Serena Reilly has come to 'Bride's Inn' to care for it's owner, elderly Clarise Masters. One dark and stormy night, a darkly handsome, mysterious visitor arrives at the old inn, scaring....and kissing Serena senseless. But the handsome rogue, a man who Serena comes to know as her dark prince, a man who stirs Serena's deepest, most erotic desires, isn't all that he seems...and neither is she.
As Seth and Serena's mutual attraction grows, so does the mystery surrounding Bride's Inn, and the strange apparition that haunts its legendary halls. Serena and Seth stand to lose far more than their hearts when the 'Lady in White' shows up. When Serena's life is threatened, it's up to Seth to save his fiery-haired goddess.
Serena Reilly rose from her bed, her eyes heavy with sleep.
Outside her bedroom window a spring storm raged, battering Long Island’s rocky north shore. A flash of lightening lit up the night sky as the rain fell in sheets, pounding against the windowpanes, the howl of the wind echoing a mournful cry in the pitch-black night.
The eerie voice echoed a sad wail like the low howl of the wind whipping through the trees outside. Serena shoved her arms into the sleeves of her robe, shuddering against the cold, damp night air. She rushed out of her bedroom, anxious to get to her elderly charge, Clarice Masters. As she ran down the hallway towards Clarice’s room, she heard the heartrending cry once more.
Her heart pounded as she rushed down the long corridor, stopping in front of Clarice’s room. She opened the door and stepped inside, the absolute stillness of Clarice’s darkened bedroom greeting her. Serena padded towards the bed to find her charge sound asleep.
She eased into a nearby chair, her body trembling. Night after night, she heard that eerie voice calling to her. It sounded like a woman…a sad, lonely woman.
Serena shrank back in the chair, her fingers tightening on the arms when she heard a deep rumbling and a crack of thunder that shook the entire house. She covered her ears to block the sound of a loud crash, squinting when bright, blinding light illuminated the sky and a jagged stroke of lightening struck the ancient oak tree right outside Clarice’s bedroom window. It split the branch from the tree trunk in one stroke, the tips of the branches grazing the windowpane as it fell to the ground, the sound like fingernails scraping against a chalkboard.
Serena trembled, every nerve ending in her body vibrating as she watched the scene unfold through terror-filled eyes. She huddled in the chair, pulling her shaking legs up onto the seat, wrapping her arms around her knees to stop their knocking.
“My nephew used to climb that tree when he was little.”
Serena jumped at the sound of Clarice’s voice. The older woman sat up in bed, her eyes settling on the rain as it ran down the windowpane.
“Are you all right?” Serena asked, struggling to keep her voice steady. She reached over and fluffed the pillow behind Clarice's snow-white curls. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Serena gently took the older woman’s hands in her own. She rubbed them, warming the thin skin.
Clarice angled her head, her large blue eyes intense. “I’m fine, dear. Why do you ask?”
“I thought I heard…never mind.” Serena chose to not say anything about the mysterious voice she heard in the dead of night. It would only frighten Clarice. “Well, since I’m up, can I get you anything?” Serena asked.
Clarice smiled, the corners of her mouth lifting in a wide grin. “A glass of warm milk would be nice.” Then she yawned, ruining the effect.
Serena hid a grimace and wondered, not for the first time, how Clarice could drink that concoction she loved of warm milk and…butter. Yuck.
She forced a cheerful smile. “Coming right up.”
She padded down the main staircase and entered the kitchen, flipping on the light switch. As she walked towards the refrigerator to retrieve a bottle of milk, the hairs on the back of her neck rose. A cold breeze wafted by, swirling around her ankles, lightly brushing her shoulder. She turned, fully expecting to see someone watching her from the shadows.
No one was there.
"I've got to a get a grip," she muttered. After blowing out a shaky breath, she warmed some milk in a pan on the stove and when she finished, topped it off with a piece of butter. The butter floated on the top, forming a nasty yellow film. Screwing up her face, she stirred the butter into the milk, all the while muttering, “Yuck, yuck, yuck….”
Serena filled a glass almost to the brim with the warm milk and butter. She jumped when thunder boomed in the distance, startling her once more. She set the milk on the tray, willing her hands to remain steady.
She left the kitchen and made her way towards the wide staircase in the center hall, steadily balancing the tray as she began her ascent up the long staircase. Confident that she had re-gained her calm, she glanced up, freezing in mid-stride as her gaze fell upon a woman who stood at the top of the stairs.
A thin, white veil shrouded her face and she wore a long, white gown studded with beads and flowers. Serena blinked as she gazed at the woman, the dress appearing…ancient. As the woman neared, Serena could see that some of the exquisite beadwork and tiny, white flowers had yellowed with age.
“Who are you?” Serena whispered, her voice trembling with fear.
The woman continued her steady descent and Serena backed up, alarm filling her with every step the mysterious woman took. She appeared to float down the stairs, her slippered feet barely skimming each tread.
Serena fought a rising tide of panic. Who was this woman? What if she was here to hurt Clarice? She would never forgive herself if something happened to her elderly charge. Mustering her courage, she took a deep breath and willed her feet to move, her hands shaking as she gripped the tray, determined to toss its contents at the stranger if she dared try to harm her.
The woman did not appear to notice Serena as she drew near, clutching a bouquet of white roses in her hands, her gaze focused beyond Serena. She lifted her arm then, and pointed at the front door. Serena glanced back at the entrance, peering through the glass pane on the door.
A shadow moved outside.
Frantic, she turned back towards the stairs but the strange woman had vanished. She blinked, thinking she was losing her mind. First, the fierce storm had her jumping out of her skin, and now it seemed that her fuzzy mind played tricks on her.
The doorknob rattled, followed by fierce pounding. A face pressed against the glass, the nose and lips grotesquely distorted, a dark monster staring through the small pane of glass.
She dropped the tray, the tumbler containing Clarice’s treat shattering into a thousand shards as milked spilled everywhere, seeping across the polished wood floor.
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