**Episode 6! Rowan and Luca are back again! Things are moving in the right direction for these two, but we’re not done with the heavy emotion yet. Make sure you click on the tags if you need to catch up. Enjoy!**
Dinner had been good, filled with nice conversation and comfortable silences. I liked that neither of us felt we had to fill silences, and that we were able to just sit in each other’s company. Ireally liked the way Luca looked at me. Like I was something precious. Now that I new what to watch for, it was plain as day. The soft affection in Luca’s expression, in his eyes, warmed my insides. Made me feel good. Special.
After Luca paid the bill—he’d insisted, but I hadn’t fought too hard—we decided to take the long route back to my house in order to further enjoy the weather. I didn’t hesitate to slip my hand into his, and I loved that his big, warm, calloused palm felt so good against mine.
The sun was creeping below the horizon, washing the sky in dusky purples and pinks and warm gold. With that came a chill in the air, and I absolutely used the opportunity to snuggle closer and steal his warmth. Shifters in general ran hot, and I wasn’t exactly cold myself, but Luca was emitting heat like a furnace and I loved that.
Luca let out a contented growl and wrapped his arm around me. I stumbled, but he held me up, and it only took two steps for us to fall into sync again. I couldn’t stop the happy little hum, and didn’t even try. I wanted him to know just how much I was enjoying this.
“Rowan, let me ask you something.” Luca blew out a breath. “And you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to or you’re not ready, okay?”
I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. I had a feeling I knew where this was going, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk about it. But Luca had a right to know, because this thing between us wasn’t casual and if my baggage was going to be too heavy for him, then I needed to know now. I didn’t think that would happen, but you never knew.
“Okay.” My tentative tone couldn’t be helped.
“Okay.” It took him a second to continue on, and he held me a little tighter before he spoke. “I know your previous pack was…not good. But will you tell me what happened? Just as much as you’re comfortable.”
I snorted out a small laugh. Not good was an understatement. And he’d put the qualifier on there. He was such a sweetheart, and for just a second, I had a pang in my heart that I hadn’t realized that before. I mean, I hadn’t been ready for anything before, but I still felt like we’d wasted time.
I didn’t say anything for a long moment, trying to sort out how I was feeling. I caught sight of the park ahead and I gave him a gentle nudge in that direction. It had some pretty paths to walk along, but really, I was aiming for the bench next to the willow. It was one of my favorite places in the world, so peaceful and calming, and I needed that right now.
Once we were settled, I snuggled back in. Luca let out that happy grumble again, and I threw one leg over his knee just so I could get closer. Luca seemed perfectly happy with that, placing his warm hand on my thigh.
“So, I was born into that pack, you know that right?” I peeked up at him and saw his nod, so I fixed my gaze on the middle distance so I could tell this story. I couldn’t get the words out if I was looking at him. “The alpha was a tyrant, to put it bluntly. He was mean and abusive. He ruled by force, physical I mean, and he didn’t hesitate to beat us whenever he wanted. For any infraction, real or perceived.”
This time, Luca’s growl was decidedly not happy, and even though I still couldn’t look him in the eye, I patted his chest to try and soothe him. He tugged me in even tighter, and it was as though he was using his very body to protect me.
“I learned early on to make myself small, to be as unobtrusive and unseen as possible. It didn’t always work, and we never knew what would set him off. I never knew.” I had to work to not get lost in the memories, to not let the emotions overwhelm me and pull me back. Taking a few seconds to just breathe helped. The way Luca’s scent filled my nostrils helped even more. Deciding that was enough information for now, I settled my forehead against his neck. “But I got out. I ran when the opportunity presented itself, and ended up finding a bear shifter that helped. She contacted Tom and…”
Luca slid a hand up into my hair, rubbing my scalp at the back of my head. It was so soothing I had no trouble breathing, and I made a mental note if I needed to talk about this in the future, that snuggled up and half in Luca’s lap was the best way to do it. He kept me calm and grounded.
“Anyway, lots of therapy and the support of a good alpha, and I’m okay now.” I huffed out a breath and made myself look up, so I could see his eyes. “I’m still a work in progress. PTSD and trauma response don’t just go away. But I’m better.”
Luca moved slowly, telegraphing his motion, but I wasn’t scared of him and didn’t pull away. He cupped my cheek with his other hand. His thumb made soothing circles against my skin.
“Thank you for sharing that with me.” His voice was a low rumble that made me want to crawl into his chest and live there. “I know it wasn’t easy. And I promise you right now, I’ll do everything I can to help you.”
I smiled. “I know. You’re actions have shown that.” I leaned forward, bringing our lips closer. My body was warm, and not just because of the heat he was putting off. The more I got to know him, the more I wanted him. I licked my lips and watched his expression turn wicked.
“Kiss?” His breath was a hot wash against my skin.
“Please.” It was almost a whimper.
Luca kept control, keeping the kiss sweet and easy. Gentle, but deep, making sure I felt all of it. He tasted like steak and beer and him, and I wanted to roll around in it. It was everything a first kiss should be, and set my soul on fire.
We pulled apart just as the sun set completely, disappearing completely. I was breathing hard, more from the emotions than the kiss itself. Luca didn’t say a word, just tucked me back against him. And we sat there cuddled up as the world went dark and the stars came out.