Storming Whitehorn - By Christine Scott

Chapter One

“She’s never been this late before.” Jasmine Kincaid Monroe crossed her arms at her waist and stared out the large front window of the Big Sky Bed & Break fast.

Jasmine’s aunt, Yvette Hannon, joined her at the window. A tall, striking woman with classic features and graying hair, she exuded an enviable grace and confidence. Her smile reassuring, she placed a warm hand on Jasmine’s slender shoulder. “Knowing your mother, she probably bumped into an old friend in town and has lost all track of time. I’m sure Celeste is all right.”

“My mother hasn’t been all right in a long time. Not since—” Jasmine stopped, frowning as she averted her gaze.

“Not since they found Raven Hunter’s remains,” Yvette finished with a sigh.

Raven Hunter was a name from the past, which had only recently resurfaced with a vengeance. Thirty years ago, Raven and Jasmine’s aunt, Blanche Kincaid, had been illicit lovers. When it had been discovered that Blanche was pregnant, their affair had caused a scandal in the Kincaid family, as well as in the town of Whitehorn. Blanche’s brother, Jeremiah, had vehemently opposed any suggestion of his sister marrying a member of the Cheyenne. It hadn’t been long after Blanche’s pregnancy was revealed that Raven disappeared. Some say Jeremiah had paid him off, that Raven had taken what money he could get and run. Others say he’d loved Blanche too much, that he wouldn’t have abandoned her. They believed Raven was dead, most likely at the hand of Jeremiah Kincaid.

Apparently, the latter was true.

For, at the construction site of the new casino/resort that straddled the Laughing Horse Reservation and the Kincaid ranch, Raven’s remains had been recently uncovered. A bullet lodged in the rib cage confirmed Raven had died a violent death. The discovery set into motion a chain of events that had led to two more deaths, the most recent of which had hit too close to home. Jasmine’s family was still reeling with the news of their cousin Lyle Brooks’s death.

“This investigation into Raven Hunter’s murder is wearing on Mother. Why won’t she talk to us? If she’d just tell us what’s wrong…” Jasmine let the words drift into a frustrated silence.

Choosing her words carefully, Yvette said, “Darling, you have to understand what this must mean to your mother. I was at school in Bozeman when Raven disappeared, but Celeste was still there at the ranch. Despite Jeremiah’s opposition, she stood by Blanche during her pregnancy and when she gave birth to your cousin, Summer. She was also with Blanche when she died. It was a very trying time for everyone, but most of the burden fell on Celeste. Discovering Raven’s body has dredged up a lot of painful memories. Is it any wonder that your mother might be upset?”

“No, I suppose not. But she isn’t sleeping, Aunt Yvette. I hear her up at night, pacing. Last night, at two o’clock in the morning, I found her sitting cross-legged on the floor in the middle of her bedroom, surrounded by candles, burning incense and chanting.” She shook her head at the thought. “When she turns to the spiritual world, there has to be something more than just memories troubling her.”

“She was chanting?” Yvette’s brow furrowed. “Celeste does have a strong belief in the spiritual here after. Perhaps she was calling upon the spirits to help Raven find peace at last.”

“It isn’t Raven Hunter who needs to find peace, it’s my mother,” Jasmine said, her voice sharper than she’d intended. She sighed. “I’m sorry, Aunt Yvette. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“It’s all right, dear,” she said gently. “I know you’re worried.”

Absently, Jasmine touched the gold-plated compass hanging by a chain around her neck, and felt her heart catch with emotion. The compass had been a gift from her mother when she’d turned twenty-one and had returned home after finishing her training at the culinary school. Because of Jasmine’s love for hiking in the mountains, Celeste had told her it was her reassurance that Jasmine would always find her way home.

With the memory strengthening her resolve, Jasmine strode to the front desk and snagged her purse from behind the counter. “She should have been home hours ago. I’m not waiting any longer. I’m going to Whitehorn to look for her.”

Yvette followed her to the desk. “Perhaps you’re right. I’ll take care of things here at the B and B while you’re gone. You will call, won’t you? If you find anything…anything at all.”

At the sound of her troubled voice, Jasmine