I'm a timekeeper. As the seventh son of a seventh son, I was born a timekeeper. I can't really say it's a job I enjoy, but the compulsion to provide my services is something I've just learned to live with. It's often a thankless job. I've learned to live with that as well.
When my brother asks for my services, I can’t deny him, but the moment I step into his office, my life is changed forever. One, my brother has been kidnapped. Two, the shifter he sent to protect me is gorgeous from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet and every luscious inch in-between. It's just too bad he's a moron.
My friend and former platoon leader made me promise to protect his baby brother if anything ever happened to him. Watching him get kidnapped at gun point put that promise into play. I just wish he'd told me that Templar dabbled in black magic, something a shifter—especially a gargoyle—avoids at all costs. Magic users are evil and everyone knows it.
Between magical wards, ghostly spirits, and an insane maniac out to kill us, I know I'm in over my head. I'm just not sure what to do about it. Not only do I need to save my friend and my brother—who died a month ago—but I need to save Templar from himself. It wasn't a choice I had. He's my mate.
~ Templar ~
I'm a time keeper. It's not a job I trained for. It was something thrust upon me at birth. As the seventh son of a seventh son, I was born a time keeper. I can't really say it's a job I enjoy, but the compulsion to provide my services is something I've just learned to live with.
It's often a thankless job. I've learned to live with that as well.
I didn't smile as I opened the door to let in my next client, but I did give a respectful nod. "Please, come this way." I closed the door then led the older woman to the small salon just off the entrance. I never allowed clients any farther into my house than this.
I gestured to the chair across from the one I took. "Please, have a seat." I could tell that she was nervous by the way she twisted the handkerchief in her hand, so I offered her a small smile. "How can I help you today?"
"My husband passed recently and, well..."
I already knew that. I could see the old man's spirit standing just beyond her shoulder. "Go on," I encouraged.
"He passed away in his sleep and I never got the chance to say goodbye. We were married for fifty-two years. I just don't know what I'll do without him." She patted at her eyes with her handkerchief. "I just want a chance to tell George goodbye, to tell him how much I love him."
I leaned forward and held out my hand. "Give me your hand."
There was only one way to bridge the veil between the corporal world and the spirit realm, and only I could stop time long enough for a spirit to solidify so George and his wife could have a few moments to say goodbye.
"You must hold my hand at all times," I told the woman. "Do you understand?"
"You can help me see my George?"
I smiled, a real one this time. "Yes, ma'am, but only for a few minutes and only this once. After you've spoken to him, his spirit will be released back into the afterlife where I'm sure he'll be waiting for you."
She quickly took my hand.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on bridging the gap between the spirit world and the real world. When I heard the woman gasp, I opened my eyes. The spirit I'd seen standing behind the older woman had taken solid form.
So, this was George.
He was older, maybe in his mid-seventies, with gray hair and a handlebar mustache. More importantly, he was staring down at the woman in the chair across from me with a fondness that made this job worth it. I was just sad knowing they would have to wait until she passed before they could be together again.
I tuned out their conversation, and the woman's quiet sobs. While I had to be there to stop time and bridge the gap between worlds, I really didn't need to hear them saying goodbye.
I didn't need to be any more depressed than I already was.
When I felt a small tug at the center of my chest, I knew time was starting again. "It's time."
The couple kissed then stared into each other's eyes for a moment before George's corporal form began to fade. I let go of the woman's hand when she started to quietly sob.
This was the part of the job I hated.
"He'll be waiting for you on the other side of the veil when your time comes."
The woman nodded. "Thank you, Time Keeper."
I stood then escorted the woman toward the front door. I was ready for this meeting to be over. My next appointment wasn't for another hour and a half. I took five appointments a day, if they were scheduled, one every two hours. Each appointment usually only last about fifteen minutes, but I needed the extra time to pull myself together.
"How much do I owe you, Time Keeper?"
I didn't growl, something to be proud of.
"My services are free of charge."
I had relatives over the centuries who had charged for their services and it never ended well for them. My father, also a time keeper, had warned me from a very early age to never charge for the gift fates had given me. I wasn't so sure it was a gift, but I understood what he said. As such, my services were free to any who requested them.
"Thank you." The woman clutched at my hand. "Thank you for allowing me to say goodbye to George. I still miss him, but..."
I awkwardly patted her shoulder. "I'm glad I could help."
As soon as the door closed behind the grief stricken woman, I waved my hand and engaged the locks. I had a little over an hour and a half before my next client arrived. Luckily, tomorrow was Saturday, and I never worked on the weekends unless there was a dire emergency.
I flicked my hands as I walked through the house, turning on a few lights and lighting a fire in the fireplace in the living room. Fall was upon us and there was a slight chill in the air. Even though I had a top-notch heating system, there was something comforting about a roaring fire.
I hated the cold, abhorred it really.
It all stemmed from getting lost in the woods in the middle of winter when I was a small child. To this day, not one understood how I had survived for three whole days. No one believed me when I told them a forest creature had warmed me. They all said it was merely a child's imagination. It wasn't, but if others chose not to believe me, who was I to argue? I know what had happened.
I walked into the kitchen and turned on the teapot. A nice cup of tea and some time spent curled in front of the fire under my favorite blanket would be just the thing to relax me right now. George's wife had been my fourth appointment for the day. I had one more to go before I could relax for the rest of the evening.
There were days when I didn't get a single client. Other days, the phone rang off the hook. It was a fulltime job, though. If it wasn't from centuries of family money building up and amassing more money, I would have been living on the streets.
I groaned when the phone rang until I looked at caller ID and saw that it was my oldest brother. I picked it up, and then held it to my ear.
I rolled my eyes. "Are you ever going to call me Tem?"
I hated being called by my full name. Who named their kid Templar?
My parents were weird.
"I refuse to call you by that ridiculous nickname. Mother and Father named you Templar for a reason. You should respect that."
Yes, I knew. Templar was the name given to every seventh son of a seventh son. Did I mention I would be expected to have seven sons of my own to carry on the family legacy? I was gay. I didn't see it happening.
I sighed. "Did you need something, Markus?"
"I need a time keeper."
"Who died?" I prayed it hadn't been one of my parents or brothers.
"A business associate of mine."
I frowned. "And you need me to breach the veil why?"
"He was killed suddenly and—"
"Is this business or personal?"
"Templar, you should know me better than that."
I thought I did, but maybe I was wrong. "Answer the question, Markus."
"It's personal, Templar. His brother, who is a good friend of mine, wants to talk to him."
"Oh." That made me feel better, but sad at the same time. "Give me a moment to get my appointment book and I will see when I am free."
"I was hoping you could do it tonight."
My shoulders slumped. "Tonight?"
"This is important, Templar."
I sighed—deeply—because I knew I'd do it. Not only was I honor bound to perform my time keeper duties whenever they were needed, but this was my brother asking. "What time can I expect you?"
"I was hoping you could come by the office."
I groaned as my evening plans evaporated into thin air.
"Thank you, Templar."
My brother knew me well.
"I have one more appointment in a couple of hours. I'll head to your office after that."
"I really appreciate this, Templar. This is important."
My brother was a very serious man. As the oldest of all us kids, I supposed he needed to be. I just wished he'd loosen up a bit. He needed to smile more, to laugh a little. I just didn't think right now was the time to mention it.
"I'll call before I leave."
"That would be good," Markus replied. "I'll see you soon."
I hung up when Markus did. There really wasn't anything more to say, not at the moment. Markus didn't often ask me for things so I really wanted to do this for him, even if it meant canceling my evening plans and working later than I normally did.
My brother was worth it.
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