Author's Note:

The story that you are about to read is a ghost story. No, this is not a Scooby Doo-style mystery story where the bad guy is wearing a mask or someone is sitting behind the walls pulling the strings. This is a full-on ghost story. If you haven't figured it out in a few very subtle instances, I am a fan of the genre (Joe had mentioned Woman in Black in a previous story). I do believe in ghosts. The evidence out there proves that they do exist in some way, shape, or form. Yes, I do go to church and believe in God and that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior but there are times when you just wonder about things. This is one of those topics that is unexplainable.

Ghost stories have been in our lore for hundreds if not thousands of years. Charles Dickens had to have thought ghosts were real when he wrote A Christmas Carol, one of the most beloved stories of all time. Washington Irving wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow based upon folklore and Edgar Allan Poe...well, his stories of the macabre have fascinated me since high school and from the first reading of The Raven. Photographic proof of ghosts have been around since the first photograph was taken. Some say they were tricks of the light or possibly a fluke within the photograph itself. From seeing a dead loved one in a photo to that of a mist floating down a stairs, photos of ghosts have intrigued us for years. However you look at them is up to you.

I've been fascinated by ghost stories for a long time. There's a building not far from where I went to high school that housed the town's library. The building was originally a tavern and during the Revolutionary War, a young woman fell in love with a man who turned out to be a Tory spy. He was hanged and put on display inside the tavern. She loved him so much, that she locked herself in the room where his body was and was eventually found ranting and raving. When she died her spirit supposedly never left the house, constantly searching for her lost love. I have been in the building and each time, it felt as if someone was standing behind me. I asked the librarian one time and she said she saw books stacking themselves or books traveling from one stack to the next though no one ever saw the ghost herself. Although the building no longer holds the library, it still stands and I'm sure the current occupants have had their fare share of experiencing the ghost.

In relation to this particular story, I have taken ideas from several movies and stories so you might see some similarities within the plot but this also has my own special twist. Some of those movies include The Haunting, the 1999 version with Liam Neeson; The Haunted Mansion, the Eddie Murphy crap-shoot with a semi-believable storyline; and Rose Red, one of the best Stephen King written mini-series of all time. Very well worth the watch, that is if you can find it. It's very hard to come by for less than $50 on Amazon (ouch!) or $20 on eBay. It is loosely based upon the story of the Winchester Mansion, where Sarah Winchester continued to build her house in the most eccentric ways, though in Rose Red the house builds itself (creepy!). Along with the great Julian Sands Rose Red starred Nancy Travis, Kimberly J. Brown of Disney's Halloweentown, and before Bones, a young Emily Deschanel. Just writing this alone makes me want to watch it again. I haven't done so in many years due to having two little ones in the house (scary images of course!)…plus the fact that it is in three parts and several hours long. Finding the time to watch it in one sitting is rather hard but again, if you can find it, you'll thank me for it later. Stephen King also wrote The Shining based upon the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, one of the most haunted buildings in America.

Anyway, back to the story and a little insight into it. The story takes place about fourteen months after the events of All's Faire and about five or six months after the epilogue. I know it sounds like a long time but I wanted it to be in a certain season (late fall/early winter) and I felt that having this story take place only months after those events it wouldn't feel right in a sense. Throughout that year, Nancy and the Hardys came together several times and have become very good friends and a formidable team. This is just a story to strengthen the bond that they carry between each other along with another reason which you'll have to wait and see but I'm sure you have a pretty good idea as to what it is (hint: there is a reason why this story is labeled a romance).

I am hoping that this story does not come off as being weird in any way but then again, ghost stories can be weird at times. I will not be upset if you choose to skip it due to the content. Also, if you haven't read the first two stories of this series, it's not really necessary since this is a standalone story within the series though there will be some mentions of those characters that were introduced that are not canon along with plot points from the previous stories. If you see something you don't like or don't understand, let me know. I don't mind it. The way I wrote this story is much different. I free wrote several chapters before putting this together and I know where I want it to go. Granted it probably will change over the course of the story but as of right now, it will stay as is. I know I told you that this story would be published closer to August but I feel that it's ready now plus I would drive myself bonkers over the course of the next week or so if I didn't publish it. I'm just too excited!

It really has nothing to do with Martin Davenport and his insane children (sorry, but they will reappear in another story) or the mysterious serial killer that keeps popping up (more on that later). I do feel that it is important to the overall flow of the series and the direction it will eventually go. As I said before, Parker is not in this one and neither are Laura, Vanessa, Carson, Candace, George, or Gertrude though some of them are mentioned (this may change later but as of right now, it's solid). Fenton, Sam, Charlie, and Hannah are in this though the latter two have only miniscule roles. We will mainly see Frank, Nancy, Joe, and Bess and no, Joe and Bess will not be together. They're just friends.

Okay, I think that I have bored you enough with the introduction. I hope that you enjoy it and continue to leave your amazing comments. Of course, constructive criticism is always welcome. Enough of my talking and onward with the story! Have a wonderful day and God bless! Be well, my friends.


175 years ago…

The manor stood proud and tall as she looked up from the carriage window. From the first moment she set eyes on it, she thought the manor was more of a cage than a beautiful place to live. It overlooked the valley from atop a mountain, the road leading to it cobbled and rough. The gate was a mile from the manor while all of the land within was nothing but trees and rock. The manor was made of stone, each one delivered from the ancestral home in England, each one returned to their original place having taken nearly twenty years to rebuild. She wondered how it was done though she never asked but hoped that one day someone would tell her.

Her new husband sat across from her, his temples graying and face mature. He was nearly twenty years older than her and she wondered why a man of his stature took so long to marry. His unusual gray eyes were piercing and deep and though he was older, he was still as handsome as he was in his youth. She was only sixteen but had caught his eye while visiting friends with her family in a small town less than two miles from the manor.

The town itself was run by the illustrious family who lived on the mountain. The family helped found the town which lay deep in the mountains, far away from any prying eyes or government laws. The laws were whatever the family conceived and the town abided by them. The family treated the town with respect which was reciprocated in turn. They were loyal to the end no matter what happened.

When she first met her husband, she didn't know what to think. He was handsome but old in her eyes. She wanted love as any young girl wanted and she felt the man was too old for her but he had other ideas. He thought she was a beautiful girl and would truly become a beautiful woman so he sought her out by talking to her parents. They were against it at first since they were from the city and did not really want to let their child marry someone so far away from them. Eventually they gave in on the man's promise that their daughter would visit frequently.

Although she wanted children, a baby didn't come for several years. Before long, her husband began resenting her for not producing a child quickly enough but just before her 21st birthday, she found out she was with child and announced the happy news to her husband. He took it well and doted on her every whim for the duration of her pregnancy.

Then on one cold, dark evening, she screamed out in pain as labor began in earnest. Her husband paced outside the room as the midwife and several maids attended to the young woman during her labor. Nearly eighteen hours later, she let out a loud scream as she made one final push to deliver her baby. Huffing back onto the pillow, the young woman heard the tiny squeal from a newborn infant and a small smile stretched across her tired face. Her weary eyes watched as the women wiped down her child while another left the room to no doubt announce the birth to her husband.

"Your son, Mistress," replied a maid with a smile. She gently laid the child in the young woman's arms and stepped back to watch the new mother bond with her child. The time alone was not long as her husband rushed in looking haggard with a scruff of a beard growing along his jaw line. He walked the last few steps toward the bed, watching his wife hold their son. She looked up and smiled at him though it faltered when she saw the look in his eyes.

"Something wrong, husband?" she asked as he stared at her and their son. The man didn't say a word then looked to the other women in the room.

"Leave us," he ordered harshly and the women scurried out of the room. His wife was terrified as he gazed back at her, his eyes flickering with hatred. "Did you think I would not find out?"

"F…find out what?" she stammered clutching her child to her bosom. Sensing the tension in the room, the baby began to cry loudly and the woman cooed at him, trying to calm the child down though her heart was pounding in her chest. She knew her secret was found out by the most dangerous person she knew.

The man took their child from her, gently cradling him in his arms. The baby began to calm down once more and the new father smirked. He pulled a pillow from the other side of the bed and made to look like he was going to help her sit up. Instead, he leaned into his wife, literally smothering her with the pillow all the while talking to his son in soothing tones. It was a matter of minutes before the struggles ceased and the bed was still once more. The man rose and looked at his young wife who stared blankly back at nothing. Her sapphire eyes were hollow and unblinking. The man stepped away still cradling his newborn son.

"My son, you will never know the treachery of your mother and neither will anyone else."

Nancy Drew scrambled to sit up, the sheets of her bed entangling her legs and arms. She looked around the room but no one stood over her or was trying to hurt her. She slowly dropped back onto her pillow and closed her eyes. The visions of the dream returned and her eyes suddenly snapped open. She let out a small cry when she saw someone standing in the shadows at the end of her bed. The woman stepped forward, her face revealing in the dim light coming in from the window. Nancy gasped. The woman had similar facial features to not just Nancy but also her best friend, Bess Marvin, though the woman's whitish, blonde hair was pulled back and she wore garb from a different era. The face was pale, her eyes sunken in.

The woman's mouth open though nothing came out confusing Nancy. Suddenly the vision moved, stopping inches from her, its face twisted in agony and the smell of rotting flesh permeating the air. "Heed my warning or you all shall perish." The voice that replied sounded otherworldly sending a chill ran down Nancy's spine.

Nancy screamed and fell out of bed with a loud thud. Her head turned this way and that, searching for the vision that disappeared into thin air. Footsteps rushed to her bedroom and Hannah Gruen, the Drew's housekeeper, burst in

"Nancy!" she cried seeing her on the floor.

Before the woman could come any closer, Nancy stumbled into the bathroom, barely reaching the toilet before she threw up. Hannah rushed in and knelt next to Nancy, rubbing her back until she flushed the toilet. She wiped her face then leaned against the tub wall, sweat pouring down her face. Hannah looked at Nancy with concern.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I…I don't know," Nancy stammered, her chest heaving as she gasped for air. "It was a dream of some sort. I…I can't explain it."

"Maybe you shouldn't leave tomorrow," Hannah suggested. She grabbed a wash cloth from the rack, ran it under cold water then handed it to Nancy. "This is the second time in two days, Nancy. If your father were here, he wouldn't…"

"I know," the young woman nodded. "But Dad's in Vegas for the week and I don't want to bother him. I've been looking forward to this trip for a month now and I'm not going to pass on it just because of a strange dream."

"But, Nancy, dear, maybe there's something that is bothering you that you keep having these...nightmares," the housekeeper protested. "You might want to take care of it before you go off on a trip with some friends."

"You know why I'm going, Hannah," Nancy said shaking her head. "I need to get away. The Hardys offered the trip and I'm not passing on seeing them again. It's been five months."

"Mm, hmm," Hannah looked at her skeptically. "And I'm sure it has nothing to do with seeing Frank Hardy again, right? I'm surprised you're not going someplace warm and sunny though. Not upstate New York."

"Their father is speaking at a conference and they asked me to come along," she said innocently. "It's at a resort with a nationally known spa so Bess jumped at the chance too. I can't let her down too."

The older woman huffed and shook her head. "These dreams are concerning and I think you should address it before going anywhere. Are you sure you don't want to tell me what they are?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, Hannah. Besides, I'm still trying to work them out myself. I'll be fine. I'll make sure I take at least one day in the spa to rejuvenate. Will that make you happy?"

Hannah nodded reluctantly and got up off the floor. She held out her hand to Nancy who shook her head.

"I can get up on my own, Hannah, but thanks. You go back to bed. I'm sorry I woke you."

"You get some rest, Nancy," the woman said sternly. "You have to get to the airport tomorrow with Bess and you know how she is at the last minute."

"I know," she waved to her. The moment she was alone, Nancy closed her eyes and thought about the dream. It was so vivid and real but she wasn't sure where it came from or why she had it. One thing was for sure she was going to enjoy herself with her friends and forget the dreams ever happened even if it meant fully immersing herself in the arms of a certain dark haired young man.