Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Here we go! Another episode with Gareth and Owen. I have no idea when this will end. Enjoy!**

I paced, unable to sit. To settle. Owen’s gaze tracked me from the couch but he wisely kept his mouth shut. He, at least, got to go outside. Shifted into his fur and went for runs. I, on the other hand, hadn’t been allowed out of the house in days. Weeks? I wasn’t sure how long it was at this point.

Intellectually, I got it. Bianca was free and Owen, the pack, my brother, even Lane….they all believe it was possible she would come after me. I was worried about that myself, but not overly. I was more worried about Aeron, and I was glad he had pack members staying with him as well. 

“Come cuddle with me.” Owen’s voice was low, cajoling, and even though I adored my mate and what he was trying to do. But I was too cranky. And a little paranoid.

“I need to check the wards,” I muttered, crossing back to the window and placing my hand against the jam. This house had really good anchor points, and I reached deep for the magic, pushing more into the wards I’d built with Aeron’s help. We’d done the same at his place. The magic flared up, bright for a second, then settled back down.

Before I could move to the next point, Owen was behind me, wrapping his arm around my waist and tugging me back against his chest. He kissed the back of my neck. When he spoke, he kept his lips against my skin. “You’ve check and rechecked. They’re the strongest than can be.”

“Have we heard from Lane?” I asked, not relaxing.

Owen, for his part, didn’t even sound frustrated when he answered, despite the fact that I’d asked that at least ten time just today. “Not since yesterday.”

“But they’re sure of where she is?”

“Yes, love. Lane said he’d let us know.”

“But he’s not supposed to.” I sighed and tried to let the tension go. “He’s going out on a limb and skirting the rules by keeping us in the loop.”

Owen made an affirmative noise and squeezed me tighter. After a long moment, I blew out a breath and let him take my weight. He held me up easily, and didn’t try to make me move or say anything else. We stood there for a long time, and I couldn’t resist drawing on our magic just to give the wards another boost. Owen sucked in a breath, and then let out a small chuckle when I was done.

“I like Lane.” Owen said, conversationally. I was a little surprised he didn’t comment on my obsessive need to check the wards.

As a reward for his incredibly patient behavior, I pulled away enough to grab his hand and tug him to the couch. Then I pushed him down, let him get comfortable, then flopped down on his lap. I didn’t quite fit but neither of us cared. He liked me close, and I liked it too. It had been awkward at first but we’d found a way to make it work.

I fiddled with his shirt, rubbing the fabric between my fingers. “I like Lane too. He’s good people. We should invite him over.”

Owen kissed my head. “When everything dies down we’ll see where it stands, yeah?”

“Yeah.” I sighed, closed my eyes, and thunked my head down on his shoulder. “Do you regret it?”

Owen went completely still. Then asked, very carefully, “Regret what?”

“Us. Being my familiar. Me calling you.” I exhaled hard. “It’s been crazy since the second we met, and you certainly didn’t sign up for a judgmental High Mage and a murderous, black magic wielding family.”

“Not for a second.” The conviction in his tone made me relax. It’d be a would lie if I said I hadn’t been nervous about his answer. And when he took hold of my chin and made me look at him, I saw it there in his face. “I love you. And I believe fate put us together for a reason.”

I kissed him, hard and thoroughly, because what else can I do. When we broke for air, I smiled. “I love you, too.”

“Yeah, I know.” He waggled his eyebrows, then kissed my cheek. “We’ll get through this, love.”

I nodded, tucking in close again. “Do you really think she’ll come after me?”

“I don’t know.” His voice was soft, contemplative. “I think Lane thinks it’s a possibility and he’s closer—”

Owen went still, then bodily lifted me and dropped me on the couch. “Stay there.”

I didn’t even have a chance to respond before Owen was at the door, and he pulled it open without hesitation. My heart leapt into my throat, taking in the taunt line of his shoulders, and the claws that tipped his fingers.

I was shocked when Owen ushered Lane in through the door, and opened my mouth to ask what was going on, but Lane’s wide eyes and ghost white face stopped me in my tracks. I stood fast, and Lane’s eyes shot to me.

Lane swallowed hard before he croaked, “She’s got Aeron.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

*And we’re back. The Gareth and Owen saga continues. Enjoy!*

I’d been increasingly clingy, but Owen didn’t seem to care. In fact, I was pretty sure he was enjoying the heck out of the fact that I wanted to be in his space one hundred percent of the time. He was always kissing my head or cheek or neck, and always wrapped me up in his arms when I pushed in close. We spent a good portion of time cuddled on the couch. Soon I’d have to find a job, and Owen would have to go back to work for his family’s construction business but for now, the pack was taking care of us.

If my parents hadn’t been arrested for black magic, and the past few weeks hadn’t been taken up by continual interviews with the MBI, we’d probably be expected to contribute sooner. But we had things going on, and though I felt guilty, I was glad I didn’t have to think about anything else at the moment. Owen insisted I didn’t have to feel guilt.

“This is what pack does, babe,” he said more than once and always with a fond smile.

I was working on it.

In the meantime, I was happy to curl up with Owen, under a warm afghan, and just soak in time with him. I was practically in his lap, half reading a book, with him watching TV, when a knock at the door had us both looking up. Owen wrinkled his nose, but didn’t say anything as he eased me to the side and stood.

“Who is it?” I asked quietly.

Owen pulled a face. “Willis.”

I groaned, not wanting to do this again. It had been so many conversations, day in and day out, and I was just so freaking tired of it. I sat up and put my book aside, but didn’t move off the couch. I wasn’t going to be hospitable. I just didn’t have the spoons.

“Agent Willis!” Owen said as he threw open the door, false cheer in his voice. “To what do we owe the pleasure? You just can’t get enough of us, huh? You miss us?”

Willis grimaced. “May I come in?”

Owen crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, I don’t know—”

“Let him in, sweetheart,” I said with a sigh. Owen could do this all day, and I just didn’t have the strength. Let the agent in so we could get this over with.

The way the couch was angled, I couldn’t see Owen’s face well, but his body language was that of a predator, and he pointed at Willis. “Behave. And if you upset my mate, I’m kicking you out.”

I let out a half-hearted laugh. “Owen.”

“It’s fine. Thank you.” Willis stepped in and to the side, so Owen could shut the door behind him. Oscar wound around Willis’s feet, and Willis scooped the cat up and perched him on his shoulder. He waited for Owen to lead the way, then followed Owen into the living room. 

“No partner today?” I asked, curious. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mathers, since she always acted like we were inconveniencing her,  but they always showed up together.

Willis shook his head. “No. I, uh, shouldn’t be here actually.”

Owen’s face went stony. “What does that mean?”

Willis sighed heavily and sat in the recliner when I gestured to it. Oscar immediately settled into his lap. Willis immediately put his hands on the cat, rubbing Oscar’s ears gently. Oscar squinted and started up a purr I could hear from across the room. 

“Agent Willis?” My voice was tentative.

“I’m not here in my official capacity. Lane is good.” I nodded and Lane smiled. “Look, I’m not supposed to be here, and you’re going to hear this in an official capacity soon. You’ll be asked to come down to headquarters, I’m sure. But I thought you should hear it from me.”

Owen didn’t hesitate to put his arm around me. I was sure he felt the anxiety coming off me in waves. Just the resigned tone of his voice, the careful way he chose his words, had me on edge. I opened my mouth to ask, again, what was going on, but Lane spoke before I could.

“Your mother has struck a plea deal and won’t be going to trial. In exchange for testifying against your father, she’s getting a reduced sentence.”

My gut clenched. “How reduced?”

Lane’s face contorted. “Time served and three years’ probation.”

“What?” Owen and I said at the same time, but Owen’s was a shout and mine was a whisper. Fear clenched in my gut.

“How is that possible?” I managed to ask.

“She had compelling evidence and the Tribunal Prosecutor felt her testimony was more important than prosecuting her.”

Owen growled, low and deep in his chest, causing Oscar to hiss and jump up onto Lane’s shoulder. Owen didn’t care. “What in the fucking hell could be good enough for that?”

“I can’t say.” Lane’s voice was calm, and he held up a hand when Owen made an indignant noise. “I really can’t. I shouldn’t even been telling you at all, but I didn’t want you to be blindsided. I want you to be able to put protections in place.”

I stared at Lane. He’d been kind from the first moment he’d shown up, and he’d done his best to make it as painless as possible. Even though it had, in fact, been pretty painful. He’s reined in his partner when she had gotten too aggressive, and gave me as much time as I needed to answer questions. He’d come here, against protocol or whatever, to break the news that Bianca would be release into the world despite her crimes.

“Hey, Lane? You hungry?”

Owen’s jerked his gaze to me at the same time Lane’s head sprung up. They both stared and all I could do was smile. Pushing to my feet, I held out a hand to Owen who took it immediately.

“Gareth.” Owen pulled me close, then tilted my chin up to look me in the eye. “There is a distinct possibility she’d come after you. Or Aeron.”

I glanced at Lane. “Is she out yet?”

Lane shook his head. “But it shouldn’t be too long. A day or two at most.”

“Okay then, let’s eat. We appreciate you coming to tell us, and we’ll be able to prepare.” I patted Owen’s chest. “I’m gonna call Aeron, okay? We’ll figure it out. After we eat.”

I pulled out of Owen’s embrace and headed out to the kitchen. Nerves roiled in my gut and just the thought of Bianca being free, and wanting retribution on either me or Aeron, was scary. But I had to try not to worry about it. There were things we could do to protect ourselves and we would. Plus, we had the pack now.

“Is he okay?” Lane’s voice drifted in from the other room. 

Owen responded a second later. “No, but he will be.”

Yes I would.

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The Gareth and Owen Serial

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve last checked in with our witch and his wolf shifter familiar. I’ve been focusing on finishing the book I’m working on (mates! Wolf shifter and vampire and human oh my!) and with the holiday madness, the serial has had to take a back seat.

But we aren’t done with them yet.

There’s at least two more episodes in their saga, so now’s the time to catch up. If you haven’t been reading along, you can start with the first part here. I’ve also tagged all the posts with the Gareth and Owen tag so that they are easier to find. So far, it’s a nine part serial, but as I said, there’s a few more to come.

I’m going to try to get the next part up this Friday, and hopefully I’ll be done with the current project at that point, and will be able to focus on Gareth and Owen. The deserve their happy ending too, don’t you think?

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New Release

Out today! Yule Be Naughty, the holiday coda for Asher and Trey!

Sequel to Accepting Submission

Asher and Trey have enjoyed two years of mated bliss. It’s still not easy for Asher to ask for what he needs, but he’s accepted his submissive nature and trusts Trey to dominate him. But with the growing pack and the holidays approaching, Asher finds himself losing touch with his Dom.

In a desperate attempt to gain his mates attention, Asher acts out of character and breaks the rules. He knows it’s the fastest way to get Trey to focus on him. Asher doesn’t want to be selfish, but he knows that their dynamic is important to them both. Being naughty works like a charm. Can these two men finally have the conversation they need to have? And will it be enough to save their love?

You can buy it here from the publisher (it’s on sale!) or of course from Amazon

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Okay! Next episode. Gareth and Owen back for another week. Enjoy!*

Even though Owen took care of me—and very well, I might add—after I dozed for a couple of hours, I woke restless. I tried really hard to settle, to go back to sleep. Owen was breathing softly, deep and even, beside me. Okay, really he was half on me. Seriously, sometimes I really did wonder if he was an octopus shifter.

But I couldn’t find peace, even in my mate’s arms, so I slowly crept my way out of bed, then, as quietly as possible, padded into the living room. The throw blanket I loved was tossed over the back of the couch, and I didn’t hesitate to wrap up in it, settling into the corner of the couch.

I wanted to see my brother. Aeron had finished with his agents later than I had, and we’d spoken briefly on the phone. But it had been late, and I’d been half asleep already so we’d promised to get together tomorrow. Except I was worried about him. Aeron hadn’t had a great relationship with the parents, but it had been better than mine. If I was having a hard time wrapping my head around things, I couldn’t imagine how hard this was for him.

Owen appeared on silent feet, but I was used to him now so I didn’t startle the way I had in the beginning. Had it really only been a couple of months? It felt like so much longer. But in a good way. I tried for a smile, though it felt tremulous, and Owen’s eyes softened. He crossed the room and sat beside me, opening his arms, and giving me the choice on whether or not I wanted to cuddle. The whole time, he didn’t say a word, but I didn’t need him to. With a soft sigh, I changed positions so I was leaning into his embrace. Owen kissed the top of my head.

After a long while, he finally spoke, his lips near my ear and his voice soft. “Why don’t you call him?”

He tapped my temple with gentle fingers so he would know exactly what he meant. I had to laugh then, though it was a weak, short sound. The fact that he knew what was weighing on me at that moment was comforting in a way I couldn’t describe. And that he didn’t think it was weird that I could sort of, kind of communicate with Aeron telepathically was reassuring.

“I’m trying not to,” I whispered, and then shrugged one shoulder knowing full well what his next question would be. “He’s had a long day too. Probably even mor emotionally draining. He needs his rest. And he has Remy.”

Owen hummed, pressing his lips to my skin, but didn’t comment. I appreciated his restraint. If I were to guess, he was more concerned about my well being than that of my brother. Which wasn’t to say he didn’t care about Aeron, just that I was his top priority. Which was really nice.

It was probably only about thirty minutes longer before he lifted his head, gaze zeroing in on the door. My entire body went tense, readying for action. Who was it now? I couldn’t handle anything else. Not tonight. But when Owen didn’t move, and his body remained tension free, I started to relax. He wasn’t worried, so I didn’t need to be either.

I opened my mouth to ask what was going on, but then there was a small burst of magic and the lock clicked open. I sat up fast, because there was only one person who could get through the wards without setting them off. I was off the couch and running before the door fully swung open, and hugging my brother a second later.

“You okay?” I murmured, squeezing him as tightly as I could. Remy moved in so he could nuzzle against where mine and Aeron’s heads met. I gave the cockatoo a quick scritch.

Aeron’s exhale was long and gusty, but he pulled back and gave me a smile that was almost real. “Hell of a day, huh?”

I nodded, pulling him inside before locking the door and resetting the wards. Aeron just kind of stood there, and the haggard appearance told me all I needed to know.

“Can’t sleep?”

He shrugged, and Remy bounced with the motion. “You can’t either.”

We sat down, with me resuming my place on the couch with Owen. Aeron stretched out in the big chair and a half situated on the side. Remy moved down to perch on his chest and put his head under Aeron’s chin. The silence stretched between us.

“Fuck,” Aeron said, low but full of feeling.

“Yeah. I don’t know how we didn’t see it.” I sighed and pushed in closer to Owen. “To be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t try to recruit you. They would have loved someone with your kind of power.”

When Aeron didn’t speak immediately, I sat up, staring at him. He wouldn’t look at me. I glanced at Owen, whose gaze was fixed on Aeron, and then back at my brother.

“I didn’t know what they were doing, but…” He sounded hurt and regretful. “I did, inadverntly, help them. Years ago.”

“What happened?” My heart was in my throat.

Aeron sighed. “I powered them up a couple of times. I didn’t know why they needed it. And I was stupid enough to trust them.”

“You aren’t stupid,” I ground out. “Of course you trusted them. Why wouldn’t you?”

“I should have known something was up. Because they were drained and they needed more and I—” He let out a frustrated growl.

Silence again for a few seconds before Owen tentatively asked, “What does that mean?”

“Magic is a finite but renewable source, right?” I jumped in to explain so my brother wouldn’t have to. Owen nodded and I continued. “So if a witch expends their power, instead of using the slower, more natural ways to power back up, they can get a boost from another witch channeling power into them.”

“Every time, I was in the next room. I had no idea what was going on, and I believed them when they said it was something I’d understand when I was older.” Aeron sounded bitter. “I just channeled power in their direction. Who the hell knows what they were doing in there!?”

“That’s not your fault,” I repeated calmly. I’d say it as many times as he needed to hear it. “You couldn’t have known.”

Aeron waved that away. “By the time I was ‘old enough’ I was already supporting you. Backing you up. Our relationship was strained. Me and them I mean. They had to know I wasn’t going to be down for whatever the fuck—” Another growl, though a very human one. Remy hopped up closer so he could press his beak against Aeron’s cheek.

“Aeron—”

“I have to meet with Agents again tomorrow.”

So we were changing the subject. All right then. I’d roll with it. “Me too.” I shot Owen a loving looking. “My mate was fiercely protective.”

Owen gave a playful growl, going with it. “Damn skippy. And right now, your mate thinks we all need some hot chocolate. Maybe with some Bailey’s?” Owen waggled his eyebrows which got a laugh out of me, and a genuine smile from Aeron.

“Sure. Thank you.”

Owen nodded, kissed my cheek and stood up. He held out an arm. “Hey Remy, wanna come with? We can have some familiar bonding time.”

Remy squawked, head butted Aeron, then flew the few feet to perch on Owen’s arm. Owen started talking to the bird as he carried him into the kitchen. I smiled after them, until they rounded the corner and turned my attention to my brother.

“You okay?” I asked again, this time with a little force behind it.

“No. But I will be. Eventually.”

Yeah, he would. I would too. I’d make sure of it.

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Freebies!

Did you know JMS Books is hosting an advent calendar this year??

Every day, you can download a free book from one of 24 awesome authors. Click here to get caught up, and then check back for a new book to download every day.

Advent calendars are such a fun thing! I remember in my youth, it was Oma’s job to buy us each one every year. Usually, it was the kind with the okay-tasting chocolate inside, but it was still a fun way to count down the season.

And hey, free books! Even if you don’t celebrate, take advantage of the free! 🙂

(And yes, you’ll see me pop up one day, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.)

Make sure you check it out!

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**More Gareth and Owen. At this point, it’s its own novella but I can’t stop. At this point, I’ll just keep going until it’s good and done. Check the past posts to catch up if you need to. Enjoy!**

I heard all the words that the MBI agents were saying, but I was having trouble processing them. Because it didn’t make sense. Witches and mages in general were just…not that evil. To learn that my parents had been actively practicing such insidious magic was unfathomable. Purposefully stripping people of life force and magic to use it for their own gain, raising the dead for goddess knew what, storing and amassing power

“Gareth, babe, look at me.”

Owen’s voice broke through the haze, and I blinked slowly before turning my gaze to him. It wasn’t until that second that I realized I’d disassociated, staring without seeing, totally checking out. His touch to my cheek was nice, but I didn’t like the concern in his eyes.

“I’m fine.”

He snorted out  a mirthless sound but the corners of his lips quirked up. “Liar.” His voice was soft and affectionate.

I touched my forehead to his for just a moment, took a deep breath, then turned my attention back to the agents. Willis gave me a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Are you okay to continue?” 

I nodded, even though I wasn’t really. But I needed to be. Owen must have been reading my scent or my body language, because h moved even closer so he could wrap his arm around me and tuck me against his side. I went willingly. So fast, this connection to him. But I didn’t care. I was grateful for it all the time, but especially now.

“As I was saying, the Lacuna location was found to harbor quite a few artifacts and sacrificial altars. When was the last time you were there?”

I thought back, trying to remember. In my youth, the vacation house on the lake had been a frequent journey. I’d loved it there. But the older I got, the less we went. Then after I failed to call a familiar after my first attempt, the invites had stopped completely.

“Five or so years ago now.” I pursed my lips, still trying to think. “Yes, it had to be that summer. The summer before…” I stopped, unable to continue. “Yes, five years ago.”

Mathers made a note in the pad she had set before her. The next question was hers. “Why so long?”

“My parents no longer wanted me there.” My tone was bitter, and I tried to let that go. I’d made peace with their separation from me long ago. Or at least I thought I had. Mostly. But sometimes it still snuck up on me. Parents were supposed to love you no matter what, and mine certainly hadn’t. realization dawned, and I let out a small gasp. “Oh.”

“You thought of something.” Willis’s deep voice didn’t hold a question.

“So much makes sense now,” I murmured, still working it out.

“What?” Mathers urged, her voice sharp.

“Give him a minute,” Owen snapped back.

I soothed my familiar with a hand on his thigh. “It’s just…I’m putting the pieces together now. I thought they didn’t want to have anything to do with me because of my magic but…” I had to think another minute. But then the picture became clear and I sat straighter. Not losing contact with Owen, but no longer leaning on him.

“Take your time,” Willis said, tone easy as he shot his partner a look.

“They,” I began, unwilling to use the word parents anymore. I cleared my throat. “They started cutting me out when my magic took longer to mature than was normal. I thought that was the reason. I speculate now it was because I wouldn’t be any help to them.”

Mathers nodded. “That’s probably accurate.”

“But then why was your mother an awful bitch to you after I came into the picture?” Owen’s brows were drawn together. “Just having me in your life increases your power. Stabilizes it. We’re still working things out, but you’ll be at least as powerful as Aeron. And he has a butt load of power.”

I had to smile at Owen’s choice of terms. “True. Probably even more so. But it’s just like the council. Bianca was scared of what me having that power would do to her, them…” I waved a hand. “What they were doing.”

Owen frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“I think what Mr. Evans is saying,” Willis cut in. “Is that once he reached his full potential, amplified by having a shifter familiar, he’d see the taint in their souls from the magic they perform.”

I pointed at Willis. “That.”

Owen squinted. “You can do that?”

I shrugged. “I’ll be able to. Aeron can, but he has to do it purposefully. Most witches with his power level can. Once our bond is completely stable, and my power increases, I’ll have to purposefully turn it off.”

“That tracks with our investigation,” Willis confirmed. “We have a few more questions.”

I bit back the groan that wanted to escape. We’d been at this for hours, and I’d lost count how often one of them had said that exact phrase. I knew it was important. I knew talking to them and telling them everything I knew would help build their case, and while I was still conflicted about everything, I very much wanted to see justice done. And done correctly. Bianca and Lawson Evans were not the people I thought they were, maybe hadn’t ever been. I wanted to do my part.

But I was so done.

“You can come back tomorrow.” Owen’s voice was firm and did not invite argument.

Mathers’s eyebrows shot to her hair line, then her mouth set and I knew were in for an argument anyway. Before she could speak, Owen shot her a glare and talked over whatever she would say.

“We aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be here, in this house, when you show up in the morning. After nine, please, as it would be rude to come earlier. Gareth will answer your questions then.”

Mathers’s scowl was epic, but Willis nodded. “Sounds fair. We’ll be back in the morning.”

“Can I see my brother? Is that allowed?” I blurted out. 

Willis glanced at Mathers, and she sighed heavily, standing and removing her phone from her pocket. “Let me make a call.” She left the room.

Willis transferred Oscar to his shoulders, then leaned forward. “We appreciate your cooperation, Mr. Evans. I know this isn’t easy.”

That was the understatement of the century. But I just nodded. What else could I do? I couldn’t believe anyone would be so malevolent as to perform the kind of magic Bianca and Lawson did. I mean, I knew it happened, of course. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the reason for it. It was heinous and evil. And to think the people who brought me and my brother into this world were capable of it was still hard to accept.

They’d never been great people, but that they would go this far? It did not compute. Still. Even after hearing the facts and evidence I’d been provided. Which I knew wasn’t even all of it.

Mathers returned and nodded at Willis. He stood, and the smile he offered was a little more genuine. “We’ll leave you now. You’re, of course, allowed to speak with your brother once he’s done with his interview. We’ll see you in the morning.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even move. Owen jumped to his feet and showed the agents out, and even in my state of shock, I was aware of the lock clicking shut and the flair of magic as Owen reset the threshold wards. I’d given him that ability the moment we moved in, carving the sigil into the doorframe that would respond to his touch and intent.

He was back a second later and didn’t hesitate to take me into his arms. I clung, needing his warmth and strength more than ever. He held me tightly, murmuring in my ear. It took me a moment to recognize the words.

“What can I do? What do you need?”

“Take me to bed.” My tone was a little frantic, and Owen pulled back far enough to look at me. “Hold me and fuck me and love on me. That’s what I need.”

Owen scooped me up, and I wrapped my legs around his waist. In this moment, shifter strength was definitely to my advantage. I wasn’t sure I could get my legs to work.

“I need you to ground me,” I said into the skin of his neck.

“Always.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Okay, so it turns out I accidentally lied about Gareth and Owen’s story being over. Sorry about that. Hope you can forgive me. Check out the blog for the other chapters. Enjoy!**

Owen’s family were open, warm, and supportive the moment we set foot in their territory. It was honestly pretty overwhelming. I knew that there were families like that out in the world, but having never experienced it myself, it was jarring. And since Aeron had stayed behind to deal with my house—since I had to be gone within a time frame and he didn’t—I had to deal with it on my own.

I had Owen of course, but he didn’t know anything different than a physically affectionate and caring family. But we settled in fine, and by the time Aeron joined us a few weeks later, I was coming to accept it. It was cramped in Owen’s parents house though, with all of us and Remy, and both Aeron and I were ready for space.

The little house Owen found was smaller than my previous one, but infinitely more charming. It had a whole cabin in the woods vibe without any creep or horror factor. Wood burning fireplaces in every room except the bathroom, a small workroom I could use to work on my witchcraft, and butted up to a national forest so Owen could shift and run whenever he wanted. Best of all, it wasn’t far from pack territory, and Owen was still able to visit with them at the drop of a hat.

Aeron’s apartment was even smaller, but he and Remy were happy. I was too. I set about making the cottage a new home, and as I found places for all our things—Aeron had come in a U-Haul with both his and my things, and Owen had more pack members with pickup trucks than I could count. We’d been moved in within the span of a day. All in all, I didn’t regret a single thing.

But Owen was still on edge, never leaving me for longer than a few minutes unless someone he trusted was visiting. He was convinced that the whole ordeal with my family and my former coven wasn’t over, no matter how much I tried to assure him it was. I figured it would take time before he was settled.

Not that I minded the constant attention. It usually resulted in hugs, cuddles, and much more. Owen couldn’t keep his hands off me, which suited me fine, because I was the same.

We were having a quiet night in for a change, no visits or pack gatherings, and Aeron was off doing his own thing. The fire was crackling behind the grate, I had a cup of hibiscus tea—which Owen jokingly said looked like blood—and we were snuggled together under a handknitted throw Owen’s grandmother had made for us. I couldn’t stop running my fingers over the rich texture and soft yarn. It was gorgeous.

Owen gave me a kiss on the head and got up to go to the bathroom. I stretched out to soak up the warmth he left behind, and hoped he’d get ideas when he got back. But before I could really settle, I heard a car pull up the gravel drive. I stood and stretched, ready to receive whoever decided to show up now. I was halfway to the door in response to the knock when Owen came barreling into the room.

“Back up. I’ll get it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure it’s not—”

“Please.” His voice was soft and I nodded. “I don’t recognize the scent.”

A moment later, he pulled open the door, keeping it and himself between me and whoever was on the other side.

“Gareth Evans?” The deep voice was unfamiliar.

Owen narrowed his eyes. “Who’s asking?”

“Agent Delaney Willis. This is my partner Agent Fiona Mathers. We’re with the MBI.”

My breath caught. Magical Bureau of Investigation? That was serious. They only got involved in the most egregious of cases. They were almost a legend within the preternatural community. The boogeyman. Heard of, stories told, but never seen.

Except they were here. Asking for me. And I couldn’t imagine why? Panic tripped through my veins, and Owen growled, ready to defend me and keep me safe. But it wasn’t like we could turn MBI agents away. If they had tracked me down here, they could track me anywhere.

“Let them in, honey,” I whispered. I’d tried for a stronger tone, but it hadn’t worked. I was nervous. Okay, I was more than nervous. But I had to keep it together or my familiar and mate would start a riot.

Owen did as I asked, but he wasn’t happy about it. Agent Willis was tall, broad, and clearly a magic user. His aura was so strong anyone would have recognized it. That was if the orange tabby at his feet hadn’t given it away. Agent Mathers was just as tall, but willowy, and almost certainly a shifter.

“Is it all right if my familiar, Oscar, enters as well?”

I appreciated that he asked, but he had to know I wouldn’t disagree. I nodded, putting a hand on Owen’s shoulder and gently guiding him back so the Agents could enter. Owen stepped back, almost knocking me over, but he was determined to keep his body between me and them. I almost wanted to protest, but I didn’t want to raise Owen’s hackles more than they were. And to be quite honest, I wanted to stay safe.

“Thank you.” The agents entered, and turned toward the dining area where we had a small table with a few chairs. Once we were all seated, Agent Willis offered me a smile. It changed his whole face, and made him seem far more approachable.

“May I introduce Oscar to your familiar?”

I couldn’t contain the smirk as I pointed to Owen. It took the agents a couple of seconds to catch on, but when they did, Mathers’s eyes went to her hairline and Willis coughed. Owen preened and I couldn’t help the affectionate smile that graced my lips.

“That’s…unexpected.” Willis did his best to hide his surprise, but wasn’t entirely successful.

“What can we do for you?” Owen’s tone bordered on rude, and I slid my hand onto his thigh to try and soothe him. I was worried too, but there was no point in antagonizing them.

This time, Mathers spoke up. “Mr. Evans, we’re here to speak with you about Bianca and Lawson Evans.”

This time, it was my eyebrows that shot up. I knew the surprise was evident on my face. “My parents? What about them?”

Willis and Mathers exchanged a look. Mathers said, “What can you tell us about them?”

“Uh.” An uncomfortable feeling swirled in my gut, though whether it was because I couldn’t tell them anything or because I didn’t know what was going on, I wasn’t sure. “Not much. I’ll be frank, Agents, my parents haven’t had much to do with me for the past several years. You’d be better off speaking with my brother.”

“Agents are currently speaking with Aeron Evans as well,” Willis confirmed.

And that was the point that Owen’s patience broke. “I don’t mean to be rude, except I really want to know what the hellfire is going on?”

The agents ignored his outburst, but did answer his question. “Mr. Evans, your parents are currently being detained by the MBI for investigation pertaining to their use of black magic.”

I heard the words. But they didn’t make sense. My parents were assholes, but had always prided themselves on being upstanding magical citizens. “I’m sorry, what?”

Mathers narrowed her eyes. “Are you saying you had no idea your parents were involved in blood magic and necromancy?”

I just stared, my mouth open, not being able to process the words.

Beside me, Owen snorted. “Shit, babe, your parents are even worse than I thought.”

I shook my head. “I…I don’t understand.”

Willis sat back in his chair, and his cat jumped up into his lap. “Mr. Evans, we have a lot to discuss.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**This picks up exactly where the last episode left off. And we finally have a conclusion. If you’ve missed any of the other episodes, make sure you check them out first. Enjoy!**

Chaos erupted. Where a moment before Owen stood beside me, there was now a wolf in a t-shirt and kicking out of jeans. A translucent shield, faintly blue, erupted between us and the rest of the council, and I knew it was Aeron’s doing. I was peripherally aware of shouting, subconsciously registered my mother’s voice, but the words didn’t register. Mage globes flared around the room.

But I was strangely calm.

Before walking into this room, I’d been nervous and worried. But now that the High Mage had made her proclamation and the tension was so high it was about to snap, I felt nothing but peace. When I thought back on this later, I would probably realize I was going into shock. If I survived, that was.

“Carla, sit down.”

The whip-crack of a voice cut through everything and an uneasy silence settled in. The High Mage whipped her head sideways, staring at a wizened old man with cotton candy wisps of hair gracing his very wrinkled scalp. Out of everyone on the council, he was the only one sitting calmly like the room hadn’t exploded around him. His gnarled fingers, knobbly with arthritis, were folded before him, and his sharp gray eyes were focused on the High Mage.

“Elder Elwyn,” she began, her voice barely restrained rage. But he held up one of those hands, and her mouth snapped shut. I wasn’t entirely sure it was of her own volition.

“As you recall, the vote must be unanimous. This is by our own tightly held rules.” Elwyn’s voice was soft and slightly shaky, but he seemed wholly unconcerned. “And while there were twelve votes in favor of your ludicrous declaration, I have yet to vote.”

He tilted his head in my direction, and it might have been the reflection off Aeron’s shield, but I could swear he winked at me. some of the feeling came back into my limbs, and it was only then that I realized I’d gone numb. With increasing increments, I came back to myself. Owen’s snarls reached my ears, though it was low, and I glanced down to see the his protective stance. I curled my fingers in his scruff, and he pushed closer to me, but still kept himself between me and everyone else.

“Gareth Evans, state your case,” Elwyn said in that same tone.

A thousand thoughts ran through my head and I couldn’t sort through them. But in the end, it didn’t matter. I knew I was either walking out of here with my mate, or I wasn’t, and there was nothing I could say to defend myself. Because I didn’t need a defense.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say.” My voice didn’t shake and I was strangely proud of that. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t deserve the charges the High Mage—” And if there was venom in the words I couldn’t be blamed, “—has leveled against me. I have tried to call a familiar for years, and it finally happened. Because the magic needed to wait until my familiar and mate was of age to join me. I’m not sure what the problem is.”

“The problem,” Elder Elwyn said, as though we were having a normal conversation. “Is that it takes agency from another being.”

I cocked my head. “But doesn’t the familiar bond do that no matter what? All familiars are sentient creatures, even if they aren’t humans. At least in my case, I can have a conversation with mine in the same language and we can discuss everything. If anything, my bond is more equal than any of yours.”

A murmured went up through the crowd, and I vaguely heard some grumbling agreement. The High Mage, however, would have killed me with nothing but her gaze if she could. I would have been incinerated judging by the fire in her eyes.

“The inherent power in your bond—”

“Oh.” Sudden clarity had me interrupting the High Mage, something I would have never done. Her fingers twitched, her mage glob flaring, and her ferret twittered angrily at me for the intrusion. But I didn’t care. “Oh, I get it now.”

Owen shifted. It only took two blinks, and he was suddenly a man. His shirt barely covered his ass, and though he kept his back to me, I was sure his parts were hanging out for the world to see. I grumbled at that—no one should see him but me—but Owen didn’t seem to care. 

“Gareth?”

I put my hand on his lower back. “They’re scared I’ll try to take their power or some such nonsense.”

His head tilted and he shot me a quick, confused glance over his shoulder. “But you don’t care about that shit.”

I didn’t bother to remind him to watch his language in this hall. At this point, I didn’t care either. “No, I don’t. I don’t care about their politics at all.” I hummed as I thought. “You have several family members who are bonded to witches. Let’s move there. We don’t need this.”

Owen nodded. “I’m down with that. If you’re sure. We’ll discuss it.”

“What about me?” Aeron asked from my right.

“You can come too,” both Owen and I said at the same time.

Aeron’s grin was blinding. “Well, all right then.”

“Mr. Evans.” Elwyn’s voice cut through our conversation, and the three of us turned to give the old man our attention.

“Yes, sir?”

“Am I to understand you’re willing to leave the area?”

I nodded. “Sure. I don’t need…this.” I waved my hand to encompass all that was happening.

He studied me for a long moment. “Well, then this is moot isn’t it?”

The High Mage’s nostrils flared and I was pretty sure she was about to combust. Instead, she breathed deeply and drew down her magic. I could still see it sparking at her fingertips, but she was no longer on the verge of annihilating me.

“The exile stand. You have 48 hours to remove yourself from the district. Should you remain, or return, your magic will be stripped and your bond broken. You will be imprisioned.”

I opened my mouth to argue, or point out the idiocy and hypocrisy of it, but then realized I didn’t want to. Nothing was keeping me here. I loved my house, sure, but I could love another one. My family didn’t care about me, except for my brother, and I had no close friends. All I needed was my mate and my brother to be happy. I could make a new life somewhere else if I had them. My mate, of course, I knew wouldn’t leave my side. So I glanced at Aeron.

“You’re coming, right?”

“Of course.” He nodded, just once, and his expression was determined.

“Great.” I turned my back on the council, knowing that Aeron and Owen would keep us safe as we left. It took no time to get outside and only when we were back at the SUV did I start to shake. Owen pulled me close and then got us both into the backseat where he could hold me.

I blew out a stuttering breath and tried for a laugh. “Well. That was anticlimactic.”

Owen growled as he nuzzled my neck. “Only in that I expected a fight. You were amazing. So calm and collected.”

“Shock,” I muttered, burrowing closer. I needed his warmth. Owen had no problem obliging me, practically pulling me into his lap. If we weren’t in a moving car, I would have climbed him like a tree. But as it was, I was happy to just be wrapped up in his arms. This fast, and he was already my rock. I’d be scared about that except for our bond.

Aeron turned on the engine and put the car in drive. It wasn’t until we were at least a few miles away before he let out a chuckle.

“What?” I finally lifted my head but pressed into Owen when he placed a kiss on my head. I loved that he couldn’t stop touching me.

“Guess we’re starting a new adventure, huh?” He took the opportunity of a red light to turn around and give me an eyebrow waggle. Remy, who’d been silent up till now, let out a happy squawk and bobbed his head.

I couldn’t help the grin that bloomed my lips. I turned to see an answering smile gracing Owen’s. I kissed him, slow and sweet, but filled with the promise of what was to come.

“Yeah,” I said, a foreign but welcome contentment suffusing me. “Yeah. We are.”