Last of the Ravens
Last of the Ravens
Linda Winstead Jones
A last chance for love?Bren is unique: the last of the raven-kind. He long ago accepted there was no future – no wife or children – for him. But when he sees the petite blonde woman entering the only other cabin on his mountain, something stirs inside him. Miranda speaks with ghosts, helping those in need of solace.The last thing she expects is to meet a man who speaks to something deep inside her. But her joy is touched with danger – an organisation wants to free the world of freaks like Bren and Miranda. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that he is the last of his kind…
She was the one…
As soon as his flesh touched hers, Bren felt as if an electric current had been set loose within him.
No wonder he had been so strongly called to her. No wonder the very sight of her damn near made him crazy.
Miranda Lynch was the only woman in this world he could bond with, the only woman in existence who could save him from being the last of his kind. He’d thought this special woman his mother had always told him would come one day was a myth, and yet here she was, standing before him with her hand in his.
There was no place in this world for the Korbinians, not any more. Their time had passed. Logically he could dismiss Miranda Lynch; rationally he knew what she promised would never work. But a primitive instinct he could not deny now accepted this woman as his, and he wanted her so sharply that he could think of nothing else.
Last of the Ravens
Linda Winstead Jones
LINDA WINSTEAD JONES is a New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty romance books in several subgenres – historical, fairy tale, paranormal and, of course, romantic suspense. She’s won a Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence twice. She is also a three-time RITA® Award finalist and (writing as Linda Fallon) winner of the 2004 RITA® Award for paranormal romance.
Linda lives in north Alabama with her husband of thirty-four years. She can be reached via www.eHarlequin.com or her own website, www.lindawinsteadjones.com.
Available in September 2010 from Mills & Boon® Nocturne™
Moon Kissed by Michele Hauf
Last of the Ravens by Linda Winstead Jones
Touch of Surrender by Rhyannon Byrd
With thanks to all my Heart of Dixie friends for the
laughter, the support and the camaraderie.
My life would not be the same without plotluck,
retreats and squeees.
“Don’t you trust me?” Jessica asked.
“Behind the wheel of a car? Never.”
Miranda gripped the padded handle of the passenger door and held her breath as the car took a sharp curve too fast. The rolling north Georgia mountains were brilliant green with the coming of summer, and the rock formation just beyond the passenger window sped by much too close for safety or comfort. Miranda didn’t say anything about Jessica’s driving—she’d given up that futile task years ago—and still her older sister laughed at her reaction.
The setting sun dipped lower on the horizon, coloring the sky pink and yellow and orange on this beautiful April evening. Flowering plants on either side of the road screamed of life that fought to survive in an unfriendly environment, while hearty evergreens on the hills above seemed ancient and indestructible. Soon it would be dark, but this fleeting moment was breathtakingly beautiful.
Miranda’s design degree had been newly awarded. She and Jessica—her only family—had plans for a new and exciting interior design business in Atlanta, and even if they did have terrible luck with men—the Lynch love curse, Jessica called it—Miranda knew she should be happy. She should be content. This was a good time in her life.
But an inexplicable discontent gnawed at her, the way it sometimes did. For the past few days she’d occasionally caught herself holding her breath for no reason at all, and now and then she got the oddest feeling that someone was watching her. She’d even turned around a couple of times, thinking she’d catch someone spying on her. Not that anyone had reason to spy on an ordinary girl like her!
Miranda had had good instincts since she’d been a little girl, and she’d learned to trust her first impressions when it came to the people she met. Her initial reaction to a person was usually strong and unmistakable; at first sight, she liked or disliked those she met. On the few occasions she’d ignored those instincts she’d later regretted it.
There was something beyond ordinary instincts within her, something she tried very hard to dismiss. Jessica knew about her little sister’s uncanny intuition, but not even she knew about the other little oddity.
On rare occasions Miranda got butterflies and chills and knots, as well as a peculiar feeling that all was not well when outwardly it appeared that everything was fine. It had been years since she’d suffered a deep sensation of unidentifiable discontent like the one she was experiencing now; a week after that last troubling incident, her seemingly perfectly healthy mother had passed away suddenly, her kind heart failing without warning.
This time it was just nerves making her feel odd, Miranda told herself. Graduation. A new business. Life! Her future was bright, and nothing would get in the way of her plans.
Jessica took a corner too fast and again Miranda instinctively tightened her grip on the armrest. The bright lights of the truck that had crept into the wrong lane blinded her, much as the sun had not so long ago. The sisters barely had time to scream.
Bren awoke with a start. Something was wrong. Not just a little wrong, but very wrong. Disastrously wrong. In spite of the intense sensation of doom, the fire crackled in the fireplace, and the television played on at a low volume. All was as he’d left it in this half-finished mountaintop house he called home.
It had been a tiring day, as usual, and he’d fallen asleep on the couch shortly after grabbing a bite to eat. He was like the cobbler who had no shoes; he spent all day building vacation and retirement houses for other people, and he never had time to finish his own place. His mountainside house, which was finished and impressive on the outside, was habitable within, but still needed trim, paint, interior doors and a hundred finishing touches that would one day make this a home.
Unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, he jumped off the couch and walked out onto the deck, running his fingers through black hair that was long past due for a trim. A burst of late-evening spring air woke him fully, filled his lungs, made him hungry for something he couldn’t name. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the world had shifted.
The life Bren had made for himself was simple, and to be honest there was little that could happen to shake it. His parents were gone, and he had no one else of importance in his life. No brothers. No cousins. Certainly no wife or children. Brennus Korbinian loved his life, made the best of every day, but he knew full well that he was the last of a dying breed. The time for his kind had passed, long ago. He accepted that fact, had accepted it years ago. What choice did he have but to accept?
In the shadows he stripped off his shirt and glanced beyond the deck, down the steep curve of the mountain. There was nothing to see but the tops of trees—and one structure with an annoying red rooftop. He scowled at the cabin that was situated farther down the mountain, a little ways down the winding road that led to the highway below. Bren had offered the owner twice as much as the place was worth, but the stubborn man refused to sell. Thank goodness the cabin was rarely used. Bren needed privacy; it was all he required of life.
All was dark at the intrusive cabin tonight. No lights shone from the windows, and Bren hadn’t seen a car in the drive as he’d made his way home hours earlier. Even if someone was there, they’d have to have binoculars or a telescope to see anything they shouldn’t.
And still, he wanted that cabin. Once he had it, this entire mountain would be his. Like his father before him, he’d spent years snatching up pieces of property in order to make it so. When he had that plot of land down the hill, the privacy he required would be his, finally and completely.
Bren stripped to his skin, then easily stepped up onto the railing that surrounded the large, deep deck. He glanced down into the vast space beneath, felt the sweep of evening air against his skin, held his breath as deep inside he acknowledged the certainty that yes, something in the world had shifted. He also accepted that he did not know what that something was—and did not need to know. His world was small. Everything he needed was right here.
He dropped, catching air against his bare skin for a moment and then erupting into freedom. If anyone had been watching, they would’ve seen a man one moment and a flock of black birds the next. They would watch as those birds swept down the mountainside, moving in concert, flying as one, until they convinced themselves that they could not have possibly seen what they thought they’d seen.
The last of the ravens flew into the darkness, and in this form, which was as natural to him as human flesh and bone, Bren knew that somewhere in the world all was not as it should be.
But that did not concern him. Not at all. He caught a fierce wind and a cacophony of caws echoed down the mountain he called his own.
Miranda awoke slowly, wondering where she was and how she’d gotten here. What day was it? Where the hell was she? It didn’t take her long to realize that she was in a hospital. The shocking memory of the accident came back to her in a flash. She didn’t remember the collision itself, but she recalled vividly the headlights on the semi that had crossed into the wrong lane, and she remembered screaming.
Miranda’s head snapped to the side. Not a good move. Her head was wrapped in a thick bandage and she had a headache that made her skull pound furiously. Still, she was relieved to see Jessica standing there, untouched, wearing the same pink sweater and jeans she’d been wearing when she’d picked up Miranda.
The bright sunlight shining through the window behind Jessica made her look less than substantial. It had been just after sunset, last Miranda remembered, so the light meant she’d been unconscious all night…
“I love you,” Jessica said, not coming any closer.
She must feel horribly guilty to get so emotional. Jessica didn’t do emotion, not so blatantly. The love was there but it remained unspoken, except in the worst of times. “I love you, too,” Miranda said, and she lifted a hand, motioning with her fingers for her sister to come closer. Jessica didn’t budge; she stayed in the bright sunlight.