She never expected to run into any Gargoyles, much less two men who claim she's their mate. She's drawn to the two Gargoyles but will escape from them.More info →
Stone Cliff, California
The balmy night wind swirled around Naomi Hardin. It caught her loose hair and whipped the auburn strands across her eyes. She winced as she pulled the locks away and tucked them behind her ear.
Energy sizzled in the evening air. It invigorated her, but also made her wonder at the source. That pulsing force didn’t come from the bright lights on the marquee. No, someone, or something, with power came to the theater tonight.
Naomi hesitated as she approached the double doors. She didn’t need to get in trouble again. Agali Callista, the temporary leader of the Branal, had yelled at her earlier this week when they caught Naomi outside of their territory.
The Agali thought Naomi ignored the danger and wasn’t prepared to face it. Naomi knew that with the Branal ability to draw energy and use fire she’d be safe. She didn’t have to know how to fight.
Naomi shook off the uncertainty. Nothing would happen. She’d meet her friends and leave this area as she had several other times.
Her heels struck the sidewalk in a staccato rhythm as she hurried into the theater. The skirt of her red dress swirled around her legs with each long stride. She took a few deep breaths and focused on the reason she’d come.
Tonight, Stacy, one of her friends, took the stage in the lead role. Naomi wouldn’t miss it because the power floating in the air made her nervous. She’d watch the play. Afterward, they’d go out to dinner to celebrate Stacy’s success.
She glanced around the lobby. The carpet ran from wall to wall and had a scrolling design of gold and black over a deep red. The gold carried over in the decorations on the cream walls. The rich dark wood of the doors into the theater contrasted beautifully.
She shouldn’t be at this playhouse. The theater sat on the wrong side of town for a Branal. This was Gargoyle territory. She wouldn’t miss her friend’s show though. She’d get another lecture if her people found out she’d ventured to this side of the city. Hell, she might be called before their leader.
According to the mentors who lectured her when they caught her the first time, she was too young and hadn’t received enough training to risk being away from their safe areas. They mentioned all the things that could happen to her. A Gargoyle could take her. She could be killed by a corrupt Gobel, a mage, or one of the mage’s creations.
As far as she could tell, those stories about the Gargoyle’s acquisitive nature were just that, stories meant to keep young Branal in their little contained area. On top of that, she hadn’t heard anything about any corrupt Gobel in the area. People talked of the Gobel when they spoke of the beings guarding the vortexes. Mages might exist, but again, no sign of those things.
A high pitched female voice cut through the quiet murmurs of the other people in the theater lobby. “Naomi!”
Naomi shook her head, but didn’t fight the smile. She easily spotted her friend. Dreanna typified a coastal girl. Loud, brash, and blonde. Her black sequined shirt glittered in the overhead lights. Dreanna moved with fluid grace and nothing seemed to impede her. The human woman slithered around groups of people. Dreanna, like other humans, remained unaware that she interacted with people some would call monsters every day.
“Hi, Dreanna, the rest of them here yet?” Naomi referred to their other three friends who’d said they’d be there.
“Yes, they’re already in their seats. We’ve saved yours. We should hurry. It will be starting soon.” Dreanna led the way through the lobby and down a hallway to a set of double doors
“That’s good.” Naomi hadn’t worried about losing her seat. She might not have a lot of size, but she could intimidate. When she revved up her power, people could feel it, and it made them nervous.
They went into the theater and toward the front of the house. Their seats sat about eight rows back from the front of the stage. She slid in and took her spot next to Caleb. The thin young man turned and smiled at her.
She smiled back, but didn’t feel any physical attraction to him. He looked too much like a young boy to her. The male Branal of her age had wider shoulders and more defined muscles.
She sighed. She wanted to finish college and start her career before getting married. Well, the first of her careers. With a Branal’s long life, she’d have time to discover what she liked. Nurse first, after that maybe she’d try lawyer. Sometime in there, she’d have to deal with the arranged marriage her parents kept pushing.
* * * *
Isaac Phillips sat up straight in the red, cushioned seat. Tension pulled his muscles tight, and the base of his neck tingled. Some other type of being had entered the theater. The power flared bright, not weak or tamped down.
He turned his head and scanned the audience. A foreign power might hang in the air, but that didn’t mean that it posed a threat to the female Gargoyle. He assessed the pull of the magic. It remained a steady distance away, but not far from where he sat in the second row.
The slide of fabric on fabric pulled Isaac’s gaze to the left. He saw Neil turning. Neil must have sensed it, as well. Isaac didn’t see any sign of corrupted Gobel. Those things could mask their appearance, but most times didn’t try. The corrupted wouldn’t sit down as everyone seemed to be doing.
The Gargoyles on patrol had seen more corrupted Gobel than normal. The Gobel as a group focused on guarding the portal vortexes. However, like all types of beings, some went bad and became greedy for power or money. The corrupt rarely used glamor to hide their gray skin and red hair, making it easier to spot a corrupted Gobel.
Lately, a few Gargoyles had encountered Appari, but those beings attacked. They didn’t lurk and wait. Panic would rip through the theater if that pasty skinned creature was here. He’d thought by being sent to the theater to guard the women who’d wanted to go would mean a boring night of keeping an eye on six flighty women.
Isaac knew Neil didn’t want to be here, but he often volunteered for almost any overtime or extra duty. Neil tried to prove himself to his bosses, although Isaac didn’t think it was necessary. Neil’s bosses at Gar-corp were smart. The people in management had noticed Neil’s dedication and his great work. He wouldn’t accept that, though. Doubt came from his past. One of Neil’s fathers was an asshole. He had never accepted “good” from Neil. He always pushed for more. That seemed to have stuck with Neil. He always went above and beyond the call of duty. On top of his upbringing, the clan he’d grown up with had no leaders. The instability of the clan made him strive to excel, and continued now that he had a clan with strong leaders.
“I don’t see anything threatening,” Isaac whispered.
“No, the power is relatively close, but not anything I’ve encountered before. Not Gobel, not Gargoyle, and not Mage.” Neil shifted in his seat. “It’s to the left of us, but I can’t pinpoint it. This place is full.”
“Stay focused. They don’t seem to be doing anything. We’ll wait. If they move, we move.” Isaac met Neil’s eyes.
Neil nodded. He turned, but he didn’t completely face forward. His body angled. Isaac took a similar position. He wanted to be able to see movement from behind them. Could it be some sort of Halfling wandering around? All of the beings could interbreed with humans, and occasionally a child would be sired without knowledge from a night of carelessness. A Halfling might have come to see the play.
If nothing happened, they’d see if they could identify the person during the intermission. In the meantime, he pulled out his cellphone. He texted Dante, one of the betas. In case something went wrong, he wanted to let Dante know. His fingers flew over the keyboard.
Isaac: Someone or something with some power is here. No sign of danger or any aggressive intent.
Dante: You don’t know what this person is?
Isaac: Not what or which person. The theater is full, and it’s a light, strange feel of power. I’m thinking maybe Halfling, We won’t be taken by surprise.
Dante: I’ll send some men to help in case it turns bad or you need the Halfling brought to us. They’ll text when they get there.
Isaac: I’ll expect them.
Isaac focused on the women next to him and keeping track of the magic behind him. It didn’t budge until the curtain went down for intermission.
The women on his right side stood. He got to his feet. The magic behind them began to fade. He glanced over his shoulder. The crowd filed out into the lobby. Whoever possessed that magic left without doing anything.
“Stay here. Neil, you remain with them. I’ll have someone bring a tray of drinks. We don’t know if this will turn dangerous. I want you to have a clear way out.” He nodded to the lit exit sign. They had some influence here since the company regularly donated to this theater.
Neil’s eyes narrowed. Isaac knew he wanted to go search with him, but someone needed to guard the women. They’d come to this play as escort and protector, not to enjoy it. The anomalous power provided an interesting diversion, but the women’s safety came first.
“We’ll be here.” Neil nodded.
Isaac eased out of the row and walked up the aisle to the double doors. His phone vibrated notifying him of a new text. He pulled it and glanced at the screen. A text from Leif Fallon appeared. We’re here.
Isaac flagged down a member of the staff, arranged for the refreshments to be taken to Neil and the females. He tipped the man well. Isaac began to wander through the people trying to pick up the power.
The other Gargoyles had arrived. The additional power from them nudged Isaac’s senses. It didn’t block the strange power around them. A tall, dark haired male strode toward him and he recognized Leif Fallon. Leif worked with Isaac at Stone Security, a company owned by one of the betas. Leif strode over to him.
“What’s the situation?” Leif asked
“Still don’t know what it is. I have Neil staying with the women in the theater while I search for whoever it is. They don’t seem to be doing anything threatening, but the fact that they’re here when they feel us is a little concerning.” Isaac frowned.
“Either they’re bold and stupid, or don’t know enough about us to realize we’d feel them, as well.” Leif peered around at the people milling in the carpeted hallway. “Know which direction they went?”
“No, the feeling faded as people filed out into the lobby. I’ll see if I can find this person.” Isaac looked to the right. “I’ll take this way. You take that way.”
Isaac strolled down the hallway. He didn’t walk fast or with his normal purpose. He didn’t want to scare the person into running if he managed to draw close.
What brought the person here? This theater sat in the heart of the Gargoyle territory. If the person came to this area often, they’d been lucky to not run into someone before now.
As he neared the end of the hall, he thought that the person must be on the other side, but then a slight tingle of power buzzed through him. He kept strolling forward, weaving around groups of people chatting during the break. Isaac hoped to get closer to the source.
When he reached the end of the hall, he didn’t feel any closer to the energy. He looked around the crowded corridor. The person could have slipped out if they became nervous, but the power thrummed steadily. His gaze fell on an exit and the door to a bathroom. A women’s bathroom.
Well, hello. He hadn’t thought it might be a female. Determination flooded through him. They would catch the female who’d ventured into their territory.
He eased away from the area near the restroom. Although he had a good view, he wouldn’t have a direct view until the person stepped into the hallway. He didn’t want to seem like a pervert trying to get a glimpse into the women’s bathroom.
With difficulty, he lowered his eyes and didn’t stare openly at that door. He waited. Two women left the bathroom and strolled down the hall. As they passed, he knew they held no power.
The power remained stable. He pulled out his phone and pretended to text as he leaned against the beige wall. Although he looked down, he kept his eyes on the door.
The bathroom door opened again. He kept his head down, but watched a woman come from the bathroom. The strange energy drew closer to him.
He’d found her. Deep brown hair cascaded over her shoulders, highlighting the golden glow of her skin. Sweet curves filled out a red dress.
A thrill rolled through him as a flash of recognition hit him. That knowing was the same as when he’d met Neil. She held the power he’d sensed. On top of that, she was his mate. Not that the woman seemed to notice anything strange.
The woman didn’t look his way. She wandered down the hallway. He let her stroll past him before he came away from the wall. Leif sauntered up the hallway with two other men in suits.
Isaac gave a signal. They needed to get her out of the crowd of people. Leif moved to the side and spoke to a young Gargoyle who worked at the theater. He wouldn’t ask why. He’d know that they protected their people.
The young man walked up to her. He spoke a few words, something about her friend being in the office. He guided her away.
Good job. Isaac nodded. The man didn’t give her time to think or check the truth of his words. Isaac followed at a distance texting Dante about this latest circumstance.
Don’t know what she is, but it’s a woman. She’s mate to Neil and I. Isaac texted. We’re getting her alone so that we can talk to her.
Discover what she is before you bring her near our homes. Dante’s order zoomed back.
We will. We’ll have to get her away from here to do it though. I don’t want to risk anyone else. Isaac tracked the woman’s movements.
Leave Leif and another man there to take over watch on the woman. You and Neil go find out what she is. Dante’s instructions came quickly. Call me when you learn what she is.
It irritated Isaac that Dante thought he’d endanger the other Gargoyles in their community. On the other hand, he hated having to wait to take her home. Nature wouldn’t be so capricious as to match him with someone who would be dangerous. But they had to be cautious.
There had been a few times in the past when a mage had bespelled a woman to make her seem to be a mate and she wasn’t. Fucking mages. They always schemed and plotted or helped someone with their nefarious goals if the money was right. They didn’t care.
The uniformed man led the woman down a narrow side hallway. Dante waited at the end of the hall until the intermission was over. Once most of the people filed back in the auditorium, he headed down the hallway. As he went, he sent a text to Neil explaining what had happened.
Leif waited near the door. Isaac could hear a woman’s voice rising from within the room. She demanded to know what had happened to her friend, anger sharpening her words.
“Go into the theater. You and one of the others are supposed to take over the watch.” Isaac handed him his ticket in case one of the ushers noticed the different people in the seats.
“I’ll grab someone. Lucky you. You get to leave after half a play.” Leif shook his head.