Sunlight Moonlight - By Amanda Ashley

Part One Chapter One
Lainey stared at the old mansion, which sat alone at the end of an unpaved road. There had been rumors about the Grayson place for as long as she could remember. Some said it was haunted by the ghost of its last owner; some jokingly speculated that it was inhabited by a vampire. The townspeople might disagree about who or what lurked inside, Lainey mused, but they all agreed there was something definitely spooky about the place.

The house had been vacant for at least ten years, and it showed. The paint was peeling off the eaves, some of the tiles on the roof were missing, several windows were cracked or broken. Trees and shrubs grew in jungle-like profusion.

It was obvious no one lived in the house, and yet, lately, passersby had reported seeing a pale blue light flickering in the third-floor window. Police had been sent to investigate, but reportedly had found nothing suspicious.

It was a mystery, and Lainey loved a mystery. Reading them or writing them, it didn't matter. She'd take a good mystery over a love story any day of the week. Of course, if the mystery also contained a scorching romance, so much the better!

She also had a fondness for vampires, werewolves, and witches, which seemed at odds with her deep and abiding fear of the dark.

She also had a penchant for exploring old houses, but that, she decided, would have to wait for another day.

Taking her camera out of its case, Lainey snapped a couple of pictures from varying angles. The mansion, which was said to be over a hundred years old, was the perfect backdrop for the murder mystery she was currently writing. From its gabled roof and small round windows to its enormous front door and shadowed veranda, it reeked of mystery and danger. She could easily imagine any number of foul deeds being committed within its dark interior. No doubt there were dozens of secret doors and passageways cut into the walls and closets, she mused, and if there weren't, well, it didn't matter. She would just write a few in.

She zipped up her jacket as she glanced at the lowering sky. One more picture, and then she'd go.

She was focusing on the round turret at the north side of the house when she saw a flash of movement in the third-story window.

Startled, she lowered the camera and stared at the window, and then she laughed uneasily. There was no one there. She was just letting her overactive imagination get the best of her. Sternly, she reminded herself that the house had been vacant for years.

Nevertheless, she decided she had taken enough pictures for one day. Slinging the camera strap over her shoulder, she started walking down the driveway to the road where she had left her car, walking faster and faster until she was running.

Running as if she were being pursued by demons.

Once she was inside the car, with the windows rolled up and the doors locked, she felt like a child running from shadows. But sometimes her wild imagination overcame her good sense.

Shoving the key in the ignition, she gave it a twist.


Grimacing, she tried again, and again, but the car, always temperamental, refused to start.

Defeated, she rested her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes. Perhaps she'd flooded the engine. The wordflood had no more than crossed her mind when the heavens opened, unleashing a deluge that would have given Noah cause for alarm.

"Oh, great," Lainey muttered. "Now what am I gonna do?"

She sat there for twenty minutes before she tried to start the car again. Nothing happened. Maybe it was the battery. Jim, over at the garage, had told her she needed a new one.

She sat there for another ten minutes, shivering inside her thin nylon jacket. A jagged bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a crash of thunder that was so close, she almost jumped out of her skin.

Into her mind came visions of night stalkers and serial killers, all of them just looking for a lone female stranded on a deserted road.

She glanced up at the house, thinking she'd probably be safer, and warmer, inside four walls.

Staring at the mansion, she felt her gaze drawn to the upper floor, felt a sudden, inexplicable urge to explore the house, to ferret out its secrets.

Before she quite realized what she was doing, she was out of the car and running up the driveway.

Breathless, she took the stairs two at