Shadow Silence
Part of the Whisper Hollow series:

Shadow Silence by Yasmine Galenorn

Berkley (Mass Market)
Paranormal Romance

Whisper Hollow, where spirits walk among the living, and the lake never gives up her dead...

Fifteen years ago, I ran away from Whisper Hollow, Washington, a small town on Crescent Lake in the Olympic Peninsula. But truth is, if you were born here, you can never really leave. I'm Kerris Fellwater, and I'm a spirit shaman. It's my responsibility to drive the dead back to their graves, because around Whisper Hollow, people-and secrets-don't always stay buried.

My best friend Peggin finds herself under a curse after she is almost taken by the Lady of the Lake. As Bryan-my guardian and mate-and I work to break the hex, we stumble over a dark and violent mystery from the past. One the Hounds of Cú Chulainn will do anything to stop us from bringing to light.

Published:
Excerpt:

Advice for Visitors to Whisper Hollow

1. If you hear someone call your name from the forest, don't answer.
2. Never interrupt Ellia when she's playing to the dead.
3. If you see the Girl in the Window, set your affairs in order.
4. Try not to end up in the hospital.
5. If the Crow Man summons you, follow him.
6. Remember: Sometimes the foul are actually fair.
7. And most important: Don't drive down by the lake at night.

Whisper Hollow:
Where spirits walk among the living,
and the lake never gives up her dead.

THE MORRÍGAN

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The Morrígan, Night Mare Queen and Goddess of Sovereignty, Queen of Shapeshifters and Mother of the Fae, culls the dead from the battlefield and gathers them to her, under the embrace of her feathered cloak. She is mother to the Bean Nighe and the Bean Sidhe, the sirens of the spirit world, who warn of death to come by vision and by song. She is mother to the Crow Man, who haunts the woodlands of the world, surrounded by a murder of crows, carrying her messages to those to whom she would speak. The Crow Man walks before the goddess, announcing her appearance. He speaks through the raven and the crow, and to ignore his summons is to ignore the gods. Do so at your own risk.

But not all dead wish to stay in their shadowed realm, and not all dead understand the reality of their situation. And in some lands, the energy of the Veil is so strong that the dead can walk freely between the worlds. So it was that the Goddess of Crows engendered nine great families-the bloodline passing through the maternal side-of women born to drive the wandering dead back into their graves, to stand between the dead and the living as protectors. The Morrígan's daughters, known as the spirit shamans, are charged with these duties.

To each spirit shaman, a match is born-a shapeshifter by birth. He will be her protector and guardian. They will be forever bound. And to each spirit shaman, a lament singer will arise-a daughter of the Bean Sidhe-who will work with her to complete the triad. Together, they will protect the portals of the world that lead into the realm of Spirit, and keep the dead from flooding the land of the living.

CHAPTER 1

The Cold Moon brought the winds, rushing in off the Strait of Juan de Fuca to whistle through tall fir and cedar and snake through the thick undergrowth, rattling the windows as they surrounded Whisper Hollow. Catching the town up in their icy embrace, they danced through the long December night. Up on Hurricane Ridge, the snow was clouding the Olympics, blanketing the peaks with a thick layer of powder. Down in the shadow of the mountains, the storms were bringing rain and sleet, and perpetual gray clouds that swept through on the atmospheric river.

I adjusted my coat and blew on my fingers, trying to warm them as I inscribed a band of runes in charcoal paste on the headstone. I was sitting on the grave, straddling the freshly mounded earth that covered the pine casket bearing Hudson Jacks's mortal remains. Saturday, he had left this world, dragged down into the lake by the Lady. She was ravenous lately, it seemed, and Hudson had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I inscribed the runes, Ellia played in the background, her violin keening through the night as the wind picked up her notes and tossed them willy-nilly, almost as if the song and storm were doing battle. Her music strengthened my magic, as we bound the dead man to the deep dark of the graveyard. Penelope was waiting in her tomb to take his spirit with her into the Veil, my gruesome Gatekeeper who was terrifying and beautiful. Death's maiden.

To the side, Bryan stood watch. My protector and guardian shifter, he kept on guard for those who sought to disrupt me when I was too far into the magic to protect myself. He was also my lover. Fiercely protective, he crossed his arms as he surveyed the graveyard.

Behind me, the sound of the tomb opening told me Penelope
was ready.

I stood and pointed my dagger at the headstone. Twin serpents coiled around the hilt in silver, and a crow was engraved on the pommel. The sigils on the blade began to glow as I whispered the chant of summoning I had found in my grandmother's journal.

"From the depths of your grave, I summon thee.
From the dark night of your death, I call thee.
From the icy grips of the Lady, I wrest thee.
Hudson Jacks, I command thee, stand forth in my presence."

I shuddered, wondering if I'd ever get used to the weight of the dead pressing in on my shoulders. I could feel them watching through the Veil. Those who still walked this world watched silently from their graves, waiting for their own chance to wander.

A moment later, there was a rush of energy as Hudson shimmered into sight. His form was translucent, and he looked as he had in death. Coiling vines draped around his neck where the Lady had taken him into her arms and dragged him below her icy surface. Hudson had been wandering since his body washed up on the shore, and twice now he had appeared outside his brother's window. The Lady's spirits often turned into Haunts, dangerous and hungry. Ellia and I needed to put him to rest before he became trouble.

I held out my hand to him. I had only been doing this for a little over six weeks, but I was learning fast. He gazed at my fingers, then at me, cocking his head to the side.

"You cannot refuse me. I am Kerris Fellwater, the spirit shaman of Whisper Hollow. I'm a daughter of the Morrígan and you are bound to obey me. Let me lead you to the Veil, where the Gatekeeper awaits." The words themselves were a charm, strengthened by the strains of Ellia's song and the power of the Morrígan.

Hudson paused. If he bolted, we'd have our work cut out for us. But a glimmer of relief appeared in his eyes and he held out his hand, placing it in my own. His fingers were like bees stinging my palm; the energy crackled and snapped, sparking against my skin.

I held fast, ignoring the discomfort and turned, leading him toward the to tomb, where the double doors were open. Ellia fell in behind, still playing as her cloak fluttered in the
wind, and Bryan followed, silently guarding our backs.

Penelope's mausoleum glowed from within, the blood of her chalice lighting the night. As the wind keened like a Bean Sidhe, merging with Ellia's violin to knife through the air, we approached the base of the knoll where Penelope had been laid to rest. Her crypt straddled the line dividing the modern graveyard from the Pest House Cemetery, where more dangerous shadows lurked. Built of cinder block buried deep into the shroud of grass and mounded dirt, the crypt was stained from time and weather.

A plaque affixed to the side of the door glimmered in the light emanating from inside. I knew the words by heart. Here Lieth the Mortal Remains of Penelope Volkov, Guardian of the Veil, Gatekeeper of the Graveyard. Enter and Despair.

As I entered the crypt, the crystal chalice stood on the dais, the crimson liquid within churning like a kaleidoscope. My own blood was in there, along with the blood of other spirit shamans, lament singers, and guardians who had held their posts during Whisper Hollow's history. It was rumored that every Gatekeeper's chalice contained a drop of the Morrígan's blood, as well. This is what kept the glass intact and the liquid within, in a perpetual motion, a glowing, whirling vortex. I dipped one knee in front of the chalice, acknowledging the Gatekeeper.

And there she stood, to one side. Penelope in all her gruesome beauty. Dark veins of black blood trailed out from the raccoon mask that shrouded her eyes. She looked fragile as porcelain, fragile as a picture from long past, ready to dissolve at the first whisper that touched her. Her hair was upswept in a chignon, blond tendrils coiling down to her shoulders.

Penelope towered over me, six feet tall and gaunt in a black dress that fell to her ankles. The dress shimmered with sequins, the sheer material revealing the bones that thrust against her alabaster skin. But jutting out from her body from within, as if she were a voodoo doll turned inside out, were the tips of long nails, surrounded by glistening splotches of dried blood. She looked as though some crazed inner carpenter had gone mad with a nail gun.

She glanced at Hudson's spirit, a hungry look filling her eyes, then back at me. "He reeks of lake water and her scent. We will cleanse him and remove her binding."

"Yes, he was taken by the Lady a few days back. She gave up his body fairly quickly, though. I don't know why." Usually the Lady kept them longer, tying them to her while she fed on their spirits before she loosed them back into Whisper Hollow.

"Perhaps he was not to her taste." Penelope laughed, making me shiver. I had gotten used to her appearance by now, but she still scared the hell out of me. I had no clue as to how extensive her powers were and I wasn't sure I wanted to know. The fact that she was Ellia's older sister didn't help any, either.

I let go of Hudson's hand, and he glanced at me, a fearful light in his eyes.

"Go on, it will be all right." I gave him a gentle nod.

Penelope held out her own hand, and he reached out to touch the nails jutting from her wrists. He glanced up at her-he was not a tall man-and she gave him a soft smile and took hold of his fingers.

"Welcome to the Veil, Hudson Jacks. Take my hand, love, and join my dark kingdom."

It was the same greeting each time, and each time, the spirit would smile dreamily and follow her into the Veil. As I watched, she gave me another nod. I turned and walked out of the crypt to where Ellia and Bryan waited for me. The doors behind us swept shut with a thud, and that was the end of Hudson Jacks.

We returned to his grave, Ellia still playing. I had one last spell to weave before we were done for the night.

I pressed my hand against the charcoal rune stream, and sprinkled Rest Easy powder on his grave. As I stood and circled the grave, deosil-clockwise-with my dagger pointing out, I invoked the charm that would, with all luck, keep Hudson by Penelope's side until he was ready to move on from the Veil to... wherever it was that spirits wandered after they left this world.

"Do not rise. Do not wake. Do not the Veil, now forsake.
Do not whisper. Do not walk. Do not dance and do not talk.
To the Veil, you shall remain, within the Gatekeeper's domain."

As I finished, there was a hush, and then the sound of crows echoed through the graveyard. The charm had taken. The Crow Man was watching.

I turned to Ellia. She switched to a tune that made me weep no matter what mood I was in. I had learned over the past weeks that it was customary for the spirit shaman to weep over the dead, to mourn them even as she drove them to the Veil. It was an honor, my duty to remember them. I knelt, my tears falling on Hudson's grave, as I filled a little jar with graveyard dirt and labeled it. Then we were done. I wiped my eyes and stowed the jar in my bag along with my dagger and other tools. Ellia slowly lowered her violin.

Bryan silently crossed to my side and held out his arms. I leaned into his embrace. Each spirit had a personal story. Each spirit left a legacy and a family behind, even if we never knew what that legacy was. I was the last to bid them farewell as they crossed between the worlds. Sometimes, I would be the only one to ever remember them. Whether beloved, or lost and forlorn, they all faced the spirit shaman last-all over the world, we were often the last mortal the spirits would see before crossing into the Veil.

I rested my head on Bryan's shoulder. He was familiar, he smelled of safety and love and passion. Like me, like Ellia, he was a child of the Morrígan. As he leaned down and pressed his lips to mine, I glanced over his shoulder. The moon had broken through the clouds. She was shimmering against the grass, and as I watched, a murder of crows flew past the silver orb, winging their way toward us and over our heads.

"The Crow Man is walking," I whispered. "Something's going to happen."

As I spoke, the clouds rolled in again, and a hail of rain broke over our heads. As we raced for my car, I glanced back at Penelope's tomb, where a faint light shimmered from the knoll. The crows had landed on the tree over her mausoleum. Yes, something was up, and I had no doubt the Crow Man would make sure I was right in its path.

* * *

Our work done, we sped through the night to Lindsey's Diner, the hot spot for Whisper Hollow residents who wanted a late-night snack. Peggin, my best friend, and her new beau-Dr. Divine-would meet us there. I still wasn't sure what to think of Deev, as he had told us to call him, or D-D as Peggin called him. An artist, he had been drawn to Whisper Hollow like a moth to a flame. The town was like that. If Whisper Hollow wanted you, you would somehow find your way here to stay. If the town didn't like you, it spit you up and out, and if you resisted going, it would feed you to the Lady or one of the other spirit beings that lurked in the shadows.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw Peggin's car. I eased into the spot next to it. As I turned off the ignition and stiffly stepped out of the driver's seat, I glanced down at my jeans. Dried splotches of mud dappled the denim, but at this point I didn't care. I just wanted something to eat, and to catch up with Peggin, who had been swamped at work the past week.

Bryan wrapped his arm around my waist as we headed into the diner. "You okay? You sure you're up for this? We could go home and I could make you something to eat there."

I caught my breath. His touch sparked me off no matter how tired I was, and I flushed just looking at him. He was five eleven, with dark brown eyes that shifted color depending on his moods, and his hair grazed the top of his shoulders, tousled strands the color of wheat. Bryan Tierney looked to be in his thirties, but he was actually over 140 years old-he
was my protector, a wolf-shifter guardian, a son of the Morrígan.

"No, I want to see Peggin. It's been over a week since we last got together."

He laughed. "You two are inseparable. I love that you have her for a best friend."

"She's your friend, too. You know that anybody that has my back is good as gold in her book." I glanced over my shoulder.

Ellia was two steps behind us as she checked her phone for texts. The older woman was over seventy but looked timeless and was as fit as anybody I knew. She was tall, with long silver hair that flowed over her shoulders. She was wearing a pair of linen trousers, a button-down blouse, and the flowing floor-length green cape that she always wore when we went out to tend to the dead.

I pushed through the door as we came to the diner, and the smell of burgers and fries assailed me, making my mouth water. The restaurant was open till two a.m., and Lindsey had remained true to her mother's vision. It was outfitted in retro-fifties style, but updated and clean. The menu had more choices, and they even made specialized dishes for allergy sufferers, but overall, it was still Mary Jane's Diner, under her daughter's name.

I started to look for Peggin but Debra-Su, who worked the night shift as a waitress, pointed me toward the back corner booth. She knew who I was looking for. She handed me three menus after seeing who I was with.

"I'll be there in a moment. They haven't ordered yet." She winked.

"Thanks, Deb." I took the menus and threaded my way through the tables toward the booth.

Peggin heard my voice and was instantly on her feet. My best friend-and the only one I had kept in touch with on my fifteen-year sabbatical from Whisper Hollow-she was a firecracker. At five seven, she was a few inches taller than me, and stacked in all the right places with a plump hourglass figure. Her rich coppery hair was natural, and she was one of those wisecracking brainy women who caught you off guard, flouting the stereotypes. She was about as athletic as my cats, she dressed like a fifties pinup girl, and she carried a gun with which she was a deadeye shot.

"Get your ass over here, chica." She hugged me first, then gave Bryan a quick hug. Ellia, she did not touch. Nobody touched Ellia-it was too dangerous.

As we swung into the other side of the booth, I saw that Dr. Divine was there. He had lived all around the states, he said, but could never seem to remember where. It was as if he had just appeared full-grown on Whisper Hollow's doorstep one day, ready to rock. He turned heads wherever he went, but for him, his appearance was as natural as breathing. Tonight was no exception.

Dr. Divine looked like a steampunk aficionado on steroids. He was probably about five nine, but he wore platform sneakers that sent him past six feet. His top hat was made of purple velvet, encircled by a black leather hatband with an intricate brass clockwork design on the front. Thin black braids dangled down past his ass-there must have been fifty of them.

Deev was pale as moonlight, but I wasn't sure what color his eyes were because he always wore clockwork goggles that looked out of some mad scientist's lair. He was in blue jeans and a button-down denim shirt, over which he wore an ankle-length patchwork duster of denim and velvet and leather and a kaleidoscope of prints.

He also had an open-carry license and strapped what looked like an antique flintlock pistol-a blunderbuss-to his thigh. I asked him once if it really worked. He answered by pulling it out and promptly shooting a can of cola that was sitting on a picnic table. Apparently, he had put the semi-automatic together himself from antique parts and updated it, just like he had made the rest of his outfit.

But there was nothing precious or prima donna about him. He was dead serious about his art. When we first met, I wasn't sure whether he was just odd or scary-crazy. Turns out, a little bit of both. But he was as sane as anybody who lived in Whisper Hollow.

"Hey, Deev," I said, sliding into the booth. Bryan followed, and Ellia swung a chair around from one of the tables to sit at the end. "How goes it?"

Deev cocked his head to the side. Somehow, he always managed to keep his hat on perfectly straight. "Jokney got out today. I still haven't found him."

Bryan cleared his throat and I could tell he was trying not to laugh. Jokney was a sculpture of a doglike creature that Deev had built from shiny chrome scraps, black leather, and some sort of fur that he'd found off an old fur coat from the vintage clothing shop.

At times, Dr. Divine's artwork took on a life of its own and went wandering around the town till he rounded it up and carted it back to his house. This usually didn't present a problem, except when it was some nightmarish vision he'd had. Those, he usually kept locked away against the chance that they, too, might decide to wake up and go out for a little walk.

"Have you tried the dog pound?" Ellia asked, her eyes twinkling. She liked the man, that much I could tell from the very beginning.

"Not yet, but that's on my list for tomorrow if he hasn't come home." He leaned back, wrapping an arm around Peggin's shoulders. At first she was skeptical when Bryan offered to fix them up, but after the first date, they had become an item. They fit. Together they made a startling duo. His crazy met her twisted in a wonderful, weird way.

I leaned back in my seat and opened the menu, staring at the choices. Everything looked so good. I was starving, as I always was after a night in the graveyard.

"You've been chasing down spirits in the graveyard?" Peggin was studying her own menu.

"Yeah, we had to make sure Hudson Jacks didn't go gallivanting around. You know what happens to the ones taken by the Lady. They tend to wander. Usually they become Haunts, or in some cases, the Unliving and right now, we don't need any more of either type around town."

There were five paths of the dead.

My grandma Lila-the spirit shaman of Whisper Hollow before I took over when she died-had drilled me on the lessons from the time I was little.

The Resting Ones were those who had died, but not yet passed through the Veil. They quietly waited for Penelope to come for them and caused no trouble.

The Mournful Ones were more memory than anything else, reliving their deaths time and again as though on a movie screen. They could be disturbing to watch, but usually had no truck with mortals.

Wandering Ones wandered far from their graves, traveling the byways, but they, too, ignored humans for the most part. All three of these were rarely a problem, although I did my best to release them so they wouldn't be caught forever on this side of the Veil.

The dangerous spirits, though, were another matter. Haunts were active troublemakers and liked to make life uncomfortable for human beings. They were the poltergeists and the spirits who could occasionally shove people down staircases.

And then, there were the Unliving. The Unliving returned on a corporeal level, and could cause serious harm. They weren't zombies, not in the movie sense. No, the Unliving were smart and cunning and highly dangerous, especially when rogue. Veronica, the local Queen of the Unliving, kept a tight rein over those she summoned. At some point, I was going to have to visit her lair. All spirit shamans were expected to make some sort of connection with the royalty of the dead.

"Honestly, your night sounds more fun than mine." Peggin made a face. "I've got to move in less than thirty days."

It was my turn to frown. "What's this? Why? I thought you loved your place?"

She shrugged. "I do, but the landlord called me last night. She's going to move back into the house. I have until the end of the month to find a new place to live."

"Aren't you on a lease?"

"No," she said. "Once the initial lease was up, the arrangement fell into a month-to-month agreement and I just forgot about it. My landlord is seventy-two, and up until this week, she seemed to be very happy living with her daughter. But apparently the two had a major tiff-which I heard all about-and that sealed that. No warning, nothing. Just a big bomb dropping." She made a whistling sound, then, "Poooooophhh..."

"What are you going to do?" I knew how hard it could be to find real estate in Whisper Hollow, and I knew Peggin didn't have enough money saved up to buy a house. Her job was secure but she didn't make very much.

She cleared her throat, staring at me over the top of her glasses. "I think I've found a place. I went out looking today and stumbled on a house that would be perfect. I haven't been inside, but I'm going to check it out tomorrow. It's a fixer-upper, but I'm not afraid of a little work."

Deb returned. "Ready to order, folks?"

I handed her my menu. "Double cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake. Also-coffee. Lots of it."

Peggin laughed. "It's almost midnight. But coffee for me, too, and I'll have the grilled cheese with bacon. Chips, pickles, and cherry pie."

"How you two can consume so much caffeine and still sleep at night confounds me," Bryan said. "I'll have chicken strips, fries, and no coffee. A Sprite, please."

Dr. Divine asked for loaded potato skins and a plate of calamari, and Ellia ordered a bowl of chowder and extra rolls.

After the waitress left, I turned back to Peggin. "So, where is this house? I hope you have room for a garden. I know how much you love hydrangeas."

She gave me a long look. "Promise you won't argue?"

That rang an alarm. Peggin wouldn't say something like that unless she knew I wasn't going to approve. "All right, let's hear it. Where is it?"

Peggin glanced at Dr. Divine. He just stared at her silently. "On Fogwhistle Way, across from the pub. It's one of those abandoned houses near the Pier in the Foggy Downs subdivision."

Fucking hell. "You have to be kidding. Are you insane? You can't move there." I leaned across the table, staring at her.

Ellia chimed in. "That's prime territory for the Lady. What on earth prompted you to think of moving there? The subdivision's been abandoned for decades."

Ellia was right. The Foggy Downs subdivision was all but abandoned. Too many people had met with accidents, been lured into the lake by the Lady, or had otherwise fallen into general misfortune of one sort or another. There were about ten houses in the neighborhood-all from around the turn of the twentieth century-and they were right next to the Fogwhistle Pier, which had been abandoned as well, given how many deaths the Lady had engineered from there.

Peggin stared at us. "If you two are done scolding me? Listen, you know as well as I do that there aren't many houses for rent in Whistle Hollow. I can't live in an apartment-I can't stand the idea of being cooped up. And the houses in safer neighborhoods are far too expensive. This house is rent-to-own, and if I fixed it up, I think it would be pretty."

Peggin could be pretty bullheaded when she thought she was being ganged up on, and if we continued to argue with her, it would only make her more determined.

I wanted to reach across the table and knock some sense into her, but since that wasn't an option, I decided to try another route. "Will you at least let me come look at it with you?"

She held my gaze for a moment, then relaxed. "All right. I've got an appointment with the Realtor tomorrow. Come with me if you like. As I said, it has a rent-to-own option and it's in my price range. I've had enough of people yanking my life out from under me. If I can reclaim the house, if there's not a fortune to invest, I'm planning on buying it. I have to go somewhere."

Bryan turned to Deev. "What do you think about this plan? Have you seen the house?"

"I have." Deev regarded him from behind the clockwork goggles. "Peggin's an adult, she can make up her own mind." But he didn't look happy. He glanced at Peggin. "I just want you to be careful. The Lady eats who she will, and she's been hungry lately."

Peggin laughed. "Don't think I'm unaware of that. But I promise you, I won't hang out at the lake. I'm not the sunbathing type, which is probably why I live here and haven't moved away to sunny California." She sobered. "To be honest, I don't know what it is about this house, but I feel... it needs me. And I need a place to call my own."

He gave a quick shake of the head. "I told you, you can always move in with me till you find a safer home."

I blinked. That was a quick offer for him to make, considering how short of a time they had been together. But then again, if I were in her shoes, given the option of having Bryan move into a house next to a monster's lair, or letting him come live with me, I'd pick the latter, too. And Bryan and I had only been together about five or six weeks, though it felt like so much longer.

But Peggin was having none of that. "Thanks, but I need my space. I learned the hard way that I have to make my own way in this world." She ducked her head. "I know you're trying to help, but I..." She paused, looking over at me for support. "You understand."

I let out a slow breath. "Yeah, I do."

And I did. Peggin's childhood had mostly consisted of ridicule for her choice in clothes, for her weight, for her lack of interest in getting married. Her older sister, Lisha, had become a family icon. The "normal" one, she was blond, trophy-wife thin, had gone to college and-after earning a bachelor's degree in art history-had married into a family filled with lawyers and doctors. Peggin, on the other hand, was a size 12, had no interest in joining the upwardly mobile society set, and so her parents told her she could either study law or business in college. Anything else and she'd have to pay for it herself. She had turned them down and found herself a job, saving enough to take an online medical transcription course.

A year after Peggin graduated from high school, Lisha got pregnant, and her parents moved to Seattle so they could see the baby more often. Peggin had stayed behind.

After she earned her certification, she went to work for the hospital. Now, she worked for Corbin Wallace, one of Whisper Hollow's best doctors. She had managed everything on her own. Peggin was used to taking care of herself and if she was wary of anybody offering help, it was because it had always come with strings attached.

Deev seemed to sense her resistance because he gave her a little squeeze and backed off. "Well, if you need a place, you know you've got one. Just keep it in mind in case you don't like the house and can't find something suitable by the end of the month."

I decided to change the subject. Peggin was looking far too tense.

"Agent H caught a mouse today and decided to drop it on my bed for when I woke up." Agent H was one of my Maine Coons. I had three. The other two were girls-Gabrielle, better known as Gabby, and Daphne, named after Daphne du Maurier, one of my favorite authors. They were all huge, basically walking Tribbles on legs.

Peggin snorted. "Sounds like Frith. He likes to bring me garter snakes that get in the house. Folly's too lazy."

"I love your ferrets." Dr. Divine grinned then. He didn't smile often, but when he did, it was a trickster grin, a heady, sensual smile.

Bryan let out a laugh. "Have you ever let your ferrets visit Kerris's cats?" He slid an arm around me as the conversation eased into a comfortable chat and we wound down from the day.

* * *

I was standing in the field near the lake. I recognized that I was dreaming-or rather, that I was out on the astral in my dreams. The field was open with no shrubs or trees except for the knee-length grass that whistled in the wind. As I stood there, my arms stretched to the moon that rode high in the night, the faint cawing of birds echoed through the air.

A murder of crows came winging in, landing around me. The vast flock settled, their blue-black feathers shimmering under the silver moonlight. They formed a circle, with me at the center. And then, I heard it. A slow processional filled the night, accompanied by violins and panpipes and the ever-present bodhrans beating the steady rhythm.

The Crow Man is coming.

I shivered, exposed and vulnerable in the Dream-Time. The ground around me quaked with his footsteps as the giant approached, clouds of blue fire swirling around him. An indigo cloak flared around him, the stars reflecting in its folds as he walked. A fur shawl encircled his shoulders, and atop his head rested a headdress-a giant crow's head with eyes that glowed red, and a piercing beak. His hair was long and black, falling to his shoulders, and his eyes were slits of white fire. In one hand, he carried a wand of silver, with a glowing crystal on top.

I slowly settled to the ground, overwhelmed as I always was by his presence. Each time, his power seemed to have grown stronger, perhaps because I was far more attuned to his Mistress than I had been the first time we met. Or perhaps, he was just opening himself to me. Whatever the case, I just wanted to curl by his feet and stare at his beauty.

He did not speak, but held out his hands. As I looked into his palms, a mist began to rise, coiling like a serpent. It bade me to follow it, and I was flying through the night, the Crow Man by my side. He winked at me, but his smile vanished as we spun through the stars. Then, without a word, we landed again, by the shores of the lake. The Crow Man pointed to the waves and I gazed out over the dark surface of the water.

The winds rose as the flock of crows thundered overhead, shrieking their anger. I glanced back at the water and there she was. Rising from below the surface, a figure cloaked in pale white, dripping with water. She reminded me of a skeleton, clad in a layer of waxen skin. Her hair draped around her shoulders, long strands of seaweed and vines, and her skin was the color of gray mud. Through of hollow sockets, dark as the raging depths of the waters, she looked straight at us and began to laugh as she held out her arms.

"Come to me. I promise you peace of mind. You will find joy in my embrace, and all that you've ever longed for will be yours. Let me give you a taste of my magic." Her voice was as silken as smooth brandy, and my first instinct was to answer her call.

But the Crow Man clasped a hand on my shoulder. "Listen to her song, so you will recognize it when you hear it again. The words may not be there, but the call is always the same."

At that moment, a scream echoed through the clearing.

Peggin!

I whirled, looking for her, but all I could see was the Lady, standing on the water, laughing as she held Peggin in her arms, unconscious. The water churned as the Lady began to slowly sink below the surface, dragging Peggin with her. I began to scream as I wrenched myself out of the Crow Man's grasp and raced forward. Overhead, the crows went winging by, screeching so loud their cries filled the night air, as the Lady and Peggin vanished from sight.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jill Smith on RT Book Reviews wrote:

"Whisper Hollow, Wash. is a very dangerous place to live--which for readers means it makes for truly eerie and thrilling reading! Top talent Galenorn is back with the second book in her UF series set in the small lakeside Washington town. Although the town has been a mystical hub for generations, Galenorn's heroine is still learning the ropes that accompany her new job as a spirit shaman. If you like your UF filled with compelling ensemble casts and plenty of magic, then this is the series for you!"


Playlist

A. J. Roach: Devil May dance
Air: Napalm Love
Al Stewart: Life in Dark Water
Android Lust: Here and Now; Dragonfly
Arcade Fire: Abraham's Daughter
Arch Leaves: Nowhere to Go
AWOLNATION: Sail
Beck: Nausea; Broken Train; Think I'm In Love
Black Angels, The: Young Men Dead; Never/ Ever; Don't Play with Guns; Always Maybe
Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe
Bon Jovi: Wanted Dead or Alive
Boom! Bap! Pow!: Suit
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Celtic Woman: The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun; Newgrange
Clannad: Banba Óir
Crazy Town: Butterfly
Cream: Strange Brew
Damh the Bard: Morrighan; Oak Broom and Meadowsweet; Grimspound; Cloak of Feathers; The Cauldron Born
David Bowie: Fame; Golden Years; Without You
Dire Straits: Down to the Waterline
Dizzi: Dizzi Jig
Donovan: Season of the Witch
Eagles: Witchy Woman
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being (Original Edit)
Fats Domino: I Want to Walk You Home
FC Kahuna: Hayling
Feeling, The: Sewn
Fluke: Absurd
Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks
Garbage: #1 Crush; I Think I'm Paranoid; Queer
Gary Numan: Sleep by Windows; Petals; My Breathing; I Am Dust; Everything Comes Down to This; Love Hurt Bleed;
Gordon Lightfoot: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Gospel Whiskey Runners: Muddy Waters
Hanni El Khatib: Come Alive
Haysi Fantayzee: Shiny, Shiny; John Wayne Is Big Leggy
Heart: White Lightning & Wine; Magic Man
Hollies, The: Long Cool Woman
Jay Price: Number 13; Dark-Hearted Man
Jeannie C. Riley: Harper Valley P.T.A.
Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
Jethro Tull: Old Ghosts; Dun Ringill; Undertow
Johnny Otis: Willy and the Hand Jive
Joy Division: Atmosphere
Julian Cope: Charlotte Anne
Kills, The: Dead Road 7; Sour Cherry; You Don't Own the Road; DNA; Nail in My Coffin; U.R.A. Fever
Lorde: Royals; Yellow Flicker Beat
Low with tomandandy: Half Light
Mark Lanegan: Bleeding Muddy Water; Riding the Nightingale; Mockingbirds; The Gravedigger's Song
Matt Corby: Breathe
Mogwai: Hungry Face; The Huts
Motherdrum: Big Stomp
Nancy Sinatra: The Boots Are Made for Walkin'
Nirvana: All Apologies; Lake of Fire; Come As You Are
Pierces, The: Secret
Rachel Diggs: Hands of Time
Stone Temple Pilots: Atlanta
Sweet Talk Radio: We All Fall Down
Susan Enan: Bring on the Wonder
Syntax: Pride
Tamaryn: While You're Sleeping, I'm Dreaming; Violet's in a Pool
Tom Petty: Mary Jane's Last Dance
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Tuatha Dea: Tuatha De Danaan; Long Black Curl; Wisp of a Thing; Dance of the Tufa
Verve, The: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Voxhaul Broadcast: You Are the Wilderness
Wendy Rule: Let the Wind Blow; Elemental Chant
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

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