Kinsey has watched for centuries as his father’s bigoted views tore his family apart. Seeing the rift between his parents grow wider than ever, he does the only thing he can think of to fix it, even knowing it could very well cost him his enforcer position. Sneaking into Falias clutch territory, Kinsey searches for his estranged brother, Conchlin. He finds him at a bowling alley. Once he gets in there, the scent of another quickly distracts him—the human Jimmy. For the first time in Kinsey’s life, he puts his own desires first. With some help from Conchlin, he meets Jimmy and slowly begins to woo him from the shadows. Just when Kinsey prepares to reveal the existence of paranormals and that he’s a gargoyle, his worst fears manifest—his father discovers where he’s been going and beats Kinsey to sharing the truth with Jimmy—terrifying him in the process. To top it off, his father offers Kinsey an ultimatum—stay out of Falias clutch territory forever or be labeled rogue. Can Kinsey find a way to fix the damage done by his father, or will he lose not only his family, but Jimmy as well?
“How dare you go against me,” Creasis roared. “I am your mate. You do as I say!”
Kinsey’s father’s voice was easily discernable to Kinsey through the closed bedroom door.
“And how, may I ask, have I not done as you say?” Kinsey’s mother, Wendy, retorted in a haughty tone.
“It was you who helped Conchlin petition for another clutch.” There was a snarl in Creasis’s tone. “Do you have any idea how it made me look to find that out from Chieftain Grecian? My own mate?”
“You just realized that?” Wendy barked out a cold laugh. “Maybe if you’d taken some interest in our middle child, you would have recognized the fact that he wasn’t happy here. It would have been easy to figure out that he was searching for a new home.”
“But it was you who did that for him,” Creasis pointed out.
“Of course, I did.” Wendy didn’t sound in the least bit subdued. In fact, she sounded proud. “I love all my sons equally.” Finally, Wendy’s tone took on a hard edge. “Unlike you.”
Having heard enough, Kinsey took a step backward and opened the door behind him. He’d entered fifteen minutes ago with Creasis, and his father had immediately gotten into it with his mother. He hadn’t even cared that Kinsey had been with him and would have been able to hear everything shouted. Kinsey still didn’t know how Wendy had been able to get hold of information on other gargoyle clutches or how she’d chosen the one she did.
Kinsey slipped out of his parents’ suite, closing the door behind him ever-so-softly. Striding swiftly down the hallway, he exited the estate’s small wing which housed the mated pairs of the Aerasceatle clutch. There were only five of them, including his own parents.
Even their leader, Chieftain Grecian, wasn’t mated.
With that thought, another memory surfaced. Over a dozen members of the Falias clutch, including Kinsey’s own brother, had found their forever mate. Fate had smiled greatly on the clutch…and Kinsey had even asked Conchlin’s mate, the horse shifter Baron, why he thought that was.
Baron had seemed to find his question funny, saying, “Maybe it’s because of how the clutch is run. Fate may be more apt to help those who care for their fellow, uh, paranormals.” Kinsey’s brow ridges had furrowed, so Baron had continued, “You know, instead of trying to control and manipulate everyone around them so you can gain a little power.”
Before Kinsey had had the opportunity to formulate a follow-up question, they’d been interrupted by Enforcer Sapian of the Falias clutch.
Entering his room, Kinsey crossed to his small kitchenette and grabbed a beer out of the half-refrigerator set under the counter. He used his thumb-claw to pop the cap, which he tossed into the trash under the sink. After crossing to the small sofa and flopping onto it, Kinsey took a deep swallow of the hoppy brew.
Kinsey rested his head against the back of the sofa and scowled at the ceiling. Over the past couple of months, he’d replayed that conversation over and over. He’d thought up a whole list of questions that he should have asked.
How else would a clutch be run?
Doesn’t every gargoyle want to be seen as powerful?
Why do you think we don’t care for our clutch members?
Why do you think someone is being manipulated?
If a clutch doesn’t have strong, decisive leadership, won’t there be dissention?
After so long, Kinsey had realized he could answer a few of those himself. He figured Baron wouldn’t think they cared about their clutch members due to his father’s and eldest brother’s treatment of Conchlin. They’d tried to take away his fated mate, after all.
On top of that, while walking through halls of the Falias clutch’s estate, he’d overheard something he hadn’t known. A male could only bear children if he was a fated mate. Festian had made several crass comments about how once he’d bonded with Baron, he would essentially keep him barefoot and pregnant.
It had caused Kinsey’s gut to churn.
Then he’d overheard that, physically, it couldn’t happen. Had Festian known? Had his father?
On top of that, Baron had flat out refused even the notion of bonding with Festian. His brother would have had to force the alpha-personality horse shifter. To Kinsey’s shock and disgust, his brother had actually seemed excited by that prospect.
And my father had been encouraging Festian’s behavior.
Kinsey downed another gulp of beer, then leaned forward. Resting his forearms on his thighs, he dangled the bottle between his fingertips. He glared at the floor.
Since being back home, there had been a bit of grumbling amidst the smaller members of the clutch—the gargoyles that Chieftain Grecian called wingless ones. It wasn’t a secret that their chieftain considered any gargoyle that wasn’t big, strong, and with wings sprouting from his shoulder blades as inferior. Grecian essentially used the small ones as slave labor.
At the Falias clutch, it hadn’t been that way at all.
Kinsey had spotted a small, pale-purple gargoyle kiss his mate good-bye, then head into the woods on patrol. Upon returning home, he’d discreetly asked his mother what Conchlin did these days. Her response—he was studying medicine and was a welcome member of the medical team. On top of that, Kinsey had spotted another wingless one and discovered he was one of the Falias clutch’s top technological guys.
It doesn’t have to be this way. No wonder Conchlin left. He’s happy where he’s at.
Rubbing his free hand over his face, Kinsey again thought of his parents and the increasing distance between them. He saw the strain around his mother’s eyes and the corners of her lips. On his father, the anger never seemed to leave his eyes.