At the Stroke of Midnight

At the Stroke of Midnight

by Tara Sivec

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Overview

Meet the Naughty Princess Club: a brand new series from USA Today bestselling author Tara Sivec that introduces readers to Fairytale Lane and the hilarity—and romance—that ensue when three women start a new business to make it rain.

Once upon a time Cynthia was the perfect housewife. Between being the President of the PTA and keeping her home spotless without a hair (or her pearls) out of place, her life was a dream come true. Her husband was once her knight in shining armor, but now he’s run off with all their money…and the babysitter.

Dressed as a princess at the annual Halloween block party on Fairytale Lane, she meets two other “princesses” also facing money troubles: antique store owner Ariel and librarian Isabelle. When the women are invited to wear their costumes to a party where they’re mistaken for strippers, Cindy, Ariel, and Belle realize that a career change could be the best way to make their money problems go bippity-boppity-boo.

But can structured Cindy approach a stripper pole without sanitizing wipes? And could the blue-eyed anti-prince that has been crossing her path become Cindy’s happily ever after? At the Stroke of Midnight is a hilarious, empowering story where princesses can save themselves while slaying in stilettos.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250137203
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/27/2018
Series: The Naughty Princess Club , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 136,015
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Tara Sivec is a USA Today best-selling author, wife, mother, chauffeur, maid, short-order cook, baby-sitter, and sarcasm expert. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and looks forward to the day when they all three of them become adults and move out.

After working in the brokerage business for fourteen years, Tara decided to pick up a pen and write instead of shoving it in her eye out of boredom. Her novel Seduction and Snacks won first place in the Indie Romance Convention Reader's Choice Awards 2013 for Best Indie First Book and she was voted as Best Author in the Indie Romance Convention Reader's Choice Awards for 2014.

In her spare time, Tara loves to dream about all of the baking she'll do and naps she'll take when she ever gets spare time.


Tara Sivec is a USA Today bestselling author and the Best Indie Author in the Indie Romance Convention Reader's Choice Awards in 2014. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

Tara is the author of The Naughty Princess Club series, including At the Stroke of Midnight.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Find a Job and Pay for Herpes

Three months earlier ...

My fingers absentmindedly fiddle with the strand of pearls around my neck as I stare out of the kitchen window at the front yard, cocking my head to the side and mentally adding call the landscaper to my to-do list when I see a few stray weeds peeking up through the black mulch. Our yard has always been the most beautiful and well cared for one on the cul-de-sac of Fairytale Lane, and it just won't do to have weeds popping up all over the place all willy-nilly. What will the neighbors think?

Fairytale Lane is located in an area most people in town refer to as "the wealthy area." Gorgeous, large homes and pristine yards on a dead-end street where it's safe for children to play and ride their bikes because the only traffic comes from the people who live here. Well, aside for Christmastime, when everyone's homes are professionally decorated, and people from all over town drive by to see the lights and try to glimpse in the windows, imagining what it's like to live in such a big, beautiful home on such a wonderful street. There's actually a waiting list to live here. Applications are piled a mile high, and the homeowner's association goes through each one with a fine-tooth comb whenever a house goes up for sale, which doesn't happen very often. Once you've lived on Fairytale Lane, you can't imagine such perfection anywhere else.

I suddenly realize calling the landscaper will also mean paying the landscaper, and my skin breaks out in a cold sweat. My fingers drop from the pearls as I reach a shaky hand out to adjust a small black picture frame standing next to the sink that must have been bumped so it's no longer facing east like all of the other pictures in the house.

"Cynthia, did you hear me?"

The sound of a shrill voice echoing through the kitchen makes me jump, knocking over the picture frame completely.

"What was that sound? Is everything okay?"

Keeping a deep sigh of annoyance to myself, because as my mother-in-law ingrained in me long ago, a lady should never scowl or be rude to anyone, I right the frame and scoop up my phone from the counter as I turn away from the window to look at the large, white, marble-topped island in the middle of the spacious room.

The counter is white, the cupboards are white, the floor is white, and the walls are painted white, just like the rest of the house, with a few pops of color here and there in paintings hung on the walls and throw pillows on the furniture. White is associated with light and goodness, and it's considered the color of perfection. It's exactly what I wanted when Brian bought this house and told me I could decorate it any way I wanted, as long I didn't use loud colors or anything that wasn't classy.

"Everything is fine, Caroline. And yes, I heard you. I just finished baking the last of the cupcakes, and I'm getting ready to frost them as soon as they cool," I tell my neighbor, who's on speakerphone. She hasn't been getting on my last nerve at all, calling me ten times a day every day for the last week to make sure everything is coming together for the Halloween party we throw every year on our street.

"And you made them gluten free, nut free, wheat free, and sugar free, right? You know we had that issue with Corbin Michaelson's mother during the Halloween party last year when she found out the cookies we were serving had gluten, and there are currently four children on the street with nut allergies, and —"

"Caroline, I've got it covered." I cut her off, pasting a smile on my face even though she can't see me as I hold the phone in one hand and start rearranging the two-hundred cupcakes cooling on the counter into a more uniform fashion with the other hand. "I'm the president of the PTA and chair of the homeowner's association. I've planned and successfully executed hundreds of events over the last thirteen years since we bought this home, including our yearly Halloween party. I've always got it covered."

I hear Caroline sigh through the line and realize she must have never learned the proper etiquette of keeping your cool when you're frustrated.

"I know that, it's just ... you've been a bit distracted lately, what with Brian gone and all," she says softly.

My hands move faster along the counter organizing the cupcakes into perfect, neat rows, and I let out a small, nervous laugh.

"I told you, everything with Brian is fine. He's just been traveling a lot with work recently and that's why he hasn't been able to attend any of the functions with me. He'll be home soon and everything will be back to normal and perfect, just like always."

I realize I'm rambling and quickly clamp my mouth closed, blinking my eyes rapidly to stop the tears that have pooled in them from falling down my cheeks.

A lady never shows her emotions.

A lady should also never lie, but under the circumstances, it's better this way. I have to believe that Brian will be home soon. Maybe everything won't go back to the way it was, but telling everyone the truth would just make both of us look bad. At this point, my reputation is all I have, and there is no way I'm going to tarnish it by feeding the gossip mill in this town. I've spent too much time becoming the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect head of every organization I come in contact with, and maintaining the perfect home that is the envy of everyone on this street, to let anything ruin it. Brian literally plucked me from the trailer park. He took me away from a home where I never knew when my next meal would be, freed me from a stepmother who made my life miserable and stepsisters who constantly tried to one-up her in the misery department. He released me from that prison and he handed me the world on a silver platter. Literally.

When he proposed, he put my engagement ring on a vintage Tiffany and Co. silver, oval, footed tray. I was blinded by sparkly things, and luxury I never imagined in a million years would be mine with just a snap of my fingers or a swipe of a black Amex card. I was so afraid of losing everything and being forced to go back to that trailer park with my tail between my legs, that for years I did everything I could to be what Brian wanted. I took etiquette lessons from his mother, and I spent every waking moment of our marriage emulating her, being perfect like her, being classy like her, and ignoring the signs that were right in front of my face. Ignoring the fact that Brian got a thrill out of rescuing the damsel in distress, but that once I stopped being the girl who needed him to be my knight in shining armor, he stopped wanting me.

Hearing the slam of the front door, I quickly end the call with Caroline, promising her I'll meet her out on the street tomorrow afternoon to begin setting up for the party with the gluten-free, nut-free, wheat-free, sugar-free cupcakes, perfectly frosted with gluten-free, nut-free, wheat-free, sugar-free frosting.

A blur of black rushes by the kitchen doorway, and I slide my phone into the front pocket of the white apron that covers my knee-length, pale-blue tea dress, the heels of my matching pale-blue pumps clacking against the white Italian tile as I rush to the doorway and out into the foyer.

"Anastasia, you're late."

The black blur comes to a stop at the base of the stairs with her back to me, her heavily black-charcoal-lined eyes still midroll in annoyance as she slowly turns to face me.

"I told you, it's Asia now. And I had shit to do," my thirteen-year-old daughter mutters with a sigh, sliding her hands into the front pockets of her black skinny jeans.

"Language, young lady!" I scold, crossing my arms in front of me as I shake my head at her and take a few deep, calming breaths. A lady never shouts or makes a scene, even in the privacy of her own home. "You have a closet full of bright-colored clothing; I don't understand why you insist on always wearing black."

I decide against arguing with her on this Asia silliness. I'm hoping it's a phase, just like this whole black-clothing thing. It will pass. We've both been under a lot of stress lately, and I know that has to be the main reason she's been trying my patience so much. You have to pick your battles with teenagers. Unfortunately, it seems like recently, everything between us ends in a disagreement. At least she hasn't touched her beautiful, long blond hair. Even though I always wear mine pulled back in a low bun at the nape of my neck and she lets hers hang in a stringy mess around her shoulders and down her back, it's the one and only thing we seem to have in common these days.

"I insist on wearing black because it's the color of my soul," she deadpans. "Are we finished here?"

She doesn't even give me time to answer before she's turning her back on me and stomping up the stairs to the second floor. As soon as I hear her bedroom door slam closed, my arms drop to my sides and my shoulders droop.

I wish I could say I don't know what happened to my sweet, loving little girl. Or that I have no idea when the exact moment was that she turned into a sullen teenager who always looks like she's going to a funeral. But I know the exact moment down to the second. Six months, fourteen days and three hours ago. It was the moment my world came crashing down around me and I had to work extra hard to keep up the façade of having a perfect life with a perfect family in a perfect house on a perfect street aptly named Fairytale Lane.

"This is just a tiny bump in the road, Cynthia. You've overcome worse and you'll get through this as well," I whisper, giving myself a pep talk as I turn and head back toward the kitchen with my head held high to start making the frosting for the cupcakes. I pause to reach out and straighten a crystal vase of flowers on the small side table in the foyer next to the kitchen doorway. "A place for everything, and everything in its place." That's what my mother-in-law always used to tell me, and now, after so many years of hearing her voice in my head with every decision I make, it's impossible to remove it.

Any day now, Brian will come home, and the last six months will have just been a horrible nightmare. I will no longer have to worry about how I'm going to pay the bills, or how I'm going to keep pretending that everything is fine without losing my sanity, or spend another sleepless night wondering how I got to this point. I've managed to fool people this long by telling them Brian has been extremely busy traveling for work, instead of telling them the mortifying truth. I can do it a little bit longer. Things can't possibly get any worse. I have reached rock bottom and there's nowhere to go but up.

Taking a step back and smiling at the bouquet of blue hibiscus flowers I picked this morning, which are now in the middle of the table instead of off-center, I then take a few steps toward the kitchen when the doorbell rings.

Smoothing my palms against the side of my head to make sure I don't have a hair out of place, I walk to the door and open it with a smile on my face. The smile threatens to falter when I see who is standing on my front stoop.

"Yo," the stunning, redhead divorcee who moved onto Fairytale Lane seven months ago greets me with a nod of her head.

I still have no idea how her application was approved to move onto this street. It was processed when I was busy chairing a gala at the local zoo and I'm still not happy the homeowner's association let it go through without my final say.

"Pardon me?" I reply, my smile still firmly in place even though I want to slam the door in her face.

A lady never slams the door on a guest. Even if that guest is well-endowed and wearing a tight tank top showing off entirely too much of those endowments and, as rumor has it, only moved onto Fairytale Lane to snag herself a new husband to pay for a new ... endowment lift and injections to her already plump red lips.

"I said yo. It's a greeting. Sort of like hello, or what's up, asshole. But that last one is just for friends, and we're not friends, so I figured yo was the safest bet," she says with a shrug.

"Can I help you with something?" I ask, wanting to end this conversation quickly, before any of the neighbors see this ... person on my doorstep.

"Glad you asked, Cindy!" she chirps happily, sticking her hand down the front of her shirt and pulling a folded piece of paper out of her cleavage before holding it out to me.

I grimace, taking a step back from the paper she's thrusting toward me, refusing to touch something that has been burrowed down in between the assets she has on display for God and the entire neighborhood to see.

"My name is Cynthia, not Cindy," I inform her, still refusing to take the paper from her hands.

"Whatever," she mutters with a roll of her eyes, not unlike Anastasia moments ago. "And my name is Ariel, not homewrecker or redheaded harlot. I know all you busybodies on this street have nothing better to do with your time than gossip about me ever since I moved in, and this is just going to add fuel to the fire, but I don't give a shit."

I wince at her crass language, and my eyes widen in shock when she moves closer to me in the doorway, unfolding the paper in her hands as she gets right up into my personal space.

I have no choice but to grab on to the paper when she rudely smacks it against my chest.

"What in the world ... ," I mumble in a shocked voice, pulling the paper away from my chest as I stare at the woman standing in front of me.

"That's a doctor bill, Cindy. Tell that lying, scum-sucking piece of donkey dick you call a husband he owes me two hundred and forty-five dollars for the test, seventy-five dollars for the prescription, and if he can contort his body enough, I'd really like him to go fuck himself," Ariel announces, letting out a huge sigh as she backs away from me, turns her face up to the sky, closes her eyes, and smiles. "Wow, that felt good. Better than I thought it would. I've been burning incense for a week, did three juice cleanses, and attended seven hot yoga classes, and nothing felt better than getting that off my chest. Thanks, Cindy. You're a peach."

With that, Ariel turns and starts walking down the steps, leaving me in the doorway with my mouth dropped open, wondering what in the devil just happened.

Shaking myself out of my stupor, I race out of the doorway and down the steps after her.

"Excuse me! Could you please explain to me what exactly you're talking about and what my husband has to do with this?" I shout after her, my feet stuttering to a stop when I see a woman walking down the sidewalk glance in our direction. The beep of a car being locked forces my gaze away from her, noticing a man I've never seen in this neighborhood before. He's standing in the middle of the street next to a black truck with his key fob in his hand, staring right at me. His piercing blue eyes make goosebumps break out on my arms, and I almost forget why I'm standing in the middle of my front yard until I notice a smirk on his face. That smirk is what stops me from appreciating anything about the dimple I can see in his cheek, or how nicely he can fill out a pair of black slacks and a white button-down.

I can't believe I just shouted across my front lawn like an unrefined woman with no manners.

Turning my head away from the rude man who still continues looking across the street at me, I push him out of my thoughts before I start doing the math on how long it's been since a man looked at me like that — slightly amused and wondering what I might look like without my clothes on. Giving the woman walking by, who I don't recognize, a shaky wave and a smile as she drops her head back down to the book she's holding in her hands, I continue moving again until I catch up with Ariel.

"Pardon me, but could you please tell me what's going on?" I ask again, this time in a hushed voice.

Ariel finally stops walking and turns around to face me, pointing at the now-crumpled paper still clutched in my hand.

"It's all there on the bill, Cindy. Tell Brian thanks for the herpes. I guess what happens on Fairytale Lane doesn't always stay on Fairytale Lane. Am I right, or am I right?" she laughs, giving me a light punch on the arm.

My body sways to the side and little sparkles of light creep into the edge of my vision. The last thing I see before I crumple to the ground in my front yard are a bunch of weeds right at Ariel's feet that I know I'll never be able to afford to get removed. As the blackness takes over, I mentally add find a job and pay for herpes to my to-do list, realizing that THIS must truly be rock bottom.

CHAPTER 2

I Tripped and Fell on His Penis

"Maybe she had a brain aneurysm. Wait, no. Don't people die from those?"

"Ruptured brain aneurysms are only fatal in forty percent of cases. But I don't think it was an aneurysm. Her breathing is fine, and her heartbeat is regular."

The muffled sound of voices I don't recognize penetrates my ears and I realize I must have left the television on when I went to bed. I try to shut the noise out and go back to sleep, but it's no use. They just won't quiet down.

"You're like a walking encyclopedia. Tell me another random fact."

"The average woman uses her height in lipstick every five years."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "At the Stroke of Midnight"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tara Sivec.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Prologue,
Chapter 1: Find a Job and Pay for Herpes,
Chapter 2: I Tripped and Fell on His Penis,
Chapter 3: Life Sucks. Men Really Suck.,
Chapter 4: Your Stick Is Showing Again, Asshole,
Chapter 5: Take It Off!,
Chapter 6: It's Time to Get My Hands Dirty,
Chapter 7: A Prude, a Mouth, and a Librarian Walk into a Strip Club ...,
Chapter 8: Forget About Dicks, I'm Switching to Chicks,
Chapter 9: Hanson Sucks!,
Chapter 10: Stripper Glitter Boobs,
Chapter 11: Clone-a-Willy,
Chapter 12: Does Your Wife Know Where You Are Tonight?,
Chapter 13: Just Sit There and Look Pretty,
Chapter 14: Chlamydia Eye,
Chapter 15: Hairy Troll Vagina,
Chapter 16: I Think We Broke Princess Barbie,
Chapter 17: Nipple Nut Clusters,
Chapter 18: Pablo Jessabelle,
Chapter 19: The Naughty Princess Club,
Chapter 20: Tit Sweat,
Chapter 21: Jazz Hands,
Chapter 22: I Want to Lick Your Balls,
Chapter 23: Make Momma Some Money!,
Chapter 24: Golden Shower Man,
Chapter 25: Don't Make an Ass of Yourself,
Chapter 26: Speaking of Sex . . .,
Chapter 27: Human Ficus Tree,
Chapter 28: I More Than Like You,
Chapter 29: Mexican Drug Lords,
Chapter 30: Drunk Princess,
Chapter 31: They're Called Tits, Brian,
Chapter 32: Prince Charming,
About the Author,
Copyright Page,

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