Love by the Stroke of Midnight
by Raven McAllan
General Release Date: 23rd March 2021
Word Count: 30,503
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Heat Rating: Simmering
The day you discover your boyfriend is using you as a free meal ticket—and a way to save his money—is the day you say bye-bye.
Marcail Drummond does better than that.
She sells up, plans the rest of her life and heads north. It’s time to go home, to a castle on an island in a Scottish loch, and face up to the fact she’s not quite the same as the rest of her family. They can see the past—and the future—and hear others. Heal the sick and help the broken-hearted.
After all, talking to yourself isn’t the same thing, even if one of the voices in your head is male and argues a lot.
As far as Marcail is concerned, it’s just her way of amusing herself.
To Paden, it’s more than that.
To him, it’s a matter of life and death.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland
Marcail Drummond staggered out of bed, tired and sated, and wished she could sleep for a few hours more. As it wasn’t going to happen, she turned to speak to the man who had shared her night to…to what?
To see no second indent in the pillows. No crumpled sheets except where she’d slept—or not slept, as the case may be.
In fact no sign of any occupant—except herself.
She surely hadn’t imagined the night she’d just had? The sinfully sexy, hot, male, aroused body next to hers. The way his hands had caressed her so skilfully and held her close when she flew over the edge and into one of the best climaxes ever. How he’d gradually inched inside her, almost reverently, until she’d tightened herself around him and begged… “Please fill me now…please.” And he’d obliged so they could move together.
Then another climax, this time as he also came hard and fast, and the long gradual coming down to earth, held close and cherished.
The soft words in her ear… “Mo ghaol, it’s been oh so long…”
Marcail blinked. Had she dreamed it all, or…or what?
There couldn’t be any other explanation—could there?
Somewhat disgruntled, she stood up and stretched.
Boy she ached. Ached in places she hadn’t known it was possible. If that was what happened after an erotic dream, she wasn’t sure she’d have another one in a hurry.
“I’m here when you need me.”
That was the last thing she wanted. She had enough to worry about, without him niggling her. It was bad enough to know his voice was in her head—whoever he was—but surely he wasn’t in her dreams as well?
“You know I’m yours, however, wherever and…”
“Enough.” She put her hands to her hot cheeks. “Go away and let me get on in peace.”
“As ever, I’ll do your bidding.”
That’ll be the day. Marcail muttered under her breath, stripped the bed, got washed and dressed and headed out. She hadn’t the time to argue with herself, voices, or the man in the moon. Dammit, she hadn’t even seen his face.
“You’ll know me.”
“Ha, as if I’m bothered.” She ignored the laughter that appeared to surround her at that mental comment. The long drive ahead was her priority.
The journey north wasn’t easy. Especially after that night of very explicit, erotic dreams, where she woke up hot and bothered, every nerve in her body throbbing, and dozed off again before she welcomed ‘him’ into her bed. The man who, she understood, was important, but whose face she couldn’t see.
Why? What was she missing?
“Go to hell.”
The laugh in her mind echoed around the room. “Naughty.”
“Look, head voice, go away.” She was used to it, but at times she could see it far enough. “You were annoying when I was two, albeit I thought it was normal to talk to myself and a mysterious other. You never knew when to butt out in the past and it seems you still don’t. Why? What does it all mean? I thought everyone must have a head friend.”
“Only people like us.”
She didn’t bother to say ‘define us’, as she’d tried before and been met with an uncompromising ‘you’ll know when the time is right’. Instead she carried on with her list. “An embarrassment when I was ten and my teacher told my parents they might need to take me to see a doctor as I was talking to myself a lot. She suggested a psychiatrist might be able to discover what my troubles were. Luckily Mum and Dad told her they were sorting it and told me to ignore her. That she was close-minded and would never open it to what we believed and understood. If that wasn’t enough, whenever I met a bloke I really liked you…” She gritted her teeth. “Grr.” Was that why nothing happened with her ex-fiancé? He hadn’t been as important as she assumed he was?
“Had to get him out of your system. He was no threat.”
That was as maybe, but, her fledgling kisses and fumbles had never got past the peck on the cheek and hands removed as if by osmosis, and the would-be suitor was never seen again, or if he was, he turned and nigh on ran in the other direction. “Then a sodding intruder at twenty, when…” Marcail shut up, conscious her voice was rising. If she wasn’t careful she’d be screaming like a termagant.
Take a deep breath, and count to ten.
She wasn’t going to add, have sex or get intimate with someone. It had been bad enough at the time when the voice went on about condoms, safe sex and how the bloke in question had a shifty look about him.
The fact the said bloke stated, somewhat belligerently, that he hated condoms and the withdrawal method worked for him, was enough for her to tell him nothing doing and to sling his hook. The head voice adding he told her so had done nothing to help her temper then and, remembering her humiliation, did nothing for it now.
“Bless you, always grumpy when you don’t get your eight hours, aren’t you?”
“Too right, now shut up.” She swore as yet another sheep decided it would try to outrun her down the narrow track that led to the landing stage where, God willing, the boat would be waiting to take her across the loch. If not they might have more lamb than they bargained for when she turned around and drove back up the track.
The sheep meandered to the verge and turned to stare at her, as if to ask how she dare travel down that track at that time, when it wanted to use it.
“I’m going home, mate, you got a beef with that?” Marcail said. “Or should it be a lamb? Anyhow…I’m off home and this is the way.”
If sheep could grin, that one did. And strangely its eyes glowed briefly, and she would swear it winked.
I’m losing it. I need a holiday. Or one of Mum’s casseroles. I need to go home. Chill and not think about stuff that can’t be possible. Voices I accept, winking sheep not so much.
Home. Castle Bearradh—Hill Castle. A bit of a misnomer as the so-called hill was no more than a slight incline on the middle of a craggy, cliff-edged island that was less than two miles from tip to toe and around half that across, midway between two shores of a loch. The place her family had lived for years. Where she and her two siblings had been born. And where, with a bit of luck, they and their parents would get together to celebrate her birthday, and All Hallows’ Eve. Samhain. When the veil between the living and those who had passed was at its thinnest.
How long was it, Marcail mused, as the errant sheep swerved off into a field and she was able to drive without fear of depleting the local flock, since they’d all been together at home?
“I’m going home,” she said out loud. “To Scotland, where I want to be for a while.” Just to admit it was a relief. “Not in England, managing a flower shop where Bloody Roddy wanted to be.” Nor slowly, unhappily discovering Roddy—her not so long before live-in boyfriend—was using her as a convenient way to save money.
A few weeks before, Marcail had left the house and realised she’d forgotten her phone. She’d gone back inside and not bothered to shout hello or anything. Before she’d even closed the door or taken any steps along the corridor to the kitchen, where she remembered putting her phone on the worktop, she’d heard him laugh.
“I tell you, mate, I’ve never had it so good,” he’d boomed in the voice he used for phone calls. “I’m saving half of each month’s salary and even though the sex is only so-so, it’s worth it. I close my eyes and think of my bank balance.”
That had opened her eyes. She’d gone back to her car, driven out of sight and rung her colleague to say she was sick.
Five minutes later she’d watched Roddy drive past on his way to work. By the time he’d come back that evening, all his belongings had been on the path outside the house. The fact he didn’t even try to bluster his way through an explanation had told her everything. She should have burned the stuff and left him the ashes.
Marcail had decided it had been a wake-up call. She’d handed in her notice, put her house on the market, sold it within a week and booked a ticket to New Zealand. She’d promised herself a trip there for years, now she was going to take herself up on her promise. All Hallows’ Eve and her birthday at home, a month to get everything sorted and she was off.
About the Author. . .
After 30 plus years in Scotland, Raven now lives near the east Yorkshire coast, with her long-suffering husband, who is used to rescuing the dinner, when she gets immersed in her writing, keeping her coffee pot warm and making sure the wine is chilled.
With a new home to decorate and a garden to plan, she’s never short of things to do, but writing is always at the top of her list.
Her other hobbies include walking along the coast and spotting the wildlife, reading, researching, cros stitch and trying not to drop stitches as she endeavours to knit.
Being left-handed, and knitting right-handed, that’s not always easy.
She loves hearing from her readers, either via her website, by email or social media.