Malakai (Stone Society #13) - Faith Gibson
Manaia straddled his kiko’o, waiting for the sun to share its glow with the world as he did every morning. His brothers, Keemo and Taine, were with him on their own wave riders, silent in their contemplation. Being the youngest of seven, Manaia admired all his brothers, but he was closest to these two. Probably since they were nearer to his age. They didn’t worry about the curse the way Manaia did. They treated him as though he were a normal Gargoyle. They assured him he would grow to be a strong male like their father, who also bore the seven birthmark. The Auspice of Sevens was something he’d always known about. His father had told him the meaning of the special mark they shared for as long as he could remember.
Their parents didn’t treat Manaia any differently because of it. Some of their Clan would mutter about fire when they saw him, but it was always with reverence, not fear. When he asked his father about it, his tamu would only say it was because Manaia had a special fire inside that burned brighter than it did in anyone else. Maybe it was the reason he was more drawn to the sun than the moon. Where others felt the call to le masina each time she glowed in the darkness, Manaia felt restless when le la shared her brightness after long hours of sleeping.
With the first tendril of daylight, Manaia’s breath caught in his chest. He was fifteen years upon the earth, and never had the sunrise been anything other than peaceful. This morning, something was different. Wrong. Manaia rubbed at the birthmark, which burned from the inside out. He must have made a noise because his brothers were paddling toward him, disturbing the water. He tried to wave them off, but he couldn’t find his voice.
“We need to get you home, Uso.” Keemo slid off his board, treading water next to Manaia’s knee. Taine had phased, his wings spread out behind him. Manaia didn’t understand what was happening until Keemo explained, “Your transition is upon you. We need to get you out of the water. I will carry you, but we must go quickly.” Keemo phased in the water, and using his powerful wings, surged from the ocean, plucking Manaia off his board at the same time. The pain was excruciating, yet Manaia couldn’t take his gaze off le la. His eyes burned as he stared into the orb, and when Keemo angled his body in such a way Manaia could no longer look, Manaia cried out. He needed the fire like he needed his next breath. The fire was his breath. Without it, he would suffocate.
“Tamu!” Taine called out to their father. “Manaia, it’s his time!”
He was cold. So cold. Where was his blessed sun? Where was the heat? Muttered words by too many voices filled his mind. Voices he didn’t know but recognized all the same. One voice was strong amongst them – his father’s. The words shouldn’t make sense, but Manaia was soothed with the chant of the Sevens. All those who had come before him. The seventh sons of seventh sons. Every one of them had gathered for this day. Had come together in his mind to see him through his pain.
The voices blended until they became one voice – that of his beast.
I’m with you now.
The torment gave way with his shifter’s words, and Manaia embraced the strength to transition. When he opened his eyes, Manaia found himself on the shoreline. Wings unfurled. Fangs digging into his bottom lip as claws reached toward the glorious sunlight shining down upon him. With a thought, his fangs retreated into his gums, and he licked the blood from his lip. It tasted of fire. Of strength. Of rightness. This was who he was – Manaia Palamo – seventh in a long line of sevens. He was Manaia Palamo – fire Gargoyle.
Malakai crossed his wings over his head to shelter him from the downpour. He knelt atop a four-story building, peering in a window across the street. From this vantage point, he had the perfect view inside Presley Pierson’s living room. From what he could tell, the woman lived alone. This was the fourth night in a row he had followed her home and invaded her privacy. From the moment she walked into Hartley’s, he had scented his mate on her, but it was faint. Since it didn’t appear she lived with someone, that meant his