The Rain Sparrow (Honey Ridge Series #2)

The Rain Sparrow (Honey Ridge Series #2)

by Linda Goodnight

Paperback(Original)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373789146
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 02/23/2016
Series: Honey Ridge Series , #2
Edition description: Original
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 473,823
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller, Linda Goodnight is the winner of the RITA and other highly acclaimed awards for her emotional fiction. Active in orphan ministry, this former nurse and teacher enjoys writing fiction that carries a message of hope and light in a sometimes dark world. A country girl, she lives in Oklahoma. Readers may contact her through her website: www.lindagoodnight.com

Read an Excerpt

Present Day, Honey Ridge, Tennessee

Brody hated Fridays. He knew what would happen if he went home. So he didn't. He hung out at the library until it closed, and then, wishing he had money for a hamburger, he wandered down to his spot on Magnolia Creek. It was a pretty good hike, a couple of miles out of town past the Griffin sisters' peach orchard and through a hundred yards of tangled weeds, but at eleven, he was up for it. He could have run that far and not been out of breath.

When the night surrounded him and clouds gathered in the inky sky, he once more contemplated going home. He was hungry, but food wasn't always worth the trouble. He wasn't afraid of the dark or of being alone deep in the country. Home was a whole lot scarier.

Stretched out on the cool earth with his hands stacked behind his head, he listened to the peaceful night sounds, the sawing rhythm of katydids that sometimes grew so loud he felt as if they were inside him, and the splash of bullfrogs diving from the nearby bank.

A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. It was probably somewhere far off, clean over in the mountains. He wouldn't worry about that. He didn't mind a little rain. If he had to, he could hightail it past the inn to the abandoned gristmill, even though the place was kind of spooky.

The mill was probably haunted. That's what his buddy Spence said. The last time they'd gone there to explore, Spence had heard something and freaked out, so Brody would rather not go to the mill unless he had to.

Would the old man be passed out by now? Or would he be waiting with clenched fist and a hankering to take out his hatred of life on the good-for-nothing son of the good-forless woman who'd left them both so long ago the boy had forgotten her? Mostly. Somehow it was Brody's fault that his mother had left, and the old man never let him forget it, though he never gave a reason. Brody was pretty much clueless about his absentee mother. His angry father he understood, but thoughts of his mother left him lonely and nursing guilt he didn't understand. He must have done something really bad to make her up and leave that way.

A mosquito buzzed somewhere in the humid darkness. He listened close while the pest came in for a landing, waited until the sound stopped and then he swatted. A few bug bites was better than the alternative.

He didn't like killing anything, even bugs, but as the old man would say, "It's a dog-eat-dog world. Eat the dog before he eats you."

Something about that didn't sound right to Brody, but what did he know? That's what the old man always said. A punk kid like Brody didn't know nothing.

He sighed at the moon and closed his eyes.

Better catch some z's and wait awhile longer. The old man was a bull, and once enraged, he had blood in his eyes. Clint Thomson was seldom anything but enraged on payday, especially when it came to his good-for-nothing son.

* * *

It was a dark and stormy night, a cliché Hayden Winters dearly loved. These broody, moody nights of lightning and thunder and violent wind fueled his imagination like no other. A man intent on committing murder…

The storm had moved in around midnight, interrupting his original plans to sleep. He could never sleep on a night like this. Didn't want to, especially here in a house filled with memories and secrets.

Everyone, he believed, had a secret, and the South was filled with them. That's why he'd come.

Hayden had a secret, too, a psychological cankerworm. One that was eating a raw, black hole in his soul. Not that he'd ever let anyone see inside to know that much about him. To the world, Hayden Winters was a winner, a success, a man who brushed problems away with a charming smile. He was a man invited to the best parties he seldom attended and who gave rare but coveted interviews. A man with a charmed life. But on these dark, moody, broody nights the demons danced around the edges of his fertile mind. He wondered at his sanity, and he knew it was only by a merciful God that he was strong of constitution and could keep the demons in their rightful place. Most of the time.

So he killed people. Dozens of them. Books littered with bodies fed some perverse need in the populace and kept his bank account fat and happy.

In the elegant rented bedroom—the Mulberry Room—lit only by the glow of his laptop, Hayden rose, went to the windows to watch and listen as rain lashed the sides of Peach Orchard Inn with its silver-on-black fingers clawing to get in.

The view outside was far different from what it had been upon his arrival earlier today. An Australian shepherd, graying around the edges, had drowsed on the long and glorious antebellum veranda. Hayden had immediately envisioned himself on the wicker furniture, feet up on the railing with a glass of Julia Presley's almost-famous peach tea and his imagination in flight.

The two-story columned mansion had shone in the sun, glowing in its whiteness with dark-trimmed shutters, flowers spilling everywhere and thick vines twining like great green arms around the oak trees. He'd driven down the winding lane of massive magnolias right into an antebellum past, far from the distractions and manic pace of the modern world.

Peach Orchard Inn, a simple name for a magnificent house, restored, he would bet, to better than its former glory. His assistant, who knew him better than most, though not well, had discovered the inn while on vacation and suggested he write the next bestseller here. Exhausted by the city bustle and another romance gone sour, he'd jumped at the idea. His ex should have taken him at his word. He'd told her from the beginning that he was neither husband nor father material. The reasons for this aversion he'd kept to himself, more for her protection than his. She didn't know that, though, and had been hurt.

He hated hurting people. Other than in his books. And the latest episode had driven him deeper into himself. A man like him ought not to need other people.

He could work here, rest here, research small-town secrets for the next thriller. There were plenty of interesting places to commit murder.

Across the road, a single light glowed like a beacon in the storm. The source was the abandoned, dilapidated gristmill that had once been part of this farm. He knew this because he was ferociously curious and knowing was his business. Abandoned buildings provided perfect places to get away with murder. He'd be suitably inspired here among the hills and hollows of southern Tennessee.

A blue-fire javelin of lightning, fierce as a bolt straight from the hand of Zeus, slit the night like a fiery blade. Gorgeous stuff.

Hayden stretched, rolled his neck, considered a walk in the violence.

He'd be up most of the night during a wild thunderstorm of this magnitude. He could feel the yet-unformed story brewing in his blood, a bubbling cauldron of energy and creativity.

Coffee, and plenty of it, was a must. He wasn't a Red Bull kind of guy. Something about it seemed addictive to him, and if there was anything he feared greater than losing his only useful resource—his fertile mind—it was addiction. Addictions came, he knew, in many forms.

Leaving the laptop curser to blink a blind eye, he let himself out of the luxurious Mulberry Room and made his way down shadowy stairs carpeted in bloodred, his hand on the smooth wooden banister, taking care on the creaky third step he'd noticed earlier. No self-respecting author of murder and mayhem missed a creaky step.

Lightning illuminated the curved staircase, and thunder rumbled like a thousand kettle drums. The house stood steady, quiet even, as if it had weathered too much to be bothered by a thunderstorm. There were stories here. He could feel them.

Hayden's Scots-Irish blood heard the dance of his ancestors in the thunder, saw wave-tossed fishing vessels on storm-gray seas and imagined a woman standing on the shore, hand to her forehead, watching while in the misty shadows lurked the equally watchful predator, biding his time.

Hayden tucked away the image for future reference. The new book was to explore the dark undercurrents hidden behind the welcoming smiles and sweet tea of a small town in the rural South, not the storm-tossed coasts of Ireland.

At the base of the stairs, he crossed the foyer through to an area the proprietress had termed the front parlor, a room of times past with a marble fireplace enclosure and Victorian decor, and into the much more modern kitchen. He fumbled for a light switch, mildly concerned about waking the sister-owners who resided somewhere on the first floor, but dismissed the concern in favor of coffee.

A quick survey of the brown granite countertops revealed no coffeemaker. He cursed himself for not remembering to ask about essential coffee equipment in his rented room, of which there was none. Here, in the large copper-and-cream kitchen, the coffee machine could be anywhere. He had no luck locating it but found a tea bag caddie, a discovery that made him snarl.

While he pondered the usefulness of lemon zinger tea, his cell phone buzzed against his hip. He winced at the sudden racket, though if the thunder didn't wake the house, a ringtone shouldn't. Still, out of consideration and being the new guest in the place, he slapped the phone silent. He'd intended to dump the device in the bottom of his suitcase and forget it for a few days, but out of habit, he'd stuck the phone in his back pocket.

"A pity," he grumbled. "And stupid."

He knew who the caller was. The only person who ever called him in the dead of night. She'd been the one who taught him never to sleep too soundly.

"Hello, Dora Lee."

He heard her quivery intake of breath and braced himself for the histrionics or cursing. One or the other was inevitable.

When she didn't respond, a tingle of worry forced a regrettable question. "Are you all right?"

"No, I'm not all right, though a lot you care. I'm sick. You know I'm sick, and you don't help me. How am I supposed to get my medicine?"

Hayden closed his eyes and leaned against the hard counter edge. He could imagine her there in the cluttered trailer among unwashed dishes and fast-food containers filled with dry, half-eaten meals, hair wild and eyes wilder, hands shaking in desperation. "What did you do with the last money?"

"You think that's enough? You think I can pay rent and buy food and keep the lights on with that?"

His sigh was heavy. "Is the electricity off again?"

"Been off. I had to have my medicine. What good is lights if a body hurts too bad to open her eyes."

"Dora Lee, I won't send money for any more pills." God knew, he'd contributed to her addiction too long already with the ever-raw hope that she'd change, a hope that even now burned with a flickering flame. "You're killing yourself. I'll come to Kentucky, get you into a clinic—"

The scream in his ear was louder than the thunder. "Shut up! Shut up—you hear me? You ungrateful scum. I should have drowned you when I had the chance, for all the good you've done me. Keep your filthy money." The line went dead in his ear.

Weariness of the past few months pressed in. His stir of creative energy seeped out like lifeblood on the kitchen tile.

He should never have given her his cell phone number, but the desperate little boy inside him still yearned to make things better with his embittered, addicted nightmare of a mother. Even when he was small, before the dark and deadly underbelly of a coal mine had killed his gentle father, Dora Lee had popped illegally gotten pills for imaginary headaches and hated her only child. And he didn't know why.

His mother had no idea the same hated son was now Hayden Winters, successful novelist. It was a secret he would never share with her. Could never share. The ramifications were too deep and disturbing to consider.

Long ago, he'd changed his name and re-created his past in an effort to become something besides the dirtiest little boy in the worst part of Appalachia. Suave, confident Hayden Winters was as fictitious as the novels he wrote. Dora Lee wouldn't have cared anyway. All she cared about was that he sent money.

For her unconcerned ignorance, Hayden would ever be grateful to the God who'd rescued him from the mines and Dora Lee Briggs. If the press got hold of his mother, Hayden could kiss his tightly controlled privacy goodbye.

He was glad she couldn't read, though as a needy boy, hoping to please his mother, he'd offered to teach her. For his offer, she'd battered him with the book until the binding loosened and the pages ripped, raging that she wasn't as stupid as he thought.

At least a couple of times a year, he made the trek to see her, again out of some psychological wound that needed to be fed. Each time, he'd leave behind another piece of himself along with a parting gift that she would trade, in addition to her monthly draw, for OxyContin or whatever pills she could get that would take her away from reality for a while.

Dora Lee Briggs was his ugly secret. One of them.

With the wound in his soul open and throbbing, Hayden stuck a cup of water in the microwave. Lemon zinger would have to do.

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The Rain Sparrow 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing sequel to "The Memory House", which I truly enjoyed. The dual time line stories had great twists and kept me turning pages to find out what happens next. Hayden was a complex character whose horrifying childhood was revealed layer by layer. Loved Brody and Thaddeus too. There are still more characters in each time line that I hope will allow the series to continue. Total "must read"!
Anonymous 8 months ago
A story set in Tennessee--in a environment rich with history. Mystery & romance keep one reading!
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Book #2 in the series and let me say before I go any further that this is one of those series that you really should start at book 1, so be warned that the things I say may be spoilers, so only read on if you are willing to be just a little spoiled. Just like in the first book, there are two storylines, the present day at Peach Orchard Inn and a historical storyline at the same Peach Orchard Inn. The present day storyline focuses on a different main character from the first - Hayden is a visiting writer who decided to head to this small town in Tennessee to write his next hit. The historical storyline picks up shortly after the first book and although focuses on a different character, this one seemed a little more cohesive to the first book compared to the present day story. I adored that the historical storyline continued on. I loved that it was fluid from one book to the next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I came across this title while searching for something else, they had it at the library, and I thought, why not? I was waiting for a couple of books coming out next week, had just finished 3 great ones and was in a book slump, that feeling that whatever you read will fall short of what you've just read. Thankfully, Linda Goodnight did not fall short of the challenge. Who does she remind me of? Some of LaVyrle Spencer ' s early books, but especially Deborah Smith's Crossroads Cafe, A Gentle Rain, and Sweet Hush...sweet Southern books peopled with characters you'd like to spend a hot afternoon with, maybe drinking sweet tea on the front porch. Hayden Winters writes dark books, full of killers doing dark deeds. He has a childhood full of enough terrors to give him endless fodder and, truthfully, killing off his imaginary characters often gives him a kind of relief. Carrie Riley is a sweet mouse, the kind of Southern girl who gives aid and comfort to everyone, loves her job as librarian, and had adjusted to the idea of staying single. The writer staying at her friend's Pear Orchard Inn is handsome, famous, fabulously successful, and doesn't make fun of her fear of storms. And when he gives up his room to a boy stranded out in a storm, Carrie can't help but be drawn in. But when the boy's troubled family life echoes Hayden's past and mysterious dreams of the neighboring mill's post-Civil War inhabitants become more real than the book he's supposed to be writing, Hayden gets more involved with the gentle Carrie. Will she turn away if she knows his real past, or should he leave before they both get more involved? Loved this sweetly gentle book which I read out of order. Fortunately the first book was really cheap on NOOK so I bought it, and there are several other characters in this small town that I hope Linda turns her talented pen to.
MTSmith More than 1 year ago
Hayden went to Honey Ridge to research for his next book. He didn't plan on meeting and making a connection with the local librarian Carrie. Carrie is an absolute darling. Her fear of pretty much everything made her one of the sweetest of contemporary heroines I've read about lately. This probably could've been a typical modern day romance of famous guy meets small town girl, they fall in love, and have a happily ever forever. Except it wasn't. Entwined with Hayden and Carrie's is another story, one that dates to post-Civil War and, strangely, mirrors their own. The back and forth between times, present and 1867, brought a sense of foreboding and hope. Long buried secrets and pasts best left forgotten come to the forefront, not to be ignored but to be faced. You know, I kept thinking, You can pick your friends but you can't pick your relatives, throughout this entire story. And while that does have some truth in it, the biggest truth was you are not defined by your past, your family, or their actions. I really liked this story. It's sweet and intriguing, thought-provoking and evocative. In light of all I've read lately, the sweetness of this story took my breath away. If you don't mind dual timelines and/or dual romances under one title, you'll probably enjoy this as much as I did. It's a definite read and right up the alley for anyone wanting something clean, sweet, and gut-wrenching yet surprisingly amazing. 4.5*
BooksAndSpoons More than 1 year ago
Intriguing two stories, twined together by history and the dream world. The story is like a long stroll in the southern countryside, with warm sunny days, and families enjoying the lazy days in the garden. It is warm, and cozy, with a loving family, and life as we know it. Or so it seems at the first glance. But there's lots of undercurrents even in the small town, and Carrie, with her kind heart and loving nature, is ready to step in, and take care of the situation, in whatever capacity is needed. I liked Carrie, she has a huge heart, she sees the people around her, and takes care of them. She has been hurt in the past, she doesn't feel like she is anything special, quite the opposite, but when Hayden comes to town, a new Carrie comes to light, the Carrie Hayden sees. The beauty, grace, and loving nature that Hayden sees in her, gets behind the walls he has built. Soon they are sharing stories, life, and memories, even adventures, like with no one else before. They are rather adorable together, the way they care about Brody, look after him, and befriend him, is sweet. But for Hayden, it also brings back painful memories. Memories he has to keep hidden, to survive. Since arriving in town, Hayden has strange dreams, that seems to be connected to the history of the town he is visiting. Oddly, the two tales, one in present time, and the other in the past and in Hayden's dreams, fold out parallel to each other. ​ This charming book about life in small, southern town, is filled with the healing powers of love, how the worst kind of abuse and neglect can be healed in the heart, how hope and joy will brighten the day, and the scariest night will feel peaceful and calm, when you have someone you love by your side. It made me long for the summer to come sooner... ~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side