By midnight ravenwood, p.1
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       By Midnight (Ravenwood), p.1
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           Mia James
By Midnight (Ravenwood)


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  PART ONE

  Chapter One - North London, present day

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  PART TWO

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty- Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty- Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Acknowledgements

  By Midnight

  MIA JAMES

  Orion

  www.orionbooks.co.uk

  A Gollancz eBook

  Copyright © Mia James 2010

  All rights reserved.

  The right of Mia James to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  First published in Great Britain in 2010 by

  Gollancz

  The Orion Publishing Group Ltd

  Orion House

  5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane

  London, WC2H 9EA

  An Hachette UK Company

  This eBook first published in 2010 by Gollancz.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  eISBN : 978 0 5750 9555 7

  This eBook produced by Jouve, France

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  www.orionbooks.co.uk

  To Fin

  Prologue

  Spitalfields, East London, 1887

  She was dying. He could feel her life slipping away between his fingers. He had tried to ignore the signs, tried to pretend it was just the night cold making her face so white, but now as they paused in the pool of gaslight he could see the grey circles under her eyes and the dark blood on her lips. He was no physician, but he still knew what it meant, he had seen it too many times before. Her flesh was hot to the touch and there were bruises flowering on her slender neck. Death had marked her; it was only a matter of time before he collected.

  ‘I’m sorry,’ she panted. ‘Just a little rest and then I’ll be fine.’

  ‘Of course,’ he said, setting her down in a doorway. ‘As long as you need.’

  The young man’s handsome face was pinched, pained. She looks so beautiful, even now, he thought. How can God take her away from me? Suddenly he looked up, searching the dark alleyway behind them anxiously, his blue eyes scanning the thick, swirling fog, his nose flaring reflexively even though he could smell nothing above the rancid stench of London.

  ‘They’re coming,’ he whispered to himself. ‘We can’t stay here.’

  She moaned softly as he lifted her into his arms. Glancing around, he increased his pace, his cloak billowing behind them. He skidded and almost fell on the cobbles as he turned from the narrow side street into the main thoroughfare. It was still busy despite the late hour and he felt a little hope steal into his heart as he saw the tall grey spire stretching up towards the moon. If he could just reach the church, then, perhaps, there was still a chance. God could not fail him. Veering across the street, dodging a carriage and ignoring the cursing driver, he charged up the steps.

  ‘Open the door!’ he shouted, his fist hammering on the heavy oak. ‘For pity’s sake, let us in!’

  Still holding the girl tightly, he allowed himself to look back across the road. He could see nothing in the darkness, but he knew they would be here soon, their claws and teeth bared. Nothing would stop them from claiming their prize.

  ‘Help us!’ he yelled again, slamming his palm against the wood. ‘In Christ’s name!’

  ‘And what do you know of Christ?’ said a voice. The door creaked open a fraction and the black barrel of a pistol poked through the gap. ‘Get away from here, you devil. I know what you are.’

  The young man looked towards the door, his eyes blazing. ‘I don’t ask for sanctuary for myself,’ he said. ‘I ask for her.’ He lifted the girl, the small silver crucifix around her neck glinting dully.

  There was a long pause and then the pistol was withdrawn.

  ‘Bring her in. Quickly.’

  The cleric looked young, or as young as anyone could look in his line of work. His back was bent and his face creased, but his hair was not yet completely grey. He had the same smell of death about him as the girl did, he noted as he watched the priest bolt the door.

  ‘This way,’ said the priest, holding his lamp as high as he could. He opened the door to a small but cosy room lit by candles, a meagre fire burning in the grate. ‘Here, put her on the cot.’

  Once the girl was settled, the cleric turned his lamp up and held it close to her face. Her skin was sallow in the harsh light, her lips blue-tinged, sweat beading on her forehead. He shook his head. ‘There’s nothing we can do.’

  The young man grasped the priest’s arm, squeezing hard. ‘There must be something - some prayer or incantation? Please,’ he asked desperately.

  The cleric spread his hands helplessly. ‘She’s too far gone. Only God can help her now.’

  The young man turned to him, his gaze intense and unwavering. ‘Then it’s up to me.’

  The cleric’s eyes widened. ‘No, no, I beg you!’

  ‘What else can I do?’ growled the man. ‘I tried to save her, I tried to get her away from those demons, but she’s dying. Dying!’

  ‘Damn you!’ cried the priest. ‘This is a house of God.’

  The man pushed the priest from the room. ‘Then go and pray for us,’ he hissed.

  Locking the door behind the priest, he slowly knelt by the cot and gently brushed the girl’s damp hair back from her face. The blood was bubbling in her throat now and her eyes were flickering open and shut.

  ‘It’s time, Lily. It’s time,’ he murmured, stroking her pale neck tenderly. ‘Now we’ll be together.’

  He lowered his head, his lips parting as if for a kiss. Painfully yet determinedly, the girl turned her head.

  ‘No,’ she whispered. ‘I can’t. I won’t.’ A tear slid slowly down her face.

  ‘But this is the only way,’ he insisted, panic in his voice. ‘Join me and you’ll be cured. I can’t bear to lose you.’

  She gave a weak smile, her teeth stained pink with blood. ‘What we have is special, my love,’ she replied, her eyes clear and sure. ‘Don’t ruin it like this, with this evil.’

  ‘What I did
was for us,’ he said softly, stroking her cold cheek.

  ‘But if you do this, if you kill another human being, God will never forgive you and you will be lost for ever.’ She saw his stricken face and tried to smile. ‘We’ll be together again, I promise you,’ she said.

  A crash echoed from the front of the church.

  ‘They’re here.’

  ‘Don’t,’ she said, gripping his wrist fiercely. ‘You’re not like them. Promise me you’ll stay strong.’

  He nodded sadly. ‘I promise. Only the one who made me like this - he will pay.’

  ‘Then you will be free?’

  ‘Yes, darling. And then we can be together.’

  Suddenly she was wracked with a terrible coughing fit.

  ‘Don’t worry, our love will endure,’ she gasped into his ear. ‘I will be with you again.’

  Her chest jerked upwards, once, twice, and then her limbs went rigid. Her eyelids trembled and her lips parted.

  ‘I love you,’ she whispered. And she was gone.

  ‘NOOO!’ he roared, pulling her body to him, clutching at her hair. ‘NO!’

  He lay like that for a few moments, his tears falling on her pale cheek, then he slowly rose. Outside, he could hear thuds and splintering wood. With one last look towards the bed, he threw off his cloak and opened the door.

  PART ONE

  Chapter One

  North London, present day

  The first thing she saw was the fox. Peering up through the rain running down the car window, she could see the copper weathervane on top of the church spinning in the wind, endlessly chasing its tail. Although the church spire must have been a hundred feet tall, April was sure she could hear the unoiled squeak as the animal whirled around.

  ‘Why would anyone make a church weathervane in the shape of a fox?’ she muttered to herself. ‘Not very religious, is it?’

  ‘Hmm? What’s that?’ asked her father, looking up briefly from the wet road.

  ‘Nothing.’ She sighed, beginning to bite a chipped fingernail. The last thing she wanted was one of her dad’s fascinating lectures on the history of religious buildings. No, that wasn’t quite true: the last thing April Dunne wanted was to be here, squashed into their tiny car as it struggled up some hill five hundred miles from home. Given the atmosphere between her mother and father during the latter half of their eight-hour drive from Scotland, she had a feeling it was mutual. As they turned the corner, April could see the rest of the church: tall and grey with high windows and, above all, old. April shook her head slowly. Ancient and boring, just like everything else around here, from what she could see.

  ‘Are you sure this is it?’ said April’s mother, rubbing irritably at the steamed-up windows. ‘This looks more like Lincoln than London.’

  For once April was in agreement with her mother. She glanced over at the older woman, so sophisticated and chic with her designer wardrobe, buttery-blonde wavy hair and high cheekbones. Where are my cheekbones? she asked herself, miserably glancing at her mousy hair in the window’s reflection. ‘They’ll come,’ her mother always said, ‘and anyway, you’re pretty as you are.’ Tell that to all the boys who had failed to ask her out.

  They were crawling along the High Street and, pressing her nose against the condensation, April took in the fifties-style chemist, the dusty window of the jeweller’s, the bent-backed pensioners - are they allpensioners?— fighting against the wind as they struggled home or wherever it was old people went on a Sunday night.

  ‘It looks so ... dreary,’ said April.

  ‘Well, it won’t always be raining,’ said her dad, flashing her a reassuring smile in the rear-view mirror.

  ‘Never mind, darling,’ said April’s mother as she flipped open a Chanel compact mirror and touched up her lip gloss. ‘You’ll see all your little friends again in the summer. Look at it this way - we’re only a few Tube stops from Piccadilly Circus.’

  Eleven, April thought miserably. Ever since her father had announced that the Dunne family was moving to Highgate in north London, she had been studying the escape routes. Of course April understood that when her dad lost his job as an investigative reporter on the Scotsman newspaper he would have to find another job, but why did they have to leave Edinburgh, why did they have to leave all her friends? She was English by birth, but having spent all her teen years in Edinburgh she felt no attachment to the south and had absolutely no affinity with this gloomy-looking place, that was for sure. What annoyed her the most was that she had just been about to start an A-level course at Leith College, a cool modern place with funky architecture, no uniform and loads of boys. Loads of boys: proper grown-up boys with cars, boys who didn’t remember you as a gawky eleven-year-old with braces. But that was all gone now, wasn’t it? She had tried her best to persuade them to let her stay, at least - with her best friend Fiona or one of her parents’ friends, even boarding school—but all her suggestions had been shot down as they insisted they couldn’t move without her. So instead she had been forced to hang around at her old school until they were ready to move and now they were carting her off to some horrid posh place in a tiny suburb a million light years away from everyone she knew. And what was worse, they were plonking her in halfway through the term: could she stand out any more? April looked around with a start as her mother snapped her compact shut.

  ‘We’re here!’ she trilled. Her mother - Silvia, as April liked to think of her, as that way she could pretend her mother wasn’t her mother - had loved the fact that April’s dad was a respected man in Edinburgh and she had enjoyed the snobby dinner-party circuit, but she had hated Edinburgh with its drab granite buildings and its unrelenting weather. She had lived in Belgravia and Covent Garden when she was growing up and used to joke that if she ventured further north than Hampstead she’d get a nosebleed. But much as she had detested being stuck in a provincial outpost, she hated William Dunne’s loss of status more. She had been giving April’s poor dad an incredibly hard time ever since he’d announced he was losing his old job and that he had been offered a new position on the local Hampstead paper. Even more of a hard time than usual; it wasn’t like April could remember a time when her mother wasn’t at Dad’s throat about something. This time, however, it had been much worse. According to her mother, Dad’s new job was a ‘major step backwards’ and ‘completely beneath him’. If they were moving to London, Silvia thought he should be ‘shooting for editor’ on one of the prestigious broadsheets like the Telegraph or Times. ‘Am I supposed to tell people you’re reporting on the local garden fete?’ she had heard her mother yell in one of her parents’ frequent rows. April had hoped that her proximity to the centre of things would make her mother a little less spiky.

  April had been gutted too when her dad had lost his job. He had the coolest job of any of her friends’ parents, who all worked in IT or in banks. There had been perks as well: free books and occasionally tickets for gigs at the Playhouse or press screenings for movies that had yet to come out; Dad’s friends on the arts desk were always happy to pass them on to him. His name and photograph always accompanying his Scotsman stories meant that William Dunne was a somebody, and that stopped April from being a nobody.

  Her dad swung the car around to the left and into a wide square with a sort of park in the middle, pulling up in front of a narrow house with a bright yellow door. To April, it looked as if the houses on either side were squeezing it upwards. Bullies, she thought.

  ‘Well?’ said her dad, when nobody moved. ‘We’ve been in the car for most of the day - does no one want to go inside?’

  They flung the car doors open and dashed up the stone path through the rain, the wind snatching at their hair and coats. They huddled together in the small porch while her father fiddled with the unfamiliar keys and then they all burst inside.

  They were faced by a narrow corridor dominated by a long flight of stairs. It was dark, dusty and, frankly, creepy.

  ‘Isn’t this nice?’ said her dad, forcing a smile and n
udging April’s arm. ‘Home sweet home, eh?’

  April’s mother sniffed the air like a dog. ‘Wait until I speak to Tilda,’ she said, her mouth in a fixed angry line.

  April’s dad caught her eye and gave a playful wince, which momentarily lifted her spirits. Tilda was one of Silvia Dunne’s closest friends, some sort of society player her mum had known since they shared a dorm at their posh girls’ school back in the eighties. Tilda now worked for a prestigious estate agent and had offered the Dunnes a ‘once-in-a-lifetime insider deal’ on the house, swearing it was the best thing she had ever seen in the area. April hated Tilda and all of Silvia’s friends with a passion - horrible stuck-up snobs, the lot of them - but she had revised her opinion when she had offered Silvia such a great deal on the house. Now, as they gingerly walked down the corridor, April wasn’t so sure. Shadows crept into the rooms from every corner and there was a damp, slightly earthy smell. April flicked on the lights but they did little to push back the gloom. The living room was large with a high ceiling, but it still felt cramped and claustrophobic.

 
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