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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1808130-The-Proposition
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Dark · #1808130
Elaina is offered $1,000,000 to attend five parties. What's the Catch?
A dark street image used in my story, A Proposition for Elaina.

A Proposition for Elaina



I turned my collar up to stem the shiver that assailed me as I walked along the street. The breezy, moonless night caused shadows to jump out at me, making me flinch each time. Hearing my pulse rate pounding in my eardrums, I quickened my pace.

Jennifer’s call was putting me on edge, too. She seemed so abrupt, hanging up before I could ask her what was wrong. Was this another one of my sister’s frivolous antics? She knew I had planned this night out with friends; instead, here I am walking down a half-lit street, feeling as if I’m going to be mugged at every turn.

Walking past the dark alley, the smells of stale garbage whiffed past my nose. “Meooow!” Clink — clank — a big, black cat dashed out in front of me, followed by a trash can cover. Screaming, jumping back, I glowered down at the little menace. “Oh crap cat, you scare me! I thought you were a mugger.” He sat there looking up at me, all innocent-like, as if nothing happened and began licking his paws.

Sighing, I wrapped my arms around myself and walked on. Nearing home, I noticed the lights were off — Something wasn’t right. Worrying about Jennifer, I climbed the porch steps in haste, opened the door, and snapped on the lights. Nothing happened.

A hand shot out to stop my progress, and Jennifer’s face appeared before me in the dim entryway. “Sorry Elaina! I didn’t mean to frighten you, but there’s this man, a Mr. Damien Rhodes who wants to talk with  you.” She whispered in my ear, “He’s weird, watch yourself.” Grabbing her coat, Jennifer ran out the front door.

“Jenn, wait, what’s your hur —?” She was gone. Sighing, I turn around and tried the lights once more, wanting to see who was waiting for me in the dark. When nothing happened, I called out "Mr. Rhodes?" A large, looming figure moved towards me which shot my blood pressure up another notch. I turned to flee, but before I could even take a step, an arm snaked around my waist, stopping my progress. Struggling to get free, I screamed.

"Hush, Elaina, I'm here to help you, not hurt you.” He purred in my ear.

I stop struggling. “Help me? How? Who are you?”

“Let’s just say I’m your guardian angel, Elaina. My friends and I want you to participate in a contest of ours. We’ll make it worth your time ...  Oh, by the way, we picked you out of many contestants so just call this your destiny.”

I must be dreaming and can’t wake up. Struggling once more, I cried out, “I don’t want to be in any contest, just leave my house!”

“Stop it, or I’ll tie you to a chair.”

Not liking the idea of being tied up, I stopped struggling.

“Wise choice, Elaina. As I was saying, our contest has rules that are simple to follow. All you have to do is attend five parties, and I will hand you a million dollar check.”

“Let me understand this — You're telling me, if I attend five parties tonight, I’ll earn one million dollars?” I asked, taken aback. “What’s the catch?”

Ignoring my question, he continued, “Let’s see, you're a actress, trying to make ends meet. You began your career acting in independent films;  then later on, you appeared in three horror flicks. May I say, you’re beautiful to watch on screen, especially in those scream scenes.”

Chills crawled up my spine as his velvety voice purred that last sentence in my ear. He knew so much about me ... Was he a stalker? "First of all, Mr. Rhodes, I do not like any stranger knowing this much about me. Second of all, I don't like doing business in the dark, and third, I smell a rat.”

He spun me around and PRESTO, all the lights in the room came on. Feeling a little disoriented, I stumbled backwards, trying to get use to the sudden brightness. His arms steadied me, more gently this time, and put a piece of paper in my hand

Stunned, I had to ask, “What are you, some kind of magician? The lights weren’t working when I tried them.”

He shook his finger at me, smiling, and stared directly in my eyes, “Just look at the party list, Elaina, and tell me what you think.

I sized him up, his eyes and hair were dark, he was impeccably dressed, a very dashing stranger who wanted to make me a millionaire. Why? I looked down at the list and my eyes zeroed in on Horror/Scary and Ghost party. Shaking my head no, I handed the list back to him.

“You have no choice, Elaina, we checked out all our prospects and once you are picked by us - Voila!" He pushed the list back towards me and smiled. Did his eyes glow for a second there?  "Oh, by the way, don’t get mad at Jennifer, I gave her no choice but to call you. I think I frightened her."

Who am I dealing with here, is he the devil?  Goosebumps popped up along my arms as I wondered how to get out of this mess that I didn't even try to get into. “Okay, if I have no choice but to participate, I need to know why me and why these exact parties? What's so important about them, anyway?” Curiosity always got the better of me, and I couldn’t get over the idea that a million dollars was quite a haul for one night's work.

“Five's your lucky number, right Elaina? I want you to feel that you can earn this money by starting out with a little bit of luck. You do need money, don't you?"

With his smooth mesmerizing voice, I found myself melting, his tone sent shivers up my spine. He seemed to know so much about me which freaked me out a lot, but somehow, at the moment, I didn’t care.

When he just stared at me with that mischievous smile, I tried a different approach. “Okay, who’s hosting these parties?” Puzzled, I needed to know the reason I was picked, and wanted some assurance as to what’s going on.

“The last three parties are given by my best friends,” He smiled slyly at me. “The first two are given by people who've seen your movies and want to meet you. We just picked those from your fan mail and made a separate contest out of it.”

“What! You went through my fan mail! Who gave you the authority to do that? Why wasn’t I told about this?” I shrieked, ready to claw his eyes out. Advancing on him, feeling pressured by all these shenanigans, “I r-really don’t want to do t-this.” With so many decisions and problems coming at me at once, the floor seemed to be closing in on me, wanting to envelope me.

He caught me before I hit the floor. “Here, breathe into this.” He handed me a paper bag.

Desperate, I grabbed it, covering my mouth with it until my breathing came back to normal.

Still holding me, watching me like a snake-charmer, he reminded me of Antonio Banderas in Assassins. Continuing as if nothing happened, my unwanted guest held me and smiled. “Just think of it this way, Elaina, it’ll be good for your image. These people are your fans! Mingle with them, make friends with them, and tell them what will be next on the agenda for the beautiful Elaina Woods. These parties will help, not hinder you.”

His words caressed me, and my animosity towards him melted. Whoever was throwing the first two parties had to be in the dark about all this, too, but the last three made me wonder. I took the paper bag away and said, “Okay, you win, I’ll do it.”

“Good!” He set me down on my two feet again and escorted me out the door, locking the door behind us. The lights turned off as if by magic. Shaking my head, I wondered who Damien Rhodes really was?

We walked over to where a cab was waiting, and he handed me a contract to sign. I did. He took the contract, folded it, putting it in his breast pocket of his suit coat, and opened the cab door, helping me get settled in the back seat. He gave the cabbie the address and turned towards me, his smile broadened, “We’ll meet after all the parties are over, and I’ll hand over the check.” He closed the door, motioning for the cab driver to go.

As we took off, I looked back. His piercing gaze followed the progress of the cab, and I knew I was in trouble. I sat back, trying to calm myself. What would happen to me if I chicken out and don’t attend those last three parties? Feeling like a spider’s prey caught in his web, I didn’t want to know the answer.

The cab pulled up before a cute bungalow where around fifty guest spilled out onto the sidewalk. I paid the driver and got out. Taking a deep breath, I walked towards the crowd, not knowing what to expect. People recognized me  and began to surrounding me, asking too questions at once that I grew a little anxious. A tall, stately woman walked towards me, and the crowd backed off, giving me room to breathe. “Hello, Elaina, it’s so good to meet you, I’m Margaret Sterns, your host. Thank you so much for coming.”

I turned towards her and smiled. “Thank you for inviting me.”

Margaret took my arm and introduced me to everyone there. Soon my anxiety gave way to pleasure, and I answered everyone questions with ease, laughing when they called me a big movie star. Mingling with everyone, it made me forget my troubles for a little while.

Margaret showed me around her small patio that showed off her purchases from her European and Asian visits. There were urns, small statues and potted trees throughout her flower garden. Magnolia trees gave off a delightful scent as we sat down on a bench that surrounded a fountain standing in the middle. Everything was softly lit up to show off the garden’s beauty and as the guest mingled around, they took care not to trample the beauty and care Margaret put into her backyard paradise. After the time allotted me was done, I felt sad when I had to leave. I thanked my host, waved good-bye to everyone and got back into a waiting cab.

My second party was given by a 4H group, which surprised me.  Being a city girl all my life, I wondered why they wanted to see me. Arriving at a well-kept-up farm place, I noticed that there were three rings assembled in a large field nearby. Two girls came over to introduce themselves and told me what they wanted me to do. “We want you to be our fourth judge, this show is all in fun, checking out which of us trained our animals to follow our commands the best.”

They introduced me to the other three judges and I sat down to watch. Intrigued and impressed with the care, patience, and skill these owners showed their animals. I also became completely blown away with how well these animals behaved. The judges and I thought this one white goat named Annie followed all her owner’s commands on time.

Later on, sitting around a table, I asked the group, “Why did you pick me to be a judge? I’m ignorant when it comes to farms and animals.”

A young girl named Jenny smiled at me. “We all loved your movie called, “Home is Where the Heart Is.” Our parents thought it was so well done, a great family movie, that they decided we all should go and see it. Everybody loved it! When we had the opportunity to meet you, we sent in our name and got chosen. We’re very happy you’re here with us.”

I thought back, remembering it was my very first independent film. I portrayed a young, single mother who lived on a farm with a daughter and a son, the problems and hardships that had to be overcome. “Thank you, I’m happy to be here and I’m really enjoying myself.”

When it was time to leave, I felt like I was bundled up in a warm cocoon, the 4H families were so friendly, and I was even invited to come again. I promised I would, said my good-byes and called a taxi to take me to my third party. These parties are easy and fun, the million dollars will be mine.

My third party was at a mansion situated on some rolling countryside in the suburbs of Springfield. It was a beautiful place! I knocked on the door and a butler opened it. He ushered me to a room where about a hundred guest were assembled. My host, Tom Peterson, came over and introduced himself and escorted me towards the front of the room to introduce me to everyone there. I smiled and walked over to join them. There was something about this crowd that didn’t feel right, and I felt my muscles tense up, preparing myself for the worse. I looked around at the others. One of them came over and asked, “Are you enjoying yourself so far?”

“So far ... A little unsure about what is expected of me. Do you know what is going to happen?”

“We all have to wait and see, none of us know what Tom has in mind.” He smiled at me.

"Wha...?"He has fangs! Taking a couple steps back, I looked around at everyone. Were they all were vampires?I wanted to run and I guess I showed it.

“Hey, it’s okay, we're not going to hurt you, we all love your movies and wanted to meet you, that's all."

“Y-you’re vampires? But h-how can this be?”

“We were born this way, and everyone here drinks animal blood, not human, so relax. We also eat food just like any normal person.”

Feeling a little bit better, I relaxed when he began asking me about my movies. We were having a great time discussing them and found myself laughing at his jokes.

When Tom Peterson walked up on stage and began to announce the rules of the game, everyone became quiet. “It's showtime! Look around you, do you see twelve colored doors stationed around this room. Okay, all you have to do is pick the color you want and walk through. On the other side is a puzzle that has to be solved before you can leave. When you are done, come back and enjoy the food that is being served. Good luck and let the games begin.”

I looked around and saw that there were different colored doors. I decided to go with my favorite color and when it was my turn, I walked throught the green door. Oh, no, I hate these things! I began wandering through an overgrown maze where the hedges seemed to block out the sun’s rays. Was it because they were vampires? Being the only human among all these vampires, my stomach clenched and I visualized disaster. Stop it! I better concentrated on where I'm going if I want out of this thing

After a while, the gloomy interior began making me feel claustrophobic and a feeling of going-in-circles began to make me sweat out of fear of never getting out of this maze. As I walked, I wondered what would happen to me if I can’t find my way out? Will these vampires look for me or will they leave me to die here? I stopped walking and sat down to think. If I backtrack and start over, maybe I'll be able to find a different pathway; but If I come to another dead end, someone is going to hear my famous screams.

I backtracked and took another pathway, praying it's the one I didn't take it before. When everything began to look different, tears of happiness rolled down my cheeks. Feeling hopeful when I smelled fresh air, I followed that smell and walked right out onto a huge lawn. Looking back at the maze, I thought Damien was there, playing with my mind. He definitely has the ability to do just that.

I turned back towards the house, joining the others that finished their puzzles. I congratulated them as they did me and soon we were moving towards a large banquet table. I began sampling the different foods and found them delicious, but I steered clear of the punch bowl that they kept filled with blood. When it was time for me to go, I thanked my host for inviting me, waved good-bye to the other guest and followed the butler outside to my waiting cab. Breathing a sigh of relief that the vampire party was over, I looked at the next address on my list. Chills crawled along my arms as I looked down at the address. "You got to be kidding me! If this says 666 Elm Street, I’m dead, just bury me now."

When the driver turned around to asked, "What did you say?"I looked at him, sighed, and showed him the address. He looked at me as if I was crazy. “Are you sure, Lady?”

Through pinched lips, I said, “Yes, that's the address.” He shook his head and turned back around, checking my expression in the rear-view mirror. I nodded my head and gave him a shaky smile.

Shrugging his shoulders, he gunned the engine and took off. Feeling as if my life was spinning out of control, I settled back in the seat, closed my eyes, trying to relax.

All too soon, I heard. “This is as far as I go, lady.”

I slide towards the front of my seat to check the location and found we were stopped at a busy street corner. He looked over at me and asked, "Are you really sure you want to go there?”

Sighing, I said, “Yes, thank you for your concern, but I have no choice, this is where I have to go.” I looked around and asked, “How far away is the house from here?” Looking out the side window, all I saw was a dimly-lit street that made chills crawl up my spine like so many tiny spider legs.

“It’s four block straight ahead, so just keep walking until you find the house number,” he said.

“Thank you!” I reluctantly got out, paid him and bravely began walking, one foot in front of the other. Did I just hear footsteps? I turned around to look, but no one was there. Feeling exposed, I could barely swallow, my heart seemed stuck in my throat. I could feel somebody watching me and realized I was close, the next house was 666,

I stopped, braced myself, and walked past the tall bushes to see my party house. I couldn’t believe my eyes, the house looked abandoned! “What th...?” I had to check it out, so I picked my way along the broken walkway, up three shaky steps and knocked at the lopsided door.

Hoping no one was at home, I turned to walk back down the shaky steps, but the door behind me opened, “Yes, what do you want?”

I turned to see a guy who looked a lot like Igor staring back at me. When I didn’t move, he stepped towards me and I backed up. He pulled me inside and escorted me along the hallway that made my eyes open wide with amazement - Everywhere I looked I saw ancient treasures of crockery, ornamentals, vases of all sizes, expensive paintings, and beautiful antique furniture that must’ve cost a fortune! What better way to hide all this wealth but in an abandoned-looking house. It was all so beautiful!

Entranced at the sight around me, my gaze wandered up a beautiful circular staircase where I found a handsome man  staring down at me, his malicious aura connected with mine, making me stumble backwards by the impact. I broke away from Igor and ran back towards the entrance way. Igor caught up with me in no time and firmly dragged me back towards a large room. He pushed me down onto a felt-covered chair and told me to stay. I did. Entering behind us was the tall, dark, handsome man who walked across the room towards me, passing close by me, his horrible, maniacal laughter echoed eerily throughout the room; he stopped, stared, and exited through a side door. Chilled to the bone by that performance, my shoulders ached from the tension and from Igor's manhandling me.

Igor began to speak and I turned to listen. "This is the House of the Dark Angel whom you have just witnessed. He wants everybody here to make a voodoo doll out of the material in front of you. When you're finished, he wants all of them tested by sticking a pin into your finished doll; freedom comes to anyone that can make someone in this room gasp in pain with your administered pin. So, get busy!"

I didn’t dare think, so I picked up my voodoo doll which looked almost human. How unnerving, I wonder who it’s supposed to resemble? I picked up the arms, legs and body, assembled them the best I could and at last, I attached the head and happy to be finished. Igor stopped beside my chair.

“Pick up the pin and stick it into your doll,” he ordered.

What harm can it do? I did as I was told and a woman screamed. I pulled the pin out as fast as I could.

“Do it again, but this time I want you to stick the pin here.” Igor was pointing to the heart area.

I stared at him as if he was crazy. Hesitating too long, he wrenched my hand towards the doll, the pin went in deep and he held it there. The woman screamed again and again until I thought I would pass out from the agony in her voice. I tried to pull the pin out, but Igor held on and wouldn’t let go of my hand until I heard a loud crash. All was silent. so Igor let go of my hand. I pulled the pin out, devastated by what happened, and shakily got up, as if in a trance, making my way towards the woman who fell.

Igor held me back by my long hair, telling me I was free to go. I hesitated, still concerned about the woman, but my host yanked, making me fall backward, half-dragging me towards the doorway. With a  little push, he sent me straight into the Dark Angel’s arms. “Hello Elaina,” he said, his voice right next to my ear. Not knowing what he planned on doing with me, I stood frozen in his arms. He held me for a long moment, looking me up and down. “Nice!”

When he finally let me go, I wasted no more time and raced towards the door, When I tried opening it, it stuck tight. I looked back and saw the dark angel coming towards me. I tugged on it, harder and harder, until it thankfully opened. I looked back, seeing  the dark angel only a few feet away. I tried running out the door, but was grabbed from behind by the dark angel. He held me once more, whispering in my ear. “Maybe I’ll keep you here with me, would you like that?”

“No, let me go, I did everything you asked of me.”

He held me as if deciding what to do. I closed my eyes, not wanting to look up at him or show him my vulnerability. I felt his breath close to my mouth, a bare whisper of his lips on mine, then I was free. “Good-by Elaina!”

I wasted no time running down those shaky steps and picking my way along the broken sidewalk. Reaching the half-lit street, I picked up speed when I heard that horrible, maniacal laughter right behind me once more. I broke into a full-out- run, and made short work of the four blocks, arriving back at the busy street, I called for a taxi and found that the same driver who brought me here pulling up. That sweet man must've been waiting for me.

"Thank you so much for coming to my rescue," I panted. I gave him my last address and sat back in the seat, sighing with relief, my heart still pounding, I closed my eyes against the backlash of images plays through my mind. Will this night ever end! When I opened my eyes, the driver looked at me with concern through the rear-view mirror.

Arriving at my next destination, my cab driver couldn’t resist saying, “Lady, you do go to the weirdest looking places!”

I turned my head to look over at my fifth party house. God save me! Goosebumps traveled up and down my arms once more, even the little hairs stood at attention. I was convinced that if I had shorter hair, it all would stand on ends.

I paid the driver and got out of the cab. Oh, my goodness, it looks like the "Psycho" house in the movie. Walking up the fifty steps, I counted them and arrived at the huge door. I knocked. A man who looked like Dracula opened the door. “Come in, Elaina, I’ve been waiting for you,” he crooned.

I stepped past him, and he bowed as I walked into the gloomy, spider-webbed entranceway. Taking my arm, he escorted me into a room where an old woman was playing a piano. Staring at her long fingernails reminded me of claws, and I didn’t want to know her acquaintance. Dracula told me to sit down and to listen carefully.  It was an eerie sounding piece of music and I looked over at the person next to me to gain their reaction.

Gasping for air — coughing — I choked out. “Who are you?”

I stared at the lady who sat next to me, her ghostly appearance made it seem as if I could see right through her. She was dressed all in white, matching her face, and when she got up to leave, I became concerned for some reason. I didn’t feel any animosity from her and she turned to look back at me, then continued walking out of the room. I sat glued to my seat and watched ghost lady disappear from view. I glanced around the room, and I received  my second shock. Trembling, I stared at all the lifeless bodies around me. It looked as if all their blood was drained from them. Dracula was really Dracula I wanted out of here, now and got up from my seat. I needed to get away from all this madness, but Dracula pushed me back down. I shrank back, not realizing he was still standing next to me. He finally spoke.

“You’ll have to do two things for me, Elaina, before you’re free to go. Now listen carefully, first, I want you to play that piece of music my mother played. If I like what I hear, you'll be free to take your second test, but if not, I drink your blood, and you’ll be mine, sitting right here as a souvenir.” Dracula spread his arms wide to indicate all the ghost-like people that were left in their chairs.

Panic overwhelmed me, and I felt dizzy and defeated. “I-I can’t p-play p-piano.”

“You will if you want to live,” he smirked. “You do, don’t you?”

“Y-yes!”

“THEN PLAY!” he thundered, challenging me.

Jerking awake from my panicked trance, my adrenalin kicked in, and I made my way over to the piano. Sitting down on the same bench his mother sat on, I gingerly placed my hands on the keyboard where his claw-like fingers played that eerie piece of music. I said a prayer, and I started to play. I couldn’t believe my ears, it sounded the same as what his mother played. When I looked up, I caught a glimpse of the ghost woman standing across the room, smiling at me. When I was done with my piece, I turned around to face Dracula, proud at what I accomplished.

“Very good!” Dracula said. "Now, come back down here for your second test." I did as he instructed. "I want you to drink a glass of blood with me as a toast of how well you played."

I gagged at the thought, desperately trying to find a way to escape, I could feel his eyes on me, watching my ever mood. I straightened my shoulders, trying to come to grips with my situation. I swallowed down my bile and turned to face him. "Okay." I croaked out.

He smiled his approval and brought out two wine goblets. Well, maybe I could pretend it’s wine.

He poured the blood until it reached the top, then handed me my glass. "Here's to a job well done."

He tipped his glass and drank the blood until nothing was left, "Your turn!"

I thought of my million dollars slipping away if I didn’t do this, so I began to drink, trying hard to pretend it was my favorite, Champagne. I kept swallowing, trying not to taste it until it was all gone. I wanted to gag, but didn't dare, I bravely looked up at Dracula and handed back the glass. I need to get out of here alive! Unfortunately, it fell from my trembling hand and broke into a million pieces. Why does he keep smiling at me? Growing more and more faint, dizziness overtook me, and I felt myself falling — All became black.

I woke up with a start, and found myself lying on black satin sheets, a red coverlet covered me, and my head was cradled on a red pillow.  Trembling, knowing something was wrong, I rubbed my eyes and brought my hands down my face to my neck. The bloody bastard bit me! Jumping in fright when the ghostly woman arose slowly from where she was sitting. "Whew! It's you...what happened to me? Why did Dracula do this to me? I did everything  he asked of me." Anxious, I wondered about a vampire’s bite. Am I going to become a vampire?

"Drink this," she said softly and handed me a glass of a mint green concoction. “I'm here to help you. He’s tired of me and  wants to make you his bride, but I'm stopping his plan. Yes, you passed all the test, the voodoo doll, the piano, and drinking all that blood, he thought you were perfect for him. Now, if I didn’t help you with your playing; well, you saw all those other poor people who couldn't play that typical piece of music.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, I looked at her, “Somehow I knew you were helping me play that eerie piece of music, but why?”

“I didn’t want Dracula to take one more life,” the ghost woman said. “This has been going on far too long now, and I had to save you. Could you please get dressed, I want you to help me now.”

I looked at Dracula’s wife and wondered what I could do to help her. She saw my inquisitive expression and pulled out a cloth covered article, uncovered it, and I saw what she had in mind.

I nodded my head in agreement and went into the bathroom to wash up and get dressed. I couldn’t believe he undressed me and put me in this blood red dress. I toweled dry and put my own clothes on; then, walked out to join the ghost woman.

She directed me down into the basement and we made our way towards the casket that stood in the middle of the room. I opened it and Dracula lay all quiet and peaceful inside, unsuspecting of what was going to happen to him.

The Ghost Women handed me the long stake which had a very sharp point.  “I know now destiny tells me it’s you that will put an end to all this death and destruction of human life. Drive this stake through Dracula’s heart. I cannot do it or I would’ve done so long ago.”

I lifted the stake high, as far as I could, and brought it down, my adrenaline kicking in on all my built-up tension. The sharp point entered deep into Dracula’s heart, blood pooled out all around him, and his eyes opened in surprise, “Noooo, not my beautiful Elaina!” His arms came up, grabbing me and tried to pull me down into the casket with him. I screamed and fought as hard as I could until Dracula’s grip became slack. His eyes slowly closed and a smile played on his lips, “Elaina, I lo…”

The Ghost Women thanked me, then ordered me to — "Run!" When she disappeared before my eyes, the house began to shudder and shake, as if trying to breath. I ran up the shaky basement steps as fast as I could, out the door, and down the many steps until  I was far away from what was happening. I turned to watch the house burst in flames. Sobbing with relief, I crumbled down to the ground and felt the adrenalin leaving me. Feeling weak, I stayed where I was and watched the evil house crumble to the ground. So many people died here, and I said a prayer for their salvation.

I reached for the phone in my pocket to call my cab, but he was already driving up the driveway. He stopped beside me and got out of the cab. He didn’t ask me any questions, just stayed with me until the fire died down. Then he helped me to my feet, opened the back door of the cab and helped me climb in. I settled back in the seat with a sigh and gave him my home address. He climbed behind the wheel and backed up out of the driveway, and I was on my way home.

I thought about the seven parties I attended that started out with so much fun. The maze wasn’t my favorite, but it didn’t compare to the last two parties. You can say I stared death in the eye and lived to see another day. I could’ve died, but I survived! When I made all those scary movies, I never dreamed I would be in a real one. Vampires and Dark Knights weren't supposed to be real, but I know now they are. Shivering, I chanced another look back at house; all that was left was smoldering ruins. “Goodbye and thank you Ghost woman.” I whispered.

Arriving at my little house safe and sound, I never felt so relieved in all my life. I paid my wonderful taxi cab driver and gave him an extra tip for watching out for me. I thanked him and got out of the cab. My little house never looked so good to me, “I’m back home!” I climbed my porch steps and before I made it to the top, someone stepped out of the shadows and towered over me. Oh, no, not again. I can’t take much more!  "Hello, Mr. Damien Rhodes. You scared me! Don’t you think I’ve had a enough for one night?" I said indignantly.

He smiled knowingly and calmly handed me an envelope, “I apologize for my part in all this, but I do keep my promises! You’ve earned this, more than you’ll ever know. Yes, you’ve been through a lot and I know what you did. I can’t say I blame you, because you passed all the test, but Dracula broke the rules. This was our little game with people’s lives, but all evil things must come to end, right? So long, Elaina.” He sighed, helped me up the last step and took me in his arms. He gave me a long kiss good-bye, then let me go. “I think my friends and I fell a little bit in love with you. That’s why we wanted you to participate in this contest. Oh, by the way, your life was never in any danger.” He turned and walked away.

I watched him disappear into the shadows where he had come from. I hope he stays there, what a dirty little scheme these guys played with people's lives. I didn’t really want to speculate on that kiss too much, he was, after all, one of those evil men that put me through this. I walked into my house, turned on the light, and opened the envelope he gave me. There was my check for one million dollars.

I knew I had a lot to think about, my career, for one. I hope I can get pass this, but I knew I’ll be having some horrible nightmares. I shivered and walked down the hall to check in on Jennifer. She was asleep. Should I tell her when she asked about Mr. Rhodes? No, this one has to be my secret.



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