The Midnight Dance
By: Nikki Katz
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: October 17th, 2017
When the music stops, the dance begins.
Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.
But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.
The side door flew open and Cricket burst through. His smile brightened the room like sunlight, warmer than the fire in the hearth. “Sorry I’m late.” Cricket made his way to the table, somehow managing to keep the food dishes he carried from colliding and tumbling to the floor. He placed their antipasto—an array of olives, cheese, and little quiches—in the middle of the long wooden table.
A lone bruschetta sat on the edge of the tray, and Cricket whisked it in front of Penny. “Your favorite, mia farfallina,” he said, pink staining the skin not already dotted by
freckles on his cheeks.
Penny stared at the toasted bread topped with prosciutto and olive oil. Her mouth opened and words tumbled out. “That’s my favorite?”
She suddenly had no idea what she liked to eat, unable even to imagine the taste of the ciabatta from only a few hours ago. The only thing she could conjure was the tang of blood
from the paper cut that morning. And that certainly wasn’t her favorite.
So what was?
With shaking hands, Penny poured steaming coffee into the fragile china cup resting near her silverware.
“Let me.” Cricket finished pouring the drink before he added several teaspoons of sugar. “That’s how you like it, right?”
Penny swallowed. “I’m . . . I’m not certain.” Her tongue felt heavy, dead in her mouth, as if her taste buds had shriveled into chunks of solid stone. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get enough air into her lungs.
A look of panic must have crossed her face because Cricket crouched next to her, grabbing her hands. “Calm down. Look at me.”
Shock vibrated through her skin. He wasn’t allowed to touch her. He wasn’t . . . And then it didn’t matter as a series of thoughts flooded her mind.
Someone stands behind me . . . a deep breath near my ear . . . cold fingers brush the skin of my bare shoulder and pull my braid to the side . . . a soft touch of lips on my neck . . . followed by both hands circling around like a noose . . . fingers reach to nudge my chin up . . . a whisper . . . “Stand proud, darling, you’re mine, always mine.”
Penny shoved at Cricket and skittered away. Her knee banged the underside of the table,
sloshing pale brown liquid across the pristine white cloth. She stood, the chair pushed sideways, and she retreated until her lower back hit the cabinets behind her.
“Penny, what’s going on?” Bianca frowned, the concern of her words not quite reflected in her voice.
Maria’s eyes widened, and she made as if to stand. “Are you all right?”
“I . . . I . . .” She didn’t know what to say. That twisted memory. The whisper in her ear. It had been Master.
Nikki Katz is an author and editor living in sunny San Diego with her three children. With a BS in aerospace engineering, Nikki first put her writing skills to use publishing four nonfiction books. She moved on to writing young adult fiction, her favorite genre to read as well. The Midnight Dance is her debut novel.
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