“Have you ever been to the fountain?”
“Been by it. Never interacted.” Because talking to other gargoyles who were supposed to be animatronic characters was pushing cheesy to a whole new level.
Julian smiled. “Insults and snark are part of the game. Or can be, if that’s what the situation calls for. Either way, we’re fine with that. People don’t expect the gargoyles to be warm and cuddly.”
“Good, because we’re damn sure not,” Nick blurted out.
Julian snorted. “Point made. Are you interested?”
Nick hesitated. “Yes.”
“You still have reservations.”
“I can do surveillance in my sleep. It’s the character thing I get hung up on, but if you’re willing to let me try, I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all we care about. And frankly, the surveillance part is far more important to us.”
“Then I’m your gargoyle. I really do want to make Nocturne Falls my home.”
“Excellent, because you’re the kind of supernatural we want living here. There’s just one more thing.”
For the first time, Julian seemed a little off his game. “I need to, uh, see you in your…” He waved his hand. “As a gargoyle.”
Nick grinned. “Heard that some of us can be pretty scary, huh?”
“Yes. And since it’s the form you’ll be in during your shift, I need to know what it looks like. Scaring the kiddies is one thing. Scarring them for life is another.”
Nick stood. His human form was nothing compared to his stone one. Nerves tripped through him. This could kill the deal, but wasn’t like he could change who he was. “If the kiddies are out during the night shift, maybe they deserve to be scared.”
Julian laughed as he got to his feet. “I won’t argue that, but the town council likes things a certain way.”
“Sure, I get it.” He went to stand in the open space between the living room and the foyer. Shifting in front of someone was a little odd, but his future boss had a right to know what he looked like. “Ready?”
Julian was already facing Nick. He lounged against the arm of the loveseat. “Ready.”
Nick bent his head, took a split second to concentrate, then shifted, the surge of energy crackling through him lightning fast. The sensation of flesh becoming living stone reminded him of that moment when a rollercoaster plunged down the first steep incline, but it was over just as fast.
Julian let out a soft curse and straightened. Nick lifted his head in time to see the vampire’s eyes glowing with an animalistic light. Julian swallowed as he nodded. “You’re a big guy, but I didn’t think you’d be that much bigger as a gargoyle.”
“Yeah,” Nick said, his voice rumbling out with the gravel that was now his throat. “I’m one of the rarer leviathan-class gargoyles.” He flexed his stone wings for good measure. “Too much or okay?”
A curious expression bent Julian’s mouth, and his eyes narrowed even as his gaze skipped over the horns protruding from Nick’s shoulders and forehead. “How many classes are there?”
“Five. Leviathan is the largest.” Nick frowned. It was possible he was too big for the job. Or too ugly. Maybe Julian thought he’d scare people.
Julian squinted like he was thinking. “Huh. You learn something new every day.”
“You didn’t answer my question. Too much or okay?”
“No and yes. You’re perfect. In fact, I might have to give Merrow a raise for recommending you.” Julian stuck his hand out. “Meet me at the corner of Eerie and Main at nine thirty tonight, and I’ll show you everything you need to know.”
An hour after opening her shop, Willa sat at the counter, a velvet tray in front of her. The tray held a beautiful old strand of pearls to be restrung, along with the tools she’d need to do the job. Restringing was easy work, a little monotonous, but not in a bad way. She liked the neatness of adding the knots between each pearl, the satisfaction of giving new life to an old piece. And pearls offered her a nice break from the usual, because being neither stone nor metal, they stayed silent in her hands.
She admired the thickness of the nacre and the creamy luster of the strand. The pearls were well cared for, fat and gorgeous, the way South Sea pearls should be, but that was no surprise as they belonged to Elenora Ellingham, grandmother to the three Ellingham brothers and the matriarch of the family. With the Ellinghams’ money and history, it was a given that these pearls were very old and very valuable.
Willa spooled out a length of silk thread about five times that of the necklace, then slipped one end through her beading needle before adding a section of French wire to strengthen the area where the necklace would attach to the end of the diamond clasp.
She looped the thread through, tightened it until the French wire crunched down into a perfect little loop and finished attaching the clasp. Now she was ready to restring the pearls.
Her tablet chimed with an incoming message. She glanced over from her work and rolled her eyes as she read the notification that popped up on the screen. Martin Burnside again.
It was great that he was so happy with the ring she’d made him, but this was the seventh email since he’d taken delivery of it. She didn’t need to know the play by play of his ongoing search for the new Mrs. Burnside.
She set the tray of pearls beneath the counter and grabbed her tablet to pull up the message.