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Stranger on Raven's Ridge

Stranger on Raven's Ridge, March 2013
by Jenna Ryan

Harlequin Intrigue
Featuring: Aidan McInnis; Raven Blume
218 pages
ISBN: 0373696787
EAN: 9780373696789
Kindle: B00ADI0RW0
Paperback / e-Book
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"Will an eye for an eye be the end of Raven?"

Fresh Fiction Review

Stranger on Raven's Ridge
Jenna Ryan

Reviewed by Annetta Sweetko
Posted February 24, 2013

Romance Series

In STRANGER ON RAVEN'S RIDGE Raven Blume is just now getting her feet back under her. Two years earlier her cop husband, Aiden McInnis, and his partner and a buddy were having a night out. When an innocent stop a local Stop 'N Shop turns into an attempted robbery, Aiden does his job, the thief starts shooting and he returns fire. He meant to wing the man but the target moved and the shot was fatal. To make it worse ... the young hood turned out to be Jason Demars, only son of Johnny Demars a local crime boss. Twelve days later, Aiden McInnis is dead, blown to bits in a warehouse explosion and fire.

Raven has survived these two years but is thinking its time for a change. Her old hometown of Raven's Cove is looking for a doctor and her old ancestral home would make a perfect clinic. For now she is just planning to visit her great-grandfather Rooney Blume, not ready to commit to the job. Her family has a lot of odd legends and even a three day celebration of those legends known as "Ravenspell". With a number of campers arriving for the celebration, Raven finds more than one STRANGER ON RAVEN'S RIDGE.

The world Raven has come to accept is about to explode once again, when she comes face to face with ... her husband Aiden. He and his captain had hatched the plan for his death to protect Raven, who was the target of Demars revenge. With the disappearance of his old partner and now the betrayal of someone they trusted the bad guy knows he's alive and its time to stop running. Can Aiden keep Raven safe while searching for the no face Demars? Will Raven be able to forgive the lost two years to pick up where they left off or did he go too far to protect her?

STRANGER AT RAVEN'S RIDGE is a fascinating storyline that readers will not be able to put down until the very startling ending. The author [Jenna Ryan] was able to write a compelling love story intertwined with frightening life and death drama, strange family legends and hits of humor. The first book I read by this author was Sweet Revenge and I have read everything since and will continue reading every compelling story she sends out. I believe readers of a number of genres will love her books.

Learn more about Stranger on Raven's Ridge

SUMMARY

Local legend said that sacrifice was the truest love of all…

Returning to her ancestral home, Raven Blume needed a new start. So she opened a medical clinic in order to escape the danger that had torn her life apart—and claimed her husband's life. But local legend spoke of a ghost, a reincarnated soul haunting her house, the one high up on Raven's Ridge.…

Lurking within the mist was the man she thought dead. Aidan McInnis remained out of sight, venturing close enough to touch his Raven, but not daring to. The moment he did, he put a target on her back. Time was running out and Raven was quickly becoming familiar with danger. Aidan would die again if he had to—especially if it was the only way to protect her.

Excerpt



Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Aidan McInnis craved a foot–long sub, fully loaded. And a Coke. Well, a beer really, but he was driving, and his police partner, Len Gaitor, was not only fully loaded, but currently weaving his way down the aisle of Pop Daly's ancient Stop ‘N Shop. Their friend, George Parkins, had fallen asleep in the backseat of Aidan's truck half an hour ago.

They'd watched the Brewers take apart the Pirates, then switched it up and checked out a handful of UFC matches in a backstreet venue whose operation was at best half–legal. But Aidan had drawn the line at the stripper bar Gaitor had suggested after that. Hey, barely twenty–four months married to a woman like Raven, even a detective of ten plus years could say no without hesitation.

The out–of–sight door jangled as another customer entered. Aidan heard a squelch of rubber while his gaze explored the piss–poor selection of subs.

"Only got light beer left." Gaitor grumbled his way to Aidan's side. "Can't keep a buzz on drinking damn soda pop. Your wife's in Minnesota until Wednesday, McInnis. Let's find us a girlie bar."

Aidan ran his gaze over the display again. Pathetic. "Gotta work tomorrow, Gaitor."

He was about to downgrade his sub craving to a slightly more palatable ham and Swiss on rye when he caught the angry command up by the cash register.

Gaitor heard it, too, and scowled. "Wouldn't you just frigging know it. Stupid punk needing cash for a fix is hell–bent on screwing up my night. Talk about your bad timing."

Aidan drew his Glock from the shoulder holster under his jacket. "Kids behind the desk'll probably consider it good. I'll take the rear."

He spotted the new arrival instantly, a lone male wearing a gray hoodie and ski mask. The 9mm in his double–fisted grip was pointed at the forehead of the older store clerk. Less than two feet from his target, he was unlikely to miss if he squeezed the trigger.

The old–fashioned drawer pinged as it sprang outward. In the shadows, Aidan took aim.

"There's only fifteen bucks." The clerk's Adam's apple bobbed. "See for yourself."

"Lift the tray out."

"But Pop won't – "

"Lift it!" the thief snapped. His gun hand shook, and his breath heaved in and out. "You don't do what I tell you, more than your night's gonna be over."

"Stop right there," Aidan said from slightly behind him.

The masked head jerked around. For a moment, nothing and no one moved.

"I'm a cop," Aidan warned. "And I'm guessing I'm a helluva lot better shot than you."

The thief started to lower his arms. Then the floor creaked, and he snatched them up again. He fired wide twice, and twice more with better aim. The clerks vanished behind the counter.

Aidan went for the right arm. It should have been an easy hit. But in a lightning–quick move, the thief leaped sideways and exposed his full chest. Aidan's bullet struck him at the same instant the thief's bullet embedded itself in a tall shelf. The man took two staggering steps forward. And dropped like a stone to the floor.

At the entry door, George Parkins stood with an owlish expression his face that suggested he had no idea where he was.

Gaitor lurched into sight. With his eyes locked on the fallen man, he used his toe to nudge an unmoving arm.

"Uh, what...?" was the best George seemed able to manage.

The younger clerk stared, pop–eyed. "Is he dead?"

"As a doornail," Gaitor confirmed. He withdrew his fingers. "You had no choice, Aidan. You couldn't have known he'd turn."

"Are you hurt?" Aidan asked the older clerk.

"Yes – I mean no, not bad. He – he got my arm a little."

Aidan made a head motion at George who was alert enough to duck under the pass–through.

"You saved my life." The injured clerk's voice trembled. "He was gonna do me for following Pop's stupid rules."

The eyes of the thief, already glassy, stared upward from the scarred linoleum floor. His mouth sagged open. Aidan tugged off the ski mask that covered his face.

And, closing his own eyes, he swore long and full.

"What?" Gaitor demanded. Then he looked down, and his shoulders drooped. "Jason Demars. Hell."

Close, Aidan decided. Dangerously close.

Thoughts spiraled through his head. But the one that stood out, the one that intensified as it repeated again and again and again was simple and concise.

He was a dead man.
Raven's Cove, Maine
Two years later

"You've lost your mind. I mean it. You are deep in the woods with no bread crumbs, heading straight for the gingerbread house." George Parkins dug in and held on as Raven downshifted the small cube van to navigate the steep slope. "This is crazy. You're on track to be a top–flight diagnostic physician. What on earth made you listen to a man five decades older than Methuselah and put a to–die–for job on hold? And please don't say so you could practice medicine in the speck of a town where Methuselah's grandfather lives."

Raven kept her eyes on the thin slice of road that probably hadn't seen a paving crew since Elvis's time. "Methuselah's grandfather is my great–grandfather, George. His name's Rooney Blume.

"And he's in possession of how many faculties?"

"More than you and me combined, I imagine." She sent him a quick grin. Very quick. The pothole she'd avoided a moment ago could have passed for a wading pool. "Raven's Cove needs a doctor. The population tops a thousand these days and all they have physician–wise is a retired army medic with so–so vision and a lingering case of shell shock. That won't provide much comfort to a woman in her third trimester or a man with a ruptured hernia. Besides – " she downshifted again " – you volunteered to ride shotgun. No one's asking you to live here."

George offered back a strange look. "So you've decided to make the move, then? I'd hoped you were only doing a favor for an old man."

"I am – for now. I wanted to check out Raven's Cove, the drive's manageable even in a rattletrap truck, and I like doing favors for friends and family. Especially for one very old man who's optimistic enough to believe he'll be able to enjoy a kitchen full of new appliances well into the next decade."

With a baffled shake of his head, George regarded the sky. "Are those purply–black things up there rain clouds?"

Raven avoided a deep rut. "My mother says they're a perpetual formation at this time of year."

"Uh, okay... Do I want to know why?"

A teasing smile appeared. "It's part of an ancient legend. Involves one of my ancestors. Said ancestor, Hezekiah Blume, allowed an evil spirit to take possession of his soul. He thought better of it later, but couldn't wriggle out of the deal without major help. Enter a good spirit who tried and failed to exorcise its nasty counterpart. The only option left was transformation. Man and evil became a raven."

"So you're...are you telling me you were named for a legend?"

"In a way. But only if you want to be technical, which my mother hasn't been since the day she was born. They called her Spacey Lacy when she lived here."

"Who are they?"
"Acquaintances mostly, many of whom have absolutely no business throwing stones since the bulk of them believe that any person finding three raven's feathers on their door is destined to die."

"Raven's feathers," George repeated. "On the door."

"Placed there by the clairvoyant raven into which Hezekiah was transformed."

George stared at her. "When did this transformation take place?"

"Three centuries ago, give or take."

‘So we're talking about one freaking old bird."

"If you believe, yes. Otherwise, it's just a bread crumb and gingerbread tale." Her lips twitched at his befuddled expression. "I did warn you before you flew to Portland that Raven's Coe was a little odd, and you might want to rethink your decision to come."

When his features softened, Raven sighed. Despite the distance between Milwaukee and Rochester where she now lived, George had been coming on to her for the past twelve months in his own quiet way. She'd been able to sidestep his advances to this point, but it occurred to her now that his being in Raven's Cove, even for a few short days, might prove – tricky. And the twinges of guilt she'd been experiencing lately didn't help.

Before her conscience could get the better of her, she motioned at a structure coming into view through a dense stand of woods. "There it is. Blume House. Hezekiah's pride and joy. Until he slid into a funk and went all evil host on his friends and family."

George's bespectacled eyes widened as the house grew in size. "It's like a Black Forest castle."

"Back in the day – in Germany where it was originally built – it was a fortified manor house. Aidan and I came here once." Although the pain still sliced deep, Raven pushed through it and continued. "It was before we were married, a few short weeks before a storm took out half the west wing. The house has been vacant for the past five years."

"Looks like it's been vacant for the past five decades."

Raven eased the truck to a halt outside a set of rusting iron gates fashioned into the silhouette of a raven.

George's gaze glued itself to the gothic–style house behind them. "You're considering setting up a medical clinic here in – I'm sorry, I have to say it – spook central?"

"I am, unless the hurricane damage is more extensive than Rooney claims." Raven banded her arms around the steering wheel and leaned forward to look. "It's a rejuvenating prospect, a sea change from the work I've been doing in Minnesota."

"At the Mayo Clinic, Raven. That's one pretty desirable work place."

"Venue doesn't matter. That I'd be doing something more community oriented does. Losing Aidan..." The breath she drew threatened to choke her, but she persevered. "Losing him took me out of my orbit for a long, long time. I'm not back in it yet, not all the way in it, but I know what I need to do, and that's something vastly different from what I've been doing for the past two years.

George's gray eyes sobered. "I could help you with that you know."

She took care with her expression and her tone. "You did, and you are. Believe me, George, if I could..." She halted to twist in her seat and peer down the road.

Unsure, George mimicked the move. "What?"

"I don't know. A feeling. Probably nothing." But she couldn't stop the shiver that chased itself over her warm skin. "This might sound weird – and for ‘weird' read ‘paranoid' – but I keep thinking there's someone behind me. Following me, maybe watching me. Closely and with intent."

"Like a Peeping Tom?"

"More like a shadow."

"Or a ghost?"

From under the bill of her Brewers cap, Raven slid her narrowed eyes to his face. "I'm not channelling Aidan. This is a legitimate intuitive feeling. And yes, I know those terms contradict each other. I also know Captain Beckett hasn't been really easy about things since Gaitor dropped off the radar twenty–plus months ago."

Worry invaded George's features. "He's not alone. Last I saw of Gaitor, he was heading out with a six–pack and a loaded sub. ‘Homage to Aidan,' he told me. Then he got in his crappy little car and drove home to watch a football game. That was a week after his retirement party. Since then, there's been no sign of him. It's like the ground swallowed him whole. He even left his car behind."

Raven tried not to let her skin crawl. People did strange things. Gaitor didn't owe her or anyone an explanation for his behavior. Assuming his disappearing act had been behavioral, and not a belated shot fired by a still–seething and not–yet–sated crime lord.

Cheery prospect, she reflected and gave the bill of her cap a tug. Hopping out, she stretched her arms upward to relieve the ache in her back. "I think that might have been the longest drive ever."

"No argument here." George shrugged the stiffness from his shoulders. "How do we... uh, hmm, okay. That's kind of creepy."

In front of them, the gates stuttered inward with a screech of old metal.

"Faulty motion sensor?" Raven guessed. "Or maybe someone inside saw us arrive."

"Someone lives here?"

"Possibly." Humor sparked, and it felt good. "Whether feathered or human remains to be seen."

"How many times have you visited this, uh...?" The question faded to a stare.

With a faint chill skating along her spine, Raven followed her companion's gaze to a human–sized bird huddled in a leafy stand of trees to their left. The chill immediately lowered to a tingle.

"It's a raven–shaped boulder." She breathed out her relief. "They're scattered all over the property. You get used to it."

The clouds overhead darkened – or something did. Raven felt the air around her stir. And barely had time to raise her head before a silent shadow fell over her from behind.


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