'Tis the season for mystery and romance featuring characters from two of Colleen Coble’s most popular series!
As Christmas day nears, Bree Matthews and her faithful search-and-rescue dog Samson follow the trail of a troubling mystery into the snowy forests of Rock Harbor.
Newlywed Bree Matthews and her husband Kade are preparing for Christmas guests when word arrives that a parachuter has disappeared in the North Woods, along Lake Superior's icy shore. Bree and Samson plunge into the search.
Will this snowy, silent night search lead Bree and Samson to the missing girl?
One sinister phone call has derailed their Christmas wedding. Will it keep them apart forever?
Leia and Bane are looking forward to their long-awaited Christmas wedding on the beach. Everything is going as planned—until Leia's phone rings and her world skids out of control. A muffled voice informs Leia that her sister has been kidnapped and will be killed unless Leia calls off the wedding without explanation—and no police. If she disobeys instructions and tells Bane, she'll risk her beloved sister's life. But can she handle this trauma without his help? And will he ever trust her again if she lies to him now?
Irresistible romance meets thrilling suspense in this holiday update to USA Today best-selling author Colleen Coble's Aloha Reef series.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
|File size:||2 MB|
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
Silent Night, Holy Night
A Colleen Coble Christmas Collection
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Colleen Coble
All rights reserved.
Though no ships cruised the frozen waters of Lake Superior, the foghorn bellowed its warning just outside Bree Matthews's lighthouse home window as she stood surveying the damage with the putty knife in her hand. Drifts of wallpaper lay strewn around the guest room. Her hands were gooey with old paste from the wet wallpaper, and her short, red curls felt sticky with it. Her search dog, Samson, a German shepherd/Chow mix, sulked just outside the door. She hadn't wanted paper in the dog's fur, but of course he hadn't understood her sharp tone.
She lifted a brow in her husband's direction. "Kade, what color do you think Lauri will like?" It helped to focus on pleasing her sister-in-law. Just a few months ago Bree had hoped to make this room into a nursery.
Kade spread out his broad hands and his genial grin came. "She's just going to be glad to get rid of the pink flowers." His new jeans hugged his hips, and the T-shirt showed off his muscles.
The three years they'd been married had flown by, and she loved him more with every passing day. Her failure to give him a baby made her heart ache every single day, and she was thirty-seven now. Her biological clock was ticking. Not that Kade complained. He loved Davy, her nine-year-old son from her first marriage. He'd been a true father to the fatherless. She imagined him holding a little boy with his thick dark hair and piercing blue eyes, and her heart gave a squeeze.
"Babe?" His hands come down on her shoulders.
She leaned into him, resting in his warmth and strength. "Sorry, I was woolgathering."
He smiled and brushed his lips across hers before glancing at the walls again. "How about we paint it a neutral color? Then you can decorate it however you like. Maybe a tan color you can team with blue or something."
"Sounds like a plan." Her words were much gayer than she felt, but she didn't want her pain to sadden him. Not today when the sun glinted on the snow and ice in a dazzling display. The Snow King put on his best robe in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Christmas would be here soon, and her entire family would be around the tree. Except her sister, Cassie, and Bree's mother. Bree still wasn't ready to see the woman who had made her childhood so miserable.
Samson rose in the doorway and turned toward the stairs. A low woof rumbled from his throat, a happy greeting reserved only for family. Davy was spending the night with his friend Timmy, so it couldn't be him.
"Who's there?" She laid down the putty knife and followed Kade into the hall. Samson ran down the stairs, his nails clicking on the hardwood.
A familiar figure stood at the bottom of the stairs. Dressed in a lavender ski jacket, Kade's sister, Lauri, stooped to rub Samson's head before slanting a smile toward them. Her light-brown hair was in a ponytail, and her slim-fitting jeans showed her youthful figure to advantage. Her dog, Zorro, a border collie mix, wagged his tail and woofed, then touched noses with Samson.
Bree smiled and started down the steps. "Lauri, we weren't expecting you until Christmas. I thought your semester didn't end for another two weeks."
"I wanted to surprise you. Don't come down. I'll bring my stuff to my room."
Surprise them. Bree feared what that might mean. The twenty-one-year-old had been a handful since her parents died when she was fifteen. Kade had done his best raising her from that point, but she liked her own way. All the time.
Kade stood aside as Lauri came up the stairs. "Uh, it's a mess, sis. We are redoing it as a surprise for you."
Lauri went to the doorway of her bedroom and gasped. "Holy cow. I can't sleep in here."
"No," Bree agreed. "We could put an air mattress in Davy's room, though. You can sleep in there. How long are you staying? We can try to get it done as quickly as possible, but with our schedules it will probably take at least a week."
"A week," Lauri echoed. "I can't sleep on the floor for a week."
"We have a new sofa," Bree said. "It might be more comfortable." When Lauri's eyes narrowed, she bit her lip. "Hey, how about if I call Martha? She doesn't have any guests right now. I'm sure she'd love to let you stay there."
"She'll be matchmaking," Lauri muttered. She dropped her army-green duffel bag on the floor. "But it looks like I don't have a choice." Samson and Zorro had followed closely at her heels, and Samson whined at her tone. She patted his head. "I'm not mad at you, boy."
Which by inference meant that she was mad at someone. Most likely her brother. She bristled every time Kade said or did anything. Though Bree hadn't been on the favored list lately either.
Bree suppressed a sigh. "We've got most of the wallpaper down. There's only one more wall to strip. Then I can wash it all down so Kade can repair the holes. Once that's all dry, I'll paint. You can pick out the color. We were just trying to decide what you'd like."
"Not pink." Lauri curled her lip.
"Of course not," Bree said. "Maybe a nice tan?" Lauri shrugged. "We'll see. I sure wasn't expecting this mess."
"And we weren't expecting you," her brother said. "Lauri, it's time you grew up and showed a little appreciation. We wanted you to have a nice room when you came home. Bree has worked hard every day at her job, then she's come home and stripped wallpaper. It's a hard job, in case you were wondering."
Lauri had the grace to look ashamed. "Sorry, Bree. I didn't mean to sound ungrateful. It's been a long day."
Bree smiled, determined to turn the situation into a good one. "It sure has. Let me call Martha. Kade can help you carry in your things. Do you have more stuff in your car?"
"Yeah, but some of it can stay there until my room is ready."
Something in her tone caught Bree's attention. "There's something you're not telling us. And school isn't scheduled to be let out for two weeks. You didn't quit school, did you?"
Lauri's blue eyes flickered. "It's boring."
Kade pressed his lips together. "You're going right back, young lady. I didn't pay all that money for you to quit so close to graduation."
"I don't know what I want to do with my life," Lauri said. "I don't want to be an accountant for the rest of my life."
Kade's eyes narrowed. "You're good at it. You've always loved numbers. You only have one more semester. What did you tell the dean?"
She bit her lip. "I've got strep."
"For real or are you making it up?" Kade demanded.
"You want a doctor's slip?" Lauri dug in her purse and extracted a bottle. "Antibiotics, see? The nurse said I needed to rest." She glanced into her room. "Though it doesn't look like I'll be able to do that here."
Bree dug her cell phone out of the pocket of her jeans. "I'll take care of you, Lauri."
She placed the call to her next-door neighbor who assured her there was plenty of room for Lauri in the empty bed-and-breakfast. Another call beeped in her ear, and after thanking Martha, she hastily switched calls.
Mason Kaleva, the town sheriff, was on the other call. "Grab Samson and get out here. Some idiot in a parachute jumped out over Ottawa Forest and hasn't been seen since."
"On my way."
* * *
The woods had a fairy-tale appearance with thick clumps of snow bending the evergreen boughs low to the ground. Bree's breath fogged in front of her face as she paused to figure out where to head next. The sunset came quickly this time of year in the U.P. Her legs ached from tramping through the foot of freshly fallen snow in her snowshoes, and her stomach rumbled.
His tail wagging, Samson pressed his nose against her gloved hand. She answered his need and rubbed her palm over his head. "Good boy."
Her search-and-rescue partner and best friend, Naomi O'Reilly, eyed the shadows in the woods. "Going to be dark soon."
Naomi was Martha Heinonen's daughter, though they looked nothing alike. Naomi was slim and attractive with light-brown hair and blue eyes that were always smiling. She was married to the owner of the Ace Hardware store in Rock Harbor. Her small son was a toddler, and she was raising her husband's two children from a previous marriage.
They'd been searching for the missing parachutist for six hours. Bree feared he'd been killed. The trees crowded close together here in the deep woods off Lake Superior's icy waters, and there would have been no safe place to land.
"Another hour or so. If he survived, he won't last the night without shelter. It's supposed to get to thirty below tonight." Bree's face stung from the cold, and she would have to pull on a ski mask soon, but she hated to turn back when they had to be close.
Samson and Naomi's dog, Charley, a golden retriever, were both tired from the long day. She dug out food from her pack and fed them, then ate a handful of pistachios herself. Naomi refused her offer of nuts and munched on a cheese stick instead. Neither of the women had stopped for more than a snack in the last six hours.
Naomi blew into her cupped palms. "I don't know why anyone would be parachuting in this weather. He's a college student in Houghton. Maybe it was a dare. Who knows?"
As if in answer to her question, Bree's satellite telephone signaled an incoming call, and she unzipped it from its pack to answer. "Bree Matthews."
Kade was on the other end. "They found the guy. He didn't survive, though, I'm sorry to say."
Bree's eyes filled, and she gave Naomi a thumbs-down. Her friend winced and slumped where she sat. This kind of outcome always depressed them. At least the dogs wouldn't have to feel the failure.
"It's going to take us a couple of hours to get back to the Jeep," she told Kade. "Do you know what happened to the parachutist?"
"The guy wanted to get into the marines, so he talked a friend into taking him up in the plane to practice jumping into foliage."
Such a waste. "I wonder if Lauri knew him."
"I didn't mention it to her. She dropped her stuff at Martha's, then went to town."
Bree frowned. "She's supposed to be resting."
"You believed her story?" Kade's laugh had an edge.
"She showed us the prescription." Though now that she thought of it, Bree hadn't looked at the name of the drug. "Get some food she likes and have it around, would you?"
"Maybe pizza. Be careful, babe. Get out of there as quickly as you can. The temperature is falling fast."
"I will. See you soon." Bree stowed the phone back in its case and told Naomi what Kade had said. "Ready to go home, Samson?"
The dog's tail swished faster, and he barked and ran in circles around her. She and Naomi donned their backpacks again and began to retrace their steps.
Something crashed through the brush to their right, and Bree assumed it was a deer until she saw a flash of lavender in the fading light. "Who's there?" A whimper answered her, and she moved closer to the quivering branches that hid the figure she couldn't quite make out.
Bree parted the evergreen branches to reveal a familiar figured crouched in the snow. "Lauri, what on earth are you doing out here?"
Her sister-in-law lay huddled in her lavender coat. The hood on the jacket was up, and the fur surrounded a face white with fatigue and cold. Bree didn't like the look of Lauri's skin. She might even have some frostbite.
Bree crouched beside her and touched her shoulder. "Are you hurt?"
Lauri wetted her lips and relief lit her face when she looked up. She accepted Bree's hand and stood. "I feel funny." She swayed where she stood, and her words were a little slurred.
"Exposure," Naomi mouthed.
Bree nodded and poured hot coffee from the Thermos. She made Lauri take three sips before more questioning. Naomi pulled out a thermal blanket and wrapped it around Lauri, then the women walked with her around the clearing. Color began to come back into Lauri's face.
"What are you doing out here?" Bree asked.
Lauri took another sip of coffee, then cupped her gloved hands around the steaming metal mug. "I was meeting Garrick. He was supposed to parachute in by the lake." She gestured vaguely at Little Piney Lake behind her. "I've been waiting for hours and he never came."
Bree's eyes widened. Garrick. The young man they'd been looking for. Should she tell Lauri now or get her to town before revealing what had happened? She wished Kade were here. He was always a rock they both leaned on.
Lauri's face crumpled when Bree didn't answer. "He's dead, isn't he? I felt it here." She put her hand over her heart. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she hiccoughed. "He can't be dead. I needed to find out ..." She closed her mouth and inhaled.
Bree couldn't lie to her. "I'm sorry, honey, but yes. Naomi and I have been searching for him. He didn't make it." She put her arm around Lauri and hugged her. Lauri was tense, taut as a rubber band.
"Did they find his belongings too?"
Belongings? "I don't know anything about that." Something in the young woman's manner struck Bree as wrong. Maybe it was the way her gaze darted away, then back again. Or how fast her tears had dried. Lauri's bright blue eyes were cloud-free now. And tear-free.
Lauri's cheeks gained more color. "Where was he found?" She sounded more alert, and her words were no longer slurred.
Bree turned back toward the path. "Kade didn't say. Not close, though, or we would have heard the commotion and seen lights. How did you get clear out here?"
Lauri pointed. "I brought Kade's snowmobile. I'd offer you a ride, but there are two of you and the dogs too. I didn't bring the sidecar. Thanks for telling me about Garrick."
Bree grabbed her arm. "The wind will make your hypothermia worse. Warm up a little more before you ride it back to town."
Lauri pulled out of her grip. "I'm fine. I need to get to town."
Bree knew better than to try to stop her again. Lauri could be a bull. The girl labored through the snow toward the frozen lake. Moments later the engine of a snowmobile roared.
Naomi harrumphed. "What's going on, Bree? First she says she's sick, then she goes traipsing around the woods in twenty-below temperatures."
"There's something odd about this," Bree said. "I'm going to have Kade talk to her."CHAPTER 2
Bree was so tired she could barely trudge through the drifts to her front porch. The lamppost by the snow-covered brick path illuminated her way to the lighthouse. Kade had turned on the Fresnel lens, though there were no ships offshore, not with the lake frozen over from this year's early and extreme cold.
She'd been tired a lot lately and had even made an appointment with the doctor to see if maybe she had mono. Samson hung back as well, almost too tired to wag his tail when the door opened and Kade called to him. The dog mustered the energy to dash past her and disappear inside the beckoning warmth of their home.
At the sight of her husband's stocky frame, Bree went up the steps with a burst of fresh energy. She was starved and ready for Kade's support.
He draped his muscular arm around her. "You look beat, babe."
She leaned into the warmth of his embrace. "I'm pretty tired."
"Mason is on his way." He shut the door behind them and helped her out of her coat, then hung it in the hall closet. "The coffee's fresh."
The coffee's aroma perked her up. Her stomach cramped with hunger. Pistachios didn't go very far. "Did you save me any pizza?"
He kissed her, his lips warm and tender. "I brought home one just for you. Lots of pepperoni."
Elvis sang softly in the background from the surround-sound speakers in the living room. The tenseness in Bree's muscles relaxed as Kade led her to the sofa, then went to get her some coffee and pizza.
His dark eyes examined her with care when he returned with a tray. "It wasn't your fault, Bree."
Her fingers curled around the hot cup, and she sipped the coffee before answering, "I know."
The coffee was good and strong, laced with cream. She savored the heat on her tongue. The fire crackled and spread warm fingers toward her that she relished.
A knock came, then the front door opened, and a gust of wind rattled the panes. "I bet that's Mason." Kade stepped into the hall.
Mason Kaleva came into the living room behind Kade. The sheriff was a burly man with dark curly hair. He was in his early forties and was married to Hilary, the town mayor and Bree's sister-in-law once upon a time. The families had stayed close even after her first husband's death, and Bree had always been thankful Kade accepted her ties to the Nicholls family.
Weariness lined Mason's weathered face. He nodded at Kade's offer of coffee, then dropped into the armchair by the fireplace. "Nasty business today. Poor guy didn't have a chance. Died upon impact with a tree."
Bree absorbed the news, then nodded. At least Garrick hadn't suffered in the cold waiting for help that never arrived. If only she could have told Kade about this in private.
She waited to speak until her husband returned with food and drink for Mason. She patted the sofa beside her, and Kade sat and put his arm around her.
She put down her coffee. "Lauri was out there. She said she was supposed to pick up Garrick after his jump. According to her, he was planning on landing at Little Piney Lake."
Kade stiffened and took his arm away. "So that's what she's doing here. I thought her story about why she'd come here sounded off."
Excerpted from Silent Night, Holy Night by Colleen Coble. Copyright © 2013 Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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.
Table of Contents
ContentsSilent Night, 1,
Holy Night, 103,