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Manfred’s Curse

By Shawn Lane

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

Visit jms-books.com for more information.

Copyright 2017 Shawn Lane

ISBN 9781634864145

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.

WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It may contain sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which might be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

NOTE: This book was previously published by Amber Quill Press.

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Manfred’s Curse

By Shawn Lane

Chapter 1

“A storm is headed to the southland and it promises to be a doozy,” the weather forecaster said from the television.

Conrad Jones snorted. If there was one thing the news programs did it was exaggerate the weather. Storm Watch was written in large letters across the screen.

“Sure, whatever.” He turned the power off and stretched. It had been a tough day at work. The store had been having a sale, which meant constant customers. He wanted nothing more than to soak in a tub of hot water and bubbles. After he had dinner, of course.

He took out the frozen dinner he’d planned to eat and stuck it in the microwave. Looking out his kitchen window, he noticed the rain had started falling.

“Well, at least they got that much right.”

When the microwave beeped, he removed his dinner and sat by himself at the dining room table, trying not to feel too pathetic. It might be a Friday night, but he was tired from working all day. So what if he didn’t go out?

After finishing, he tossed the container in the trash and was about to go upstairs for his bath when he noticed how hard it was raining. Okay, so maybe this was going to be quite the storm after all. The lights flickered and Conrad held his breath, but they stayed on.

Now the rain pounded so loud he could hear it on the roof and the wind had really picked up, too. Biting his lip, he picked up his e-reader and plopped down in his easy chair, deciding maybe the book he was reading would distract him. But when he heard a clap of thunder, he tossed the book on the end table and stood.

Conrad had never before been bothered by storms in his twenty-two years, but something about this particular storm left him increasingly uneasy.

Standing at the front window of his two-story bungalow-style house, Conrad pulled aside the faded yellow curtain, a throw-back to when his gran had owned the house, and tried to see through the slash of heavy rain battering the glass. The trees in the front yard swayed with the severe wind, and in the not too distant sky another loud rumble of thunder caught his ears.

Sinking his teeth into his bottom lip, he let the curtain fall, and turned to glance nervously at his lights. Storms like this just didn’t happen here. This was Southern California where thunder and lightning storms were a rarity and even then not very severe. Not in a beachside city like Ventura.

Conrad moved to the couch and reached for the television remote. Maybe the news could at least give him an idea when the storm might end. Fortunately, he didn’t have anywhere to go so he didn’t need to drive in it or anything. But when he pressed the power button the screen came up white and fuzzy.

“Damn cable,” he muttered.

In the corner of the couch slept his cat, Manfred. The black cat had arrived on his doorstep a few weeks earlier with an injured leg. He’d worn a little metal tag indicating his name but nothing else. Conrad had posted signs in the neighborhood about a lost cat, but no one had come forward to claim him. He supposed Manfred had claimed him since he didn’t seem inclined to leave.

Manfred didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the storm, so perhaps the storm was really nothing to worry about after all. He leaned back against the couch, willing his hammering heart to slow to a normal beat. A bolt of lightning crackled, sounding like it was just outside his house. He jumped at the booming thunder that quickly followed.

“Holy shit!”

The lights went out. Great. Where the hell did he have his flashlights? And why the hell hadn’t he thought of that before the damn lights went out? He waited a moment to allow his eyes to somewhat adjust to the dark and then rose to search. He thought he had one in his kitchen.

Fumbling around for his “everything” drawer, he slid it open and felt for the flashlight. There! But when he thumbed the switch nothing happened.

“Fuck.” He unscrewed it. No batteries. What kind of doofus kept an empty flashlight? The kind who also kept his damn batteries in a cabinet in the garage.

Leaning against the kitchen counter, Conrad prayed, “Please just come back on, please?”

He waited five minutes. Nothing. He should have known. Unfortunately his gran’s house didn’t have an attached garage, but rather it was located back behind the house and to the side a bit. Which meant going out into the storm.

He fumbled his way out to the front hall closet and withdrew his heaviest raincoat and shrugged into it. He’d noticed that the street light outside seemed to be still lit, so obviously the entire block hadn’t lost their electricity. Figured, he’d be so lucky.

Deciding he’d go out the kitchen door to the backyard, he closed the closet and turned just as movement in the front yard caught his eye. There was a small, narrow, uncovered window next to the door. Conrad peeked through the glass but couldn’t make out anything. His imagination probably. The storm just playing tricks on him.

Blowing out a breath, he turned back to leave the hall when he caught the movement again.

“Fuck.” He eyed the closet and opened the door, searching quickly for some sort of weapon. Conrad had no idea what was out there, but he wouldn’t relax until he investigated it. His hand closed around the handle of a tennis racket. He never used the damn thing to play tennis, so he may as well get some use out of it.

Conrad couldn’t help thinking that if he hadn’t broken up with Stewart a couple of months ago, he could have had the big fireman go out to see what it was. At least Stewart had arms built like Paul Bunyan’s. Conrad was a skinny department store clerk. But, really, was having to put up with a cheating, asshole like Stewart for an additional two months’ worth it? Nah.

“You’re stalling, Con,” he told himself, not caring at all that he’d spoken it aloud. Who would care anyway? The only other occupant of the house, Manfred, slept soundly on the couch. “You can do this.”

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