Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Sign of the Throne, The Boy and the Shadows:

Abby spent the next evening babysitting for Cassandra and Riordan. She put the kids to bed and laid out her homework on the coffee table downstairs. She was immersed in her work when she realized—the house was quiet. Eerily quiet.

She was used to the familiar creaks and groans of the old house, and night ushered in the occasional chirp of a cricket or flutter of moth wings around the antique sconces lighting the room. Tonight she heard nothing—there was only dead silence. She felt a prickle at the back of her neck and realized she was shivering. The room had gone unnaturally cold, and she had the distinct sense that she was not alone.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadowy presence, someone standing still, watching her. She turned to look, but there was no one there. She felt a terrible unease twisting in her gut. Something was wrong.

Responding to her intuition, she got up and climbed the stairs to check on the children. Ciaran was snoring, perfectly at peace. He had wriggled out of his covers in his sleep. Abby tucked him back in.

Leaving his room, she walked down the hall to the twins’ room. The nightlight in the hallway began blinking erratically. She entered the room and froze. Perched monkey-like on the corner of Rowan’s crib was a shadowed figure the size of a small boy, leaning over the sleeping child. Sensing Abby, it turned its head, blood-red eyes meeting hers.

Abby gasped with horror as the creature leapt with unnatural agility from the crib and crouched like a spider high on the wall, staring down at her. Slowly, it smiled, revealing rows of pointed narrow teeth, sharp as razors. And then…it pounced.

Abby raised her arms to shield herself, scrunched her eyes shut, and screamed. But there was nothing. She heard a low chuckle behind her and saw the creature near the door. The shadow boy laughed and ran out. The smoky form changed into a large black housecat before disappearing through the hallway wall.

Abby ran to the twins’ light switch and turned on the lights. She checked to make sure Rowan and Siobhan were unharmed, and then hurried to Ciaran’s room, flicking on lights as she ran. Ciaran was still fast asleep—her scream had not disturbed him at all.

She jerked open his closet door and found his aluminum baseball bat. Then, scooping him and the quilt up from his bed, she ran back to Rowan and Siobhan’s room. She shut the door and nestled the five year old into a make-shift bed on the floor. Sitting against the dresser next to him, she hummed, trying to reassure herself. Armed with the bat and the adrenaline coursing through her body, she waited.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Sign of the Throne, Faery Godmothers:

After school, Abby decided to take a walk through Newcastle Beach. She told herself she needed to clear her head, and thought walking along the beach might be a good remedy. But the truth was she was hoping to run into David again. No matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise, she was more drawn to him than ever.

Halfway between the old mansion and the beach, she noticed a commotion. Several large alley cats were harassing a raven. The bird was putting up a good fight, but was outnumbered and being overpowered.

“Hey!” Abby shouted. She ran toward the feline predators, waving her arms wildly. An oversized, bob-tailed black cat bared its teeth and hissed at her. She kicked at it and it got the message, slinking away. Is it my imagination, Abby thought, or are housecats bigger than they used to be? That black cat had to have been the size of a cocker spaniel.

Gently, Abby scooped up the raven, inspecting him for wounds. Nothing looked broken, but when she ran her fingertip along the edge of one wing, the bird winced and pecked at her hand as a warning. “All right,” she said. “No more touching that spot. Let’s get you home.” Cradling the raven in her arms, she slipped through the mansion’s gate.

Once inside, the bird wriggled free from her grasp and took flight, gliding low over a tangle of green bushes that looked oddly familiar to Abby. I’ve been here before, she thought. In my dream.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of white. The doe? Noticing an opening in the knotted snarl of green, she entered an overgrown maze, dark with branches crossed overhead. Trying to remember the pattern of the labyrinth from her dream, she stepped further into the darkness, her arms stretched out to guide her. She turned corner after corner and came to a circular clearing in the center of the emerald maze, with passages leading in three directions.

Which way now? As if in answer to her unspoken question, she heard a rustle above her. Looking up, she saw two golden eyes staring down. Her raven friend cocked his head and then dived into the labyrinth, flying low in front of her. He landed in front of the middle passage a few feet away and hopped impatiently, waiting for her to catch up. “Right behind you,” Abby said. “Show me.”

She followed the raven through a twisting passage, which was becoming increasingly familiar. Soon, she knew, she would reach the opening to the beach. Would David be waiting for her, like in the dream?

As she turned the last corner, she held her breath in anticipation, fully expecting to see him. Instead, the labyrinth halted abruptly in a solid green dead end.

Then, Abby gasped in horror. A haunting figure appeared before her. Facing the wall, the hag wore a ragged dress that might have been white long ago, but was now dirty grey. Stringy white hair hung down her back and a withered arm hung limply at her side. The hag turned, revealing a ruined face and a hideous milk-white eye.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2012