Chapter One

On the Road

It was a hot summer day in the Rocky Mountains, where the soil was baking under the sun, which was slowly creeping higher up the sky as it neared noon. Not a wisp of cloud was seen in the sky. A fox skittered across the street and paused, listening. There was a low rumble of an engine, getting louder and louder. The fox jumped behind a cactus as a dark maroon van sped past. Attached to the back and the top were sleek mountain bikes, its metal growing warmer in the sun. Behind the heavy black tint of the windows, a young woman looked out onto the barren landscape.

"Maggie," the woman beside her shook out the sleep from her eyes and poked her friend. "Are we there yet?"

"Not yet, Hailey." Maggie folded her arms across the stuffed bunny on her lap. "But we're getting closer."

It has been a while since Maggie Davies visited her cousins living in Vistula Mansion. The 19th century fortress had been their inheritance, and the family had been using it as a vacation house since Maggie was 13. Now that she was in college, she invited over some of her friends to the castle.

"Maggie, we've reached the end of the road. Where do I turn?" Eric Preminger asked from the driver's seat. He looked back at her uncertainly, his mirrored shades glinting in the sun.

"Give me the wheel," Maggie said.

"Nuh-uh," Eric replied. "No way I'm gonna let you drive this baby o' mine. Remember what happened to Earl's car?"

"Crashed into a lamppost," interrupted Hailey Dawson. "Hospitalized Simon Knoxx."

"Don't remind me," Peter Johnson said from beside Eric.

Maggie shifted uneasily in her seat. "While you relish those wonderful memories―" Peter rolled his eyes. "―why don't you turn left, Eric? Kirby Valley's just a few more miles."

From behind Maggie, Kylie Benedict looked up and groaned.