For the Murder
by Gabrielle Ash
(The Murder, #1)
Published by: City Owl Press
Publication date: February 22nd 2022
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
A lone crow is a dead crow.
That’s what Diana Van Doren, exiled crow shifter, has always believed. The last murder of crow shifters known to exist wouldn’t accept her into the flock, leaving her vulnerable. Worse, her kleptomaniacal father’s schemes put them in a demon’s crosshairs. Without the support of the murder, Diana fears death will come all too quickly. So when an opportunity to steal a rare blade that can kill anything—even demons—crosses their path, she decides to play her father’s games one last time.
However, she isn’t the only one hoping to take the blade. Sasha Sokolov, a clairvoyant, has been forced from childhood to serve the very demon hunting Diana and her family. After two decades of service, his boss finally offers him what he can’t refuse: freedom. All he has to do is bring in the knife and the Van Dorens, and his bloodline will be free from serving the demon forever.
When Diana and Sasha meet at the auction, they strike an uneasy alliance. Diana sees a way to finally be welcomed into the murder. Sasha sees an opportunity to get his freedom. To get what they want, only one of them can walk away with the blade. But when their magic inexplicably links as they reluctantly work together to steal the knife, betraying each other for their own ends may no longer be an option.
All crow shifters had the same eyes—dark brown, practically black. Unless the crow was old, anyway. Her father, despite all his mistakes, somehow still lived. His irises, once so dark they looked like caves, were now slate gray.
He leaned forward and propped his elbows on the old desk across from him. “But this knife can kill anything.”
Diana Van Doren narrowed her eyes at her father lounging in a decrepit chair. Charles couldn’t ignore shiny objects, especially expensive ones. But his crippling addiction aside, she didn’t much care to be used in his schemes to acquire them either. “Most knives can.”
“No.” Charles’s chest rose and fell in a steady, quiet wave. His salt-and-pepper hair had been swept back in an arc, which made the collar of his thick coat seem impossibly tall. Charles Van Doren was important, damn it, and everyone around ought to know. “It can kill…anything.”
It took longer than she liked to admit, but when her father’s true meaning sank in, it rendered her immobile.
“You’re joking.” The words left her mouth in a whisper so faint she almost doubted she spoke at all. Had her father actually located something with use beyond lining his pockets? “There’s no way. No such thing exists.”
“It does, and I found it. Forged in the fires of Hell. Very old and very powerful.”
The chill that raked over her arms had nothing to do with the breeze flitting past the broken glass in the window frame and into the room. A knife that could kill any sentient being? If they got a hold of something like that, then all their problems would be solved.
“Where did you find it?” Diana dared ask. The shallow ceiling seemed to creep closer with every breath as the possibilities seeped into the wrinkles of her brain. She could be safe. Finally.
“Dallas,” her mother, Amelia, spoke up from her place on the wall before taking a few strides toward her husband.
Diana had often wondered why her mother tolerated her father all these years, but she supposed Amelia had no choice. Magic made murders. Once a crow shifter was bound to a murder, they were always bound to that murder. Being kicked out of the flock didn’t change that. Her mother had once described the separation from the rest of the crows as carving out half her heart and leaving it behind in a field. Diana figured staying with Charles was a way to assuage the pain.
When she said nothing, Amelia cleared her throat. “The knife is being auctioned.”
Dallas. A couple hours by car, but shorter by air. She’d be able to get there quickly, but once she had the knife, it would be impossible to fly all the way back. She’d have to drive, which would keep her in the open longer.
A demonic knife that could kill anything. It would be going for thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Dollars they did not have.
Diana pulled the rest of her inky hair over her shoulder and started to braid it, an action done more out of a desire to busy her hands than a real need. “Auctioned?”
“Some anthropologist has it. He’s dying though, allegedly from cancer, and he wants the funds to pay for treatment.” Her father sighed and steepled his fingers as he leaned on the desk. Even though he no longer remained a leader in the murder’s assembly, his arrogant demeanor followed him. “He’s invited people in his immediate circle and work colleagues.”
Diana froze midbraid, her fingers stiff with irritation.
“We’ve…arranged for you to meet with someone on the list to gain admittance tomorrow night.” Amelia tucked a thick lock of hair behind her ear.
“I’m sure you have.” Annoyed, Diana finished her braid with a snort.
“All you’ve got to do is steal the knife and bring it back. Your mother and I wouldn’t survive the auction, or we’d go.” Charles’s voice, soft and pleading, rattled down her ear canals. Her father had always been a good liar. “We can fix this. All of it. We just need that knife.”
Gabrielle Ash is an author and perpetually tired mom of four from the great state of Texas. Born into a family of mischievous storytellers, she grew up listening to tales of the chupacabra, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night, never entirely confident that she wouldn’t get eaten if she went out to the creek after sunset.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, which ultimately landed her in a high school classroom to teach writing and coach the debate team. Dismayed at her inability to wear sweatpants to work, she left the classroom and now dedicates her brain power to books and taking care of her daughters.
When not writing, she spends time with her husband, four daughters, and their dog. The Family Cross is her debut novel.
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