Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed

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Breaking and entering had never been one of Harlee Davis’s sins.

Unfortunately, that was about to change.

Harlee yanked on the bathroom window of the old farmhouse. It opened a few stingy inches then dug in its stubborn heels and refused to budge. She swiped at the water running down her face and muttered some choice words for the obstinate window. How could she have been so stupid as to lose the house key Rose had given her?

All around her, the rain fell in sheets and soaked every scrap of polyester and denim on her body. Her hair hung like a wet, tattered flag and plastered her face. Water dripped from her nose faster than from a leaky faucet. When she shifted her weight, her shoes squished. Harlee bit back a sob and shivered with misery. She considered returning to the relative protection of the covered porch, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything. This was not the time to surrender to self-pity.

With a strength born of desperation, Harlee grabbed the bottom of the window and heaved with all her might. The contrary thing shot upward. The momentum knocked Harlee from her precarious perch on a clay flowerpot into the spiny embrace of a large rhododendron.

“Oh, f…” Harlee stopped herself just in time. Rose hated it when she used the “F” word, in fact, hated it when she swore, so she’d better start watching her mouth now. “Fudge,” she corrected, pleased with the improvement.

Harlee freed herself from the rhodie’s clutches and rebalanced herself on the pot. She grasped the top of the window frame and swung both legs through the window then squirmed and squeezed her hips and boobs through the small opening. Her butt slid down the wall and wedged in the toilet. Obviously, a man had used it last; the seat was up.

Thank heavens, she was a small person, or she’d be stuck until the spring thaw. She could see the headlines now: “Body of Dumb Blonde Found in Bathroom after Fatal Toilet Plugging Accident.”

Harlee almost laughed. After all, her life had just been flushed down the toilet. Her body might as well follow.

Wrenching her butt from the toilet’s porcelain jaws, she hauled herself to her feet.

“Hello?” she called out then froze and listened.

No burglar alarm pierced the stormy night. Ravenous guard dogs didn’t emerge to drag her to their den. Nor did a dozen police cars screech into the driveway, with sirens blasting. So maybe she did have an overactive imagination, but this wasn’t something she did every day or any day for that matter.

Harlee felt her way down the dark hall. She found the light switch just where she remembered it and flipped it on. Nothing happened. Wonderful. No power. What else could go wrong on a night like this?

She sniffed. The place smelled musty, as if it’d been closed up for a while. Maybe Rose had gone south for the winter as she’d often threatened to do.

Fumbling her way to the front entrance, Harlee twisted the dead bolt and opened the door. She dragged her bag inside then made her way upstairs in the dark, tripping once over a chair that wasn’t where she remembered it. The second door on the right led to her old room. She located it with only a stubbed toe to show for her troubles.

It was late, and she held her hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn. Her three-day cross-country trek had sucked big time. A single girl didn’t dare sleep on a bus where the majority of the male passengers made her mother’s ex-boyfriends look good. A real bed safe from groping hands would be a welcome blessing.

A sudden flash of lightning illuminated that familiar old brass bed, still flanked by two nightstands. Discarding her wet clothes, she climbed into bed and burrowed under the large handmade quilt. Thunder crashed as loud as a bowling alley on league night. Lightning sliced through the pervasive darkness, painting sinister shadows on the ceiling and walls. Rain pounded against the window like an insistent door-to-door salesman. Wind combed through the cedar trees outside, causing a constant soft roar.

The windows rattled and something banged. Were those shadows really shadows? Was that just the rain and wind making all that noise? Was there a reason Rose wasn’t home to greet her? All sorts of grisly scenes played through Harlee’s mind like old black-and-white horror films.

She yanked the blanket over her head and fought down her fears, labeling them as unreasonable. Rose wasn’t one to live by convention. Just because she wasn’t here to greet Harlee didn’t mean a thing. Tomorrow morning, she’d probably find a note explaining Rose’s absence.

Shutting her eyes, she willed herself to sleep. After what seemed like a lifetime, exhaustion claimed her. Her eyes grew heavy. The rain on the roof drowned out the creaks and groans of the old house, and she dozed off.