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Staring at the two empty mugs that were likely the last thing her parents had touched before leaving the house, Maria’s vision began to blur.
Then the sound of a throat clearing let her know she wasn’t alone.
Whoever it was, they could go to hell. How dare they interrupt her grief.
“Miss Maria, I’ve found a handkerchief for you.”
“What are you doing here? How did you get in here?” she demanded.
Maria was barely conscious of moving, until her back hit the wall furthest from him.
“What are you?”
Dunstan bowed. “I am a gargoyle, and your protector, Miss Maria. Like I said, I protect the building and those in it. You summoned me when you called for help, and I am bound to serve you until you dismiss me.”
She released a breath she hadn’t even realised she was holding. “I thought gargoyles were hideous gothic downpipes that sat on churches.”
“Those are merely artists’ representations of what lies beneath the building. The true guardians, who come when called, like myself. I can take the form of a grotesque if you wish, but with your permission, I would prefer to be more like a man. The wings are quite heavy, and not really necessary inside.”
Maria nodded slowly, then watched in fascination as those massive wings just faded out of sight, as if she’d imagined them. She wished she’d reached out to touch them, to see if they were real.
“There. How may I serve you?”