Authors: Roxanne Rustand
Tags: #Love Inspired Suspense
Murder at Granite Falls
Number IV of
Big Sky Secrets
Love Inspired (2011)
Tags: Love Inspired Suspense
"Just let it go."
Everyone in Granite Falls tells Carrie Randall the same thing. Is it a threat, or a warning? Yet even if it endangers her fresh start, Carrie needs to know what secret the town's hiding. There's her troubled student and his disturbing drawings. His fiercely protective father, and the mysterious death of his mother. And Carrie definitely has to find out more about the bad reputation of her standoffish new landlord, Logan Bradley. She wants to trust him, but she's been fooled by charm before. Is the town wrong about him - or is she?
Carrie stared at the phone, hesitated, then lifted it to her ear and said hello.
Seconds ticked by. Three. Four. Five.
In disgust, she lowered the phone and poised her forefinger over the end button.
“Don’t hang up.” The harsh, low whisper effectively masked the caller’s voice. “Not yet.”
“Who is this?” she demanded.
“Don’t matter.” His low, venomous laugh grated against her skin and raised the hair at the back of her neck. “Not yet.”
He ignored her question. “You look pretty tonight.”
Her hand shook and she nearly dropped the phone. “What?”
“Who is this?”
“I’d be more careful in the future if I was you. The night isn’t all that safe.”
“Maybe not for you, either,” she snapped. She jammed a shaking finger onto the keypad of the phone to end the call. He’d been
Books by Roxanne Rustand
Love Inspired Suspense
Murder at Granite Falls
Aspen Creek Crossroads
lives in the country with her husband and a menagerie of pets, many of whom find their way into her books. She works part-time as a registered dietitian at a psychiatric facility, but otherwise you’ll find her writing at home in her jammies, surrounded by three dogs begging for treats, or out in the barn with the horses. Her favorite time of all is when her kids are home—though all three are now busy with college and jobs.
This is her twenty-fifth novel.
RT Book Reviews
nominated her for a Career Achievement Award in 2005, and she won the magazine’s award for Best Superromance of 2006.
She loves to hear from readers! Her snail-mail address is P.O. Box 2550, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52406-2550. You can also contact her at: www.roxannerustand.com, www.shoutlife.com/roxannerustand, or at her blog, where readers and writers talk about their pets: www.roxannerustand.blogspot.com.
MURDER AT GRANITE FALLS
Even though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are
with me, Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
With love to my dear mother, Arline,
and brother Glen; and to Larry, who has been
so supportive during my writing journey.
ightening her grip on the steering wheel, Carrie Randall glanced again in her rearview mirror.
The vehicle was still behind her.
Billy? It couldn’t be. She’d been so very, very careful.
She’d caught a better glimpse of the car while negotiating a set of hairpin turns at a higher elevation. Not close enough to identify the make and model. But close enough to be fairly certain it was the same one that had tailed her for the past two hours.
She palmed her cell phone, checking the number of reception bars on the screen.
No surprise in this isolated part of the Montana Rockies, where bears probably outnumbered the two-footed residents three-to-one.
She frowned at the odometer. Ten miles to the town of Granite Falls. The lane leading to her new home should be coming up in less than a mile. But if her ex-husband was following her, the last thing she wanted was to lead him right to her door.
An earsplitting yowl erupted from the cage on the seat behind her, followed by the frantic scrabbling of paws. “It’s okay, Harley. Just hang on.”
She stepped on the gas and rocketed past the little gravel lane that wound into the pines off to the left. Then she headed straight for town.
Granite Falls was as picturesque as its tourism website claimed.
The mountain highway widened into a charming six-block-long main street flanked on both sides by historic storefronts, boardwalks and hitching rails straight out of an old Western movie. The center of town was filled with upscale shops and quaint restaurants geared to the tourist trade, while the dusty pickups nosed up to the feed store and café on the far edge of town revealed where the locals gathered. Would that be a safe place to stop?
A maroon Lawler County sheriff’s deputy patrol car parked face-out in front of the café made her decision easy.
She checked in her rearview mirror once more, turned sharply into the parking lot and pulled up along the cruiser. Over her shoulder, she saw the dark sedan slow down, then speed past.
If she lingered in town long enough, the driver might give up, or get careless and not see her leave. Though if it was Billy, he’d be back, restraining order or not. “Howdy, ma’am.”
She turned to find a burly deputy behind her, a foam coffee cup in his hand, waiting to get into his car. The silver name badge pinned to his khaki uniform breast pocket identified him as Vance Munson.
Perhaps in his late thirties, he’d probably been hot stuff in high school in an Elvis sort of way, until he’d put on some years and packed on an extra fifty pounds. With an affable smile on his face, a rumpled uniform and a cellophane bag of cookies in his hand, he reminded her of a genial teddy bear.
“Sorry.” She stepped back to give him space. “I…was a little distracted. I thought someone was following me on the highway.”
The deputy’s full lips quirked into a smile. “You’ll find a lot
of tourists in these parts, headin’ into town just like yourself. No cause for worry.”
“I’m actually moving here.” She extended her arm, and he juggled his coffee cup into his other hand to accept the handshake. “Carrie Randall.”
He rocked back on his heels, taking her measure. “Welcome, then.”
“A dark sedan followed me for the past hundred miles then right into town.” She looked up the empty Main Street. “Though I couldn’t tell you the license plate or even the make of the car.”
“Like I said, you’ll find a lot of travelers out here on long trips. Destinations are few and far between. People go sightseeing, and you might run into the same folks time and again. No call for worry.”
She eyed a family coming out of the café and lowered her voice. “I had to file a restraining order against my ex-husband last year.”
Munson’s gaze sharpened. “Well, now,” he drawled. “That might be a calf of a different color. He knows you’re moving here?”
“I certainly didn’t tell him. I hear he’s following a rodeo circuit down in the Southwest this summer. But…”
“But you aren’t sure.” Munson tipped his head toward the center of town. “Ma’am, you can find the county courthouse just four blocks west of here. You might want to file here, as well.”
“It’s for your own good.” He gave her a warm, encouraging smile. “Where are you staying? I can pass the word along. We like to keep an eye on things around here.”
Billy had dropped out of sight during the past year, while she stayed with her protective brother, Trace. During that time,
she’d felt safe from Billy’s volatile temper, which had escalated ever since their divorce.
Now, she just wanted to start life fresh, with none of those old reminders. No looking over her shoulder. And no rumors filtering out about her being another one of those women who had fallen for charm and flash and ended up in an abusive relationship with an unfaithful man. In small towns like this one, idle talk by one of Lawler County’s finest would reach the local grapevine and she’d be branded forever. “I—I’ll be fine.”
A flicker of annoyance crossed Munson’s expression. “Too many women fail to ask for help, ma’am, and the results can be mighty sad. Our sheriff’s department will do whatever it can to assist you, but you have to cooperate.”
She sighed. “I have a summer lease on an upstairs apartment out at Wolf River Rafting Company.”
“The Bradleys,” he said, his mouth twisting with a hint of distaste.
He’d settled his aviator shades into place, but from his long silence and the muscle ticking along his jaw, she guessed that the deputy didn’t approve. “Is there something I should know?”
“Just…watch your step out there.” He hesitated, as if he wanted to say more, but then he shook his head. “And don’t ever forget to lock your doors.”
With Vance Munson’s words still playing through her thoughts, Carrie felt a shiver of unease as she stepped out of her aging silver Tahoe and shielded her eyes against the setting sun.
Sure enough, Wolf River Rafting Company was emblazoned in gilt letters on a sign over the door of the two-story log building overlooking the river and on the smaller, matching building next to the riverbank.
This would be her home for the next three months, and she’d been lucky to find it through a chance discovery on the internet, though as she surveyed the area, a chill worked its way down her spine. The small clearing was bounded on one side by river, on the other three by impenetrable pine forest, and to the west the massive, snowcapped Rockies loomed high along the horizon.
She should’ve expected a Montana Rockies rafting company would be located in an isolated place offering good access to a river, but she could see
else close by. Not a store, not a resort. Not even a cabin. And it was a good half mile off the highway, well out of sight of any passing traffic.
Which meant she’d probably be totally alone come nightfall.
Was that why the deputy had seemed hesitant about her moving out here? The tense knot in her stomach started to relax. Maybe that was it—he hadn’t been hinting at any concern about the Bradleys. He just thought this place would be terribly isolated for a woman living by herself.
Though right now, cheerful pandemonium reigned. A jumble of dirt bikes had been ditched against the trees by a group of mud-streaked boys fishing along the shore. They were fairly bursting with energy, jostling each other and teasing, and then one fell in the water and the rest laughed uproariously when he emerged.
Carrie smiled, remembering the exquisite patience and silence of fly-fishing with Trace. Any fish within a hundred yards of these kids had probably long since skedaddled.
To the right, a couple of eight-man white-water rafts were pulled up on the grass. Down at the river’s edge, a dozen silver-haired women chattered on the rocky bank next to a massive rubber raft—a twenty-footer, probably—with inflated tubular sides. The customers were fumbling with the fastenings of their bulky orange life vests while a tall, younger woman moved
among them, redirecting wayward straps and snugging the vests into position. Occasionally, she darted into the log boathouse to fetch a different size.