If You Dare

By: Jessica Lemmon



Joanie and Clive had intended the trip as a second honeymoon, until Clive learned he’d be at a work-related conference during the first weekend in December. The Camerons put their trip on the line as a reward to the designer who could finish the most accounts in two months. Lily and Marcus were neck and neck the entire contest…until Marcus won by one account.

His own.

“I needed a shed behind my house,” he’d argued.

“And you needed Clive to design it?”

His grin returned. “If it were a walk-in closet, I would’ve consulted you.”

“What’s the matter?” she teased, baiting him. “Too scared to put Hawaii on the line?”

She half expected him to remind her of the reason behind the last-minute shed design. That Lily may have kind of, sort of signed an account he’d laid the initial groundwork on. Instead of bringing up the stolen account, Marcus’s jaw ticked in challenge. She’d tamped down the smile dying to produce itself on her face. Simply say the word “scared” to the man and he’d break his neck trying to prove he wasn’t.

“You’d have to stay the entire night,” he finally said.

Ha! She had him. “Done.”

“Alone.”

“Done.”

“This Friday. The thirteenth.”





“D-Done.”





Chapter 2

After she left the bar on Wednesday night, Lily had headed home. When her head hit the pillow, she’d congratulated herself for being so cunning. So smooth. She’d just made sure to claim the trip that should’ve been hers in the first place in twelve short hours.

But her mental rounds of “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” came to an abrupt halt at the threshold of Willow Mansion. She could see boarded-up windows on the other side of the murky living room, and half of the treacherous staircase was missing every other railing leading to the second floor. She took one final breath, steeled her spine, and stepped into the house.

The pungent aroma of waterlogged floorboards hit her first. Light eked its way through knots in the board-covered windows, showing no more than the gloomy outline of a leaf-strewn floor and a decaying fireplace. Dust particles hung in the air in the filtered sunshine, tickling her nostrils.

No, at the moment, Lily didn’t feel the least bit smart or congratulatory. What she felt was creeped out.

Something skittered up the patterned wallpaper to her right. She didn’t turn her head. Her peripheral vision made out enough of the long, shining body and waving antennae to know who she’d be bunking with tonight.

Unfortunately, she hadn’t thought to put Raid on her shopping list.

She gulped down her disgust and tossed her supplies onto the center of the living room floor. The massive space would make for a workable ground zero. She could blow up the air mattress and surround herself with the comforts of home. It probably wouldn’t even feel like an allegedly haunted mansion by the time she got set up.

She kicked a downed spindle from the railing, and it rolled and hit the baseboard at the edge of the staircase with an echoing thud. One last thought about the shadow-faces peering down at her from upstairs, and it was decided: downstairs would have to do. No way was she going anywhere near the second story.

Lily ventured to the doorway to her left and poked her head inside. The wide kitchen was big enough for several servants, well-lit thanks to a few large, still-intact windows on that side of the house. But the warped linoleum, bones of dead mice or rats, and door-less cabinets encrusted with cobwebs kept the room from being mistaken for cozy.

She turned back to the living room. Funny, it was charming by comparison.

A loud bang made her jump and a pathetic little “Meep!” exit her lips. The front door hung open, leaves kicking across the entryway. She blew out a breath of relief. It was only the wind. Likely a sister gust to the one that had dropped a shutter very near her head earlier.

Part of her entertained the idea of leaving, Hawaii or no Hawaii. Wouldn’t Marcus love that? Lily giving up after one little bump in the waning daylight… Nuh-uh. No way. He wasn’t winning this bet before it started.

Lily made one last trip outside to retrieve the rest of her supplies. As she shouldered her purse, she recalled Marcus’s smug expression as she’d pulled that same handbag over her shoulder at the bar on Wednesday.

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