Saturday Excerpt: Stone Bridges by Carla Neggers
Get ready to celebrate the weekend with a new book from Carla Neggers! This read is perfect for book lovers looking for a blend of women’s fiction and romance! Keep reading to discover more.
About Stone Bridges:
New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers has captivated readers with Knights Bridge—a scenic New England town where families and friends experience joy and face challenges together. With its world of inns, old houses, wonderful, quirky characters, romance and adventure, it’s a town you won’t want to leave.
Adrienne Portale has never settled in one place for long, but takes a job as innkeeper in tiny Knights Bridge, Massachusetts, to spend some time getting to know the father she only recently found. When three small boys get lost in the wilderness that borders the inn, Adam Sloan leads the search. His family ties to the town go back generations. Adrienne sees the bond that people in a small town have as they band together to find the missing children. Adam is impressed with her calm strength, but he’s sure she won’t find what she’s looking for in his quiet hometown.
Despite their differences, Adam and Adrienne discover they have more in common than they’d expected. They love to explore old stone walls and bridges, and she adores his dog. As summer bleeds into the gorgeous New England fall, the attraction between them grows, and they must decide where—and who—makes a place home.
For the first time in the five days since she’d started work as a small-town New England innkeeper, Adrienne Portale felt relaxed and comfortable as she took her coffee outside on a beautiful early September morning. She stood on the edge of the stone terrace off the kitchen of the classic center-chimney house built in 1803 on what had been then, and was now, a quiet country road. She looked out at the inn’s extensive herb and flower gardens. “I’m not in over my head,” she whispered to herself. “I didn’t bite off more than I can chew.”
The Farm at Carriage Hill was a unique establishment. It wasn’t exactly a farm, and it wasn’t a traditional inn, either. It wasn’t open to drop-ins. Adrienne’s first guests wouldn’t arrive until next weekend. The inn was booked through the popular foliage season with the type of small events for which it was ideally suited—showers, wed- dings, birthdays, lunches, seminars, reunions. The antique house-turned-inn was off the beaten track, part of its appeal. It was situated amid rolling fields and woods two miles from the center of Knights Bridge, a classic New England village west of Boston.
Adrienne sat at a round table and listened to birds twittering in the trees, herbs and flowers. She didn’t know what kind of birds. She could learn. Wanted to learn. She recognized some of the herbs—parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro, at least three kinds of mint— and could tell a maple tree from an oak or a white pine. She wasn’t bad with flowers. Not great, but not bad. She’d trimmed a bed of coreopsis yesterday. The property needed a regular gardener. That was right at the top of the list of changes she planned to recommend.
She leaned back, cupping her mug with both hands. The garden had bark-mulched paths and was bordered by an old stone wall. Carriage Hill, for which the inn was named, loomed across fields dotted with wildflowers. Adrienne promised herself she’d hike up to the summit before she’d need to do it in snowshoes. The locals liked to joke it could snow any day now, but she knew that was an exaggeration. She smiled, enjoying the perfect late-summer morning. She’d finish her coffee, whip up breakfast in the big country kitchen and then get on with her day.
She heard someone humming and sat up straight in surprise, almost spilling her coffee. Olivia McCaffrey, Carriage Hill’s owner, who lived up the road with her husband, Dylan? Maggie Sloan, Olivia’s business partner?
No. Not Olivia or Maggie.
Adrienne set her coffee on the table and jumped to her feet. She was still in her nightgown and robe. Before she could leap back inside, a man, humming merrily, materialized in the side yard. He stopped abruptly, a heavy-looking sack of something on one shoulder.
She recognized him immediately.
He was one of six Sloan siblings—five brothers and one sister. Adam was—fourth? Adrienne thought so but she’d have to consult the cheat sheet Vic had emailed her detailing the family connections of the people she’d most likely encounter in her new job. Vic Scarlatti being her birth father, a retired diplomat and her reason for ever having stepped foot in Knights Bridge in the first place.
Adam was tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired and as sexy as she remembered from when she’d first met him last winter, when she’d house-sat for Vic. Adam was the stonemason Sloan. Quiet, she recalled.
He took her in with a quick glance. His charcoal-gray canvas shirt was rolled up to his elbows, his forearms tanned and muscled. He was dressed for physical work, including sturdy work boots. “Adrienne. Hey, there. Welcome back to Knights Bridge.”
“Adam. Hi. I…um…”
Adrienne cleared her throat. She was never at a loss for words. She’d drunk wine with a European prince. She’d stocked a world-famous actor’s wine cellar. Why was she tongue-tied now, with a good-looking stone- mason?
Because you aren’t dressed, for one thing.
She subtly tightened the belt to her bathrobe. It wasn’t one of the inn’s sturdy terry robes that hung in each of its guest rooms. It was a slinky, lace-trimmed black robe over a matching nightgown. Not her usual style. She felt downright exposed but did her best not to look self-conscious. “It’s good to be back.”
He frowned. “Maggie and Olivia forgot to tell you I was coming.”
“Or I missed it. It doesn’t matter.” They were her employers, and Adam was Maggie’s brother-in-law. No way was Adrienne saying more. She waved a hand, careful given the precarious state of her attire. “Feel free to do your thing.”
“I’m just dropping off supplies.”
“Supplies for…what, exactly?”
“I’m rebuilding a stone wall that was disturbed during construction of the new addition.”
The addition included a first-floor suite for a live-in innkeeper, a first for the Farm at Carriage Hill. Its design, both inside and outside, fit seamlessly with the rest of the attractive antique house with its narrow, cream- colored clapboards and double-hung windows.
“It’s not a big job,” Adam added.
Adrienne had noticed the pile of stones and broken mortar behind the house but hadn’t thought much about it. She’d assumed it was debris from construction and would be hauled off eventually. “Sounds good.” She kept her tone neutral, no betrayal of her awkwardness. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
His blue eyes settled on her just long enough to make it clear he was well aware he’d caught her before she’d had a chance to get dressed. “All set.” He paused ever so slightly. “Don’t let me keep you from anything.”
Such as a shower, clothes, shoes, breakfast. More coffee. It was tough to deal with a rugged stonemason while under-caffeinated, never mind in nightclothes. She pushed back her hair—long, dark, curly, messy— with one hand. “Sure thing.” She thought she at least sounded unselfconscious. “Give me a shout if I can help with anything.”
“Will do. Have you heard from Vic since you got here?”
Adrienne nodded. “A few emails.”
Adam shifted the bag on his shoulder. “I won’t be long right now, but I’ll be back later this afternoon. That work?”
He continued past her to his pile of rubble. He was muscular, fit. Made sense that a man who hauled rocks and mortar and sledgehammers and such for a living would be in good shape.
Adrienne drank the rest of her coffee. It was lukewarm but she didn’t care. She’d realized pretty much everyone in Knights Bridge knew about her and Vic Scarlatti, but she still wasn’t used to people mentioning him to her. She’d learned he was her biological father a year ago. He hadn’t known about her, either. She’d figured that out when she’d house-sat for him last winter, not telling him that her mother had finally admitted she and Vic’d had a fling and Adrienne was the result. He’d retired after a forty-year career as a respected diplomat and was in the process of moving full-time into his country home on Echo Lake in little Knights Bridge, Massachusetts.
It hadn’t been easy, but they’d made their peace with her mother’s revelation. Adrienne had worked on her wine blog and consulting business while house-sitting for Vic, and then she’d taken a job at a Central California winery, owned by Noah Kendrick, a San Diego billionaire with his own connections to Knights Bridge. It’d been a great job. She’d done well. Yet when Noah and Phoebe, his fiancée and Maggie’s sister, mentioned the Carriage Hill job, Adrienne had jumped at the chance.
The Knights Bridge effect, Vic would call it.
She took her mug inside, managing to keep her bath- robe secured around her. She owned flannel pajamas, too, but it was too warm to wear them. She’d bought the robe and nightgown on a whim last summer when she’d gone to Paris, where her mother and Vic had enjoyed their weeklong affair. The Left Bank, cozy cafés, liaisons in a romantic hotel near the Musée d’Orsay. Sophia Cross had returned home to California and her fiancé, Richard Portale, passing off Adrienne as their child when she was born not quite nine months later.
Her parents had divorced when Adrienne was seven.
Finding out about Vic had explained so much about her mother in particular.
Adrienne set her mug on the counter in the big country kitchen. She was still obsessing about her attire. Had she made the wrong impression with Adam Sloan? Would he go back and tell his brothers about her sitting out back in a slinky black bathrobe and nightgown? The Sloans knew everyone in Knights Bridge. It could get around. Vic Scarlatti’s California daughter out at Carriage Hill in a sexy black robe…she’ll never fit in here… she’ll get fired before Thanksgiving…
“More coffee,” Adrienne groaned. “Lots more coffee.”
She reached for the coffeepot and saw Adam through the front window. He had the back of his work van open as he lifted out another bag. He placed it on one shoulder and balanced it with one hand as he shut the van. Then he retraced his steps through the side yard to the back of the house.
Adrienne had no idea how long it would take him to rebuild the stone wall, but she’d be sure she was prepared the next time he showed up.
She put on more coffee and slipped through the old center-chimney house to the innkeeper’s suite. Its wood floors coordinated with the wide-board floors in the main part of the 1803 house. Olivia Frost McCaffrey, who owned the house, was a graphic designer, her unerring sense of style and color evident in the suite’s throw rugs, linens, soothing colors and woodland prints. Adrienne would have gone with white and called it a day.
She shut the door and exhaled, letting her robe come undone now that she didn’t have a sexy stonemason eyeing her. She’d run into him multiple times last winter. Even as preoccupied as she’d been with her situation with Vic, she hadn’t been oblivious to Adam’s physical attributes. That he was the quiet Sloan only added to his appeal. A highly physical man of few words…
Adrienne groaned again. What was the matter with her? She shook off the question and pulled off her robe and nightgown, leaving them in a heap by the bed as she ducked into the suite’s private bathroom. She’d hoped Vic would be in town to greet her, but he’d left for Washington ten days ago for unspecified meetings. Almost a year of retirement hadn’t settled his naturally restless soul. She got it. She was restless herself. But Vic was also driven and ambitious, a contributing factor to why he hadn’t known he had a daughter until Adrienne had shown up at Echo Lake last winter. It hadn’t been just her mother’s doing. Vic had played a role, too. He hadn’t asked questions.