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The storm kicked into high gear battering the glass dome with rain so loud it echoed through the cavernous foyer. A figure on the stairs halted as lights flickered in a continuous pulse, as though the house itself were alive. She waited, not realizing she had been holding her breath, and then the lights gave one last wavering flash.

Great,” she mumbled. Her fingers grappled for the railing as her foot cautiously sought the next stair. “It’s just a little rain,” she whispered, slowly working her way down the sweeping staircase. The foyer was the focal point of the house, reaching beyond the two stories to a glass dome. But the flashes of light played tricks on her eyes. Shadows appeared to linger on the second floor landing, jockeying for position at the railing to watch her careful descent. One minute she was contemplating how exquisite the aged mansion must have been during its heyday, the next she was imagining that every person who had ever lived here had just risen from the dust to watch her every move. She shivered at the thought and cursed herself for not checking the batteries in the flashlight.

A crash of thunder rumbled through the building like a never ending freight train. She could swear the entire staircase was vibrating. Lightning continued its spectacle, illuminating the foyer like headache-inducing strobe lights. Maybe it was the shadows or the flashes but for one sick moment she could swear the lightning was green.

She averted her gaze but the shadows downstairs looked just as menacing. She slapped the flashlight against her hand. How like her hosts to give her a flashlight with weak batteries. If she concentrated she could ignore the storm and focus on other sounds, like voices, heavy footsteps, or the clatter of equipment. Between the rumbles and clashes she should have heard something. Where was everyone? They should have stayed together, but it was her idea to go off on her own. The whole night had been boring until the storm. Then all hell broke loose. Were they hiding in a room waiting for her to run screaming into the night? She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. She was a Monroe, dammit, and Monroes never back down from a challenge. She squared her shoulders and forged on.

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