You may have noticed I’m a fan of shifters. Always have been. And don’t get me wrong, I do like me a non-traditional shifter. Show me your elephants or Guinea pigs or dogs or, I dunno, fish. I always find it interesting how these shifter balance their animal selves with the human.
But I will always, first and foremost, be in love with wolves.
Werewolves were always my favorite monster. The thing I should have been afraid of but never was. And as I grew up and the more I learned about the different myths and legends, werewolves cemented themselves in my heart and soul.
Besides there’s no denying that wolves are one of the most majestic and beautiful animals out there.
As I delved into writing PNR, and created my own lore, wolf shifters were what I naturally gravitated toward. And they continue to be where my heart lies.
So you may see other kinds of shifters show up in my books. But it’s mostly gonna be wolves. And I’m perfectly okay with that.
**I’m calling this episode 13, because last one was 12, but I think at some point I messed up the numbering. It’s not that important, I don’t think. But at some point I’ll probably go back and fix things. 😊. At any rate, here’s the next episode of Lane and Walker! At little break from most of the drama, though the drama isn’t done yet. We are creeping up on the end, only a few more episodes left. But for now, enjoy!**
I was standing at the stove, frying ham, sausage, bacon, and eggs, when the barest hint of sound behind me had me turning. Archer slunk into the kitchen, his hair in disarray, looking better than he had yesterday. I was glad to see it.
I offered him a smile. “Hey, morning. How are you feeling?’
“Okay,” he muttered, and then inhaled deeply. I hid my face as my smile turned to a smirk, turning my attention back to the cooktop.
“You scenting me or the breakfast?”
I didn’t miss his snort, though I didn’t know him well enough yet to interpret it. “Both.”
“Fair.” I watched out of the corner of my eye as he shuffled to the fridge and pulled out the orange juice. He twisted off the top and drank straight from the bottle. When I quirked a brow and gave him full attention, he held my gaze, defiance in his eyes.
Archer swallowed loudly, then make a satisfied “ah” sound when he was done. “This one’s mine. Dad doesn’t drink it.”
“Okay.” I flipped the bacon, then stirred the scrambled eggs before shutting off the heat underneath them and pulling them off the stove. I’d already looked through the cupboards, pulling out plates and flatware, and I had serving dishes sitting ready on the counter.
“Did you sleep with my dad last night?”
It was a good thing I was used to schooling my expressions and reactions from years of needing to show witnesses and suspects alike a neutral façade. But internally, my stomach dropped. I finished spooning the eggs into the bowl before I set the pan in the sink, needing to take those few seconds to get my thoughts in order.
Archer’s question hadn’t been filled with judgement or disgust. More curiosity than anything else. He was fifteen after all, and I understood a little bit where he was coming from. All he had was his dad. The pack too, of course, but his mother had left when he was barely a toddler—Walker and I’d had that conversation last night, how she had left to pursue her dreams—and Walker had been the only constant in his life. He was also old enough to understand the dynamics of relationships. So I had to think how to answer.
I turned and the leaned my hip against the edge of the counter and decided he should have the truth. “I slept on the couch last night. But that’s for now. Your dad and I are figuring things out.”
Oscar chose that moment to wander into the kitchen. The last I’d seen him, he’d been napping in a sunbeam on the windowsill in the living room. He caught both my and Archer’s attention as he sauntered over, stood on his hind legs to sink his claws into my knee, and stretch. He yowled.
“Yes, I’ll get your breakfast in a minute. Have some patience.”
Oscar sneezed, turned his back on me, and wound his way through Archer’s ankles, rubbing his cheeks against Archer’s skin. Archer stared at him for a moment, then set the OJ on the counter.
“Can I pick him up?”
“It’s up to him, but I’m thinking yes.”
Archer bent and Oscar started purring the moment the kid had his hands on him. He snuggled right in against Archer’s chest, and didn’t hesitate to give me the squinty eye. I scoffed and turned back to the stove so the various meats didn’t burn. I flipped the ones that needed it, and pulled the sausage off as it was done.
“Are you mates?” Archer took a quick breath. “Because my dad is equal opportunity, and he’s dated, but I’ve never seen him act like he does with you.”
Way to cut to the chase, kid.
I was saved from answering when Walker strode into the kitchen, freshly showered and looking like a snack. I hummed appreciatively as he beelined right for me. He didn’t hesitate to snuggle against my side, and when I tilted my head to give him a smile, he pushed up on his toes and kissed my cheek.
Having greeted me, Walker turned to his son. “Yeah, Arch. Lane is my mate. I’m his. We’re figuring things out.”
Archer stared at his dad for a long moment before he nodded just once. “Lane said. I…I don’t know how I feel about that, Dad.”
Walker stepped back as I turned off burners, but not before he swiped his wrist against my neck. I shot him a wink and put the meat on a platter as Walker moved toward his son. He placed a hand on Archer’s shoulder.
“I love you, Archer,” Walker said, his voice even. “And I want you to be good with this. But I understand if it’s going to take time. Me casually dating is different than me building a life with someone. We’ll work through it. And if you need to talk about it with Anna along with everything else, I’m sure she’ll be happy to help.”
Archer let out a little whine that had Walker chuckling. “Dad, I maybe don’t—”
“No, kiddo. You’re talking to the counselor for however long she thinks is necessary. I know shifting helped. A lot. But trauma—”
It was Archer’s turn to interrupt his father. “Yeah, I know. Fine.” He sighed. “It’s not…I mean, I know Lane is a good guy. Lane, I know you’re a good guy, it’s not that.”
“I know.” I smiled, letting him know I understood where he was coming from. “Take your juice to the table, all right? Breakfast is served.”
“Thanks for cooking, Lane.” Walker nudged his son toward the table, and then gave me another kiss to the cheek before he took the platter out of my hands and followed Archer. I grabbed the eggs and sent them down, then laid a hand on the back of Walker’s neck. “I need to run out to the car and get Oscar’s emergency food. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Walker didn’t answer with words, just a nod, and Oscar let out a loud yowl that I took to mean “hurry up.” He’d settled on Archer’s lap when the teen sat down, and I laughed as I headed outside.
I always kept food and disposable litter trays in the trunk because we never knew when we might be stuck somewhere. I’d been ecstatic when I found boxes that contained litter and folded out to be its own tray. The convenience of it had made our lives easier.
I took a few seconds to steady myself. This was going to be a big adjustment and would take a lot of communication and understanding on all our parts. And I had to remember that it wasn’t just me and Walker involved in this. Archer was too, though to a different degree. And his opinion wouldn’t stop us, but we needed to take his thoughts and feelings into consideration.
I braced my hands on the trunk and just breathed. I’d never dated a man with a child before, so that was a new experience for me. But Archer, fortunately, was old enough to at least try and explain his thoughts. That wouldn’t necessarily make it easier, but at least it would help us all through the process.
It hit me like a punch to the chest. I was all in. I’d been committed already, since Walker confessed we were mates. But feeling it down to my very soul? That was the surprise. I took a breath, steadied myself, grabbed Oscar’s things, and headed back into the house with a newfound purpose.
**Episode 12 for Lane and Walker is here! Our poor confused Lane has some catching up to do in his brain. But as I promised Alex, he won’t hurt Walker. Enjoy!!**
My brain stuttered to a halt and then promptly blanked out. I’d heard what Walker said but it did not compute. Aeron had even mentioned it earlier, but I’d dismissed it. Now, having that confirmation, when I tried to think about it, it was as though my mind skittered away from the idea. I stared at Walker, blinking, unable to speak. Move.Think.
But then he made that hurt sound again, very much like an animal in pain, and it spurred me into action. I reached for him, pulled him to me, and tucked him under my chin. He didn’t exactly melt into me, but he didn’t pull away either.
“I need a second to process this,” I said quietly, going for soothing. When I rubbed Walker’s back, he settled a little more against me. But he didn’t yield completely. “I’m a mage, not a shifter. This is news to me. So I just need to wrap my brain around it. Just give me a moment, okay?”
Walker let out a breath that sounded more like a sigh. He didn’t acknowledge me with words, but he gave a very tiny head nod that bumped against my neck. After a minute or two, he wrapped his arms around my waist and hugged me back.
I tried to sort it out in my head. Tried to make it make sense. But it wasn’t working. I just didn’t have the same context he did. My instincts weren’t as strong, as visceral, as his were. We’d only met that morning. Or really, yesterday morning as it was now after midnight. And the late hour combined with the roller coaster of a day was, perhaps, impairing my processing power.
“So.” I cleared my throat. “Mates?”
Walker pushed his face against the skin of my throat. His voice was muffled. “Yes.”
“How do you know?” I squeezed him tighter to make it clear I wasn’t dismissing him and I didn’t want him to pull away. “I mean, how do you experience that?”
Walker inhaled deeply, as though he was filling his lungs with my scent, and then let out his breath very slowly. He rubbed his cheek along the side of my throat and shoulder. “You smell like mine.”
I opened my mouth to ask what that meant, but then realized he probably couldn’t explain it any better than that. He’d always been a wolf, and scent was a huge part of his make-up. He didn’t have a human frame of reference, just as I didn’t have a wolf’s. To him, that made complete sense. And though I didn’t use my senses the same way he did, in theory, I understood where he was coming from. In the same way, he couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the same reaction as he did. Intellectually, we both understood we were different. But it was harder to conceptualize.
Walker shifted against me, and I realized my silence was agitating him. That wasn’t my intent at all. I slid my hand up his back and into his hair, rubbing at his scalp. It soothed him enough that his muscles loosened. I used my hold to tip his head back so I could look into his rich brown eyes. Damn, he was pretty.
I offered a small smile. “When I first saw you, I wanted to be close to you. I wanted to help you, of course. And I chalked it up to my drive as an MBI agent, my need to see justice done. But it was more than that, even if I wouldn’t let myself entertain that thought.”
Walker’s gaze bounced back and forth as he tried to look into both my eyes at the same time. I could practically see the gears turning in his mind as he sorted that out. Trying to process my words and align it with what he experienced.
“You said…in the car, you said you were drawn to me.”
“I did. I am.” I cupped his cheek, unable to stop myself. Really, I didn’t even try. My thumb had a mind of its own, rubbing against his slight stubble. The way Walker’s eyes fluttered at the touch heated my blood. “But my logical, human brain tried to explain it away as just the need to help you. Because I would want to help anyone who was in your situation.”
Walker took a breath. “Do you still think that?”
I didn’t even hesitate. “No.”
“No?” Walker’s gaze bored into my, and I didn’t look away either. The hope there was plain as day.
“No. It doesn’t explain my need to comfort and soothe and support you. To want to be close to you.” I smiled but took a second to get my thoughts in order. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him in any way, but I also had to be honest. “But the truth is, I don’t know how to deal with all of this. I want you, don’t doubt that. But this is all confusing for me, and I really think we need to take things slowly and talk it out.”
To my relief, Walker nodded. “That makes sense. Do you want to know what I think?”
“I really do.”
“I think Fate put you in m path today, when I needed you most.” He spoke quietly, but with the kind of conviction that rang with complete sincerity. “You were always meant to be mine. We were always meant to be together. And when Archer was taken, Fate stepped in and brought us together.”
I didn’t believe in Fate the same way he did. I knew she had a hand in the universe, but it had never touched my life quite this way. The wolves, though, had a much stronger perception of Fate. That much I knew.
“I like that thought.” I hugged him too me again, and the breath he let out as he sagged against me, knowing I would hold him up, warmed my insides. I was about to elaborate, when I felt Oscar’s call. I’d left him sleeping in the car, but now he was awake and looking for me.
I gently extricated myself from his arms but didn’t step away. His brow furrowed, and I had the urge to kiss his confusion away. We weren’t there yet. Though I knew that time wasn’t far off.
“Oscar is awake. Is it okay if I bring him in?”
Walker’s expression cleared in an instant. “Of course. He’s your familiar. He’s welcome here.”
“Thank you.” I gave into impulse and kissed his cheek, loving the smile that bloomed across his lips. “Be right back.”
I jogged to the door, then outside and to the car. Oscar was standing on the driver’s seat, and when I opened the car door, he immediately gave me an earful at having been left. He was right, of course. I should have scooped him up and brought him inside despite his slumber. But I’d been too focused on making sure Walker was all right.
I picked up the cat, and he batted at my nose in reprimand. I laughed, and gave his butt a nudge so he’d climb up onto my shoulders where he was used to perching. Once he was settled, I strode back to the house.
“You’re never going to believe the twist Fate has dealt us now, Oscar.”
Firstly, the day job is still kicking my butt. Mostly in stress and there’s no need to rehash it all here. But is is taking up a great deal of my mental capacity, and when I get home all I wanna do is play animal crossing and decorate my island and not worry about anything. But despite that…
I finished the sequel to The 12th Witch! It’s been submitted and contract signed. So look for that in October. It’s the story of Justin’s continuing journey of healing. With Cole, and his love, right at his side. I had a heck of a time writing it as for a while I was having trouble getting going. I must have restarted like 4 times. Because every iteration was just very not right. Until it was. I’ll have more details when release gets a little closer.
And that’s not the only thing that will be coming from me. Soft Dom is Coming to Town will be out in December. It’s set in my fictional Landry’s Fall and features friends to lovers with a healthy dose of kink thrown in (if you couldn’t tell from the title.). I adore Garrett and Mason, and I hope you will too.
I haven’t yet cracked into a new story and I’m taking a little break. Hopefully not too long of one. I’m tossing around a few ideas and characters. I have a million plot bunnies to be sure. So we’ll see where that goes. As soon as I can get my writing brain back online.
**I must start again by first apologizing for the delay in story. Part of that is me finishing the sequel to The 12th Witch, which has a deadline. Part of that is the chicanery at the EDJ, which is just…I don’t even have words. But the sequel is done, except for a bit of polishing, and the job is what it is. So here we are, back with Lane and Walker, for episode 11. Enjoy!**
Archer was an adorable wolf. He was smaller than his father, and even in his wolf shape, and had the gangly, long-legged awkwardness expected of a teenager. Even after everyone else shifted back and got redress, Archer stayed as a wolf. And even though I wasn’t a shifter, it made sense to me, that he would want to. After the trauma he’d been through, it was easier to stay in animal form where he didn’t have to think as much. As a wolf, he was all instinct and base emotion. Plus the magic of the shift was healing, and though mental healing wasn’t as quick or complete as the physical, it still helped.
Which is why I had a snoring teenage wolf in my back seat.
“Thanks for taking us home.” Walker’s voice was soft, as though he didn’t want to wake his son.
“Yeah, of course.” I reached across the center console to grab his hand. I gave it a squeeze, and then stroked my thumb over the back of it. I wished I could keep hold of him, but the road was dark and curvy, so I needed both hands. I brought his hand to me and set it on my knee before taking hold of the wheel again. Walker’s soft sigh told me I made the right choice.
It was a relief to be in physical contact with him. It was a strange sensation for me. To need that connection. I’d always liked physical affection, and it had been a part of my past relationships that I really enjoyed. And I wanted that with Walker. But it was more than just want. It really felt like a need, and I didn’t quite know what to do with that.
“I’m going to be honest, Walker. I don’t know what this thing is between us.” I had to take a breath and get my thoughts in order, but as I did, Walker let out a tiny, hurt sound that had me jumping in. “But I know I’m drawn to you. I want to explore what it is. But there’s a lot we need to talk about too, okay?”
Walker didn’t respond, and when I glanced over, I couldn’t really make out his expression. It was too shadowed in the car. But there was a stillness emanating from him that settled uneasily in my gut. Internally, I squirmed, and needed to fix it.
“Up on the right.” He lifted a hand and pointed. “The driveway is on the other side of that oak.”
I put on my blinker, though there were no other cars on the road, and as I made the turn, Walker pulled his hand away. I felt the loss keenly, and a whimper bubbled up in my throat, but I bit it back, not letting it escape. But my resolve hardened, and I was determined to sort this out. I couldn’t imagine leaving this between us.
I parked and turned off the engine. Walker was out of the car in a flash, but I was quick to follow. And I would keep following until he told me, explicitly and in no uncertain times, told me to leave.
Walker didn’t even bother trying to wake Archer, though he did stir a little as his father picked him up. Though Walker wasn’t as tall or muscular as some of the other wolves, he had no problem lifting the wolf. Archer let out a little grumble, but stayed sleeping. I jogged ahead to get the door.
“Keys are in my left pocket. Thanks.” The neutrality of Walker’s tone made my stomach drop. But I didn’t comment as I fished out the keys—in a very polite manner—and unlocked the door. Pushing it open, Walker brushed by me and headed for the hallway. “I’ll be right back.”
I took a breath, holding it for a few seconds, before letting it out slowly. He was coming back, he hadn’t asked me to leave, and that was positive. I was restless, unsettled, and I didn’t know why. It was completely out of character for me. But then again, the whole day had been a roller coaster for me, so it made complete sense.
Except the second I rationalized it that way, my brain totally disregarded it. Yes, the day had been full of twists and turns, ups and downs, but that wasn’t why. It all had to do with Walker, and needing him near, and knowing he was unhappy.
Knowing it was my fault but not what I’d said.
Walker came back, his footfalls nearly silent, and just seeing him helped ease the tension in my gut. The only light was from the lamp beside the couch Walker must have left on, and it barely illuminated his face. The carefully blank expression he wore turned my stomach sour, and I took three steps toward him before catching myself.
“How is he?” I asked, voice low.
Walker’s lip quirked up at the corner. “He’s…okay. Sleep is good for him. He’ll probably shift in his sleep. He’s home, safe and sound, thanks to you.”
And there was another reminder of why this wasn’t the right time. Why I should just support him but not try for anything more. The thought made my stomach cramp. And Aeron’s words replayed in my mind again.
More than that, there was no reason we couldn’t figure this out between us but take things slowly while he and Archer healed.
“What did I say to upset you?” I took a few steps closer and so did he. We were in touching distance now, but he didn’t reach out and I was too anxious to.
“You said you don’t know what this is between us.” Walker kept his voice soft, but I could hear the edge of hurt in it. “I thought it was obvious.”
“Tell me. Please.”
Walker took a breath, then another. He stepped closer, making sure he held my gaze. And then said the word that made the bottom drop out of my world.