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"And I'll check out the fireplace situation."
"Don't you think we should stick together? First rule of spooky old house exploring?"
Willow smiled and they hugged. "Good thinking. But I'm sure it isn't haunted."
Tara struck a match, lit a taper and used it to light the rest of the candles. "Do you think it was haunted once? A-and the ghost moved somewhere else?"
"Somewhere closer to the mall? I guess they'd have to go through a, a ghost real estate agent. It's hard to find a good haunted house these days."
The results of their searches weren't very encouraging. There was only one room in the building that wasn't locked and which had a fireplace: a sumptuous bedroom with a king-sized canopy bed. A bay window overlooked the tops of trees which were beginning to gather thick caps of snow. Willow stared out at the darkness, hands pressed against the glass. Snowdrifts were beginning to pile up on the window-sill.
Tara entered carrying three small logs and a bundle of twigs. "This is all the firewood we have, unless we can find an axe and chop some more."
Willow gestured at the snowstorm. "I don't think that's an option."
Tara put the wood into the fireplace and went over to the window. "Oh." She glanced back at the fireplace. "That isn't going to last very long."
"I think we might be in trouble." They opened their packs out on the bed and made an inventory. "Sleeping bags. Warm clothing, lots. Sandwiches, lots. Thermos flask with hot chocolate. Torches. Robert Anton Wilson paperbacks. Laptop computer. Socks. Mobile phone, out of range."
"Do you think we'll get into trouble if we burn any of the furniture to keep warm?"
"We might not, but Giles probably will. There isn't much left that's burnable, anyway, and most of the walls are bluestone. In the morning we can walk down to that ranger's station we saw on the way up."
Tara looked worried. "If we make it through the night."
"Oh, hey! Chin up! We've been in worse situations before. Well... I have. You'll see. We'll be fine." Willow went back to the window and stared at the falling snow.
Outside, a dark figure moved over the snow towards the retreat.