Gustav Hermance is finally putting his life back together. He’s landed a job as a foreman for a construction company, he hasn’t suffered a panic attack in months, and he’s found an apartment of his own. Gus’s hard-earned independence has helped him put the experiments the scientists conducted on him behind him. It brings quiet nights, poker evenings with buddies, and learning to be comfortable with his mated friend’s displays of affection. Everything is going well, until he scents something so wonderful, he becomes obsessed with it. Gus thinks he’s found his mate, but the guy’s scent fades too quickly for him to locate the source. With the help of his buddies, he starts a search of Stone Ridge that quickly expands to include the forests around them. What he finds is Tible, a creature he never knew existed. Can he convince the sexy male that their differences don’t have to tear them apart?
He slowed and rolled to a stop, then shut off his engine. Getting out of the truck, he listened to the others park behind him and stared at the two-story, dilapidated church. Scaffolding was constructed against the west side of the structure, since their first task was to shore up the bell-tower. The old building was impressive and Gus often found his mind wandering to its history.
His buddies joined him, and Grady warned, “This is part of the National Forest, so be quiet. We’re really not supposed to be here this late at night.”
“Well, couldn’t ye say ye heard there were possible vandals at the site?” Rainy asked.
Lyle snorted. “And what are you? The vandals?”
The guys laughed, shoving and jostling each other playfully.
As they walked through the small parking lot, movement on the roof caught Gus’s attention. “Did you see that?”
All the men stopped and stared where he pointed. “Is someone up there?” Todd whispered, slipping closer to Lyle, who quickly wrapped his arm around his small wolf shifter mate.
“It does look that way,” Travis commented. “But why would someone be up there?”
“To actually vandalize something,” Grady snarled, striding forward.
Caspian stepped forward. “Let’s not be too hasty,” he suggested, holding up a hand. His gaze shifted toward the roof and his eyes narrowed as he scanned the top of the church’s bell tower. “I don’t think that’s a human bent on vandalism,” he murmured.
“Why do you say that?” Gus asked, following his gaze.
“Because I don’t think it’s a human up there at all,” the vampire answered softly.
“Then, what’s up there?” Casey asked from where he was tucked up close to Caspian’s side.
“How do ye know that?” Rainy asked curiously.
“If you’d all shift, you’d see what I see,” Caspian stated mildly.
“What’s that?” Gus asked, because even if he did shift, he still wouldn’t see what must have caught Caspian’s notice. Rhino’s were not known for their eyesight. Size, yes. Eyesight, no.
Caspian met Gus’s gaze and grinned. “He has wings.”
Gus wasn’t the only one who let out a startled gasp, then several men started stripping.
Less than two minutes later, a massive tiger, and a pair of wolves slipped into the night.
“They won’t hurt him, will they?” Gus asked worriedly.
Lyle frowned and glared at the darkness where his mate had disappeared. “No, and if that creature up there harms so much as one hair on my mate’s head, I will kill it,” he snapped.
Rage slammed through his veins at the man’s words. It took a lot to anger Gus, but a threat to his possible mate definitely did it. He reached out, grabbed Lyle’s t-shirt, and hauled the smaller shifter in close. “That could be my mate you’re talking about,” he snarled.
“Easy, now, Gus,” Gordon soothed softly, laying his hands over Gus’s. “He didn’t mean anything by it. He’s just concerned about his mate running into a possibly dangerous situation.”
Gus’s jaw tightened and he struggled to slow his breathing. He shivered, not liking how it felt to be so upset, and allowed the elephant shifter to peel his big hands off the other man. His shoulders slumped. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“Ah, shit,” Lyle responded. “No, that was a damn stupid thing for me to say.” He slapped Gus on the shoulder. “I’m the one who put my foot in my mouth. I’m sorry.”
“Touching,” Travis teased, “but you really need to see this, Gus.”
“What?” Gus turned his head and followed Travis’s line of site. “Oh, my god.”
Grady, in tiger form, crept across the gable toward the tower. One wolf flanked him, and Gus assumed the other shifter had become human again to open the doors. A head and torso appeared over the railing of the belfry. Gus couldn’t make out features, but from the gasps of a couple of the others, they could. Seconds later, the creature disappeared and a figure appeared on the other side of the structure.
Gus almost swallowed his tongue when the masculine form leaped from the railing. He’d only taken one step, when massive wings unfurled, obscuring the guy’s figure and blocking the pinpricks of starlight. The wings flapped and the creature soared through the night sky. It was the most magnificent sight Gus had ever seen. Then the male disappeared, and Gus’s heart sank. Fear sliced through him. That could have been his mate, and now he was gone.
“Well, well,” Caspian mumbled. “I haven’t seen one of those in a long, long time.”
Gus turned, hope filling him. “What is he?”