Gavin prowled through the club in Inverness, fired up for the show to start. Not only was he anticipating the usual rush of performing on stage but, also, the question that had haunted him for six weeks would be answered tonight.
Would she come?
He glanced around the venue. It was like many others they’d played in—a stocked bar, small tables, and a stage. The overhead lights bore down with a garish glow. The club lacked the magic of dimmed lights, the spotlights that shined on stage, and the crowd clamoring to get close. The biggest difference about this club was that it was imprinted with memories of Fiona, the bonnie lass with hair the colors of the setting sun.
Since he’d returned to the Isle of Stone six weeks ago, he couldn’t scrub her from his mind. As he rested and watched the sun descend, he thought of her hair. When he soared over the ocean, the swirl of blues and green reminded him of her eyes.
He inhaled, a futile attempt to discern if her feminine scent still lingered. Instead, he was hit with the rancid aroma of alcohol, which seemed ingrained in the wood panels. He climbed onto the stage where his brothers prepared for tonight’s set and grabbed his guitar to tune it.
“Hey, Gavin,” his brother Calum said, as he twirled the mic stand. “You’re acting all mopey again. Not like yourself. We’re all wondering what’s going on? Did you pick up Mad Cow disease or something like that?”
“Why do you say that?” Gavin asked. As a gargoyle shifter, they couldn’t contract human illnesses.
“Because it’s not like you to let your shaft get cold for long,” Calum teased.
His brothers laughed with agreements like, “True,” and “Must be a record.”
Gavin grumbled. The truth to those words rankled him. He wasn’t acting like himself at all. He shouldn’t let one lass get under his skin—especially a human—but somehow this vivacious woman had gotten to him.
Fiona. He often repeated her name in his head like some lovesick puppy. Ridiculous. He should have known better than to set up expectations six weeks ago by suggesting they meet up the next time he was in town. No, he did know better. He’d broken his own rule by opening his big, fat gob and saying he wanted to see her. They’d already spent three nights together.
Was he off his head? Aye, that sounded about right.
What could he do to rid himself of the compulsion to be near her?
Sleep with her again. That was the answer—the only way to get her out of his system.
“You haven’t run off with a lass since the last time we were in Inverness,” his eldest brother, Lachlan, pointed out as he tuned his bass guitar. “So, you can’t fault us for wondering.”
Lachlan was the alpha of their new, small clan. When the other gargoyle shifters had returned to the Scottish Highlands, Gavin and his brothers had chosen to remain on the Isle of Stone, north of Thurso, which they shared with tree witches and wolf shifters. The brothers had caused a rift when they’d created their band, the Knights of Stone, and performed for humans—an act the elder gargoyles had considered intolerable.
Gavin avoided Lachlan’s gaze, knowing he was right. When they’d played at clubs in Spain and Portugal, Gavin had searched the crowd for Fiona, although it was mad to even think she’d be there. He hadn’t pursued any of the lasses. They weren’t what he craved—Fiona’s touch, her taste, her scent.
“I don’t have a human disease or anything else.” Gavin forced a nonchalant tone, so his brothers wouldn’t pick up on the real reason for his monkish ways. “Sometimes, you need a break to recharge before firing up for a night of soaring—or shagging,” he added with a playful smirk that was more him than his recent sulking.
“You sure it isn’t a lass?” Calum asked.
Shite. Was he that transparent? Time to shift the conversation. “Just because you’ve all settled down with mates, doesn’t mean I want that lifestyle. Time to get serious for tonight’s set. I’m going to check in with Roger.”
Gavin left his brothers to talk to the owner of the club. As the band’s manager, Gavin set up most of their shows, featuring their unique blend of rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal, and tribal beats. The middle of five brothers, he’d taken on the role of negotiator at an early age. Rebellious lads with an abundance of energy had often led to skirmishes, most of which Gavin typically had settled. He’d developed a suave ability to navigate difficult situations.
Once he and his brothers had found an outlet for their energy by creating their band, he’d transferred his negotiation skills to their new project. He had the necessary calmness to deal with humans. Lachlan could come off too abrasive and domineering, while Calum could be too excitable and possibly reveal too much. Mason and Bryce were both more laid-back but hadn’t developed Gavin’s skills to steer away from uncomfortable questions—especially ones that veered too close to their secrets.
“All right, Gavin?” Roger said, when he noticed him.
Humans loved to open a conversation with small talk. Gavin had mastered the art of it, even when it bored him. Being able to socialize was a key factor for success in the human world and he took to it well, especially when it came to his favorite humans—the female kind. Although he loved music and playing guitar, performing on stage was only one part of the scene that drew him. It was the crowd. He fed off their energy both during and after the show. He liked nothing more than to come down from that rush on stage with a pint and the attention of several lassies.
Which was why the past six weeks had been so irksome. His brothers were right—Gavin was acting like he’d been infected with their monogamy.
Gavin steered into the details for their gigs. Since the band had played in this club six weeks ago, it didn’t take long to confirm their arrangement for the next three nights. Gavin thanked Roger and turned to leave.
“Oh, by the way,” Roger said. “A bloke was in here asking about the Knights of Stone.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Roger picked up a pen and tapped it on one of the piles of paper. A fine sheen of dust floated into the air. “He was more interested in odd questions, like whether I’d noticed anything strange about you blokes.”
“I know. I’ve heard them.” Roger snorted. “What rubbish.”
Damn. Reports of the incidents at their shows had spread—and spun into stories so far from the truth, it almost made the actual events tame. The speculation was good for drawing crowds, but if it led people too close to the truth, it could be dangerous.
“Just giving you a heads up.” Roger raised his brows. “People are odd. He asked whether I’ve seen anything I found suspicious backstage. How you get to and from the shows, things like that. He didn’t seem like a fan. More like—” Roger spun the pen and then tapped it in his palm when he found the right word “—an investigator.”
Shite. The last thing Gavin needed was a nosy human poking into their business. When a few had come to investigate the isle after reports of wolf attacks, Lachlan had almost died. The potential consequences still haunted the brothers. Would they have been trapped in a lab, poked and prodded with sick curiosity?
He cracked his neck to ease the tension. “Thanks for looking out for us, mate,” Gavin said. “There are always people who take things too far, aren’t there? Some become far too obsessed. What does this bloke look like, by the way?”
“Dark hair, average height and build. He wore dark clothing as well, which doesn’t help. Half the people who come into this club look the same. Let me see. Ah, the scar.”
“Scar?” Gavin repeated.
“Aye. It wasn’t that noticeable as it was faint. It stretched out from the corner of his right—no, he was opposite me—from his left eye out to his hairline. And it wasn’t one line, but three. Almost like something took a swipe at him.”
Was he human or a supe? The scar marks indicated he could have been attacked by an animal, possibly some type of shifter.
He took the stairs two at a time as he bounded to the main floor. Now, he had two people he’d be on watch for tonight—a woman he couldn’t banish from his head and a man who was poking his nose into the Knights of Stone.
Once back in the main area of the club, the question that had plagued him for six weeks returned like the earworm of a song he couldn’t shake. Would Fiona return tonight? And if she did, was he setting himself up for a night that would undo him, by breaking his own rules?
Uncertainty twisted his gut. If she didn’t come, then what? Should he go to her?
No, it would be a clear sign that she wasn’t interested in continuing their fling.
Gavin had to shove that question from his mind to discuss what he’d learned from Roger. Since human staff milled about, prepping the bar for the opening later, he communicated telepathically to his brothers who were still on stage.
After filling them in on the man with the scar asking questions, he mentioned Roger’s report of stories. I think we need to diffuse the situation.
How? Bryce asked.
Got it, Calum said. Go with the whole wild rumor bit?
Aye, Gavin said. They’d run with that scenario up north. Reports of their shows had spread from the Isle of Stone, and now it seemed they were heading farther south. We must squash the speculation before anyone investigates too closely.