Haunted by the loss of his wife and son, Daniel Garrett left the police force to devote his life to finding missing children. But he still hasn't found a way to mend the wounds of his past-until he attends a wedding in the small mountain town of Eternity Springs...and meets a beautiful, intriguing woman who offers a glimpse of something Daniel thought he'd never have again.
Shannon O'Toole isn't looking for romance. Ever since her fiancé's death, she created a quiet life for herself restoring Victorian cottages. Still, she can't deny her attraction to the handsome, broad-shouldered stranger. Daniel makes her feel things she's hasn't felt in years-including the desire to share her secrets. But can Shannon trust a detective when doing so could bring danger to her cottage door? In Eternity Springs, anything-and everything-is possible...
"Emily March's stories are heartwrenching and soul-satisfying.
For a wonderful read, don't miss a visit to Eternity Springs."
-Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author
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By Emily March
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Emily March
All rights reserved.
TEN YEARS AGO
Daniel Garrett's eyes flew open to darkness and an unholy sensation of dread slithering in the pit of his stomach. He'd like to think it was due to the greasy plate of ribs he'd eaten with his dad last night at the Patriots game, but he knew better.
Something was off. His universe just wasn't right. The feeling had plagued him for the better part of a week.
So what was it? What had yanked him out of a sound sleep at — he glanced at the bedside clock — 4:57 in the morning, a full hour before the alarm was due to go off?
He took stock of his surroundings. Beside him, his wife lay sleeping peacefully, smelling of the rose-scented lotion she'd lathered on after her shower, the blocks of ice that doubled as her feet burrowed beneath his legs. Lifting his head from his pillow, he turned his ear toward the doorway and listened intently for any sound coming from the bedroom down the hall.
No. Nothing from Justin. Nothing from the puppy who slept in his son's room. No creaks from the staircase or chime from the clock downstairs in the living room. No howl of wind or ping of sleet outside. The winter storm that had chewed its way across the Eastern seaboard last night as they went to bed had moved on as evidenced by the stars visible through the sliver of space between the white eyelet window curtains of the master bedroom.
No, nothing external had disturbed his sleep. The trouble was in his mind ... his intuition ... his gut.
He'd seen something. Sensed something. But what?
He lifted his arms, laced his fingers behind his head, and stared up toward the ceiling. Maybe it was work. Maybe he was about to be laid off. Rumors of budget cuts abounded, and he was the youngest detective with the fewest years on the force. Last in, first out would get him. Or at least get him bumped back to patrol.
He hadn't helped himself by failing to hide his disdain for department politics, either. Daniel didn't play games. He didn't like people who did. As a result, he didn't get along with his boss or his boss's boss. They put up with him because he was good at his job, which made them look better at theirs.
But if heads had to roll ...
Wonder where his old uniforms were stored? Guest room closet, maybe? He hoped his wife hadn't gotten rid of them. He tried to recall the last time Gail had gone into one of her closet-cleaning frenzies. If she'd done it since his promotion, the everyday uniforms were likely history.
I don't want to go back to patrol.
He loved the job. Maybe he could get on as a detective somewhere else. They didn't have to live near Boston. Gail's family was spread all over creation. His parents would miss their regular Wednesday-night dinner with their only grandson, but they'd come to visit. They could fly free — one of the advantages of his mom having worked for an airline all these years. And his brothers ... well ... it might be good to put some distance between himself and those know-it-alls. Maybe he should put out some job feelers just in case.
Maybe the job wasn't the problem. Maybe this bad juju he was feeling had something to do with one of his family members. His dad had mentioned his angina last night. Daniel hadn't liked hearing that. I'll call him later and make sure Mom knows he's having chest pain. She'll make sure he sees the doctor like he promised me.
Restless, Daniel rolled onto his side and pulled Gail over to spoon against him. She mumbled something about Soupy Lou and vegetables and managed to distract him from his dark thoughts. Daniel grinned into the darkness. He figured she was reliving last summer's garden disaster.
Gail had gone totally ballistic after their puppy had made the serious mistake of plucking green fruit off her plants and gnawing them just enough to ruin them. In her angry outburst upon discovering the crime, she'd threatened to give the dog away, which sent their four-year-old son into a panic.
Daniel had known it to be an idle threat because Gail loved the six-month-old boxer as much as Justin did. Nevertheless, it had taken him half an hour and the promise to build a fence for their backyard garden to calm down both mother and son.
So the following day when Soupy made a chew toy out of his favorite pair of sneakers, he'd chosen his own idle threats more carefully.
Remembering how Gail's eyes had sparkled as she and Justin stood united in defense of Soupy had Daniel giving the clock a second glance. He'd burned almost forty minutes with all his worrying. Still left twenty minutes before the alarm. A good husband woke his wife from her nightmares, didn't he?
He shifted his arm and slipped his hand beneath the clingy knit of her pajama top. Cupping her breast, he trailed his thumb back and forth across her nipple until she stirred and sighed his name. He nipped the soft, sensitive skin of her neck, and when she shivered in response, murmured, "I love you, Gail Garrett."
"Love you, too," she sleepily replied.
Daniel made love to his wife, and the heat they created together chased the cold from his soul.
Sex as a distraction worked only until the worries came rolling back as he stood beneath a pelting hot shower at quarter after seven. Dammit, maybe he should come right out and ask Captain Hill about the downsizing rumor. Not that his boss would give him a straight answer, but his body language would betray him. In the first few seconds after posing a question to the man, Daniel could read him like a book.
However, if layoffs weren't on the horizon, Daniel didn't want to give his captain any ideas.
Another solution might be to fess up to his partner that he had the heebie-jeebies. James Reichs had twenty-seven years under his belt; he would respect hunches. Wouldn't he?
Maybe. Maybe not. He might tell me I'm an inexperienced idiot.
"Well, kiddo," Daniel could picture Reichs saying as he rubbed his jaw in his habitual gesture. "I don't know. There's a fortune teller over by the waterfront. Maybe we should go ask her. She could read her tarot cards and tell you what you're gonna be when you grow up."
On second thought, maybe he wouldn't say anything to Reichs.
Not that Daniel didn't give card and tea-leaf readers their due. He had some Gypsy blood in him from his father's side. His mother was full-blooded Irish. His heritage made him predisposed to accepting the reality of premonitions.
That's why he added an accessory to his workday ensemble when he dressed. He pulled on his Kevlar vest before he slipped into his sport coat and did his best not to feel foolish about it.
Exiting his bedroom, he glanced down the hallway toward Justin's room. The closed door and faint sound of local news turned low on the television downstairs meant that Justin was still asleep. Soundlessly, he pushed open his son's bedroom door. Soupy Lou immediately jumped down from the bed — where she knew she didn't belong — and into the dog bed at the foot of the boy's twin-sized bed. Daniel scolded the dog with a look, then turned his attention to his son.
An active sleeper, Justin invariably kicked off his covers so they dressed him in blanket sleepers on winter nights. He had a variety of cartoon-character versions, and the blue and gold of Daniel's collegiate team. Last night he'd chosen a green and orange Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles selection to wear, and now he lay with his knees scrunched up under him and his butt in the air.
A tsunami of love rolled through Daniel as he gazed at the softly snoring boy. Justin was a fabulous kid. Good-natured, except when he was hungry and then he turned into Godzilla-boy ravaging the pantry. The kid was curious about everything. He'd started talking a little late, but once the floodgates had opened, the questions never stopped. All boy — the rhyme about snakes and snails and puppy dog tails fit him to a tee. Give him the Nature Channel and a show about spiders, and he was one little happy man.
A happy little fearless man. The boy was entirely too daring for Daniel's peace of mind. Last Saturday was the perfect example. While visiting his grandfather's barbershop, Justin had taken advantage of the adults' momentary distraction when Pitt scored a last second touchdown to clinch a come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech. He'd fastened a barber cape around his neck, climbed onto the back of a barber chair, and jumped off à la Batman. His hand knocked scissors off a shelf on his way down, and the point missed hitting his eye by a hair.
"You will be the death of your mother and me, son," Daniel whispered now as he tucked the covers back over the boy.
He leaned down, pressed a light kiss against Justin's cheek, then trailed his knuckle across the dusting of freckles on his nose. Angel kisses, Gail called them.
We'd better hope your guardian angel covers your face in them.
Daniel took a couple steps toward the door and his right shoe wobbled as he stepped on something. Glancing down, he spied Justin's Batman action figure. His favorite. Now, sporting a broken arm. Kid needs to learn to keep his toys picked up. Thinking to teach the boy a lesson, he scooped the small plastic doll up with its arm and stuck them in his pocket.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Gail had breakfast ready and waiting. He savored his first sip of coffee, but despite the early-morning exercise, his normally healthy appetite had disappeared. He had to force himself to eat the bacon and eggs.
"What's the matter, Daniel?" his wife asked when he declined a third strip of bacon. "I can tell something's been bothering you."
He took another sip of coffee to buy time to frame his response. Gail knew him better than he knew himself. High school sweethearts, they'd married young and had Justin before they'd intended to start a family — a blessing, they'd discovered recently when Gail developed fertility issues. She'd always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and though money was tight, they'd made it work. The promotion to detective had darn sure come in handy. "I don't like that sound the heater's been making. Really hope we can make it through the winter without having to buy a new unit."
She gave him a measured look over the top of her coffee mug. Because the statement was true enough, Daniel managed to hold her gaze.
Gail didn't need the burden of this nameless worry of his. For a cop's wife, anxiousness came with the territory, but if fretting were a sport, she'd be a pro. On the All-Star team. She'd been more relaxed the past couple of months since he made detective and moved off patrol, but he saw no sense in causing her concern. Besides, the problem could very well be the furnace. They didn't need the financial hit for that right now. Not as long as they were making the hefty payments to the fertility clinic.
"What plans do you have for today?" he asked in hopes of shifting the topic of conversation.
"We have a big day planned. We're going grocery shopping this morning, then meeting Jeremy Tate and his mom at the mall for a matinee. The new Disney movie. If your day goes okay, want to meet us afterward for dinner?"
"Sure. Sounds like fun. I'll do my best to make it." Maybe he'd see about taking a half day of personal time and catch the movie with them, too. Two hours of feel-good entertainment might help him shake this funk. If he could talk her into ending their day the way they'd started it, he might put this weird mood behind him for good.
Daniel wiped his mouth with his napkin and stood. He leaned down, kissed his wife good-bye, then headed for the mudroom where he pulled on his overcoat and unlocked the gun safe to retrieve his weapon. As he slipped the revolver into the holster beneath his jacket, he heard the rattle of Soupy's tags and the thud of Justin's footsteps on the stairs. He almost turned back to greet his son, but a glance at his watch convinced him otherwise. A five-minute delay now meant another twenty minutes in traffic.
He second-guessed that decision minutes later as he accelerated on the ramp onto the interstate that would take him downtown. The chill that skittered down his spine had little to do with the crisp November weather. You should have taken the time. Being a few minutes late to work won't hurt anything.
Sure. Right up until the moment they started choosing warm bodies for layoffs.
Nevertheless, the urge to see and speak to Justin was so strong that he almost took the first exit and turned around. He might have done it, too, had his phone not rung.
Two minutes later, any thought of taking a personal day had evaporated. He called Gail. "I'm not going to make it this afternoon. We caught a homicide."
"Oh, no. I just told Justin you said you'd try to join us. He'll be disappointed."
"Tell him I'll take him kite flying this weekend to make up for it. The weather's supposed to be perfect for it."
"He's standing right here. Why don't you tell him?"
She handed the phone to Justin who spoke with a whine in his little voice. "Daddy, come to the movie with us!"
"I can't, buddy. Daddy's got to work."
"But I don't want you to work. I want you to come to the movies!"
"I'm sorry, kiddo. Tell you what. You be a good boy for your mother today, and Saturday, you and I will go to the park and fly a kite."
"Promise, Daddy? Cross your heart promise?"
"Cross my heart promise."
"I love kites even more than movies. Except for the popcorn."
"Hey, we'll get us some popcorn, too."
"Yippee. Bye, Daddy."
The dial tone sounded in Daniel's ear and he chuckled. Needed to work with the little guy on phone etiquette. Then Daniel tossed his phone onto the passenger seat and turned his attention toward murder.
It was a grisly, all-consuming business, though he did manage to steal a few minutes to call his father and nag him to make the doctor's appointment. Throughout the morning, his sense of foreboding continued to simmer.
They made a one o'clock appointment with the deceased's grieving sister at her home in a Boston suburb. During the drive there after a swing through a fast food drive-through at Reichs's request, Daniel brought up the possibility of layoffs. Reichs squirted a packet of ketchup onto his fries. "Forget about it. Ain't happening. You're not getting out of this job that easy. You're gonna have to suffer along at least until you get your twenty years like the rest of us poor saps. Is that what's been gnawing at you this week?"
"Yeah. No." Daniel watched his partner lick ketchup from his thumb, and his mind returned to the bloody scene where they'd spent much of the morning. "The husband did it."
"We'll prove it."
"Considering the history of domestic violence, we'll close it by the end of the week." Reichs popped another fry into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "What's eating you, Garrett? Have a fight with the wife?"
"No. Gail and I are good." Daniel sucked in a breath, then exhaled a heavy sigh. "I don't know. I'm being paranoid. But ... something's off. I have this spider crawling up my spine."
"That's why you're wearing your vest?"
Of course his partner had noticed. Very little got past James Reichs. Daniel described the sense of foreboding hanging over him like a storm cloud. "I don't know if it's all in my imagination or if I'm picking up on something that's real."
Reichs shook a fry at Daniel. "Doesn't matter. That's a lesson I learned many moons ago. You listen to your gut. It just might save your life."
Daniel's lips twisted in a rueful frown. "I'm listening. I just wish my gut would speak more clearly. At least let me know if this whole thing is business or personal."
"Be a detective, Garrett. Figure it out."
"Easier said than done," Daniel muttered.
Reichs finished his fry, then polished off half his burger before he spoke again. "You're still green, but you're smart. You're tenacious. You have great instincts. With a little experience, you'll be a damned fine investigator. When you're in a situation like this, you have to be methodical in your approach. Nine times out of ten, there's something there, something you're seeing but don't realize you're seeing. The place to start is your files. Take a stack of them home with you tonight."
Daniel nodded, glad to have a direction. He'd lucked out getting Reichs for a partner. The guy was a legend in the department, and Daniel knew he could learn a lot from him.
Excerpted from Heartsong Cottage by Emily March. Copyright © 2015 Emily March. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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