It takes one kind of courage to risk dying. It takes another kind of courage to risk living.Set between the first and second books of my award-winning Ravensblood series, Raven's Song finds the reformed dark mage struggling to put together the pieces of a life he had left behind as a bitter young man.
While his lover is away on a case with her job with Guardian International Investigations, one of his colleagues begs Raven for help to track a stalker. Though Raven has been assisting on files Cassandra brings home, he is reluctant to meet up face-to-face with a Guardian. When he finds out that the victim is an opera star he greatly admires, he reluctantly agrees to meet on neutral ground with Davison of GII.
Davison's dislike of dark mages gets the better of him, and he implies that Raven himself could be a suspect on the case. The excerpt picks up after Raven walks out on him in righteous anger.
From Raven's Song:
Raven tried to put the whole unpleasant incident behind him and focus on the Bach piece he had been playing before the flashing message crystal had interrupted.
William had been generous with the rooms he’d provided Raven in his exile, the furnishings, the equipment for the lab where he did his magical experiments. But those were all things that had been ready to hand, or things necessary to the magic. Raven hadn’t been quite bold enough to request something so difficult to obtain and transport and so frivolous as a piano.
He just needed to focus. He was a master mage; focus should be second nature. His fingers stumbled and he winced. Damn. The piece kept taking his mind back to his youth, the age he had been when he first learned it. Who he had been then. Before William. Before the taint of dark magic. Whom he had aspired to be.
Damn. Davison's fault for calling him out, reminding Raven of what Raven would never be. He clenched his teeth as he missed another note. But it was his own fault, too, for letting such a pissant affect him.
He got up, closed the piano. Went for a walk to clear his mind, though the late hour had turned the night air biting. Returned home, went to bed even though he wasn’t particularly tired. Lay awake, missing the warmth of Cassandra beside him. She’d only moved back in six months ago, and yet it had been so easy to become used to her presence once again.
What sleep he finally found was troubled by dreams he mercifully did not remember on waking. But he had a feeling they had had something to do with the room two doors down; the one he never went into. The room that had been his mother’s, the room in which she’d been murdered.
He had slept late, and so it was closer to noon when he opened the arts section of The Oregonian over his tea and toast. As he lifted his cup he saw the message crystal on the mantle flash red.
Damn Davison, anyway. If he refused to go through Alexander (or if Alexander had given him carefully crafted legal hell for attempting to harass his client), he could just leave a message.
But a woman’s crisp Anglan accent came through instead. Sherlock!
Cassandra’s boss. His heart stuttered.
“Cass is fine, before you go into a panic you’d never admit to,” she said briskly. “I need to talk to you about the opera stalker case.”
Only his respect for her kept him from deactivating the crystal right then.
“Davison knows he screwed up,” Sherlock continued. “He didn’t say much about what happened, though I can guess. For what it’s worth, he’s sorry. “Was that the whisper of a sigh? “Listen, I know I don’t have any right to ask. I know you’re not one of my own, though I promise if you ever put in an application I’ll get you past the hiring committee even if I have to resort to blackmail. But please, we need you on this. Not for our sake, but for the woman’s.” Her voice was urgent, bordering on desperate.
He shouldn’t answer. He really shouldn’t answer. He was a private citizen and he had absolutely no responsibility to. . .
He tapped the crystal. “Why is this suddenly such an emergency? From what Davison said, this has been going on for the better part of a year.”
A pause, and he could almost hear her take a deep breath. “Davison didn’t have a chance to tell you this part before you walked out. The last letter from the stalker said that he intended to consummate his love at the stroke of midnight, New Year’s Eve.”
“Oh, gods.” And, damn, he’d just betrayed his concern to Cassandra’s boss. No matter, she couldn’t use it as leverage if he didn’t let her. He had no intention of letting her drag him into this.
“He said they’d either join as the stag and the doe, or as Marcus and Jovanna. Apparently, they are characters from—”
“I know the opera.”
He’d gone to see Il Sacrificio once as a young man. It was the only time he’d ever walked out on an opera. The quality of the production had not been at fault.
“So then you know—”
“That it romanticizes death magic, yes.”
He’d gone to the production on the strength of the performers. He’d heard only a bit about the plot line—something about the ghost of a mage’s dead love following him through his life and aiding him in his darkest hours. The first act showed the two lovers still living, until the final scene of the act where the mage slit his lover’s throat to feed on her death.
The stage blood had pooled realistically under the singer’s body. Raven had bolted.
The libretto that he had looked at later stated that the woman was supposedly a willing sacrifice, but Raven couldn’t accept that, not of even a fictional character in the overly emotional world of opera.
“So you understand our heightened concern,” Sherlock said. And then, when he didn’t answer. “Mr. Ravenscroft?”
“I’m listening.” But his mind was on that door he never opened since returning to this house.
His mother’s blood had been scrubbed from the floor decades ago, and still he saw it every time he entered the room.
“I know you have a conscience, ” Sherlock said. “Or you would never had risked your life as you did, when you spied on William for the Council. And I know that, whatever image you choose to project, you must be a good man, or Cass would not love you. I hate to use your basic decency against you, but we need you on this.”
He sighed. “When and where do you want me to be?”
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