Gargoyle's Mate - Excerpt Included (BWWM)
For Lorn De LaRue, Gargoyles have always been as common place as the humans they are sworn to protect. It's up to Lorn to make sure their existence is preserved -- by any means necessary. Right now the means would appear to be Dr. Fatima Smith, an ebony beauty who never imagined her interest in Gothic folklore would force her into a world she had never known exist. Time is running out, and Lorn is determined Fatima will come to terms with her new life as his mate.
Fatima finds herself thrust into a reality that includes Gargoyles, Elves, Succubae... oh my! Unsure of the new world around her, she's torn between her new lover, old friend and the beasties threatening the very existence of the human race. Who can she trust?
In the predawn hours, a group of women took to horseback and galloped along the Franco shoreside, casting cautious eyes to the lighting sky above. They were a small assembly, just under twenty, but Laurel knew Fledglings throughout the known world were gathering this morn with the same agenda.
"Hurry!" she shouted to the others behind her to be heard over the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below, and the thunderous clapping of hooves.
"There!" Laurel yelled, pointing to a barely visible out cropping of rocks. "In there lies our salvation. Leave the horses. They will be safe."
The stallions were well trained creatures and would eventually return to the lush accommodation of their stables but by then it would be too late for anyone to stop the women from their intended mission.
Laurel dismounted her steed with the ease of an experienced rider. After the others followed suit she urged the women up the unmarked path. For the last time she deeply inhaled the salty sea air which mingled with the fresh musk of early morning dew. She was the last to enter the mouth of the dimly lit cave where her flock huddled in its tight confines. Their looks ranged from fear to sadness but it was certain each contemplated what would come next.
Laurel looked into the shadowed faces like a loving mother to her young.
"I'm glad to see you all here on such a momentous occasion. I know you all well, as I was there the day each of you was turned over to the Protectors. I have lived on this earth for many years, more than I care to recall, but this is the first time in a long while I have felt so alive."
"Madame," a soft-spoken, unmated Fledging began, "perhaps there is some other way."
Remembering her sons and mate, of over four hundred years, Laurel felt the bite of sorrow creeping its way into her resolve. She gave herself a mental shake. It was too late to turn back now, too late for anything but carrying out their plan. This was the only way.
"My dear, I wish there was another option. I have spent many years trying to convince the Council we are distressed over the state of things, but none will listen, not even my beloved husband. They will not acknowledge their reformed policies have yet to produce new Protectors but are pitting gargoyles against each other. We are the real victims of their edicts and our voices go unheard. It is time for all of this to end."
The women let out a long collective sigh over the truth of her statement. There was no other alternative.
Already the town's people shunned the Fledglings, treating the women worse than the lowest of god's creatures any time a Fledgling was caught without a Protector at her side. Laurel had experienced the loathing firsthand from the descendants of her own family. She'd disguised her un-aging features by swathing herself in drab peasant clothes for her secret visits. For generations she mingled with the offspring of her siblings, taking pride in the prosperity she'd helped to bring with the Fledgling pact forged over her. As with all Fledglings the Protectors agreed to provide monetary compensation and protection to their mate's families. Her clan had become wealthy beyond her own imaginings with many holdings countrywide.
However her last visit, some thirty years earlier, led to the discovery of her true identity. To Laurel's surprise she was met with slurs and condemnation that would be branded in her soul forever. "Demon spawner" and "demon whore" were hurled at her from the progeny of her sibling, it stung the worse.
Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one feeling the effects of ridicule. Other Fledglings confided in her about their own unfavorable experiences. The trend turned into a movement and began to spread like wildfire. Rumors surfaced about random incidents of infanticide and young Fledglings being secreted away to convents. The hearsay became substantiated over the years with the declining number of Fledglings brought for the annual Mate Choosing ceremonies. There were also discoveries of Fledglings whose families had their daughters pass as the "unmarked" rather than see them mated to Protectors.
It was in this rebellious atmosphere the Council of the Protectors began seeking new alternatives to Fledgling mate selections. The once very public and highly celebrated events became secret ceremonies which excluded even the relatives of the Fledglings. The Council began seeking out young women before the age of puberty, offering the families a king's ransom for the coveted females who were necessary in continuing their race. Once acquired, the Fledglings were not permitted to visit their kin, ensuring the budding women became completely immersed in their new lives and went unharmed by the anti-Protector groups of humans.
Laurel and the few elder Fledglings reluctantly accepted the new policies understanding precautions had to be taken in an environment where people now questioned the necessity of Protectors. It was the Council's more recent policy which sent the Fledglings into a panic. Increasing numbers of Protectors began complaining about the waning number of women, and was concerned over what it would mean for the future propagation of their species and their very lives. Tensions grew daily.
In an almost unanimous vote, it was decided the Fledglings would stay with their chosen mates for a twenty-year period to provide offspring. After the appointed time, and regardless of the number or age of the children produced, the Fledgling would be given to a new Protector. This was to continue until the woman was beyond birthing years. In theory, it could mean several centuries of exchanging.
In the years to follow, Laurel, beyond childbearing years, watched as the women were traded like chattel. None of the temporary matings ever produced heirs and only led to escalated conflicts between Protectors. Fledglings began to run away, some trying to reintegrate with their human families, others attempting to escape to foreign lands where they hoped not to be recognized by their extreme beauty and Fledgling marks. Their exodus was to no avail and they were easily captured by Protectors.
Laurel could not sit back in her secure status and watch the degradation of the Fledglings any longer. She knew she must do something drastic to protect the women from both humans and Protectors. She had to find a way to give them control of their own destinies in a world where they'd become an expendable bartering tool for poor families and broodmares for their mates.
She had planned their liberation for over a year -- it had taken that long to convince the women her plot could succeed. Soon she and her sisters would be free from humans and Protectors alike. They would make the ultimate sacrifice.
Fatima fingered the dull ache just above her breastbone for the umpteenth time that evening.
What's wrong with me?
She risked another glance at the stranger who'd entered the already crowded conference room just moments earlier. The man literally stood head and shoulders above the rest. She estimated he had to be 6'7", if not taller. He was smartly dressed in dark slacks, matching blazer and red shirt casually unbuttoned at the collar. She hadn't had a chance for a closer look, but even from her vantage point she could tell he was striking. She wondered what university he was with and why their paths had never crossed. Fatima felt certain she'd never seen him at any other of the Myths, Legends and Folklore conferences. She blushed, turning her head quickly when he caught her observing him. At least she thought he'd caught her. From the distance he could've been looking at anyone in her general direction.
The sensation on her chest turned to a deep throbbing.
"Dr. Smith, I'm looking forward to hearing your lecture on gargoyles tonight," the eager grad student in front of Fatima was saying. He'd talked for five minutes straight and she could honestly admit to only hearing a portion of what was uttered. She tried again to focus on what the young grad student was saying, but found herself casting sideways glances at the giant across the room.
"I had the opportunity to read your article in Mythology Today and was very intrigued by your theories on the origins of gargoyle mythology. Your supporting material is some of the best I've seen," he continued.
"Thank you, but I hope tonight's lecture won't bore you too much since much of what was published will be included in my talk," she replied while making every effort to remain focused on the conversation at hand.
You're here for the conference, to present your findings to fellow students of mythology not ogle participants, her inner voice reminded.
"Excuse me," the voice of her colleague, Professor Gordy Singleton, interrupted. He'd attained his tenure status a few years earlier, and Fatima had aligned herself with the budding professor after discovering his interest in Gothic folklore.
"They're ready to start seating everyone, and I want to make sure we're in our places before you're called up for your presentation," he explained.
"Of course, Gordy," Fatima placated, not wanting to experience one of his famous "high stress" episodes.
"Please excuse me," she apologized to the student as Gordy took a gentle hold of her exposed elbow. His hand felt cold and clammy against her bare skin. She looked down to where their flesh connected, noting the drastic contrast between her almost espresso coloring and his own alabaster fingers.
Over their two-year acquaintance she'd become accustomed to the various peculiarities of his appearance like the perpetual sheen coating his skin, giving his face an unhealthy glow, and the stringy ill-kempt hair which seemed eternally plastered to his forehead. His features were delicate and reminded her of a teen on the cusp of manhood. Piercing sky blue eyes were his only redeeming physical quality, but they were masked behind owlish glasses. She doubted Gordy cared about his outward appearance but none of it really mattered because he was an excellent researcher and professor.
"Stop worrying. I'm sure things won't start for several minutes," she reassured him quietly.
"I know," he muttered, "but I thought I'd save you from your ever growing fan club." He motioned with his head to the young man they'd abruptly left behind.
"He was just being polite," Fatima explained before wondering why she was even bothering.
"I swear sometimes you are completely oblivious to male/female social cues," he admonished.
She groaned aloud. "Not again."
"What." His look was innocent.
"You know there are actually people who support and believe in my work out there."
"Of course there are and I'm one of them, it's just-"
"Don't Gordy," she interrupted, slipping her elbow from his grasp, determined not to let him dampen her mood.
Over the last year he had become increasingly protective of her. Fatima wasn't sure why he showed the added interest; she'd never given him any indication she wanted anything other than a professional relationship. If he kept this jealous lover act up she would be forced to sever their working ties completely. Which would be a shame because his work was impeccable; it was one of his redeeming qualities in her opinion.
Fatima shifted her thoughts back to her reason for being at the conference. She was one of three speakers in the evening's segment on Gothic folklore. It was an honor when the committee approached her about the opportunity seven months ago. As the only associate professor speaking Fatima felt the need to prove herself worthy of the privilege bestowed, and was determined Gordy wasn't going to ruin her night with his unwarranted attachment.
Gordy resisted the desire to maintain his hold on her, reminding himself there were still three days left in the conference. Enough time for him to move beyond the position of co-worker she'd relegated him to for so long. After all, he'd waited patiently until she came into her own, not wanting to start a relationship with some pseudo-professor. No, Fatima was not just a pretty face. She was well on her way to becoming an authority on Gothic folklore. What more could he want in a companion?
He allowed her to take the lead, letting his gaze linger on her firm, well-rounded backside swaying seductively in loose fitting slacks. She wore a pink silk top which clung to her slight waist, accentuating perfectly rounded breasts. He could feel the thickening of his cock as he thought about taking what he was sure to be dusky nipples between his lips. Something caught her attention, causing her to turn her head and he was gifted with the perfection of her profile.
Her pink tongue darted out over full lips and his eyes lingered for a moment as he thought of how those lips would taste, better still how they would look wrapped around his cock, swallowing him slowly. He imagined her whiskey colored eyes looking up at him with desire. So perfect. He gave his head a mental shake, dislodging the image. They would have their time soon enough, he was sure of it.
Lorn ignored the voluptuous catering assistant as she made what had to be her twentieth pass in front of him. Normally, he would have found her obvious flirtation amusing, but tonight he was on a mission. He'd followed various literary works on gargoyle mythology over the centuries hoping somewhere a scholar might accidentally stumble across something his kind had overlooked. Fledglings were the missing variable. The question remained did they still exist?
From across the room his eyes zoomed in on the young woman whose recent research on gargoyle origins had fascinated him above any others. She looked even more beautiful in person than the picture his private investigator had supplied. He'd expected to find a studious face framed by overly large glasses, complete with a severe bun or some other form of disguise modern day career women used to downplay their looks. Instead, he discovered a woman who could just as easily have given any beauty pageant contestant a run for her money.
The photo he had was taken while she chatted with a group of students in a coffeehouse. Oblivious to the photographer, the woman had been caught laughing over something said, her dark eyes rounded in surprise, teeth gleaming, while her hand clutched her chest. Unlike tonight, her thick shoulder length hair had framed her face, its dark tresses gleaming in the light. Lorn was surprised at the primal way his body responded to her picture. The more he studied her image the more aroused he'd become until finally he was forced to toss the photo aside. He cursed his own reaction and wondered if the change were closer than he previously suspected. One of Lorn's brethren chronicled his symptoms leading up to the consumption. The Protector had written how his sexual urges increased towards the end; his needs seemed to be the only thing providing an emotional connection with humanity. He'd clung to primal desires until the end.
Now standing in the bustling conference room Lorn found his cock stiffening again as it had when he first saw the photo of Dr. Fatima Smith. His gaze followed her every movement. The compulsion to watch her was unnerving. She'd talked with various participants in the conference but one stood out as being a tad too familiar. Lorn found himself gnashing his teeth in an effort to keep his incisors from lengthening. Who was the man and why had he touched her with so much familiarity, but more importantly, why did it bother Lorn so much?
In spite of Gordy's overprotective behavior, Fatima found herself enjoying the speakers who presented before her. The event was like a dream come true, sharing her research with a group of respected colleagues and aspiring students.
". . .presenting her work tonight on Gargoyles in Antiquity, please join me in welcoming a woman we will be hearing a lot more from in the future, Dr. Fatima Smith," The announcer introduced.
Fatima smiled graciously as she made her way the podium, her published paper on gargoyles secured under her arm like the Holy Grail.
"Good evening. First let me start by thanking you all for your gracious welcome. I am honored to be presenting my paper here tonight," she began, ignoring the dull ache on her chest. "When we think of gargoyles, images of water spouts or stone figures adorning the cathedral of Notre-Dame immediately come to mind. However, indulge me if you will, in thinking of gargoyles not as statues but living breathing creatures who roamed the earth thousands of years ago. These noble giants lived, mated and built communities having their own form of government and social order. Imagine a world where human females were given to these beings as brides in exchange for protection from enemies, wealth and prosperity. A complete system of interdependence," she emphasized, intertwining her fingers.
"They were a magnificent race of beings, superior to man in every way, reliant on no one but themselves except for the very continuance of their race." She paused for dramatic effect. "Now that you have the picture in your minds and can visualize these splendid beings, let's come back to reality and talk about gargoyles in antiquity." She smiled at her captured audience, her gaze darting throughout the room until it landed on the well-dressed giant who now sat in the shadows of a corner table as if trying to remain inconspicuous.
Fat chance, she thought to herself. Everything about the man called attention to him; his size; the natural power and confidence spilling off him. She certainly had a hard time looking away. The throbbing on her chest intensified.
Fatima concluded her presentation by inviting others to take another look at gargoyles and their influence in mythology. There were a few seconds of silence before the deafening thunder of applause filled the room. Curious to see if the giant had the same reaction, she looked eagerly to the table he occupied. Disappointment set in when she realized he'd already gone.