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Gargoyle's Challenge Excerpt

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UNEDITED excerpt
Copyright: 2005 N. K. Foxx

Sergi could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on as he dropped the newspaper on his desk.  Swiveling in his oversized leather chair he looked out at the New York skyline from his fortieth story office.  The next time he saw Jean De LaRue the younger Protector would get a serious piece of his mind, that was if he didn’t strangle him first.  When he agreed to the hair brained notion of running an ad in the newspaper he’d thought Jean would place a discreet feeler in the personals, not take out a full page advertisement on the front page of the New York Times.

            Like clock work his private line rang.

            “Sergi here,” he announced.

            “What the hell is going on?” Alexi practically bellowed into the phone which only aided the dull throbbing.  “Did you see the newspaper?”

            “Yes,” he rubbed his left temple willing the migraine to go away.  “When Jean came to me about the ad-”

            “Came to you, you mean you authorized this?”  If possible his voice rang even louder.

            Sergi continued in the normally calm manner he was renowned for.  “I discussed with him the feasibility of placing some sort of advertisement.”

            “I can’t believe you of all people would okay this?”

            “I didn’t know he would get the front page of the New York Times,” his Russian accent became more pronounced, a true sign of his irritation.

            “The New York Times?  I’m looking at the Chicago Sun Times.”

            Both men cursed in tandem.

            “Where is he?”  Alexi growled.

            “France, he wanted to be there for the birth of his nephew.”

            “Or maybe runaway from the fall out.  Leave it up to a De LaRue to cause more trouble for us.”

            “Watch it Alexi,” Sergi warned. 

            “Whether you call them friend or not you know I speak the truth.  So what would you like to do now?”

            “What can we do but deal with the consequences?”

              Alexi swore under his breath again.  “I’ll do my best to assess the damage he’s done.  He may have placed other ads.”

            Great, Sergi thought, he’d be willing to bet money that the other Protector had done just that.

            He looked down at the paper that sat so harmlessly on his desk:

Ebony Beauties wanted to marry rich bachelors.

Must be willing to relocate

Age: Unimportant

Criterion: winged shaped birthmark. 

Tattoos are not acceptable!!!


            Jean had even gone so far as to list an 800 number, one of Sergi’s private numbers to be exact.  If the little weasel knew what was good for him he’d stay in France for the next two centuries and hope that he didn’t hunt him down.

            By the afternoon the 800 number’s mailbox reached maximum capacity with its designated forty voicemail slots filled.  He learned why later when a frustrated Alexi called him back in a rage.

            “He took out an ad in every major city in the western world not to mention several industrialized African nations?” he greeted. 

            Sergi closed his eyes against the implications.  “What’s done is done.  I’ve taken the liberty of calling a temp service, we can use them to screen the calls for potential candidates.”

            “You’re serious?” 

            “Of course, it’s not the method I would have preferred but we can’t undo it.”

            “Well we could sure as hell ignore it,” Alexi said after regaining some composure.

            “And potentially miss out on locating Fledglings?”

            The silence on the other end let Sergi know that he had struck home.

            “Okay,” the other man agreed reluctantly.  “What do you want me to do?”

            “Get ready to start interviewing.”

            “How did I know you would say that?”


*  *  *

Between her fit of giggles Aman re-read the front-page ad, this time to her co-worker and friend Samantha Jennings.

            “It has to be a joke.”  The woman gasped jerking the paper from her hands to read the ad.  “Some kind of April fools prank, or maybe a casting call for some new reality show.”

            “Whatever it is do you know how many desperate women are going to actually respond?” Aman asked.

            “Thousands, kinda like the movie, you know the one where the guy advertised to get married in order to get his inheritance,” she remembered with a laugh.

            “Oh yeah.”  Aman recalled.  “And all those women chase him around like money grabbing gold diggers.  Well that’s actually the group they’re appealing to with crap like this,” she pointed to the paper.

            Samantha looked wistfully.  “I wonder what these guys look like.”

            “Probably old, decrepit perverts with stock in viagra.”  Aman shook her head.

            “Your such a pessimist.”

            “Oh come on, do you really think some hunky rich guys would need to advertise in the newspaper for women, get real.”

“Stranger things have happened, and I can’t believe you used the word hunky.” 


The red head tucked a lock of wavy hair behind her ear.  She regarded her friend quietly, not surprised at the woman’s reaction.  Aman Thomas would be the last person to give in to fairy tale notions, she was definitely one person firmly grounded in reality.  Hell you couldn’t even let her pass a romance section in a book store without her going on some tangent about ‘how grown women shouldn’t perpetuate the propaganda of such idiotic drivel.’

            Sometimes Sam admired her, ‘don’t need a man to make me happy’ attitude, wishing she could adopt some of that into her own personality.  Four months and three ex-boyfriends surely couldn’t be a good omen of things to come.  She just couldn’t figure it out; men were attracted to her, a little too much in fact.  They were drawn to her petite 5’2, classic features, alabaster skin and flaming red hair.  Hell, most even thought her freckles were adorable, but the mystique usually didn’t last long and she found herself out there again searching for Mr. Right. 

            “I’ll tell you one thing, this is one birthmark bearing sista that won’t be replying,” Aman huffed, following her friend into the locker room.  They’d just completed another eight-hour shift at the New York delivery company where they were employed and were about to put in a grueling hour of aerobics.

            Sam rolled her eyes.  “Why am I not surprised?  You know the old saying, man cannot live by bread alone.”

            “Well I prefer the motto, if you want drama at bay, keep the damned men away.”  Aman retorted finding an empty bench in front of a row of lockers.

            “I believe lesbian activist adhere to the same motto,” Sam informed

            “Smart women, but I’m not planning to be a switch hitter if that’s what you’re implying.”

            “So what, asexuality for the rest of your life?”

            “Nope, I’m sure that in the next ten years someone will develop an android that can meet my standards, until then.”  She wiggled the fingers on her right hand.

            “You’re sick, you know that.” 

            “Sick that’s a matter of opinion, but drama, disease and kid free definitely,” she snapped her fingers to punctuate the statement.

            “I’m done talking to you.”  Her friend laughed tugging off clothes. 

            A little over an hour later the women parted ways in the subway station, Aman heading to her Bronx studio apartment, while Sam made her way to her parents midtown home where she’d resided off and on for the last twenty nine years.


            “Un! You sure are wearing them pants girl.”  A black teen commented as Aman hopped on the train, preparing for the long standing only trek.  She rolled her eyes letting the young man know that any further comments just might get him cursed out.  She was accustomed to remarks like that, had endured them her entire life.  She was what brothers admiringly referred to as ‘a thick’ sista, a woman with a little extra meat on her bones.  At five foot ten that meat was proportioned in all the right places.  Her long shapely legs curved upward to nicely rounded hips and an ass that had men doing a double take.  Her waist dipped properly on her elongated torso, rounding up to broad womanly shoulders.  Her breast were full, some might even say buxom.  She secretly considered the perfect size C’s her best asset. 

Physically she was attractive, her round caramel colored face enhanced by pleasingly full lips, pert nose and Asiatic eyes that were the color of honey.  She wore her relaxed hair cropped short, not wanting to deal with the fuss of long tresses or sport a weave like so many other sista’s opted for this day and age.  Over all she had no complaints, secure in the woman she’d become and eagerly looking forward to the woman she hoped to be, that was if she could focus and finish her damned bachelors degree. 

Completing her undergraduate studies and getting her teachers certification was a dream of hers long overdue.  At thirty-two she was tired of putting her life on hold for everyone else.  She’d struggled through high school to work for her family because an alcoholic mother and absentee father didn’t see the necessity of providing for their three offspring.  She continued to help support a sister four years her junior when the eighteen year old became pregnant and the father decided that he’d rather play than pay.  As if that burden wasn’t enough her younger brother had received a partial scholarship to UCLA.  Although he didn’t ask her there was no way she was going to let him miss out on an opportunity that she would have loved for herself. 

            Eight years later her younger sister, now happily married and working as a paralegal in a prestigious Manhattan law firm, was pregnant with her second child, while her still single brother, practiced medicine in Los Angeles.  Not bad for a couple of kids from the projects.   As a token of their appreciation for all of her hard work and sacrifice they both decided to pay for her to go to college and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.  Not one easily moved, Aman cried for two days after her siblings sprung the surprise on her thirtieth birthday.  

Now after two years, she would be receiving her commencement from the local community college, graduating with honors in her major of education.  She’d been accepted to NYU and was scheduled to begin in the fall full time, which meant cutting back on hours at work.  Her life was finally heading in a direction that she wanted, sure things would be tight, but if she worked enough overtime in the summer she would be able to make it through the ten months of school none worse for the journey.


Chapter Two   

Aman pulled the loaded dolly through the front glass double doors of the skyscraper, easily maneuvering inside before the heavy translucent objects slammed on her parcels.  It was a particularly muggy day in the city, the kind that left you gasping for air if you were unfortunate enough to be outside, and running your air-conditioned full blast if you were lucky enough to have one.  All highly unusual for an April afternoon.  Hell just last month the city had begun to thaw, no one expected this type of weather until June.  Until yesterday it was the most talked about piece of news.

“Hey Joe,” she greeted the security guard.  He was one of the favorites on her route, an elderly Middle Eastern man with the snappiest sense of humor she’d ever come across. 

“Hey yourself Aman.”  Came his standard accented reply.  “What do you have for me today?” he asked tearing his eyes away from the portable T.V. that sat obscured on his granite desk between surveillance screens.  

“I’ll need six signatures, I have another load in the truck,” she informed.

His brows furrowed. 

“Do you need any help?” he asked already rising to his no more than five foot three inch frame.  Aman suppressed a smile at the thought of the frail man trying to lift even the smallest box from her truck.

“No, I wouldn’t want to take you away from your post.” 

He pondered her response, nodding his agreement as an after thought. 

“Anything good on the boob tube this morning? she queried stacking boxes to the side of his desk. 

“Everyone is buzzing about this advertisement in the New York Times.  Apparently it has posted in several high profile newspapers around the world,” he supplied glancing briefly back at the television before checking each package, noting which department would need to be called on each item.

“You’re kidding me,” she gapped, leaning over the counter to get a look at the anchor people as they went on.

“…well if I met the criterion I would probably call,” the brunette female newscaster smiled prettily.

“I know I would.”  The older male anchorman add jovially.  “And for any of you ladies who might have missed that number before, here it is.”  The screen switched blazing an 800 number.

“How’s that for free publicity?”

Aman shook her head at the screen.

*  *  *

Sergi’s headache from the day before hadn’t subsided even with the extra hour of sleep and morning work out regiment he put himself through.  He’d opted to take a cab into the city this morning not wanting to fight with New York’s perpetual rush hour traffic.  He didn’t look forward to the numerous messages he knew awaited him, either business or those generated by the ads placed.  Not only did he have to contend with the responses from Jean’s little endeavor, but the media had grabbed hold of the story, flashing the phone number before and after commercial breaks.  He’d nearly fallen off of his treadmill that morning as he watched the Early Edition.  To make matters worse Alexi had him on speed dial and seemed to be calling every hour on the hour.  Before the day was out he would need to hire at least three more temps to screen the volume of calls, remember to buy stock in Tylenol and….

Sergi pushed through the revolving doors so distracted that he forgot to hold back on his supernatural strength.  The force of his shove propelled the man in front of him through the glass turnstile, with him immediately on his heels.  Leaping over the fallen man he found himself thrust firmly against the short clad backside of a very leggy, very irate woman.

“What the…” the woman exclaimed trapped between the high desk and the wall that was the man behind her.

“I’m so sorry,” he began taking a step back to allow the dark skinned female the opportunity to turn around.  The rest of his apology was cut off as the extremely beautiful and angry face of the woman came into full view. The very sight of her had his manhood thickening. 

“Hey why don’t you watch where you’re going next time,” she reamed craning her neck to glare up at the giant of a man in front of her.  She looked prepared to give him the what for, like only a native New Yorker could, but paused in mid sentence.


 Aman’s heart drummed frantically against her chest, a sudden throbbing emanating from a spot where her birthmark would be.

He was gorgeous, she thought, staring at the most awe striking green eyes she’d ever seen.  Were they natural she wondered or some oddly colored contact.

“You know you could at least help the poor sap you plowed over,” she admonished, recovering quickly.

“What?”  His brows furrowed, making him look as if he didn’t fully understand her.  She picked up on the accent and decided to gesture this time with her statement. 

“Help him,” she pointed, to the man who had already managed to scramble to his feet with little damage to his person, although his brief case looked as if it had seen better days.  The black, rectangular object lay askew with its contents strewn across the glossy granite lobby. 

“Good lord!” he exclaimed looking over his shoulder, the chaotic mess seemed to propel him into action.

“I’m sorry about that,” he began, and Aman noted how clearly he spoke, definitely no English barrier there.

“It’s perfectly alright sir.”  The man dismissed as he hurriedly gathered his papers.  “I can get these.”

“Nonsense,” the larger man continued his assistance, hazarding a look-up at the woman who stood scowling at him.  His gaze seemed to hesitate on her legs traveling slowly up to appreciatively.     

            “Be right back Joe,” she said to the guard, feeling the sudden need to put as much space between the stranger and herself.