Elder Bodb has walked the earth for over a thousand years. All that time, he’s waited patiently for Fate to bring him his mate. When he travels to the Falias clutch to share sentencing information on one of their former members, he catches just the faintest whiff of something…something intoxicating. His mate is finally near. After discovering the smell originated from the brother of a man mated to a gargoyle, Bodb learns that Nicholas Lindson doesn’t know about the paranormal world. To make matters worse, Nicholas is engaged to some socialite in Texas, and the wedding is only a few weeks away. Bodb discovers that’s not the worst thing, though. Nicholas is the heir to a Texas cattle baron empire, and his father is very involved in his life—overly so. Can Elder Bodb figure out how to not only share that paranormals exist and woo Nicholas, but to extricate his human out from under the father’s domineering hand?
“Wait a minute.” Nicholas held up his hand. “What are you guys talking about? Who’s Elder Bodb? Why did you call me his mate?” Clenching his hand into a fist, he rested it on the stone bench. “Don’t I get a say in this?”
“Not really,” Mitch replied, his tone turning serious. “Paranormals are tenacious about bonding with their mate once they meet him.” His lips curved into a wry smile as he peered at Kardamon. “But it’s not all bad. The pleasure is amazing, and they’re totally devoted to your happiness and shit.”
For a long moment, the only sound filling the fountain area was the gurgle of water pouring from the stone dolphin’s mouth and pattering into the basin.
Nicholas glanced around at everyone. His lips were parted, and his brows were high on his forehead. He seemed to meet everyone’s gaze for an instant, getting nods from all the men.
Seeing the lines of tension on Nicholas’s back, even under the sports coat, Bodb wished only to hold him close and soothe him. He clenched his free hand, digging his claws into his palms. Swallowing hard, Bodb wished to speak with his mate, to hold him.
“Uh, why are you stringing me a line like this?” Nicholas murmured, his soft voice barely carrying to Bodb. His confusion and hurt, even, was clearly evident in his tone. Staring at Mitch, he continued, “Is pulling a prank like this payment for me standing beside Dad all these years? The ranch needed me. I—” Nicholas paused and shook his head. When he spoke again, his tone was filled with remorse. “I’d really hoped when Sapian said you wanted to talk with me that we’d have time alone. Could bury the hatchet. But this—” He stopped and used a hand to indicate their audience.
“Shit, man,” Mitch mumbled, hunching his shoulders. “I never blamed you. I knew you needed to be in Texas.” Peering at his brother through his lashes, he added, “Really. That isn’t what all this is.” Glancing in Bodb’s direction, Mitch called, “Elder Bodb? Maybe you should come out, ’cause I’m really fuckin’ this up. I don’t know my brother well enough to know how he’ll react, but surely it’d be better than—” He stopped talking and waved his hand toward Nicholas.
“I’ll come out,” Bodb immediately called. “Please don’t run, Nicholas. I would never hurt you.”
Nicholas turned his head in Bodb’s direction, a scowl furrowing his brows. “Uh. Ooookay.”
Not a ringing endorsement, but Bodb would take it. He tucked his wings around his shoulders and released his hold on the hedge. Turning toward Aziel, he saw the big man had an encouraging smile on his face.
“Good luck,” the human whispered as Bodb headed toward the opening beside him.
“Thanks,” Bodb muttered back.
Pausing just out of sight, Bodb took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. He stepped forward and turned to face Nicholas. His mate’s jaw immediately sagged open, and his face paled.
“Holy fuck,” Nicholas whispered, his entire body tensing, as if he were readying to leap to his feet and run. Just as quickly, he narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “Oh, I get it! Night Wingers! This place is a private resort for people into cosplay. Why are you hiding that?” Still grinning, Nicholas rose to his feet and faced Bodb. “Wow! That is an amazing costume!”
Bodb stood still as Nicholas drew closer. He clenched his hands, fighting his urge to reach out and touch. Instead, Bodb kept his mouth shut and just stared as Nicholas rounded him. He couldn’t help enjoying the impressed amazement on his mate’s features.
At least Nicholas likes what he sees.
Hoping his human still felt that way when he realized the truth of things, Bodb waited patiently under Nicholas’s perusal. He saw Kardamon and Sapian both open their mouths, probably with the intent of correcting his mate’s mistake. With a swift shake of his head, Bodb silently ordered both men to remain silent.
Once Nicholas again stood before him, Bodb lifted his brow ridge in silent question.
Nicholas grinned as he lifted his hands, palms out. “I don’t know protocol or anything, but can I touch your suit? Is it rubber?”
“It is not rubber,” Bodb told him quietly. “And you are welcome to touch.”
When Nicholas settled both palms on his pectorals, Bodb fought back a shudder. His hide seemed to erupt with warm tingles everywhere his mate’s fingertips touched. He swallowed hard, trying to get moisture to his too-dry throat, and a soft moan escaped him when Nicholas skimmed his nails over his sensitive nipples.
Yanking his hands away, Nicholas gaped. His cheeks took on a rosy glow, and his nostrils flared. He stared up at him, his mouth opening and closing in clear shock.
“Y-Y—” Nicholas shook his head once as he stepped backward. He pointed at Bodb’s chest. “Th-That’s not a suit.”