Ridger Carruthers watches his best friends find their beloveds in members of the nearby gargoyle clutch. Having met all the males, he knows none of them are his own. He doesn’t think anything of it when he zips over there to deliver electronic supplies.
Joining the gargoyles for a meal, Ridger comes face to face with someone new—the visiting gargoyle elder, Vermidian. The male is quick to declare that Ridger is his mate…as well as demand that he leave Wyoming to live with him in Ohio. Beloved or not, Ridger gives in to his knee-jerk reaction and tells him no.
As an elder, Vermidian can’t remember the last time someone refused his command. To hear his fate-given mate tell him no shocks him, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on the vampire. Instead, Vermidian invites himself to stay at Ridger’s coven, with a pair of Elder Enforcers in tow.
With so many dominant personalities in one place, Ridger and Vermidian hit bumps quickly and not just with each other. Can they learn to communicate in time to save not only their relationship but the coven and clutch from hunters, too?
Recognizing the feminine voice coming through his desk phone’s intercom, Ridger Carruthers leaned over and pressed the speaker button. “Yes, Lidia?” He knew Lidia would be manning the front desk at that hour.
“The delivery you were expecting has arrived,” Lidia told him. “I sent him around to the loading dock.”
“Ah, fantastic. Thank you, Lidia.”
Ridger rose from his seat, more than ready to take a break from dealing with balancing the accounts. As the second of the Maven vampire coven, he could have assigned the task to another. Ridger happened to prefer the information be kept between him and his buddies. Their coven’s leader, Master Krispin, would call him controlling while the head enforcer, Basques, would laugh at him.
The pair had been his best friends for almost two-and-a-half centuries. When they’d left their birth coven because it had been taken over by a vicious vampire, the asshole had made up fictitious charges and named them all rogue. With no coven master willing to take a chance on three strong vampires, they’d decided to form their own coven.
As Ridger hurried to the loading docks, he thought about how things had changed so drastically over the last couple of years. Both his friends had found their beloveds—their soul mates—in gargoyles from the nearby Aerasceatle clutch. In the past, the coven hadn’t had much to do with the gargoyles. The chieftain had been an asshole, so they’d kept their distance. Then the clutch’s leadership had changed, and lo and behold—several vampires found bonds.
Ridger would never admit to being jealous, but while lying alone in his bed at night, he definitely wished he had someone to hold.
Pushing those thoughts from his mind, Ridger focused on why he had to meet with the delivery driver. There had always been hidden groups of humans who knew about and hunted paranormals, and their coven had recently become targeted by a group of them. They didn’t know what had given away that they weren’t human and were still questioning the few they’d kidnapped after the attack on New Year’s Eve.
For everyone’s safety, all deliveries were being verified by himself or an enforcer. They needed to be certain nothing was tampered with. Plus, they couldn’t have a delivery driver planting anything dangerous or smuggling hunters into their coven-run hotel.
Reaching the loading dock, Ridger exited the man-sized door. He spotted the waiting box truck and strode toward it swiftly. Seeing their regular driver climbing down from the cab, Ridger smiled in welcome at Darrell.
“Hey, Darrell,” Ridger greeted, holding out his hand. “Thanks for your patience.”
“Of course, Ridger,” Darrell replied, shaking his hand. After releasing, he rubbed the back of his neck as he eyed him in confusion. “If ya don’t mind me asking, what’s with the extra security?”
Ridger grimaced as he lied, “We had an issue with theft at the docks.” He watched Darrell open his box truck’s rolling back door so he could check the interior for hidden humans. “We discovered an employee pilfering certain items. He hasn’t revealed if he was working alone or if others are involved.” As Ridger headed to the loading dock rolling door, he added, “So now checking the inventory is left to a certain few.”
Darrell was nodding as he moved back to the truck’s cab. “The extra cameras make sense now.”
Looking over his shoulder at Darrell, Ridger spotted the man pointing at the obvious extra cameras. There were a half-dozen hidden ones, too.
“Extra cameras?” Ridger asked curiously.
Pausing with his hand on the bar used to help climb into the cab, Darrell nodded. “Spotted a box from that electronics company you guys favor.”
Ridger hadn’t realized more cameras had been ordered, but he nodded anyway. “You can never have enough,” he answered before turning his attention back to the loading bay door. As Ridger opened it, he muttered to himself, “Gonna have to ask Ninevah about that.”
Ninevah was their coven’s tech guy. The wiry vampire could do things with computers that Ridger couldn’t hope to understand. The vampire had joined their coven almost from the start, and he was privy to just about everyone’s secrets. Officially, Ninevah was ranked as an enforcer, but he rarely saw field work. His skills were better utilized behind the scenes.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Ridger watched Darrell back his truck up to the dock. He waited patiently as the human did something in his truck. Considering as soon as Darrell exited the vehicle again and he held a clipboard, Ridger figured it was paperwork.
“Okay, Ridger,” Darrell began, crossing to stand near him. He held out the clipboard, which had a pen tucked into it. “Today is six cases of towels and one of sheets.” Reading down the list, Darrell continued, “There’s the monthly delivery of lotions, shampoos, and stuff.”
Ridger listened dutifully as Darrell went over the list. Then they moved to the back of the truck. He helped carry the indicated boxes, enjoying the few minutes of physical activity after spending two hours poring over books.
Once everything had been offloaded, Ridger signed where needed. He took his copy of the invoice. After seeing Darrell off, Ridger closed and locked the doors.
Pulling out his cell phone, Ridger called Ninevah.
“Yes, Second Ridger?” Ninevah answered on the second ring.
“Hi, Ninevah,” Ridger greeted. “I’m down at the loading dock picking up this month’s order, and there’s a box from Trysko Electronics.”
“Oh, fantastic. Thanks for telling me, Second.” Ninevah sounded pleased. “I’ll tell Lathe they’re here. I’m sure he’ll be stoked and want to come get them right away.”
“Lathe?” Ridger knew the vampire had recently chosen to live with the nearby gargoyle clutch since his best friend, Sorbin—who was more like a brother to Lathe—had recently found his beloved in the gargoyle second, Destrawn. “These are for the clutch?”
That makes more sense.