Taolma is a young boa constrictor shifter who has recently been reunited with his father after almost two decades apart. He currently lives with a clutch of gargoyles on the outskirts of a small town, but he doesn’t mind. There’s a massive arboretum to sun in and a pond to swim in, plus plenty of trees to climb. Due to the small town atmosphere, Taolma doesn’t expect to find his mate any time soon. Imagine his surprise, excitement, and disappointment when he walks into a motel room and discovers his mate. Quinn is slender, muscular, and handsome. Oh, and he’s a hunter recovering from claw-wounds received from a gargoyle. Taolma hadn’t planned on settling down any time soon, but the pull to mate is undeniable. Can he figure out how to convince a hunter that not all shifters are evil, come to grips with Fate giving him a mate when so young, and of course convince a man who hates paranormals that they are meant to be together?
Quinn paced the room. Feeling cooped up, he couldn’t keep still. He’d heard the sound of gunfire and screams. People he’d worked with, trained with, were out there dying because of his guilt.
That had been hours before.
Growling softly, Quinn picked up the pitcher off the side table and flung it across the room. Unfortunately, it wasn’t made of glass, so he didn’t get to hear that satisfying shattering sound. The container did pour water all over the wall and floor though.
“Did the pitcher do something wrong?”
Spinning, Quinn discovered he was no longer alone. He hadn’t heard anyone knock. In fact, he hadn’t even heard the door open.
Quinn recognized Taolma standing just inside the door.
Gaping, Quinn swept his gaze over the young, black man. He was shirtless, his dark skin gleaming with just a hint of sweat. His sweatpants rode low on his slender hips.
Quinn couldn’t help but think he was a stunning-looking young male. He found his gaze fixed on the white swath of bandage around his midsection. It hid his abs, and Quinn found his interest peaked.
Why do I want to see what’s underneath that?
“No?” Taolma continued, a small smile pulling at his lips. “Then maybe you just wanted to mop the floor.”
“Huh?” Quinn blurted out the word before he could get hold of his mouth. Then, he remembered the man’s original question. Glancing toward the plastic pitcher and the mess he’d made, then returning his focus to Taolma, Quinn muttered, “Just frustrated. I opened my mouth and put a lot of people in danger.”
Taolma sighed, his gaze sweeping around the room for a few seconds. Then, he crossed to the chair by the bed and eased onto it. As he did so, he let out a quiet grunt, a pained expression etching across his features for a few seconds before he cleared it.
“You saved a lot of lives, actually,” Taolma stated softly. “Innocent children and infants.” His smile turned almost reflective. “People who couldn’t fend for themselves against men wielding guns with hearts full of anger, hate, and misunderstanding.”
“Hadn’t really thought about it like that,” Quinn admitted…and he hadn’t. Never once had he thought about baby gargoyles or shifter cubs…not until being brought there, anyway. Easing down on the bed a few feet away from the chair, he swept his gaze over Taolma again. Trying to ignore the way his blood heated with appreciation at the view, he pointed at his torso. “What happened to you?”
“Got shot,” Taolma replied, his expression pained. “Never been shot before. But it was worth it.”
Gulping hard, Quinn didn’t like how that knowledge made him feel. He had an odd desire to ask who’d shot him. What he wanted to do with the information unnerved him further.
No way should I be wanting to avenge the man’s pain.
“What do you mean?” Quinn asked, trying to focus instead on the young man, no, shifter’s comment. “What could be worth getting shot?”
Taolma lifted one dark brow as the corner of his lip curved up. “I helped stop a pair of hunters from kidnapping a teenage girl.”
Quinn felt his eyes widen. “Why would someone kidnap a teenage girl?” He asked the question on impulse, then tried to get clarification. “You mean a female shifter, right?”
“No,” Taolma countered. “I mean a human.” Evidently, Quinn’s expression must have betrayed his disbelief, for he continued, “She’s the daughter of a human female and a gargoyle. There are no female gargoyles, so she was born human.” His brows furrowed as he added, “With a few special perks.”
Frowning, thinking he’d caught the young man in a lie, Quinn pointed his finger at him. “So she’s not human. She’s half gargoyle.”
Scoffing, Taolma shook his head. “There are no half and halves with gargoyles and shifters, Quinn,” he told him. “You either are one or you aren’t.”
Confused, Quinn couldn’t help but ask, “Then what are these special perks you’re talking about?”
“Same things you’ll get when I finally talk you into bonding with me,” Taolma responded with a smirk.