Cover Art by Brittany Chavez and Steele Walston




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Chapter Five


Has anything like that ever happened before?” I asked the gargoyle.

No.” Valor’s gaze settled on the top of my head as if he was looking for an explanation beneath my hat. His dark eyebrows pulled together like he wasn’t happy with what he saw. “Is it common for girls to cover their heads nowadays?”

No, my hair just…doesn’t behave.” I pulled off my hat and my hair poured over my shoulders in a tangled mass of red. “See what I mean?”

His eyes widened in a startled look of shock as he swiftly averted his gaze. I watched his mouth form a grim line while his expression turned aloof and distant, as if he’d lost all interest in talking to me.

I couldn’t understand the reason for his sudden change in attitude. The way he’d shifted gears had me reeling. Earlier, he’d seemed friendly, if reserved. Now he was acting like he didn’t want to know me. And it appeared to be because of my hair—as if he had something against redheads. I know a lot of people don’t consider red hair attractive but surely he couldn’t hate redheads that much.

An unfamiliar sense of loss settled in my chest like a dull ache. I captured my hair inside my hat again and tugged it back over my head. I tried to think of something to say that might break the uncomfortable silence. Unfortunately, I was so rattled I couldn’t think of a single thing.

The forest is angry,” he eventually said without looking at me.

It seemed odd that he would express what I’d been thinking only the day before. But I knew it wasn’t possible for the trees to be angry. “It’s only the wind moving through the branches,” I pointed out flatly.

When the trees are content, the wind moves through the branches with a soft sound. This is a harsh sound. Listen,” he insisted.

I tilted my head and listened. I had to agree the forest sounded mad. “The neighbor has been clear-cutting his lot.”

That would explain the forest’s dark mood,” he muttered, still without looking at me.

If the trees are so angry,” I snipped, “then why doesn’t one of them fall on the neighbor?”

Finally, a slight smile edged his mouth. “They’ve probably been trying to, but humans move fast compared to trees. It’s like you or me trying to catch a fly in our hands.”

They’ve probably been trying to?” I snorted. I almost laughed out loud but I checked Valor’s face and decided against it; he seemed to be serious. Hmph. I doubted the trees were trying to fall on my neighbor, but I liked the idea.

Valor fell silent again.

I hated the uneasy quiet so I searched for another topic of conversation. “Stone can be broken and crushed,” I pointed out. “And you said the harpies were bigger than gargoyles. If they wanted to destroy you, why didn’t they just find themselves a hammer and chisel?”

We’re more than common rock,” he murmured. “We’re pretty nigh indestructible when we’re in our stone forms.”

I thought this over. “Then why didn’t they pick you up and throw you into the sea?”

He sent me a dark look. “You’re a bloodthirsty lass, aren’t you?”

I felt my cheeks darken with heat. “That’s not what I meant,” I insisted awkwardly.

He stared at me a moment before he started talking again. “They could have picked us up if we hadn’t been fused to the stone floor of the croft.”

A frown furrowed my brow as I tried to make sense of his answer.

When we turn to stone, our clothing makes the change as well,” he explained in an impersonal monotone. “Everything in direct contact with our skin turns to stone. That means our shoes would turn to stone, if we were wearing them. But if we aren’t wearing shoes, a thin layer of the soil or rock beneath our feet turns to the hard material that we’re made of.”

If that’s true, then how was my stepfather able to pry you away from the stone floor in the croft?”

The hut’s floor had eroded beneath the layer of stone fused to our feet and we came away easily.” He showed me the flat piece of stone in the bottom of the packing crate. It had returned to its original form, a dark, reddish slate. “The harpies would have carried us off if they could have, but they weren’t trying to destroy us.”

They weren’t?”

Instead of responding, Valor turned his head as if he’d heard something outside the garage. “Something’s coming,” he said.

Together we stepped back to the open garage doors as the shipping van appeared at the bend in the driveway. Valor stepped in front of me and put his arm out as if to shield me from the large vehicle trundling up toward the house. I was surprised by his reaction to the slow moving van and his apparent attempt to protect me.

It’s the just delivery van,” I told him when I realized he hadn’t seen the vehicle that had brought him to my house yesterday.

As I watched his back, the stiff line of his shoulders relaxed and he nodded in answer to my words.

The driver avoided Hooligan who was still sprawled in front of the garage. He eyed the dog carefully as he stepped from the van but Hooli just stretched and yawned then closed his eyes and went back to sleep. A few minutes later, two new packing boxes sat beside Valor’s crate in the empty garage bay while the van made its way back down to the road.

Valor pulled a crate to the edge of the concrete slab and faced it into the sun. I handed him the crowbar then got out of his way to let him open the crates. Just before he got the top panel off the first wooden box, I tugged my hat from my head and shook my hair out. These two new gargoyles could see me as I was. I didn’t want them thinking maybe they liked me then changing their minds after they found out I had red hair. Yeah, there was a lot of it. And yeah, it was really red. And they could just deal with it, right from the start, this time.

Valor eyed me for a long moment then tore his gaze from my hair and went back to opening the crate. Once he’d removed the upper and lower panel from one side of the box, he ripped apart the bubble wrap and revealed a winged gargoyle with long dreadlocks. He wasn’t quite as good-looking as Valor but he was still way ahead of Josh Saxon.

Havoc,” Valor said in a warm tone as he looked at his brother.

The sun spilled across the lifeless gray stone and the statue took on a glow of color that spread across his skin, into his pale green eyes and up to the roots of his dark bronze hair. With a wolfish grin, Havoc kicked away the plastic wrap clinging to his legs and stepped out of the wooden box. He pulled his brother into a bone-cracking bear hug. “You look good,” Havoc muttered in a voice rough with emotion.

Valor shoved him away and growled, “You wouldn’t be so affectionate if you knew I’ve waited eight hundred years to flatten you.”

What for?” Havoc asked. His teeth flashed in a wide grin.

For getting us stuck behind that wall.” Then Valor grabbed Havoc as if he couldn’t help himself and gave his brother another fierce hug.

I can’t believe you guys would risk turning yourselves to stone in a country where the sun only shines three days a year,” I offered cynically.

Havoc turned his head and found me in the shadows. Like his brother, he wore a blue tattoo on his neck, though the design was different. He also wore a couple of gold rings on his fingers, inset with colorful flat stones. As I watched, his wings folded down into a black vest that wrapped across his chest and back. His eyes glinted with interest as his gaze dropped to my feet then moved back up to my face again. “Where’d you find the pretty little human?”

Valor flicked his gaze at me. His mouth pulled into a one-sided smile as he reached up with one hand and rubbed the back of his neck. “Underneath a big red box.”

Appalled that he would share this information, I shot him a dirty look. Then I introduced myself to his brother as I stepped forward and stuck out my hand. “I’m MacKenzie.”

Havoc grasped my forearm just below my elbow then took my hand and showed me how I should do the same. “Jolly awesome to meet you,” he said.

I laughed at the weird combination of new and old language. I was pretty sure I was gonna like Havoc.

Where are we?” he asked, and rubbed his hands together as if he was glad to be back among the living. “America?”

Colorado,” I confirmed.

He stepped over to the open garage doors and looked up at the clear blue skies. “It’s glorious here,” he proclaimed enthusiastically. “Much nicer than back home.”

Having spent some time in England, I had to agree with him. Colorado weather is hard to beat. Even in winter, it’s sunny and dry. As far as I’m concerned, Colorado winters are better than British summers.

Let’s get this other crate open,” Valor suggested, getting right back to business. “I’m hoping Dare is in there.”

Okay,” Havoc replied. He caught my eye and sent me a private grin. “But if it’s Victor, we leave him in the dark. Agreed?”

Valor’s smile was wry. “Agreed.”

What’s wrong with Victor?” I questioned. I wondered if their cousin was a jerk or something.

Nothing,” Havoc grunted. He used the claw foot hammer on one side of the crate while Valor worked on the other side with the crowbar. “That’s the problem.”

I probably looked puzzled because I was.

Valor caught my expression and explained. “Victor is really…” His voice trailed away as he searched for the right word.

Good looking,” Havoc supplied. “Attractive.”

I almost blurted, “And you’re not?” It was hard to imagine anything or anyone better looking than the two guys working in front of me.

So when he’s around, all the girls flock to him,” Havoc continued.

All the gargoyle girls?” I asked with a sudden twinge of jealousy. I assumed gargoyle females would be as beautiful as the males. If that were true and if there were any left, Valor and Havoc would obviously prefer them to ordinary human girls like me.

Both Valor and Havoc immediately stopped what they were doing and shared a startled look. “No,” Havoc eventually said. “Human girls.”

There are no female gargoyles,” Valor added.

Okaaay. That sounded impossible to me. The way I understood nature, there couldn’t be any males unless there were females. “You mean there are no females left now,” I clarified.

Not now,” Havoc grunted. “Nor then.”

This didn’t exactly clear things up. Maybe Havoc and Valor were trying to tell me that all of the female gargoyles had died out during their lifetime.

Anyhow, Victor is golden,” Havoc said, returning to the original topic of conversation.

What do you mean by golden?” I asked.

I can’t explain,” he answered as he tugged the wooden panel away from the crate. “You’ll just have to see for yourself when he gets here.”

Together, the two brothers removed the bottom panel in nothing flat. While Havoc stood back, Valor ripped open the plastic bubble wrap that hid the statue inside.

Reason,” Valor said as he stepped away and let the sun shine into the open crate. Although he and Havoc were obviously disappointed the crate didn’t hold their brother, they mustered up some smiles for the new gargoyle. This one had thick, straight blond hair that reached the bottom of his ears. His eyes were a deep cornflower blue that I’d normally consider attractive but looked very ordinary compared to the intense color of Valor’s eyes. The gargoyle stepped from the crate and grasped first Havoc’s arm then Valor’s. My eyes immediately searched for the tattoo on his neck, which was—again—different from the symbols his cousins wore.

Did you see Dare?” Valor asked without wasting any time.

He was standing between Victor and Defiance when I went into the crate,” Reason told him. “Don’t worry. Your brother will catch up with us eventually.”

Valor lifted his chin slightly. “I hope so,” he said without smiling.

The new gargoyle tilted his head toward me. “What’s with the human?” he grunted.

Valor turned his gaze on me. “Her name’s MacKenzie Campbell.”

She knows about us,” Reason growled, and eyed me darkly.

I’m sorry,” Valor apologized though his tone was prickly. “I didn’t have much choice in the matter.”

Reason gave his cousin a critical look. “Then I assume you’ll take full responsibility for her.”


Chapter Six


Full responsibility for me?” I echoed. Right away, I decided I didn’t much care for the blond gargoyle. “What do you mean by that?” When I got no answer from Reason, I wheeled around to face Valor. “What does he mean by that?”

Nothing,” Valor gritted, sending Reason a warning look.

Am I a hostage?” I demanded, while Hooligan lifted his head and gave me a curious look.

We don’t normally share the secret of our existence with humans,” Reason explained coldly. “It means we’ll have to be careful about you. We can’t allow you to go telling all your friends about us.”

Insulted right down to my toes, I crossed my arms over my chest. “If you want me to keep quiet about you guys, I will. You don’t need to hold me hostage.” I hoped one of them would back down and tell me that’s not what Reason meant.

Instead, Reason just looked me up and down and said, “We’ll see.”

I glared at the three gargoyles and wondered what I’d gotten myself into. I didn’t think Valor would want to see me harmed but what would happen when the rest of the gargoyles arrived? What if they were all like Reason? And what if Valor was outvoted?

As I stood there and freaked, Havoc caught sight of Hooligan in the middle of the driveway. He strode toward the open garage doors while I tried to catch Valor’s eye, but he and Reason followed Havoc out into the sun.

Hooligan got to his feet as if to greet the approaching gargoyles, his tail wagging sedately.

What have we got here?” Havoc murmured. He dropped to one knee in front of my dog. “Here’s a fine looking war hound. Who does he belong to?”

He’s mine,” I answered as I followed them out onto the driveway. “But he’s not a war hound. He’s a wolfhound. At least that’s what we call the breed nowadays.”

It doesn’t matter what you call him,” Reason snorted with an annoying air of superiority. “He’s still a war hound.”

The Celts took these dogs into battle with them, to help kill their enemies,” Havoc told me.

I gave my guard dog a blunt stare. Apparently, Hooligan didn’t care that I was being held hostage against my will. “I guess Hooligan didn’t get around to reading his copy of the War Hound Manual.”

Havoc chuckled as he scratched behind Hooligan’s ears. “The Celts used them to hunt wolves as well.”

Did they hunt gargoyles?” I asked, and shifted my pointed gaze to Reason.

Not gargoyles,” Havoc answered with an unapologetic grin. “But this dog would defend you to the death…if you needed defending.”

I returned my gaze to Havoc’s face and studied his easygoing expression. He seemed to be suggesting that maybe I had nothing to fear from him and his family. As reassurances went, it wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.

Is that an automobile?” Havoc asked as he returned suddenly to his feet and paced toward my Jeep in the garage. He stopped in front of the car and spread his arms wide. “It’s so big.”

I gave my Jeep a critical look. I’d never thought of it as big or impressive. My mother bought it used ten years ago and handed it down to my brother when he was in high school. When he left for college, it became mine. Currently, it had 200,000 miles on it. I’d hoped for something a bit nicer when I got my license but we don’t have piles of money like some of the newer families that have recently moved to Pine Grove.

Although my mother has a degree in geological engineering, she works as a field technician. That’s why she has to travel so much. She usually works for ten days then has four days off. My father’s an accountant and has a decent job but his new wife came with four young kids. I’m saving my babysitting money for a later model car, but at ten dollars an hour, it’s definitely gonna take a while before I get there.

I thought they’d be smaller too,” Reason admitted as he sauntered past Havoc, opened the car door and planted himself in the driver’s seat. “How does it work?”

You can’t drive without lessons,” I informed them after I caught up to them in the garage.

Havoc turned a hopeful look in my direction. “Can you teach us?”

I met his green gaze and considered his request. Driving lessons weren’t out of the question. Police cars were rarely seen on the winding roads that led up the mountain to my home. Twelve year olds raced around the neighborhood on their ATVs and dirt bikes all summer long. It looked like I had a bargaining chip. “Not as long as I’m a hostage,” I told him without hesitation.

A soft snort of humor broke from Havoc’s lips. He rubbed his hand over his mouth and said, “We’ll have to work on that, won’t we, Reason?”

Reason pinned me with a chilly look that didn’t budge an inch. “We’ll have to wait until the others get here.”

With a slow shock of realization, I understood what Reason was telling Havoc. The gargoyles had to keep an eye on me until the rest of the pack arrived. Then they’d all disappear together and it wouldn’t matter if I told everyone about them, because nobody would believe me.

For some reason, the idea of the gargoyles leaving—completely and forever—was worse than discovering I was a hostage.

Do you have a television?” Havoc asked next, before I could adjust to Reason’s unsettling comment.

Television!” Valor echoed gruffly as he joined us in the garage and steered the conversation in a safer direction. “Yes, you guys must see the television.”

I decided Valor had the right idea and it was best to change the subject for the time being. It also occurred to me that I might be able to make myself useful to the gargoyles and maybe upgrade my hostage status. “Are you guys hungry?” I asked.

Havoc sent me a grateful look. “Frickin’ aye. I feel as if I haven’t eaten in forever.”

It’s been almost that long,” I pointed out with a mild chuckle. “Maybe after lunch and some television, we could all go out in the car.”

Reason gave me a dark look as if he knew exactly what I was doing but I ignored the arrogant gargoyle.

As we made our way into the house, the guys started listing off all the things they wanted to see, including airplanes and computers, hot air balloons, radios, trains, an electric stove, a telescope, a helicopter and a telegraph if at all possible.

In the living room, I discovered that Top Gear was the gargoyles’ television program of choice. They’d listened to the British version for years and wanted to see the men behind the voices. Fortunately for my guests, I owned the last few seasons. I stuck a disk in the DVD player for them to watch while Hooligan settled down on the floor between the couch and the TV. There was no doubt my dog considered himself one of the boys and I was a little annoyed by his behavior. Clearly, the wolfhound had loyalty issues.

You’d better call your stepfather,” Valor reminded me once I had Top Gear started.

Right,” I answered, wondering if the reminder was an order or a request then realizing I didn’t really care. I knew Valor was hoping for news about his brother and probably the rest of his cousins. I couldn’t stay angry at him and I couldn’t deny him the help he needed to find his family. “I’ll see what I can find out.”

Valor followed me into the kitchen and listened to my telephone conversation. “So?” he asked, after I hung up.

Three more crates should arrive Monday morning,” I told him.

Monday?”

Tomorrow is Sunday and there’s no delivery.”

He scraped his hands back through his hair and eyed me fiercely. “Only three?”

My stepfather hasn’t sent the last three yet.”

With a dissatisfied growl that seemed to suggest I was to blame, Valor stalked from the kitchen and joined the rest of the gargoyles in the living room.

I glared at his back, exasperated with his complete lack of courtesy. He hadn’t even offered to help me make lunch. As I heated up some soup, I wondered if the care and friendliness he’d shown me yesterday was all an act.

We ate our soup, watched three full episodes of Top Gear, then headed out in the car after raiding my brother’s closet for more jeans and shoes. Fortunately my brother is a shoe hound; he’s never met a shoe he didn’t like. He owns them in lots of different colors and hasn’t thrown a pair away since he was thirteen. Normally I think it’s ridiculous for a guy to have more shoes than the women in the house, but it paid off on this occasion since we had no trouble fitting all of the gargoyles with something for their feet. Havoc had to settle for purple high tops but he didn’t complain. In fact, he seemed to love them. I sensed another shoe hound in the making.

They all wanted belts for their knives but my brother had only left one belt behind when he went away to school and Valor was wearing it. And there was no way I was gonna start rooting through the step-person’s stuff. He gets all stiff when it comes to his things. I told them belts would have to wait until we could go shopping in Denver since there were no clothing stores in Pine Grove.

When we got in the car, I’d hoped Valor would sit beside me in the front passenger seat but he climbed into the back with Reason, leaving Havoc to ride shotgun.

I was just glad it wasn’t Reason.

I pointed out my high school as we drove past it on the county highway then we stopped at the grocery store and used my debit card to stock up on food. The guys were amazed at the store and the amount and variety of food that was available. Havoc immediately offered to hunt for fresh meat but I managed to convince him I wasn’t keen on either deer or elk. “Besides,” I said. “Poaching isn’t exactly condoned in the twenty-first century.”

Havoc snickered. “It wasn’t exactly condoned in our time either. But that didn’t stop us from hunting.”

Before I pushed the shopping cart to a cash register, I stopped at the end of aisle thirteen and asked each of them pick out a toothbrush in a different color. They were like a bunch of kids, fighting over the available choices. They all wanted a brush with a bright, translucent handle. Havoc insisted on red, which meant the other two had to settle for blue and purple.

On the way back to the house, the guys talked about the roads and buildings and people and clothing, but mostly they talked about cars. They talked about my car and the cars we passed on the road and the cars parked at the grocery store. As far as I could tell, guys hadn’t changed much in eight hundred years.

What did you guys talk about back in your time, before cars were invented?” I asked.

Horses,” Havoc replied.

That figures,” I muttered as I shifted gears and turned off the county highway toward home.

And hunting,” Reason added with a lazy drawl. “And fishing.”

A crooked smile lifted the corner of Havoc’s mouth. “And girls,” he said. “We talked about girls.”

Nope. Guys hadn’t changed much.

I couldn’t help but notice that Valor didn’t join in the conversation. Evidently, he wasn’t talking to me any more than he had to. It shouldn’t have bothered me but it did. In fact, it stung. To me, Valor’s silence was worse than Reason’s open hostility.

Back at the house, I unloaded the groceries with Havoc’s help. When we were done, he made straight for the couch and joined Reason in front of the TV. I thought I’d be alone for a while to sort out my thoughts…and plan dinner, but Valor took Havoc’s place in the kitchen.

How much do we owe you for everything so far?” he asked. He stood stiffly on the other side of the counter, as if he didn’t want to risk getting close to me.

Don’t worry about it,” I muttered, although my debit card was going to be stretched thin by the end of the week, especially if more gargoyles arrived. My mom had only put enough money in my account for food and gas. I had some of my own babysitting money in the bank but at some point we were going to need more jeans…although we’d never run out of shoes.

The guys would need coats as well. The warm weather wasn’t going to last forever. Winter would come and it would probably be sudden if past experience was anything to go by. It almost always snows in the foothills by Halloween. We could shop for clothes in the thrift stores but I wasn’t sure I’d even have enough money for that!

Valor dug in his jeans pocket and pulled out a few coins. “Dare has most of our money. This isn’t much and I don’t know what things cost these days but this used to be enough to buy food for a week, back in our time.”

I peered at the ancient coins resting in his open palm, then picked out a silver one and held it up to the light. A cross was stamped into the middle of the coin and letters curved around the edge. The other side had what looked like a cart in the middle with fleur-de-lis around the rim. It was in damn near mint condition. “I think this might be worth quite a bit more than it used to be,” I told him, and headed for the computer in the family room to look up the coin online.

The family room was a few steps down from the kitchen. It was my favorite room in the house, partly because of the “sunken pit” feeling it had going for it and also because of the stone fireplace that took up one wall. In addition, the dark wicker furniture with tapestry cushions was relatively up-to-date.

I sat down in front of the computer while Valor dragged one of the chairs over to join me. He pulled his chair remarkably close for a guy who, 1) didn’t seem to like me and, 2) was potentially holding me hostage. I was both encouraged and confused. The mixed signals he was sending me was taking my heart on a roller coaster ride and giving me that funny feeling you get in your stomach when you drive over an unexpected bump in the road. While waiting for the computer to boot up, I slid a cautious look at his perfect profile, which did nothing to improve that feeling in my stomach.

It turned out the coin was worth almost a thousand dollars. So we priced it a bit lower and listed it as buy-it-now. Assuming the coin sold, the payment would go directly onto my debit card and we’d be ready to do some serious shopping.

By the time we finished listing the coin, Reason and Havoc were asleep on the couch in the living room. I was surprised the gargoyles were tired since they’d just had a nice, eight-hundred-year-long rest.

We’ve basically been awake for the last eight hundred years,” Valor explained in a minimum of words. “It will probably take us a few days to catch up on our sleep.”

I see,” I answered. Forgetting myself, I gazed a long moment at the clean angles of his face. He was so beautiful and I’m sure my opinion showed in my besotted expression. I figured he probably thought I was a total loser for staring at him like a lovesick weirdo who’d never seen a cute boy before, but I couldn’t help myself.

He averted his gaze and muttered something about building himself a bow. “Where can I find some yew trees?” he asked.

I told him I didn’t know what a yew looked like and directed him to the four hundred acre park next door.

You don’t know what a yew looks like?” he asked, apparently shocked by my ignorance. Shaking his head, he sauntered toward the front door. Hooligan appeared suddenly at his side, obviously intending to take a walk with his new best friend.

I’m sorry I can’t identify all the species of trees in the northern hemisphere,” I snarked, feeling nominally pissed and maybe even a little defensive. Maybe I couldn’t identify trees by sight. Maybe I didn’t hunt my own red meat. On the other hand, I knew how to use a lot of pretty handy conveniences that hadn’t been around the last time Valor walked the earth—like cell phones and televisions and cars! “But if it makes you feel better, I can spot an unmarked police car at a hundred yards.”

He eyed me critically. “So you’re telling me you have different priorities nowadays?”

Things have changed in the last eight hundred years,” I growled. “In case you haven’t noticed.”

I’ll keep that in mind,” he muttered.

Why do you want to build a bow?” I demanded, annoyed by his attitude and determined that he wasn’t going to kill any deer on our property. “You can’t hunt without a permit and you can’t get a permit because you have no identification.”

I thought maybe we could sell the bows to support ourselves,” he shot back at me. “Our coins won’t last forever.”

They might last almost that long, depending on how many your brother has,” I muttered.

Even if they did, we’d need something to do,” he argued. “We couldn’t do nothing all day.” He turned his back on me and wrapped his hand around the doorknob.

Aren’t you worried that I might escape while you’re gone?” I cut at him.

Valor stopped and wheeled slowly around to face me again. He crossed his arms over his leanly muscled chest while Hooligan watched the door with the singular focus of a dog determined to go for a walk. “Gargoyles have exceptionally good hearing. If you tried to leave, you’d wake Havoc and Reason.”

Oh, good,” I said with acid cheeriness. “I’m glad that isn’t a concern for you.”

He rubbed his hand over his mouth like he was trying to cover a smile. “Okay, if that’s the way you want it,” he said. He lowered his voice to a deliberate snarl while he pointed a finger at me and creased his brow into a stern frown. “I’ll be back soon, so don’t try to escape. If you do, I’ll hunt you down like a…”

Like a rat?” I offered with a reluctant smile. I couldn’t help but be amused by his tough-guy act. There was just something about him that made my heart stutter in my chest. My insides went all warm and mushy whenever he looked at me.

He grimaced as if he didn’t like the rat comparison.

Like a harpy?” I suggested next. “Or a witch?”

His face went completely white. Without answering, he turned around, opened the door and slipped out of the house with Hooligan at his side.

For several moments I frowned at the paneled wood door and wondered what I’d said wrong. Whatever it was, I wished I hadn’t said it. Because it seemed like every time Valor started warming up, I said or did the wrong thing and he turned on the chill factor.


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