Home > Raven Falls

Raven Falls
Author: Jill Sanders

Chapter One

 

 

Find your fire

 

 

Raven Brooks had been born on a Tuesday, just any other ordinary day in a busy world. But the date of that incredibly special day would come to be an incredible burden to not only the girl but everyone around her.

Seventeen years later, on that same day, she’d lost everything, including the first boy she’d fallen in love with, her childhood home, all her favorite possessions, and most importantly, her parents.

She’d been broken on that fateful early-summer day, broken beyond repair. Her only saving grace had been a distant grandmother, who had welcomed her in with open arms, helped her get counseling, and sheltered her from all those vengeful souls that surrounded her like flames. People who laid the blame on her for all the destruction and the loss of their own loved ones.

Her father, Patrick Ryan Brooks, and his brother, Colin Finn Brooks, had been best friends for as long as Raven could remember. She’d grown up under the watchful yet scrutinizing eyes of her uncle Colin, his wife, her aunt Roslyn, and her father’s business manager, Liam Montford.

She knew every single one of the people who had helped keep Cannon Falls Ski Resort a successful venture, keeping Raven in designer clothes and a massive five-thousand-square-foot mansion for her entire young life.

The business had provided income for her family and her uncle’s as well. Colin had married Roslyn, who was reportedly from one of California’s wealthiest families, and they’d had two children. Their oldest was their son Cal. Their daughter Liza was just a few weeks older than Raven.

The only difference between the brothers was that her father owned the resort, while her uncle had only worked there. Raven’s father had, at the tender age of twenty-three, purchased the property from an old couple, using his inheritance from their father as the investment.

Patrick, along with his new bride, twenty-one-year-old Rosemary, had spent the next ten years and every cent of their money building and molding the massive venture. Cannon Falls Ski Resort was tucked in the high hills near Mt. Shasta in Northern California. The closest town, Cannon Falls, had, at its peak, more than one thousand permanent residents.

Raven’s parents had given up everything in order to turn the business into a highly successful ski resort.

Raven had spent most of her childhood days basking in what she would now describe as extreme wealth. She’d been immensely naive, decidedly spoiled, and exceedingly selfish.

All that had changed on her seventeenth birthday.

So, where had things gone wrong?

Reggie Stone.

Reggie had ruined everything.

Okay, so maybe her naivety and a broken heart had had something to do with it as well.

Still, if Raven hadn’t fallen for the boy, one of the most popular in his senior class, she never would have lost so much. The town of Cannon Falls would have been spared its fiery fate.

She’d read once that death by fire was one of the most painful ways to go. But since the author of the statement had still been alive, she’d doubted its validity.

Still, all her nightmares for the past ten years, and the thousands of hours spent in counseling, confirmed her fears. The thirty people she’d killed haunted her every moment.

Why then was she now standing in the parking lot of Cannon Falls Ski Resort? After having just celebrated her twenty-seventh birthday, alone, something had called to her to return.

Looking up at the massive wood-shingled buildings gave her chills. Nothing had changed. Not really.

The three five-story buildings sat in a U shape. The courtyard, in the winter, had housed a massive skating rink when her father had run the resort. Now, there was early summer grass that needed a trim and some fertilizer.

Actually, the more she looked, the more work she could see the place needed. The bushes and flowers that had once been neatly trimmed and maintained now grew completely out of control and stuck up in odd shapes taller than a person.

Even the dark green shutters that sat on either side of the large windows needed a fresh coat of paint. The parking lot had massive potholes that she’d had to avoid when finding a parking spot.

Her eyes scanned up to the main building, tucked behind the other two. This was the building that filled most of her memories. There, she’d spent countless hours doing homework in her father’s office on the main floor, tucked behind the reception desk. Or sitting in the massive dining room, eating meals alone, since her parents were too busy working. She’d spent countless hours alone during her childhood.

She’d had a few close friends over the years, particularly Carrie Edwards and Darby Nabers, in addition to her cousin Liza, who had been there for Raven all her life until they’d hit junior high. Then even Liza had abandoned her for a more popular crowd.

That had changed again when she’d caught the eye of Reggie Stone the month before her sixteenth birthday.

To be honest, she hadn’t really liked Reggie at first. He’d been rude to her most of their childhood. Then, when he’d become the star of football, basketball, and baseball in junior high, he’d quickly grown to most-popular-boy stardom, and she hadn’t been able to stop dreaming about him.

But as the only naturally ginger-haired kid in her class—Liza and Cal had inherited their mother’s blond locks—she’d been the most-teased girl in school.

It was true that most people in her classes were friendly with her. After all, she was easily the wealthiest girl in school. But not a single one of them had taken the time to be actual friends with her.

And oh, how they had all turned on her, even her own remaining family members. Yet another reason she’d spent so much time in therapy.

She’d been standing next to her used Lexus in the parking lot, staring up at the buildings for a while now and surmised that she was drawing attention. She walked over to the trunk of her car, pulled out her overnight bags, and carted them through the courtyard, noticing the cracked sidewalks and overgrown grass and weeds as she went.

The moment that she stepped inside, memories hit her like a brick over the head, almost causing her to double over.

“Breathe,” she heard in her head, the voice of Becca Morgan, LPC. “In for three, out for three.”

Raven did what she’d done for the past ten years and took several deep breaths until the panic attack subsided.

When she felt under control again, she glanced towards the indoor fountain and, for a split second, an image flashed in her memory of a young woman with long auburn hair pulled back into a long braid sitting peacefully on the stone edge of the water. Her long flowing floral dress pooled around her crossed ankles. She was a vision of patience and love.

Raven broke free of the memory, blinked, and turned towards the front desk. She couldn’t afford a walk down memory lane. Not yet. She had to secure her position before allowing herself to lose it.

“May I help you?” a young woman with a very thick Middle-Eastern accent asked her with a friendly smile.

“Yes.” Raven straightened her shoulders and tried for a friendly smile. “I’d like to see Colin Brooks.”

The woman instantly looked worried and a little somber.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Brooks isn’t available at the moment.” She glanced down at Raven’s bags. “Are you wanting to check in?” she asked.

“I’m Raven Brooks,” she said plainly.

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