Underground Encounters 5
A TOP PICK from Night Owl Reviews!
A gargoyle statue that’s more than stone…
Tracy can’t explain why she’s drawn to a mysterious statue in the Goth club where she bartends. Stranger still, she’s been confiding her innermost secrets to it, as if it were an old friend.
But, when her ex shows up one night, drunk and aggressive, the solid stone statue turns to living, breathing, and scorchingly sexy flesh…
Gargoyle shifter Danton transforms to human form to protect Tracy, the woman he has yearned for. Now, he only has twenty-four hours before a curse returns him to stone. How can convince a woman who didn’t know he existed to spend those precious hours with him?
HEAT is a novella in the Underground Encounters series, set in a club that attracts supernatural creatures. Each features a different couple–and perhaps species!–and can be read on its own.
Step into Vamps, a thrilling new world of steamy paranormal romance featuring sexy shifters, thirsty vampires, wicked witches, and gorgeous gargoyles.
Tracy brushed her fingers over the smooth stone of the gargoyle statue after she entered the club. “Ready for another wild night?”
How ridiculous she sounded speaking to a statue. If anyone saw her, they’d think she was stone-cold crazy.
She ran her hands down over her dress to smooth out any wrinkles. As if any would dare to appear. The dress was skin-tight, one of her sexy work outfits. She had to wear something fitting for the underground club.
“I’m stuck with the late shift tonight,” she added. “At least I’ll have you here later to keep me company.”
Saturday nights were the busiest at Vamps, where she bartended. While she prepped for a thirsty crowd, she spoke to the gargoyle. Why she gravitated to this one, although there were others perched in the club, she had no clue. Something about it compelled her, drawing her in like they had some sort of connection.
Which was insane.
She should probably stop talking to it, but, if it wasn’t hurting anyone? She shrugged.
“It was kind of a tough morning,” she said. “My mom told me about a call from one of Andrew’s teachers. He’s still struggling at school. It sucks. I wish there was something I could do to help him.” She’d mentioned her concerns about her younger brother several times.
“Anyway, I was kind of anxious when I went to yoga,” she continued. “Luckily, this is my day to go. After getting up early to finish a paper and working the past two nights here, I was already wound up. Hearing about Andrew cranked it up a notch. And, you know what can happen when I can’t manage my anxiety.” She shivered as a nervous laugh escaped her. “An ugly scene.”
The sound of an opening door indicated someone was entering, probably staff. “Talk to you later,” she whispered.
During the first couple hours of her shift, the club was quiet. Only a few regulars entered soon after it opened, and nursed their drinks at the bar. She chatted them up, but as the crowd grew, so did the number of drink requests. Soon, her nightly workout kicked in as she darted up and down the bar taking orders and making drinks for the thirsty crew, especially those who had worked up a sweat on the dance floor. The DJ kept them moving with an eclectic mix of music, including new wave, goth rock, and metal remixes that kept people moving.
A guy motioned her over to where he sat at the bar.
“Love your hair,” he shouted over the music, projecting spittle. Then he leaned across the bar and touched a strand. The scent of beer wafting from his breath was pronounced even though she was surrounded by alcohol.
She stepped back and gave him a pointed look. Her pink hair was often a topic of conversation, but it was not an invitation to be touched. “You can love it just as well from where you’re sitting.”
“I love a hot girl with some attitude.” He laughed. “They’re usually feisty in bed, too.” With a bold glance that lingered on her cleavage, he left no doubt of what he was envisioning. “I’d like to find out.”
She arched a brow. “Not going to happen.”
When she walked away from him to tend to other customers, he left the bar. Good. She typically could evade drunken guys propositioning her, but there had been a few occasions where the bouncers had to intervene.
Shit. Was there a guy out there who wasn’t a total leech or an abusive control-freak like her ex? After Brian, she was all set with relationships. But, she was only in her early twenties, and too young to declare herself celibate. Sure, she’d had a few hookups after they’d broken up, but it didn’t do much for her.
It had been a while, though, and she was feeling the itch. Was there a balance between an impersonal one night stand and a relationship that sucked your soul like some damn incubus? Maybe a lover. A generous, caring one. An added bonus would be someone she could enjoy spending time with, rather than trying to pacify from some perceived injustice.
Perhaps she should add these requests to her online dating profile. Not that it was active anymore. She’d given up after a half-dozen lackluster attempts there. What appeared to be a good match on paper, never panned out when she met them in person. Algorithms and checkboxes were one thing, but a spark with someone was something else.
Did anyone understand that mysterious connection that made people click? It was almost like—magic.
The crowd continued to dwindle beyond last call. After the DJ announced the last song as Valerie Broussard’s A Little Wicked, and then turned the lights off, they started to head out. Plastic cups were scattered in every dark corner and under the other perched gargoyles. The scent of sweat and spilled beer permeated the club. But, the music had stopped, and the club was emptying out.
After the other two bartenders helped clean up, cashed out, and left, she stayed to make sure they were all set for the next shift, as it was her turn. The bar backs took out the trash and the bottles for recycling, and she was alone once again.
Tracy walked over to the crouched gargoyle at the end of the bar and placed her hand on the smooth area between its two horns. “Damn, that was a busy night,” she said. “But, I took in some great tips. One of the downsides of college is those damn tuition bills”
She ran her down the back of its head and over its hunched back where its two wings connected. She took a deep breath to decompress and rested her hand on the gargoyle’s shoulder. Tomorrow morning, she’d sleep in, and not talk to a soul until well after noon. She’d spend much of the day studying.
Was it one of the guys out back?
No, they knew better than to call her Trace.
“It’s Tracy,” she said, turning to face the intruder.
And stared into the face of her ex. His black hair was mussed up and looked like it could use a wash. Actually, so could the rest of him. His jeans were stained.
“You look hot. I love you in this dress.” He reached for her with one of his tattooed arms.
She recoiled. No way would she let him touch her. “What are you doing here, Brian?” The muscles in her body tensed as she gauged the distance between her and the pepper spray behind the bar.
She felt a tiny movement under her hand.
No, she had to be losing her mind. As if stone could move.
She kept her hand on the stone like a security blanket, almost gripping it now that Brian had appeared.
“I came to see what you were doing tonight. Thought maybe we could hang out?” The way he slurred the words indicated he’d already had one too many, a bad sign.
“Definitely not. The restraining order should have made that clear.”
“Babe, I was in a rough place and I took it out on you. Let’s put the past behind us and try again.”
The cold stone felt warmer beneath her hand. How strange. Was she so heated from the tension that her palm could warm cool stone?
“No, Brian. I’ve given you too many chances and each time it ended worse than the time before.”
“Babe.” He approached her. “I would never hurt you again.”
“Don’t come any closer.” She moved away from the gargoyle to get to her purse behind the bar.
“Trace, you’re so dramatic.” He moved behind the bar.
Tracy was distracted by the gargoyle statue behind him. It was changing color, from gray stone to what appeared to be—flesh.
“Come on, we were good together. Don’t you miss the sex?”
The stone wings of the gargoyle statue unfurled into enormous sleek, gray ones. The gargoyle reshaped itself, rising from a crouched position to stand on two legs to a full height well over six feet.
And the horns receded into the head, as golden hair sprouted to take their place, growing well below impressively broad shoulders. Within a few seconds, the once grotesque stone creature she’d found lovable, had transformed into a breathtaking male with flawless bronze skin, long, blond hair and the magnificent physique of a Viking warrior—one who stood there stark naked.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed, eyes widening.
“I know, babe,” Brian said. “The sex was awesome.”
Ignoring Brian, she fumbled for her purse to search for the damn spray. Who the hell should she even direct it at now, with two threats facing her?
Shit, her fingers tingled, a bad sign. If she didn’t get herself in check, a panic attack could follow—and at the worst possible time.
Brian grabbed her wrists and tried to kiss her before she found it. Adrenaline powered through her with the force of a tsunami.
“Get off me!” She attempted to knee him in his testicles, but he deflected the blow by turning his body to the side.
Enormous wings surrounded Brian and a second later he was lifted off the ground.
Brian exclaimed, “What the―” but was cut off as he was thrown over the bar onto the empty dance floor.
He scrambled to his feet on unsteady legs. The gargoyle stepped over to him in a few massive strides. It raised one of his sinewy legs and kicked Brian in the gut. Brian groaned and clutched his stomach. The gargoyle lifted a foot over Brian’s head.
Tracy screamed while Brian shielded his face with his forearm to brace against the gargoyle stomping on his head.
She tried a gentler tone. “Please don’t. You’ll kill him.”