The crows murder, p.23
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.23
 

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  “Ready?” Wesley asked me as I joined the guys in the foyer of our opulent house. They were all smartly dressed in dark suits, but I was too far gone to appreciate the image they cut.

  I gave him a nod and followed them out to the backyard for Caleb to portal us to wherever the funeral was being held. It dimly occurred to me I didn’t even know what country our home was in. Then again... I no longer cared. I’d be gone soon enough.

  The six of us congregated together in a circle, ready for Caleb to do his thing, and someone took my hand. Glancing down, I saw inked fingers gripping mine, and as the whoosh of magic flared around us, Austin squeezed my hand tightly, then released as we appeared on the grass outside a depressing-looking chapel.

  “This isn’t right,” I muttered, staring up at the stained glass angel above the open doors. “Lucy would have hated to have her funeral in a church. She was a scientist; she wanted to be cryogenically frozen, not prayed over.”

  “It’s what her parents wanted,” Vali told me, nudging the small of my back to coax me into motion, instead of standing there like one of the stone angels in the graveyard.

  Heaving a sigh, I dragged my reluctant ass up the steps toward where I could see people taking their seats inside. “Makes sense, I guess,” I sighed. “Her adoptive parents are lovely people and yes, very religious. I’m still shocked they never changed Lucy’s name.”

  “Lucifer?” Caleb smiled. “They couldn’t have. It suited her too much.”

  “It did,” I agreed, making my way down the aisle but pulling up short when a five-foot-tall, weeping woman threw herself into my arms and sobbed into my chest.

  “Kit,” she wailed, clutching me tight and leaving me no option but to pat her awkwardly on the back while she babbled totally incomprehensible words into my dress. A few feet behind her, Lucy’s adoptive father, Jerry, stood watching us and looking just totally lost.

  He and Valda had been older when they’d taken Lucy on, and she’d really only ever spent holidays with them since starting boarding school with me, but they loved her like she was their own child. They’d been the best parents any foster kid could have hoped for, and I knew this would be devastating them.

  Yet I couldn’t force myself to try and comfort Valda as she sobbed on me. I couldn’t summon up those empty words or platitudes that I knew she needed to hear so badly.

  Thankfully, one of the guys sensed my dilemma and carefully peeled her off me to offer a box of tissues. Free, I took a few more shaking steps toward the front of the chapel. Toward the coffin, which sat there in the center of the open space surrounded by flowers and with its lid propped open.

  “I don’t think I can do this,” I whispered to myself, my fists clenched so tight that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see blood on my palms.

  “You can, Vixen,” Cole murmured in my ear. “I know you can. You’re stronger than you think.”

  My lips pursed, and I bit back my angry retort that he didn’t know what he was talking about. I wasn’t strong, I was just... lucky. Or unlucky, depending how you looked at it. Somehow I kept escaping with my life, while those around me suffered.

  But right here, at my best friend’s funeral, I owed it to her to at least say goodbye.

  Shaking Cole’s hand off my arm, I quickly closed the space between me and Lucy’s casket before I could change my mind again.

  She looked so peaceful lying there. Like she was just asleep. The funeral home had done a good job of arranging her short hair to cover the evidence of her head wounds, and Valda had picked out a long-sleeved floral dress that Lucy would have made fake vomiting noises over had anyone suggested she wear it in life.

  “Lucifer,” I whispered softly enough that no one without supernatural hearing could hear me. “You look ridiculous, babe. And in a church as well. I’m amazed your body made it inside without bursting into flames.” I paused, biting my lip. “Then again, there’s nothing of you left in there, is there?”

  Reaching out a trembling hand, I lightly touched her cheek.

  “I’m going to miss you so damn much, girl. I hope you know that. I hope you know how much I fucking love you. And I promise you, I will get vengeance for your death. That bitch will pay for what she did to you, I swear it.” One last time, because I couldn’t help myself, I sent another pulse of my magic into her body, and when it returned to me, I imagined a small piece stayed with her. So a little bit of my essence would always be with my sister.

  Sniffing hard and swallowing the heavy lump in my throat, I leaned down and kissed her forehead before turning and halfway running back out of the chapel. I’d said my goodbyes, and that was all I could handle.

  As I came to a gasping stop some fifty yards into the graveyard, a gentle hand rested on my back, and I cringed away from it.

  “Go back inside,” I told him, wrapping my arms around myself and staring into the distance. “I just want to be alone for a bit.”

  “I’ll leave you alone,” Vali murmured in a soft voice. “But I won’t leave you. I’ll go over to that bench and wait until you’re ready.”

  He didn’t linger to try and force a hug on me or demand I talk about my feelings; he just walked away and went to sit on the park bench at the top of the grassy hill overlooking the site where Lucy would be interred.

  For a while I stayed where I was, kneeling on the wet grass and trying to pull myself together. I’d cried enough in past few days, and that wasn’t productive. Lucy didn’t need my tears and self-pity; she needed justice.

  Wiping my face on the hem of my dress, I slowly picked my way between headstones up to where Vali sat waiting for me.

  We sat there together, not speaking until the sounds of singing could be heard from the chapel, and I knew the service was almost over.

  “That wasn’t what she would have wanted,” I said finally, looking towards the house of God where my best friend was being prayed over.

  “I know,” he replied. “So does Elena. But it was important to Valda and Jerry, and she didn’t have the heart to tell them no. After all, funerals are for the living, not the dead, are they not?” I said nothing, and he let that thought hang in the air for a moment. “Did you say goodbye?” I gave a tight nod, not trusting my voice. “Well, then that’s all that matters.”

  He reached down, taking my hand in his and linking our fingers together between us.

  One of the best things about Vali and Cole, they didn’t waste words. I’d never met two people more comfortable with silence before, but it calmed me. Especially in a time like this.

  “I can’t let this go,” I finally said, my voice hardening with resolve as weeping guests began pouring out of the chapel, following my other four guardians as they carried Lucy’s casket across the grass to her final resting place.

  “We never thought you would,” Vali responded simply. Below us, the people who had come to mourn Lucy gathered around the hole, which had already been dug out of the ground in preparation. My guys placed her coffin down on the pulley system that would slowly lower her corpse into the ground and stepped back.

  Vaguely I recognized a few of the people in attendance, standing there clutching flowers and getting ready to throw them on top of her casket. Kids from school, teachers, residents of Cascade Falls... Mostly though, they seemed to be Valda and Jerry’s friends, there to show their support for the older couple who had just lost their daughter.

  It was the striking brunette stalking towards us that held my attention, though. Her hair was perfectly pinned into place, exactly the way it had been when I’d first met her, and her black dress was cut in a severe line across the neck.

  “Elena,” Vali greeted her when she approached, and I stood to greet her with dread pooling in my stomach. It was my fault her girlfriend was dead. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

  Instead of the polite kiss that she gave her brother, when she turned to me, it was a sharp slap across the face that she delivered.

  Her slap took me by surprise and my
head snapped to the side. I raised a hand to my stinging cheek even as she jabbed a finger in my face.

  “Elena!” Vali roared, grabbing her hand to prevent another slap, even though I doubted she was going to try it again. She was grieving, not stupid.

  “This is your fault,” she hissed at me, her words vibrating with fury and grief. “She is dead because of you. Will you never get tired of bringing so much death and destruction to those who love you? Who will be next, huh? My brothers?”

  “Elena, you are way out of line,” Vali growled in a menacing way, but she ignored him. Instead she just glared at me with poison and hate in her eyes.

  I said nothing in my own defense. What the hell was there to say? She had just perfectly echoed the thoughts that had run through my mind only seconds earlier.

  “Elena,” Vali tried to redirect her ire again, “she didn’t—”

  “She didn’t what?” Elena whirled on her older brother, her mouth twisted in an ugly scowl and her words dripping with scorn. “She sure as shit didn’t keep Lucy safe. Nor did she come for her when that psychopath had us locked in a cage for close to two weeks. And yet Lucy never stopped defending you. Right up to her last moment, she was defending her precious, beleaguered Kit.” She sneered at me in disgust. “You’ve done nothing to deserve that sort of loyalty from her, and then she died for you. I hope her face haunts you for your eternal life, you piece of shit.” She spat at my feet, then turned on her heel and stalked back down the hill to where a dark-haired man was just arriving in a blacked-out town car.

  When Elena spotted him, her pace increased to a run, and she launched herself, sobbing, into his arms. Over her head, Finn met my eyes with pain in his own, and I looked away.

  “Regina,” Vali said, trying to take my hand once more, but I jerked out of his grip.

  “No, she’s right. You know it, too.” I tucked my hands under my arms, hugging my body tight and steeling myself for what needed to be done. I’d saved Simon and Lucy over and over again when we’d been at the orphanage. I’d saved them from Mr. Gray and all the other sick psychos. So that what? My mother could torture Lucy and kill her. So that Simon could butcher my friends and murder the one real father I’d ever had. Yeah, I’d saved them, and look what happened. My kind of saving wasn’t really a blessing, was it? “Lucy’s death is on me. As is Jonathan’s, and River...” I sucked a deep breath, remembering the midnight black, fire-eyed beast he had become. A hell-hound, according to the supernatural bible. Or that was as close as Wesley could work out based on the sketchy details given within those pages. “Elena is right. I can’t keep putting you all at risk. It isn’t fair.”

  “Regina, what are you saying? We’re bonded for all eternity. We’re in this together whether you like it or not.” There was a stubbornness to his voice, but it was underscored with pain. He knew what I was saying; he just didn’t want to make it so easy.

  “That doesn’t mean you have to become collateral damage in my mother’s war,” I told him firmly. “I promised Lucy I would get revenge for what that bitch did to her, but I have no intention of losing any more of you along the way.” As I said the words aloud, I sensed my resolve hardening and my magic responding. Since breaking the bracelet off, it had been different... more sentient. And now it was angry. Furious. Blood-thirsty.

  All I needed to do was embrace it.

  “Kit,” Vali said, this time with a little more urgency to his voice. It was too late to talk me out of my plan, though. I was already opening myself to that dark, violent magic, feeling it fill my body and then flood my soul.

  There would be no turning back from this. Not until Bridget was dead.

  “Regina, love. Your eyes have turned black. What’s happening to you? Talk to me, please.” Vali sounded panicked. For the first time ever, fear echoed in his voice, his posture—even his eyes. That terror wasn’t anything I wanted to hear again, and that made it all so much easier to walk away. I couldn’t be the cause of my men’s loss of self.

  Across the graveyard, the massive black form of River’s beast stepped out of the shadows of a tree, and I met his glowing, red eyes without hesitation. He was here for me, and on some level, I’d been waiting for him. River would never abandon me, no matter what darkness consumed either of us. He would help me in my quest, and when it was done... we would either be saved or damned.

  Either way, my remaining loved ones would be safer, and Lucy would get her vengeance.

  I blocked out the sounds of Vali’s protests, using my magic to keep him from following as I strode across the grass to where River waited. The last thing I saw before my hand touched his obsidian fur was my five remaining guardians running toward me, trying to stop me... from what? It didn’t matter.

  The second my fingers touched fur, we were gone.

  To be continued in The Alpha’s Pack...

  About the Author

  Hello! I’m Tate, or TJ, or Goldie 2. I write books about people who do things, meet other people, things happen and stuff gets said. I am a wine and coffee addict who swears too much and thinks of sarcasm as the highest form of wit.

  For more rambling, contact me directly via my website!

  www.tatejamesauthor.com

  Or join my readers group on Facebook!

  www.facebook.com/groups/tatejames.thefoxhole

  Ps. Thank you so much for buying/reading The Crow’s Murder. If you made it this far, it’d mean the world if you left a review on amazon!

  Also by Tate James

  Kit Davenport Series

  #1 The Vixen’s Lead

  #2 The Dragon’s Wing

  #3 The Tiger’s Ambush

  #4 The Viper’s Nest

  #5 The Crow’s Murder

  #6 The Alpha’s Pack (2018)

  Once Upon A Harem (multi author series)

  Trials of Deception (September 25th 2018)

  Standalone Contemporary

  Slopes of Sin (November 2018)

  Co-Authored by Tate James and C.M. Stunich

  Hijinks Harem

  #1 Elements of Mischief

  #2 Elements of Ruin

  #3 Elements of Desire

  The Wild Hunt Motorcycle Club

  #1 Dark Glitter

  #2 Cruel Glamour (2018)

  #3 Torn Gossamer (2018)

  Foxfire Burning

  #1 The Nine

  #2 The Tail Game (TBD)

  Turn page for Chapter One of Trials of Deception…

  TRIALS OF DECEPTION

  By Tate James

  Three trials. Three weeks. Three Royal Princes.

  It should have been an easy task for a skilled mercenary like Rybet Waise. Simply break into the royal palace, and rescue her friend from the executioner's block. But when Rybet accidentally qualifies for the Trials, she finds herself with little choice but to see them through.

  A thin veil of etiquette, elegance and glamour hides the true nature of the Trials. Behind closed doors, they are brutal and bloody, and to fail means to forfeit her life.

  Thrust into the limelight and forced to compete with the Kingdom's elite sweethearts, unlikely allies emerge, and bonds are formed. But someone will stop at nothing to see her fail.

  After all, she's nothing but a dirty Pond-dweller.

  Rybet will do whatever it takes to survive until the Golden Ball, Princes be damned.

  Trials Of Deception

  Chapter One

  “That one,” I whispered to the grubby faced boy beside me. “You see? The one with the beer gut? He's half asleep, an easy mark.”

  We stared across the crowd to the cluster of guards following the smartly dressed Royal Steward as he went door to door through the richest part of Lakehaven—capital city of Teich—delivering invitations to the most eligible women in the kingdom.

  “Are you sure now is the best time to be doing this?” my companion asked with a tremor in his voice. “Surely with the Trials about to start, everyone will be on high alert?”

  I rolled my eyes and tu
rned to glare at him. “That's exactly why now is the best time. Look at them all, acting like it's Frogs’ Feast or something. Trust me, Flick, they aren't focusing on two unassuming kids who have wandered too far from The Pond.”

  My charge, Flick, screwed up his dirty nose as he inspected me. “You're not exactly a kid, Rybet. If those guards caught you, you'd be tried as an adult now that you're eighteen.”

  I gave him a bitter smile and chuckled. “So would you, kid. The royals don't give a shit about us dwellers. We've seen loads of Pond kids hung for bullshit crimes, and well younger than eighteen, too.” He blanched white under his freckles and I cuffed him around the head. “So don't get caught okay? Master Bloodeye and I have invested far too much time and money into you to see you hang now.”

  If anything, this only made him look more like he was going to vomit, and I sighed heavily.

  “Look,” I offered. “Do you want me to go first and show you how easy it is?”

  He nodded frantically, his dirty blond hair flopping in his eyes and making him need to push it away again so he could see me. “What will you take from him?”

  Turning my attention back to the guards following the steward, I considered what they were carrying that might make a target both easy enough to take without being caught, and hard enough that Flick could prove he was ready to go out alone.

  Our boss, Master Bloodeye, was no amateur. He took in orphans of The Pond, gave them a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their bellies. In exchange, we stole for him and contributed to making him the unofficial ruler of The Pond.

 
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