Little Raven

Spekter - Book Two

by A. J. Wildman

Nearly a year has passed since Michael Cassidy escaped BioTech, and he and his wife, Kate, want nothing more than to move on with their lives. However, the being inside Michael only grows stronger and until he understands his past, he’ll never fully embrace his future.

Bold and brazen, Ileana has recently escaped her captors. Their paths are destined to collide, and when they do nothing will ever be the same.

In the world of the Augmented, a sacrifice made requires a sacrifice given. Only time will tell how many will fall in order to set the caged birds free.



Chapter One


Roanoke, Virginia


Kate Cassidy stood next to a swivel wooden barstool, bottle of cold beer in hand. Her husband, Michael, and their dear friend, Ralph Williamson, exchanged light-hearted banter a few feet away. A small crowd milled around the little pub, mostly all friends and family, there to welcome them home.

They’d spent the better part of four months roaming South America on motorcycles, destination nowhere, and purposefully anywhere but southern Virginia.

After what had happened to them, well, mostly to Michael, they’d made a fast getaway out of town as soon as their house sold, and the check hit the bank.

Kate lifted the bottle to her lips, winced, and took a long, unsatisfying drink. The pale liquid was a lite variety, and not any variety she usually liked. Good thing her goal wasn’t intoxication, so much as it was to fill an aching void. She ground her jaw and peered around the little dimly lit bar, blinking away tears as they misted her eyes.

While everyone in the bar was laughing and offering toasts and cheers, inwardly her mental state was slowly spiraling out of control.

They weren’t back in town for a reunion. They hadn’t returned to go back to business as usual. They were there so Michael could dump her off with his family, and Ralph, and Detective Barret and his wife, Allyson.

They were there so she’d have plenty of babysitters while he was away.

Away with Master Sergeant Bradley Tuttle and his small hand-picked black-ops unit. Their plane would take off tomorrow morning, and end up…

Somewhere in the wilds of Alaska.

Where Dr. Robert Mills, the surviving member of BioTech, was holed up. He was the remaining loose end who’d been responsible for the illegal, and not-so-humane, creation of modified humans.

The Augmented.

Social media and every news outlet in the world had latched onto the term used in the files discovered at Dr. Alexander Madison’s facility. Files which included an entire flash drive on Michael. How he was made. What he really was. Why his DNA no longer resembled homo sapiens.

Master Sergeant Tuttle had promised Michael full access to the device, in exchange for his help apprehending Dr. Mills. Apparently, the old bastard had sought solace in the care of a woman named Dr. Natalie Beck, who also had her hands in many a dealing with Augmented on a very large scale.

Tuttle and his team, with Michael’s help, of course, were scheduled to raid her place.

Kate wondered why she’d ever agreed for them to return home. She blamed it on the disorienting heat of Brazil’s emblazoned sun.

As she stood beside her husband, and his contagious laugh pulled a chuckle from her throat while he gently caressed her lower back, Kate wanted anything but for him to go.

It had taken them nearly a year after he’d died, changed, been augmented, for them to finally feel like a happy couple again. He still woke up in sweats. His eyes would always carry a ‘shine’. He’d never be the guy Kate had fallen in love with, but maybe, just maybe, they had a chance at a mostly normal life. Maybe, she thought, as she leaned into his touch, they could finally start a family.

Someone shouted, “To Michael!”, and glasses clinked.

Kate blinked away the idle musings, and the tears, and took another swig of the yellow piss pretending to be beer.

Everyone cheered.

“Speech, speech, speech!” The chant began with Michael’s friend, Samuel Milton, but was soon a roar from everyone in the room.

Detective Andrew Barrett stood just to Ralph’s right. A broad smile covered his handsome face; dark brown eyes twinkled with mirth. He glanced Kate’s way and tipped his glass of bourbon. She tilted her beer in return.

You wouldn’t be so happy if you knew Michael was leaving tomorrow, she thought sullenly. The dear detective had been trying to convince Michael to join the Roanoke police force, but he kept hedging.

Sadly, the job was too mundane for Kate’s adrenaline-addicted partner. He needed a rush, a challenge, excitement, full throttle twenty-four seven. She peered at her husband, and a small frown tugged at one side of her mouth. Michael had always been that way, which was why he had raced motorcycles, why he had always notoriously been the first one to accept some sure-to-make-your-heart-jump dare.

He was a danger junkie.

Had been his entire life.

Kate slid her fingers down her husband’s bare forearm. His light brown, collared, short-sleeved polo did a lot to accentuate his strength; hard muscles taut against the material as his biceps stretched the sleeves. Denim jeans fit snug around his thighs and buttocks.

Michael cleared his throat, square jawline dusted with stubble. Beneath an overgrown tuft of dark blond hair, fierce, blue eyes peered at the crowd, light with humor this night, lacking their otherworldly and eerie shine.

A shiver went down Kate’s spine. Underneath her husband’s cool exterior, his calm demeanor and welcoming smile, something foreign lurked. Something dark and twisty, prone to violence and snark.

Michael wasn’t human anymore.

He just pretended to be in public.

Most of the time.

Her husband lifted his hand and almost immediately the room fell quiet. Even ole’ Ralph held his tongue, a feat not often accomplished. The older man’s watery blue eyes met hers, and he winked. Kate winked back.

Ralph was a bear, a cowboy and an occasional asshole, but the dear man had helped save her life, and had helped she and Michael get their lives back. They loved him very much.

“Damn, I didn’t think some of you knew how to shut up,” Michael deadpanned. The room ignited with laughter and faded away.

Dr. Alexander Madison and BioTech had made international news for their illegal genetic recombination testing. Michael’s face had been the daily staple of many media news sites for nearly a year now, yet most didn’t understand what he was, or more importantly, what he wasn’t.

A little butterfly sailed through Kate’s belly. She swallowed a mouth full of saliva and peered at the side of Michael’s handsome face. A face currently absent the trail of deep blue veins which raced across his skin when he was excited, or angry.

His deep voice pulled her from her thoughts. “Kate and I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight. It means a lot.”

His hand left her back, and a chill formed in the spot.

“There was a time I’d make some asinine comments right about now,” he paused, and his Adam’s apple bounced once. Several people chuckled.

Michael had come to loathe crowds, people, attention, and especially rooms full of heartbeats, but most didn’t know that, either.

Kate glanced at his parents and sister standing nearby. They were acutely aware of what their son and brother was not. Once he’d returned from the ‘dead’, he didn’t do a lot to hide what he was from his family. The Cassidys were a relentless sort. He wouldn’t have been able to keep it from them, anyway.

Michael stood to his full height of six foot one; shoulders squared.

“Usually, I’d crack a joke about Sam and his wife somehow managing to get lost driving over the Parkway,” he paused, and the room laughed. Sam shook his head. “Or rip into Ralph for having too many guns and not enough time with a good woman, or tell Barrett the eighties called and wants that jacket back.”

Kate nearly spit her beer as she took a sip. The room buzzed with more laughter.

A wry smile ghosted Michael’s lips as he finished his words. “I could also go on and on about how much I love each and every one of you, but the bar closes in an hour.”

Michael lifted his beer bottle. “Truth is, if I don’t give you a hard time, you’re not my people, so cheers assholes.”

The crowd broke into partial laughter, and a cacophony of returned salutes.

Kate snickered and shook her head. Strands of long brown hair tickled her face. Before she could tuck them behind her ear, Michael lifted his hand and obliged. Their eyes met briefly, the weight of deliciously sinful promises in his.

“You’re terrible,” her voice drawled softly. “Nearly fifty people in this room, and all you can think about is getting me in bed.”

Michael stepped close enough their faces nearly touched, lopsided smile across his mouth. “Who says it’s you? The chick down the bar is pretty hot.”

Kate glanced over her shoulder and wrinkled her nose.

The woman was well into her sixties, her torso covered with a tattered blue tank top. A thigh high jean skirt barely covered her backside and was several inches too short. Rouge stained the woman’s aged cheeks pink; red lipstick dappled a thin mouth. Her dyed brown hair was a throwback style from the late eighties, early nineties, full can of hairspray included. Plastic black flipflops finished the ensemble.

Kate snorted and turned back around. Michael bit his lip to stifle laughter, sharp blue eyes bright with mischief. He waggled his eyebrows, and mumbled, “Sexy.”

She lightly smacked his chest and snorted again. “Michael Allen Cassidy, you’re an asshole.”

Ralph stepped forward; strong arms crossed over his barrel chest. “Now, that’s an understatement of monumental proportions, Kate,” his thick southern accent barked. “I’m an asshole,” he continued, and pointed a tanned finger at Detective Barrett. “Barrett’s an asshole.”

He redirected his finger at Michael. “This right here is a sinister sumbitch full of snake venom and hellfire.”

Kate covered her mouth to choke a laugh. Little white lights danced in Michael’s eyes, but quickly faded. To confirm Ralph’s words, a low growl filled with violent promise escaped his throat.

“Don’t forget it, old man,” Michael purred, his head tilted slightly, “and if anything happens to Kate while I’m away, you’re the first one I’m unleashing that hellfire and venom on.”

Kate ribbed Michael, but Ralph only chuckled and shook his head.

Barrett stood idly by, always the authoritative observer. He lightly snorted and took a quick sip of his bourbon. Seconds later, he pulled the glass away from his mouth, frown on his face, deep brown eyes filled with confusion. “Wait, while you’re away, where the hell do you think you’re...”

Michael stepped around Kate and tossed his arm across the good detective’s shoulders. “Hey Barrett, let’s go have chat outside. I could use some fresh air, anyway.”

The room parted as they walked to the front door, partially because of the electric energy which rolled off of Michael’s skin. The energy an unlucky few have felt while within the crosshairs of the penetrating stare of a lion, its amber eyes boring a hole through your soul, mouth open just enough you can see the nearly four-inch-long canines…

Such was the sensation many felt but had no idea why. Ralph and Barrett knew. Kate knew. Those who had dared to try and keep Michael from getting home knew, and very well, but only just before he took their lives.

Dark thoughts jetted through her mind, memories of what had happened almost a year before. Michael had singlehandedly destroyed a small army to get his life back.

Now he was about to take on another unknown number of bad guys to bring a wayward scientist to justice.

Kate shivered as her husband and Barrett exited the bar.

She almost felt sorry for whoever got in his way.

Nearly two hours later, Kate and Michael were finally able to say their goodbyes and leave without being dragged to another table.

They walked side by side to the sporty black rental car, Michael’s arm draped across Kate’s shoulder. His body shielded hers from the wild wind of an incoming storm. Hairs lifted into the air and flipped madly about her head. Kate wrapped her hands around most of the mass to tame it.

For the time being, a little cabin near the murky waters of Smith Mountain Lake was home. So far, and thankfully, the paparazzi hadn’t figured out their location. They had owned a house near the base of Bent Mountain but had been forced to sell once the story fully broke about BioTech and their insidious experiments. Kate had resisted putting out the for-sale sign, until Michael threatened to tear limbs from the constantly camped paparazzi parked on the road.

Which was one of the main reasons they’d chosen the tiny dive bar for the get-together as opposed to a more formal event.

To keep those wolves at bay.

Wolves that would come for their pound of flesh eventually. The media were ravenous dogs when it came to Michael and the Augmented.

What was the highest offer for him to do an interview so far? Oh yeah, Kate thought dryly…a cool hundred grand.

And yet, Michael gave every one of them the proverbial finger. He hated the flash of cameras, sure, but the thing he loathed most was the people themselves.

The only reason he’d agreed to Tuttle’s offer was because the man dangled the promise that he had missing information. Otherwise, she thought, smirk across her lips, he would’ve given him the real finger, and most likely a fist to boot.

They reached the car, and Michael opened the passenger door. Tonight, he was driving, and neither were drunk. For a brief moment, the sick sensation of déjà vu overtook Kate. The last time they’d left a bar after a phenomenal day, their entire life had been destroyed.

Michael leaned into the car and braced his arms on either side of her body.

A flash of white illuminated the rain-heavy clouds miles away, casting a shadow over one half of his face. Little lights danced in his eyes, but did not fade as they had in the pub.

“Nothing is going to happen to us, Kate,” he whispered, sensing her thoughts. His lips grazed her forehead, then her cheek. “Mills is on the run, and the last place anyone would go is anywhere purposefully near me.”

His mouth kissed hers, lightly, lovingly. He pulled away and met her eyes once more. “You’re safe, baby.”

She averted his stare and peered through the windshield. She wasn’t afraid for herself.

“You can die,” she said softly, afraid to even say the words aloud, “Your heartbeat can be stopped. For good. Sang Li proved that.”

Li, another of Alexander Madison’s experiments, had fallen on his own sword, pierced it straight through his heart. Besides decapitation, this seemed to be the only way to end the life of something like the Augmented and whatever her husband was.

Michael nuzzled her forehead with his nose. God, Kate did not want him to leave. Yes, someone needed to stop the bad guys from making more monsters, but it didn’t need to be him.


A. J. Wildman "Little Raven"



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