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Not Her Gargoyle: Shifter Romance (Not This Series Book 4) by Annie Nicholas (1)


Chapter One

 

The chain imprisoning Nick to the dragons’ castle wall scraped across the stone ledge. New Port City lights twinkled just out of his reach and he flexed his wings. Eoin had used the same bonds to confine Viktor, the city’s vampire master, in the dungeon. If Viktor hadn’t been able to break free then Nick didn’t see how he could. Ancient vampires were considerably stronger than gargoyles.

The dragon’s concept of time meant Nick could be stuck here for a very, very long while. He hung his head, wings drooping off the edge of the outcrop where he perched.

Nobody to talk to but two humorless dragons who liked to use him for target practice.

He sighed and shifted his wings into a more comfortable position.

Angie landed at the foot of his tower. What she lacked in grace was made up for by her adorable size and fluffy white feathers. The white dragon climbed the castle’s stone wall to his position on the exterior of the east tower. She held a white paper bag in her sharp teeth.

He caught the bag as she released it. “What’s for dinner tonight?” The dragons were not that bad. They didn’t starve him or keep him underground. Things could always be worse.

“I thought we would try something different.”

He peeked inside. “Sushi?” He grimaced. Raw fish? Maybe she was trying to kill him. “Where is Eoin?” He understood food. Nick had scarcely seen Angie since she’d announced her pregnancy. He smirked. Apparently, male dragons lost their minds when their mates were with egg. If Eoin had his way, she’d be barricaded inside the castle until their baby hatched.

“It’s good for you.” She winked. “Eoin brings you too much fried food. You’d think he was trying to give you high cholesterol.” She glanced at the northern tower where Eoin had his art studio. “He’s been painting since yesterday morning. I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“He’ll be pissed that you went to the city alone then climbed this wall.” Nick added a generous amount of wasabi to a piece, hoping it would kill his taste buds, before popping the sushi in his mouth.

Her beautiful eyes narrowed. “He won’t get angry if he doesn’t know about it.”

Nick shuddered as the wasabi hit his palate. His eyes watered. It was the fresh stuff. The kind that peeled paint. “Are you here to set me free?” He wiped the spice-induced tears from his eyes. “I’d be very appreciative.” He even tried to pout, which proved impossible while trying to breathe through the oral pain.

She rustled the long feathers that grew from the edges of her wings. “No.”

“Do you plan on keeping me forever?” He continued to eat.

“I’m not sure what to do with you, Nick. If I set you free, what will stop you from creating more mischief?”

He pressed his hand to his heart. “Only my word, pretty lady.” The world would be boring without shenanigans.

She snorted, a thin flame shooting out her left nostril. “You should practice your fake remorse.” Angie released her hold on the stones and glided to the ground where she shifted back to her lovely, naked human form.

He whistled and she gave him the one finger salute. This was what he received for being greedy. Where there were dragons, it only made sense, that there was treasure. He’d been scoping out the castle when he’d startled Trixie and she’d fallen down the stairs, breaking her neck. Yes, he had accidentally killed their human friend, but she had been saved by a vampire. Nick didn’t see the issue. She hadn’t remained dead long.

He set the food aside, his appetite waning.

“Is it gone?” a familiar voice whispered above his head.

A huge grin cracked Nick’s face and he cranked his head back to scan the top of the tower. “Norm?” It was about time his brothers found him. They had separated a few weeks ago just before Eoin had taken him prisoner.

A dark shadow blocked out the stars. “I don’t see it.” A different voice and a different brother.

“It?” Nick twisted for a better look. “You mean the dragon? Angie has gone inside the castle.” Where were they? Gargoyle skin blended well with stone, making them difficult to spot.

Three gargoyle-shaped shadows drifted from the top of the tower. They landed silently next to him. His three brothers—Norm, Neil, and Nate.

Nick opened his arms wide and pulled Neil, the youngest, into a spine cracking hug. “How did you find me?”

Neil returned his hug then knocked his forehead to Nick’s in a brotherly headbutt. “Dumbass, why are you chained to a castle?”

Nick pressed his finger to his lips. “Shhh, one of them might hear you.”

Nate fingered the lock clasping the collar around his neck. “This is top of the line. Picking it will be difficult.”

“Be careful, there’s a spell set within the lock.” Nick pried the lock loose from Nate’s grasp. “I attempted to pick it my first night and woke up twelve hours later. It knocked me out cold.”

Luckily, he hadn’t fallen off the ledge and hanged himself. He’d awoken snug in an alcove with a blanket and a hot cup of coffee waiting for him. Both dragons denied the kindness. Nick knew better.

Norm, the oldest and biggest, reached past Nate and slammed Nick’s shoulder with his hand. More like a sledgehammer. “Good to see you, boy.” Nick could grow to be three hundred years old and Norm would still treat him like he was three. “Did you try sawing through the chain?”

“With what? My teeth? The dragons don’t leave tools lying around outside their castle.”

“Did you say dragons? As in plural?” Neil twisted around, scanning the night sky.

“There are two of them. The male is black and you won’t see him coming at night until he swallows you whole.” Nick grinned as Neil shuddered, then turned his attention to Nate as he picked at the anchor fastening the chain to the wall. “But it’s the white one you really need to be careful of.”

Norm crossed his massive arms. “She’s not much bigger than me and she brought you food. How dangerous can she be?”

“She’s pregnant.”

All three of his brothers flinched. Gargoyles were more closely related to dragons than humans. He and his brothers understood nesting instincts. One minute, Angie would feed him and the next skin him alive. It was one of the reasons Eoin didn’t want her traveling to the city alone.

Nate shuddered. “No matter what, we have to deal with that lock sooner or later. Unless you want to wear that dog collar the rest of your life.”

Norm and Neil exchanged a nod then stared at Nick. He didn’t need to be a psychic to read their minds. They’d pin him down to rid him of the collar. Freedom was essential for gargoyles.

Nick shrugged. When the spell was triggered, he’d be knocked out cold again. Norm was strong enough to carry him. “Let’s do this.”

While Nate pulled out his lock picking tools, Nick faced his older brother. “You didn’t say how you found me.”

“When you didn’t show up at the rendezvous, we grew worried after a week and knew something must have happened.”

“Took some time to find your trail but those werewolves in Riverbend remember you fondly.” Norm pointed to his black eye. “They mistook me for you.”

Neil shook his head. “That pack has issues. All we wanted was some food and they acted like we were robbing them of gold.”

“Tell me about it.” The alpha had leapt from a building to catch Nick mid-flight. He had almost succeeded. All for one stolen sandwich.

“Hold still.” Nate worked on the lock with little picks until something clicked.

Nick squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the magic backlash, but nothing happened.