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“Hey!” Marissa said, but then she sniffed her underarm. “Never mind. You have a point.”

Trent winked at the little girl. “Want to give us a tour?”

She nodded excitedly. “Can I take them through, Mom?” she asked Sarah, and Whitney’s stomach knotted even more. Marissa must have decided she was ready to start calling Sarah Mom. Wes and Sarah had told the little girl she could call Sarah anything she was comfortable with. Sarah looked just as pleased hearing it.

Would Whitney ever get that chance to hear someone call her Mom? Experience that sense of love and pride?

“I can stay out here and help Wes direct people,” she said. “I already saw it when I took the photos.”

Sarah shook her head. “No way. You have to see it now, all set up with the right lighting and the actors on-site.”

Whitney hesitated.

“Go! Enjoy.” Sarah was insistent. “It’s the family-friendly hours, so you won’t get too scared—there’s no pop-out scares right now. The actors will behave until nine, then all bets are off,” she said with a grin as she opened the front door and Marissa ushered them inside.

“I’m keeping the baby,” Trent told Sarah as he followed Marissa inside.

“Figured you would,” Sarah said.

Whitney reluctantly followed Trent, carrying Henry, and Marissa inside, and Sarah shut the door behind them. Already her palms were sweating just standing in the dimly lit foyer of the transformed B&B. If the outside was incredibly done, the inside was nothing short of a spectacular feat, and Sarah was right, it did look so different at night.

Dark bulbs had replaced the regular lighting, so the eerie glow of the house made her feel as though she’d stepped into a black-and-white dream out of the past. Directly in front of them was the B&B check-in desk that looked like an old-school hotel check-in. Skeleton keys hung on hooks behind the desk, and old, antique-looking photos hung on the wall—the creepy images a source of nightmares all on their own. Dark, shredded curtains hung in the entryways to the dining room on one side and the den on the other, preventing a view of what lay behind it, and ominous flickering candlelight lit the way upstairs. It looked professionally decorated, and she was impressed by all the work Sarah and Wes had pulled off in such a short time.

“This way first,” Marissa said, leading them into the dining room through the flimsy, tattered curtain.

She motioned for Trent to go ahead, then stayed close to his back as they entered. Long tables with fake-bloodstained white tablecloths draped over them were set up inside, and on display were fantastically gory desserts, candies, and drinks, including the floating eyeball one Jess had shown her weeks before.

“Jess is so incredible,” she said, feeling a slight tug of guilt. She’d barely talked to her friend in weeks.

“Help yourself to a spider. They’re delicious,” Marissa said, picking one up and shoving it into her mouth.

Whitney suspected the little girl would be buzzing on a sugar high by the end of that evening.

After tasting some of the delicious, if disgusting-looking, treats, they all followed Marissa into the den, which had been transformed into a witch’s lair, where a frightening witch stirred some questionable-looking items in a large cauldron. The actress was quite convincing with the makeup and the haunting way she chanted her spell over the smoking liquid. She glanced up at them and crooked her finger at Whitney to come closer, but Whitney shook her head.

“I’m good here, thanks.”

Trent laughed as he moved closer and peered inside the cauldron. “Looks delicious,” he said, playing along.

“Just need a few more baby toes,” the actress said, pretending to peer at baby Henry.

Trent cuddled him closer. “I’ll protect this child with my life.”

Whitney’s gut tightened even more, and she moved out of the room.

Marissa continued the tour, leading them upstairs, in and out of the various guest rooms and hallways—all featuring a unique, frightening display—crazed scientists, zombies, vampires rising out of coffins, an insane asylum…

The amount of work Sarah and Wes had put into the event was truly something, and going by the squeals of delight and terror echoing throughout the B&B as guests started to flow through, the event was turning out to be a great success.

Whitney suspected they’d surpass their original money-raised-for-charity goal by the end of the week. They’d get a lot of returning visitors to the event, and once word of mouth spread, no doubt people would drive in from farther away to experience it.

“And lastly,” Marissa said, leading them out the back door, through the overgrown garden, toward the gazebo, “is Madam Z, our on-site fortune-teller.”

Sitting at a table inside the gazebo was an older woman dressed in a beautiful multicolored dress with mismatched patterns, a bandanna wrapped around her head, her long, dark hair loose around her shoulders. Gold necklaces, bangles, and rings reflected the light coming from a crystal ball on the table in front of her.

“Come and let Madam Z see what the future holds,” the woman lured.

Whitney shook her head, but Trent nudged her forward. “Go on…it’s all just for fun.”

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