Leaving Noble Island amid scandal and accusation, Raven vows never to return, but when her sister’s fiancé goes missing, Raven has no choice. Shunned by the island, if she is to unravel the mystery of Niklos’s disappearance, she must rely on the only man she’s ever loved, Siyah Cavaler
Siyah was devastated when Raven left Noble Island, but as the clan’s heir apparent, he has a responsibility to keep the families from falling into ruin and crime. To preserve the island’s future, he agrees to a bride from a rival family, but Raven’s return stirs his heart and jeopardizes his position in the council. Giving in to his love for Raven would mean turning his back on all he’s ever known.
When Raven’s investigation uncovers a grisly discovery, a darkness is unleashed that threatens them both.
Bizarre accidents, unexplained deaths, and strange apparitions shroud the island. Raven and Siyah struggle to save the families and their love as they race to stop another death and unveil the Secrets at Crescent Point.
Noble Island - Washington State
Shadows shifted in dark corners along the deserted boardwalk. These black shores, once my home and a place of fear for me as a child, hadn’t lost their strangle-hold on my imagination. Screams from the tragedy I’d witnessed here flashed through my head even after all these years. Low fog swirled around my sneakers, and I shivered with the wet chill of it. Hesitating for a moment, I hopped the wrought iron gate that barred entrance to the carnival grounds and tore my palm on the rusty spires as I dropped down. I barely noticed the pain as my gaze passed over the abandoned rides and rotting wooden booths. The thumping beat in the distance urged me forward.
I should face him before I come to my senses. This is such a bad idea.
Faded red-striped popcorn bags and cotton candy cone handles skittered in the wind and caught on the edges of turnstiles. A low squeak sounded, and I caught sight of the Crescent Point Boardwalk sign overhead. It dangled on rusty hinges and swayed with the unseen push of the night breeze. Long, ebony strands escaped the loose bun atop my head and floated on the wind. I smoothed them with a shaking hand.
In the distance, large arches of the rollercoaster and Ferris wheel loomed out of the dark mist. I waited, straining to remember the sound of excited screams and thumping wheels as the cart sped over warped tracks. The Titan had been a favorite of mine as a teen. I flashed on those days when hysterical laughter tore from me as I sailed, arms raised, at breakneck speed. Days when he was my whole world and nothing could stop us from taking what we wanted.
Farther into the carnival grounds, the milk bottle throw and balloon dart booths came into view, their ripped canvas covers snapped in the wind. I walked slowly, running a palm along the counter. It was pitted with carved names and cigarette burns from generations of visitors. First dates, anniversaries, summer celebrations all happened here.
A steady beat thrummed through the wood beneath my hand and I squinted into the night at the source. There, shrouded in mist, a familiar rectangular building stood butted against a tree line I couldn’t see, but knew from memory. Once a skating rink, the building now thumped with the rhythmic music of a night club. The Black Adder.
I swallowed against the lump in my throat and stood staring at the lights flashing from the building. My fingers found the scar at my elbow, a reminder of a hard childhood, a poor one spent amid the plastic and painted gaiety of this place. I stood still, debating. What if I saw him and everything had changed? Or worse, what if nothing had?
Despite my misgivings, I wasn’t turning back now. Not without answers. A soft flutter overhead pulled my gaze to the sky. Nearly silent wings spread wide across the August moon. An owl soared across my vision, its plaintive cry echoing along the empty carnival road. Dry leaves crunched under foot as I made my way to the side of the nightclub. The music, louder now, trilled through me like a current. Years ago, I used to sneak into the rink with my sister, Sonja, via the basement storeroom door. Feeling along the rough wood hatch, I found the handle and jerked it, freeing it from the latch. It was open.
A puff of machine-generated smoke floated out of the basement opening, lingered next to me like a specter in the moonlight, and then it was gone with a gust. I shivered, gripping the rough handrail on my way down the steps. Overwhelming darkness engulfed me, and I felt my way past rickety shelves and metal canisters to the opposite door, going more on feel than sight.
I pushed through and found myself in the hall. Doors with dark blue signs depicting a silhouetted male on one and a female on the other flanked me. The bathrooms. Up ahead, the entrance to the lounge let off a dark glow. Red lights fell over me as I approached. My heart paced up.
It wasn’t too late to turn and go. No one had seen me yet. Siyah hadn’t seen me yet. Running a nervous hand through my curls, I wished for courage which wouldn’t come.
“Just go, you pansy,” I whispered. “He won’t bite.”
A yellow rivulet of incense smoke curled through the bead curtain hanging in the doorway and fluttered past my nose. Memories hit me with the force of an angry rhino to the gut, erasing five years of absence from him in a moment. Hands shaking, I parted a portion of the beads and walked through the gently clicking cascade.
Red light bathed the space like a darkroom, and I squinted to see. Couples clustered in corners, on couches, and along the damask covered walls of the room. Persian rugs, fine glass, and lush fabrics muffled the music from the dance club above.
Hot air oozed around me as I wandered the dark lounge. Small lamps lit circles of floor here and there. They gave glimpses of people in hushed conversations or mid-kiss. My heart raced, and I half hoped he wouldn’t be here.
“Raven?” Siyah’s low voice hit me, and I froze. Turning, I saw him lounging in a wingback chair in the corner. Lamplight etched out the angles of his muscled arm and shoulder. He tilted his chin up, his brow furrowed. “What are you doing here?”
My gaze flitted to the couples in the room. Their whispered conversations went uninterrupted. No one looked up, pointedly not noticing Siyah’s words. A culture of secrecy, our Romany ways favored discretion above all else. But the news of my being here would spread, especially because of how I’d left.
“Can I talk to you, Siyah?” I took in a steadying breath. “I–it’s important.”
“It must be or you would not have shown up here.” His eyes, the blue of the darkest ocean, held me in their gaze. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or just hiding his surprise at my sudden return. “What brings you back to my island?”
The feel of his arms, warm around me, flashed in my head, and I swallowed against the lump in my throat. I leaned against the cool wall and balled my fists at my sides. I’d thought I was strong enough to come here, but seeing Siyah again threw me into doubt. My new faith wavered inside my heavy heart.
Please help me to do this, Lord.
“I won’t be here long,” I said.
“You look well.” His gaze danced along my body and back up to my face, a sad smile pulling at his lips. “I guess the East Coast suits you, after all.”
“I seem to remember you saying you would never return. You said, if I remember correctly, that ‘I would never lay eyes on you again.’” When I didn’t answer, Siyah clicked his tongue and rose to his feet, his gaze lingering on me. He wore charcoal slacks and a jet black crewneck sweater, so different from the jeans and T-shirts when I knew him, and I wondered what else had changed.
“I–I know what I said, but…” Reaching into my back pocket, I drew out a postcard and handed it to him. From my sister, it was what had sent me back to this island from across the country. “I’m worried about Sonja. There’s something wrong.”
He leaned away, took it, and then held me with his dark gaze. “Because she sent you a card?”
“It’s plain. It’s something you get in the village from a tourist shop.”
“Why are you so worried?” He studied my face.
“I know it doesn’t seem strange to you, but she’s my sister. She writes to me, or did, every week. Pages of what goes on at her job, what the tourists are saying, how my parents are doing. Three weeks ago, she wrote that she had something important to tell me, that she would get away and call me from the village. I never heard from her, and then I get this card with, ‘Please come home, I need you,’ and nothing else.”
“And your parents?”
“My mother wrote that she was ill, that it was nothing and not to worry.” I shrugged. “But I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong.”
“And your father?”
“You know—” My voice broke. “He hasn’t forgiven me. I’ve not heard his voice since I left.”
Siyah glanced at the card, and then leaned against the wall next to me. His gaze wandered the room before finding mine. “I do not know how she is doing, Raven. When you left, our families broke from one another. We don’t speak.”
Guilt poked at my gut. I’d made such a mess and left others to deal with the fallout. Nodding, I took the postcard from him. “I shouldn’t have come here. I’m sorry if you get backlash from my visit. I just thought that with your connections…” I faltered for a moment. “That maybe you’d know what my parents aren’t telling me.”
“There is a lot of”—he hesitated, like he used to do when choosing his words carefully—“unrest in the families. It’s probably nothing.”
Low light held his square jaw in angled shadows. When we were together, a smile from him would make my heart race, but it was the trouble in his gaze that made me pause today. The years had given his eyes a depth not there before, a dark burden. I wondered if he knew how striking he was. His easy laugh and mischievous smile were gone. I knew my leaving here had hurt him, but there seemed to be something more than discomfort at my sudden visit. I wish I could ask what troubled him.
“I shouldn’t have bothered you, Siyah.”
“It was not a bother to see you, Raven,” he said quietly. “I’m glad you are well.”
Formal, cordial, and achingly guarded. What did I expect? Running through a field of flowers towards each other with violins playing in the background?
“I better get going. My mother is sure to hear that I’m on Noble Island, by now. She’ll be hurt if don’t go see her right away.”
He nodded and stood with his arms crossed, gaze on the couple by the door. His quiet stillness unnerved me. So different from what I remembered. I noticed that even conjunctions had sneaked their way into his speech here and there. I watched him quietly.
“I’ll see what I can find out.” Again, his tone was even, and when he looked back at me, an unreadable mask had dropped over his gorgeous features.
“I’ll be at the inn if you need to talk to me…I mean, about my sister. If you want to talk to me about her, I mean.” I cringed. “Not that I’ll only speak to you if it’s about that…” Why was I so nervous? I’d expected anger, but this was worse. This tore my heart out. I knew how to fight with Siyah, how to love him. I didn’t know how to be a polite stranger. I took in a breath, bit my tongue, and let out a slow sigh. “I’ll just go now.”
“I’ll get word to you if I learn anything.”
“It was nice to see you after all this time, Raven.” A familiar warmth crossed his features, but it was gone in an instant. He cleared his throat. “I’ll see if there is talk of this.”
I nodded and slipped away, my head pounding as I headed for the door. Passing the furtive glances of familiar faces as I strode up the stairs towards the club, I tried to keep from letting the whispers bring heat to my face. I burst through to the night, and I breathed in the frigid air with greedy gulps, shaken. “It’s just that you hadn’t seen him in so long,” I said to the empty night. “That’s all this is.”
I left the carnival grounds and trudged along a path that took me through the woods. High branches of the surrounding trees opened up, framing the moon and casting the hovering fog in shifting shadows. Shivering, I thought I heard foot falls in the leaves somewhere to my side and I stopped, listening.
I quickened my pace; a sliver of worry needled its way into my consciousness. Old ghost stories from my youth floated to mind reminding me of the darkness that surrounded this place. A death here had closed the carnival more than seven years ago. The child of a wealthy tourist, whose grisly plunge from the Ferris wheel resulted in the boardwalk’s closing. The shocking tragedy gave birth to legends of haunting and cursed ground. Some even swore to hearing a ghostly scream on certain moonless nights.
I shoved the thoughts away, determined not to let old memories and guilt cloud my judgment. Still, more movement, a scraping close by, came from the depths of the surrounding forest, and I froze. Out of the corner of my eye, a form slipped behind a large trunk obscured by the misty dark.
“I–Is anybody there?” I struggled to find my voice. “E cineva acolo?”
Sudden stillness sent my heart pounding. A flash of white flitted past. A screech echoed through the trees, and I gasped. The owl clicked and banked away; on the hunt like a specter in the sky.
I stood trying to control my breath. The postcard from Sonja cut into my fingers, and I looked at it in the moonlight. My sister’s strange lack of communication and the troubled look in Siyah’s gaze told me that despite what my mother had told me, more than one thing was wrong here on Noble Island.
I could feel it in my bones.