This is a scene from Lover in Stone:
Swaying like a lone two by four standing vertical, Angelia glanced straight up into the fierce glint of granite eyes, and clamped her jaw shut. Which did wonders for her balance. Good thing, too, since Merrick scraped her nerves until they sang for him. She didn’t need him knowing it.
But their passage through the sky?
Sheer terrifying exultation, unlike anything she’d ever experienced. The Chimera had gifted her with something wondrous.
Scary, yes. But she’d felt incongruously safe in Merrick’s grasp. She’d forgotten all about his tenuously tamped rage as the air ripped over them, across the surface of his feathers, filling her ears with a sound she could only liken to the strains of a choir. A sound which resonated to the core of her, as though it was a deeply buried memory she couldn’t excavate.
But she’d dig later. Right then, she’d rather think about how being wrapped snug in those singing wings, she’d felt none of the frigid night sky. Only the Chimera’s strength, his heat, the rough skin of his chest against her face, as if he was encased within a film of stone.
Immediately, she thought of his eyes, so like slate, too, and stole another glance up at him, steeling herself against the vision.
He moved before her as naked as Adam. Well-built, powerful, his muscles dragging on bone, flexing as he bent over his pack to retrieve his clothing. She watched transfixed as his spine curved, his ribcage expanding masterfully as he drove his hand into the sack. Two symmetrical scars lined his back. Where he kept his wings?
The Gargoyle, his Chimera secreted from view, seemed innocently unaware of his physique, like he had no inkling to the irresistible draw of it.
Angelia remembered to close her gawping, fly-catching mouth lest she embarrass herself. She was on a very serious, life-threatening mission. Any minute now, she was going to be passing through the Gates of Hell, nothing proverbial about it.
Turning her attention elsewhere, she noticed the bones scattered and half-concealed in the trampled and tufting grass. Like they were the stripped shells of cars at an abandoned junkyard. Ookaay. So, he wasn’t the Guardian in the sense that he took your ticket and let you in. The thrill from her flight drained south, abandoning her like rats from a sinking ship. What she needed was a life raft named ADOS, as in Attention Deficit-Ooh, Shiny!
Look at something else, idiot. Like that cheery sign etched into the keystone of the Archway.
Huh. It didn’t exactly say what she thought it was supposed to. “Why doesn’t the inscription read Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate?” Abandon all faith, ye who enter here.
Merrick pulled the leather of his pants up over his hips before turning to answer her.
“Because Dante got it wrong, and the world accepted it as truth,” he spit out, his anger over the mistake evident, and apparently too fresh, despite the centuries that had passed.
She felt an inkling of it herself. “So, there is hope after all? Why hasn’t anyone amended this?” Angelia knew she sounded a bit shrill, but she couldn’t help it. Dante’s error was colossal, and she couldn’t slow the wild threading of her pulse, the hammering of her heart as realization dawned. “There are people down there who can repent.” Not a question.
“Angelia,” Merrick warned, his tone a mere octave above a growl.
She gripped her pack, like maybe it could defend her. “Yeah?”
Merrick softened. A little. If she hadn’t been sucking up every gorgeous detail of him, she’d have never noticed. “Turn back.”
Quick as a spark, regret flashed in the Gargoyle’s granite eyes, then disappeared.
Well, well, well. Merrick wasn’t all stone. Her father had seen it, too, or he wouldn’t have agreed with the Triumvirate to let her go. Anton trusted Merrick, and so would she.
“I appreciate your concern—I do. But, I’ve got to do this. The Scriptum holds too many secrets to fall into the wrong hands.” She didn’t say that she needed the boost to her self- esteem.
Merrick’s thick muscles stiffened as a growl boiled from the bottom of his lungs.
She would have been a block of wood not to feel the charge crackling through the air, or that growl rubbing across her flesh. Merrick thought she didn’t trust him with the Scriptum.
His anger was justified. The Scriptum was about the Kynd, after all. About him. But, Angelia didn’t trust anyone with such an important relic, not even the members of the Literati. The codex had revealed its secrets to her, even if she was fuzzy about the details.
She felt wholly responsible for the book because it had entrusted her with its encrypted knowledge, and it had been stolen during her whole damsel-in-distress routine. If she hadn’t fainted, it wouldn’t have been taken.
He needed to understand how responsible she felt about that, how compelled she was to right her wrong.
Merrick spun around so all she could see was the length of his broad back tapering to his narrow hips. Which, sigh, were hugged in rich, brown leather. A nice view, but she’d been trying to explain something a little important.
“Hey, I was trying—”
Merrick glared over his shoulder. “Shut it, chickie. We’ve got company.”
Angelia clapped her jaw shut for the umpteenth time already that day.
Another Gargoyle maybe? Or something more dangerous?
She would not look at the bleached out bones scattered around her. Heck, no. Like squirrels gunning it for the nearest tree, her feet scurried her closer to her guide and protector. Feeling safer, she peered around Merrick’s side, and tried to catch a glimpse of who, or what, he was waiting for.