Slivers of bold light illuminated the master bedroom as thunder boomed and strong winds continued to punish the manor. Rain fell in a downpour now, so loud it drowned out every other sound.
Ignoring the profound ache in his shin, Morgan swiftly closed the window. He turned and righted the chair before placing it next to the fireplace. If the wind hadn’t suddenly slammed the bedroom door shut, startling him, he might’ve remembered the chair had been positioned in front of the window before he turned and toppled over it. Instead of searching for an intruder as he’d planned, he’d been thinking of how this room would eventually look with new furnishings.
A faint rustling sounded behind him. He spun around, his gaze focused on the corner of the room nearest the fireplace. It was almost as though someone had slid their hands down the oak paneling in quick fashion, but that someone would’ve had to vanish into thin air within seconds.
Probably, but then…
The thought crossed Morgan’s mind to investigate, but he decided to postpone that particular venture until he could actually see what he was exploring. Wandering about unfamiliar surroundings could be hazardous, as he’d just proven, and houses this old usually held a few secrets. His father had never mentioned secret passages or anything of that nature, but that didn’t mean they didn’t exist. Dragon’s Breath concealed numerous passageways behind its massive fireplaces. Dangerous passageways that spiraled downward in a maze of sharp twists and turns where one misstep could send you to a horrible death.
His attention swung back to the fireplace. Was someone hiding behind there this very second, watching his every move?
Morgan released a pent up breath. This was Canderlay Manor. Not Dragon’s Breath. If either of his younger brothers ever found out how skittish he’d become, their teasing would never cease.
Thunder erupted again, violently shaking the windows and
rattling the glass. The fierce storm seemed to be hovering overhead, refusing to move on. He’d better check on Ares. The Arabian was likely stomping around the carriage house with nostrils flaring and eyes as round as coins.
He picked up the lantern and hobbled out of the room. Midway down the stairs he came to an abrupt halt as thick blackness once again consumed the foyer below. A sharp draft must’ve extinguished the candle. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, light from the lantern exposed a portion of the marbled tile. The brass holder lay on its side, but it no longer held the candle.
“What the devil?”
A sudden break in the downpour outside coincided with an
unexpected thump upstairs.
Morgan whirled around.
Someone is up there.
But his vision failed to penetrate the murkiness hovering like an ebony blanket over the floor above.
This will end.
He hung the lantern on a hook that had once supported a wall sconce and turned down the wick until complete darkness closed ranks around him. Making his way back up the stairs to the second floor, he kept his back to the wall, hoping to blend in with the rest of the shadows. Passing the entrance to the portrait gallery, he moved into the corridor. And that’s when he heard the soft creaking of someone walking about on the floor directly above him.
Eager for the confrontation, Morgan exited the corridor and
holding onto the balustrade for guidance, he crept up the stairs to the third level.
A few more steps, friend, and you’re mine.
A distorted shape slowly emerged from the black hole of the
corridor, strangely stooped and moving awkwardly.
Morgan squinted, logic battling sheer panic. Fear was not an emotion he was accustomed to, but at this precise moment he got acquainted with it. As he stared, trying to determine what the devil he was looking at, lightning entered the large window near the third floor landing, exposing bleak surroundings along with the small, cloaked figure standing a few feet in front of him. Before he could process what he was staring at, the light disintegrated, leaving him with a chilling image burned into his brain.
The ghostly image of…
What exactly did I see?
He swallowed hard.
A banshee with no face!
Terror slithered up Morgan’s spine, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. “Listen, friend,” he said, forcing his voice to remain calm. “I’ve no idea who you are or what you’re doing in my house, but you’re trespassing, and I’d like you to leave.” He swallowed to relieve the sudden dryness in his throat. “Immediately.”
Strained silence. Severely pronounced.
Had this thing, whatever it was, vanished?
“And if you have a key,” he added boldly, “you may leave it in the door on your way out.”
He held his breath.
Light from the storm funneled in and flickered around the walls, creating a host of formidable shadows. One of which was all too real.
No, it hadn’t vanished. Or heeded his warning. Suddenly its
right hand stretched forward, and one bony white finger pointed in his direction, as though accusing him of some crime.
“Holy mother of…” He backed up. “Good God!” His heart thudded hard as though it wished to escape the confines of his chest. “What the…” He forced air into his starved lungs. “Hell and damnation!”
Shocked beyond coherent speech, the instinct for survival seized Morgan’s feet, taking precedence over every emotion, real or imagined, and he quickly backed away from the disturbing figure.
And right over the third floor balustrade.