Gargoyle Addiction (Otherworlds Summons #1)
By Livia Olteano
About Gargoyle Addiction
Summonari don't trust. Under their command, they summon any number of creatures from the Otherwolds--but never trust them outside of the summoning.
Gargoyles don't love. Fierce descendants of dragons, they function on power and fear--never love.
Karla isn't the happily-ever-after type of girl. No territory-hungry guy is going to stick flags all over her unclaimed grounds.
Kann's world is death and betrayal. As Dar Primus of Haus Varis, he's expected to follow tradition but he's not your regular gargoyle. In fact, he's anything but.
One fateful Friday night, Otherworlds collide. Stuck together in one world or another, Karla and Kann face everything from Awakenings and turbulent love to Festnavals and bloodthirsty scorned suitors.
If there's one thing they can't escape, it's the addiction to each other. And they've got it bad.
About the Author
Hailing from Romania, Europe (just like Dracula!), Livia Olteano is a loud and proud coffee addict, lover of all things paranormal and incurable romantic. She’s a full time dedicated reader, book blogger and writer, with delectable breaks for indulging in obscene amounts of music and fiddling with all things customizable that are remotely within her reach.
She believes stories are the best kind of magic there is. And life would be horrible without magic. Her hobbies include losing herself in the minds and souls of characters, giving up countless nights of sleep to get to know said characters, and trying to introduce them to the world. Sometimes they appreciate her efforts. The process would probably go quicker if they'd bring her a cup of coffee now and then when stopping by. Characters--what can you do, right?
She’s always working on several projects.
- Passions: Coffee, steamy reads, book talk, personalizing anything that remotely supports customizations
- Pets: 4 cats, most loved being a black Persian named Onyx (he’s computer literate if you count the ‘/?Q%Rg’ he types while he’s attacking the object of my attention if it’s not him :D)
- Is inspired by: Music, ever since she can remember.
- Spends her time mostly: On the PC if she has any say in it. So many ebooks, so little time.
Excerpt: Chapter 1 & 2
My vision swam and I giggled. My eardrums pounded worse than the music. A sea of bodies squirmed around. A wow opening night for G’s club, that much was clear. My vision though…not so much.
I sighed. “Okay, I think I’m about ready to head home. I’ll embarrass myself and trip all over these death contraptions you insist on calling shoes.”
“Oh shut up, Karla, you’re seriously hot in heels.”
Sweet as that might have been, Mike wasn’t exactly my target audience.
“Sucking up to me doesn’t take away from the pain in my feet. I really need to say goodbye to G before I pass out all over his fancy VIP booth.”
Mike snickered. “I don’t know…remember what happened with his other club after you fell asleep on his couch? You drooled all over the thing, but I mean, the place was a hit…”
I punched his arm and swayed on my feet. Okay, sudden movement—not such a good idea.
“You’re drunker than I thought you were…” Mike muttered as he steered my fabulously frowning self through wiggling bodies.
“Uhm, well, that last cocktail wasn’t my bright idea.”
He shrugged and dragged me to shore, so to speak. Whoa, the place was packed! G was hanging around with a very, very bosomy blonde. It may have been my own relative lack in the department but those things were intimidating, sort of scary actually. They looked rock-hard, almost malicious, pointing belligerently toward the sky. Maybe they were fond of a particular constellation? I’d need a belligerent-boobs specialist on that.
George watched me like a hawk, something he’d been doing ever since I’d hit puberty. With some effort, my eyes tore away from the scary twin warriors on his date’s chest.
G’s brows furrowed. “Going home already, kids?”
Jerk. I stuck out my tongue and scowled—in a mature way, of course. It made him smile with something more than simple amusement. Ah, no amount of money was too much to have that memory erased by next morning. Being tipsy would help me get away with it. Somewhat.
Mike spoke up, my usual hero. “Well, Georgie, the club looks like a hit, huh?”
“Yes, Mikey, it does,” his brother sneered.
They gave each other the famous Spalding death glare, a scary weapon they sometimes used on others but mostly one against the other. The almost palpable proof of their ‘brotherly love’ was as warm as gnawing bones. My giggle drew George’s attention back.
The blonde was staring knives, so I smiled blindingly out of a pure desire to spite her. A pair of war-cannon-boobs wouldn’t intimidate me, no matter how belligerent they looked. Her overly swollen lips twitched into something quite hard to understand. I frowned, studying the strange spasm thing going on. George snickered.
“You need to get her home, Mikey. Unless you’d like me to give you a ride, Karla?”
Oh yes, the war-cannon-breasted blonde would’ve loooved that.
“It’s Mike’s fault, so it’s his responsibility. I think he put something in my drink, no doubt planning to have his way with me when he gets me home.”
All three of us snickered, something of an inside joke that the blonde didn’t get. Hopefully she didn’t get how nervous my laugh was either. G’s eyes were signaling trouble. Time to bolt, and I was amazing at bolting if nothing else.
“Okay, bye, G. Congratulations on the grand opening.”
The kisses on both his cheeks held more affection than I would’ve normally displayed—all Mike’s fault for those extra cocktails. G’s arm snuck around my middle and lingered a little longer than necessary. His lips brushed against my ear and I almost quivered with the surprise of it. Maybe with something else too, but I wasn’t nearly drunk enough to ponder on that.
“It’s a pleasure seeing you, Karla. Always has been.”
Was the club getting hot? My skin got clammy.
“Thanks, G. Good to see you too.”
Mike gently peeled me off of his brother, his smile never wavering, and we finally made it into a cab. The chill of night air helped some but my head was still foggy. The full moon fascinated me as it hovered there in the night. It had that pinkish hue, looking like an impossibly large ball of cotton candy. Reaching for the glass of the car window seemed a sure way to touch the dusty surface of the large sky-dweller.
Mike’s voice woke me from my reverie. I cuddled close to him on the cab’s backseat, suddenly feeling cold. His hand rose to play through my hair with lazy motions.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart.”
A wet, sloppy and obnoxiously loud kiss pressed into my forehead and steel arms held me prisoner. I squeaked in an attempt to squirm away.
“Did you orchestrate this whole thing just to get me drunk, and slyly creep that up on me, in my moment of weakness?”
He didn’t let go and trying to pull away seemed pointless after a while.
He sighed. “Yeah?”
I blamed my sudden burst of emotion and the tremble in my voice on the liberal amounts of alcohol consumed during the night. He patted my arm as I pulled away a bit and settled my head on his shoulder. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the full, rich moon. It made my thoughts buzz with something strange, intense and new.
“He still carries a torch, you know.”
“George. He still carries a torch. His eyes take that wild glow when you’re around.”
A sigh crawled out of my chest. “Maybe it’s a virus or some STD. I hear they can get your eyes pretty glow-y, you know?”
“You’re impossible sometimes.”
“Oh, Mike, you’re sweet to think I’m that charming. I’m sure the glow was all about his war-cannon-boobed date, though.”
He laughed. Truth was, things between George and me were slightly off. They’d been so ever since I was eighteen and he had a crush on me the size of, well, the moon. Of course, at the time, I had a crush on Mike. He was the best friend though, his generous affection unwavering but brotherly. It all became clearer when Mike had his first real crush—Tommy Hobbs. Win some, lose some.
In my disorientation, I’d gone out with G a few times. He was a cool guy, sure, a looker too—in that regard very much like his brother. But he was also suffocating, stomping all over my personal space and making claims like I was some virgin territory and he was the explorer sticking bold flags all over new grounds. I’d wiggled out of dating him, but he never really got over the desire to flag my territory. There was a sturdy part of me that recoiled from the hunger in his eyes. I just had no way of saying that to his brother.
“I think he’d be good for you if you’d give him a chance,” Mike said.
You’d think years of saying ‘No, thanks!’ would get the point through. Sigh. I couldn’t do anything more than light, casual dating. G had territory-hungry eyes. He was itching to build himself a colony, expand and multiply on my grounds. It sent chills down my spine. Hell no, I couldn’t do anything but light and casual.
I wasn’t the happily-ever-after girl; I’d known that for a good while. Becoming the adorable housewife or the poster girl for mommy of the month would be someone else’s job, never mine. Considering my family history, I’d most likely die before age thirty-five. I couldn’t have kids thanks to a stupid accident from when I was ten. Sure, men drooled to flag my territory first thing when we met, it was their thing. Mike thought it had to do with my responsible aura and good karma, but my karma sucked if you asked me. I was false advertisement: my grounds were barren and the structures would implode in a couple years. Best-case scenario, the guy would fall for me…and I’d be crushed to give him the ‘good’ news. Worst-case scenario, I’d fall for him and he’d leave well before that particular confession point. Either way, it wasn’t looking like much of a plan.
I shook my head. “You know, if you’re that desperate to find him a date we can always put up some ad or something. They have places online for that, too. Plus I’d hate to see how that blonde’s lips would twitch at the news you were trying to hook me up with her sugar daddy.”
“Karla…I just want you to be happy. And I would be happy to know my knucklehead of a brother has someone like you to go home to.”
My eyes fixed on the moon. “I am happy with things as they are. You’re my best friend and I love you—you know that. But just because you found the perfect guy for you doesn’t mean you’re on this sacred mission to pair off everyone you know.”
He snorted, obviously unimpressed with my deflecting skills. Well I just had to bring in the big guns, then.
“Is Joseph coming home tonight?”
It was a sly counter-attack. Joseph—my boss and his lover—was a renowned workaholic. He was the epic in the all-stars hall of workaholic-ness. I knew—I was Joseph’s personal assistant after all. The man was the type who forgot to eat if you didn’t pester him with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since my personal leave was starting Monday, I wondered if he’d die of starvation.
“He said he’d be home sometime tonight…” Mike muttered. “Oh, sweetheart, I almost forgot…”
After squirming around he produced a present. It had a pink shiny wrapping with obscene amounts of white ribbon clinging to every possible inch. Nothing screamed ‘24’ like a pink-wrapping-oceans-of-white-ribbons present. My eyes watered anyway, and I hug-attacked my friend trying to crush the breath out of him. It would’ve been a hard trick to pull off, what with the impressive shape he was in and my lack thereof—but what were friends for if not to give it a shot anyway? As soon as the cabbie pulled over, I fled the scene.
I squeezed the present to my chest tightly, crushing the lush white ribbons. Mr. Andrews, my neighbor, was walking his poodle, Harry. He smiled in greeting and eyed the present clutched in my arms. It was time for the ninja moves to get inside my house. I nodded back and rushed in, closing the door behind. The amazing-vanishing-woman trick was odd but justified. That whole birthday discussion wasn’t an option.
My house was eerily quiet. I’d inherited it from my mom, and once I became an adult, I chose to move in. It seemed magical, with silver light sprinkled with pinkish hues spilling all over the floor. I walked up to my bedroom unceremoniously discarding the shoes on random stairs. There was no one but me to trip over them in the morning, and hopefully I’d remember they were there and avoid major injuries. Though it would’ve made sense to get injured on my first free day. I’d been planning for this leave of absence from work for a while. This month, days around my birthday…weren’t good. And it got worse with every passing year.
I brushed my fingertips over each one of my family pictures on the way up the stairs. Mom’s glowing face greeted me and Aunty Shell’s mischievous stare made me smile. Grandma Sally’s stern expression contrasted her daughters. My aunt and mom were non-identical twins, but their resemblance was almost shocking regardless. They’d all lived more or less the same number of summers, but looking at them, grandma seemed to have counted more falls than the rest. I had her frosty disposition, or at least my aunt used to say so. Aunty Shell’s favorite stories about grandma always had the same punchline: her mom was a strict stickler for rules. My grandpa had been a soldier and died in combat. Having two girls to bring up on your own must have been difficult. Unfortunately, my grandma didn’t do that for long.
We all shared the same white complexion, though I rocked it more in shades of gray, same black eyes and weird burgundy-coppery hair—a color you didn’t even find in tubes. They’d stopped counting summers or falls for quite some time. I hurried to my room hoping to outrun tears that had been chasing me around since morning.
The window allowed moody moonlight to crowd the middle of the floor. I shook off the skimpy dress (Mike’s doing again) and went into the shower to dispel the alcoholic fog. I’d hated my birthday ever since I was a kid. Ever since I had to move in with Buddy and Aunt Shell the year my mom died—and twice as much ever since two years later Aunty Shell died too. Buddy and I hadn’t ‘bonded’ at all, but he was more mother hen than anyone else’s moms. Having Mike and George close in the neighborhood was the only escape from the silent awkwardness of my uncle’s home.
After growing up, I hated my birthdays for another reason. All the women in my family as far back as I knew died around the same age. Each birthday brought me closer to that terminus point of dread: grandma had an accident at 34, mom died of an aneurysm at 33, and two years after that, Aunty Shell died of a stroke. Apparently, death ran in the family. Buddy became obsessed with my health and the possibility I’d never see 35 either.
I was close to signing off once, back when mom was alive. I was just a kid. Our next-door neighbor’s car crashed into a wall with my neighbor, her daughter and me in it. I was the only one who survived. I still remember my friend’s lifeless face. She was wearing a beautiful white jacket. It was streaked with blood after we crashed. I stared at it as I waited for help that day. I remembered it sometimes, that pristine white jacket smeared with blood. It was probably luck I didn’t keel over in the accident, though it took something in return for sparing my life. The scars on my lower tummy were a constant reminder of all I’d already lost. I would never have kids. That was my secret, something I buried deep inside myself and ignored with grand-master skill. Memory lane needed to be shaken off, it wasn’t a good road to travel.
Mike’s present rested on the bed. The white ribbons dared to be ignored. The size and rectangle shape of the present gave me a pleasant tingling sensation but I refused to get overly excited. Okay, maybe I got a little excited. After a vicious attack, the pink wrapping fell away in bits and pieces. The shiny cover of a book tickled my eyes wet and I gasped reaching for my cell. Screwed be the time; undying love for Mike had to be expressed right then! The phone barely rang before he picked up. I didn’t even give him the chance to say ‘hello.’
“You are AWESOME! This is SO amazing! How did you get the advanced reader’s copy? Mike, I LOVE you for this!”
He laughed. “I’m happy you like it, sweetie. Just promise you won’t stay up all night reading it, okay?”
The snort exploded out of my chest as I clutched the book. “No such promises.”
He chuckled. “Okay, readaholic, call me when you’re off your reading high.”
“Thanks so much, Mike!”
“No problem, kid, it’s a pleasure to enable your addiction.”
I settled in my reading chair opposite the bed, all lights in the house off except my reading lamp. I was on cloud nine; the advanced reader’s copy of book #7 in the Risen Chronicles was resting in my loving eager hands. It was almost enough to cause me to shudder with joy. True, I was something of a readaholic, but there were few series that truly made me as happy as this one. I ran my fingers over the indentations of the title’s lettering and allowed my eyes to linger on the sex-god looking guy on the cover. Where did they find those guys? You never saw one of them running down the street or bumped into them at the supermarket.
I caressed the open the book and got right down to it. Book #6 had ended with a terrible cliffhanger—the evil hot-stud, Kann, had captured Carolyn and was about to…well, something, when the book ended. Ah, the evil, hot Kann…
I read and read until at some point my feet started going numb on the chair so I had to move base. Reading in bed had its clear advantages but not after a night out. At some point I lost track, the pinkish silvery moonlight charming me into a shallow strange sleep. I had a dream, or more of a hallucination maybe, of a beautiful man who would make my heart full. He was so far away though, light years between us. I begged him to come to me…to make me feel at home in his arms.
It began as a ripple in the Otherworlds fabric. At first faint, barely perceptible, almost like mirror-walking—almost like moving from here to there with just one step, regardless of the distance. Except I hadn’t decided where to go this time. My skin tingled. The ripple focused on Piatra—my world—and the council room looked foggier by the second. Chunks of Piatra began to fall away, larger and larger, until there was nothing left. Instead of sitting in the spacious council room, I found myself sitting in a ridiculously small chair surrounded by a dark and cramped room.
The first thing that hit me was the smell of the place: plants, animals…and something else, something that lingered sweetly in the back of my throat after I inhaled. I closed my eyes and waves of knowledge washed over me, the sleeper world—the human world, Akai—settling into shapes, words, sounds and smells I understood. When summoned into one of the Otherworlds, the summoner’s knowledge of the world was gifted to you too. I knew right away it was a world none of us had seen before. Such a rich menu would’ve quickly become legend in Piatra. It was the promise of a gargoyle’s heaven.
A breakable little shape rested on the diminutive bed before me. She seemed fast asleep, a flurry of coppery hair coiling around head and shoulders. Moonlight glinted off that pool of copper, red flickers making it look like lit ambers. She didn’t smell of magic but I took in deep whiffs just to be sure. Her head rested on an open book. The tiniest flicker of blood drew my attention, the essence of her seeping onto the open page. Was it customary for sleepers to bleed on books? Something slippery and soft moved about in my chest as I looked at her. The odd and alien sensation did strange things to my breathing.
The lamp light was annoying. It competed with moonlight to crawl over her skin. The moon couldn’t be shut off but a lamp was defenseless. Its light quickly disappeared. Short walls threatened to close in as the low ceiling kept them tight company. The only redeeming quality of the place was the window, wide and clear. It gave view to an odd mix of other such small houses. Piatra’s vegetation was scarce, but here in Akai, there was a lot of it. Back home air gushed into your lungs and left the throat pleasantly raw with dust. Here air was smooth and it flowed into me with slippery ease. Everything smelled so much stronger because of it. The colors of this world assaulted my eyes even in darkness. My mouth watered at the thought of all I could hunt here, flashes of animals running through my mind as my fingers slid over cool glass. I’d be able to grow so much stronger with this wealth of prey, so diverse and unmistakably juicy.
But food wasn’t the only juicy part of the equation. The simplicity of it was shocking: I wanted the creature on the bed, I craved her. Just standing there in her ridiculously small room and watching the soft rise and fall of her back as she breathed, the tendrils of her scent and the silvery glow of her skin where moonlight touched it—I wanted nothing else but her. My body itched to crawl closer, to feel that small frame imprisoned in my arms. I could almost feel the furious thump of her heart as it would gallop in that tiny chest, the fear and excitement that would roll off of her.
Greed, lust and mountains of despair took residence in my chest. They hit me like a lightning bolt and electrified all of my nerve endings. Pure anger burned through my veins at the helplessness of my desire—it suffered no appeasing or control. I needed to get out of here, to be free of her scent and the image of her small body. But my feet refused to move more than a couple of steps. Pain grew prickly in my muscles if I tried to force myself more than three steps away from the bed. No use. I was stuck, captive in invisible bonds.
It made no sense. A sleeper, actually sleeping, no less—how could I want a sleeper? A small, frail, breakable…delectable human. I shook my head. The flesh had a mind of its own, more stubborn than I was. All it would focus on was her. Her scent made me dizzy. I sat back down. My hands gripped the chair’s armrests, claws digging into the fabric. It took every ounce of my willpower not to reach out and touch her, grab her and revel in her charms.
A cloud of other smells hovered just at the edge of my senses: male, female, sweat, desire. My lips twitched over teeth that pulsed with need to tear into something. The simple notion of anyone close enough to touch her made me see red.
She was a clever witch to disguise her magic so well even in sleep. The pull of her body on mine was most likely the result of charms and lots of them. There was simply no other explanation for the way I wanted this stranger. This small, vulnerable stranger…all that air of vulnerability should have been repulsing. But it wasn’t. Instead, I fought with myself just to keep my paws off of that fiery hair, just to ignore the texture of her skin and the idea it would shiver so beautifully under my lips.
All the signs were there. The witch had summoned me to give her a gargoyle young. The want, the need and yearning—instant and uncompromising—had no other explanation but a spell. Sleeping under my eyes was probably a devious ploy at manipulating me even further. Another sorceress who wanted gargoyle youngs…I would never suffer the same fate as Garguille, that much I swore. If nothing else, I’d master her, though she’d try to manipulate her way into mastering me.
A long row of curses curled through my mind as my eyes refused to fix on anything else but the rise and fall of her back. Whatever this witch had planned for me, I understood her devious sort of strength and admired its strategic advantage. I had to prove her powers over me were faint if not flimsy. I had to resist the siren call of her body long enough to make sure she wouldn’t pose any real threat.
If all the witch wanted was a young, I was amendable to serving her purpose. I just had to figure out a way to snuff out the slithering sensation in my chest, that coil of ridiculous craving growing tenser and tenser with every breath. Blood damn it, my evening had started so well.
* * *
A soul-shuddering sensation of cold woke me up. My nose dug into the book but the reading lamp was off. I frowned staring at the clock on the dresser. Clearly reading in bed hadn’t been a good plan under the circumstances. Odd, it was just 3:03 a.m. I must’ve had just dosed off. Odder still, I couldn’t remember shutting off my lamp. I sighed and got up from the book, hoping really hard I hadn’t drooled on it or anything. Apparently, a paper cut was part of the sleeping-on-books routine. A bit of blood was smudged right on top of Kann’s name. Sort of ironic since he was a bloody being. My face had a bad case of book-sleep, itchy lines imprinted in many funny places and a paper cut somewhere in there. I got up rubbing a cheek and froze. My eyes darted toward the reading chair now bathed in long shadows.
Moonlight didn’t quite reach it but even in the darkness it was clear something was there. My heart twitched. I rubbed at my eyes hoping it was just sleep playing tricks. Another stare toward the chair confirmed a thing was there all right. It leaned forward catching some stray beams of light in its eyes and they shone glassy, chilling silver that made my skin crawl. I fell back on my butt and scrambled away from the foot of the bed, pressing my back into the headboard. Going through the wall seemed like a good plan too, but it resisted my attempts.
The thing leaned forward a bit more, its head poking out into the cascading beams of moonlight. Those eyes seemed to shine even brighter as light hit its…his…face. I wanted to scream but I was so beyond panicked my voice didn’t work anymore. The plan was to get my cell phone and call 911, but before I could even end the thought, he did a blurry motion and suddenly my phone wasn’t there anymore. Eyebrows raced toward the top of my head and I opened eyes so wide they stung.
“So, what do you want, witch?”
I almost screamed. His voice had the jarring quality of a whisper though I heard it too well for it to have been simply whispered. My skin burst in prickly points and my legs clattered. He sounded off and in a very bad mood.
“Well? What do you want?” he snarled.
Want? To place a call to 911 is what I wanted. Hell, a SWAT team, the thing…creature looked dangerous!
He drew in a gulp of air, releasing it with a whoosh. “I don’t have a lot of patience, I warn you.”
He seated his tall—very tall—and ferocious-looking body on the edge of the bed with uncanny grace. I tried to scoot away, frantically looking for my phone again. He placed one hand on the other side of me effectively restricting any escape route. Okay. Okay. It had to be a dream. A dream, simple as that. I took deep, hopefully calming breaths, but my heart twitched like it was possessed.
He wrinkled his nose. “You smell.”
“Excuse me?” I screeched.
“You stink, in fact. Like…bodies, writhing bodies, sweaty, horny. And plenty of them.” He snorted, and it was perhaps the complete stillness he exuded that put something of a damper on my panic. I was seething instead.
“What. The. Hell. Are you doing in my room? Who are you?”
He cocked his head to the side. His eyes caught light and shined that ominous silver again. A shudder emerged from someplace deep inside me, a primal place. I wanted to bolt so bad my feet itched.
“You’ve summoned me and I suggest you be quick about your request. Your smell is appalling. Enjoy an orgy tonight?”
“WHAT? Listen, you maniac, I don’t know where you get off…”
Before I could blink, I was lifted from the bed, my back pressed against the wall. Mean hands fitted snuggly around my arms. Those silver eyes scared the living days out of me from barely a breath away. He certainly put the F in feral.
“You won’t speak like that to me again. Or those will be your last words, are we clear?”
His eyes came even closer to mine, chilly flashes, and tears clouded my vision.
He retreated to the other corner of the room as fast as he’d jumped me. Facing away, he sighed like you’d sigh when a kid is driving you insane. I plopped down on the bed panting air in, regardless of how infuriating it was to give him the satisfaction. I had to make an effort to gather my wits.
“Look, I’m not rich, but whatever money I have I’ll give it to you. Just leave, just…just…”
Well yeah, stuttering was really going to convince him. Gah! He turned around slowly, stared me down from his impressive height. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed he was…sneering?
“You’re wasting my time. If you have no use for me, undo the summoning.”
I stared up and up at him, too puzzled to remember my fear for a few seconds. Summoning?
“Are you on drugs or something?”
I regretted asking as soon as the words were out. It probably showed on my face because he seemed to contemplate choking me for a few seconds and then let it go. Clearly, he was a maniac. Maybe a serial killer. Most likely both. I shuddered.
“I only had a light meal before you so rudely interrupted me. I’ll get cranky in a short while, so stalling won’t do you good.”
Oh, so this was him not being cranky yet? Jesus Christ! His unnerving level sort-of-whispered voice shocked me more than the words. It had that monotone you hear in movies, the psycho type. What really drove it home was his lopsided toothy grin. Those teeth were a bit too long, a bit too sharp and ominous looking to be human. Had he gotten implants? So he was a psycho with some weird king-of-the-jungle-meets-piranha fetish thing, fabulous. I only ever met the wonky specimens; obviously my karma sucks toads.
He took a step closer. “In fact, I’m still quite hungry and you owe me a blood debt for summoning me anyway. So if you could do something about that appalling stench, I’ll gladly have a snack.”
His grin was completely terrifying, feral and most definitely not human. Sort of hot too. I shook my head. I refused to play along in his little hallucination.
“Does this look like a cafeteria, psycho?”
He narrowed his eyes to slits and scrutinized me quietly. Perhaps my repeated appeals to reality would break his delusion long enough for him to get the hell out of my house. How had he gotten in anyway? I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do if I found an intruder in my bedroom. Pee on myself? No, that was if he tried anything funny like copping a feel. I could’ve thrown in a pee just for the hell of it, like a precaution. There was no such thing as too much precaution when a maniac stood there in the middle of your bedroom.
He walked closer, slowly. My lungs froze.
“You do look edible.”
“What…what the hell are you talking about?”
Running his sort of long tongue over those scary teeth, he grabbed me like I was a puppet, turned me toward my dresser’s mirror and closed in uncomfortably. Our bodies became glued together. He towered over me, tall and wide. Now that I took a glance in the mirror with better light, his face was shockingly handsome. Somehow familiar maybe. Thickly muscled arms circled me from behind, one closing over my chest and the other pointed to the mirror. The image there rippled, shifted, and then our reflections were getting real cozy with one another, his mouth coming to my neck like a lover’s would, nuzzling my hair a bit, and then…biting…and…licking the trickling blood…before suckling the wound and closing his eyes on some sort of high.
I shook violently and he chuckled. My stupid reaction to retreat only pushed me harder against his impossibly immobile body. I stared terrified at the look of utter bliss my reflection held as the bastard had his snack. It was so ridiculous it made sense.
“You’re not…human.” I winced.
“Keen observation. What gave me away, my accent?”
I concentrated really hard on breathing, the process suddenly too elaborate to pull off. I should’ve taken yoga two years ago when Mike had a mind for trying it out. Those guys could really focus on their breathing. The living block behind me didn’t move and it was unnerving.
“Hmmm…you smell much better when you’re scared.” He took deep whiffs of it, sounding pleased. “You smell like a terrified little baahni, wishing it could bolt. But you’re not going anywhere, are you, baahni?”
What the hell was a ‘baahni’? It had to be something small and defenseless by the way he said it. I imagined one of those giant fists that come out of nowhere and punch cartoon characters sometimes—I imagined it punched him right into the opposite wall. My lungs began collaborating and trickles of air made their way in. Air was good. My imaginary giant punching fist was better, but I’d settle for air.
“What do you want?” I managed to whisper.
There was no reason to bother trying to put some volume into it, since by some strange mechanisms I wasn’t clear on, I knew he’d hear me just as well.
He sighed. “You’re the one who summoned me, remember? It’s customary for the summoner to want something of the summoned.”
He seemed serious which was sort of funny. Summoning? Was I on Candid Supernatural Camera?
“I haven’t got the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”
The motion came too quick for me to even notice and before I got my senses back, he’d spun me around to face him. His eyes caught some stray rays of moonlight and glinted malevolent and cold, so cold my teeth clattered.
“You’ve summoned me, that’s why I’m here. I don’t spend my time with skittish baahni-witches of my own volition, I assure you.”
Oh, I was assured. His voice, still strangely whispery, held a deadly serious tone. His face held a deadly serious expression—he generally looked deadly. I wanted to cower away but his hands gripped my arms too tight for even my blood to move. My mind started wondering. It was no dream, unless I’d mastered lucid dreaming and my previous attempts had resulted in monstrous failures. I didn’t think it was a hallucination unless it was a really intense one—perhaps someone had spiked one of my many drinks at G’s? But it had been hours. Wouldn’t the drug have manifested sooner? I frowned in concentration.
He frowned. “Your name is…?”
God, how I longed for that imaginary fist to splash him all over the wall.
“Karla. And you would be…?”
“Kann, but you already know that.”
Kann. I snapped to attention. “You’re kidding me, right?”
One of his dark eyebrows levitated way up on his face. It looked…artistic. I leaned closer to study him. Full lips, the lower one slightly curved, almost threatening to spill over his chin. Roman nose, slightly intimidating paired with high cheekbones and a rather square jaw. Raven-black hair, slicked back, with strange blue and silver reflections in the moonlight. The span of his shoulders was not bulky but explicitly solid. They branched out in steel arms. Long, lean legs, elegant in their every move. I shuddered and started my whacky laugh. Then it had become clear.
“I’m hallucinating. Or having a wet dream.”
If ever possible, that eyebrow of his shot even higher. I wondered if it would jump off of his face altogether.
“A wet dream, huh? Well, at least now I get why you’ve summoned me. I find you agreeable enough if you get rid of that repulsive stench of sweaty bodies.”
His nose wrinkled to emphasize that point. My eyebrow reached for my hairline in a poor impersonation of his artistic one. I imagined a bucket of paint being dumped on top of his perfect hair, oozing down over the over-confident face and those gleaming scary/gorgeous eyes. Glue would work too. Sticky, smelly glue—lots of it.
I was either high or on to something. “Kann. Kann what?”
His brow slowly descended to normal level.
“I see no point in this game of yours. You’ve summoned me so you know my name.”
I stared up, incredulous. He was really adamant about the summoning thing.
“Listen, buddy, I hate to burst your poetic bubble, but I still have no clue what you’re talking about.”
He gave me a thorough look and stepped back, pushing his hands in his pockets. I briefly noticed how snuggly the pants fit him and how casual the shirt hugged wide shoulders. He didn’t look too convinced but at least he seemed less inclined to bite my head off. Slightly less inclined.
“Varis. My name is Kann Varis.”
I gasped. Tall, brooding, raven-black hair neatly slicked back, silver eyes that glinted feral like a predator’s, wide, strong shoulders, thick arms…what truly sold it to me though was the oddly shaped thing that hung from the chain around his neck. I studied the details. They fit precisely what I’d envisioned on so many occasions. I knew what it was, too. It gave me the creeps.
“We’re sure this is not a joke though?”
Or a high, I added mentally. He stared at me with squinted eyes. A strange thought started to court my mind: he had no clue about what was going on either. But he thought he had some clue, so he was way ahead of the game anyway.
“Let’s say you wouldn’t have summoned me. Someone did. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been summoned.”
There was what you’d call a pregnant pause—it had twins at least, if not sextuplets. That thought seemed to make crystal clear sense to him but it did little to reassure me of either his logic or my sanity.
“Okay, let’s say you’d be right,” I conceded.
And real, as opposed to some high, coupled with slight sleep deprivation…and some unflagged-territory-syndrome, perhaps. There was a glint in his eyes, brief but memorable. It spelled out a monstrously foul mood in the making, like he wasn’t scary enough as it was.
“Why would someone summon me to you? Who would do that?”
The tone hinted that he was proud of this apparently valid point.
I had a better idea. “Let’s focus a bit on something different. What’s that hanging around your neck? On your chain?”
He eyed me coolly. “A dar, of course.”
“Of course,” I repeated automatically.
Of course. Kann Varis, looking like sex on long, lean legs, stood in the middle of my bedroom, his Haus’s dar hanging around his neck. There was only one problem: he was a character of the Risen Chronicles novels. A gargoyle. The villain.
* * *
It took great effort and a lot of physical pain, but I finally managed to step away from her. Never mind that the idea of her body splayed out on that small bed haunted me like nothing else ever had. I needed to break her spell, to break the need that threatened to overcome me. Hunting was the best solution to all of a gargoyle’s problems.
Mirror-walking in Karla’s sleeper world was as easy as breathing; it even required less effort than it did back home. Air just parted like folds of silk before me, cool as it rushed over my skin. Ridiculous as the amount of green here was, it kept nestled in its bosom beautiful animals of all shapes and sizes. I couldn’t wait to taste them all, to feel the heart of this world through the essence of its smaller inhabitants.
I threw myself in to the hunt, chasing down any animal I traced in the nearest forest. From small to large, they all ran from me a good time before I could pick my prey. Good instincts, I acknowledged grinning. Too bad they had no way of hiding from a gargoyle, not really. As my senses adjusted to the world, each scent lingered in my throat beautifully. Once I took the trail of something, it was doomed. But I showed respect and properly hunted them instead of mirror-walking and making them easy pickings. This world must have had strong beings watching over it. Such amounts of food and so many sleepers living couldn’t have made it all on their own. So I hunted with respect to my prey. The thrill of it called to a part of me that had been dormant for too long. You couldn’t afford the pleasure of real hunting in Piatra; prey was scarce and the competition dangerous. Indulging in real hunting could mean going without food. But here, among sleepers, I could take my time. And nothing would be able to stop me.
Her face haunted me even as I ate. Those black eyes, the trembling of her whole body as she really looked at me. No one had ever looked at me like that, real fear but also desire mixing in her eyes. I cursed as my body longed for her even as I tried so hard to lose myself in the blood of prey. The further I ventured, the harder it became to resist her siren call. My mind ran over and over again through her lies. Why pretend she didn’t know the reason for summoning me, why act the fool?
The woman made no sense, plain and simple. I grinned, remembering how she’d felt against me, how her body fit against mine. Nothing had ever called to me as she did, no one had ever stirred me so entirely and completely. I decided right then, as I feasted on some juicy bear, that I would have her regardless of her games. Regardless of her plans—that I’d thwart of course—I would have that delectably provoking creature. But she wouldn’t have me.