Re-release date: December, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal BDSM
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Original release date: December, 2005
NOTE: A couple more of my Christmas Gargoyle stories are in the Naughty Beasts anthology, coming soon from the Naughty Literati
For one month of the year, around the winter solstice, gargoyles can assume human shape, though it entails a steep price. Averic has become entranced by a woman he sees pass by his cathedral each day and decides to take human form during the Christmas season to get to know her better. To ensure he knows how to please her, he eavesdrops on her dreams and learns that she longs for exactly what he’d like to give her.
Tricia McKinnon is just about to give up on her long-held fantasy of finding the right man, a sexual dominant, but one who is also strong, honest and caring. When a fall at a street corner literally dumps her into the arms of Eric Stone, blazing sexual attraction erupts. She cleans his scrapes, feeds him, and lets him kiss her until her senses reel. When she learns what he wants from her, Tricia begins to believe she’s been granted a Christmas miracle. But that miracle is more complicated than she knows and claiming it will challenge her in astonishing ways.
Five Angels! “I have never read a more creative book. There are thousands of shape shifter books out there, but very few gargoyle books. Katherine Kingston has always had the ability to stretch my imagination with her amazing storytelling. She does it again in Gargoyle’s Christmas. What I really liked about the book is that there are so many emotions whirling around and yet it doesn’t feel like you’re drowning in them. The characters of Tricia and Eric were fantastically written and expressed. The plot was what really made me enjoy this book; a new take on Beauty and the Beast. Truly a well written book all around.” — Reviewed by: Serena, Fallen Angels Reviews * Read Full Review *
From high atop one of the spires, Averic watched the young woman pass by his cathedral each morning and night. He’d been watching her for eight months, though she’d probably been going back and forth longer than that. He hadn’t noticed her until one particular day.
An old man, one of the regulars who bought a newspaper every morning and sat on a bench in the cathedral’s courtyard to read it, stumbled as he crossed the pavement. He went down on his knees and the newspaper flew out of his hands. Picked up by a March breeze, it blew down the street.
The girl who went to his aid wasn’t particularly pretty, at least not in the flashy way of so many of the city’s young women, who dressed and groomed themselves to attract attention. Her hair was light brown, long and curly, her eyes a warm hazel brown, her figure slim and light beneath her coat. But she moved with joyful grace and radiated the kind of warmth that made her attractive no matter what the shape of her features.
Around her, people streamed in both directions on their way to work. They all ignored the old man and his distress. Except for her.
She stopped to ask the man if he was all right. At his nod, she helped him to his feet and guided him to the nearest bench. She chased down and gathered his newspaper. It took her several minutes to find all the sections that had blown into the shrubs at the edge of the plaza.
Her tights were shredded and her legs bore several scratches that bled a little by the time she rounded up all the paper and handed it to the man. Acknowledging his thanks with a nod and a smile, she rushed off, probably late for work.
The impression of her lingered in his mind. Would she return that way in the evening? He saw so many pass going one direction in the morning and the other later in the day. He watched the crowds carefully but didn’t see her. Late, after most of the people had gone and only a few still rushed by, he saw her again. She walked more slowly, with less bounce and enthusiasm. Her face looked strained.
People assume gargoyles are stone ornaments on the faces of buildings that act as drainage conduits or simple decorations. That’s true. It’s just not the whole truth. Within the stone forms, living creatures breathe and watch and study the world. In the dark of night when no one can see, they leave their stone capsules and fly free in the world.
He wanted to follow her, to see where she lived, what she did and what she was like, but it wasn’t dark enough yet for him to leave his post.
He watched for her the next morning. When she passed, looking once again sweet and joyful and fresh for another day, something squeezed in his heart, which was neither stone nor flesh, but no less real for that. He saw her again in the late afternoon as the sun sank behind the other side of the cathedral. She didn’t look as tired as she had the previous day, but still some of the earlier vitality was missing. He didn’t like to think that somewhere, some unfeeling brute drained her of all that lovely spirit.
Over the next few months, his interest in her grew. Gargoyles had far better vision than humans, which allowed him to study her face as she passed. He noted what she wore and what she carried. She wasn’t rich, not even particularly well off, judging by the quality of her clothes, shoes, boots and bags. But she had good taste, restrained but elegant. She wore only light makeup; her large eyes and clear complexion needed little enhancement.
She became important to him. His heart lifted each time he saw her, for however brief a time. If she failed to pass or he missed her, the day grew less bright and life less interesting.
For an entire week in the summer she failed to pass by. A cloud of depression settled over him. Had she moved away or taken a different job? Had something happened to her? Was she ill or injured?
Mercifully the following Monday she strode by as usual. His heart jolted and the depression lifted. She was still around!
In the evenings he continued to fly with his fellow gargoyles, but he began to soar father afield, studying the world below, hoping for a glimpse of her. The chances he’d find her that way were slight. The city held millions of people, many thousands just in the neighborhood around the cathedral, and she might not even live there. It was possible she arrived by train from somewhere else.
It took a while for his fellows to notice the change in him, but the others began to tease and question his excursions.
“Averic’s been watching a human female,” his friend Markovet commented, then asked him directly, “Do you think she’ll cry on you and turn you human like Niala of the Tears did for Orosint?”
“That’s just a legend,” Averic answered. “A good story. But I am thinking that during the Solstice season I may choose to walk as a human for a while. If I can learn more about her.”
“Even though you’ll be trapped in your stone for the year following? You’ve that much yearning to know a human female?”
“She intrigues me. I’d like to know more.”
Another of the cathedral gargoyles looked over. “Next thing you know he’ll be trying to get her to kiss him and say ‘I love you’ so he can remain in human form. He’ll be lost to us.”
Though he proclaimed he just wanted to try out a human relationship, in his own heart, Averic wondered. Nothing had ever felt this way, and it confused him.
It took until early November of that year before he finally had an opportunity to learn more about her. On that evening, she passed by the cathedral late, so late that for the first time, darkness allowed him to emerge from his stone capsule and follow her.
In the gloom no one noticed his presence. Gargoyles excelled at staying in dark places and passing unnoticed. He might have remained in the shadows, trailing her silently through the city to her home, if he hadn’t seen a trio of humans ooze out of a dark corner and begin to follow her as well.
* * * * *
Tricia couldn’t shake the feeling of someone watching her. She’d felt it ever since she’d walked past the cathedral ten minutes ago. Of course, she always got that prickle of awareness when she passed by there. It didn’t seem threatening or dangerous, but it gave her an odd shiver nonetheless.
She hated walking home in the dark and mentally cursed her boss for insisting the monthly reports had to be finished that day. He didn’t have to present them to the board for another three days. Another half-day’s wait wouldn’t have killed him.
Uneasiness turned to alarm when she heard a new sound. Footsteps came from behind, too close and clearly following her. At least two and possibly three people trailed her. She opened her purse and reached in to get her pepper spray.
When a hand clasped her shoulder, spinning her around, she nearly dropped both purse and canister. Three men stood behind her. The darkness and shadows obscured their forms, but they reeked of alcohol and unwashed bodies.
“Hey, lady,” one said. “Help the needy?” The words were slurred and insolent, not a request at all.
She backed away, but they stepped with her, closing slowly in arc that surrounded her on three sides. “What do you want?” She reached into her purse to pull out her wallet. “I don’t have much money, but-”
“This’ll do.” One of the three reached for the purse to snatch it from her.
Another voice spoke from the shadows behind the three men. “I don’t think so.” What happened next occurred so fast she experienced it as a blur of motion. The thug in the center toppled sideways, taking the man on his left with him to the ground while the third one spun to face the newcomer, ducked, reared backward then crumpled up, moaning on the sidewalk.
One of the other two had disentangled himself and swayed to his feet, fists swinging. A flash of movement in the darkness and he went down again, hard, landing almost at her feet.
A tall man stepped over the prone form. A heavy cloak veiled his form and a broad-brimmed hat shaded his face, but he moved with powerful, supple grace and control. He was only slightly less frightening then the drunken, would-be muggers. He reminded her of the covers of some of her favorite romance novels, with heroes in flowing, dark capes. Would his face be as handsome when she saw it? What those covers didn’t convey was the sense of menace a large, dark, cloaked man conveyed. She took another step backward.
“I won’t hurt you.” His voice was deep and rough, with an edge of gravel that sounded as though he didn’t speak much.
Tricia drew a deep breath, struggling to repress a sob. “Who are you?”
“A friend. Truly, I won’t harm you. You have my word. I’ll escort you home in case someone should try to attack you again.”
He was dangerous, she decided , but she sensed no threat to herself from him except for his interest in her. That made no sense. Letting him know where she lived seemed like a bad idea. She opened her mouth to object but stopped on the realization that it didn’t matter. He could follow her anyway.
He took another step forward. She studied him, trying and failing to get a look at features obscured by the hat. Sighing, she gave up and turned to head for home.
“Who are you?” she asked as they walked. “Why did you help me?”
“You don’t think you’re deserving of assistance?”
“Well, yes, but why me? People get mugged every night in the city and no one rescues them.”
“I have only a few such rescues in me,” he said.
The warm, deep tone sank into her with a calming effect. “Are you some sort of Batman wannabe?” she asked.
“I am not a bat-man,” he said.
“What are you then?”
He hesitated before he answered, “Please call me a friend and leave it at that.”
“All right. I’m sorry for all the questions. I am truly grateful for your help.”
“It’s not wise to be out after dark by yourself on a lonely street like this.”
“I know. My asshole boss made me work late. I don’t plan on letting it happen again.” She turned toward the door to her apartment block. “This is home. Thank you again for your help. I’d like to… Can I buy you a coffee or something sometime? Meet you somewhere?”
His hesitation added to the sense of strangeness about him. “No, thank you. Knowing you’re safe is thanks enough. Now go inside.”
“Thank you again, then,” she said. “I hope we’ll meet again, under more pleasant circumstances.”
He nodded but didn’t answer. As she went inside and shut the door, she thought she heard him whisper, “So we shall.”
The sound of his deep, rough voice and the way it seemed to reach into her and curl around her womb stayed with her for the rest of the evening. Was it just because she’d never been rescued before? Because it seemed that all the men she’d ever dated were either wimps or jerks? Because she’d never found that combination of confident authority, gentleness and honor in any other man and had pretty much decided she never would?
Everything about him fed into her most basic and secret fantasies.
He featured prominently in her dreams that night, especially the first one, the dozing fantasy that comforted while feeding her longing.
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