Zander Wheeler knows they’re out there: shape shifters, vampires, and other things.
Having lost his wife over a year ago, Zander finds himself seduced by a married man. Ashamed, Zander asks his friend Logan McByrne to help him sever ties. Logan agrees, and in doing so, reveals a whole new world to him. Zander learns that his lover is a vampire, which is why he’d become so enamored with him. Then, Logan hooks up with a wolf shifter, and to top it off, a massive winged creature—the gargoyle Geoffrey, according to Logan—is claiming he and Zander are mates.
When Zander demands they all leave him alone, save for Logan, they agree. Still, some sixth sense tells Zander he hasn’t seen the last of Geoffrey. He’s right. When one of his billy goats becomes aggressive, Geoffrey swoops in and saves him. With Geoffrey keeping to the shadows, they begin a dialogue. The more they talk, the more Zander realizes they may not be all that different after all. Except, he’s already been played by one paranormal. Can he open his heart to another?
Zander moved just quickly enough to get the barrow between himself and the billy goat. When the goat slammed into the cart, pain exploded through Zander’s wrists and up his arms. “Damn it, goat. I’m done putting up with your shit,” he snarled, righting the barrow before shoving the device at the goat. He smacked the goat’s shoulder, forcing it to back up a couple of steps. “I’m gonna butcher your hide and savor your tasty little ribs.”
The goat bleated, then lowered its head and charged toward him again.
Zander tensed his body, readying for the impact of the goat hitting the wheelbarrow. Suddenly, a dark shadow swooped over his head. The goat bleated again, this time in obvious fear as something or someone snatched it from the ground.
Gaping, Zander stumbled backward. His knee buckled and he landed on his ass. After a few seconds, he registered the feel of the ground’s cold dampness and he rolled awkwardly to his good knee. Listening to the bleating of the goats around him, Zander peered over the top of the wheelbarrow.
Taking in the sight before him, Zander’s heart hammered in his chest. The silhouette of a massive creature stood a couple of feet away on the other side of his wheelbarrow. The gargoyle spread his wings, blocking out the light of the barn. In the beast’s clawed hand dangled the goat.
“I’m sorry, Zander,” Geoffrey’s deep voice rumbled. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I just—” The big creature sighed. “I just couldn’t watch you get injured.”
Slowly, Geoffrey lowered the goat to the ground and released it.
Zander watched the goat stumble a few steps, then seemed to catch itself. The billy gave a full body shake, then bleated—sounding almost indignant—before trotting toward the nearest pile of hay. As it started eating, Zander realized that Geoffrey hadn’t actually hurt the animal.
“G-Geoffrey?” Zander whispered. While the logical part of his mind registered that the creature—damn it, gargoyle—had to be Geoffrey, something in him still made him ask. “Is that you?”
“Yes, Zander,” Geoffrey responded, his voice soft. “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
Zander swallowed hard, then struggled to his feet. He kept a wary eye on Geoffrey even as he began tossing the remaining hay out of the wheelbarrow into the pen. “Uh, no. I’m just about finished,” he mumbled. Finally registering what Geoffrey had said, Zander asked, “So, uh, what did you mean? You don’t want to see me injured? Why, uh, why do you care?”
Geoffrey’s wings lowered, wrapping around his shoulders like a cloak. Zander squinted into the sudden increase of light. He heard the large creature sigh.
“I know you don’t understand, Zander,” Geoffrey responded softly. “But you are my mate. I want to care for you, keep you safe.”
“What?” Zander blurted the word without thinking.
“You’re my mate,” Geoffrey repeated. “I—” He sighed. “I know you haven’t had the greatest introduction to paranormals,” he whispered. “I understand that. I just want a chance to-to get to know you. Talk. May we do that?”
“Uh.” Zander’s mind went blank for a few seconds. He couldn’t come up with a single reason why they shouldn’t talk. It wasn’t as if Geoffrey had ever been aggressive— Wait, would he become aggressive if he said no? “Will you, uh, will you trick me, uh, put me in a trance or something?”
“No,” Geoffrey instantly responded. “Absolutely not. I’m a gargoyle. I can’t do that.”
Scowling into the wheelbarrow, Zander realized he’d dumped all the hay. He lifted his head and focused on Geoffrey’s large form. “I don’t understand,” he admitted. Then, drawing on more confidence than he realized he had, he gripped the handles and started pushing the wheelbarrow out of the pen. To do that, he had to walk around the gargoyle.
Geoffrey watched him, even stepping backward to allow him more room. “Can I help?”
While Zander’s first impulse was to say no, he suddenly figured…why the hell not? “Uh, sure, yeah.” Might as well save his knee. “Here.” Zander stepped away from the handles and moved around the wheelbarrow.
As soon as he cleared the side of the conveyance, the billy goat that had given him so much trouble lifted his head and took several steps toward him. In an instant, Geoffrey stood at his side. His wings wrapped around Zander’s torso and a low rumble filled the area.
The goat splayed his legs, stopping swiftly. After staring at the gargoyle for a few seconds, he bleated, then turned back to his food.
Zander stood stock-still in the circle of Geoffrey’s wings. The gargoyle didn’t hold him in any other way, probably picking up on his wariness. To Zander’s surprise, he found the hold comforting instead of confining.
“That goat is a menace,” Geoffrey rumbled gruffly as he eased his wings away from Zander. “If you were serious about butchering him, I know a fantastic recipe for goat ribs. I’d be happy to share it with you.”
Geoffrey actually chuckled softly. “Yes, I cook. Very well, too, if it’s not too boastful to say.”
Zander didn’t know what surprised him more. The fact that Geoffrey cooked—for some reason, he’d thought gargoyles ate their food raw—or that when Geoffrey released him and stepped away to grab the wheelbarrow, he actually missed the warmth and security he felt. Zander didn’t know how to process that realization.
“Wow,” Zander decided on, even knowing how inane it sounded. “Uh, I’d like to see that.”