The Gargoyle Gets His Girl

Page 4

He didn’t expect anything close to the level of battle-readiness he’d experienced while serving in the Rangers, but other than a missing persons/rescue mission he’d helped out with a month or so back, the activity meter had been pegged at zero.

It was enough to make him consider going back into the field as a private contractor. Mercs made good money and saw plenty of action, but that meant not having a permanent address again. He was tired of the itinerant life. He’d had enough change, enough moving from place to place. Life as a foster kid was nothing like life in the military, but both had made him realize that what he wanted more than anything was a place where he could put down roots and call it home. Make a life. Settle down.

Find someone to share that life with.

Problem was, he wanted all that plus enough action to keep him from losing his edge. Something less dangerous than being shot at by insurgents and more interesting than working security at the local supernaturals-only nightclub, Insomnia, which was a pretty ironic name considering so little happened there he could very easily fall asleep on the job.

Hopefully, that would change today. He had a meeting with Julian Ellingham. The youngest of the three vampire brothers who were part of the family that ran the town, Julian was in charge of the town’s characters—the supernaturals who walked the streets essentially playing themselves. The tourists thought the characters were humans dressed as werewolves, vampires, witches and so on, but truth was, there were no masks or makeup.

The characters in Nocturne Falls were real.

The town’s shtick of celebrating Halloween three hundred and sixty-five days a year made the whole thing possible. That gimmick also drove the town’s economy, so while it might be a little cheesy, Nick had no issues with the money it brought in.

Especially when it meant the supernaturals who lived here could really and truly be themselves. There was no other place like it that Nick knew about.

So yes, Nocturne Falls was a little on the slow side, but he still liked it here. The living was good. He’d bought a house, for crying out loud. Him. With a house. And the people here were great. He’d made a few friends. Fallen into a comfortable routine.

He sighed. Comfortable was really another word for boring.

But there was no more time to think about that. He pulled into the parking lot of the only condominium building in the town limits, the Excelsior. It sat between the downtown area and the old industrial park, which was where the Insomnia nightclub was hidden away in an old gasket factory.

The Excelsior was five floors, a skyscraper by Nocturne Falls’ standards, and Nick got the sense that the elite building had been specifically built for Julian, its wealthiest tenant. Nick parked his Ford F150 pickup truck and strode through the front door. Inside was a small foyer with a bell desk.

The man behind the desk straightened as Nick came toward him. “Can I help you, sir?”

The guy seemed human, which wasn’t what Nick had been expecting. “I’ve got a meeting with Julian Ellingham.”

“Your name, sir?”

“Nick Hardwin.”

The man nodded. “Just a moment.” He made a quick call, nodding as he let whoever was on the other end know that Nick had arrived. Then he hung up. “Mr. Ellingham will see you. Elevator to the penthouse is on your right.”

“Thanks.” Another elevator to the left most likely served the other apartments. In an alcove beside the elevator bank, a glass door led into a fitness center. An indoor pool sat farther back, behind another glass wall. The place was macked out, that was for sure.

The ride up was quick, and when the doors opened, Nick was greeted by a small foyer. Glass, chrome, black marble and an enormous statute of some half-naked Roman goddess done in cobalt glass. Pure bachelor pad. But then, Julian wasn’t known to spend a lot of time without female company. Nick grinned as he lifted his hand to knock.

Julian answered the door before Nick’s knuckles grazed it. He smiled, showing off fangs. “You’re on time.”

“If I say I’m going to be somewhere at a certain time, I’m there.” But maybe Julian had expected him to be late, which might explain why the vampire was dressed in nothing more than satin pajama pants, a matching robe and a silver link chain that held a coin-sized pendant.

“Time is not something I think much about.” Julian let the door swing wide and walked back into the penthouse. He waved a hand over his shoulder. “Come in.”

The interior matched the foyer but upped the ante with fabric-covered walls, hidden ambient lighting and leather furniture that probably cost more than Nick had made last year. The vampire had game. “Nice place.”

“Thanks.” Julian tapped a button on the wall, and the window shades went halfway up, revealing a sheer panel that diffused the outside light. It was common knowledge that the Ellinghams had some kind of ability that made them impervious to daylight, but the fact that Julian didn’t open the windows all the way made Nick wonder if they didn’t still have some sensitivity. “Coffee? Water?”

“No, thanks, I’m good.” Nick didn’t want to risk spilling a drink on something he couldn’t afford to replace.

Julian sprawled in the middle of a large square leather and chrome loveseat, pointing at the matching sofa as he sat. “Make yourself comfortable.”

Nick sat, but making himself comfortable in a place like this wasn’t really an option. It was like a showroom out of a magazine, but not the kind of dwelling he could ever imagine calling home.

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