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A Knights Bridge Christmas: A Swift River Valley Novel


Clare Morgan hadn't felt this happy in a long time. A very long time, she thought as she gathered up books to take to Rivendell, the local assisted-living facility. She prided herself on her self-sufficiency and independence—her professionalism as a librarian—and she was happy in countless ways, but this was different. This was happiness born of contentment. The uncertainties of the past few months were lifting and confidence settling in that she'd made the right decision to leave Boston and come to out-of-the-way Knights Bridge, Massachusetts.

New to the town and its small, charming library, Clare was getting a feel for the reading preferences of the seniors at Rivendell. Audrey Frost liked cozy mysteries, particularly ones set in England. Grace Webster would read anything but was partial to literary fiction and classic adventure novels. Arthur Potter had asked Clare to bring him all the Harry Potter books, since he and Harry shared the same last name and he'd always wanted to be a wizard. Daisy Farrell, Rivendell's newest resident, had requested A Christmas Carol, the classic Dickens story apparently a favorite with her and her late husband.

Almost everyone at the facility was widowed, but Clare gathered that many had enjoyed long marriages.

Except one feisty woman in her late eighties whose name Clare had forgotten. "I've never lived alone until four years, three months and eighteen days ago," she'd said when Clare had delivered her a stack of biographies. "It's heaven on earth."

Clare was a widow herself, but she wasn't sure how many people in her new town were aware that she'd been married. She had enjoyed the entire one year, two months and three days of her marriage to Stephen Morgan. Every single second had been bliss—including the inevitable arguments. That he'd been gone for six years seemed inconceivable. But every day she saw him in Owen, their six-year-old son, born seven weeks after his father's untimely death in a car accident.

She put the books in a box, careful not to overfill it and make it impossible to carry. The seniors also had several book clubs that met both at Rivendell and at the library. Vera Galeski, a part-time worker at the library, had taken Clare through the various book clubs. Her predecessor as library director, Phoebe O'Dunn, born and raised in Knights Bridge, had run a tight ship. She'd left Clare with a balanced budget and a well-trained group of volunteers, among them several mobile residents of the assisted-living facility.

She checked her watch. Three o'clock. Owen, a first-grader, would be walking from school soon to play with Aidan and Tyler Sloan at their house. So far, Owen was adjusting well to his new school. It had only been six weeks since his and Clare's arrival in Knights Bridge, and she expected bumps in the road—but small ones, especially compared to the huge one of losing Stephen. Owen, of course, didn't remember his father. He was a photo in an album, part of funny stories Clare told about life before he was born.

Stephen had been the love of her life. It wasn't something she told her young son, but she didn't hide it, either.

She got on with her work. She went out the heavy front door and took the ramp instead of the stairs. In anticipation of the run out to Rivendell, she'd parked on South Main in front of the library, a sturdy mostly brick building donated to the town in 1872 by George Sanderson, whose stern portrait hung above the fireplace in the main sitting room. As far as Clare knew, there were no Sandersons left in Knights Bridge.

She hit the button on her key fob to unlock the car doors. She popped the trunk, setting the box inside next to ice skates she'd found at a secondhand sports store in Amherst, a nearby college town. Owen desperately wanted to learn to ice skate. He insisted six was old enough. Every winter for the past fifty-plus years, the town had created an outdoor rink on the common. It was an "at your own risk" operation, with no supervision, no walls to grab hold of—not even a proper place to warm up. Hypothermia and frostbite were real concerns in a New England winter.

Clare put the brakes on her litany of concerns. Questions, she told herself. Not worries. She wasn't a panicky, overprotective mother and didn't want to become one. She was asking appropriate questions and taking appropriate precautions without turning either Owen or herself into chronic fretters.

But she'd been on South Main last week when two teenage boys had collided, requiring Band-Aids and a lot of cursing if not a trip to the ER and stitches.


Clare got in her car. Bringing books to the seniors at Rivendell was one of the easy, low-tech, low-stress parts of her job, and she loved it.

She glanced back at the library. It was decked out with twin wreaths on the front door, swags of greenery around the windows and a trio of grapevine reindeer next to the steps. Tasteful and festive. Decorating for the holidays was a long-standing tradition in Knights Bridge. According to the trustees of the Knights Bridge Free Public Library, most of the decorations, accumulated over decades, had succumbed to a roof leak last winter, but many had been in need of discarding or replacing. Few were missed. The library had its secrets, but not many treasures. By the time Clare started work, volunteers had already dived in to create new decorations, particularly with natural materials. Except for one anemic-looking grapevine reindeer, the results were impressive, and she and Owen had plans to rehabilitate the reindeer.

She turned off South Main at the end of the oblong-shaped common onto the main road out to the highway. Freshly fallen snow added to the festive atmosphere. What could be more perfect than Christmas in her small New England town?

This would be her and Owen's best Christmas ever, Clare thought, smiling as she drove on the winding road.

Knights Bridge's only assisted-living facility was located in a beautiful spot with views of snow-covered meadows that gave way to woods. In the distance, Clare could see a sliver of water, not yet frozen over, that she knew to be part of Quabbin, a vast reservoir built in the 1930s by the damming of the Swift River. Many of the elderly residents of Rivendell knew people who'd lived in the valley, or had lived there themselves, before its four small towns had been taken over by the state and disincorporated, their entire populations forced to relocate.

The "accidental wilderness," Quabbin was called now, with its protected waters and watershed. On a previous visit to Rivendell, Grace Webster, a retired teacher and avid bird-watcher, had told Clare about the return of bald eagles to the valley.

She grabbed the box of books and headed inside, setting the box on a chest-high wall unit in the corridor. She waved to the receptionist, who was expecting the delivery, but the young woman was dealing with a man in expensive-looking dark brown cords and a canvas shirt, its sleeves rolled up to his elbows, as he visibly tried to control his impatience. "Her name is Daisy Farrell," he said. "She's your newest resident. She's in good health for a woman in her eighties, but I want to review her care with your medical staff."

"Of course," the flustered receptionist said. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize today's moving day for Mrs. Farrell. I only just got in."

He calmed down. "Thank you."

One of those imperious, successful men who likes to get his way,Clare thought as she worked a muscle in her arm sore from carrying the heavy box. She would bet the man wasn't from Knights Bridge. Why was he interested in Daisy Farrell? Clare pushed her questions aside. It didn't matter. Whatever his reasons for being here, she doubted he'd ever show up again.

The man left the receptionist to fulfill his request and seemed to notice Clare for the first time. He glanced at the books in the box. "That's quite a range of titles."

"It's quite a range of people who live here." She didn't manage to keep the starch out of her voice.

If he noticed, he didn't pay any attention. "No doubt. Are you from the library?"

"Clare Morgan. I'm the new library director."

"Nice to meet you, Clare. I'm Logan Farrell. Daisy Farrell—the woman I was biting off the poor receptionist's head over—is my grandmother." He breathed deeply. "It's harder than I thought to move her in here."

Clare noticed a nick on his hand and bits of cardboard on his shirt. She also noticed the muscles in his forearms. He had short-cropped dark hair, hazel eyes and a strong jaw—strong features in general, perhaps part of the reason she'd misread him. She knew better than to judge people, given her work and her natural disposition. Logan Farrell might be impatient and even arrogant, but he was here with his aging grandmother.

"She could use a cheerful book to read," he added.

Clare smiled. "I'm sure that can be arranged. She requested A Christmas Carol."

"I don't know how cheerful the ghost of Jacob Marley is. Scared the hell out of me as a kid. Have you met my grandmother?"

"Not yet."

"She has a house on Knights Bridge common and used to walk to the library, but she hasn't been out much since she took a fall in November." Logan glanced at the nick on his hand, as if noticing it for the first time. "I can introduce you if you'd like."

Even if the offer was to assuage his guilt at getting caught being impatient with the receptionist, Clare accepted. "I'd love to meet Mrs. Farrell," she said.

Daisy Farrell's grandson was clearly out of his element in a small-town assisted-living facility, talking to the local librarian. As Clare followed him down the hall, she wondered what kind of work he did and where he lived. Boston? Hartford? Somewhere farther afield—had he flown in to visit his widowed grandmother?

The door was open to a small apartment, where an elderly white-haired woman was standing on a chair, hammer in hand. She had on baggy yoga pants, a pink hoodie and silver sneakers.

Logan sucked in an audible breath. "Gran," he said. "What are you doing?"

"Hanging my sampler."

Clare noticed a cross-stitched sampler on a chest of drawers. Neatly stitched flowers and farm animals created a frame for the simple inscription:

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

Daisy Farrell in a nutshell, Clare suspected.

"I can hang the sampler for you, Gran." Logan put a hand out. "Come on."

She grinned at him. "Getting up here was easy. I figured I'd need help getting down."

"Had a plan, did you?"

"Enough of one. Let me finish and—"

"We have company," he said. "We can finish in a few minutes."

She sighed. "All right, all right."

He took her hammer and helped her down from the chair. "Gran, this is Clare Morgan, the new librarian in town. Clare, my grandmother, Daisy Farrell."

"A pleasure, Mrs. Farrell," Clare said.

"Same here," the older woman said politely. "You're not from town, are you?"

Clare shook her head. "My parents moved to Amherst after my sister and I went to college, but we grew up outside Boston. I lived in Boston until I relocated to Knights Bridge in November. My son's in first grade." She smiled. "We're both adjusting."

"Then you're married?" Daisy Farrell asked. "What's your husband do?"

"I'm widowed, Mrs. Farrell."

Clare noticed Logan's sharp look, as if he hadn't considered such a thing.

"Oh, dear," Daisy said, shaking her head. "You're so young. A fresh start here will be good for you. Knights Bridge is a wonderful town—not that I've known any other. Well, until now. I lived in the same house all my life. I was born in an upstairs bedroom."

Logan touched her elbow. "Here, have a seat, Gran. We'll get your sampler hung. It'll help this place feel more like home."

"It will, but I'm not feeling sorry for myself. You and your father didn't drag me kicking and spitting into seeing I had to move. I knew it had to be done." She sank into a chair upholstered in a cheerful fabric. "Grace Webster says she'll let me borrow her binoculars until I get a pair, so I can watch the birds, and Audrey Frost wants to sign me up for yoga. What do you think of that, Logan? Audrey's younger than I am. Can I handle yoga?"

"I'll check with your internist, but I don't see why not, if it's designed for seniors."

"Well, I won't be doing headstands, I can tell you that."

"I just got you off a chair, Gran."

She waved a hand. "Life is full of perils."

Logan rolled his eyes, good-natured with his grandmother. "That's not an excuse for being reckless."

"Reckless." Daisy snorted and turned to Clare. "I fell doing the dishes. I've done the dishes every day for the past eighty years. Fortunately I didn't break anything when I fell. All's well that ends well." She leaned forward. "You can tell that to Dr. Farrell."

Dr. Farrell? Clare glanced at him and decided she wasn't surprised that he was a doctor.

"Dr. Farrell is glad you didn't break your hip," he said.

"I am, too. I'd have hated to have one of the Sloan brothers find me half-dead on the kitchen floor. I had them in to fix a leak in the cellar before winter set in."

Owen would be playing with the sons of one of the five Sloan brothers by now, Clare thought. Sloan & Sons was an established, respected construction firm in town. She hadn’t figured out all their stories yet, but she did know that the sixth Sloan sibling was a woman and a main player in her family’s company.

Clare nodded to the sampler. “It’s lovely. Did you do the stitching yourself, Mrs. Farrell?”

“My mother did. I hung it in the kitchen where I could see it every morning.” She sighed, staring at the simple stitches, then seemed to force herself out of her drifting thoughts. “Logan, don’t you have more boxes to bring in from the car?”

“A couple more, Gran.”

“I can help,” Clare said without thinking, already moving into the hall.

“Thank you,” Logan said, catching up with her.

His car, of course, was the expensive one parked next to hers. He opened the back door. “I have everything out of the trunk. I had a delivery service do most of the big stuff. Gran had everything set to go.”

“She planned the move?”

“It was her idea.” He lifted a cardboard box out of the backseat. “She said she wanted to make it easier on us by making the decision to move herself.”

“That’s sweet.”

“That’s my gran.” He nodded to the box in his arms. “It’s some linens she wants here with her. It’s not heavy.”

“I’ll manage,” Clare said, taking the box. “I’m used to hauling books.”

He took a bigger, bulkier box from the backseat—clothes, he said—and they went back inside. “Let’s hope she’s not back up on that chair,” he said as he and Clare came to his grandmother’s apartment.

She was sitting in her chair, flipping through a small, obviously old photo album. “Here it is,” she said, lifting out a faded black-and-white photograph.” This is the house decorated for the first Christmas after the end of the war. World War Two,” she added, as if Logan might not know. She handed the photograph to him. “I have one favor to ask, Logan. Can you decorate the house again, for one last Christmas before it’s sold?”

“Gran…you know you don’t have to sell the place.”

“We’ll talk about that later. You can decorate the house however you want, but if you look closely at the picture, you’ll see a candle in the front window.” She paused, touching the photograph. “Place a candle there, won’t you? In that same window?”

“Of course,” Logan said, clearly mystified by his grandmother’s request.

“A real candle. Then light it on Christmas Eve, or get someone to light it.”

He bent down and kissed her on the cheek. “I will, Gran, and we’ll light it together on Christmas Eve. They do let you out of here, you know.”

“You’ll be in town for Christmas?”

He smiled. “I will now.”

“But your work…” She frowned at him. “There are always a lot of accidents in Boston at Christmas. I don’t want you to miss helping someone because you feel sorry for me.”

“If I’m not at the hospital, Gran, another doctor will be. The emergency department has more than one qualified doctor.”

“But you’re their best,” Daisy said.

Logan stood straight. “That’s kind of you to say, Gran.”

She shifted to Clare. “If I were in an accident, I would want Logan in the ER, to stop the bleeding.”

He changed the subject, asking her if she wanted him to unload the two boxes. Clare quickly set hers on a dresser. An ER. An accident. Winter…Christmas…

She’d had years of practice coping with such moments, and she pulled herself out of the spiral and forced herself to smile as she mumbled a goodbye and fled. As she got into her car, she told herself she could relax. She needn’t be embarrassed or concerned she would have to explain her reaction. She’d known men like Logan Farrell when she’d lived in Boston, and she doubted she would run into him again. He’d get his grandmother settled, hire someone to decorate her house for Christmas and put her out of his mind once he was back in the city.

A Knights Bridge Christmas: A Swift River Valley Novel
by by Carla Neggers

  • Genres: Fiction, Romance
  • hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778317595
  • ISBN-13: 9780778317593