If You Dare

By: Jessica Lemmon

Two seconds later, her phone chimed again.

what’s that weird ball of light over your left shoulder?

Before she could stop herself, she’d snapped her head around to look behind her. And Marcus, asshat that he was, must have guessed she’d fallen for it. The next text read:


With a growl, Lily tossed her phone onto the mattress and sat beside it. She faced the creeptastic staircase…just in case…and reached for her iPad. Then reconsidered.

If she had heard something, and if it were a real threat, she didn’t like the idea of background noise. If there were a rabid raccoon chomping on the exposed wires or a freaky opossum hunching its way across the insulation in the attic, she would like to know. Even though her only weapon she had was the plastic knife that’d come with her dinner. She really should have brought the crowbar in with her…

Most likely, nothing would happen, and she’d claim Hawaii with nary a hair harmed on her head. She abandoned the tablet and dug out the novel she’d impulse purchased. It was a romance, thank you very much, no Stephen King for her. No, sir. She’d barely cracked the spine when she heard it again.


Gooseflesh lit her arms and her legs despite the propane heater next to her warming the air. Definitely a voice, she was sure of it this time. It’d been tinny as if being played back from a gramophone, but unmistakably feminine. And forceful.

Her dinner lurched in her stomach as her eyes tracked to the stairs leading up to the inky beyond. The voice had come from the second floor this time. If only she hadn’t made out the word so clearly. If only it’d been some garbled, unidentifiable sound, she could’ve passed it off as the house creaking. But she’d heard it. As clearly as she heard her teeth chattering in her head right now.

Whatever was up there wanted her to leave. And she may have needed to be told twice, but she wasn’t about to wait around for a third. Knees wobbling, Lily kept her eyes glued to the staircase as she felt for her phone and her purse. The darkness upstairs morphed into shapes the longer she stared into it, so she risked looking away long enough to gather her things. She gauged the distance between the staircase and the front door, inventorying the obstacles that laid between her and the exit.

The urge to run was strong, but she forced herself to step carefully. A very lucid argument that she couldn’t physically outrun a ghost presented itself and she ignored it, following the mental path she’d mapped in her head. She stepped around the air mattress, over the lantern, and skirted the heater. She’d come back for her things in the morning. In the bright, happy sunshine. She was out of here.

Her feet hit the porch seconds later. She ran for her car, not bothering to close the mansion door behind her. Heart thundering, Lily plunged a hand into her purse.

“Keys, keys,” she muttered, searching for the lost metal in the depths of her purse. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. But she’d already begun to panic—each time her hand encountered everything but keys in her Dooney & Bourke bag. Why, oh, why did she refuse to use the sewn-in hook to anchor her keys?

A sound in the distance made her jerk her head toward the house. The faint light from her lantern dully illuminated the entrance. That was it. No screeching banshee raced across the yard. No specter floated toward her on a cloud of ethereal smoke.

Still. Lily didn’t want to go back inside.

She upended the stubborn handbag and dumped its contents onto the hood of her car. Lip gloss, pens, coins, and various other useless items rolled onto the ground. But no keys. Which meant…

“No.” Her voice came out no more than a tiny whine.

She was going to have to go back in and get them.

“No,” she said again, yanking at the driver’s door, then the passenger doors of her cherry red compact. Each handle gave beneath her palm only to spring into its original position. Locked. But of course.

Lily rested her hands on the hood of her car and forced herself to breathe. “They’re in there somewhere,” she told herself in the calmest tone she could manage. Other than a preliminary sweep of the kitchen when she’d first arrived, the only area she’d been in was the twenty square feet in the center of the living room. That was good. That was a relatively small area. It’d take her five seconds, ten tops.

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