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?
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
**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.
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.
“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.
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.)
**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.
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.