Title: Raven Falling
Series: Shadows and Light #1
Author: Misti Murphy
Genre: Paranormal Fiction
Publisher: Misti Murphy
Cover by: Yocla Design
Date Published: 17 July 2014
Raven Mackenzie has a normal life, a great job in finances and a never-ending closet. At the end of a hard day the only thing she wants is to spend time with her best friend Luke, her constant companion since they were teenagers.
Ash is an Angel of Death and for thousands of years he’s been taking souls to the other side. Now he faces his toughest mission. He made a promise to Raven’s father, a promise he intends to keep. He must help Raven survive no matter what the cost. Even if it means taking her into a world he hates.
When Raven meets Ash, her normal life is rocked to its core. No longer a human but an Angel of death, she is given a choice. She must decide between eternal torment and murder.
As Raven’s world crumbles around her, she finds herself torn between the decision she must make, her past, and the future she wants.
Will Raven be able to make the right choice before time runs out?
RAVEN STOOD in the middle of Ash’s living room. It was not what she had expected. The furnishings were sparse, and thick with dust. Nothing about the place spoke of the man in front of her. His intensity, and his impeccable taste, obvious by the clothes he wore should have been noticeable in his belongings. Instead, his house looked like it should be tore down, and the way he fidgeted, shuffling his weight from one foot to the other made her think he wanted to be anywhere but here.
In the kitchen, he put the kettle on to boil and pulled a chipped blue mug from a cupboard, plunking a tea bag into it. “I hope you don’t mind it black.”
The room seemed to grow smaller with every moment she watched him, his agitation rubbing off on her. The air was thick with dust and she coughed, wondering if it would be rude of her to leave so soon. Her gut twisted, now he was not paying any attention to her, she couldn’t shake the feeling something was wrong.
He pushed the mug, the string of the tea bag still hanging down the side, in front of her and she took the warm cup. Sipping her tea, she followed him into the living room, noting the fading yellow paint, and threadbare carpet, full of waxy-edged burn marks. Abandoned, she thought, was the feeling she got from the house.
The night was not turning out the way she had wanted it to. He flung himself down into the armchair and waved for her to sit. She looked at the couch, and hoped her tetanus shots were up-to-date. It sagged heavily in the middle and she was sure she could see the end of one of the springs poking out of the worn upholstery.
She wanted to go back to when the night had promised kissing, when she had been excited to be going home with this good-looking stranger.
Together they sat in silence, the clock ticking quietly in the background. She waited impatiently. The longer she waited the more frustrated she got. Her nerves frayed with how weird the situation was, but she could not bring herself to leave. He had not made a move to speak, or to look in her direction, as if he had forgotten she was there.
He watched her as she shifted in her seat, unable to get comfortable. The hardness of the worn-out couch was causing her butt to go numb. Having sobered up considerably and the warmth of the tea having dissipated, she stood up to leave. There was no point in continuing this night and her bed called in a soft and inviting voice.
His voice sliced through her. “This is more difficult than I thought it would be. I have to tell you something important and I need you to listen.”
“What?” She gaped at him, as she slid back on to the couch. What could he possibly have to say that she needed to hear?
A shiver swept up her spine and she tried, unsuccessfully, to shake it off. She didn’t go home with random guys, no matter how handsome they were, or how good they smelled, and now he wanted to tell her something. Her heart was beating hard with the sense of danger, but she was stubborn too, and she would stay until she knew what she needed to know, whatever it was.
She had trusted him enough to leave the club with him, so she could give him the benefit of the doubt. She jostled her legs as she considered whether she might need to run away. Having run track all through high school, she knew she was fast, and hoped with a head start she would be able to outrun his long legs. She stared at the door for a moment and then gave him her full attention, not wanting him to realize what she was thinking. He rubbed his hands through his glossy black hair, making it look even more styled than it already was.
“I don’t know how to start this…,” he said, looking around the room, at anything but her. “I’m just going to have to tell you and hope you will not be too difficult to persuade.”
She didn’t know if he was trying to frighten her, but every word added to the uncertainty of the situation, and had her struggling to keep her eyes from the door. She wished for the second time that night she had chosen to wear ballet flats instead of heels. She was slowly deciding heels were not a girl’s best friend.
He sat forward, knotting his fingers under his chin and resting his elbows on his knees, looking her over as if she were an exotic specimen under a magnifying glass. “I don’t want to scare you, but I can’t see how I am going to tell you this without you freaking out.”
“Just tell me!”
“I’ve been sent to…mentor you through your testing.”
She had no idea what he was talking about, but he was right, she was freaking out. His eyes told her he was worried about her reaction, but his words were having that exact effect. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I have no choice… You have no choice. I was sent to watch you until… It’s time Raven. You are one of the chosen, one of ours and now it’s time.”
What the hell was happening? She felt like she was on the verge of a breakdown. Somewhere between dancing with Tarra, and now, her mind had simply vanished. She needed the full story, and she was no longer willing to wait to hear it.
However, he continued to circle his point.
“Your father was my friend. I promised him that when it was time, I would be there to help you.”
She did not understand why he would bring her father into it. He could not possibly have known her father, Sam. He had died fifteen years ago, and she had never seen Ash before tonight.
She had at first glance assumed he was not much older than she was, and on second glance she would not place his age over thirty-five. Even if he did have a full nine years on her, she didn’t really think he would have been the type of person her father would have known.
She stood up, her hands automatically going to her hips. It was a stance that had gotten her through many difficult situations. “Whatever you are trying to tell me, you need to tell me now. I am two seconds away from walking out the door.”
“Right.” He stood too, towering above her, causing her to step back. “Let me get straight to the point then. It is my job to know who you are, to protect you, and to help you survive. Your father was an amazing man. He was a very gentle man but he had a hard job, one that I am afraid you will inherit in a very short time, and I promised him I would prepare you for it. Your father was an angel. He and I, we are of the same line. We are Takers of Souls.”
“Takers of Souls?” The concept was familiar and she searched her memory. “Angels of Death? Shouldn’t there be only one?”
She couldn’t begin to process his far-fetched story, but the fact he thought he was an angel of death scuttled her nerves. She could see it in his eyes, in the way he talked that he truly believed what he was telling her. Oh, God, was she going to die tonight?
What if he was stuck in his own fantasy world? How could he know enough about her to get her here, alone, in such a dangerous situation? Could he have been watching her, following her and had she simply not noticed? She tried to remember if she had seen him before, but she knew she would have remembered him. Anyone who saw him would have to notice him.
Her legs jiggled with adrenaline. Despite wanting to run, she felt compelled to listen to him, to stay and hear him out.
Every word he said sounded like the truth. It was only her brain, which kept her from believing, from falling under his spell. Her brain was a logical thing and would require proof. Something she was sure he would be unable to provide. She glanced at the door for the millionth time.
“Your father is dying, Raven, and even though he fell many years ago, his role has not been replaced. When he passes, that role will be yours. You are being called to serve.”
“Wait! What do you mean my father is dying?” Raven could not believe what she was hearing. Her father had died. She had been at his funeral; it was the last time she had gotten to say good-bye to the man who had meant so much to her.
She could still remember that day clearly. She had held her mother’s hand as they entered the church. Inside she could hear the voices of the many people who had come to say good-bye to her father. His coffin had been at the front of the room, and they had had to walk past the rows of pews to where her father’s body rested. Her mother had been broken as they stood beside the coffin saying their final good-byes; she had squeezed her mother’s hand, holding on as she watched her mother’s tears trailing silently down the woman’s cheeks.
She had wanted to comfort her mother, but didn’t know how to reach out to the woman who had shut down completely on hearing the news of her beloved husband’s death. They had stood silently hand in hand for a long time, staring at the man laid out in a black suit.
She had wondered why her father had been in a suit, and not in his customary uniform of denim and a T-shirt. It was the only time she could remember seeing him in a suit and it had looked so wrong on him. His skin had been pale, tinged blue and his eyes closed, and she hoped that he was only sleeping, although she knew, that he would never wake up. She had leaned closer and whispered to him, “Don’t leave me, Daddy.”
The tears had flowed freely then, dashing a mad race down her cheeks, as her mother pulled her quickly to the front pew where they sat silently side-by-side for the rest of the funeral. She hadn’t gone to the cemetery, although she had wanted to. Her mother had sent her home to prepare for the visitors that would arrive shortly after they lowered her father into the ground.
“My father died a long time ago,” she said.
“No. He didn’t.” His voice was quiet, and sliced through her like steel. Raven stopped and turned.
“Yes…” He had her questioning herself. “… he did.”
“Your father is an angel. Angels are immortal beings, and as such, he cannot die. However, to hide himself and you from us, he has had to siphon off his immortality, now he is getting weak and they will find both of you.” He was coming toward her, his hands moving rapidly as he talked.
“Them? Do you mean God?”
“No! I mean them!” He hissed, rolling his eyes heavenwards. “The Shadows. God is for humans—those that don’t know any better.”
“So my father is not dead?”
“You’re lying. Why are you lying to me?” she snapped and took a step toward him, her hands balled in fists at her sides.
She did not want to believe him anymore than she wanted to go through the pain of losing her father a second time, adding to it the misery of finding out he had abandoned her all those years ago.
“Unfortunately, Raven, that’s not your choice to make. You are required for service. It’s time to face your past and your future.” He was stalking her across the room and she took another step back, the back of her knees hitting against the coffee table. There was nowhere for her to go.
“Why? Why should I?” She did not know why she kept having this conversation with him.
“Because you are the only heir your father had. As our leader, he must be replaced by his own bloodline, and when he dies that role will be assigned to you. You don’t get a choice in whether you accept it, only whether you survive it.”
Character Name: Raven Mackenzie
Description – 5’5” black hair, gray eyes
Origins – Half Human, Half Angel of Death
The one who has to choose.
She was always the normal girl with the normal life, but when she finds out she is an Angel of Death she has to make a choice. Become a killer or suffer eternal torment. She thinks she’s weak, but her strength lies in her love of others. She’s destined to do great things if she can just make the right decision.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
At the moment I would say that indecision is by far my worst quality. My best quality is probably that I would do anything for anybody. I have a hard time saying no.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
I wish others knew what was going on with me. I can’t tell anybody about having to decide whether to murder someone or spend eternity in hell. My friends can tell that something is going on and I have to pretend like everything is fine, and it’s not.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
I’d say my biggest secret is that I’m an Angel of Death. It was such a big secret it came as quite a shock to me, when Ash finally told me. But I guess that really isn’t a secret is it?
I mean Ash knows, and the Shadows, and my father who apparently is still alive, but my friends, the people who I have spent every day with for the last fifteen years have no idea.
What are you most afraid of?
I’m afraid of dying, but more than that I’m afraid of taking someone else’s life. I don’t know how I’m going to make this decision. Either I’m a selfish horrible person or I’m a murderer. How do you choose when neither answer is right?
What do you want more than anything?
I want to be normal. I want to go back to before I found out I was an Angel of Death. Before I found out I had to make a choice between life and death. I want to go out with my friends and drink copious amounts of coffee and buy shoes. Shoe therapy would be so great right now.
What is your relationship status?
I’m single. I’ve dated some over the years but most of my time was spent with Luke. He’s my best friend and even though it hasn’t been anything more it’s enough. I don’t, I haven’t had time for a boyfriend but maybe that will change. There’s something about Ash that draws me. He’s magnetic. If he was interested in me, then maybe I wouldn’t stay single even if only for the little time I have before I have to decide my destiny.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
I wouldn’t say I’m fashionable, but I do love to shop. I own way too many shoes.
How much of a rebel are you?
Rebel? Me? I don’t think I’m a rebel. I have trouble in saying no to people all the time. I wish I could be a rebel. Maybe then I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Or maybe I would but I’d be able to make a stand and find my way out of it.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I don’t think I have a greatest achievement. Life is just life after all. We take each day and live it, more often than not like the day before it. Maybe my greatest achievement is that I have lived.
What is your idea of happiness?
I think happiness is being human, being with friends and finding the joy in the ordinary moments.
What is your current state of mind?
A little scattered. I may be going crazy. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry most of the time. My life just seems so surreal. I guess anyone would feel the way I do if they were in my shoes.
What is your most treasured possession?
Photos. The photos I have of my father, and of Luke and Tarra who are the most important people in my life. I like to look back over the years and remember the moments that meant the most to me.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Outwardly, I think it’s my eyes. They are a slate shade of gray. Up until recently I couldn’t remember anyone having gray eyes like mine, except for my father.
What is it that you most dislike?
I don’t like peas. I really don’t. Those little green balls are just yuck, and up until recently that would have been my answer but now I dislike the Shadows more than anything. I hate them, and how they are destroying my life, and everyone else’s.
Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t despise anyone. Sometimes I get cranky at the guy who makes my morning coffee on my way to work when he doesn’t get my order right. Does that count?
What is your greatest regret?
My greatest regret is that I will have to leave my friends without an explanation. I regret that Luke will never truly understand what happened, and that he will have to go through the rest of his life without me, or at least without the me he knows.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
I like strong men, but only when that strength is coupled with compassion.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
I appreciate women who are self-reliant. They are smart enough to live life without relying on a man but know how to appreciate a good man when he’s in her life.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Hmmm, I used to read these books when I was a child. I think they were Nancy Drew books where this girl used to solve the mystery and somehow get herself out of whatever trouble came her way. I wish I could get myself out of trouble like that.
Who do you most admire?
Ash. It would have to be Ash. Everything he does is because he cares about humanity. He doesn’t see it anymore. That he’s the most compassionate person you could meet. He thinks he’s a monster. He only sees the bad that comes from his actions but he does it still.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would change my heart. I’d make it harder, stronger. So that it wouldn’t be so hard to be who I have to be when the time comes for me to make my decision.
What is your motto?
I think it’s ‘This too shall pass’ since everything eventually ends, even the bad stuff. Doesn’t it?
Misti Murphy has lived in a fantasy world most of her life. She is away with the faeries, the angels, vampires, shifters and dragons.
Misti writes to give voice to her imaginary friends, who want a real life on paper, where they can be free to be themselves.
When she's not writing, she is almost always reading anything she can get her hands on. She reads word like they are chocolate, and must be devoured in one sitting.
She can often be found multi-tasking effortlessly while reading a book and spending time with her husband, four children and two dogs.
She loves chocolate as much as she loves reading, and enjoys baking desserts that result in diabetic comas. In her downtime she procaffinates with friends and stalks Facebook.