Fresh linen. Artificial, but not sickly or overwhelming. Citrus, but softer, not quite as tart. Bergamot? Probably. And something else, something woodsy. Sandalwood? No, not right. Cedar? Yes, that was it.
It smelled amazing. Enticing. Pulling me forward. I wanted to shift, to search it out. I needed to find it. Find them. My focus narrowed down to just that. The scent. I needed to find out who.
It was crowded, because apparently at the lunch rush at a café was the time for me to find someone who smelled so good that every cell in my body reacted. My wolf howled in my mind, demanding I track down whomever smelled so enticing.
It took me a few minutes to sort out the other scents, the bread and coffee and hundreds of other foods and people. And also to figure out how to not look like a creep or a jerk while discreetly scenting it out. But I was driven to do it, to search, and after what seemed like forever—but was probably only five minutes—I finally located it. Sitting there at the table, a sandwich in front of him.
Huh. That was unexpected. I’d never dated a man. But the person in front of me was clearly male. And Owning it. Clearly comfortable in his skin, and casually beautiful. Dark hair, dark eyes, and a chiseled jaw.
And then he looked up. Confusion crossed his features. Probably because I was staring at him like an idiot. After a long moment, he grinned. Looked right at me and smiled widely.
In that moment, the rest of the world ceased to exist. Like literally disappeared. It was only him and me. Our gazes locked. My heart pounded, blood rushing through my veins, butterflies in my stomach. Everything zeroed in on this man, my wolf scratching at my brain, whining and ready to roll over and show our belly.
He stood up, with such grace my mouth went dry. He took a step forward. I stumbled in his direction. And finally I was close enough to catch his scent under the linen and citrus and cedar, I caught the scent of shifter.
Everything in me relaxed. I breathed out. He stepped closer. Touched my neck. My breath stuttered in my lungs. His smile turned soft. My smile was tremulous, but there.
**Here’s a new flash fic, but still PNR, because I can’t seem to stop. It’s all my muse wants to write. Enjoy!**
The wolf in my backyard was not one I recognized, which was saying something because I’d been around the local pack since I was a child. That narrowed it down, though. Either the wolf was one of the relatively new and recent members to join, or he was from a rival pack. Since he was just sitting there, staring at me, with absolutely no aggression, I was guessing the former.
I cocked my head. The big gray wolf mirrored the motion. I smiled and gestured behind me. “You coming in?”
The wolf didn’t move, but I swear I saw his amber eyes narrow. It made me laugh. Because I wasn’t worried about protecting myself if it came to that, and clearly he was there for a reason. Which is exactly what I told him. This time he definitely squinted, and I could practically feel the judgement rolling off him. I didn’t know what that was about but I wasn’t going to play games.
“Look, come in or don’t, it’s up to you.” And with that, I turned on my heel and headed up the steps to the back porch. I hadn’t even made it to the creaky screen door before I heard that familiar sound of paws on wood. I kept my face averted so he wouldn’t see my smirk, and held open the door so he could walk in.
I shut the door behind me, turning to make sure it latched properly, and by the time I turned around, I had a naked man crouched on my kitchen floor. It took me a second, because I’d only met him twice, but my brain finally supplied Gage’s name. I crossed my arms and leaned against the counter, staring him down.
“You want clothes?” I asked casually. Some shifters did, but most didn’t. And since I’d been raised around shifters, I viewed nudity as they did. It was just a state of being, and certainly not always a sexual thing.
“Only if you want,” Gage croaked, his voice still not quite ready to work. It happened sometimes with the shift. I’d seen it often enough.
I gestured with my chin toward the table as I turned to rummage in the fridge. I didn’t have much in the way of protein—some cold cuts and the rest of a block of cheddar—but I grabbed that and the sweet tea off the shelf. The sugar would do him good. I dropped my wares on the table, then retrieved some dinner rolls I had and added that, because carbs would help too. Adding a plate and a glass to my collection rounded everything off, and Gage had a veritable feast to replenish his used calories.
“Thanks, Seth,” he whispered, taking the plate and serving himself, such as it was.
And if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have missed it. But I had been, because I was confused why this man who I’d only met a few times and who had only joined the pack six months ago was stalking me in wolf form. But the way he said my name? I couldn’t put it into words, exactly, the way it made me feel. There was longing there, affection maybe, and almost a reverence. All of that and more I couldn’t even name. And that gave me the biggest clue, even though it seemed impossible.
I let him eat for a few, unabashedly watching him, and Gage didn’t seem to care. At least he met my gaze on occasion and didn’t look embarrassed. His fast metabolism meant that it wouldn’t take him long to gain his strength back. The food disappeared fast, and so did several glasses of tea, before Gage sat back.
“So want to tell me why you were in the backyard?”
Gage shrugged one shoulder. “I can’t help it. I have to be.”
I nodded, knowing where this was going, and not sure how I felt about it. “Were you going to tell me?”
“Probably.” Gage gave me a half smile that died quickly. “Maybe.”
I sighed. I might not be a wolf, but I understood them better than most other humans. I’d been immersed in their culture since I was four. I knew what was happening here.
“Well, perhaps we should get to know each other before we mate, you think?”
That got a small laugh out of Gage, and he shrugged that one shoulder again. I couldn’t decide if the gesture was annoying or endearing, and thought I’d reserve judgement on that.
Gage’s expression turned earnest as he leaned forward. “Whatever you want. You’re mine. I want to make you happy.”
I didn’t comment on that. We’d work on his need to please, because I wasn’t the type to need my partner to cater to every whim. More than that, I wanted him to be happy and fulfilled as well. So we’d deal with that as we got to know one another.
“At least a couple of dates, first. I get that you feel the pull, but it’s not exactly the same for me yeah?” I checked, and he nodded. “But, you know, attraction is definitely there. So we’ll get to know each other and see how we fit.”
Gage’s grin went wide. Mischievous even. “What are you doing tonight?
**A week late, but finally, here’s the conclusion of Jamie and Sean’s story! Thanks so much for following along. If you’ve missed any of the installments, you can check out the tags to catch up. There will be something new next week, but for now, enjoy!**
Were the candles too much? Probably. I didn’t want to put any undue pressure on Jamie—this was a big deal for him, that he was even trying, and he would feel worse if he was unable to go through with it—but I also wanted it to be special. Because he was trying, and he deserved all the pomp and circumstance that went with it.
I’d made his favorite hoping that would make things easier. Spaghetti with homemade meat sauce. Garlic bread. A side Cesar salad. The Pinot Noir was also one of his favorites, and it worked well with the sauce. Everything was set to perfection, to show him how much I cared, how much I wanted this to work. Both the dinner and our relationship.
I just hoped Jamie saw it that way.
I was more nervous about this date than I’d been for any other date before. Which seemed silly considering I knew how solid Jamie and I were. Or at least, how solid we were becoming. We were so much more than this. But I worried about how this would affect Jamie. If he wasn’t able to share a meal with me, would it set him back? Make him feel bad? I was pretty sure I knew the answer.
And I wasn’t certain how to help him if that happened.
I tried to remind myself not to borrow trouble. He’d said he was ready to try, his therapist thought he was as well, and so did I. Going into this with a positive mindset would help, right? Jamie wouldn’t be taking this step if he didn’t think he’d succeed.
But Jamie was mine. My wolf, yes, and under my protection. But my boyfriend too, which added a whole other layer. It was up to me to make sure he was taken care of, and I couldn’t slack for even a moment. I didn’t want to. It was a privilege and an honor to see that Jamie’s needs were met. But meant it was doubly important I made sure that Jamie came through the night unscathed.
Maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself too.
No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than I heard his car pull into the drive. Another glance at the table to make sure everything looked great, and I sprinted to the door to make sure I was there to open it the second he hit the porch. Jamie’s radiant smile was worth the trouble, and when I pulled him into my arms, he came willingly, melting against me with a soft sigh.
The easiness between us was a balm to my soul. I took a breath, let it out slowly, and reveled in the feel of him pressed against me. When Jamie lifted his face, a gleam in his eye, I kissed him, slow and sweet, doing my best to let him know exactly what I was feeling.
When I broke the kiss, Jamie sighed out his contentment. “Sean.”
“Hey babe. How you doing?” I kept my voice low, not wanting to break the mood that had enveloped us.
“Fine. Good.” He glanced at me, a sheepish smile gracing his lips. “Nervous.”
“No reason to be,” I assured him, leading him inside. I kept hold of his hand even as he kicked his shoes off. “It’s all good. We can do this.”
He nodded. “I smell garlic.”
I chuckled and gave him a little tug. “Come see.”
It didn’t take more than a few steps out of the entryway before the table came into view. The pack house was one large open space, rooms that were traditionally separated by walls, seamlessly flowing into one another. The design element had been deliberate, even though open concept floor plans had been all the rage for the past decade or so. This house was much older than that, but wolves were a communal species and we didn’t like to be separated. The house reflected that.
Jamie grinned, and though there was a quick skip in the beat of his heart, it settled quickly. He squeezed my fingers and stepped in closer so our shoulders were touching.
“This looks amazing, Sean. You pulled out all the stops.” The words were teasing, and the tone definitely held a hint of amusement, but his scent was happy and pleased, and I relaxed, knowing I’d made the right choice with the table setting. He liked what he saw and he appreciated the effort I’d made.
“Only the best for you,” I said, meaning every word. Then I didn’t give him a chance to respond, simply led him to the table and pulled out his chair. “Sit, sit. Let me serve you.”
I tried really hard not to make a big deal of it as I poured his wine, filled the small plate with a healthy serving of salad, then heaped spaghetti on the bigger plate. I finished it with a flourish, placing a piece of the warm, buttery garlic bread on the edge of the plate. Once I was done, I served myself and sat next to him.
I’d thought about sitting opposite him, but decided against it when I set the table. I would have loved to watch him, see his face as we conversed, but thought better of it at the last moment. Not only did I not want him to think I was staring at him, and perhaps judging him, but I wanted to be able to touch him.I was a werewolf so I had a thing for touch, but more than that, I as a man had a thing for touching him.
For a second, awkwardness hummed between us. I toyed with the idea of saying something, but in the end, I just dug in and pretended I wasn’t watching him out of the corner of my eye. Between bites, I made silly conversation, relating the story of one of our older packmembers and the trouble he’d found himself in that morning. Jamie laughed at all the right places, and played with his food. Twirling up a bite of spaghetti before letting it go, tearing his bread into smaller pieces and pushing one through the sauce, sipping the wine in the tiniest of motions.
I kept talking and eating, all the while wishing fervently he would take a bite. I was certain that once he did, and the world didn’t crash down around him, he’d be able to take another and another. And then, as I leaned to refill our glasses—though his was only half empty—Jamie did the impossible and take a bite.
I wanted to shout for joy. Tell him how proud I was of him and hug him so tightly he wouldn’t be able to breathe. But something in my stopped me from doing any of that. It was better, I thought, to just go on like it wasn’t a big deal.
At least until the meal was over.
I ate twice as much as Jamie, but it didn’t matter. Because as we talked, he ate. Tiny bites that he he chewed for a long time, but he ate. In front of me. Without having any sort of mental break down.
When I’d cleared a second helping of everything and sat back, Jamie did the same, even though there was still a few bites left of his first helping. He wiped his mouth, and he looked a little green around the gills, but he was smiling too. Tremulous, yes, but a smile nonetheless. His hand shook as he set the napkin down.
When he threw himself into my arms I caught him easily.
He pressed his face down against the skin of my neck, breathing a little fast, so I held him tightly until he calmed somewhat. When he pulled back, his smile was radiant.
“So,” he said with a shaky laugh. “We shared a meal.”
“We sure did.” I couldn’t quite contain the pride in my voice but I figured it didn’t matter. And besides, I wanted him to know how proud I was of him. I cupped his cheek. “The first of many, I hope.”
“Yeah.” His voice was hardly more than a whisper. “Yeah, I think so.”
It was a huge step forward, and we both knew that. It wouldn’t be all smooth sailing, and we’d have setbacks, I was sure. But this was the first meal together, and before long, I had every confidence Jamie would be eating it the pack, able to put the worst of his trauma behind him.
Jamie kissed my neck, then pulled back and gave me an eyebrow waggle. “The important questions is, what’s for dessert?”
Snow and Mistletoe is the story of wolf shifter Adam and his fated mate Colby.
And the beginning of the Cauldron Creek Series!
Wolf shifter Adam White has never worried about finding his mate. If it happens, it happens. Until the moment he lays eyes on Colby Carter and Adam’s entire world shifts. He knows he’s looking at his mate, even if he can’t be sure until all his senses are engaged. But Adam didn’t expect his mate to be human. And he certainly didn’t expect his mate to dismiss his claim so easily.
Colby has a solid reason for saying no, but he can’t deny the pull between them. When the truth comes out, Adam is still willing to get to know Colby, and Colby wants the same. But it’ll take time before they take the leap to solidify their bond. Adam pulls out all the stops, including bringing Christmas to the middle of July heat, to show Colby he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make Colby happy.
When a medical scare forces Colby to reevaluate what he wants, he’s all in. As long as Adam is. Adam knows Colby is meant to be his, and the more he’s gotten to know the man, the more he wants him. Fate may have decreed Adam and Colby were meant to be, but it’s never that simple. Can these two men find their way to a future together?