Sumak finally convinces his gargoyle clutch’s leaders that he can do more than cook food, prepare picnics, and wash dishes. He revels in his new, part-time job of walking their territory’s boundaries. Enjoying the moonlight, Sumak goes farther than he should and stumbles across a young human out jogging. He immediately recognizes the male’s scent as his mate and follows him to a parking area. Taking note of the license plate on the human’s truck, he discovers the man’s name is Andre Capston. His joy at learning that his mate is the brother of Mace Capston—a fellow gargoyle’s mate—is short-lived. Sumak finds out that Mace’s family disowned him years ago for being gay. Sumak struggles with how to pursue his young mate, but Fate steps in, giving him an opportunity. Can Sumak convince his mate that true family loves and supports each other no matter what their differences?
Before Andre could hit the dial button on his phone, he heard a voice call, “Is your battery dead? It sounded like it was dead.” There was a pause, maybe for a breath, then the guy continued, “You think a jump would fix it?”
Andre spun around. He scanned the darkness, trying to figure out where the speaker could be. Nothing. Moving his gaze to the trees, he still didn’t see anyone.
“Hello?” Frowning at how inane he sounded—cue horror theme music and scary guy in a mask with a machete—he snapped, “Who’s there?”
“My name’s Sumak,” the voice—Sumak—told him.
It came from his right and... up.
“I don’t have a car, but I can call my buddy. He’s just around the corner, uh, waiting for me to call him. I was out hiking and, uh, so... do you need help?”
Andre’s brows shot up. A corner of his mouth curled up in a smile. Okay. So his unexpected, would-be rescuer was nervous.
Damn, did I really just think that?
“Uh, yeah,” Andre called, still trying to figure out just who was speaking to him. “I’m Andre, and yeah... dead battery. Are you sure your buddy wouldn’t mind?” He held up his phone, feeling just a bit of self-preservation slide through him. “Was just gonna call a buddy.”
That was sort-of true, after all.
“You don’t need to do that,” the stranger claimed.
What kind of name was Sumak anyway?
“Give me two minutes.”
“You sure your buddy will be up?” Andre asked, finding himself curious. “It’s kinda late.”
Sumak’s chuckles actually carried across the small trailhead area. “Yeah. He’s a night owl like me.”
Andre nodded slowly. Just what had Sumak been doing out there alone? Not my business. “Thanks,” he finally stated.
“Sure. Just a sec.”
Walking a few steps closer toward the voice in the darkness, Andre settled on the wooden beam someone had placed on the ground to keep people from driving on the grass. He sprawled his legs as he listened to the low buzz that must have been the guy talking on his phone. Rubbing a hand over his face, he finally felt fatigue creep over him.
Andre rested his arms across his thighs, bowing his head. Closing his eyes, he focused on the sound of Sumak’s voice. It took him a minute, but finally he was able to pick out the man’s words.
“Please, Grigoris? He’s my mate,” Sumak murmured, his tone urgent. “I really need you out here.” He paused a few seconds, then stated, “Yes, I will totally explain everything when I get home.” Sumak huffed a sigh. “Well, he hasn’t seen me, so I don’t know why Grateman would have a problem with it.” Another couple of heartbeats... then Sumak let out a soft squeal. “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!”
Andre had to admit, it was the strangest one-sided conversation he’d ever heard. Some of what he’d said really didn’t make much sense. Well, other than the fact that Sumak was begging his buddy for his help.
Well, at least it sounds like he agreed.
Peering to his left, Andre searched the tree line. His eyes slowly became accustomed to the light, allowing him to pick out bits and pieces of definition. He took in the trees and bushes, then worked his way up, looking for anything... there.
Andre thought he spotted something in a large oak tree between two pines. The leaves were slightly thinned due to fall being in full swing. There were gaps. In one of them was a couple of branches, probably around ten feet off the ground, which created gradual bends. In one of those indentures sat a figure.
Squinting, because that always helped, Andre tried to make out features. He couldn’t see much, though. The guy—he was guessing male because of the voice—sat in shadow. He had to have been wearing some kind of trench coat or something, which was just weird.
Who wore a trench coat while hiking and climbing trees?
In fact, Andre thought the whole situation odd.
Just who is this guy?