Frozen rain fell from steel-gray clouds, pinging off the blacktop and pattering into Smith Mountain Lake. Aside from that the day was silent, the summer bustle of guests replaced by winter solitude. Jasmine Hart was glad. People brought cash, but they also brought baggage, and she wasn't talking the kind that held clothes. Marital strife, teens with secrets, men and women hiding from the world and from their problems. She'd dealt with them all during her time at Lakeview Retreat, but that had been years ago.Now she had her own baggage, her own secrets, her own reasons to hide, and dealing with people wasn't something she wanted to do. It seemed, though, that she had no choice in the matter. One phone call in the middle of the night, one brief conversation with her mother-in-law's best friend and Jasmine had been on a plane and flying from New Hampshire to Lakeview, Virginia. Three days later, she was caring for her mother-in-law and readying the neglected retreat for the first renter it had had in seventeen months.Which just went to show how quickly things could change."Jazz! Hey, Jazz!" Karen Morris hurried across the slippery pavement, her round cheeks flushed, her brown eyes filled with youthful exuberance. A college student who worked part-time at Lakeview Retreat, Karen had enthusiasm and peppiness to spare. Jasmine tried hard not to hold that against her."What's up?""Ms. Sarah. She's awake and asking if the cabin is ready yet.""Tell her I'll have it ready before our guest arrives. Then you'd better head home. The weather doesn't look like it's going to clear.""Ms. Sarah said I should give you a hand cleaning the cabin." Even as she said it, Karen's gaze was darting toward the rusty Impala she'd driven to work that morning."She probably didn't know how bad the weather was getting.""Maybe not, but I can't afford to get fired from this job." Karen glanced at the car again. Obviously, the thought of leaving appealed to her. Jasmine couldn't blame her. The once-bustling retreat had become a lonely place, haunted by memories and silence. Or maybe that was only Jasmine's perception of it. Maybe to others it was the same peaceful lakeside resort it had always been.She forced her maudlin thoughts away, refocusing on Karen. "Sarah isn't going to fire you for going home when the weather is like this.""I guess you're right. And it is getting slippery out here. If you need me to come this weekend, I can. It might be good to have an extra set of hands since you've got a renter now." It might be, but there wasn't money for it. At least not in Sarah's coffers. Since Jasmine's mother-in-law didn't believe in taking handouts, even from family, that was the only way the extra help could be paid for."I'll give you a call if I need you. Now hurry up and tell Sarah you're leaving. I don't want you out on the roads when it's this slippery." She forced a smile, waving Karen back toward the house, her stomach churning with anxiety and frustration. Things were bad. Worse than she ever could have imagined when she'd agreed to come help Sarah recover from surgery. Payback for staying away so long? Probably. And probably Jasmine deserved it.Icy wind sliced through her thick sweatshirt and heavy parka, stealing her breath and reminding her of home. New Hampshire would have snow this week. Here in Lakeview, there'd be frozen rain, drizzle, thick clouds. The lake. Memories of Christmases and laughter. The girls dancing around the living room of Sarah's modest home. John. Solid. Dependable. All three frozen in time, suspended in her mind as they had been, not as they might have become.Three years tomorrow.Maybe she shouldn't keep track.She forced the thoughts and images from her mind, refusing to dwell on the past or to contemplate the empty future. One moment at a time. One day at a time. That was the only way she'd survive.The first of Sarah's five guest cabins was just up ahead. Small, cozy, great viMcCoy, Shirlee is the author of 'Lakeview Protector (Love Inspired Suspense Series)', published 2008 under ISBN 9780373442874 and ISBN 0373442874.