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At the Stroke of Midnight

AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT
BY LANETTE CURINGTON

A black cat, a castle, a masquerade ball, the Grim Reaper…what better way to spend Halloween!

Although Olivia DeBenning doesn’t realize it, she has already had three brushes with death in her lifetime. During a masquerade party on All Hallow’s Eve to celebrate saving Greystone Castle, Death visits one last time. And the cat? His name is Midnight.

Published by Melange Books.

At other online retailers: Amazon, B&N, etc.

EXCERPT

Olivia sighed, stood, and walked a few steps. She had too much to do to be sitting there lost in thought and nursing a bum leg. The dull throb that thrummed through her muscles had eased a bit after Davy’s massage. She took a few more steps. If she was careful not to twist it again, she would make it through the evening. She took another few steps.

Satin rustled sensually behind her. “Olivia.”

She turned her upper body around. “You!”

Then she frowned. She hadn’t heard a sound from the squeaky door, the only way to enter the kitchen from the castle. The outside door was in front of her, and she was sure no one had come through it. “How did you–”

“Are you all right, Olivia?” he asked in a rush, as if he had expected to find her writhing in pain.

“I’m fine,” she reassured him. “But how do you know my name? You say you know me, but I-I don’t quite know you. Tell me who you are.”

“I am called Death. You’re in danger tonight.”

“What are you talking about? Do you mean the limp? I was injured in an accident as a child. It comes and goes. They say–” She bit her lip. Why did she feel the urge–no, the need to explain her life to him at this moment?

“No.” He shook his head, the side-to-side movements slow and exaggerated. “Danger comes from another source.”

It was a joke, of course, and her sudden laugh sounded bitterly. “Did Margot put you up to this? Oh, I know. The committee thought it would be a funny Halloween trick. I’m afraid I’m not in the mood tonight.”

Whoever devised the prank couldn’t have known she would hurt herself. Ordinarily, she wouldn’t mind, but the mishap with her leg had robbed her of her sense of humor. She had missed so many good times in her life because of the injury. School dances and proms, picnics, roller skating, trying out for cheerleading… The endless list had become a tally sheet of her pathetic life.

“Please tell them I’m not up to a practical joke tonight.” She caught another glimpse of his silver eyes inside the cowl, and familiarity washed over her again. “Did we go to school together?”

He shook his head.

“Do you live here in Glenville?” she persisted.

“No.”

A piteous mewling from outside caught her attention. She went to the back exit and swung the heavy door open. A small, dark shape darted inside, threading between her legs.

“Midnight! There you are.” Before the black cat could cause her to trip and fall and really do some damage, she lifted him into her arms. He purred contentedly as he rubbed his head against her chin. “I’ve been worried about you.”

“The cat is yours?” Death asked.

“He showed up when we started decorating the castle, and I shared my lunch with him every day. I call him Midnight.” She scratched behind his ear. “We had become such good friends, I decided to take him home with me today. I was afraid something had happened to him when he didn’t show up this afternoon.”

He moved closer to her and stared at the cat intensely. He touched the sleek black fur, then quickly withdrew. “Keep him with you, Olivia. Don’t let him outside again or he’ll not survive.”

Olivia stepped back away from him. “That’s not funny! You’ve carried the joke too far.”

Thunder rumbled low and long and a quick crack split the night air. A bright flash of lightning lit up the sky for a few seconds.

“No, that’s impossible!” Olivia groaned and went to the threshold, staring up at the cloudless sky. “The forecast called for warm temperatures and no rain. The costume contest will be held in the bailey later. Rain will ruin it.”

Death swept around her and shut the door. “There’ll be no rain. It’s a warning…for me.”

Published by Melange Books.

Soon available at online retailers: Amazon, B&N, and others

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