MEGAN, I . . .”Then the lights went out and they were plunged into complete blackness.“Oh!” She clutched at his arm. She had hated darkness since she was a child, when her older sister had filled her head with stories of ghosts and monsters that were coming to get her.“It must be the storm.” Nick’s voice sounded reassuring in the darkness. “It’ll have brought down a line.”“I don’t dare move,” she said. “I I hate the dark.”“Don’t be scared. Hold on to me.” He grasped her hand. “We’ll give it a minute to let our eyes adjust, then I’ll head to the kitchen see if I can find a torch. I think it’s the first door on the right.”Although Megan was still frightened, she found it faintly thrilling to be cocooned in the darkness like this with Nick.A torch beam suddenly framed them and the spell was broken. Footsteps came along the passageway towards them.“Ah, I thought I heard voices.” It was Evelyn. “Let me lead the way we’re digging out some of the old storm lanterns.”Megan blinked, blushed again and moved closer to Evelyn and her precious torchlight.“We were just catching our breath from battling through the wind. It’s awful, isn’t it?” she said, chattering nervously.She didn’t dare look back at Nick, but she could feel him staring after her.As she scurried along the corridor with Evelyn, she was silently scolding herself.“How stupid! What do you think you’re doing? You’re barely out of one relationship you shouldn’t even be thinking about another one!”The trouble was, she was getting to know Nick quite well, and she liked him very much. He was straightforward and honest, kind and friendly. Even looking at him made her blood fizz like champagne. She was pretty sure the feeling was mutual. He sought her out at every opportunity and they got on like a house on fire.“But you thought that about Ryan, too, didn’t you?” the voice in her head said. “And look how that turned out!”How could she trust her feelings when she’d been so terribly wrong before?
The lights had gone out all over the village just as Ted was leaving his house.“Not again,” he muttered, grasping the big hand lamp that he kept in the meter box by his front door. For some reason the village was prone to these blackouts; no-one had ever figured out why. They occurred in all seasons and all weathers, and although the electricity company had investigated umpteen times, they’d never got to the bottom of it.“The wrong kind of wind or rain, or snow,” Ted was fond of joking.But it was no joke on a night like this.He stumbled along to the hall, fighting the storm at every step, and tumbled through the door in time to find Evelyn lighting the half-dozen paraffin lanterns they kept there for just this kind of emergency.“This is all we need,” she muttered.“Should we just go home?” Ted wondered.“The others are all here, so we might as well have our meeting as planned.”The members of the organising committee were clustered in one of the meeting rooms, together with a representative from each of the participating groups. Their faces looked quite spectral by the light of the lamp in the centre of the table. Ted nodded around at the assembly, which included Megan and Nick, who had managed to manoeuvre himself into the seat beside her.“Let’s get started.”But before he could open the meeting formally, Nick raised his hand.“I’m just wondering what we do if this happens on the night of the show, Ted. It’s the second black-out this week, and you know there’ll be more once the weather really sets in.”Ted spread his palms.“The honest answer is that I don’t know, Nick. I’ll contact the electricity board again to get them to investigate, but you know how these things go. Now, let’s hear from each of the groups . . .”By the time the various representatives had provided a brief report of their group’s progress, the lights had come back on and the heating system was warming up the room nicely.“So, any other business?” Ted asked, looking around.Jack Coleman from the bowling club raised a hand.“What kind of ticket price were you thinking of?”“Ticket price?” Ted looked nonplussed. “But we’re not charging!”There was a stunned silence.