Protected by the Gargoyle
Protected by the Gargoyle
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Recovering from her encounter with demons, Janie asks gargoyle Arto to train her in self-defense. She reads an ancient script in a powerful old book and unwittingly summons an incubus.
The very tool Arto provided to help her instead brings her nightmares to life.
Now they must work together to stop a predator on the hunt.
Meet the Stone Sentries:
- Book 1: Tempted by the Gargoyle
- Book 2: Enticed by the Gargoyle
- Book 3: Captivated by the Gargoyle
- Book 4: Protected by the Gargoyle
- Gargoyle shifters
- Fates Mates
- Secret love
- Friends to lovers
- Formidable demons
One demon remains.
Its targets are clear.
It wants Larissa’s magic and Janie’s soul.
After breaking through the demon’s darkness that imprisoned her best friend, Larissa has had enough of magic. She just wants to return to her normal life back on the police force.
But, the demons keep preventing that.
Roman, Commander of the Stone Sentries, plans to get Larissa and Janie to safety at the gargoyle compound. When a demon attacks his deputy and takes Janie, the mission turns into a hunt to track them down.
Larissa teams up with Roman and his team of gargoyle shifters to search Boston.
Where it takes them is even darker than her most terrifying dreams.
Is there a way to save Janie before it’s too late?
Complete Larissa and Roman's action-packed romance in their thrilling conclusion of the Stone Sentries trilogy.
“It’s little things like this that I now appreciate. Normal things that normal people do, like meeting a friend at a café.” Janie sipped her chai. “Ah, delicious.”
After what she’d survived five months ago, meeting her best friend to catch up over a hot beverage on a Saturday morning wasn’t something she’d ever take for granted again.
Larissa leaned forward, dropped her head into her hands, and moaned.
“What, you don’t like your coffee?” Janie asked.
“No.” Her friend’s tone was low. Barely audible. When she lifted her head, she shook her head and a strand of dark hair escaped her ponytail. Shadows passed over her face. She repeated, “No,” louder this time. As she peered out the window, shock froze her features. Then her eyes appeared unfocused, and she turned pale.
Her haunted expression sent a chill over the back of Janie’s neck. She knew this look. She followed Larissa’s gaze outside, but only saw pedestrians walking by the busy shopping area, bundled up in winter coats and carrying shopping bags as they did their holiday shopping. Still, when she leaned back in the café chair, her spine turned as straight as a sentry’s.
“Is it…you know?” She couldn’t say it. No, she didn’t want to say it. Her muscles clenched from the tautness in her shoulders down to the tightness in her butt. She leaned toward her friend and whispered, “A premonition?”
The last time Larissa had one of her visions… Janie winced and shoved the horrid memory away. She’d been trying to piece her life back together and started a new part-time job. She clasped her mug with both hands, and the heat warmed her palms. It was now even more important to her to be able to take care of herself. They’d robbed her of that freedom when they’d held both her and Larissa captive.
When Larissa pulled her hands from her temples, they were shaking. She placed them on her lap and dragged her gaze to Janie. “I’m sure it was nothing.”
“Don’t do that. I’ve known you far too long, and we’ve gone through a literal hell together.” Janie nudged her chin higher, bracing herself. “Tell me what you saw.”
Larissa took a heavy inhale and released it with a shudder. She glanced out the window once more. “I saw one. Here in Boston. Like the kind in…the cave.” Those last two words were barely a whisper.
The look they exchanged communicated what was unspoken. Every muscle in Janie’s body fired up with an instinct to move. Fight. Flee. She wasn’t sure which she should listen to, if not all of them. She searched the sky for signs of burnt-red wings flapping down, and a creature coming to smash through the glass and snatch her in its claws. She grasped the edge of the table as if it could keep her cemented to the earth.
Larissa forced a tremulous smile. “You look like you’re on the verge of freaking out. Don’t.” She leaned forward and in a lower tone added, “Remember, my visions aren’t always accurate. It could just be a dark memory that dislodged or something like that. Brains are mysterious in that way. What I saw doesn’t bode impending doom.”
“But your visions have come true. How many times have you saved my life now because of them?” Janie snorted. “I’m losing count. When it comes to your ability with sight, I’m not going to dismiss anything as a fluke. Tell me everything,” she insisted.
Larissa hunched her shoulders and then lowered them with the next exhale. “There’s nothing else. It was just a flash. The red glowing eyes, the burnished wings, the claws…”
She glanced out the window. “I’m not sure. I only saw the sky. It was nighttime.”
Janie released a slow breath. At least it didn’t seem imminent. It was mid-morning in December in Boston. The sun set earlier each night, which meant darkness would fall soon enough.
But tonight? Her lips curled. “Do you think one’s coming?” She glanced to where Larissa stared out the window. “Or is it already here?”
Larissa’s expression contorted as she concentrated, her eyes appearing unfocused. She’d only recently become more comfortable with her visions after learning she was a witch and this was one of her abilities.
“No, not here.” She rocked back-and-forth in her chair. “Not now. It’s—it’s not—definite. It’s…murky.” She blinked a few times as if appearing to refocus. “Nothing to fear.” She pushed her chair back. “But I need to tell Roman about it—just in case.”
Just in case what?
Roman, a massive gargoyle shifter with dark hair, was Larissa’s mate and commander of the Stone Sentries. These gargoyles hid in plain sight, either mounted as statues or cloaked with invisibility, as they protected Boston.
Janie curled her fingers, and her nails pressed into her palms. Would it be like the last time the demons invaded Boston? She’d been seduced by an incubus and had almost died. After she’d recovered, another one had hurt Arto and taken her to its realm. She squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t bear anything like that to happen again. Not only for what happened to her but Arto as well. The burly shifter with gorgeous hazel eyes and rock-star-length brown hair who had been assigned to watch over her had become a close friend. If anything happened to him…
No, she wouldn’t go down this dark path of contemplation. She already had enough terrible dreams at night, and she couldn’t let the demons steal the days too.
Janie tried to refocus on more positive things as she left the café to head to work. She cut through a park that had a section enclosed for dogs. Although she didn’t have any pets, dog parks were one of her happy places. Seeing the animals running around playing lifted her spirits. They looked so joyful and without a care in the world. It helped distract her from Larissa’s vision, which was pushed further to the back of her mind once she got into the medical office. Dealing with the business of patient arrivals and insurance and scheduling appointments kept her mind preoccupied for much of the day.
Larissa texted her that afternoon. Don’t worry. It was probably my imagination. As a precaution, Roman notified the Sentries to be on alert.
That was reassuring.
Janie returned to her one-bedroom apartment in the multi-family house in Brighton. She used to love living here alone, having her own space where she could traipse around in mismatched comfortable outfits and binge watch TV while eating whatever she wanted. Now it didn’t have the same thrill as when she’d first moved here. She often woke up in a cold sweat, staring around her bedroom that now had a permanent nightlight, to make sure nobody was there. Although she had a new security system installed, it didn’t stand a chance against the supernatural. But the protection spells should; that was one of the benefits of being friends with a witch and shifters.
She went through her stretching exercises to help take some of the strain out of her legs. A year before the demons invaded, she’d been injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon, which left her with shrapnel in her leg and a limp. The night the demons had come to Boston had also been the same unfortunate night that Janie wanted to go out dancing—to celebrate being able to do so after all those months of physical therapy. The irony of that timing could make Big Ben malfunction.
Follow your routine. That’s how she’d been learning to cope after the attacks. She focused on ways to decompress rather than add stress.
She took a long, hot bath, then had a glass of white wine before bed. When she went to bed, she put on a 30 Rock rerun and the sleep timer. After a couple of episodes, she relaxed enough to close her eyes.
Red eyes stared at her with malice. Horns curled out of its head. It taunted her, telling her what it planned to do.
She was restrained to the wall in a cave. The dank air around her was hot and oppressive, like being trapped in a tomb. The demon was coming closer. It said she was marked and planned to breed with her. She struggled against her restraints but had nowhere to go. It was about to touch her. It reached for her with its sharp claws. She braced herself for its repulsive touch.
Janie bolted upright with a gasp, blinking her eyes wide open. Her heart battered in her chest at an erratic rate, and her skin was covered in sweat. She searched her surroundings. She recognized her bedroom by the sunlight drifting through the white curtains. It wasn’t some dark realm. She wasn’t restrained in a cave by an incubus.
It was just a nightmare. Another one.
A cold tremor rocked her body. She hunched her shoulders and pulled her weighted blanket up to her neck, like it was a coat of armor. After a few minutes of focused breathing, she stopped panting. Then she climbed out of bed and treaded barefoot over her hardwood floors into the kitchen. She filled a glass of ice-cold water. When she drank, her hand trembled.
After she set the glass down, she gripped the corner of the counter and heaved three deep breaths. Then she rolled her shoulders back. Enough.
I’m not going to let them haunt me for the rest of my life. They’re gone.
The gargoyle shifters and Larissa had ensured that. After they’d rescued Janie from the demon’s realm, they brought her back through the portal and sealed it. She clucked her tongue. Another freakin’ realm where demons crawled—something she wouldn’t have deemed possible until slapped by vivid reality.
She let out a humorless laugh. She hadn’t known that demons or gargoyles shifters were real either until about five months ago.
She started an upbeat playlist on her phone while she made coffee to try to convince herself that everything was okay.
While the coffee brewed, she scrolled through social media and listened to Depeche Mode—one of her favorite bands. After having a cup of coffee, it was a more decent time to text Larissa.
She typed: Good morning, sunshine. No more visions, I hope?
Larissa replied: No. Hope I didn’t freak you out.
I had a nightmare, but that’s nothing new. This one was tough, though. It seemed too real.
I’m coming over.
You don’t have to do that.
I’ll be there soon.
Janie rolled her neck from side to side and exhaled. She dressed in buttery-soft, black-and-white leggings with sugar skulls and flowers printed on them and paired them with a rose-colored, loosely fitted tunic. Warm and comfortable, yet cute. She brushed her blonde hair and piled it into a messy bun on the top of her head.
Less than twenty minutes later, a knock rapped on her door. It couldn’t be Larissa already, could it? A peek through the peephole confirmed that it was. Her friend stood there bundled in a charcoal wool coat and winter hat.
She opened the door. “That was fast.”
Larissa grinned and stepped inside. “I had a ride—or should I say, flight.”
“Roman flew you over?”
“Yeah, you know—traffic.” Larissa recoiled. “No, thank you.”
Janie chewed her bottom lip and nodded, all too familiar with the odd experience of flying in a gargoyle’s arms. The last time had been a celebratory flight during Larissa and Roman’s bonding ceremony, which seemed like a shifter’s version of a wedding. Arto had held her tightly and cloaked them in magic during a flight over Boston with the other gargoyle shifters. Having him hold her in his arms as they flew over the city was eerily exhilarating.
She forced a bright smile. “I brewed a pot of coffee. I’ll get you a mug.”
After she filled an X-Files mug that read “The Truth is out There,” which Larissa often chose, she poured more coffee into her “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” mug. Janie joked that their preferences reflected their personalities.
Once they sat in her small living room with pale yellow walls, a worn blue sofa, and a matching, oversized chair, Larissa said, “Tell me about your nightmare.”
Janie pursed her lips. “It was about the one in the cave.”
Larissa’s expression turned crestfallen. She knew what “the one” meant. She’d also been captured and restrained by the incubus in the cave after she’d gone to search for Janie. “Don’t let my screwed-up brain screw you up too.”
Janie shook her head. “It’s not because of you. I still have nightmares sometimes. Do you?”
“Unfortunately,” Larissa agreed. “So does Roman.”
“How do you deal with them?” Janie gazed at her. “Oh wait—you have each other.” She exhaled with a slump. Having someone there with you, for you, had to be a comfort.
“Yes, there’s that, but it’s also knowing that they’re gone. The portal has been sealed. The demons can’t return.”
“How do you know that for sure?” Janie tapped her mug with her fingertip.
“Nobody can say that with any certainty, but it’s been almost five months without a sighting, so I’m pretty confident they’re gone. It’s a strong case. If you want me to stay here with you for a few days, I will. Or you can stay at the compound.”
“I know, thanks. Arto has offered the same thing, but I’ve declined.”
“Because the demons have already taken enough from me.” She exhaled, pushing her chest forward and edging her chin up. “I have to stay positive and look for brighter things. I can’t let them make me live in fear for the rest of my life—even when I’m afraid.”
Larissa sighed. “We’re all afraid sometimes.” She took a sip of her coffee and then gestured at Janie. “But I admire you. Always have. Your optimism is something a cynical former cop like me could never have.”
“That’s not true. You’ve lightened up so much since you met Roman, even after all the hell we’ve gone through. There’s something about him that brings out a softer side of you—and it’s a good thing.”
“I think you’re right. Although I still have a hard time letting my guard down, but it’s easier to do so around him.”
“Because you trust him?”
“Yes. I don’t fear that he’ll judge me—or reject me for being, well, me.”
Janie slanted her head. “It must be nice to be in that kind of relationship.”
Larissa’s lips twitched into a knowing grin. “I’m sure one like that is within your reach.”
Janie arched her brows. “Arto?”
“Yes, of course Arto.”
She pictured her shifter friend with his intense eyes that often tracked her, and her skin flushed. “That moment has passed,” she dismissed. “We’d never work. He’s so patient and good, and I’m so screwed up. I’m a walking beacon that attracts bad guys and danger. If we ever tried to date, he’d regret doing so immediately.”
“No way. He adores you.”
“And I feel the same—on a platonic level.” She rolled one shoulder. “Okay, I admit there’s an underlying attraction, but I make myself ignore it.”
Larissa sipped her coffee, and when she put down her mug, her brows edged closer together. “I get why you did that in the past after what you went through. But even now? You’ve grown so close.”
“And that’s exactly why I won’t risk it.” Janie rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Come on—look at my history with relationships. I have a terrible habit of going for the bad boys.”
“That’s not Arto.”
True, he was amazing and brave. “Still, nothing has lasted more than six months. If I try with Arto, and we fail, we ruin what we have. And I care about him too much to risk losing him. So, we’re better off as friends.”
Larissa jutted her bottom lip out. “It doesn’t have to fail.”
“The odds are against us. I’m still a mess after all I’ve dealt with and don’t know if I’m ready for a relationship, or if I’ll ever be. They’re hard enough, and that’s with humans who are the same species. If you throw in the whole gargoyle shifter and human combo into the mix, it could be a disaster waiting to implode.”
“Roman’s a shifter, and I’m human,” Larissa countered. “I’m not saying a relationship like this is easy, as there are plenty of challenges, but we’re dealing with them and making it work.”
“You’re not an ordinary human. I haven’t met humans who can spark magic from their fingertips or project a magical shield that blocks out demons.” She emphasized the motion by spreading both hands in a semi-sphere.
“True.” Larissa tapped her fingertips together. “I have a bit of witch in me.”
Janie’s gaze drifted to the window facing the street to where a small group of people passed by, their muffled conversation coming through the closed window. Were they human? She wouldn’t make that assumption about anyone who looked human anymore, especially after being seduced by an incubus who’d looked like a hot guy out at a club.
She ran her fingers through her hair, loosening her bun. “Maybe that’s part of the problem. I’m good friends with a witch and a shifter, both who have magical abilities. I’m just human, which makes me vulnerable. I have no superpowers to defend myself.” She brought her fingertips together. “That’s what I need to do.”
She fixed a steady gaze on Larissa. “No, I mean self-defense.”
Larissa nodded. “I can help with what I’ve learned at the police academy. I still train with Talia when it comes to fighting supernaturals or using weapons. Do you want me to ask her if she’d work with you?”
“That’s a little too intense for me.” Janie chuckled. “You’ve told me how much she kicks your ass.”
Larissa laughed. “Yes, she’s relentless.” She gestured at Janie. “But you’re also badass. I’ve seen you take out a demon.”
“Yeah, well, I had to reclaim something.” Janie rolled one shoulder. The image of the incubus who’d tormented her flashed in her mind, and she recoiled. She’d plunged a sword into it. “Arto guided me.”
“Why don’t you ask him to train you?”
Janie scoffed, “He’s busy protecting the city and doesn’t need to deal with my nonsense.”
“He can’t be that busy with other matters,” Larissa countered. “Because before I left to fly over with Roman, Arto said he’d be over here soon.”
Janie narrowed her brows. “What? Why?” She squirmed on the sofa and glanced out the window, but only saw the street view with houses opposite hers.
“When he overheard me talking to Roman, he insisted. You know him. He’s probably here by now and scoping the area for any threats.”
A twinge of excitement curled in her core. She turned her head, heat rising in her cheeks. “Right. He’s just doing his duty to ensure I’m safe. Old habit.”
Since Arto had been assigned to guard Janie while she was in the hospital recovering from an incubus attack, they’d grown close. He continued to watch over her since then.
“I think it’s more than that.” Larissa pushed her dark braid over one shoulder.
“And what pray tell do you mean?”
Larissa’s eyes brightened with speculation. “You may say you’re just friends, but I see how he looks at you.”
As Janie pictured his steady gaze, her pulse rose. “It’s just a gargoyle thing,” she dismissed. “I’m a disaster magnet; he’s a protector.”
“Perhaps.” Her friend glanced at the front door. “Why don’t you invite him in so you can ask him?”
Janie’s heart thumped. “Ask him what?”
“To train you. Who better to show you how to protect yourself than a gargoyle fixated on keeping you safe?”