INFLAME: a forbidden gargoyle shifter and witch romance
INFLAME: a forbidden gargoyle shifter and witch romance
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Is the curse finally broken?
Lucan, a gargoyle shifter, is finally freed from his stone statue. Ready to make up for lost time, he approaches Elise, a beautiful newcomer to the underground club.
She blurts out unexpected news: He's a father.
He'd conceived a child with the witch who'd cursed him — her sister.
And Elise needs his help finding his daughter.
- Gargoyle Shifters
- Forbidden attraction
- Secret baby
- Close proximity
- Goth club
A forbidden gargoyle shifter and witch romance
Is the curse finally broken?
That must mean the witch is dead. And he wouldn’t have the satisfaction of destroying her himself...
Lucan, a gargoyle shifter, is finally freed from his stone statue and ready to make up for lost time — a plan that starts with acting on his inexplicable attraction to the mysterious woman who waltzes into the underground club where he works.
Elise has hunted Lucan down for one purpose. No way can she allow herself to get distracted by his captivating presence and magnificent eyes.
She blurts out the news: He's a father.
He'd conceived a child with the witch who'd cursed him — Elise's sister.
This complication means she must ignore her attraction to him. A fling with him is strictly off-limits. But when Elise needs his help to protect her niece and Lucan's daughter, that dangerous desire might be too difficult to resist...
Dive into this paranormal romance in the Underground Encounters series. Step into a hidden world of shifters, vampires, witches, and even gargoyles. Who will capture your heart tonight?
Lucan watched the crowd at Vamps from stone eyes, the way he did each night the club was open.
Patrons expended frenetic energy out on the dance floor. Clusters of people in tight, black clothing revealed plenty of tattoos that snaked and twirled under the flashing strobe lights. After announcing a psychobilly set ahead, DJ Mistress Mona played a mix of “Graveyard Shift” by the Coffin Nails.
At least beautiful women swayed their hot bodies in front of him. Their images fueled fantasies to get through to the next night.
One day he’d break this curse.
For now, he could only escape his stone cage during danger. Gargoyle magic allowed him to shift to answer the call to protect. Then, he had twenty-four hours before he would return to stone.
He’d been trapped in this state for thirteen long years, ever since a damn witch had cursed him. If he ever found her, he’d make her pay for the years of torment she inflicted on him and his brothers. He was the one who made the mistake of going off with her. His brothers had nothing to do with the situation. Cursing them, as well, showed how vindictive she was.
Yes, if he had the chance, he would destroy Veronique. And enjoy every second of watching the life deplete from her body.
And then he’d be free.
His brother Mattias communicated from his stone perch at the other end of the underground club where they’d moved to take on guard duties years before.
A trio of beauties is heading your way. Two with dark hair, one with red.
Lucan shifted his vision to where Mattias directed and zoomed in on the women. Not bad. Two of them wore minuscule skirts and tight shirts and the third wore a fitted dress, all revealing plenty of skin covered with colorful tattoos. They wore dark eye makeup and silver jewelry.
I see them, Lucan acknowledged. Maybe Danton can shift us tonight. I wouldn’t want to miss the chance.
There are three of them, Mattias said. And two of us.
I’ll take the third.
Mattias laughed. Not without some competition.
Amusing, Lucan replied. Too bad Danton’s out.
He was indeed. After bonding with his mate, Tracy, the pink-haired bartender he’d long admired when entombed in stone, Danton had shifted to protect her one night. And never went back.
Both Lucan and Mattias knew that bonding with a mate involved such strong magic, it would break the curse—but both agreed—it was too high a price to pay. After being locked up, the last thing either wanted to do was commit to anyone. Why, when there were so many stunning women who came to the club? The brothers each had a running list of who they would seduce when they had the opportunity.
Yes, tonight would be a good time for his big brother to work his magic. Lucan found Danton standing in his usual position where he worked as a bouncer a few nights a week. With his long blond hair and massive frame looming over the crowd, he wasn’t difficult to spot.
Danton, Mattias and I would love to shift tonight. We see a few beauties who need a dance partner.
Danton’s lips twitched into a half-smile, but then he wiped the amusement from his face. I can’t tonight. I’m still restoring my energy from the last time.
The drawback to using magic was that it depleted energy. Danton needed time to recover.
As soon as I can, I will, he promised.
Lucan addressed Mattias, Why don’t you find your mate, too? Then, I’ll have another brother to free me.
Not going to happen, Mattias replied. I’ll take my restricted freedom in stone over shackles with a mate.
Lucan laughed. Same here. At least we deal with enough danger here to get frequent breaks.
Humor was needed to adjust to month after month of this existence. Or else, they might have gone mad long ago.
Lucan’s body heated from the inside, like someone had turned on a furnace. All his cells agitated as if he was firing up to transform.
I thought you couldn’t shift us tonight? he said to Danton.
Right, Danton replied.
Then why am I shifting?
So am I, Mattias added.
What? Danton glanced around the club. Is someone in danger?
Not that I see.
In the next heartbeat, Lucan was free from the stone. And stark naked.
He dropped to the ground and crouched to avoid being spotted. A woman nearby shrieked. So much for that plan.
Danton rushed over to intervene. While he spoke to the woman, Lucan cloaked himself with gargoyle magic.
“He came from the statue.” She pointed at his stone shell, which remained where he’d been perched.
Danton lulled her with a mind trick to convince her to forget what she’d previously seen. Lucan’s stone shell remained, so it was easy to trick humans into believing nothing had changed.
Lucan rushed backstage. He knelt and heaved with deep breaths.
Two heartbeats later, Mattias burst through the door, equally naked.
“What the hell’s going on?” he asked.
Lucan shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“I managed to cloak myself just in time.”
Lucan groaned. “I wasn’t as quick to respond. Danton is dealing with a woman who saw the whole thing.”
“Why did we shift?” Mattias asked.
Lucan tightened his jaw. “No clue. But, I’m going to make the best of it.”
They headed outside and shifted to winged gargoyle form before soaring out over the ocean. The serene scent of the Atlantic wafted up to him. A silver shimmer caressed the moon. His wings tingled with trepidation, waiting for the curse to drag him back into the stone. They remained outdoors for the rest of the night.
When the early light of the sun rose on the horizon, they lay on the sand and basked in its warmth. Twenty-four hours. That was typically how long they had when gargoyle magic temporarily freed them from their stone curse. Lucan and Mattias frequently checked the clock, dreading when their freedom would end.
That marker passed. The next night, they returned to Vamps where they met up with Danton and Tracy. She served them each a beer. “It’s been well over a day,” she pointed out. “Do you think the curse is broken?” she asked with a hopeful tone.
Lucan pictured the vindictive witch who had cursed them. “I can’t see her doing so willingly. The only way I see that happening is if she died.”
“Here’s to that being the case.” Mattias raised his glass.
Lucan joined in toasting with his brothers. She had to be dead.
Too bad. He’d fantasized about what he’d do if he ever ran into her again. The things he would say. What he would do. All the images ended dark, with him ending her life. The one that was most satisfying was strangling her. He’d squeeze her throat, relishing the terrified look in her eyes as life slipped from her convulsing body. She’d know he was killing her, and he’d do so slowly to exact his revenge.
And still it was far too short. How long would it take before she lost consciousness—seconds? Perhaps a minute or so? That was far too merciful for what she’d done.
After three weeks went by, the brothers were confident the curse was broken. Lucan and Mattias enjoyed their second chance at life with their new freedom, but in far different ways than Danton. He enjoyed it with his mate, but, he often joined them for night flights. Mattias spent most of his time outdoors. He’d fly whenever he could and would rarely step into Vamps.
Lucan enjoyed both worlds, making up for the time trapped in stone. Soaring through the night sky was better than sex. Well, almost. He’d had some exciting nights with gorgeous women all too willing to experiment. But, he’d learned his lesson from the damn witch. He didn’t dare lead them on in any way. It was one night and nothing more.
On a Saturday night, he pulled up a seat at the bar. When Mistress Mona played a remix of “Monster Stroll” by Astro Zombies, the crowd worked themselves into a frenzy. He enjoyed watching them move, especially the ladies. At least now he could approach any if he wanted.
Tracy brought him a beer. “You’re turning into a bar fly here. Surely, there’s something else you want to do with your time.”
He tilted the glass of beer and took a slow sip while he considered her words. The cold liquid rolled over his tongue and he savored the refreshing taste. It was much better than watching as an onlooker as others drank.
Tracy was right. He had to do something. Although he’d enjoyed every moment of the last few weeks, there had to be more to his life than flying and fucking.
But, for now, why the hell not? He wasn’t bound to anyone. With his freedom, he could explore his options. Maybe he’d travel more. Or, try art, music, painting. Perhaps he’d open a bar like this one day in a different city. That had an appeal to it. They’d open earlier and serve food. Right. More dining and less dancing. A restaurant. And supes would be welcome. Since he didn’t have the money or experience to open a restaurant, it might be a long road. He’d have to start by soaking up knowledge.
“I was thinking I could pick up a shift or two helping at the bar.” He’d overheard one of the bartenders mention that he was moving in a couple of months and as far as Lucan knew, they hadn’t hired anyone yet. “I’ve picked up some things as I’ve watched each night.”
She tapped her lips. “That’s not a bad idea,” she said. “I’ll talk to the boss.”
Tristan, the owner, had hired Danton as a bouncer. After all, gargoyles naturally excelled at protection. Lucan hoped Tristan would be as open to having a gargoyle shifter behind the bar.
When he was half-way done with his beer, a woman with honey blonde hair entering the club caught his attention. She wore a maroon shirt over a pair of jeans and black boots. Fresh, clean skin without any makeup. No outlandish jewelry. Nothing that would make her stand out in a typical crowd, but in an alternative crowd such as this, it marked her as a newcomer. Or an outsider.
Vamps had a dress code and jeans weren’t on the list. The guideline of “when in doubt wear black” was adhered to by the majority in the club. He was surprised they let her enter. Maybe she had a reason, and they gave her a pass.
Lucan watched her move across the club and eyed her subtle curves. She was lithe and of average height with firm breasts and a pert ass. He admired her figure from afar the way he’d done with many women while in stone. But now he was flesh, and nothing would stop him from approaching her.
Forget those other women. This one would be his conquest for the night.
She was alone. With the way she scanned the surroundings, she might have been searching for someone. Well, he could be that someone tonight.
As she moved past the bar, he strode over, careful not to prowl, although the song playing encouraged it. It sounded like an ultra-sultry version of “Little Red Riding Hood” pounding out the tempo of his advance. He strove to walk against the beat and keep his pace slow and confident. As he approached, he focused on her face—a pretty one with familiar features. He’d seen many faces every night and had a good memory for those who were return visitors. He hadn’t seen her before, he would’ve remembered that. But, there was still something about her he recognized, something he couldn’t place. He inhaled, but couldn’t detect anything with so many competing scents in the room. He’d have to breach her personal space to get a closer read.
“Hello. Can I help you find someone?” he asked.
She turned to him and scanned his face. “Why do you think I’m looking for someone?”
Her voice was like top shelf brandy with a French accent. He’d recognize one from his homeland, no matter where he was. And the way she asked her question wasn’t done in a flirtatious manner, but an inquisitive one.
“I am,” she noted. “And you as well?”
“What part of France?” she asked.
He waved his hand. “Here and there. I moved around.” No need to give the details of his past. It would lead to more questions. “You?”
One side of her mouth curled up into a half-smile. “Same.”
Ah, so she was being just as evasive. He had a good reason for being unforthcoming—he’d been locked in bloody stone.
“How did you end up here?” she asked.
“I was about to ask you the same thing.” He flashed a wide grin. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Spending time in a club watching attractive women in tiny outfits dance to energetic music was far more stimulating than watching tourists taking photos of Notre Dame in Paris and dealing with pickpocketing.
“And now?” She didn’t smile back, but peered at him with a deeply inquisitive look from under dark lashes.
His heartbeat stuttered. What was it about her that was so damn disarming? He didn’t like the way it set him off-guard, like knocking his internal axis off balance. She wasn’t flirting with him. How she asked questions struck him as her truly wanting to know the answers, and not the playful banter he’d tried to strike up.
He tried again with the flirtatious edge. “It depends on how the night goes. Can I buy you a drink?”
She studied him for a few moments that made his heart beat quicker. What was her deal? If she was going to shoot him down, fine, but the way she stared at him as if trying to uncover a secret made his palms heat. His muscles coiled with tension.
Relief flowed through him as if he’d just asked her a loaded question, not one as carefree as offering a beverage.
“What would you like?”
She glanced behind the bar and stared at the drink list. Vamps had a number of drink specials with enigmatic names like Tempting Fate or Anything Goes.
“A glass of chardonnay would be wonderful.”
Lucan ordered the drink from Tracy and a draft for himself. Tracy arched her brows as if probing—another conquest?
That was the plan.
He handed the French woman her drink and led them to a table at the back of the club where it wasn’t so loud. “This must be your first time here, right?”
“Why do you think that?”
Evasive again, answering a question with a question. “Because of the way you were moving around, like you were looking for someone.”
“Maybe I am.”
He laughed. “I hope I’m that lucky someone.” He arched his brow, searching for a hint of her being receptive. Even if it was a small grin.
She took a sip of her wine and eyed him over the glass with a ghost of a smile.
A minor victory. Yes. He could do this. Warm her up to his charms and then take her somewhere so they could be alone. And then he’d bury himself in her sweet, tight flesh.
After she lowered her glass, she asked, “What’s your name?”
Her eyes widened with—what was it? Recognition?
“Lucan,” she declared. “It turns out you are that lucky someone after all.”
Ha. The victory was entirely his. Finally, she was coming around. A smirk tugged at his lips, but he kept it down. No need to appear arrogant. “And, what’s your name, ma belle?”
“Elise,” he repeated. He glanced at her body posture. Something was off. She still appeared stiff. One hand rested on the table while the other rubbed the stem of her wine glass, a motion he interpreted as suggestive, triggering a fantasy of where the night would be headed. He placed his hand on top of hers. “Relax, Elise. No need to be tense.”
She stared at his hand for a few seconds and then pulled hers away. Playing hard to get. That was fine. Nothing like a good chase to build up the anticipation before the sweet, inevitable capture.
“Oh, but there is, Lucan.” Her tone turned serious. “Because I came here looking for you in particular.”
What the hell? A red flag slowly unfurled, raising his wariness. The conversation turned stranger by the moment. “Why?”
“Because I have some news.” She pursed her lips and put her glass on the table. “Something I’m not exactly sure how to say.”
The grave note in her voice sent the red flag skyward. He searched the club for his brothers. Danton stood guard at the door. Mattias had left the club.
He straightened, bracing himself for whatever this mysterious woman would reveal. “Just say it.”
Her pale blue eyes warmed and her expression softened. “I came to the States to tell you—” She paused and took a deep breath. “Lucan, you have a daughter.”
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