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Fidelity. Loyalty. Passion. Beauty. Flight.
An owl who takes the form of a man, Alder's exotic, affectionate, passionate and loyal. Taj could never have imagined anyone he'd love more and vows his fidelity to Alder until the end of time. Even when Alder loses his wings and can no longer fly in the shape of an owl, Taj stands fast, refusing to let his man give up. Whatever he has to do to help Alder fly again, he won't hesitate.
A tattoo artist who seeks beauty in all things, Paulian has had his fill of man's inhumanity to man, and to the world. In the wake of an Atlantic oil spill, he wishes with all his heart that he could save one. Just one: a man named Adek. Wild things are not meant to be caged, but swans mate for life...
It's long been said that the song of a nightingale is one of sorrow for the fallen and the heartbroken. Ger's been dealt more than his share of troubles in recent days. He doesn't expect anything more than a chance to catch his breath when he accepts the offer of caretaking a friend's apartment for a month -- but what he finds in Magnus, the reclusive owner, is so much more.
Publisher's Note: Birds of Prey contains the previously published novellas Night Owl, Black Swan, and Nightingale's Song.
Praise for Night Owl
"Rife with Willa Okati's trademark unusual depth of perception (I often think Ms. Okati is psychic in her ability to view her characters "from the inside out") Night Owl continues her stunning unanimous successes in interweaving deep characterization with important emotional issues and a backdrop of sizzling, scorching, male/male sexuality and sensuality."
-- Frost's Fancy, Rainbow Reviews
"I felt Taj's emotions right along with him: love, pain, hope. Feeling along with Taj made the ending all the more satisfying. If you're looking for a quick, emotional tale with an unusual shifter, pick up Night Owl."
-- Cassie, Joyfully Reviewed
Praise for Black Swan
"Purely masterful in every way."
-- Nightside, Whipped Cream Reviews
"Ms. Okati's story Black Swan is a beautifully written story of love and truth."
-- Teresa, Fallen Angel Reviews
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Birds of Prey (Box Set)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2018 Willa Okati
Excerpt from Night Owl
Taj's life changes on a Saturday night.
Three weeks out of the military, he still doesn't sleep well, too used to tossing and turning in the sweltering heat, in the company of other soldiers, all of them restless, waiting for the next round of screaming missiles overhead. Limbs aching from harsh use, weak from the relentless sun. The skies are not their friends.
Taj doesn't know anyone in the city he's moved to, and he prefers it that way. He wants a fresh start. Anyone who sees him with his sable hair buzzed close to the scalp and his erect posture will pin him for ex-military, sure, but otherwise they don't know anything about him.
He's free to be all he can be. And what he wants to be most is a man with a home. And for Taj, a home means someone to share it with.
Taj has thought about getting a dog, but as good as hounds are, they don't fill all the empty spaces in a man's life. No, Taj wants a man -- and he can say it easily, out here in civilian life -- a strong, tough man with a soft heart and a hot body, a man who'll challenge him and captivate his fantasies.
That's what home means to him.
And so ironically enough, he's at a bar. Some hole in the wall in the trendily ramshackle part of downtown; his neighbor Ray-Don, an ex-Marine, told him about the place. Taj forgot the name as soon as he walked in.
A few folks, less than thrilled with the government, gave him the hairy eyeball when he first arrived, but they've forgotten about him now. They ignore him, twined around their boys in eyeliner, black-painted nails thrust through dyed, spiked hair, and crimson-painted lips consuming one another. Some male, some female, and some Taj can't tell about.
No one for him. Not yet. S'okay. The night's young.
Taj finds himself drifting toward a window made of one-way glass. Anyone outside who doesn't know better will see it as a mirror. He likes looking out without anyone else able to look back in. It's safer to look at the skies this way. He's forgotten how beautiful they can be, especially at times like now, night shading toward sunrise, coloring the clouds with vivid streaks of red and purple and lush blue.
He used to fly kites, when he was young. Loved nothing better than to see them soaring overhead, proud and bold, bright and brilliant.
Sometimes he dreamed about flying, even in Afghanistan.
Taj sips idly at his beer, long since gone warm, and waits by the window. He's in no hurry.
He spies a bird, or what he thinks is a bird, out of the corner of his eye. Big friggin' bird, Taj notes curiously as it approaches, increasing in size. Not a pigeon. What is -- is that an owl? What's an owl, a great snowy owl, doing in the urban jungle?
Fascinated, Taj watches in awe as the proud avian coasts to a stop outside the one-way window. It ruffles its feathers before smoothing its wings down and cocking its head to blink up at Taj through its black, black eyes ringed with gold. The feathers on the bird's throat flicker; Taj knows it's just hooted at him.
At him. This bird can see through the glass, can see Taj. He is sure of it.
Taj wonders if this should freak him out more than it does, then decides, nah. After what he's lived through? It'll take more than a bird to scare Taj. Besides, his grandmother was Romanian. A traveler. She told him stories of the old country, where peddlers were princes and Baba Yaga flew across the sky in a cauldron, granting wishes. Stories are as familiar to Taj as ordinary people. Why should he be afraid of them?
He's always wished that one of those tales would come true, anyway.
"Hey there, big guy," Taj whispers, laying his fingers lightly on the glass. The owl tracks his movements. It can see him. "Smart, aren't you? Did you escape from someone, somewhere?"
The bird flares its wings.
"I guess not." Taj strokes the glass, imagining its smooth coolness is the owl's warm, soft down. He watches the owl, who watches him in return, studying Taj intently. The owl's a king among his kind, Taj thinks, pure white from ruff to tail feathers with an odd sort of red-colored barred ring around its neck, a necklace of sorts.
"Hey, watch it!"
Taj pivots around, moving before he realizes he's broken away from the window, his reflexes still razor-keen and his nerves edgy. In front of him, a drunk, laughing kid who's too young to be here reels back, plastic cup of beer tilting crazily in his hand. His buddy, dressed in ripped black from head to toe, points and mocks him for his clumsiness.
Heart beating in his throat, Taj turns back to the window -- and the owl's gone.
No. Aw, no. Taj's spirits sink. Damn it, they must have scared the owl away.
So he won't lose his temper -- they didn't know what they were doing; they're just kids -- Taj stays put, facing the window and the mostly-empty street. Everyone who comes down here is already passed out in bed or still partying. He sips his beer, traces patterns on the glass, and wishes the owl would find its way back.
The warm, dry hand on Taj's shoulder doesn't startle him, and that in itself alarms Taj enough to look around sharply the second after the touch registers. "Who do you think --" he starts.
He doesn't finish.
Behind Taj stands a man dressed simply in loose dark blue jeans, still crisp with folds from storage on a shop shelf, a white undershirt too small for him that's molded itself to his ridged torso, his hair soft and nearly white, floating to his shoulders, as baby-fine in texture as bird's down.
Taj's throat swells up. His tongue's empty of words.
The man fingers his necklace -- more of a choker -- made of heavy red wood beads -- and grins slyly at Taj, the tip of his pink tongue wetting his lips. "You looked like you could use some company, soldier," he says. "My name is Alder."
"You're the owl," Taj whispers.
Alder nods, as if that's enough. And maybe it is.