Tristan has never been what someone would call a social guy. Like the alligator he shares his spirit with, he prefers being alone. Now, after enduring decades of forced isolation as an animal attraction in a curiosity show, Tristan is even more reclusive than ever. He lives mainly in animal form, swimming in the large pond on the gargoyle’s estate. When he helps kidnap his abuser, Bud Wallice, Tristan decides interrogating the bastard is a great reason to finally interact with others.
Eventually, Bud is reported missing by his wife, and the trail leads to the gargoyle’s estate. Tristan meets Detective Collin DeSoto, who is looking into the disappearance. Tristan immediately recognizes the man as his mate, and while the sex between them is explosive, that’s the only easy thing between them. Collin isn’t out to his incredibly large family, and he doesn’t approve of how Tristan handles Bud. Can the pair resolve their differences, or will Tristan end up returning to his pond…alone?
Another breeze kicked up, and the human’s scent flowed across his sensitive senses.
Tristan slowly swam closer, the grass parting around him as excitement coursed through him. After so many years of solitude, Fate finally brought his mate to him. Tristan admired the detective again, anticipation flooding him.
“Ah, there he is,” Maelgwn said, pointing at him. “Tristan, we need to talk to you.”
“What?” The detective looked in Tristan’s general direction. “Where?”
Tobias pointed toward him, too, as Tristan swam through the water toward the end of the dock where the detective stood. He wanted to be closer to the human, but didn’t want to freak him out, either. He’d heard the clutch had an in with the local human police, but he’d never heard just how knowledgeable and accepting he was.
“Holy shit! It’s a fucking alligator,” the detective exclaimed.
“That’s Tristan,” Maelgwn stated. “He’s the shifter we need to talk to about Mister Wallice.”
Watching closely as he glided along the side of the dock, Tristan noted the myriad of emotions crossing the detective’s face. Fear first, followed by interest, wonder, and finally curiosity. The detective’s mouth opened just a bit and he licked his lower lip.
Good. I can work with that.
“I’ve never been this close to one,” the human said, lowering to one knee on the dock. His fingers twitched where they rested on his knee. For all the world, the guy appeared to be fighting his desire to reach out and touch him…and losing considering how he leaned closer.
Tobias reached down and clamped his clawed hand on the human’s shoulder. “Careful, DeSoto,” the gargoyle second warned. “He’s not a touchy-feely guy.”
Tristan hissed at seeing the gargoyle’s hand on his mate, keeping the human from touching him. He’d have allowed…DeSoto to touch him. He’d lie still for petting from this human all day long.
“Please shift, Tristan,” Maelgwn urged. “We need to speak with you.”
Knowing it wasn’t really a request, and wanting to speak with the detective, Tristan rolled to his back and began to shift. He felt more than heard his bones cracking, his tendons popping, and the stretch and pull of muscle shifting and reforming. Taking a deep breath, Tristan sank in the water as he felt the last of the change sweep over him.
Tristan moved his arms and cupped his hands, pressing against the water to bring him back to the surface. Reaching the top, he opened his eyes to find a gaping human staring down at him. He didn’t miss the way his mate’s gaze swept over his naked, floating form, stopping at his groin. Tristan felt his dick twitch and thicken at the attention.
Humming, Tristan narrowed his eyes. “I’ll let you pet me anytime, sweets,” he purred.
The detective’s eyes widened. His nostrils flared and his focus moved to Tristan’s face, meeting his gaze.
Maelgwn cleared his throat, gaining Tristan’s attention. The gargoyle leader’s brows were drawn. “Tristan,” he rumbled slowly. “Just as you warned, people have come looking for Bud Wallice. We have things to discuss.”
Hissing softly at the interruption, Tristan nodded. He bent at the waist and lowered his legs, finding footing on the soft bed of the pond. Standing fully, the water hit about mid-thigh and he unashamedly strode to the bank.
Tristan crossed to a small stand of trees a few feet away. Reaching into a bag hanging on a broken branch, he pulled out a pair of sweats. Completely uncaring of his nudity, he returned to the pond’s edge and washed the mud from his toes before threading his wet feet into the sweats.
After pulling them up, allowing them to rest low on his slender hips, Tristan turned to the group. His gaze riveted on the detective. Pleasure filled him upon seeing the slight flush on the human’s cheeks and how he flared his nostrils.
Ignoring the gargoyles for the moment, Tristan walked between them to stand before his mate. He smirked up at the man, pleased to see his guess was right. About six foot one, a couple of inches taller than Tristan’s own five foot eleven stature. He liked a man who had a little height on him. It always made it interesting when he took him down.
Tristan held out his hand. “So nice to meet you, Detective,” he murmured. “What’s your name?”
“Collin DeSoto,” the man responded almost absently as he reached out and took Tristan’s hand.
“Collin,” Tristan rumbled. “Hmmm, nice.”
Instead of shaking the other man’s hand, Tristan gripped it securely and tugged upward. He smirked at the surprised look on Collin’s face as he brought it to his mouth. Tristan kissed the back of his mate’s hand lightly, then lowered their hands to his chest.
“When we are done discussing the bastard, Bud,” Tristan began, keeping his tone low and smooth, “you and I need to discuss our future.”
Collin licked his lips. His chest heaved. He glanced down at their clasped hands, then back to Tristan’s eyes. His cheeks pinked a bit more. Still, he didn’t try to pull away.
Tristan smiled at the softly breathed word. “Because you are my mate, sweets.” He lowered his lids to half-mast and peered up at the man he planned to make his lover…the sooner the better. “I’ve waited a long time for you.”
His jaw gaping, Collin’s eyes widened. “M-Mate?”
Tristan squeezed his mate’s hand. “My mate.”