After She's Gone (West Coast 3) - Page 84

“I’m okay.”

“Good.” Jenna squeezed her eyes shut and wished she could believe it. God, how she prayed that her daughter was healthy and strong.

“And we’ll find Allie, Mom,” she said as the wind blew cold down the Columbia Gorge.

How? How can we find her when the police haven’t been able to?

Jenna nearly broke down. Her throat closed, her eyes burned, and she held Cassie tight. “Of course we will,” she whispered, her voice cracking a little. What she would give to have Allie with them right now. Memories of moving to Falls Crossing assailed her, memories of carving out a new life for herself and her two girls on this very patch of land, this ranch nestled near the shores of the river.

Fighting a losing battle with tears, Jenna finally released Cassie and realized that Trent Kittle had been in the passenger seat and now was standing on the opposite side of the car. She’d never thought she would approve of Kittle, but found herself grateful he appeared to be in Cassie’s corner. “Come on. Let’s go inside. You’re moving back, yes? Into your old room?”

Cassie and Trent exchanged glances over the top of her car.

“Silly of me,” Jenna said, catching the eye contact and feeling a moment’s confusion mingled with relief. “You’re with Trent. Married. Together.”

Cassie appeared uncomfortable and it seemed that rather than answer, she turned her attention to the dog, petting Paris’s wet head. Were they together again? It seemed so, but the last Jenna had heard, before Cassie had checked herself into Mercy Hospital, was that she was ending her marriage. Maybe the divorce had been tabled. Maybe they were working things out. Though Jenna had never been on board with the relationship.

He’d been too old and experienced when they’d first started seeing each other in Falls Crossing. Cassie had been recovering from the trauma of being nearly killed by a stalker who had his sights set on Jenna and her daughters, and she’d also been dealing with the pain of her most recent boyfriend’s murder. She’d witnessed Josh die, so Trent—older, more mature, kind of a bad boy who’d been through the military—didn’t seem to be the right guy at the right time. At least not to Jenna. But once Cassie took off for Hollywood and had been on her own a bit, she’d hooked up with Trent again and that time Jenna hadn’t been as against the relationship. Now, standing in this cold rain, she was grateful her daughter had someone who, it seemed, still cared for her. Cassie took a long time to pet the dog, then both she and Trent followed Jenna into the house. In the living room, Cassie dropped her purse onto the floor and tumbled onto the couch, taking over the very spot she’d claimed as a teenager. The dog, muddy feet and all, hopped up beside her and wiggled close. Trent sat nearby, in a leather recliner, and Jenna dropped into the rocker by the window, the chair that had become her home while sitting and waiting for news of her missing daughter. A fire glowed in the hearth, red embers nearly dead, the smell of wood smoke heavy.

“Whitney Stone’s been calling me. Well, along with the others,” Jenna said, switching on a table lamp. “So many reporters or paparazzi or whatever these days!”

Cassie made a sour face. “Whitney Stone actually tracked me down in California.”

“I’m not surprised. She’s pretty . . . determined.”

“Ruthless,” Cassie said, before launching into her story about the reporter chasing her down and trying to film her at a park. She ended with, “I nearly ran over her goon of a camerama

n. Geez, what’s wrong with that woman?”

“Greed. Ambition. Whatever. She feeds into the public’s fascination with the minutiae of celebrity life. That’s why I ended up here.”

“And how did that turn out for you?” Cassie tossed out, then seemed immediately rueful. “Sorry.”

“I got Shane out of the deal,” Jenna reminded. Then, “The trouble is Whitney Stone wants to not only talk about what’s going on now, she’s putting out a ‘special report.’ I think it’s about what happened in the past. The stalker during the ice storm.” Cassie’s eyes looked bruised and Jenna added, “None of us want to live through that again. I’m just giving you a heads-up in case you didn’t know.”

“She told me,” Cassie said.

“I’m sorry,” Jenna responded, heartfelt.

Trent stood and walked to the fire, then bent down and added a log to the already burning pieces of oak. Flames caught quickly on the dry moss to crackle and burn hungrily, all the while casting the room in a shifting golden glow.

Cassie said slowly, “I want to show you something.”

Jenna noticed Trent’s hand tightening over the fireplace poker. He shot Cassie a warning glance that her daughter ignored as she scrounged inside her purse.

“What?” Jenna leaned closer as Cassie extracted a small plastic bag and handed it to Jenna. Inside was an earring, blood red and in the shape of a cross.

“Ever seen it before?” Cassie asked.

“No . . .” Jenna surveyed the bit of jewelry, then started to hand it back. “No wait . . . maybe. God, a long, long time ago. I had a bit part in a soap opera when I was first starting out. North Wing. The show was only on for two seasons, then died. And my part was nothing, a foot in the door to get into the business, you know? My character, Norma Allen, barely spoke. Really, I was little more than an extra who played a nurse who was always in the background.”

“Was the show set in the 1950s?” Trent asked.

“Sixties or seventies. It was a little retro at the time and didn’t catch on.”

Cassie’s face drained of color.

“What?” Jenna asked.

Tags: Lisa Jackson West Coast Mystery
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