2 Cents Blog and Review

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Blood Ties - Changing Moon #3

Greetings Loved Ones! 


 Its finally here! Available for Pre-Sale!


Blood Ties - Changing Moon #3

Coming Soon from Dreamspinner Press!
Releasing September 5th 2014


Blurb:

When Lance is kidnapped from his adopted grandfather’s home, Andrew believes there is a traitor among Lord Basil’s drones, despite the fact that the born vampire supports Lance and Andrew’s crusade to free shifters from vampire subjugation.

Lance awakens to finds Andrew's baby sister, Angela, and a young boy shackled to a wall next to him, and a corpse nearby. Brad, a former drone of Basil's, tortures them in an effort to drive Lance insane and prove that pureblood shifters are unstable and need to be destroyed before he gets them all killed.

Stephon comes home after a trip to an orgy disguised as an unbirthday party. His mate, Quinn, shows up uninvited and is angry at the perceived infidelity. It isn’t easy to rekindle a relationship after a 270-year separation. As old arguments and insecurities resurface, Quinn decides the only way to keep Stephon safe might be to force the stubborn older vampire into hibernation, until he can defeat his father, Lord Rufus.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Greetings Loved Ones!


I know it's been a long time. Life has been a crazy train of late, but I wanted to take the time to let you know that a favorite of mine is once again has been released with Dreamspinner Press. Yes, the Elements of Love series is alive and well and the first book Adel's Purr has been released as a 2nd Edition. The editors at Dreamspinner and I have gone through this story and refined it, making it better for everyone to enjoy. And the cover!  Oh me oh my... LC Chase did a beautiful job portraying Adel! It gives me goosebumps.

In this series the elemental powers that control the world come to life in order to remake a dying world. But the love between the Elementals who control the power and their mates will either be a force to create or destroy and humanity in all its selfish, manipulative, zealous and power hungry glory is trying to stop them at any cost.

Adel's Purr is just Book 1.

Blurb:
In a world recovering from a war that devastated humanity, Evan Halvard struggles to control a power he doesn't understand. Evan is a stone mason. He can give life to stone to create and awaken living gargoyles. When he receives a message that a large gargoyle is about to be demolished by the Church, Evan rushes to save it.

After centuries of sleep, the gargoyle has no interest in a present he can’t relate to. Yet, through the haze of his hibernation, a voice calls to him. He awakens restrained by those he swore to protect. Evan and Adel must work to understand the power connecting them and escape the evil hunting Evan, before the Church destroys Adel.

1st Edition published by Silver Publishing, July 2011


An excerpt from the book

Chapter 1



Gargoyle Lore

As written by the scribes and entombed in the Church Archives:

GARGOYLES ARE carved from a single piece of natural stone. Cannot be made of stone composite or molded. Their original form is carved. Their spirit is called to life by an Earth Elemental they call their Maker. They become living stone: stone by day and living, breathing flesh and blood by night.


May 14, 2215—just before sunset….

THE MODERN-day equivalent of a hermit, Evan Halvard lived by himself on a couple of acres of forested land in the mountains, far enough away from civilization that people couldn’t bother him. He liked to tell his friends he lived close enough to town to do business easily, yet far enough up in the mountains that people had to be determined in order to find him. The arrangement served him well, keeping most of the unwanted interruptions away and giving him a modicum of privacy.

Spring felt cool this year up in the mountains, but as Evan stood in his garden tilling the soil, nature spoke to him of green and growing things. Winter’s last bite of the season had come and gone. The tender seeds he planted would flourish. Most people would find the soil cold and painful, but Evan loved the feeling of the earth beneath his feet and between his toes. He’d told his father many times how, if he stood barefoot in the soil, the ground would speak to him, but no matter how many times Evan’s father had humored him, Evan seemed to be the only one who heard the earth whispering.

Evan stood and rested an arm on his hoe, smiling to himself as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a large, leather hair tie. He pulled back his unruly dark-brown dreadlocks and tied them out of the way at the back of his neck. He pulled off his T-shirt and wiped it across his face and chest, absorbing the sheen of sweat forming on his light-mocha skin. Evan worked as a stonemason and was accustomed to physical labor: repairing walls, laying brick, and pretty much anything that dealt with rock. Standing in the last rays of the setting sun bent over a hoe, prepping the soil for seeds, didn’t count as work but was a labor of love.

Evan smiled as he thought of how his father, Peter Stein, would’ve scolded him for doing what Peter would have considered women’s work. To his father, men were hunters and women were supposed to tend to the plants. Evan couldn’t help his love of nature. He loved caring for green things almost as much as he loved his stonework. Spring, his favorite time of year, spoke of awakenings, beginnings, and plantings. It was the personification of life. Since he had no intention of ever marrying a woman—he’d discovered long ago he was not attracted to females—he had to do his own planting to supplement his meals. He preferred to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Besides, women were few and far between, and breeding females were even less available, as they were monopolized by the Church’s breeding program. Children were raised by the fathers or in fosterling homes if the father was incapable of caring for his offspring. The condition in these homes meant little to the Church as long as the population increased. Men whose seed was genetically predisposed toward female children were paid well for their sperm donations, as the female population of the earth was very small—one in every four children born was female. The hardest part was one out of every four females born was infertile, and others often had a hard time carrying their pregnancies to full term. It was an ever-declining cycle that the Church was attempting to fight at every turn, trying to prevent humanity’s extinction.

Some believed the human race was in the autumn of its existence. It had had a great and glorious run and now fought a losing battle to hold on to its existence, like a tree in fall trying to hold on to its leaves against the ever-persistent draw of gravity. A battle the tree couldn’t win. They believed humanity would pass into the annals of the extinct, like the dinosaur, just as inevitably as gravity.

Evan didn’t believe that. Mankind might be in a population decline and trying to resurrect itself from a destruction the likes of which nature could not have created, but Evan hoped it was not the end. Maybe this season of mankind wasn’t fall, but winter, and soon it would be the spring and a new beginning. He certainly hoped so.

If the death of millions of people in the great war—two thirds of the world’s population—couldn’t be considered the autumn of mankind and the horrible years after the beginning of winter, Evan didn’t know what could. In most of the places around the world, they were still rediscovering old technologies and relearning how to use them, all under the careful supervision of the Church, which determined the technologies that were safe to relearn and what had led to the evil downfall. All part of the perpetual winter of mankind. A winter Evan wanted to see come to an end.

He loved spring. The green things around him were connections to the earth, and they gave him a sense of peace and security he felt from nothing else. The earth’s awakening, as the frost of winter receded and things came back from that deathlike sleep, gave new life to Evan as well.

Evan watched the sun drop below the pine-covered horizon of his home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The last rays of direct sunlight disappeared into dusk, signaling the beginning of night and the time when his closest friend awoke. He felt the familiar tingle at his throat and reached up to stroke the stone necklace, caressing warm scales instead of rock. A tiny, rumbling purr began against his collarbone.

“Evening, Cela.” Evan felt the little dragon unwrap himself from around his neck, stretch, and coo merrily.

As Evan stretched work-stiffened muscles, his awareness of the tiny points of consciousness that belonged to the minds of his other awakening friends grew. They were gargoyles, similar in some ways to Cela. He could feel their approach as they made their way from various daytime perches to venture into the night. He always knew when he was in the presence of gargoyles, even during the daytime. He could easily distinguish between living stone and statues. He’d been fifteen and an apprentice to his father the first time it happened: he’d discovered Cela. Well, he hadn’t really discovered Cela; he had awoken the dragon. He’d unknowingly called to the gargoyle’s sleeping soul, bequeathed to the statue by the artist who’d sculpted the dragon with loving care. And so Evan had given the statue life, awakening the gargoyle as living stone.


****


Ten years earlier at a cemetery jobsite….

“HEY, DAD, what’s that?” Evan asked.

“What’s what?” Peter asked, looking at his son, then following his gaze. “Oh, you mean the dragon statue. That’s a gargoyle, a guardian, and a pretty small one at that. They used to adorn many structures. Our ancestors believed they’d guard our souls from the evil in the night. You don’t see them much anymore. The hunters from the Abbey, under orders from the Bishop’s Service and their deputies, have smashed most of them. I guess it’s so small they must’ve overlooked that one.” Peter looked at the little gargoyle.

“What a beautiful dragon.”

“Yeah, and dangerous, just like their mythical counterparts. Just having statues that look like gargoyles on our property could bring the Inquisition to our door. They believe gargoyles depict mankind’s violent nature and are proof of his inherent evil. They believe they represent evil, or in the worst cases, are personifications of the Devil.”

“But, Dad, how can anything so beautiful be evil?” Evan asked.

“Sorry, son, I never did understand their logic. I just know not to question the Church. Few survive the Inquisition, and those who do are never the same. Come on, let’s get to work.” Peter and Evan went back to working on the crumbling stonework walls, repairing the damage done by time and nature.

“Dad?”

“What?”

“What are gargoyles like?”

Peter smiled at his son. Evan had always been inquisitive, and a little thing like the Church disliking something was incentive for him to ask questions. “Well, let me see. My father used to tell tales of gargoyles from before the war. Before modernization, gargoyles were the nighttime protectors of the people. They kept people safe from evil.”

“Really? Were they super strong and super fast?” Evan asked.

Peter chuckled. “Not that I remember him ever saying. They could fly, though. They could sleep for years in hibernation and then, when called at night, would awaken and protect the people.”

“Are they born?”

“No. Gargoyles are carved by artisans, like all statues. But there are special people in the world who have extraordinary powers. They are known as Elementals. Only a specific type of person can call the spirit to life and change a carved statue into living stone. Only a specific Elemental, an Earth Elemental, can make a statue into a gargoyle.”

“That’s so cool! Do you know any Elementals?”

“Maybe…. Hand me the mortar.” Peter held out his left hand so his son could pass him the bucket. “Get the supports ready.”

“Okay. Can they be killed?”

“Can who be killed?” Peter asked, studying the rock wall before him as he plastered cracks in the mortar. Evan shored up the broken wall, getting it ready for repair.

“Gargoyles.”

“They are immortal, but they can be killed. If the stone form is broken, then they can never awaken again. That’s how the Church eliminated most of them—destroying them while they were vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. They can also be killed when they are flesh and blood, at night.” Peter moved to where Evan had finished bracing the wall and had begun to add new rocks, placing them and then mortaring them into position. “Good… good. Keep at it. I’m going around to work on the other side.”

“So they don’t run around as hard rock, but they move at night?”

“Not from what your grandfather said. They turn to regular flesh and blood at night. They hunt and eat, just like any other beast, although he did say some of the older ones could talk. But I’ve never seen any larger than the little dragon you found earlier.”

Peter stood and stretched. As father and son completed their work, the sun set over the horizon, leaving everything bathed in the half-shadow world of twilight.

“Come on, Evan. Let’s get home before it gets too dark.” Peter patted his son on the shoulder and grinned. “Your mom will have dinner ready and waiting for us.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Evan replied, a little distracted. “Dad, can I go check out the dragon statue? It’d be a real shame if something so small and fragile got damaged.” Evan frowned, thinking in horror of someone intentionally smashing the little statue.

“Sure, go on. No one’s around, and I don’t think anyone here’ll report you for being interested in a gargoyle. Just keep the thing to yourself. I don’t want to know what you do with it. I’m going to the truck. I know nothing.” Peter smiled warmly at his son.

“Thanks, Dad.” Evan took off at a run to find the little gargoyle statue before his father changed his mind. He found the mausoleum easily; there was only the one crypt in the small cemetery. He looked up to where the gargoyle should’ve been perched, but the spot was now empty. No dragon roosted over the door.

“I could’ve sworn—” Evan mumbled to himself, looking around to see if he’d somehow gotten the location wrong. No, the gargoyle had to be here. Evan walked around the perimeter of the structure, looking for the little statue.

What could’ve happened to it? He and his dad were the only ones in the cemetery. Then he caught sight of a reddish glimmer high up in a nearby tree. Evan frowned and looked a bit closer. The glimmer blinked and the red glow flashed.

“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you. You can’t stay here. You’re not safe.” Evan spoke softly, trying to coax the little creature from the tree. “Come on, little one, Dad’s waiting for us.” He extended his hands to the small gargoyle. “My name’s Evan Halvard. Dad says my name means ‘rock defender’ in the old language. I won’t hurt you.” Evan crooned and babbled, remembering being told animals didn’t understand what you said, but your tone of voice could either soothe or incite them. He had no idea if the same applied to creatures of living stone.

Evan heard a couple of cheeps and whistles, which sounded vaguely birdlike, and the little gargoyle appeared, hanging on the central bark of the tree.

“There you are! Aren’t you cute? Come down. We have to go home. You can’t stay here. There’s no one to protect you.”

Evan watched patiently as the little gargoyle crept slowly closer to him. He looked like a dragon in miniature. He had four legs, tiny wings and a little spade tail, and sharp-looking little teeth and claws. How cute! He had shiny red scales that glinted in the light of the moon despite his dirty-brown appearance when Evan had first seen him perched on the mausoleum. Now his eyes glowed bright red, like rubies on fire.

“Please, we don’t have a lot of time, little friend,” Evan said urgently, trying to coax the dragon. Hesitantly at first, the creature crept down the tree toward him. Evan wrapped his arm with his jacket, fearful of the damage those sharp talons could do, and offered it as a perch. “Here you go.”

The small creature jumped from the tree and landed on Evan’s arm with ease. He chirped and whistled, tipping his head to look at Evan with his fire-filled eyes. Evan scratched under his chin and above his eye ridges. The dragon began to purr. He ran the length of Evan’s arm and ducked under his long brown dreadlocks, curling his tail around Evan’s neck. In his peripheral vision, Evan nervously eyed the gargoyle’s talons. One misplaced talon could slice open his throat like butter. Yet the small beast moved with care and placed his claws gently, seeming to realize the harm they could inflict. He clung to Evan’s T-shirt, blanketed by his hair, apparently content to curl against Evan’s warm skin.

“Well, I guess that’s as good a place as any.” Evan petted the dragon while he headed for the truck and his father.

“Did you find it?” asked his father, staring directly at the little dragon curled around his son’s neck.

“Nope, no statues.”

Peter laughed. “By the way, cool necklace.”

“Thanks. I think so, too.”

The little dragon didn’t move or make a peep as he peered from beneath Evan’s hair.

“Just don’t let your mother see it.”


****


Present day….

EVAN LISTENED to Cela, his little dragon gargoyle, croon and sing into the night as the others came running to gather about his feet. Evan found harmony and a gentle peace in the nature surrounding him. These were his friends, the ones he had been waiting to awaken throughout the day. The ones who gave his life meaning. The ones he risked his life for in an effort to keep their species from being exterminated. When they joined him, his loneliness faded, and until the rising sun, he would not be alone.

The path of Evan’s life had been decided that day, ten years ago, with the rescue of his closest friend. And Cela had remained with him every day since. His life, set in stone like the rocks he worked with, turned against the authorities and a belief system he couldn’t support. He would be criminal in the eyes of the Church if they knew about him. Evan Halvard became a rescuer of living stone, or, as his father had explained in one of his many lessons, gargoyles.

Before his death, Peter, who had adopted Evan as his own son when he’d been orphaned by the death of his biological father, Dustin, encouraged Evan to follow his heart. He and Dustin were half-brothers, born of the same mother, Patience, in the Church’s breeding program. Even though they had different fathers, they had grown up together in a fosterling home. The two of them were very close and had similar beliefs and eventually were recruited to the same resistance movement. When Dustin was killed by the Inquisition, Peter had chosen to raise Evan, as he hoped his brother would’ve wanted, educating him but allowing the boy to make his own choices. Yet he resolutely refused to assist Evan in anything remotely like what he and Dustin had been involved in, saying the Church had cured him of his rebellious tendencies long ago.

The brands on Peter’s arms attested to his punishment at the hands of the Inquisition, punishment that had killed Dustin, his wounds having become septic while serving his sentence in the reform camps. The brands appeared as two crosses on Peter’s forearms, seared far into the flesh, almost to the bone. The muscles had healed around the burns, leaving him with much less strength in his arms than he’d had in his youth. Yet he’d survived and excelled at his work. Upon his death, he’d bequeathed Evan a lodge in a remote part of the forest, away from prying eyes. It had become a sanctuary for Evan and his gargoyles.

Evan remembered the first time he’d entered the cabin, the day he’d buried his father. He had been struck by the state of it. His father obviously hadn’t been there for many years, as nothing had disturbed the thick layer of dust that covered everything like a shroud. On the kitchen table sat a cracked, leather-bound book, a diary. Evan ran a hand over the cover, revealing an embossed name: Elizabeth Peterson. She was Patience’s mother, and therefore both of his fathers’ grandmother. Peter must’ve meant for him to have it. He’d have to remember to read it later.

Cela had taken great joy in showing Evan what his father had begun for him. He’d found the trapdoor in no time, hidden in the kitchen under a dirty but colorful maze-print rug. The door opened to a dark staircase. After grabbing a flashlight, Evan proceeded down the stairs into a labyrinth of tunnels. Cela led Evan through a confusion of turns, guiding him to one of the many exits emerging from a combination of both mine shafts and natural caves beneath the cabin. Evan retraced his steps back to the area under the small house. As he looked around, he found a large side cave with a couple of secondary caves attached and decided this would be a great place to live. The major gift of living in the caves would be privacy, a commodity nobody took for granted when the Vatican’s Bishop’s Service could search your home for any reason and frequently did. The cabin above would be a stage, always appropriately set for potential Bishop’s Service visits. Down here, with some mo difications, he could relax and have his real home with his gargoyles, a truly private place of his own, safe from the Church’s investigations.

And soon, he’d begun filling those caves with family. Four winged, dragon-style gargoyles, each black but with a different undertone: one midnight blue, one forest green, one ruby red, and the last golden brown, soon joined Evan. Their jewel-tone eyes matched the under-color of their fur, while the brown dragon had golden eyes. The musketeers, as he called them, were each a bit larger than Cela, making them closer to the size of full-grown house cats. If allowed, this quartet would croon into the night, singing to the stars. They were never far from one another and seemed to carry an “all for one and one for all” attitude. So Evan named them d’Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis, after his favorite childhood story, The Three Musketeers. His father had recited the story verbatim each time Evan had asked it of him.

Evan squatted down, leaning heavily on his hoe as his musketeers appeared, flying low over the ground in a lazy fashion, out of the night. The quartet was followed by a larger pair of Chinese lion-dog gargoyles Evan had rescued from a temple in New York City and named Yin and Yang. Regardless of the season, his friends always greeted him with enthusiasm when they awoke. It had become a ritual he thoroughly enjoyed.

“Hello, my friends. Be careful, it’s a new moon and a dark night.” Evan reached out to give each of the musketeers a scratch from their ears down their necks and to stroke between their wings. Then he treated the lion-dogs to a similar attention, ruffling their ears and massaging over their shoulders, ending in a rub on the top of their protruding muzzles, a spot they seemed to enjoy having petted the most. Yin and Yang’s appreciation could be felt as well as heard, their purrlike growls rumbling deep in their chests, reverberating through their bodies.

Evan stood up and watched as each of the dragons ran in a different direction while the lion-dogs trotted straight down the driveway of the cabin to stand guard at the entrance. He watched until his friends disappeared into the darkness of the night. He trusted they would be careful. They were gargoyles, guardians and eaters of evil. They would not be happy as his pets. As his father had explained long ago, gargoyles were created to protect the living through the night, to keep evil at bay, to keep it from accosting souls. So his friends guarded him and their sanctuary.

Evan sighed with contentment and went into the cabin to find dinner and prepare for his trip the next day. He’d received a request to check out an old mausoleum in a dilapidated cemetery. Some long-forgotten documents made mention of a gargoyle being placed in the resting place of a cardinal who’d dedicated his life to helping troubled teens. Often these documents were wrong, the stonework long destroyed or moved to a new location, but he’d gladly check it out on the off chance they proved correct.


****


EVAN PULLED his battered pickup truck in to the cemetery at sunrise and reached for his work orders. He’d fabricated them to appear he’d been contracted to do some repairs on the O’Brian family tomb: that way, he’d have a valid reason to be on the grounds. He looked up in time to notice the black Lincoln Town Car with the red-and-blue light bar mounted on top and the insignia of the Bishop’s Service emblazoned on the side. It was parked next to a run-down mausoleum. The name over the door had long since deteriorated. Father Michael, the diocesan head of security at the Bishop’s Service, and his deputies were pulling out a large stone statue, trying to work together to get it out of the dilapidated gothic stone structure. They had bound and covered the statue with a black plastic tarp.

Evan cringed as the top of the statue missed the top of the seven-foot door by mere inches. This piece stood much taller than the ones Father Michael usually went after, well over six feet. From what Evan could see of the exposed stone at the base, the sculpture, done in a pristine white marble, appeared flawless. Pure-white marble was rare, especially in large quantities, and he could find many uses for it. The very ground around him whispered, telling him this was a gargoyle, not marble statuary. He assumed Father Michael would have his deputies destroy it as an abomination in the eyes of the Church. A gargoyle this large and ancient, a wonder worth sacrificing everything to protect, made him shiver despite the sunlight. I don’t have a choice, he thought, self-consciously stroking the sleeping Cela on his neck. He had to rescue this marvelous creature.

“Father Michael, how nice to see you. How are you doing these days?” Evan plastered a wide, friendly grin on his face and swallowed the bile that threatened to choke him. He willed himself not to be sick as the older man turned upon hearing his name. The priest eyed Evan carefully. Father Michael wanted him, and Evan knew it, regardless of the fact the priest always played at being a pure man of the cloth. His barely concealed and hardly controlled lust repelled Evan. And worse, Father Michael’s role in the Bishop’s Service meant he was a constant threat to Evan and his friends. Besides his downright hideous appearance, Father Michael gave off a vile, evil vibe that made Evan feel soiled just by being in the man’s presence.

“Well, if it isn’t Evan Halvard! Why are you here, boy?” Father Michael stood six-foot-four inches tall and skeletally thin. His too-large black robes hung loosely on his body, emphasizing his emaciated appearance. He wore a silver cross, which appeared more dagger than religious icon, on a heavy silver chain around his neck. What little hair he had wisped about him, thin and white, the scalp beneath showing. If this were anyone other than Father Michael, Evan would’ve thought them near death, but the Father’s eyes shone black, full of malice and evil beneath heavy lids. The man’s eyes, always staring, as if he were trying to see into Evan’s soul, made Evan’s skin crawl. He watched the priest lick his lips with just the tip of his tongue, as if he hungered for Evan. He always felt surprised when he saw that his tongue wasn’t forked.

“I’ve a commission in this cemetery. The O’Brian family has asked me to repair their family monument. The stone wall is crumbling, and I’ve agreed to do the work for them in exchange for some scrap slate they had lying around after a kitchen remodel.” He smiled widely because every word was a lie, but if he was asked to produce a work order, he had phony papers in his glove box. Father Michael rarely went that far in his interrogations. Usually with a bit of a smile or the sway of Evan’s hips, the man practically forgot his name. If the man were more substantial, instead of a walking skeleton, Evan would fear the day that Father Michael made a move on him physically. As it stood, the sick priest would have to have help before he’d be able to force Evan. But lust in the man’s eyes still made him nervous. A desperate man was a dangerous man.

“I see. Well, then, you had better get busy.”

“You aren’t looking very well, Father. Are you ill? You need to eat more.” Evan’s voice dripped with concern.

“I’m fine,” Father Michael snapped. “My constitution is very strong, and God looks out for his faithful.” As he spoke a snide smile curved the corners of his mouth, and he took a step closer, reaching out toward Evan with his right hand before he snatched it back and folded his hands firmly in front of him.

“Please, come out to the cabin sometime. I’ll make you a stew from wild venison and the spring potatoes from my garden, it’s sure to put some meat on those bones. You know we can’t have a prominent member of the clergy and an officer of the Bishop’s Service fall ill.” Evan spoke with innocence and false concern, frowning slightly as if the Father’s health truly troubled him.

“We shall see. I haven’t been to your cabin in some time. Maybe a visit is in order, but I couldn’t accept such hospitality. A conflict of interest, regardless of how fond I am of you.”

“Fine. Of course, Father. I wouldn’t want anyone questioning your integrity because of me. Will you have any spare marble from the statuary?” Evan inquired carefully. “What I can see of the stone looks like pure-white marble. Once ground, it would make a marvelous composite countertop, or floor, even. I wouldn’t have to treat the stone before being able to use it.”

“No, this isn’t marble, Evan. The Church has no use for regular stone. You understand, don’t you, Evan?” Father Michael came over and rested a hand on his shoulder, as if Evan were a young child needing guidance. The Father’s gaze hungered after Evan and made him feel even more uncomfortable. Then he put his arm around Evan’s waist. He grazed his hand across Evan’s buttocks before he pressed his palm into the small of Evan’s back, guiding him away from the statue. Evan struggled to keep from cringing away from the Father’s touch, and put a shocked and slightly horrified look on his face.

“Oh!” Evan exclaimed and crossed himself as if to ward off an evil. The Father smiled and patted Evan’s shoulder, ruffling his hair as he would a small child. Evan blinked innocently and glanced back at the covered statue, shuddering, watching carefully to make sure Father Michael got the whole show.

“Will you be removing and destroying it today?” Evan crossed his fingers and schooled his expression to keep the hope in his heart from betraying him.

He thought of a prayer his dad had taught him early on in his training. Father of the Heaven and the Earth, awaken this Guardian. Awaken his spirit of love and protection. Fill him with your love so he can fulfill his duty and honor your will. Guardian awaken! Evan chanted in his thoughts, directing his feelings of love and protection toward the gargoyle, praying the call would awaken him even if the words weren’t spoken aloud. Evan couldn’t work openly against Father Michael without forfeiting his life. He brought himself back to the conversation, trying to refocus on Father Michael.

“… too large to dispose of here, and we don’t have a way to transport something this size today. The truck from the Abbey will be arriving in the morning to take it for proper disposal. You’ve nothing to fear. I’ve placed holy wards around the area, and we’ve tied the creature down. When I leave this evening, the monks will stand guard to protect us from this vile monster,” Father Michael said confidently.

“Okay, you know best, but be careful, Father. I’d be very sad if anything happened to you.” Evan frowned, and then with a gentle sway of his hips, he stepped away from the priest, heading in the direction of the mausoleum. “I need to get to work. I want to leave this area as soon as possible and be out of your way.”

“Good boy. Go with God, Evan.” Father Michael looked reluctant to let Evan leave. He took a couple of steps, following Evan before shuffling to a stop. Evan continued to move away, fully knowing he’d be carefully watched until he left the area.

His plan was simple: the musketeers would distract the monks while he and Cela rescued the gargoyle and took it to the cabin. Of course, it was simple in thought only. The execution would take a lot more work. He’d been preparing for a job like this for some time. He sneaked a surreptitious peek over his left shoulder. The statue remained still and unmoving. Evan worked happily on the mausoleum, working out the kinks in his plans, certain that in a few hours he’d be able to prove his name and make his father proud.