Basques Grouper takes his job as the head enforcer for the Maven coven very seriously. When his coven’s Master Krispin learns that the nearby gargoyle clutch has a new chieftain, Basques is sent with his coven’s second-in-command and another enforcer to meet with him. The meeting is going well…until a small blue gargoyle enters to serve refreshments, and Basques scents his blood. When he asks to taste the male, his over-eager approach, sends the gargoyle running. Basques learns the small gargoyle is Dloben, and under the prior chieftain’s rule, he’d been abused. Working to change his approach, Basques must put his faith in the mate-pull and the advice of strangers. Can Basques convince his shy beloved that he’s not like the dominant paranormals he’s dealt with in the past?
“There’s a new chieftain of the Aerasceatle clutch.”
Basques Grouper lifted one brow as he focused on his coven master, Krispin Stearling.
The coven’s second, Ridger Carruthers asked what Basques was thinking. “That’s unusual, isn’t it? I didn’t think Chieftain Grecian was even close to stepping down. Hostile takeover?”
Krispin dipped his black-haired head in the slightest of nods. “Yes. One of the enforcers challenged and wrestled control from the chieftain.” His blue eyes narrowed as he absently stroked his goatee. “Rumors are there was even a gargoyle elder in attendance.”
“An elder?” Basques lifted his tumbler of whiskey and swirled the contents as he thought about that. “The gargoyle race only has a few of them, don’t they?”
Krispin nodded once more. “Twelve, if memory serves.”
“And the elder backed the takeover?” Ridger commented before taking a sip of his own drink. “Huh.”
Basques thought the same thing. The gargoyle race had always been known as fairly passive. While they defended their interests with blood-thirsty intensity, they didn’t go out of their way to attack others. If this gargoyle was willing to roust his own chieftain, did that mean he was different?
Their coven was only a couple hundred miles away, situated in the city of Green Springs. They’d always had an unspoken agreement with Chieftain Grecian to leave each other alone. An ambitious gargoyle could spell trouble for them.
“I think we need to meet this new chieftain”—Master Krispin glanced down and checked his notes—“Chieftain Kinsey and see what his intentions are.” He glanced around the room, peering at not only Ridger and Basques but the coven’s second enforcer, Tabatha, who was also sitting in on the meeting. “We need a gift suitable for a new chieftain. Ideas?”
“Without knowing much about him, we should probably do something classic,” Basques offered before taking a sip of his whiskey. “Something that can’t be misconstrued as offensive.”
“A cask of mead?” Ridger tossed out the idea.
“Does he have a beloved?” Tabatha asked even as she nodded, obviously liking Ridger’s idea.
Either that or she was trying to get in the man’s bed again. Basques had heard she had managed to snag Ridger’s attention for one evening, but since they weren’t beloveds, he had been clear he wasn’t interested in a repeat. Tabatha was still trying to change his mind.
Basques intended to pull Ridger aside and warn him of the rumor he’d just overheard that Tabatha was hoping to have a baby with him. Something about strong genetics, and how it would set the kid up for greatness. While Tabatha was ambitious, she’d hit the ceiling of where she could rise at the Maven coven, so Basques’s sources said she wanted to have a powerful child so she could eventually start her own coven.
She even had a few vampires convinced to go with her.
Hmm…maybe I should let Master Krispin know, too.
“Yes, Chieftain Kinsey is mated.” Krispin’s response returned Basques’s attention to the here and now. “A young human male named Jimmy.”
Tabatha’s brows furrowed. “A human male?” She snickered before adding, “How will he produce an heir, then? That seems foolish on Fate’s part. Maybe he’s not a true mate but someone he’s infatuated with?”
Basques fought his desire to roll his eyes as he stated, “You forget, Tabatha.” When she pinned a narrow-eyed gaze at him, he barely resisted the urge to bare his fangs or smack the disrespectful look off her face. “Gargoyles can reproduce with their male partners.”
“Oh my god!” Tabatha cried, curling her lip and wrinkling her nose as if she’d just smelled something disgusting. “That’s horrible!”
Master Krispin’s eyes narrowed as he held up his hand, obviously calling for her silence.
Tabatha made the mistake of not heeding his warning. “That’s so unnatural,” she griped, shaking her head. “How come I hadn’t heard that before? I always thought gargoyles were sort of monster-like, but now I know they’re—”
“Enough,” Master Krispin thundered, rising from his seat. Pointing toward the door, he ordered in a cold tone, “Go find Carmine. Now.”
Rising to her feet, Tabatha nodded curtly. Then she headed out of the room.
When she slammed the door behind her, Second Ridger groaned. “Gods, I can’t believe I tapped that.” He rubbed his palm over his face as he shook his head.
Basques barked a laugh, unable to help himself. Even the master snorted a quiet chuckle. Heaving a sigh, Ridger scowled at them both.
“I was gonna warn you,” Basques began, pointing toward the door with his tumbler. “She’s trying to get you to knock her up. She wants a powerful child, so she can start her own coven.”
Ridger’s cheeks paled, and his eyes widened. He began shaking his head, then stopped in favor of gulping the rest of his whiskey. After that, he rose and crossed to the sideboard to refill his glass. Once he’d downed it like a shot, Ridger huffed a sigh.
“Please tell me you’re making that shit up,” Ridger muttered, refilling his tumbler again.
“I heard that rumor, too, old friend,” Krispin claimed, rising from his own seat. He rounded his desk to stand next to Ridger, placing his hand on his shoulder, all pretense of rank dropped with only the three of them in the room. They’d started the coven together over one hundred fifty years before. “I’ve had Sorbin keeping a discreet eye on her for the last month,” he admitted, referencing one of the coven’s best trackers.
“Gods, Kris,” Ridger replied, heaving a sigh. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble by sleeping with her. I was—” He paused and shook his head.