Authors: J.L. Weil
A Raven Novel
by J.L. Weil
All rights reserved.
First Edition 2015
Kindle Edition, License Notes
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then return it to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblances to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Also by J.L. Weil
THE DIVISA SERIES
Losing Emma: A Divisa novella
Breaking Emma: A Divisa novella
For my hubby.
Other books by J
It only took one heartbeat to change my whole life. One chilling phone call in the middle of the night.
The screams. I’ll never forget that bloodcurdling sound. It echoed in my head, like a train horn in an underground tunnel, bouncing from one wall to the other. It wasn’t until TJ wrapped me in a hug that I realized those screams of pain and sorrow were mine.
On more nights than not, my own screams haunted my dreams. I’d lost count of the number of times I’d woken up in a dead panic, icy cold and clammy. All because my mom had been murdered.
It was gut-wrenching.
Mom had been my best friend, my world, and when she had been shot at point blank in what the cops had said was a robbery on West Twenty-Fourth Street, my world crumbled. Hearing the words “Sorry, honey, your mom is dead” from a complete stranger made the air stall in my lungs.
Chinatown had been one of my mom’s favorite places in Chicago, mostly for the food. Carrying an order of sweet and sour chicken and beef lo mein, she had been on her way home that Friday night, walking down the same street we’d walked countless times, only five blocks from our little condo. Five measly blocks—that was all that had stood between my mom and her life.
There were perks to living in the city. Public transportation. Museums. Shopping. Virtually everything you needed was at your fingertips. But then again, there were huge sacrifices.
I learned that the hard way.
Grief came in waves, choppy and fierce, breaking the heart. It was time I swam, before I simply sunk, the waves devouring my soul.
The ferry rocked over the crystal blue waves, splashing and spraying the salty water up the sides of the big white boat. My stomach rolled with the waves, and I could feel my face turn an unflattering shade of green, like split pea soup. Gross. The sea and I, we didn’t mesh. But who did I have to impress? The captain? Hardly.
Impressing anyone was the furthest thing from my mind. My current problems were monumental. Before my father announced that TJ and I would be “taking a trip,” I had gotten my nose pierced at a less-than-reputable establishment. That got me tons of brownie points with the pops—not. He had looked me over with sad brown eyes and a scruffy face, shook his head, and then went back into his painting cave, shutting out the world—including me. No sweat off my back, because that was how I preferred it lately.
The less we saw of each other, the better.
I guess he felt the same.
And here I was, miles and miles away from Chicago with the wind in my face, on my way to what I considered my summer of doom. I was sure plenty of seventeen-year-old girls would probably kill for the chance to spend their summer vacation on an island off the New England coast. Maybe even have a summer fling.
I wasn’t like most girls—not by a long shot. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was that made me different. I just knew, like I knew my favorite color was purple or my favorite food was Chinese.
Sighing, I stared into the clear blue, watching the fish jump in the wake left behind by the boat, and immediately I missed my cramped, dusty apartment in Chicago. I missed my best friend, Parker. And most of all, I missed my mom’s vibrant presence, the smell of her perfume, and her laugh. A sound I would never hear again, no matter how much I willed it. The hurt was still an open wound, so much so that tears stung my eyes.
“You got a bug in your eye, Piper?” my younger brother TJ sneered, seeing my eyes well up.
There were only two years separating us, but most days it felt like twenty. He made my life a living hell. What else were little brothers good for? I screwed up my face as I stared up at him. It still burned my butt that he had surpassed me in height this year. I hated having to crane my neck to look at him. “It’s the wind, snotnose.”
He snorted, his messy, sandy hair blowing in the wind. “If you say so.”
Using the back of my free hand, I wiped my eyes. We both knew it wasn’t the salty air that was bothering me. It was everything.
The loss of our mom.
Being shipped off to a grandma we’d never met.
Constantly feeling pissed off at the world.
The list went on and on.
This was going to be our first summer without
, and I didn’t think any of us had a clue how to move on, least of all Dad.
Hence, here I was, on my way to the remote island of Raven Hallow, courtesy of my grandma, a woman I barely remembered. Grandma Rose was Mom’s mother, and let it be noted that she was a filthy rich. Money meant nothing to me, especially since I spent most of my life without it, and I had been happy—before. My whole life, Rose had been nothing but a check in the mail during holidays and birthdays. Big whoopee. Not precisely a doting grandma. If it wasn’t for that photo Mom framed on the wall, I wouldn’t know what the woman looked like.
She looked like Mom.
And that depressed me.
After the…umm…accident, as I liked to refer to it, Rose had finally been able to break my father down and convince him that we should stay with her, at least for the summer.
Ugh. What a horrible idea. Strip us away from everything we’d ever known, our friends, our home, and our lives. I didn’t think it took much convincing, honestly. I was a constant reminder that Dad had lost the love of his life.
Grandma moneybags thought that it would be best for TJ and me to get away, to start fresh from the painful memories of losing our mom.
That was utter BS in my book.
But what did I know? I was just a kid. Yet, it was me these last months that had taken care of everything. Hell, without me, we would have starved. We would have had no clean clothes. The bills wouldn’t have been paid. And someone had to make sure TJ
went to school. But I didn’t get a say in
wanted to spend my summer?
Dad was an utter mess, and who could blame him? The man had lost his wife. My parents had been very much in love, but since her
, he had become unreasonable. So I gave up. Newsflash. He wasn’t the only one suffering here. It was possible that TJ and I might have pushed him over the edge. We hadn’t exactly been model children the last few months—TJ with his dicey choice in friends—me with my pierced nose and late weekends at the clubs. But I couldn’t help feeling like he was checking out of life, too. So what if he didn’t make much money or any money for that matter? Struggling artists weren’t exactly making it rain dollar bills, no matter how talented, unless they were selling.
And he hadn’t sold a single piece since that night.
But what right did he have giving up on us? Sending us to a complete stranger, how was that going to fix anything? I would probably come back from this summer more damaged than ever, because that was what I was—damaged.
It was the summer before my senior year. Not that long ago, I had dreams of going away to college. Now I only dreamt about Mom.
How was I going to survive on an island that didn’t even have a mall for God’s sake? TJ tried to put on the tough guy act, but his room was next to mine, and the walls in our old apartment were thin. Hearing his cries at night broke my heart, although I would take that secret with me to the grave. The less ammunition I gave TJ to use against me, the better we got along.
This was the first time in forever that TJ and I had both agreed on something. Neither of us wanted to be here—uprooted.
The ferry skipped over the choppy waters, hitting a killer wave that caused me to lose my balance. I stumbled against the side of the boat, my hair falling into my face.
. I was dying to get off this hunk-a-junk, afraid I might embarrass myself and hurl over the side.
TJ would never let me live that down.
That was when I saw it. Through the misty fog rising from the waters, a shadow emerged. Raven Hallow. The sight was bittersweet. My combat boots were ready to touch solid ground, but the knot in my stomach wanted me to hop on the next plane back to the Windy City.
“Thank God. We’re almost there,” I whispered, ignoring my belly’s internal turmoil.
“That’s where we are going?” TJ said in outrage, his brown eyes narrowing. “What a crap-hole.”
Off to the right, you could see the beginning outlines of homes, a lighthouse, and civilization. My hand gripped the edge of the railing. “Yup.” And truthfully, there was nothing crappy about it. The outline of the island was breathtaking.
TJ shoved his hands into his pockets. “This sucks.”
Did it ever.
He pulled out his phone. “We better get cell service, or I am taking the next boat back to the mainland.”
I might just be right behind him. “Tell me about it.”
“I don’t understand why Dad didn’t come with us.” He rehashed the same question we had bounced off each other for days.
I shrugged. “He said he needed to figure stuff out.”
A fire started in his irises. “That’s such a cop-out, and you know it.”
I did. It was code for I-need-to-find-a-way-to-keep-us-from-being-homeless. “I know.” I sighed, leaning my face on my hands. “Let’s get to the jeep. I think we are about to dock.”
“Aye-aye, Captain Bossy-pants,” he said mockingly.
I socked him in the arm. “Knock it off. You might be taller than me, but I will still kick your ass.”
A small smile tugged at his lips. “Dream on.”
We found my jeep Cherokee right where we had left it, lined with the other cars crossing the ocean. Josie had seen better days. The red paint was chipping, and there were rust spots growing on the lower frame. Climbing behind the wheel, I was glad for a little shade. Another five minutes under this scorching sun and I would be well-done.
TJ slammed his door as he got in the passenger seat beside me. The hinge didn’t latch. It was notorious for being a stickler. The door squeaked, swinging back open. He swore under his breath and gave it a harder jerk. My whole car rocked back and forth.
“Hey. Not so rough. Josie needs a sensitive touch,” I reminded him for like the umpteenth time and petted the dash. “Don’t you, girl?”
TJ shook his head. “You need serious help, Pipe. Talking to cars is not normal.”
“Neither is your face, but I still tolerate you.”
He made a stupid expression at me. “Funny.”
This was how our conversations usually went.
We waited for the ferry to be anchored at the dock. Water sloshed from all sides, and the large boat swayed from side to side. When the captain finally gave the signal, a blow horn, I started up the engine. It turned over a few times before purring like a kitten. Well, a really sad, deranged kitten.
“This car is such a piece of crap. I hope no one sees me.” He slunk lower in the seat.
I rolled my eyes. “You don’t know anyone, and at least I can drive.”
Grabbing a baseball cap from the backseat, he pulled it down lower over his eyes. “Doesn’t mean you’re good at it.”
And here we go.
I dropped my sunglasses over my eyes and shifted Josie into drive. The moment my two front tires touched ground, an electric shock rippled through my body. I shuttered.
What was that?
It felt like I’d been struck by lightning, charged with a bolt of energy. The sensation lessened as I kept my foot on the gas.
We rode in silence, each caught up in our own mixed-up feelings. Piled in the back seat of the truck and every available nook and cranny was my whole life. I took in the new sights as we drove along the road. It was really beautiful, more so than I wanted to admit. TJ was pretending to be uninterested, but I caught him a few times glancing up under the brim of his Cubs cap.
As we rounded the last bend, the only thing I felt was dread.
I stopped Josie in front of a driveway with two white columns on either side. One of the pillars had the numbers 1-1-8-5. There had to be a mistake. This couldn’t possibly be her house. Digging through the cup holder, I pulled out a wrinkled sheet of paper, skimming for the address. There it was: 1-1-8-5.
The engine idled as I sat there gaping. I might have swallowed a fly or two.
This was the house, correction, mansion I was going to spend the next three months in? Someone pinch me—hard. I didn’t know whether to ask which room needed to be cleaned first, or do an embarrassing happy dance in the middle of the road.
I opted to sit there like a nincompoop with my mouth hanging open catching flies.
“Fuck me,” TJ said, doing some eyeballing of his own.
“Language,” I scolded.
“This place is seriously sick,” he added as any fifteen-year-old boy would.
I’d never seen a house like this before, only on
. It was a pristine white that shone against the sparkling ocean. Three brick chimneys jutted from different levels of the charcoal roof. There were so many porches and balconies I lost count. The yard was immaculately manicured, and a glitzy, lipstick-red sports car was parked out front. It was nauseatingly expensive. I was afraid to breathe in fear of setting off the security alarm.
“Pipe,” TJ said, grinning. “This is the first time I’ve seen you at a loss for words.”
“Whatever,” I replied sarcastically, clamping my mouth shut.
Together we climbed out of Josie, standing side by side, and ogling the oversized palace. I’d never felt so unsure and out of place. This wasn’t me. We looked like a pair of misfits washed ashore. Fretful, I shifted my feet and glanced down at my tattered black jeggings and white tank top. Oh boy. Granny was in for the shock of her life.
I hope she didn’t croak at the sight of us.
Wouldn’t that be our luck?
“Nervous?” TJ asked.
I bit my lip. Of course I was. Inside, I was a bundle of knots. “Let’s go greet Her Grace,” I joked, and made a mental note to ask if she was in fact royalty or something. I mean, I knew that my mom came from money, but there was a difference between being rich and being billionaires. Swinging one of my black duffle bags over my shoulder, I strolled up to the massive double doors. TJ was right behind, his sneakers scuffling on the concrete.
A woman with long white and silver hair greeted us in a great hall. Circular tile covered the floor, and the woman’s heels clicked as she walked toward us. There was something powerful about the way she carried herself and the tilt of her chin, a billow of emerald fabric flowing behind her, soft and fluid. She oozed importance and something else. Something I couldn’t form into words. I hated that I felt insignificant. This was my grandma—my blood—but a stranger all the same.