Read The Cabin Online

Authors: Carla Neggers

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Adult, #Suspense, #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Romance: Modern, #Ex-convicts, #revenge, #Romance - Suspense, #Separated people, #Romance - General

The Cabin (28 page)

BOOK: The Cabin
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car and watched you for about five or ten minutes. Never

said a word. And you didn’t look at him. When you went

around back, he got into his car and drove away.” She

sank back against the soft cushions in the attractive sun-

room. “He did pretty much the same thing a couple

232

Carla Neggers

days later, except this time you got in your car. He fol-

lowed you while you picked up your daughters at

school.”

“Did you know who I was, that my husband’s a Texas

Ranger?”

She nodded. “I imagine we both did.”

“Why didn’t you say something?”

She shrugged, without arrogance or defensiveness

now that she had Susanna reeling. “I told Rachel. We

were still trying to figure out what was going on when

she was killed. You have to understand, Mrs. Galway,

we had no idea Beau was going to do what he did. Not

a clue in the world. Rachel was a very private woman,

but I think she’d have gotten around to telling me ev-

erything. She just didn’t live that long.”

“Alice,” Susanna said, her voice hoarse from ten-

sion, “please tell me the truth. Did you tell the detect-

ives on the murder investigation, your chief of police,

my husband—
anyone
—about Beau McGarrity follow-

ing me? About Rachel McGarrity’s interest in me?”

She shook her head. “No. I didn’t want anyone to

know I was friends with Rachel. It would have compli-

cated everything. Maybe if I’d had proof.” She lifted her

small shoulders and let them drop, sighing. “I was up

against someone smarter and meaner than I am.”

Susanna said nothing. She was reeling, her mind

flooded with thoughts and images and a thousand dif-

ferent questions.

Alice didn’t move from the love seat. “Maybe you

can see now why I came to Boston. I was worried Beau

McGarrity might come after you. I thought maybe that’s

The Cabin

233

why you were up here—because you were afraid of

him.” She swallowed. “I guess none of that matters now.”

“You know I’m going to tell Jack everything.”

“That’s what I’ve always assumed,” Alice said, her

eyes bright, a little smug. “That you’d tell Lieutenant

Galway everything.”

Susanna ignored the jibe. “He’ll want to talk to you.”

“Fine. Let him talk to me.”

“Come on, Gran,” Susanna said. “I promised to take

you to the cemetery. Let’s go.”

They left Alice Parker on the love seat, gazing out at

the Adirondack view. Susanna briefly debated calling

the local police and asking them to sit on Alice until she

could get Jack out here, but Alice seemed willing to

wait—and talk.

Susanna followed Gran out into the hall, feeling hot

and breathless, as if she’d been running up and down the

inn’s stairs instead of chatting in a slightly cool sun-

room. Her great-grandmother had died in there. Gran’s

mum. Suddenly she was overwhelmed, wondering what

Rose Dunning must have been like, how they’d all

ended up here so many decades after her death—her

daughter, Susanna, Alice Parker, Destin Wright.

They said goodbye to the Johnsons, and Gran added

that she thought their inn was wonderful. They seemed

pleased, and even a little relieved.

When they reached the parking lot, Gran said, “Her

parents are alcoholics.”

“Whose? Alice’s?”

“’Total no-accounts,’ she called them.” Gran half

smiled, pulling open the car door. “She has an engag-

234

Carla Neggers

ing manner when she isn’t so focused on how all her

good intentions have never amounted to anything.”

Susanna felt bile rise up in her throat. Alice Parker had

never told Jack or her or
anyone
that Beau McGarrity fol-

lowed her before his wife was killed. That was a serious

omission. It was more than good intentions gone awry.

“She told me she always wanted to be a Texas Ran-

ger,” Gran said, seemingly oblivious to the February

cold. The bright sun caught her face, making her eyes

seem less vivid, more serious somehow. “She’s the type

who’s always living her life in the future, never in the

present. That’s the easiest way of all to lie to yourself,

I think, by not looking in the mirror and being honest

with yourself about who you are.”

Susanna touched her grandmother’s thin shoulder.

Maybe the trip to the inn had been too much for her—

the memories, Alice Parker, the talk of murder and stalk-

ing. “Gran, are you okay?”

She smiled gently, covering Susanna’s hand with

hers for a moment. “I’m just fine. What about you, love?

Are
you
okay?”

“I have to talk to Jack.”

“Yes, you do.You’ve had to talk to him for a long time.”

Susanna followed her grandmother to the far end

of the snow-covered cemetery, to the Dunning fam-

ily plot, a dozen or so graves enclosed within a low

stone wall. Gran climbed over the stone wall unaided,

seemingly oblivious to the cold wind and knee-deep

snow that drifted up against the tombstones. She had

her red knit hat pulled tightly down over her ears, but

The Cabin

235

her pants were more suited to a trip to her senior cen-

ter in Somerville than trekking in an Adirondack

cemetery.

A biting gust of wind rocked Susanna back on her

heels, but Gran didn’t seem to notice. She came to a pair

of simple, matching headstones and sank onto her

knees, brushing the snow off the stones with her gloved

hands. Susanna stood behind her, worried that the win-

ter conditions were too hard on her grandmother. Per-

haps they should have waited until summer.

The graves were of her parents, Rose and John

Dunning.

“No one believed my father would die an ordinary

death,” Gran said. “He was a risk-taker, he loved the

mountains. He respected their dangers, but he never let

fear stop him from doing what he wanted to do. And

what he wanted to do was spend as much time as he

could in the mountains.”

“How did he die?” Susanna asked.

“Bee sting. He got stung while he was working on the

dock in front of the inn and was dead in fifteen minutes.”

Susanna looked at the dates and did the math. He was

forty-eight when he died, Gran just twenty. Her mother

died a year later.

“Everyone thought he’d die on a mountain,” Gran

went on quietly, “or out on the lake rescuing someone

in a storm. Or he’d live to be a very old man, and when

he was done, he’d walk into the wilderness and go to

sleep. He was an extraordinary man. He taught me as

much as he could about these mountains.”

“I’m sorry I never knew him,” Susanna said.

236

Carla Neggers

“My mother was hard-working, forbidding in many

ways. She kept the inn running and the family in food

and clothes. That wasn’t my father. But she loved it

here as much as he did, and she loved him. She was dev-

astated when he died.” Gran stood up slowly, balancing

herself with one hand on her mother’s tombstone.

“Those were difficult years.”

“Dad was just a baby when you lost both your parents.”

“Yes, he was all that kept me going.” She gestured at

some of the other graves. “Those are two of Father’s

cousins and several people Mother knew from her nurs-

ing days in Saranac, former tuberculosis patients who

came to work for us at the inn.”

She lifted her leg high and stepped into a deep drift

of snow, pushing forward to another headstone in the

opposite corner of the plot. Susanna, worried about her

grandmother now, stayed with her, ready to catch her if

she stumbled.

“Here we are,” Gran said under her breath, stumbling

in front of a pink granite marker. “Oh, Jared…”

Susanna put her arm around her grandmother. “Gran,

you’re freezing. I don’t want to rush you, but we can al-

ways come back here when it’s warmer—”

“I’m fine.” She glanced up at Susanna, her eyes shin-

ing. “This is your grandfather.” She pulled off a glove

and ran her fingertips over the name carved in stone.

Jared Rutherford Herrington.
“He had the bluest eyes.

He was a preppy, square-jawed Princeton graduate from

a very wealthy family. They still own most of the north

end of Blackwater Lake.”

Susanna had never known her grandfather’s name.

The Cabin

237

She wasn’t even sure her father knew it. “Why is he bur-

ied here?” she asked.

“Because of me.”

“Gran…”

“I took my father’s place as Jared’s guide on a day

hike up Whiteface Mountain. He was twenty-five, and

I was eighteen—we fell in love on our way up the moun-

tain. I can remember—” She shut her eyes tightly and

smiled. “All of it. Every minute we had together.”

Susanna tried to picture her grandmother at eigh-

teen, madly in love with a handsome Ivy Leaguer.

“What was he like?”

“He was smart, charming, well-traveled, much bet-

ter read than I. He used to write me poetry. I knew the

mountains, every inch of Blackwater Lake, and I was

down to earth—we were so in love. But there was a

problem,” she said, looking up at the blue sky, as if she

could see him. “He was married.”

Susanna remained silent, sensing what it cost her

grandmother to talk about her past.

“He had a son,” Gran went on. “He loved his little boy

very much, and I think but for him—well, those were

different times. It was an unhappy marriage, for both of

them. He’d asked for a divorce, but agreed to come up

here for a few months separation. He was supposed to

be hiking and canoeing, not carrying on with a girl guide.

But when he told me he had a wife—I was furious.” She

tucked her hand into Susanna’s, pulling herself to her

feet, wisps of white hair coming loose out of her hat. “He

left her late that summer and asked me to marry him as

soon as the divorce was final. We never had that chance.”

238

Carla Neggers

“My God, Gran.” Susanna could feel the tears in her

eyes. She’d seen the date on her grandfather’s grave. A

few months before her father was born. “I’m so sorry.”

“He went out one day on the lake, alone. And he

never came back. I found him that winter, five months

later. I was snowshoeing on my own, debating whether

I should fling myself off a cliff or cut a circle in the ice

and jump in.”

Susanna held back her shock. “Because you were

pregnant?”

“Pregnant, alone, despairing of ever finding happi-

ness again. I was thinking about whether I’d freeze to

death or drown first if I went into the water when sud-

denly here at my feet was this man I loved. He must have

tripped over a rock or a tree root and hit his head. Just

like that, and it was over.” A sudden strength came into

her step, and she pushed through the snow toward the

stonewall. “I knew then that I had to carry on.”

“Your parents—”

“They accepted what had happened, and your father

was such a charming baby—how could they not accept

him? Then my father died, and my mother came down

with a sudden, virulent case of tuberculosis, of all

things. It took her so quickly. There was no chance for

her to cure.”

“You lost everyone you loved in such a short time.

Gran, my God, I don’t know how you survived.”

“Because I didn’t lose everyone.” She smiled up at

Susanna. “I had Kevin. I had Jared’s son.
My
son. I sold

the inn and worked as a guide for as long as I could. I’d

strap Kevin on my back, and off we’d go. But those were

The Cabin

239

hard years, and I knew I couldn’t stay here. So, I moved

to the city and started over.”

A breeze floated through the evergreens, whistling

slightly, almost eerily, as they climbed over the low

stone wall.

Gran wasn’t even breathing hard. “I’ve had a good

life, Susanna, if not always a happy one.”

“I think I understand.”

“Oh, you don’t understand a thing.” She spoke with-

out any edge or condescension, simply stating a fact that

was obvious to her. “Life brings with it hardship and

loneliness from time to time. I learned to move forward

from where I am, not to keep insisting I ought to be

where I once was, not to keep dreaming about where I

might be one day. To truly embrace where I am.”

Susanna sensed where her grandmother was headed

and smiled, trying to veer her off subject. “Did you

learn to talk this way in your seniors’ yoga class?”

But Gran wasn’t letting her off the hook. “Do you un-

derstand what I’m saying?”

“Sure. Live for today—”

“No.”
Gran shook her head, impatient. “Figure out

where you are and move forward from there, that point

and no other. That’s different from living for today.”

“Gran, if you’re talking about Jack—”

“I’m talking about
you.
You can’t move forward until

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