Titan A Gargoyle Daddy Dom Romance
Fat rivulets of rain flood the grooves of my granite back and drip off the tips of my claws and horns. My massive bat-like wings are extended, protecting my face from the downpour and shielding my view through the bar’s skylight. The rare late-summer storm is a useful cover for my position on the roof of the Beverly Hills hotel. The building is streamlined in a midcentury modern style, and a gargoyle, especially one as massive as I am, would be a conspicuous architectural detail.
Los Angeles may be known as the City of Angels, but it’s not prepared to see the supernatural creatures that lurk in its shadows. The gargoyles, witches, shifters, succubi, and more that quietly live among the humans are collectively known as the Strange, and we know better than to expose our small numbers to the common world. There are so few gargoyles left, I will not take the risk.
My kind were created by witches over seven hundred years ago to protect the Strange’s Relic Room, a place for paranormal creatures from around the world to hold their most ancient objects of power. The Pull, a desperate, relentless need to protect the Relic Room, was built deep into the stone chests of every gargoyle. It is our one constant; it is our ruling urge.
Four hundred years ago, the fortress that tethered the Relic Room to the Earthly plane fell. We were attacked by our own, a rogue faction of gargoyles led by Maximus, for reasons I still can’t comprehend. Many were lost that day. My four brothers and I were the only monsters to survive. The Relic Room, and the Keystone needed to gain access to the magical artifacts, were gone as well. Most of the Strange believe they were pulled into some swirling vortex of time and space not on this plane, lost for good. But a few, including my brothers and the coven of witches that aid us, know better.
Three days ago, everything changed. Three days ago, my Pull roared to life.
It scraped against my rib cage like rocks over stone, crying out for its lost purpose for the first time in centuries, determined to always return to the Relic Room and Keystone.
My brothers and I followed the Pull to the Port of Los Angeles, narrowly missing the arrival of the Keystone on California shores. The residue of its magic was everywhere, but the Keystone itself was nowhere to be found. We were, however, able to ascertain the recipient of the artifact shipment.
A Mr. Alvin Harris.
I’ve been here, on top of this Beverly Hills rooftop, for hours, waiting and watching Harris through the hotel skylight as he goes on a merry-go-round of dates in the bar below. We’ve been following him for days, each of my brothers a stone shadow, taking turns watching Harris.
We discovered quickly that the Keystone hadn’t been in his possession for long. Harris had passed it along to someone else.
Determining who that someone is has given me purpose. I’m here, listening to every phone call he takes and every contact he interacts with. I will continue to track him until I uncover what I need to know to find the Keystone, and then, when the witches locate the Relic Room, I will finally have a way to access those precious artifacts once again.
I watch as the shining, bald top of Harris’s head leans in close to his latest date.
As Stiel, the brotherhood’s master of intelligence, had discovered, Harris is the well-known producer of blockbuster superhero movies in Hollywood and a collector of often black-market artifacts. He also has a weakness for beautiful women.
“Why are you on the Sweet Arrangement site?” Harris asks his date.
“Same reason you are.” The former child star he’s with tonight is a professional sugar baby. She goes by Jules H. on the site, but her real name is Julianna Novak. She closes the gap between herself and Harris. She rests her hand on his forearm and brushes lazy circles on his skin. I can scent Harris’s perspiration and desire. “Meet someone interesting, someone who shares similar interests as me—”
“Good food, nice trips, better clothes?” he interjects harshly.
“Among other things.”
“So you’re all about the money.” He laughs, again cutting her off, and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a joke or just an excuse to be cruel. Having observed him for this long, my guess is cruelty.
She flinches. It’s small and likely unnoticed by the man below, but I hear the way her pulse quickens.
“Is it bad to like a man who appreciates the finer things in life?” she coos, regaining her composure, her pulse beginning to slow.
I watch as she slides her fingers along her collarbone. Her white dress is impossibly tight, cutting low across her tanned white skin and giving me a full view of her generous cleavage. She knows exactly what she’s doing as her fingers dip over the swell of her breasts and Harris leans in closer, his eyes riveted to her chest. I feel my own gaze track her fingers over the full swell.
She says something. I’m so focused on other parts of her that I miss it, but it makes Harris laugh. She flips her long, honey-brown waves to one side, exposing the long length of her neck, and for a brief moment, Harris loses his balance and teeters on his stool.
Siren. A smirk pulls tight over my fangs, and my wings kick back in amusement.
I take perverse pleasure in seeing someone knock Harris off his game. I’ve grown tired of seeing him giddy with the power he held over his previous dates.
“You’re funny, you know that? That’s surprising.” Harris shakes his head in amusement as if he just saw a dog walk on its hind legs or whatever humans find amusing.
Julianna sucks in a sharp breath, her generous chest expanding and contracting. Her warm brown eyes glide up and over the skylight and, for the briefest of moments, appear to meet my stone ones. It’s impossible. I’m hidden in the blackness of the night, and the bright interior lights reflect harshly off the glass, but I see a look in her eyes I know well.
That needy emotion was reflected back at me in the eyes of my brothers when we first believed we’d lost the Relic Room. I felt it myself when the Pull awakened three days ago. And in an instant, I’m sure she wouldn’t be letting this man talk to her this way if she didn’t have to.
Julianna’s husky laughter focuses me back on the date, and I catch a fast frown cross Harris’s face. During every other date I’ve witnessed, Harris has kept the women on their toes. He seems to take pleasure in it. But even with the desperate need I’m sure is motivating her every action, when Harris attempts a verbal jab, she manages to dodge or redirect it immediately. He wants her physically—I can smell it on him—and he doesn’t like that she isn’t playing his game.
Harris’s cell phone rings, and my pointed ears perk up at the sound. He immediately cuts Julianna off, holding up a finger as he turns away from her and pulls the phone from his pocket. This is the second call he’s taken in her presence, his fifth call tonight, none of them relevant to finding the Keystone. Until now.
His voice drops to a hushed whisper. There is hesitation where there was none before. “Freddy? …Yes, yes, of course, it’s a gift… We’re friends, Freddy…”
I’ve seen that name before, I’m sure I have—in Stiel’s dossier on Harris. If I remember correctly, Freddy, or Frederick Fisher, is the elusive head of one of the highest grossing studios in Hollywood. He greenlit a number of Harris’s films and is a fellow collector of artifacts, boasting an even larger and likely even more illegal collection than Harris.
I tense, the Pull striking hard against my chest, forcing me to lean forward over the skylight.
“Well… I just thought… after our little misunderstanding at your last event where you unveiled the triptych from Basque, a beautiful, stunning piece, by the way… well, yes… my sincere apologies. Of course, I had no idea she was with you…”
Even through the glass of the skylight, Harris nearly reeks of sweat. Freddy clearly has him on edge.
“Yes, of course, all my fault… That’s what the gift is for… fourteenth-century carvings must be enough to make up for my mistake… granite taken from the Black Forest… no, of course… Really?”
Fourteenth-century carvings… Black Forest…
It only took forty-eight hours of round the clock vigilance and thorough scouring of every hackable account traceable back to Harris, but I finally have a lead on the Keystone. The Pull—and there is no doubt it’s the Pull this time, even as I continue to be tempted to look Julianna’s way—burrows deeper into me in anticipation. It’s a desperate, controlling sensation that forces every one of my senses to narrow down on the phone call.
Harris’s eyes light up at whatever Freddy just said, and he snaps his fingers to get Julianna’s attention. If she’s irritated, she’s smart enough to not show it. Instead, she hands him a couple napkins and a pen from the bar.
“Yeah, okay… repeat that… Saturday, two weeks from now… a 400 BCE ceremonial vessel… of course I’ll be there. Thank you. You won’t regret it.” Harris quickly scrawls out something on the stack of napkins. His hand blocks it. Even with my superior eyesight, I can’t see through flesh and bone.
When Harris finally hangs up, he gestures with the napkin in Julianna’s direction.
“Not just anyone can get this invite,” he gloats.
She in turn smiles a little too big for it to be authentic, and the desperation shines a bit too brightly in her eyes. I hate that look, and the ache grips my chest tighter.
Harris sticks the napkin into his jacket pocket and excuses himself to go to the bathroom for the third time since his date with Julianna began. Once he’s left the room, I watch as she takes the top napkin from the stack Harris left behind. She grabs the pen too. I frown, subtle shifts in my rock face forming a furrowed brow, and lean forward, my claws digging into the roof, as I watch her trace the indentations of Harris’s words on the napkin. Her hand moves over the napkin, obscuring the words, but I know it has Freddy’s whereabouts and, therefore, the last known location of Keystone, on it. Julianna shoves it into her purse.
A smile curves around my fangs, and the Pull picks up its pounding tempo. I tell myself it’s all for the Keystone, but as her brown eyes flick up to the skylight, I can’t be sure.
Julianna has the information I need, I reassure myself. That familiar, haunting desperation I see in her means she might happily give up what’s on that napkin for the right price, especially if that information has no other value to her. And if it does, well, then I want to have a longer conversation with her.
As the Pull quiets, a new feeling rises to the surface, this one darker and deeper, far away from what I feel for the Keystone. Desire. I want to discover what might come of meeting Julianna face to face and wonder if I can quell that look in her eyes. I know the pain of it too well to wish it on anyone.
I jump from the roof. Cool air catches beneath the membrane-like webbing of my wings, and I glide gently to the ground. The large square-cut emerald ring that hangs on the chain around my neck slaps hard against my chest as I land. Drusila and her coven of witches spelled it, and I can feel the power zing against my stone skin. I would’ve used the ring’s magic to confront Harris if I needed to, but now Julianna will be the one to see it in action.
I grab the cell phone out of the satchel attached to my leather loincloth and call the brotherhood’s headquarters, cursing the tiny human buttons so ill-equipped to handle my large claws.
“Bruder Security,” Stiel answers. He’s the only one on duty at the penthouse while the others are searching Harris’s Malibu home.
“I need you to do something for me tonight,” I respond automatically.
Stiel had included a copy of Julianna’s online conversation with Harris in his dossier. I picture her photo on that sugar dating site, so polished and perfect, so different from the look I’d seen in her brown eyes tonight.
“What is it, Titan?”
“Make me a profile on Sweet Arrangements.”