COLE PACED THE parlor area, waiting for the women to come out of the bedroom. He wished he'd had an argument with which to counter Lisette, but it was true that they needed to make sure that Trudy Malcolm had not been bitten covertly, despite Megan angrily declaring that it wasn't possible for her to have been bitten so quickly.
Lisette was not to be dissuaded, reminding them all that the things could strike with the speed of a cobra and incubate inside someone for a long time.
Dickens alone remained with him, pacing in the opposite direction. Newcomb and his men had taken the corpse back to the graveyard. Betsy would now rest in peace.
The two men had passed each other five times when Cole finally barked out, "Dickens! Grab a whiskey. Quit that walking up and down."
Dickens jumped. He stared at Cole, but was too polite to mention that Cole was doing the same thing.
"I'll have a whiskey, too," Cole said.
"That poor woman. She must be humiliated. She is such a lady."
"Trudy. Trudy Malcolm?" Cole said, pouring the whiskey himself since Dickens seemed to have it in mind that he was an officer.
"She's-she's gentle, she's kind. A true lady."
"Okay." Cole wasn't sure how to respond. He poured the portions of whiskey and handed a glass to Dickens. "Well, don't worry. We...will...all treat her like a lady, have no fear, Dickens."
"Yes, sir. Well, you would, sir. You're always courteous. Not everyone is."
"Well, probably there are those who wouldn't say I was always courteous," Cole told him. "But, we will take special care of Miss Malcolm."
Lisette came out of the bedroom. His bedroom. Since the child-vampire had exploded just inside Megan's bedroom, Lisette had lifted her nose and headed into his.
Neither would prove to be a comfortable place, conducive to a romantic evening, he thought.
"She's clean. Not a mark on her," the Pinkerton said, heading straight for the liquor. She poured herself a sherry and sipped it, then spun around to stare at Cole and Dickens. "But mark my words, gentlemen, this is a brutal war we fight. Nothing can be taken for granted." She looked at Cole, and, apparently, realized the sheriff eyed her like one might an icy dictator. She instantly managed one of her sweet smiles. "You know, Cole, that we can't be too careful. We can't trust in children, and we can't allow ourselves a the naive niceties of life, not all the time." She scanned him with a head-to-toe gaze, and then glanced at the clock. "The general has been waiting supper so that we all might join him, but..." Her voice trailed. "I will tell him another hour, Cole, dear. That should give you time to clean up."
"Yes, Lisette, I will need an hour. Digging up corpses and beheading them has been dirty work."
"Cole, you needn't be so crass," she said, as if she hadn't just forced her assistant to strip for a puncture search.
"Dickens, you can escort Miss Malcolm back to the general's when she's finished dressing. I'll go on over and inform him that dinner will be delayed."
She swallowed down the sherry and headed for the stairs.
Megan emerged from the room, looking as if she was about to explode. She closed the door behind her, giving Trudy the privacy she surely needed.
"She's gone?" Megan asked Cole.
"Yes. We're invited to the general's for dinner again."
Megan didn't look happy. She glanced at the boyish corporal mindfully, and then decided that she was going to explode anyway. "Lisette Annalise is her own form of monster!"
Dickens gasped and then laughed, and then sobered.
But Cole was glad, because Megan managed to smile. It occurred to him then that it was odd: a vampire could strike with the speed of a cobra, yet it hadn't gone for Trudy. Rather, it had rushed to attack Megan when her back was turned.
The church had never been under attack.
The vampires had broken into the schoolroom section of the church while Megan had been there-at her weakest.
He kept quiet then because Dickens was with them, and Trudy Malcolm emerged from the bedroom at last, redressed, but with a face as bright red as that of a lobster. To the young spinster, an inspection must have been mortifying.
"Miss Malcolm," Dickens said politely, "I'm to see you back to your quarters at the general's lodgings, whenever you're ready to go."
Trudy didn't say anything. She just nodded miserably.
She headed for the stairs, and then stopped. She looked back at Megan. "Thank you."
"I'm sorry, Trudy. I'm so sorry," Megan said.
Trudy smiled weakly. "I'm all right. I mean, I might have been viciously attacked by that child...and...I guess it's better to know for sure that I'm not bitten.... Oh, it's so terrible that a baby like that could be..." She let her voice trail, and then she lifted her chin. "I'm not sorry. We still have to look for the good in people, right?"
"We do have to be very careful these days," Cole said.
"But, no, tenderness and caring are not bad things, Trudy," Megan said.
Trudy nodded, and then started down the stairs. Dickens looked back at Megan and Cole and then followed her out.
They were alone, and for a minute, they stood in silence.
"I'm supposed to wash up," Cole said at last. "For dinner. I suppose I'm not in any shape to dine politely with a general and an actress."
"I'll go out back and fetch more water from the well," Megan offered.
She started for the stairs and he caught her arm. She looked at him, waiting. But he wasn't sure what he wanted to say, and to his relief, she spoke.
"I'm sorry, Cole. I'm really sorry. I just felt that I had to go back there today. And I believe that Daniel is going to prove invaluable to us. He was stricken badly, yet he managed to survive. He didn't attack human beings-he sucked the blood out of rats, for God's sake. It was important. Please, I don't intend to ignore your wishes all of the time. Honestly."
"Just when you think you're right," he said quietly.
She was silent.
"I was right-you were severely weakened today."
"But we don't know what could have happened to him," she reminded him.
He didn't know how to end the argument. He certainly didn't want it going on through the night.
"Didn't you find the last hour strange?" he asked her.
"Oh, yes. Very strange. You didn't have your actress friend making a pathetic girl strip and turn in circles so she could assure herself there were no bite marks. Oh, yes, that was strange-perhaps acutely uncomfortable is the better term."
"No, I mean before that. Tell me what happened."
He released her arm. She frowned, thinking, and wandered back toward the liquor table. She poured herself a whiskey neat, and swallowed it in a gulp. She set the glass down.
"I've seen children turned before," she told him.
"But you brought that child into this house."
"Trudy was convinced that she was but a lost child, and I'm sorry to admit, I wasn't as resolute as I should have been. I was a little taken in myself. Betsy was able to maintain tears, to speak, to lure us into believing in her, and I'm usually pretty good at knowing when I see-when I see one of my own kind."
He strode over to her, taking her by the arms. "There are only two people I know who are exactly your kind. You two are nothing like the others." He winced. "I know a few people who have been turned and somehow managed to retain their souls."
She studied his eyes. "Alex's father?" she asked.
"And maybe mine?" she queried softly.
He shook his head. "Megan, a vampire doesn't get as practiced as that child without the help of some kind of a-a mentor, I suppose you could say. When they behave just as beasts, attacking wildly, at anyone, then you know that they were turned, taken for food, and then just deserted. But that child-someone had to teach her to control her hunger to get what she wanted. To lure people to a point where she could attack."
She studied his eyes, and he knew that she agreed with his train of thought.
"But, we've known that...we've known that someone has been out there. Since the Wilderness, at the very least. It seems we can track all this back to that battle. The fires and the carnage were so terrible...no one knew where bodies would be. No one knew who many of the dead were.... Some bodies were burned so badly, no one knew which side they'd been fighting for. And this has all come from then, the best that I can tell," she said.
He nodded. "You're probably right. So, if we're figuring this correctly, there's an older, practiced vampire out there who decided it was time to get into the war."
"On which side?" she asked drily.
"This vampire doesn't care which side. This vampire has started a war against humanity, and intends to take it as far as it can."
She pulled back, studying his face again. "Not my father, Cole. Not my father."
"That's what you want to believe."
"I think I learned a lot about belief, that it's a good thing. Father Costello believes, and his belief keeps him strong."
"Don't mix up faith with what you want to be truth, Megan."
"I'm not doing that!" she protested.
"Look, we don't know if your father still exists, Megan. You want to believe that there's someone really evil out there, and that your father does remain, that he's out there combating the evil. You're stretching the limits of probability."
She shook her head. "But not of possibility."
He looked into her golden eyes, and at the hope there, and he knew that he'd found another argument he wasn't going to win.
"No, not possibility," he agreed. He stepped away from her. "I'll go downstairs. My Federal boys will be back and they'll get enough water in for me to do a nice cold cleanup job. Get a little more rest, if you can. I'll collect you when I'm ready."
TRUST WAS SOMETHING that had to be earned.
Despite everything that had happened during the day, that was the one thought that kept going through Megan's mind. She'd been so gratified that he'd leaped over the remains of the child vampire to check on her that she hadn't realized that there was now a new distance between them. A distance that became evident when they had spoken.
She took another swallow of whiskey, watching the fire that burned in the hearth. It was probably going to be their last night for such simple pleasures as a fire, the comfort of a plush sofa, the solace of a liquor table. But though she enjoyed such niceties, they weren't necessary to her-she'd spent far too long on far too many battlefields, praying for alcohol just to ease some pain, not for fun, and for fire, just because the earth was so damp and the temperature freezing.
What disturbed her was Cole himself, and the fact that he had left her to freshen up, preferring the company of the Union men to a prolonged conversation with her. She tried to reason with herself that there might be a real bathtub down on the ground level. And yes, of course, the well was much closer and it was easier to haul water in on the first level than the second.
And she asked herself if there was anything she might have done differently that day, and there wasn't.
But she had just lost ground again in that effort to be really trusted.
Maybe there was trust, and then a different kind of trust.
She looked around the rooms that she had so enjoyed when they had somehow belonged to-or, at least, were borrowed by-just her and Cole. Now, the remnant of ash from a diseased and cunning vampire lay about her bedroom, and she didn't think she could even venture into Cole's again after the humiliation that Lisette Annalise had inflicted on Trudy.
Trudy had stood shaking like a windblown branch while she removed her clothing. It had been worse when she had shed it all and stood in there with her eyes closed in her nakedness. Then, she had been trembling like a terrier who knew that his master was going to beat him again.
It had been horrible to witness, but she didn't doubt that Lisette would have dragged one of the men in as a second set of eyes if Megan herself hadn't been there. She'd tried to speed up the process as best she could, at least helping Trudy with the many ties on her garments.
Megan leaned back, hating what had happened. Even worse was the breach of trust for Trudy, owing from her simple, desperate determination to give love and help to a little girl.
"Well," she said aloud, lifting her glass to the fire. "At least, I'm not jealous anymore. Any man who might want Lisette Annalise could not be a friend of mine!"
She startled and swung around. Cole was back at the landing, grinning at her. She flushed, and she felt slightly warmed and renewed by the light in his eyes.
"Liar! You admired her and found her attractive," she accused him.
"Well, guilty, once. I admired her. I never said that I wanted her."
"But-surely, you did. You don't need to lie. I'm not in the least naive, you know. She does have certain assets."
"Yes, and if she'd never spoken, never looked about a room with her ever-watchful and plotting eyes, yes, possibly, she'd have been appealing. A puma can be beautiful-but far too deadly."
Megan studied her glass. "Would you say that of me?" she asked.
"Are you fishing for a compliment-or worried that I might see you as a puma?"
She looked up, flushing. "I don't fish for compliments."
He smiled and joined her on the sofa. "I'm sure you've never had to," he said.
"That's nice," she told him gravely. "But it doesn't answer my question."
He took the glass from her hands and indulged in a sip himself. "Whoever owned this house certainly enjoyed fine whiskey."
He turned to look at her again, and his curious half smile was in place on his features, and she thought that he had to be the most charming and yet most masculine man she had ever met. From just being near him she felt fire ignite within her, and she suddenly wished that she hadn't come to want him, even need him, so very much.
"I think you're amazingly strong and resilient, and that you have been blessed with extra strengths-and weaknesses," he told her. "If I had ever thought of you as a puma, my love, I'd have never been with you."
"Cody made you come," she reminded him.
"Cody never made me do anything," Cole assured her. "Every move I've made, I've made because I chose to."
"Yes, you chose to, but not because you actually trusted me," Megan said quietly. "You were going to come no matter what-despite me. We want things for different reasons. You nearly lost a town over an-invasion, or infestation, however we decide to look at it. You came with Cody to D.C. because you knew that you were needed. You came here for the same reason."
He stood up, walking to look out the window to the street. "The drummer boy," he said slowly. "I promised that I would find the drummer boy."
He shrugged. "The world is an amazing place, full of hopes, dreams, ideals, indignation, wants and desires. And then people don't agree on what is right and what isn't, and suddenly, you're at war. But then you're looking at the person, the human being, who should be your enemy, and that person is just another human being, flesh and blood, and he's your enemy, but if someone told you to shoot him, stab him face-to-face without battle surrounding you, no cannons blasting and gunfire exploding, no pretty banners and slogans, you'd realize that all we're doing is murdering one another. And worse, your enemy is someone you admire maybe, and someone who even touches something in you that makes you want to achieve greater things, fight the braver fights in life."
He paused, turned and saw that she was watching him curiously, and he looked away again. "I've never claimed to know whose side God might really be on in the war, but I felt the agony that Abraham Lincoln, the man, was feeling, and I felt his loss for his child-and his agony that children suffered at all. Well, we saw a little girl tonight who had been coached into being a truly frightening monster. Somewhere out there-or so Mary Lincoln believes-there is a little Confederate drummer boy. He's been turned into a monster, surely, but his soul is crying out for peace. Mary Lincoln's son comes to her in dreams, and he has told her as much. I'm going to find the little drummer boy. We're going to find the little drummer boy," he amended. "We're going to stop this."
Megan stood, feeling a new surge of commitment, a sense of real purpose and a need to stand by him. He hadn't left her; he'd been angry, but not angry enough to leave her.
She walked over to him and stood on her toes, brushing his lips with a kiss. "We have to be at the general's now," she said huskily.
He nodded, touching her cheek. "Do you think there's a prayer you'll ever listen to me?"
"Yes," she said, searching out his eyes. "But, it would help if you would listen to me, too."
"I was right, though," he told her, though softly.
"But the way it turned out, I wasn't wrong. Daniel-Daniel fought the ravenous hunger of what he might have become. He has incredible strength, Cole. And those creatures attacked at the school-what happened today would have killed Daniel and the father if we weren't there."
He shook his head. "I believe that the attack on the church came because you were there."
"What? Why? Why would anyone be attacking me? And, for the sake of the argument, we'll leave my father out of this. Why would anyone be trying to destroy me, particularly?"
"Maybe because you are unique. When your strength is at its greatest, they can rip and tear at you, but you'll heal. You have the power of the vampire, but not its bestial side. I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm guessing. But someone attacked you in the chapel in D.C., and now here, when they could have easily had Trudy instead," Cole said.
"We're seventy miles away, almost," Megan said, but something about his words made sense to her.
"Listen to me enough to stay close from here on out, please?" Cole asked her. He looked down at her with tenderness in his gaze, and with a husky passion in the lilt of his words.
She moved closer to him, and his arms came around her, pulling her close. He held her there for a moment, her head against his chest, his chin on her head. Then he murmured, "We need to go, before you reply-because trying to convince each other that we're right could become lengthy discussion!"
She nodded, and he eased away from her. She decided not to argue anymore, and he took her hand and they started down the stairs.
Sergeant Newcomb and his men were playing poker at their parlor area table. They waved and bade them a good evening, interested in little but their game.
And yet Megan knew that Newcomb rose and came to the door and then the walk to watch them down the few steps to the general's lodgings.
General Bickford was pleased to see them. He had his aide-de-camp at his side, and while they sat immediately to dine-a very quiet Trudy and a hard-as-nails Lisette with them, once again-Bickford had Dickens read off a list of necessary considerations to defend against a full-scale attack. "Bows and arrows-archery practice to continue. All deceased to be decapitated and buried with Christian rights. Stakes to be carried by all soldiers in the vicinity. Each man to be supplied with several vials of holy water. Instructions given that all wounded undead must be thoroughly dispatched immediately-no prisoners to be taken among these types of assailants."
"Yes," Cole agreed, when the aide-de-camp finished. Megan watched as Cole set down his fork and leaned forward. "Your men now know the basics, but there's more that you must be on guard against. When a being has managed to remain in existence as the undead for a period of time, it can become incredibly clever."
Bickford nodded. "Yes, Miss Annalise told us about the events with the child. We're aware that we must keep a careful guard against even our friends and fellows in the military-and, for some, even their wives, children, mothers and fathers."
"It's easy to be taken in," Megan said.
Lisette Annalise rolled her eyes and sighed impatiently. "Not if one uses a modicum of sense!"
Megan ignored her. "Trust me, General, it's easy to be deceived. Sometimes the diseased are simply maddened, and strike with the bite and rip of a tiger. And sometimes, the infected come, usually at night, but not always, to feed slowly and infect a person bit by bit. When the infected become weak, and then 'die' after a time, they will gain renewed strength as the infection rules the body. Only they will be more cunning than their wild counterparts."
"There were those in Victory, sir, and we never suspected. There was a clan out there with a leader who had taught his pack how to hunt. The leader can be very dangerous. He lets his minions take the risks, create the havoc-and clear the path for him to feed at his leisure."
Bickford nodded sternly. "There's an old local graveyard across the river on Maryland Heights. Some soldiers, returning from the battles wounded and dying, have met their final resting places there. If you're hunting beyond the town, I'd think that might be an area where these things might hide out. There's an abandoned, deconsecrated church on the edge of the cemetery, and there is a forest that would afford fine protection for such a monstrous hunter to leap upon its prey-the unwary horseman who might be using the old trail to the bridge. I've studied the terrain, and if there is a place where one of these clans might be forming, as you say, I believe this would be it. Dickens knows the terrain, as well. He will guide you well."
"Then that's where we'll begin," Cole said. He hesitated a moment, "I know that you've held a number of captives here. Tell me about the little Confederate drummer boy."
"Ah!" Bickford said, easing back in his chair. "So much has gone on here that I nearly forgot.... That...that was right when all this was starting, wasn't it? That's where it really seemed to begin...."
"The boy died?" Megan asked, but her words were really a statement.
"Yes, well, you've seen how the houses are built up on the hills, and in some there are entrances that rise high above the landscape to the rear." He paused and took a drink of water, slowly, as though lost in contemplation. "Billy! His name was Billy, though I do not remember his surname. In truth, the men loved the drummer boy. They did tease him sometimes, telling him that he needed to grow up and carry a gun rather than a drum if he was to fight them-good-natured soldierly jests. He lived with several of the men in the very lodgings where you're staying now, and he had become close to Corporal Nealy. When they were playing a rough game one night, someone pushed him too hard. He went out the back window and fell to the hard rock ground in the rear. He was pronounced dead and was buried. Nealy was inconsolable-he said that he hadn't gone to war to kill children. He began to tell his fellow soldiers that Billy came back to him at night, that he spoke to him-while he floated outside his bedroom window."
"Perhaps I could speak with Nealy before we go," Cole said.
Bickford shook his head. "You saw Nealy already. He was one of the seven killed prior to your arrival. Dickens reported that he has been decapitated and buried, with all due precaution."
"Where was the boy buried? I don't remember such a grave in the church cemetery, and I just went through the entire thing," Cole said.
"That's why I said that his death may be of extreme importance to you now," Bickford said. "He was buried in the old local cemetery across the river-the one where you might find a haven or sanctuary for the diseased. The one where you might find the mass infestation that seems to watch, lurk over Harpers Ferry now, watching-toying with us, perhaps, as cats toy with rats before honing in for the kill."
THE DAYS HAD been long, but Cole was restless when they returned to their lodgings. Bickford had seen to it that they were treated akin to royalty-or very special agents, at the least. There would be little for them to do in the morning except begin their ride out to the heights across the river. Their supplies and their horses would be waiting for them, and they would be given another three soldiers, in addition to Dickens, to make their party a group of ten, small enough to travel lightly and quickly, large enough to battle a fair number of the creatures.
Bickford was comfortable with the knowledge his men had been given. He was confident that his guards could protect themselves through the night-and keep an eye out for Confederate forces.
Telegraphs arrived every morning, and they would head out as soon as the morning's news was received from Washington. Megan was anxious that they should know that everything was well with Cody, Alex, Brendan and Martha and her children.
When they returned, however, Cole started into Megan's room, but she stood still, staring at the doorway. His heart sank, as he wondered if she had decided that the night before had been a mistake.
"There's still a bit of-Betsy...in there," she said.
"Ah. Yes. We'll sleep in the other room."
She offered him a rueful smile. "And all I can see in that room is Lisette crudely humiliating poor little Trudy. I know-how ridiculous. We're in the midst of war on many levels, and I don't want to sleep in either bed."
Cole looked around. Newcomb and his fellows always kept their fire fed, and there was a nice expanse of hardwood flooring covered by a fine Persian rug in front of the fireplace. "I think I have a solution."
He set about his task, heading into his room first for the quilt and pillows and sheets there, and laying them down on the floor for a base. Megan saw his intent, and gathered more pillows and bedding herself. When they had finished, they had created a lovely little pallet in front of the hearth, with the fire casting a soft glow upon it.
"Will this do?" he inquired.
He stared across their newly made bed at her, and he felt again as if the world with all its horrors could just fade away. For a few minutes, or a few hours, it could be only the two of them, in this strange little haven.
He walked around to her, avoiding their bedding as if it were several feet high. He pulled her to him, entranced by the fire, and for a moment he kissed her, his lips gentle, just touching hers, and he savored the feel of her warmth, the supple feel of her body against his own, the heat from the fire that enveloped and cradled them. But the wonder of sex was still so new and fresh between them that a moment of tender intimacy was not one that could be long maintained, and his kiss went deep and wet and hard, entangling them together until their need ignited and soared.
They were heavily clad, so many articles of clothing to be shed. But that too became a strange art in the arena of lovemaking that night. His coat was quick to go, as was her jacket. And then the tiny buttons at the front of her dress, dainty little things that seemed to tease and taunt and win against the size of his fingers.
They wound up laughing breathlessly as they tried to help each other disrobe, and it soon seemed that their hands were everywhere-caught in a tangle of petticoats and stays, working at her delicate walking boots and his heavier pair. But eventually, clothing was disentangled and tossed aside, and they were on their knees before the fire, and he was certain he'd never seen anything as beautiful or desirable as the woman before him on the pallet of quits and sheets and pillows. They paused there, just touching one another's shoulders and backs in another moment of wonder and tenderness, then they kissed again, and the kiss brought them down into the bedding, and they made love far more wickedly to one another. He knew that he had to feel every inch of the sleekness of her flesh, and she in turn brought him to a rampaging state, nearly madness, with the brush of her fingers and her lips against his body. This was something that truly seemed of another world, a greater world, or a greater existence, as the red-and-gold cast of the flames played upon them, and then that world became vividly carnal and physical as he felt the draw on his body and his sex, as he felt the intimacy of her touch on him, as he returned it, as she rose above him that night, slowly coming down on him, moving and undulating with the fire creating a splendor of her damp skin and seeming to enter into her every movement, and his. The flames seemed to escalate before him and within, and he rose to climax in a wild extreme of need, everything within exploding amid a shattering moment of ecstasy that rippled the length of his body and left him trembling even as she collapsed against him and they lay still before the fire, cooling and still feeling the warmth, gasping, and yet even that sound, like a sweet music, drew them closer and closer. He smoothed her hair as she lay against him.
And they awoke.
And when they did, tangled together, it was easy to lay a simple touch on the other, and start the fires rising again.
Finally, when he awoke much, much later, the fire had died, and the sun was up, and it was time that they rose, and the day began.
THE HORSES AWAITED THEM just outside the home where they had lodged.
The night had been quiet, and, General Bickford assured Megan, the posts from Washington had been good: no activity there.
Megan couldn't help but feel that such might just be the calm before the storm.
Father Costello had come down from the church on the hill to wish them a safe journey, and to read them a blessing before they began, which seemed fine with their entire party, though Private Guilder was Jewish, Private Hanson was Lutheran and only Sergeant Newcomb and a few of the others were actually Catholic. For once, no one seemed to notice the differences between their choices of worship.
Megan had a chance to whisper to Father Costello and ask about Daniel. He assured her Daniel was doing extremely well; it almost appeared that he had never been sick. The two of them, had, however, taken to sleeping in the sanctuary of the church itself.
At last they rode out, with Dickens leading the way, Cole following him, she behind Cole, the others behind her and Sergeant Newcomb, almost a veteran of this action, as he told her jokingly, taking up the rear.
They rode for several hours, crossing the river, then following a winding path that led them deep into forests that managed to remain verdant on the mount despite the endless shelling from various battles. It was midday when they arrived at the plateau where the dead of the area had been buried since the first settlers found rich land in the hills and valleys. The cemetery didn't seem big, but it appeared to have been neglected for years. While dead soldiers might have been sent home to be buried, their loved ones were no longer near enough, nor had the time, to tend to their graves. Weeds and flowers mingled wildly through the headstones and the occasional pieces of funerary art.
The chapel sat at the far edge of the cemetery, where the path ended, the grave sites stretching out beyond it to nearly the edge of the mount. The little chapel seemed forlorn beneath the afternoon sun. The paint was peeling, the windowpanes were cracked and broken, and the front door hung lopsided from one hinge.
The breeze stirred as the riders reined in at the copse of barren land before the chapel and looked at the sad structure and the expanse of graveyard beyond.
Ragged grasses grew in clumps here and there. The entire scene felt eerily lonely and forgotten. As she dismounted, something grabbed Megan's peripheral vision.
She turned quickly to the chapel, and saw nothing.
But cold fingers still crept along her spine.
There had been something. A trick of the afternoon light playing with the darkness that hovered in the depths of the surrounding trees?
Or a dark shadow, something that had watched them come?
Something that had been waiting for them to come?