Book & Author Details:
Not Her Gargoyle
by Annie Nicholas
Publication date: June 18th 2018
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Ruby is done with jerks, dead-end jobs, and eviction notices. Everyone else she knows is finding ways out of this crappy neighborhood, so why can’t she? Since opportunities refuse to fall from the sky, Ruby makes her own. To hell with the little voice in her heart whispering about love. She never met a man she wanted to keep…then she met a gargoyle. Men were boring after all.
Nick was a con, a thief, and a rogue. He couldn’t keep a dime in his pocket even if it was glued. Then he met a ruby. Not one from the earth but one of flesh and blood. And ass. Let’s not forget the ass. Stealing her heart was now all he wanted.
He has a plan that could make both their dreams come true. It only involves an itsy-bitsy risk. All they must do is rob a witch.
Oh, and avoid the dragons.
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Blitz-wide giveaway (US/CAN)
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Grand prize giveaway – ends June 28th:
Annie Nicholas writes paranormal romance with a twist. She has courted vampires, hunted with shifters, and slain a dragon’s ego all with the might of her pen. Riding the wind of her imagination, she travels beyond the restraints of reality and shares them with anyone wanting to read her stories. Mother, daughter, and wife are some of the other hats she wears while hiking through the hills and dales of her adopted state of Vermont.
Annie writes for Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, and Lyrical Press.
More information can be found at: www.annienicholas.com
Ruby and her dress attracted all sorts of wrong attention on the way home. The worst was still trailing her, keeping to the shadows. It looked like only one guy. She hoped. For all she knew, he was herding her into a trap.
She crossed the street. Maybe the creeper would take a hint and realize she was onto him. A few steps more and she glanced over her shoulder.
Of course, he followed.
The liquor store was closed. It was the only place that would have been open this late. She balled her hands into fists. Fine, they’d do this the hard way. She turned the corner and spun around, pepper spray in hand.
The stalker came around the corner. His eyes widened at the sight of her.
Hers went wide as well at the sight of the winged beast landing behind the creeper. The creature picked up the stalker and shook him. “Leave her alone,” he shouted and tossed him to the other side of the street.
Ruby pressed the release button just as the beast’s face was lit up by a passing car. She gasped. Oh no, she recognized him.
He howled and covered his face, wings beating the air aimlessly, forcing some of the spray in her direction.
Bending over, she choked on the acidic air. She fell to her knees. Dumbass, she couldn’t believe she’d gasped in the pepper spray. That was such a rookie move but—but… “Nick,” she rasped and crawled toward him. “I’m so sorry.” At least, she thought it was Nick. “That is, you, right?”
“Yes.” He collapsed next to her, eyes bloodshot and raw. “You pepper sprayed me.” He sounded so hurt. Like she’d kicked his puppy.
Her heart stopped beating at light speed and she slapped his meaty shoulder. “You scared the shit out of me.” He’d also saved her. She wasn’t sure what to say. No one had ever done that before.
“I was trying to help you.” He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “Fuck, this stuff burns.”
She coughed some more. “I know.” Her lungs felt like she’d blown up a hundred balloons. All at once.
“I need to rinse my eyes before they melt.” He rose on wobbly legs and peered into the night as if looking for a source of water.
“Come on.” She grabbed his big wrist and tugged. “You can use my bathroom to wash off.” She sounded like a three pack a day smoker. “It’s the least I can do.”
She scanned the street and there was no sign of her would-be attacker. Guiding Nick, she took him to her apartment building. She climbed the staircase to the top, leaning heavily on the rails. Fear had sapped the strength from her legs. Luckily, they didn’t encounter any of the other tenants. Who knew how they’d react to an eight-foot winged, muscle bound creature with bloodshot eyes?
She had hurt the gargoyle who had accidentally killed her sister. She should feel good about that, but he had also rescued her from Trixie when her sister had been blood crazed.
It wasn’t like Nick had pushed Trixie down those stairs. He had startled her, kind of like how he had startled Ruby when she’d pepper sprayed him. That was a bad habit he had to break.
A yellow paper was stuck to her apartment door. She unlocked it and entered, peeling the paper off as she walked through. She was quite familiar with eviction notices.
“This way.” She maneuvered the huge gargoyle and his wings through her small apartment to the bathroom and sat him on the edge of the tub. She ducked under a random wing spasm. “Stay still. You almost knocked me flat.”
“Sorry.” He pulled his wings in tight behind his back and they quivered.
Pouring water onto a face cloth, she waited for the coldness. She added soap and washed his face. Pepper spray was mixed in with an oily compound and soap did the best job to clean it off skin. As for poor Nick’s eyes, all she could offer were cold compresses.
He leaned into her touch, his hands snaking around her waist.
“Easy, mister.” Excitement fluttered in her stomach.
His cheeks were a darker gray in comparison to the rest of his skin. Broad shoulders filled the narrow space and his hands were big enough to wrap right around her. So huge and strong.
She almost purred. Funny how one supernatural had her running and this one made her want to rub against him. “Long time no see, Nick. I thought you had forgotten all about me.” She’d made it clear she found him attractive the last time they met. He’d never come back and she’d assumed the feeling wasn’t mutual.
“The dragons chained me to their castle after I helped Trixie escape.” He pulled her hand away from his face and kissed her knuckles. “What were you doing walking by yourself at this time of the night?”
She blinked at the reprimand. Because she had no one else to walk with wasn’t something she was ready to admit. “I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”
He kissed the tips of her fingers, one by one. “I noticed.”
The bathroom grew quiet as she watched him kiss the fingertips of her other hand. He sucked the oxygen from the room with those kisses and her head spun. “Want a beer?” she whispered with a rough voice. “I’d like to hear about your dragon adventure.”
Seriously, dragons and bondage. Roar. It was Christmas all over again.
“Sure.” He refreshed his cold compress before reapplying it to his eyes.
“Follow me.” She strode into the kitchen that was attached to the living room and opened her fridge. A half empty six-pack of beer, a bottle of ketchup, and a container of yogurt were the only things it contained. She pulled out two bottles and held one up to him.
He grinned and popped it open with his thumb. She bit her bottom lip. It had been a twist off. Damn. “Thanks, but my story is short. The dragons wanted to punish me for what happened with Trixie. I escaped tonight and wanted to make sure Trixie was adjusting to being a vampire.” He took a drink from the bottle and drained half of it.
“Oh.” Ruby clutched her unopened bottle. “She’s fine. Better than fine.” Better than her. “She moved in with that vampire.”
“Viktor?” He drained the remainder of his bottle.
“Yeah, they live over his tattoo parlor.” She offered Nick her beer. “That’s really sweet of you to drop in and check on her though.” She cleared her throat, wishing some strange guy would bother to do that with her. “You know, in the middle of your escape from the dragons and all.” She glanced out the window. “Is Eoin going to show up here again?” She hoped not. He scared her. It was one thing to admire a dragon from afar—quite another when he clung to her building with his claws.
Nick shook his head. “I lost him over the river. He won’t think to look for me here.” He finally met her gaze. “You look nice.”
She smoothed her dress over her hips, feeling self-conscious. “Thanks.” Three simple words yet the way he said them made her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. She pressed her lips together and tried to figure out what to do with her hands now that they were empty. “Umm… have a seat.” What was wrong with her? Men never made her feel shy.
He settled on the couch, his wings taking up most of the space. “How have you been?” He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and…waited.
“Uh.” She sat in the chair next to him.
He leaned closer, still waiting.
“I’m broke, about to be homeless, and I hate my job.” She released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. It felt good to just let it all out.
“You have a job. That’s good.”
She gave him a crooked smile. “That’s a positive way to look at it.”
A distant dragon roar made Nick miss a wing beat. He swirled out of control for a second and caught his balance. One of them was close and he bet it was Eoin. Masquerading as a human would help Nick avoid recapture. He increased his speed, heading back to the apartment.
Landing on Ruby’s fire escape, he found the window cracked open for him. He smiled at the small gesture of kindness. She was one of the sweetest women. He recalled how fiercely she’d protected her sister from the vampire and himself when they had invaded the apartment. That felt like forever ago. She had been ready to fight them both. Brave and beautiful and kind.
Once more he wondered why she didn’t have a mate.
Nick climbed inside and found her on the couch, feet propped on the coffee table as she watched the evening news. Three empty bottles of beer sat next to the couch.
“Honey, I’m home,” he sang out. He’d always wanted to say that.
She gave him a huge grin and waved him over. “Come sit with me.”
The couch seemed too small for the two of them so he sat on the floor in front of her instead, leaning his back against it.
“Look.” She pointed to the television. “More gargoyles.”
His brothers were on the evening news, flying over the city’s port. “Yeah, I know them.” The dragon would hear about this if he wasn’t already watching. Nick hoped his brothers would lie quiet for a few days so Eoin wouldn’t blast them from the skies.
Ruby draped herself over his shoulders and handed him a beer, rubbing her face on his skin. “You’re very warm.” She snuggled closer between his wings, her arms lazily circling his neck from behind. “Can you shoot flames like the dragons?”
He snorted and took a sip of beer. “No. Are you drunk?” He eyed the bottles. There were only three. Then again, she was much smaller than a gargoyle. Maybe three was all it took.
“Nah, but I’m feeling good.” She sighed and seemed to melt against him. “I had an awful day.”
He reached behind and scratched her scalp with the tips of his claws like he would any family member in distress. He knew from experience that it felt good. He’d had a bad day too. Touching her made him feel better.
She moaned in his ear and it sent shivers down his spine. She bent over his shoulder more, giving him better access to her head. “That feels great.”
He undid the pins holding her hair and allowed it to cascade over his chest before continuing to massage her scalp. “What happened?” She felt so soft and tiny. Delicate like an angel. A brief whiff of her sweet smell and he struggled with the urge to bury his nose into her hair.
“What do you mean?” Her voice was muffled against his skin. Sleepy.
“Why was today so awful?”
“My boss sold the diner. I might be unemployed soon and my landlord is pressuring for rent.”
Nick finished his beer, absentmindedly scratching Ruby’s head. Stalking her boss until he changed his mind on selling the diner would probably end up with the police being called. Killing him was not Nick’s style. “Who’s the new owner?” He moved his hands to her shoulders and gently massaged the knots. Maybe they could be convinced to keep Ruby as an employee.
“The right side is worse than the left. Oh God, right there. Don’t stop.”
Those breathless pleas made him shudder. His wings reflexively expanded. She was setting off instinctual triggers. He breathed through the strong urge to carry her away somewhere dark and secluded. Teach her a thing or two about gargoyle anatomy. The desire to show her exactly how good he was at making women scream grew. The good kind of scream. Not the bad kind. Well, he could make them do that, too.
“I don’t know about the diner. I imagine I’ll meet them soon. My boss says that my job is secure—”
“That’s good news.” He ran long strands of red hair under his nose. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply. So, he didn’t have to beat anyone.
“It is, but it’s also a lie. I’ve been through this before. The shifters are trying to clean up this area. They are building shifter oriented neighborhoods close to here and investors are gobbling up every available building.”
“They are planning to make this neighborhood nicer?” That meant safer. Shifters were territorial and the majority responsible citizens. Any criminals in the area would be smart to move. He scratched his chin. Most shifters didn’t care for his kind.
“Nicer means more expensive. It means my landlord can increase the rent, which means I’m going to have to move just like everyone else.”
This wasn’t the Ruby he remembered. She seemed deflated draped over his body in defeat. “But you could find a better job at one of these new businesses.”
“That’s if I can find a job. The last place I worked was a biker bar. The new owners renovated the place, it became an after-work lounge for hipsters. Then I was fired because I didn’t fit their expectations as a bartender.”