Rocked by Love (Gargoyles Series)(3)

By: Christine Warren

Kylie looked at her phone and sighed. Twelve-fifteen. Damn it. If the stranger wasn’t here by now, he wasn’t coming, but if he thought no-showing would put an end to their association, he had another think coming. As soon as she got home and got back online, she would make that abundantly clear.

Frustrated, but glad to finally be moving again, Kylie dug out her wallet and left enough cash to cover her slowly nursed drinks and her single slice of pie. Then she added a supergenerous tip for the waitress who hadn’t even tried to hurry her along in all the time she’d hogged the corner booth. No need for both of them to leave tonight’s encounter dissatisfied.

The cool March air bit through her jacket and raised gooseflesh on her arms as she exited the mostly empty diner and began the brisk walk home. Her town house occupied the borderlands between Boston’s Back Bay and Fenway, within spitting distance of her old stomping grounds around the university—a sound investment, or so her accountant had assured her when she’d purchased it eighteen months before.

At the moment all she cared about was that it wasn’t too far from the meeting place to walk, because trying to catch a cab at this time of night in this neighborhood would be like waiting for the messiah. She didn’t have six or seven thousand years to spare at the moment.

And besides, she’d been sitting still too long, bouncing foot aside. Even when she worked, she spent as much time out of her computer chair as in it. Kylie preferred to be in motion, given the choice. Tonight, she’d hoof it.

Sure it was late, and she had at least a dozen blocks to go, but in a city this size, the streets were never really empty, and Kylie had lived in the area long enough not to blink at the idea of making the short trip alone. She’d done it a hundred times before, and would do it hundreds more in the future.

She may have grown up in Connecticut, but since coming to Boston for college at the age of sixteen, Kylie had gone native in every way except for the accent. She still said “Baw-stun” instead of “Bah-stun,” but aside from that, this city was her adopted hometown.

Leftover snow crunched under her feet as she cut across a small green square, her quick steps one short hop away from a jog. While the streets had been cleared days ago, the paths around the statue at the center of this minipark still sported patches of the icy white stuff. Apparently the gargoylelike hunk of granite that anchored the space didn’t merit enough visitors for a thorough snowblower crew, and even in March, snow lingered. The piles of gray and white frost seemed determined to remind everyone in New England that the danger of the harsh winter hadn’t completely passed, no matter what the calendar said.

As often happened during a Boston springtime, the weather today had run the gamut through all four seasons, starting with the frigid bite of winter, thawing to a morning spring and jumping to a midday summer. Now, the late night felt more like autumn, with a chilly breeze and the faint whiff of decay in the air.

Maybe if that thought had lingered for another couple of seconds—decay? Really?—Kylie would have realized how out of place it really was and been ready for the blow. Her luck wasn’t that good, though, and her mind had already turned its focus on getting home and back online to see what had happened to DrkMsgr that made him bail on their meeting. When she sat in front of a keyboard, Kylie could see things most people missed, but in the real world, she occasionally overlooked the big picture.

Like the one where two ski-masked muggers converged on her from the sides and struck her hard enough to send her to the frozen ground with a grunt of surprise. They’d knocked out too much of her wind for her to manage a scream.

For a minute she honestly could not understand what was happening. It wasn’t that she was naïve or anything, but she’d lived in Boston for almost seven years, and she’d never so much as had her pocket picked. And she was still in the Back Bay, for Pete’s sake, one of the ritziest areas of the city. How on earth was she being attacked by a couple of escapees from a gangster movie?

Those thoughts flitted through her head in the space of half a second. Then a kick to her side sent the last gasp of breath choking out of her lungs, and the last functioning neuron in her brain snapped off with what she swore was a muffled squeak. Emese meisse—true story.

Also By Christine Warren

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