Read Midnight is a Lonely Place Online

Authors: Barbara Erskine

Tags: #Fiction, #Women authors, #Literary Criticism, #Psychological

Midnight is a Lonely Place

BARBARA ERSKINE

Midnight is a
Lonely Place

For A.J.
who thought of the title

‘Where’er we tread ’tis haunted, holy ground’.

                                                                           Byron

 

 

‘C’était pendant l’horreur d’une profonde nuit …’

                                                                                   Racine

PROLOGUE 

Her hair was the colour of newly frosted beech leaves; glossy; rich; tumbling from its combs as he pulled her against him, his lips seeking hers.
His skin was tanned by the sun and the wind, hers, naked against him,
white as the purest marble
.

The heavy, twisted silver of the torc he wore about his arm cut into
her flesh. She did not notice. She noticed nothing but the feel of his body
on hers, the strength of his muscular thighs, the power of his tongue as
he thrust it into her mouth as though he would devour her utterly
.


Claudia …

He breathed her name as a caress, a plea, a cry of anguish, and then at last a shout of triumph as he lay still, shaking, in her arms
.

She smiled. Gazing up at the sky through the canopy of rustling oak
leaves she was utterly content. The world had contracted into the one
small clearing in the deserted woodland. Child and husband were forgotten. For this man in her arms, she was prepared to risk losing both; to
risk losing her home, her position, life itself
.

He stirred, and, raising himself onto his elbows, he stared down at
her, his face strangely blank, his silvery eyes unseeing
.


Claudia …’ he whispered again. He rested his face between her
breasts. It was the little death; the death a man sought; the death which
followed coition. He smiled, reaching his fist into her hair, holding her
prisoner, tracing the line of her cheek-bones, her eyelids, with his lips.
What would this woman’s husband, a son of Rome, an officer of the
legion, say if he ever found out? What would he do if he learned his wife
had a lover, and that the lover was a Druid Prince?

Contents

 

Title Page
Dedication
Epigraph
Prologue
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII
Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XL
Chapter XLI
Chapter XLII
Chapter XLIII
Chapter XLIV
Chapter XLV
Chapter XLVI
Chapter XLVII
Chapter XLVIII
Chapter XLIX
Chapter L
Chapter LI
Chapter LII
Chapter LIII
Chapter LIV
Chapter LV
Chapter LVI
Chapter LVII
Chapter LVIII
Chapter LIX
Chapter LX
Chapter LXI
Chapter LXII
Chapter LXIII
Chapter LXIV
Chapter LXV
Chapter LXVI
Chapter LXVII
Chapter LXVIII
Chapter LXIX
Chapter LXX
Chapter LXXI
Chapter LXXII
Chapter LXXIII
Chapter LXXIV
Chapter LXXV
Chapter LXXVI
Author’s Note
Preview
About the Author
By The Same Author
Copyright
About the Publisher

I

‘I hate being famous!’ Kate Kennedy confessed as she sat on the floor of her sister Anne’s flat. They were sharing a takeaway with a large Burmese cat called Carl Gustav Jung.

When her biography of Jane Austen was published Kate had found herself a celebrity overnight. She was invited onto talk shows, she was interviewed by three national daily newspapers and two Sundays, she toured the libraries and bookshops of Britain and she met Jon Bevan, described by the
Guardian
as one of England’s most brilliant young literary novelists and poets. The reason for all this interest? What the
Times Literary Supplement
called her ‘sizzling exposé’ of Jane’s hidden sensuality; her repressed sexuality; the passion in those well-loved, measured paragraphs.

Three weeks after meeting Jon she moved into his Kensington flat and her life changed forever.

Her elder sister and former flatmate, Anne, had remained philosophical about being deserted. (‘My dear, it was bound to happen to one of us sooner or later.’) Herself a writer – a Jungian psychologist whose library, especially the Freudian bits, Kate had ransacked when writing
Jane
– she had watched with amusement as Kate coped with fame. And found it wanting.

‘If you hate it so much, bow out. Become a recluse. Decline to appear, my dear. Cultivate a certain boorishness. And wear a veil.’ Anne licked soy sauce off her fingers. ‘Your sales would double overnight.’

‘Cynic.’ Kate smiled at her fondly. ‘Jon says I’m mad. He loves it, of course.’

‘I can see Jon giving up writing in the end to become a media person,’ Anne said thoughtfully. She wiped her hands on a paper napkin stamped with Chinese characters and, wrapping her arms around her legs, rested her chin thoughtfully on her knees. ‘He’s bad for you, you know, Kate. He’s a psychic vampire.’ She grinned. ‘He’s feeding off your creative energy.’

‘Rubbish.’

‘It’s true. You’ve slipped into the role of housewife and ego masseuse without even realising it. You’re besotted with him! It’s months since you got back from Italy, but you haven’t even started writing the new book yet.’

Startled by the vehemence of the statement Kate was astonished to find that she felt guilty. ‘I’m still researching.’

‘What? Love?’ Anne smiled. ‘And does Jon still think you’re mad to write about Byron at all?’

Kate nodded fondly. ‘Yes, he still thinks I’m mad. He thinks Byron is too well known. He thinks I should have plumped for someone obscure – and not so attractive,’ she added as an afterthought. ‘But I’m glad to say my editor doesn’t agree with him. She can’t wait for the book.’ She shook her head wearily, giving Carl Gustav the last, carefully-saved prawn. She had been secretly pleased and not a little flattered to find that Jon was jealous.

‘Is that why you chose Byron? Because he’s attractive?’ Anne probed further.

‘That and because I love his poetry, I adore Italy and he’s given me a chance to spend wonderful months travelling round Europe to all the places he lived.’ Kate gathered up the empty cartons from their meal. ‘And he was a genuinely fascinating man. Charismatic.’ She was watching Carl Gustav who, having crunched his prawn with great delicacy, was now meticulously washing his face and paws. ‘Actually, I am ready to start writing now. My notes are complete – at least for the first section.’

Anne shook her head. ‘I suppose I can think of worse ways of earning a living!’ She stood up and went to rummage in the fridge for a jar of coffee beans. ‘Tell me, are you and Jon still happy?’ she asked over her shoulder. ‘Really happy.’

Kate nodded.

‘Getting-married happy?’

‘No.’ Thoughtfully. Then, more adamantly, ‘No, I don’t think either of us are the marrying type. At least not at the moment.’

‘But you can see yourself living with him for a long time.’

There was a moment’s silence as Kate regarded her sister with preoccupied concentration. ‘Why do you want to know?’

‘I’ve been offered a job in Edinburgh. If I take it I’ll have to give up the flat.’

‘I see.’ Kate was silent for a moment. So, it was burning bridges time. ‘What about Carl Gustav?’

‘Oh, he’ll come with me. I’ve discussed it with him at great length.’ Anne bent down and caressed the cat lovingly. He had always been more hers than Kate’s. ‘He’s quite pro-Edinburgh, actually, aren’t you, C.J?’

‘And he approves of the job?’

‘It’s a good one. At the University. A big step up that dreadful ladder we are all supposed to mount unceasingly.’

Kate turned away, astonished by the pang of misery that had swept through her at the thought of losing Anne. ‘Have you told Mum and Dad about this?’ she said after a minute.

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