Magpie

 
Title: Magpie (Second Edition)

Series: Avian Shifters

Genre: Male/Male, BDSM, Erotic Romance, Paranomral, Avian Shifters 

Length: 80,000 words

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date: 14th November 2015 - Available Now
 
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You can also find Magpie listed on Goodreads. (Please be aware most reviews there may be for the first edition.)

 


 
Blurb:
 
Everet has found his perfect place in the nest. As a raven, he’s ideally suited to his new role in the nest’s security flock. Some of the jobs it entails have been far more enjoyable than others, but when he’s called to retrieve a magpie, who’s got himself into trouble in a local human club, it becomes a truly life changing experience.
 
Magpie shifters have always been looked down on by other avians. Just as attracted to shiny things in their human bodies as they are in their avian forms, everyone knows they’ll do anything for money—and they’re not above stealing what they can’t get by more honest means.
 
Kane knows what being a magpie means, and he’s got the bruises to show for it. When Everet rescues him from his latest scrape, Kane knows better than to believe the raven will actually take an interest in him and his welfare, but it’s just possible that Everet is different to any other man Kane has ever met.
 
Please Note: This book is best read in order as part of the Avian Shifters series. The previous stories are Duck! and Celebrate.
 
Please Also Note: This is the second edition of this title. It has been tweaked and re-edited but the plot has not been changed. 
 
 
And here's a quick excerpt:
 
Chapter One
 
 
“They’ve cornered the little bastard in the back room.”
 
Everet nodded, but he hadn’t really needed the bouncer’s help to work that out. The sound of fists slamming into flesh travelled clearly through the otherwise silent nightclub, and Everet had no doubt who was playing the part of the punch bag tonight.
 
With the establishment already closed for the evening, there were no dancers or drinkers to get in Everet’s way as he strode quickly toward the door at the far end of a long, curved bar. On the other side of the sleek metallic counter, a man stopped restocking the shelves with bottles and tracked Everet’s progress. If a human’s senses were acute enough to hear the beating taking place on the other side of the door, the bartender betrayed no sign of it.
 
The hairs on the back of Everet’s neck prickled as he felt the man run an assessing eye over him. He tensed, automatically trying to work out if the guy should be considered a threat. It was the kind of nightclub where the bartenders probably doubled up as extra dumb-muscle when required, and the man was as big as a bloody albatross.
 
Everet’s brain whirled. His survival instincts screamed at him to get out of there, but he didn’t let that slow his progress across the room. He reached the door and pushed it open, knowing that any sign of weakness or hesitation might sign two death warrants.
 
In a split second, Everet took in every detail of the scene before him.
 
Four humans. One avian.
 
Four attackers. One poor sod curled up on the floor taking a pounding from them all.
 
“That’s enough.” Everet’s words cut cleanly through the sound of one of the human’s boots meeting the prone avian’s ribs.
 
Just as he expected, the men were shocked enough to stop what they were doing. The boy on the floor temporarily forgotten, all four guys turned toward Everet. They had the look of men who did as they were told—who were used to delivering a beating in the dispassionate manner of those who simply had a job to do.
 
Everet’s eyes narrowed. He looked past the men who’d been throwing their fists around. His suspicions were quickly proved correct. There was one more human in the room. A man sat slightly removed from the action; distant enough to make sure he wouldn’t get any nasty blood stains on his expensive suit, but still close enough to watch every blow land.
 
He appeared to be in his late forties or maybe his early fifties. He flicked ash off the end of his cigarette as he studied Everet in return. It didn’t take a genius to place him as Crenshaw, the owner of the club and the man who’d demanded someone come there to retrieve an avian who’d disgraced his kind.
 
“I assume you’re from the nest?” Crenshaw bit out.
 
“Yes.”
 
Silence descended upon the room and demanded to be filled, but Everet already knew what kind of human he was dealing with. He wasn’t worth wasting words on.
 
Crenshaw blinked first. “You’re not the same class of shifter as that thing was.”
 
Crenshaw didn’t glance toward the avian on the floor, and neither did Everet. The hush was good for something. Everet could just about make out the sound of the boy’s laboured breathing. He’d made it there in time. It wasn’t appropriate to apply the past tense to the boy’s life, not yet.
 
Crenshaw’s lips thinned when Everet failed to offer him any information.
 
The bodyguards, or bouncers, or whatever the hell they were, seemed to be well attuned to their employer’s moods. Each one altered his stance and figuratively rolled up his sleeves, ready to make Everet their new target the moment the order hit the air.
 
Four in here, plus the guy on the door. Add in the one behind the bar. There was no way Everet could guess how many other men were in the building. They were probably all humans. Still, at least six guys against one shifter. If nothing else, they’d be able to make Everet hurt.
 
“Species?” Crenshaw snapped.
 
“Raven.”
 
A slight moan from the huddled figure in the middle of the room pulled everyone’s attention toward it. Everet could only risk being distracted for the briefest moment, but that was more than enough time for him to take in the pair of tiny silver shorts the boy wore. The rest of him was bare—all the better to display his bruises.
 
Some of his injuries had obviously been inflicted long before the present beating had begun. Everet’s hand ached to form a fist at his side, but he pushed the instinct away. Six against one, and the boy might get hurt even further. That was unacceptable.
 
“Tell me, raven, is your breed as stupid as his?” More ash landed on the floor at Crenshaw’s feet.
 
“I don’t know what species he is, but ravens aren’t known for being fools,” Everet said, his voice completely emotionless. That much was true. For one thing, he was easily smart enough to know when to act like the same kind of dumb muscle Crenshaw employed. “My orders said you want to be rid of him as soon as possible.”
 
“Yes.” Crenshaw took a deep pull on his cigarette, making the tip glow brightly in the gloomy room. “I wonder, how do you bird-boys punish slutty little thieves?”
 
Everet didn’t even blink. “Decisions like that would be made by avians far higher up the pecking order than—”
 
“Guess!” Crenshaw ordered. “I want to know what will happen to him.” He leaned forward in his chair as he spoke.
 
Everet quickly scanned the other men in the room as he considered his options. They stood around like men who were used to standing around waiting for orders rather than thoughts to arrive. They didn’t look like the type to question a command to beat the hell out of anyone, but at the same time, Everet doubted they’d do it for fun.
 
Crenshaw, however…yes, Everet saw the gleam in his eye. He was exactly the kind of man who wouldn’t see the fun in hurting anyone masochistic enough to enjoy it. He’d do anything it took to make a man writhe in agony. Seeing genuine fear on his victim’s face would be like an expert blowjob to him.
 
“He’ll be punished for bringing avians as a whole into disrepute,” Everet said. “It’s a matter that every nest takes very seriously.”
 
“How?”
 
Everet swallowed down a bitter taste that filled the back of his mouth and folded his arms across his chest. He’d be damned if he’d feed the bastard’s fantasies. “There is no set punishment. Species is taken into account.”
 
“Oh?”
 
“All species have their talents and their weaknesses,” Everet said, speaking on something close to automatic pilot as he weighed up the chances of either Kane or himself getting out of there alive.
 
“He’s a magpie.”
 
Everet failed to feel the least bit shocked. “Magpies have always loved anything that glitters and sparkles. Did what he stole from you fit that description?”
 
Crenshaw paused to take a deep drag on his cigarette, obviously debating if he should tell the truth or lie just to make things worse for the boy.
 
Everet didn’t bother to wait for his answer. He had no interest in an unreliable witness. “The elders will decide what’s to be done with him,” he said again.
 
Crenshaw slumped back in his chair. Everet held his gaze for what felt like several minutes. Finally, Crenshaw turned away. He waved a hand toward the curled up figure in the centre of the room as he apparently realised that he wasn’t going to get anything interesting out of Everet.
 
Crenshaw appeared bored. The gesture seemed dismissive. Everet still held his breath, tensed and ready for anything.
 
Suddenly, Crenshaw jerked to his feet. “He’s all yours. Get rid of him however you see fit.”
 
Two of the guys who’d been delivering the beating filed out of the room ahead of Crenshaw, and the other two followed in his wake. Bodyguards rather than bouncers then, not that it really mattered.
 
Everet watched them go. He listened to their footsteps fade away. Finally, he sensed that he and his charge were alone in that part of the building.
 
The boy had curled himself into the foetal position. He hadn’t moved in several minutes. Everet approached, making sure his footsteps were loud enough to alert the boy to his presence. He dropped to one knee alongside him.
 
“They’ve all gone. It’s just you and me.”
 
No response. If it weren’t for the shallow, shaky breaths, the boy might have succeeded in playing dead.
 
“Uncurl yourself,” Everet ordered. “I need to check your injuries.”
 
While he waited for the boy to obey, Everet assessed what he could already see. There were scars on the boy’s back. Some looked like they had been made by a whip; others were small and round—the same size and shape as the tip of Crenshaw’s cigarette.
 
Everet ground his teeth together, but he kept his thoughts on that to himself. Bruises seemed to cover almost every inch of the magpie’s body, but it was hard to tell where the bruises ended and the dirt began. The floor hadn’t been cleaned in a long time, and there was now a circle of less grubby tiles where the magpie had rolled around trying to evade his attackers.
 
The boy remained curled into a ball and showed no sign of having heard Everet.
 
Everet resisted the temptation to look over his shoulder toward the door, or point out that the longer they stayed where they were the more likely it was someone would join them. He wanted the boy co-operative, not more scared than ever.
 
“I won’t hurt you,” he tried.
 
Nothing.
 
Everet pushed a hand through his own hair, disordering the thick black strands. It was impossible to tell how much damage he might cause if he simply picked the boy up and carried him out of there, but giving him any more time would be too big a risk.
 
Everet placed a hand on his bare shoulder.
 
The boy twisted away from him, scrambling back on the floor. He kept his head down, making it impossible for Everet to see his face, but Everet didn’t need to see his expression to know how afraid he had to be.
 
“No touching without paying!”
 
Everet mentally raised one eyebrow at the huddled figure, but at least the boy was conscious and able to talk. “What’s your name?”
 
“You said you were sent to fetch me.”
 
Everet looked toward the door for a moment, wondering how much cash he’d have to hand over to make the boy come quietly out to his car; probably far more than he had on him. The guy was a magpie after all…
 
“Names aren’t my specialty.”
 
The boy lifted his head a fraction. His hair was dirty. Some of the strands were stained with what had to be blood; they hung down in front of the boy’s eyes and obscured Everet’s view of his face.
 
Finally, the magpie blinked. “Kane.”
 
“Everet. Raven.” He held his wrist out so Kane could see that he was indeed a raven shifter, even if he happened to be in his human form.
 
Kane glanced at the tattoo on the inside of Everet’s wrist, but he didn’t seem to care what symbol was there.
 
“You’re a magpie?” Everet prompted.
 
Kane didn’t take the hint.
 
Everet frowned. Kane couldn’t have lived among humans for so long he’d forgotten even that basic a piece of avian etiquette, could he?
 
Everet peered more deeply into the shadows below the hunched figure. He could just make out the way Kane kept his right arm huddled tightly against his body. That explained that.
 
“Are you going to come with me quietly?” His orders were to take Kane back to the nest, and that’s where Kane would go. Quietly or not—that was his only choice at this point. Everet didn’t even consider pretending otherwise.
 
Kane lifted his left hand and pushed his hair out of his eyes. He knew the score. He might not like it, but he seemed to be too sensible to fight it—or, at least, too exhausted.
 
Kane finally uncurled his body. He tried to stand. A startled cry left his lips before he was even halfway up. Everet’s reactions were only just quick enough to let him catch Kane before he hit the floor.
 
Wrapping his arms around Kane’s torso, Everet brought them both to their full height. Kane pushed against Everet’s chest, but even if he hadn’t been injured, a magpie would never have been any match for a raven’s strength. Within seconds he stumbled and collapsed against Everet.
 
Everet frowned. Forget being a magpie, it was consisting of little more than skin and bone that was Kane’s problem. Everet scooped Kane’s fragile form up into his arms. He weighed next to nothing.
 
“What the hell do you think you’re—?” A pain-filled gasp made Kane stop short.
 
Everet stepped forward. Doing his best not to jostle Kane any more than necessary, he made his way out of the back room. Checking in every direction, he found the bar empty. The exit wasn’t far away. He took his chance.
 
Kane squirmed in his arms, but it was just the fussing of a child who didn’t understand what was going on, or that the adults around him were there to help him.
 
“Put me down.”
 
Everet ignored the petulant demand.
 
By the time they reached the other side of the bar, Kane’s head had dropped to rest on Everet’s shoulder. His breathing remained steady, but any sign of consciousness seeped away.
 
The same bouncer that had let Everet in stood by the exit. It was closed and bolted. Everet tilted his chin up. “I have permission to take him back to our nest.”
 
“Good riddance. He was a nasty little sod.” The guy didn’t seem to be in any rush to unlock the door. “Always sucking up to the boss. Never hesitated to play the cock tease with one of the boys then throw him under the bus when the boss caught them.”
 
Everet waited with outward patience until they were finally ushered out into the darkness of a grubby back alley.
 
Briefly regaining consciousness, Kane shuddered when the chill air caressed his skin. He curled in closer to the only available source of warmth—Everet’s body.
 
Marching down the alley, Everet had all his senses on high alert. Were they being watched? It felt like it. He strained his hearing, but nothing other than the normal sounds of a human city reached his ears.
 
His whole body ached with the desire to simply forgo all the human bull shit, take to his wings and soar high above the mess and confusion of the human world. As a raven flew, it wouldn’t have taken him any time at all to be back among his own kind, back to where no one would have beaten the hell out of someone like Kane just for being a thief. Hell, even the most stupid avian would know not to expect any better from a magpie.
 
A whimper made Everet look down. Kane stirred and pushed weakly against Everet’s chest.
 
Damn. Everet looked along the alley. There were far too many shadows, far too many places where a threat could lurk.
 
“Hush,” he hazarded, in a half whisper.
 
Kane only squirmed more.
 
“It won’t be long. I’ll soon have you back at the nest.” Everet frowned, aware that his voice sounded loud and rough in the otherwise silent alley. Damn, but he wished the alley had been wide enough for him to drive down.
 
Kane fell still as he passed out again.
 
Everet walked more quickly. He was acutely aware that, for the first time in almost as long as he could remember, he wasn’t in a position to deal with any threat a human could pose.
 
His custody of Kane made him vulnerable in a way he hadn’t been since he’d reached his avian maturity, and Everet didn’t like that feeling at all.
 
Turning a corner and spotting the car he’d driven there from the nest was a blessed relief. Luck was on their side. It hadn’t been stolen. As far as Everet could tell as he approached it from the rear, it hadn’t even had its tires slashed. Considering the neighbourhood, that alone was little short of a miracle.
 
Hurrying to the passenger side, Everet carefully wedged Kane against the side of the car and opened the door. The boy didn’t stir as Everet awkwardly maneuvered him into the passenger seat and fastened the seatbelt around him. It was probably just as well. Consciousness could only have made the process painful for him.
 
Everet jogged around to the other side of the car and got behind the wheel. The dashboard displays lit up, casting a strange light across Kane’s face and body. Or, perhaps, they just made the colour of his bruises more noticeable.
 
Shaking his head, Everet put the car into gear and pulled away. The sooner he got the boy back to his own kind, the better it would be for him. Seeking out any kind of humanity among the human population obviously hadn’t done him any good at all.
 
* * * * *
 
Bastard.
 
As Kane stubbornly fought his way back toward consciousness, the only thing he was aware of was the whole-body ache that came from being denied his fix. Crenshaw must be holding out on him again. There wasn’t a single part of Kane’s body that didn’t hurt.
 
His lips were dry. Opening his mouth far enough to lick them set off an explosion in his jaw. Wincing caused a shaft of rusting metal to stab him in his left eye. Other thoughts and realisations gradually made their way into his mind. There’d obviously been a beating—a bad one if he was able to feel any of it through what was left of his last high.
 
His face…
 
Crenshaw must have really had enough of him if he hadn’t told his guys to avoid messing up his looks. No point going back there then. He’d have to get what he needed elsewhere.
 
His face…
 
Kane mentally cursed. That would cost him over the coming days. No one would pay top money to screw a guy whose features were a mass of bruises. Frowning with the effort, Kane managed to lift one hand from where it had rested at his side.
 
“No.”
 
The voice didn’t sound especially angry with him. That was good. It probably wasn’t one of the guys who’d delivered the beating. It might even be someone who could get him a fix.
 
Kane brought his hand a little closer to his face, ignoring both the ache in his shoulder and the man’s words.
 
“No.”
 
A hand came to rest on Kane’s forearm. It pushed Kane’s arm down to rest at his side. The voice sounded stubborn. At any other time, that might have made it a challenge. Right then, Kane couldn’t summon up the energy to show some jumped up prat that there was only one man in the room who’d get his own way in the long run.
 
First a fix, then some money, then Kane would show him.
 
Kane finally managed to pry open one eye. A bright light shining straight down on him made sure he knew that it was a mistake. He tried to lift his hand and protect his eyes.
 
“I said no.”
 
That same touch returned and trapped Kane’s arm at his side.
 
Kane turned his head toward the voice. A blurry outline gradually resolved itself into a man. A young, attractive man with black hair slicked back from his face and serious brown eyes. Kane forced both his eyes open and struggled to focus in on the details a little more quickly.
 
It had been a long time since he got a pay-out from anyone within a decade of his own age, even longer since he’d been screwed by anyone as hot as this guy. The man staring down at him didn’t look like the kind who’d have to pay for it. That alone made him a customer worth having.
 
Mr. Tall, Dark and Sexy also looked mildly pissed off with the world. Kane smiled as much as what felt like a severely split lip would allow. In his experience, a poor worldview was nothing a good blowjob wouldn’t fix.
 
The guy had said no to Kane three times now, but that could easily change.
 
“What do I need to do to make you say yes?” Kane asked. The words came out slightly slurred.
 
“Stay still, I need to finish checking your injuries now that you’re awake.”
 
Kane knew then that, despite appearances, the man sitting alongside him had to be exceptionally short. How could a hint that obvious have gone straight over his head otherwise?
 
“I’ve heard that one before,” Kane said. “Let me guess, I just have to get naked and bend over for the exam, right?”
 
“You just have to stay still,” the guy repeated.
 
Seriously? There was no way anyone, of any height, could miss flirting that blatant! Kane grunted his disapproval and squirmed irritably on the—
 
He squinted at his surroundings. He lay on a sofa in a room he didn’t recognise. “Where am I?”
 
“You’re in a nest. You passed out on the way to the car.”
 
Kane did a quick assessment of the room. It was richly furnished with lots of deep red velvet and gold brocade. Very promising. “This is your room?”
 
“Part of a guest suite,” the guy said, running his hands over Kane’s body in a dispassionate way that hinted that he really did want to check for injuries rather than simply check him out.
 
Kane nodded slightly. The room still looked encouraging. This particular nest had obviously done very well for itself. “You said a nest. Which one?”
 
“Anderson. We’re on the northern edge of the city centre, in Jameson Court. The leader of the nest is Hamilton, an eagle.”
 
Kane filed it all away for future reference. “I haven’t heard anything about there being a breeding colony around here,” he said. “What species live here?”
 
“It’s not a breeding colony. It’s a male-only nest, and it’s open to all species. Is that a problem for you?”
 
Problem? Hell, no! If it was true, it was bloody well perfect! There was bound to be someone high up the pecking order that would like a pretty little boy-toy to hang on his arm and suck on his cock.
 
“What’s your position here?” Kane demanded.
 
Everet’s expression remained impassive. “I’m part of the nest’s security flock.”
 
“You’re a cop?” Kane didn’t even try to hide his horror. Everet could obviously be crossed off his list of possible sugar-daddies. Cops weren’t just trouble; they were usually broke, too.
 
“Something like that,” Everet said, absentmindedly. “I don’t think anything is broken.”
 
Sod bones. “I want to look in a mirror.”
 
Everet took a brief break from his inspection and met Kane’s gaze. “You’re not going anywhere until I’ve checked your injuries. You’re in no condition to wander around—”
 
“Then bring one to me,” Kane snapped. Really, ravens weren’t half as clever as they thought they were. The solution should have been obvious.
 
Everet looked down, as if in submission. Kane smiled, but his expression quickly soured as he realised that Everet had only dropped his gaze to resume his examination.
 
“I said—”
 
“I heard you,” Everet cut in.
 
“Then why aren’t you doing what I said?” Kane demanded.
 
“Because your priorities are screwed up.” Everet didn’t even look away from his study of Kane’s right wrist as he spoke.
 
“I can cause a lot of trouble for you.”
 
That convinced Everet to look up. He held Kane’s gaze very steadily for several seconds, his expression serious, the emotions in his eyes unreadable. Finally, he looked away.
 
“You appear to have more scrapes and bruises than anything else. Probably some sprains. Maybe a few cracked ribs as well.”
 
Kane pursed his lips, annoyance bubbling up inside him.
 
“Do you think you’ll be able to clean yourself up on your own, or will you need help?” Everet asked.
 
“I’m fine.”
 
Kane levered himself up, swung his legs over the side of the sofa and stood up. At least, that’s what he intended to do. His knees trembled; his ankles buckled. Suddenly, he found himself scooped up in Everet’s arms. It was almost like being lifted by a high, except—
 
“Don’t even bother arguing with me,” Everet snapped.
 
He carried Kane across the room and through an open doorway. A big, elaborate bathtub stood on the far side of a marble tiled room. One wall housed a toilet and bidet; opposite it stood a huge vanity containing a pair of matching sinks. And, most importantly of all, above the sinks hung a large, gilt-framed mirror.
 
Kane twisted around in Everet’s arms. “I want to look in the mirror!”
 
Everet played deaf, walked straight past the sinks, and set him down on a chair next to the bath.
 
Kane instantly tried to stand up.
 
“No.”
 
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Kane demanded, glaring up at him.
 
“Take your shorts off.”
 
“Dream on,” Kane sneered. “You can’t afford me.”
 
Everet reached across the bath and turned on the gold taps. “Take off your shorts so I can clean you up,” he specified.
 
Steam quickly filled the air. The water looked hot and tempting. It couldn’t hurt to be clean and pretty when he was finally introduced to someone who it could be worth making a play for.
 
Kane had to struggle to get out of his shorts. Crenshaw had specifically chosen them to be so tight Kane couldn’t conceal any stolen items on his person. As if that would stop him!
 
Sore joints and bruised muscles protested at his squirming, but Kane finally managed to toss the shorts aside. Everet held out a hand and helped him into the bath.
 
The plug hadn’t been put in. All the hot water ran straight out. Before Kane had time to call him an idiot, Everet diverted the hot water so it ran through a shower hose. Holding the shower head in his hand rather than putting it up on the gilt stand alongside the bath, Everet maintained complete control over the spray. He moved it slowly over Kane’s body, washing away the worst of the dust and dirt.
 
Kane hesitated. It seemed pointless to complain that all the dirty water hadn’t been trapped in the tub with him. He tipped back his head as Everet let the water pour down over his hair.
 
Being clean felt good, and it could only improve his chances with the richer avians at the nest. And, for a few minutes, while there was no one worth impressing looking on, Kane was free to simply enjoy a moment’s peace. That felt good, too.
 
There was no one he needed to flirt with, no one he needed to throw himself at. Kane just sat.
 
Shampoo and soap were offered and accepted. Kane remained silent as he washed himself all over several times in an effort to get rid of dried blood and accumulated dirt. He glanced up through his lashes as Everet patiently moved the shower hose over him, rinsing off the suds each time.
 
In a way, it was a pity that Everet had no chance of raising the kind of money it took to keep Kane happy. He might have found lying face down on the bed while some guy shoved his cock up his arse mildly enjoyable, if the guy was someone like Everet.