The full moon hovering in the midnight sky lent the Victorian gothic house ahead an eerie glow. For the third time in as many minutes, Georgia checked the dark road both ahead and behind. Both were deserted.
Her headlights off, she gripped the steering wheel tightly in slightly damp palms and pulled in to the side of the road, ensuring her red Mini was out of sight from the house.
She stepped out, careful not to let the sweep of her black evening dress get caught in the door as she closed it with a soft clunk. Should she lock it? Her thumb hovered uncertainly over the lock button on her key. No, best not. The answering double blink of the car's lights may attract some unwanted attention. It was essential that she get in and out unnoticed.
She shivered in the chilly night air, tugged her hooded velvet cloak closer around her shoulders and approached the gateway. Fortunately the tall gates were open - evidently the party was still going on. The house loomed ahead across the sweeping gravel driveway. Georgia eyed the large number of expensive cars parked around the perimeter, paintwork gleeming in the dim light reflected from the arched windows. Good - the more revellers there were, the less likely she would be spotted.
Georgia made her way slowly up the drive, keeping close as possible to the shadows of the trees. She skirted round the house and went straight to the rear scullery door. There was little light, as the dining and reception rooms were at the other end of the house. Only the housekeeper frequented this wing and she would be tucked up in bed in her cottage in the village by now. Bending down, Georgia lifted a nearby rock and fumbled in the dark for the heavy key. She breathed a sigh of relief as her fingers closed round it. The longevity of old habits were working in her favour tonight.
Holding her breath, she struggled to turn the key in the stiff lock. There was a sudden clunk and the door creaked as it opened. Georgia instantly froze and waited, heart thumping. However, there was no hand clamping down on her tense shoulder or movement from within. Pushing the door ajar slowly, she slipped through the gap into the house.