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The raven cawed several times at his companion and irritably lifted its wings in the same manner that a human would wave his hands in the air.

They had just reached Red’s side when Damon grunted several times, turning in Red’s arms so that he could face the man and his bird.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Your name is Damon Artemis. It’s a pleasure to meet you, and I’m sure the wolves wouldn’t have eaten you,” the man replied to the pig.

Talking to animals. Gotta be a witch.

The man turned his gaze to him and Sky and gasped. “Nolan! Sky! How wonderful to see you again! This is a surprise.”

“Beltran Varik,” Sky greeted with a little bow of his head. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.

Nolan narrowed his eyes. He did look familiar, but if he was from the Varik manor, then that night was just a fucking blur. “Not a witch, then?”

Bel huffed a laugh and shook his head. Even the bird seemed to snicker.

Sky smiled up at him. “No, Bel is a vampire and one of the Varik brothers. He’s also the mate of the two shifters we met at the Varik manor.”

Nolan winced. “I’m sorry. You looked familiar—”

Bel was already waving off his apology. “Oh no! Don’t worry about it. That was a very stressful night for you. I’m sure your brain was already overloaded and doesn’t need to be taxed with trying to remember a bunch of strangers. It’s good that we could meet again under more agreeable circumstances.”

The bird on Bel’s shoulder cawed and even bumped his head against Bel’s cheek. “All right! I’m sorry,” he grumbled to the bird. “Forgive me. This is my friend, Ozzie the raven.”

Nolan squinted at the inky black bird that was nearly big enough to pass for a chicken. “Like…a real raven?”

Bel nodded. “Yes. We’ve been together for several years now. He likes to tag along and watch the shifters hunt. It also doesn’t hurt that the pack often leaves him some choice bits of meat from their kill.”

“And you can understand him?”

“It’s my gift. Each vampire has one. I can understand animals.” He paused and waved one hand in Damon’s direction. “Like I can understand that your pig isn’t really a pig and would very much like to be human again.”

“My bad. Bel, this is my friend, Redstone Mosely, and that’s his friend, Damon. There was a bit of a situation this evening, and well, we came to our other friend Moon’s house to sort things out.” Sky motioned to the lit farmhouse behind Bel.

Bel chuckled softly. “I’m guessing Moon didn’t inform you that his land would be hosting an entire pack of shifters. That must have been a surprise.” His smile softened toward Red. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Mosely. I’m sorry if I frightened you. You were a stranger, and I tend to be a bit protective of my mates.”

“N-no,” Red stammered. He shook his head once as if to clear away his shock and pushed on. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to run into a Varik tonight, let alone three. Sorry I surprised you.”

“We spoke with Wyatt and River already,” Sky chimed in.

Red shifted Damon’s weight in his arms as he glanced over at Sky. “I should get Damon changed back.”

Sky nodded. “What do you need? Would it be easier to do it here or in Moon’s house?”

Red kneeled and placed Damon in front of him. He kept both hands firmly on the pig, but poor Damon just flopped over, looking both exhausted and somewhat depressed. “Outside is best. I think Damon is calm enough to stay within the circle. I just need a knife to cut a circle in the ground.”

“I know where Moon keeps his casting blades. I’ll go get one,” Sky offered. Before he took a step away, he grabbed Nolan’s biceps. Sky stared hard at him, his large eyes filled with unspoken questions.

Nolan’s heart warmed and he nearly kissed the man again. “I’ll be fine here with Bel and Red. Grab the knife, but don’t run with it.”

Sky’s bright expression gave way to a mock gasp. “Really? You think I’d do something so stupid?”

“It’s been a strange date. Let’s not push our luck,” Nolan chided. He gave in to impulse and pressed a quick kiss to the center of Sky’s forehead.

“Smart.” Sky nodded once and briskly walked off toward the farmhouse, nearly disappearing into the shadows.

“Are you and Sky on a date?” Bel inquired.

“Technically, our first.” Nolan took a couple of steps around where Red and Damon were resting on the ground. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the giant raven. Never had he seen a big bird quite like him up close.

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