Chapter 1

Jade Milan sneezed as she struggled to maneuver her luggage and snuggle into her jacket. January could be so cold at times. She adjusted her carry all and pulled her luggage along the wet road of high trees street, walking faster to beat the threatening rain and approaching darkness. Other pedestrians hurried along beside her on the sidewalk, a few bumping into her occasionally. Despite the cold weather and her tiredness, Jade was glad to be home again. She missed New York and its craziness. Having been away for a whole year, graduating from college Two years ago and working in sunny California, she ached for what she left behind, her aunt Jenna. Thoughts of the jovial old lady fixed a smile on Jade's face. As an orphan, losing both parents at once at the tender age of twelve was tough, but the burden of it all was made lighter for Jade by her aunt. 

         Turning a corner, Jade spied the white one story building sitting regally, surrounded by green lawns and tall trees that were abundant in the suburb. She increased her pace, anticipating the comfort of seeing her aunt and the warmth of the old house again. She finally arrived at the house as lightening flashed and thunder roared. She tried the door, it was unlocked. Letting herself in, she left her luggage in the hall and went in to find her aunt. The living room was empty but the lights and TV were on. She heard someone moving around in the kitchen and went to check. Stepping into the brightly colored kitchen, the smell of soup overwhelmed her.  

"Jade?" the woman in the kitchen stopped and questioned. 

"Macy! You don’t remember me!" Jade said, stepping around the table for a hug. 

"Oh, Jadey" she wiped her hands on her apron and hugged her tightly, squeezing her. 

"You’ve grown so big, I can hardly recognize you," Macy said, moving back to inspect Jade. "We missed you so much," she said hugging her again, wiping her nose. 

Jade was careful, hugging the frail woman who she'd known all her life. Macy was the housekeeper and lived with Jade's aunt with her husband, who acted as the gardener and general fix it man. Growing up around such love and warmth, it had been hard for Jade to feel the aching loss of her parents.  Jade stepped back and settled on one of the high-backed stools scattered around the beautiful kitchen. "I missed you too, Macy and everybody" she mused.

"Speaking of everybody, where are they?" she asked kicking off her shoes.  

"Bob went down to the store for some supplies, while your aunt is out in her home office," she said pouring out hot coffee in a mug for the young girl. She added two sugars and some milk just the way she liked it.  

"Oh, OK. I’ll just get this and go see her," she said placing the mug on a saucer and getting up.

"Okay, honey. Dinner's almost ready". Jade kissed her on the cheek before heading out of the kitchen. She padded softly out to the adjoining building that had served as her aunt's office for years. Looking around and familiarizing herself with the house again, she sipped the hot coffee gingerly. The office had been repainted and the old sign that read JADE MINE STAFFING AGENCY had been taken down and replaced with a modern one that read the same words. When her aunt had named the place after her as a gift, Jade had been overwhelmed with emotion. She loved the older woman to death.  The office door was open and the reception where Julia was always seated was empty. Frowning, she wondered why. Opening the door of the inner office, she saw her aunt seated at the large oak table, headed bent over some paperwork. She set her mug on a small nearby table and whistled. Her aunt looked up, shocked. 

"JADE MIA WESSON! Don’t you ever do that to me again" she screamed, her hand on her chest.  Jade laughed heartily.  

"Well, don’t just stand there laughing, come over here and give me a hug!" she boomed.  

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