It is the spectacular waterfall that first drew Claire and Keith away from their fast-paced, high-tech careers to pursue the dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast in the rustic lodge above Bloodroot River. But the dream becomes a nightmare when Keith's body is found snagged in the river rapids, his death ruled a suicide.
Claire knows her husband would never take his own life. But local sheriff Nick Braden thinks her suspicions of foul play are unfounded. Despite his skepticism, Nick and Claire start digging into her husband's past... and what they uncover paints a shocking portrait of what really happened that September night.
|Product dimensions:||4.22(w) x 6.61(h) x 1.08(d)|
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By Karen Harper
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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Chapter OneSeptember 5, 2000 Portfalls, Washington
Though Claire Malvern was a sound sleeper, something woke her. Except for the constant, distant roar of the waterfall, their fishing lodge lay silent. She couldn't even hear her husband's usual deep and steady breathing.
She reached across the king-size bed. The sheets on his side were cold. Still groggy, she pushed herself up on her elbows. The muted red glow of the digital clock on his side of the bed illuminated no shoulder, no silhouette. The numbers read 3:13 a.m.
She flopped back down, then held her breath, straining to listen, but the rush of river mingled with the falls shrouded other sounds. Once comprising a central dining hall and a series of separate cabins, their rebuilt fishing lodge sprawled along a heavily treed crest overlooking the volatile Bloodroot River, which ran with rain and snowmelt from the Cascades to Puget Sound.
Claire fought her exhaustion. They had both been working too hard. Yesterday had been Labor Day, and labor they had, on this big, old place into which they'd sunk their assets, toiling toward their dream of opening The Falls Bed and Breakfast as soon as possible. Keith had been a bit edgy lately; he'd probably just had a bad dream or couldn't sleep. Or maybe the anchovy pizza had given him heartburn.
Their attached bathroom was dark, and the door wide-open. Perhaps he was downstairs, just wandering, planning, envisioning the future. Their move from Seattle to the small town of Portfalls, in rural, rugged Washington, had been his idea. She loved the beauty here, too, but they had left good careers in their mid-thirties for this great escape, as he called it.
Adrenaline pumped through her. She sat up. The room seemed chilly, but she felt flushed with distress.
The sharp sound of her voice startled her. "Keith?" she repeated louder.
Claire got up, shoved her feet into her slippers and tugged on her terry-cloth robe. In the cold moonlight that threw itself through the tall, new windows, she could see quite clearly. Knotting her belt, she looked over the banister at the hulking shadows cast by the big pieces of furniture in the high-ceilinged great room below.
"Keith? Where are you? Are you okay?"
In both the bedroom and loft, she began to turn on lights, even though it meant anyone on the river would be able to look in on her through the span of windows, as if this were a lighted aquarium. But surely no one was out there at three-thirteen in the morning. Besides, if Keith had stepped out on the deck for some reason, the lights would draw him back. So what if he'd surprised her with a late-night walk, however unusual?
Claire hit the recessed ceiling lights for the great room and hurried down the curved wooden staircase, blinking at the brightness. She sensed, somehow, that Keith wasn't in the house, but she kept looking. She checked that the doors were still locked, the bolts shot, too, then realized he could have gone out and relocked everything. She rushed through the kitchen to the garage, where their SUV and truck sat. Then, hoping he had just walked to one of the three bedrooms in the wing they'd been renovating for future guests, she snapped on more lights. In each room, Claire looked out onto the deck that ran the entire length of the lodge above the river.
No sign of Keith.
She began to panic. Claire considered herself a down-to-earth person, but she had a fanciful bent, too, or she would never have been a successful interior designer and painter. Her serious nature began to do battle with her imagination. Her husband had gone for a walk and had been sitting on the deck stairs, staring at the beauty of the moonlit woods and the rapids of the foaming salmon river, when he tumbled off the step and hurt his ankle. Maybe he'd been calling for her outside and she hadn't heard him. Or he'd gone out to the old fish-cleaning shed to putter.
But none of that was like him.
Her heart pounding, she tore back upstairs, taking the steps two at a time, and yanked off her robe and nightgown. Shivering, she pulled on underpants, jeans and a sweatshirt, and shoved her feet into her old, paint-splattered loafers. She was angry with him now. Why had he left without waking her? This wasn't like him. In ten years of marriage, he'd never done anything like this.
She took his pistol from the bedside table drawer. The Smith & Wesson .38 revolver was ice-cold to the touch; she grabbed a jacket just to have a pocket to carry it. Though only nine inches long and one pound in weight, it felt huge and heavy. She hated guns and rarely touched the thing. But outsiders might be camped nearby, especially during these big salmon runs on the river. It was common for fishermen to walk under their windows, hopping across the boulders below, or to park along River Road and access the river through their driveway, even though their sign said Private - No Parking or Stopping.
Downstairs again, with a flashlight in one hand and cell phone in the other, Claire went outside and checked the back deck. She thudded down the stairs, circling the lodge and looking in the outbuildings, then moved away from the lights. She decided she'd have to shout for him, even if it attracted someone else. Fishermen were mostly a helpful lot, caught up in the excitement and camaraderie of chasing the silvers, pinks and sockeyes driven here by desperate instinct to spawn.
For once she cursed the Bloodroot River and the falls, wishing for silence so she could hear Keith's voice. Her flashlight trained on the ground, she started down the path that ran along the river.
"Keith?" she shouted, her voice breaking. "Answer me!"
* * *
"I can't believe it's this late - or early," Nick Braden told the two other men chowing down at the counter of D.B. Café at the tiny Portfalls airport.
"It's four a.m., I'm on duty at eight, and need some shut-eye. I haven't done the graveyard shift for years - thank God. Even with this food, I'm starting to feel like a zombie."
"You make out the schedules," said Jackson, the Native American counter cook. "Give yourself a coupla days off for once."
"You the man!" Herb Black agreed, his mouth half-full. "So how in the Sam Hill you gonna get the graveyard shift when you're doing the sched'ling?"
All three customers, hunched over the cedar counter, were polishing off plates of bacon, eggs and hash browns smothered in ketchup. Jackson kept the coffee cups full. Nick sat around the corner from the other two, where he could observe them and the entire room - habit from years as a military policeman and then as an officer for various rural Washington police departments.
"Yeah, you got you a real hotbed of crime to keep an eye on 'round here, Sheriff," Herb kidded him. Herb was a pilot who flew fishermen or tourists out to the San Juan islands. "Piece o' cake - that's what you oughta be eatin'."
Excerpted from The Falls by Karen Harper Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This story will keep you guessing until the end who did it. I thought I knew who it was, but then the story would take a bizarre turn and keep you guessing! The characters were all a bit strange and 'the falls' starts to get to you. Yet you will not want to put this one down. I really enjoyed it, a great read indeed!
Trilling and exciting book, full of romance and suspense. Definitely a Book Trapper one that you will want to read and not put down until you are finished.
It was non-stop mystery from the moment that Claire woke up. I've felt as If I was part of the book helping out,looking for Keith as well. I really love a different twist. I was twisted into knots as soon as I thought I knew who was the real killer, the book took a different curve.Then you had to piece the motivate together, and then comes another twist and it's not who you think it is. I really liked this book,and this summer there is alot of Romance suspense's out there.
This book was very good! I didn't know who dunnit until the end! Very well written!!
Claire and her husband, Keith sought a new life in the countryside, opening an inn they named for the scenic, beautiful falls that drew them away from the hectic urban life. It is a joy that is doomed to a short life, however. In an unbelieveable turn of events, Claire finds herself widowed when Keith apparently commits suicide by leaping into those same falls. ............. Yet, Claire is unable to accept this. Determinedly, she forces the handsome sherriff to help her find out what really happened to her husband. This quest is one that will open up secrets all across the town. There are a surprising number of suspects and hidden motives. Only two things are clear, times are very dangerous, and Claire is finding herself falling for Noah, her reluctant ally. ............ ***** Small towns are filled with secrets and lies. You will be fascinated by the unfolding story that Ms. Harper reveals. The complexity is baffling and intriguing, and the romance rewarding. Neither aspect draws away from the other, but the love story is complemented and interwoven expertly into the mystery. *****
Keith and Claire Malvern left Seattle to open up The Falls Bed and Breakfast in Portfalls, Washington. Before the couple actually opens the doors to their new establishment, Keith apparently commits suicide by leaping off the nearby ¿Jumper¿s¿ bridge. Claire refuses to believe her spouse for ten years would perpetrate such a cowardly act on her because he knew how hurt she was when her mother killed herself, but she cannot persuade County Sheriff Nick Braden to investigate what is to him an obvious suicide. A desperate Claire goes to a Seattle auction in which Nick, doing this for his deceased wife, is for sale. She buys him for $750, asking him to investigate with her what happened to her husband. As they begin working together and begin falling in love, a watcher pays close attention to the duo just in case two more people must die. Though the story line takes the easy road involving Keith¿s death and geography makes the culprit seem unreasonable, romantic suspense readers will appreciate the tension that the story line builds up to until the final climax. Keith is a delightful protagonist feeling guilt over his wife¿s death because even after several years he wonders why she hid her cancer from him until it was obvious. Adding to his feelings of guilt is that he falls in love with a woman he knows is too vulnerable for a relationship at this time. Claire is a bewildered heroine, who starts having doubts about her deceased husband even as she feels shame for desiring the sheriff. Karen Harper provides a fine thriller, but this could have been a great relationship drama. Harriet Klausner