Cursed forever as a Raven, Tremain can only be human on the days and nights of the full moon. Charged with protecting Maili, he realizes she has gone missing.

Linnea discovers her best friend’s apartment ransacked and a guy holding a severed head. Before she can get an explanation, something slips from the shadows stabbing Tremain, poisoning him.

To save Tremain, she must use her budding magickal powers and get him to his Raven brethren. Will she get him there in time? Will Tremain overcome his curse and save Maili? Or will he be cursed to an even worse hell?

 

Excerpt from "A Conspiracy of Ravens"

Midnight eyes detected a shapely form skipping down the dark alley. Her simple white dress lifted high enough to give any interested male a peek at what she was hiding. Tumbling brown hair framed an oval face with delicate features and cupid lips. Gray eyes marked her appearance as something from another world. Those eyes gazed at him as she climbed the concrete steps at the back of the theater leading to a door which read "Cast Only." Her hand went to the door, but she stopped as if she sensed something stirring in the alleyway with her like she knew there was something, or someone, watching her.

A raven had perched across the street from the Wang Theater along the perimeter of the tallest building, giving him a good view if anything materialized in the passageway below him. He was so used to his duty he had mastered the art of becoming a statue, appearing as if he were a gargoyle atop the structure. As the girl turned, she looked up and met his onyx eyes. He croaked and blinked as he heard the woman's voice in his mind.

"Tell Mother I'm perfectly well. I don't need any of her accursed Warriors watching over me. Go do your duty somewhere else."

Frustrated, he stretched his wings and fluffed his feathers before answering her. He was not happy keeping an eye on his charge. She was not happy having a caretaker. "Maili, you know I can't do that. I'm in enough trouble with your mother as it is. I am only doing what I'm told."

Tremain heard and felt Maili sigh. The vibration shivered his feathers. His ward could shatter glass as she could shatter men's hearts with the timbre of her voice. The metal of the door handle creaked under her grip. She might have seemed mortal, but she possessed some of the attributes of her mother's side. Her mother was Betha, Banshee Queen, and the one who doled out the assignments for him and his cursed brethren. It was his punishment for eternity.

Just as Maili loosened her grip on the door and grunted in annoyance at having a feathered bodyguard, he crooned in aggravation. He longed to feel the cool metal of the handle under his touch. The Druid's gaze traveled skyward. In two days, the moon would be full. It was another affliction of his duty. He was bound to his feathered body for most of the month until the three days of the full moon and on High Holidays, the days when the seasons changed and the those of the Ancient Religion festivals. All in all, he walked among humanity only forty-five days out of three hundred sixty-five. Besides those few blessed days, he was bound to be a raven soaring the skies with his twelve other brothers righting the wrongs of mankind, unless he was assigned to guard over someone. Many of his brothers were protectors of various magickal creatures or humans. Some did not know it.

"I don't want to get you in trouble, Tremain, but I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. Mother has to stop worrying about me. Fly away, birdie, so I can get ready for the show. I don't need your prying eyes on me all the time."

Don't shoot the messenger. Tremain groaned. If he went back with that message for Maili's mother he would find himself turned into a frog or something worse. He was on his last feather of tolerance with the queen. She had ordered him to keep an eye on her daughter since Maili was now attracting attention in the mortal world. Betha wanted to be sure her flesh and blood would not be harmed in any way or would not provide a hint to the real world there was another one walking behind it, veiled in shadows and reflections. Only a few humans sensed it. Those were the ones he and his brethren watched out for and defended if need be. Those were the ones who were linked to this world and the next. Because they were special, they needed unusual guardians. He had been assigned the chore of being caretaker for Maili after a dark sorcerer, who had wanted the witch's magic and family spells, had killed his last charge.

Tremain had done as he was supposed to do. However, he could not take human form to rescue the fallen witch since the moon was only a sliver. He had cried out into the night for the queen's guards, but it was too late. Betha had blamed him, giving him a new assignment to protect her daughter. If anything went wrong, he would find his immortal soul in the depths of hell, like a fallen angel, suffering for eternity. Then his curse would seem like a blessing. The raven clapped his beak together in irritation. The queen didn't know he was already in hell. If she did, Betha didn't care.

A small breeze stirred the dust on the street. The scent of rain and rotten Chinese food tainted the Boston air. The subway rumbled the building under his talons. Inside the theater, the orchestra was warming up for their performance. Pigeons were on a ledge below him, cooing at the people walking by, hoping for breadcrumbs or a delectable donut. Cars honked as pedestrians claimed the right of way and the lights turned green at the wrong time. Life vibrated all around him. A life he had not been part of for centuries. A tingle started in his tail feathers and spidered its way up his spine. He sensed something in the gloom.

His eyes narrowed, scouring the darkness of the alleyway. The raven willed his vision to shift so he could peer between the worlds and look into the Gray, to see if anyone was hiding, but saw no one. Something was amiss even though no shadow was out of place. The door slammed shut, jarring him back to the present. When he looked back, he saw Maili in the arms of her mortal lover, Jason. Her boy toy played the part of the Scarecrow opposite Maili's Dorothy in the little production at the Wang. He hissed at the sight.

Love was futile.

It broke hearts and tore apart souls. Tremain knew that firsthand. He had suffered through it centuries ago when his beloved had killed herself and he had been blamed for her demise. He ruffled his feathers as he pushed his mind away from Beatrice. Lingering in the past did no good, and he was not ready to have his ass kicked by the queen's guards. Smiling to himself, he jumped off the building and let his feathers catch the updraft. For a frozen moment, he hung in the air like a captured shadow. This was the only thing he cherished about his situation. The sense of freedom he had when he flew. Nothing could touch him. The ability to soar above the land, the people, the problems humans caused gave him the one slice of enjoyment he had in his long, drawn out eternity.

The draft stopped, and he started to drop. He brought his wings close to his body to build speed. Aiming for the surfer wannabe, he extended his claws as the nest of blond hair called to him. Uttering a shrill scream, the boy looked up and covered his face with his hands to protect his plastic-surgery good looks. Tremain laughed, which came out as a cackle. He loved messing with mortals. He curbed his talons at the last moment, barely grazing the boy's arms. Nothing to worry about. However, as he settled on the dumpster across the way, Maili shot him a look. If it were her decision, he would be lunch for the queen's demonic hounds and stuffing for a pillow. He did nothing, but started preening his blue-black feathers and then looked at her innocently.

"It's not my fault your boyfriend is an idiot. He's only using you to further his career. Have a great romp with him. Fuck him till his balls shrivel up, and then drop him. He does not love you," Tremain remarked.

"And what do you know of love?"

His gaze hardened as did his thoughts. "I know enough to avoid it. It's not worth wrapping your heart around someone to have it crushed. In the end, it's better to have an empty heart, because if you don't, you'll find yourself wishing you had. Toss him aside, girlie."

Maili ignored his remarks and consoled her distraught lover, who was frantically checking his face for any blemish. The two finally entered the theater to get ready for the show. Tremain had heard her boyfriend croon as badly as a sick cat in his role. Whatever his charge saw in Jason, he did not know. Finally, the druid decided to resume his perch on the building across the street. Once he settled against the concrete exterior, he became a gargoyle once again, blending in with the darkness. His coal eyes searched the night, looking for the disturbance he had sensed earlier, but he found nothing save the growing smog-covered moon and the humans walking the street below.

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