a manner that new readers can easily pick up the story, but those who have read the previous novels in the series will be welcomed back to town. Her vibrant descriptions and enticing narrative bring this world to life for the reader. I will admit that it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found that there was so much lead up to the actual story, that once things began to happen, they raced through. The plot wasn’t quite as strong as many other novels that I’ve read by this author, but was enjoyable just the same. Neggers has filled this novel with characters that really come to life. I enjoyed the complexity of the relationship between main characters. Neither of their lives were easy, but were so vastly different from one another. The supporting cast that they found themselves with was also quite entertaining. The overbearing, overprotective, older brothers could drive even a saint insane, but their sense of loyalty was so infectious that you couldn’t help but like them. As a whole, this was an enjoyable read. It was sweet with that hint of suspense that keeps you on your toes. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Echo Lake - a great place to visit! I really enjoyed this story and the return to Swift River Valley. Good characters, visits with 'old friends', and a story that kept me reading. A very enjoyable read
For the very longest time, I’ve wanted to read Carla Neggers and finally, finally was able to do so, with “Echo Lake”, the fourth in the Swift River Valley Series. The waiting was worth it, the first read was pure delight and Agent Hancock and the resident builder Heather Sloan are just perfect for each other, with a life with each other. DSS Agent Brody Hancock returns to Knights Ridge at the behest of his diplomat friend Vic Scarletti. Eighteen long years has changed a lot in Knights Bridge, yet nothing has changed. The essence of a small town has not changed, but Heather Loan sure had grown up into a lady giving him sleepless nights. There are a few things in his life at Knights Bridge that need to be put to rest, before he can succumb to his love for Heather. Heather Sloan is the only girl and youngest of the Sloan clan, and helps with their construction business. So renovating the stately 1912 country home of Vic Scarletti is a great opportunity for her family business, and for her as she heads the project. But she did not budget in the fact that Brody Hancock could skyrocket her heart to a different proposal. Set against the New England winter, Echo Lake is a charming story of love, patience and family. It is a beautiful story of two wonderful people meant to be together. And it is a captivating story steeped in emotions, love, subtle humor and unconditional support of family and friends. Received an ARC from Harlequin via NetGalley for an honest review.
4 STARS It was good to back to Swift River Valley. The characters are interesting, and I want to see more of them. Cute puppy too. The mystery was okay. Part of it I guessed early. The setting was small town in winter. Good drama and romance. Heather Sloan is in charge of renovation of 1912 stately country home. She is the youngest child with six older brothers. Brody Hancock he works as a Diplomatic Security Service agent. He has come back to his home town of Knights Bridge to look into things for Vic Scarlatti problems. He is on leave after something about a mission went bad. Vic Scarlatti just retired from working the past 40 years in government. He was a Ambassador. He has some unexpected things happening to him. Lots of wine tasting, about building wine cellar. Which I don't drink and don't plan to so that part was not too interesting for me. I have no way of judging that part of the story. Has some snappy dialog. Great descriptions of scenery. I enjoy Swift River Valley and would come back to visit there again. I was given this ebook from Net Galley and Harlequin. In return I agreed to give honest review of Echo Lake.
This book is about Heather Sloan and Brody Hancock. Heather has gotten her dream job, renovation of Vic Scarlatti's stately 1912 country home in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. Brody is a Dip0matic Security Service agent. He had left Nights Bridge at 18 and had no planes to come back. Vic is a retired diplomat and a friend who needs help. Brody is staying in Vic guesthouse and that makes it impossible for him not to run into Heather every turn. Heather is wary of Brody's sudden interest in her.. Very good book. Love her writing. tr
"Thanks love" she says breathaly
Can you please explain what is going on back at camp?