**Episode 17! Did I expect this one to go on for so long? No, I did not. But it’s nearing the end, though I hesitate to say how many episodes are left. Because I’m not so sure. This is what pantsing will get you. This post is ever so slightly NSFW so be aware. Enjoy!**
Walker shifted the moment we were inside and the door was firmly shut. I kept my gaze fixed on Archer, not because I didn’t want to watch my mate shift—though it sounded painful even though every shifter I’d ever known said it wasn’t—but because he seemed to need the reassurance. He was staring at me with an intensity I wasn’t accustomed to. But it was he look in his eye that had me smiling reassuringly. He’d been scared.
“Thanks again for looking out for me, Archer. I really appreciate it.”
He nodded slowly and snuggled Oscar in a little closer to his neck. “She didn’t seem like she was going to…” He shook his head. “It just seemed better if Dad was here.”
“I know. It’s okay. Of course you called him when you were unsure. And like I said, I appreciate the care you showed me.” I walked across the room and clasped his shoulder. When Archer leaned into me, just a bit, I couldn’t help the pride that surged through me. Despite everything, was coming to terms with me being a permanent fixture in his life and I liked that more than I expected to.
“Okay.” He blew out a breath and stepped back, out of my reach. “I’m taking Oscar for snuggles.”
Without waiting for my approval, Archer turned on his heel and headed down the hall. I watched him go with a chuckle before turning my attention to Walker.
A very naked Walker.
“Well, hello there,” I said, trying for salacious and almost succeeding. I waggled my eyebrows as I walked closer.
“You’re cute,” Walker said in a tone that implied I was anything but. “Don’t try to distract me.”
“Oh, but you’re very distracting.” My voice went low, husky, without my permission. “All that lovely skin on display. Come here so I can touch you.”
Walker’s pupils dilated, and he sucked in a breath. He even swayed toward me. Before he caught himself and gave me a veery stern look. “I want to know what’s going on.”
“I will put on clothes,” he threatened.
“Noooo.” I whined, and Walker finally broke with a laugh. When I opened my arms, he surged into them, and we held each other tightly. For a long moment, we stood there just like that. Holding each other and breathing each other in. Walker was all but vibrating with tension, but eventually relaxed enough that I thought we were both settled.
“How much do you know?” I took his hand and led him to the couch. Part of me wanted to get naked too, so we could have this conversation skin to skin. But that wasn’t fair to the gravity of the situation, nor was it fair to Archer. Firstly because he didn’t need to see me without clothes—though as a shifter he didn’t see nudity as a bad thing. But more than that, naked time with Walker always led to other things and no one at all needed to see that, let alone his fifteen year old son.
“Not much,” he admitted as he cuddled in against me. He shivered at the friction of my sweater on his bare skin, but otherwise didn’t react. He pushed his face against my neck for a deep inhale that settled him further. When he continued, he spoke against my skin. “Arch called. Said your old partner was here, and that it was intense and he thought I should come. It was the tension in his voice, that little wobble, that let me know he was worried at best. Scared at worst. I know you can handle yourself, but I shifted and came anyway.”
“I always want you here.” The words were out of my mouth before my brain really processed them. But as I heard myself say them, something settled deep in my soul. Things with Walker had been a whirlwind from the start, but from the moment I’d laid eyes on him, I wanted nothing more than to hold him close and take care of him. I never expected any of this, but it seemed the old adage was right; everything happened for a reason.
The contented sigh Walker let out filled my soul. His voice was low when he murmured, “Good. And we’ll talk about that later. After this.”
Sounded good to me. “You heard what Fiona said?”
“Only about some missing body. Which, man, your job…” He shook his head. “And I inferred they want your help?”
“Yeah.” I debated what to say for a few seconds, because as much as I didn’t want to keep anything from him, I also couldn’t share too many details. “One of our old cases, that Fiona and I worked, has resurfaced. Or parts of it. You heard about the missing body and that they don’t have leads. They want me to take a look with fresh eyes.”
Walker nodded, and I could practically hear his mind work as he digested that. “And you want to?”
“Part of me does, yes. Part of me wants to jump in and work this. Find a lead they haven’t chased yet.”
“Prove to them they made a mistake in reassigning you?” Walker’s voice was soft and kind.
“Not going to lie, yeah, that’s part of it.” I blew out a breath. “But that’s also the same part that doesn’t want to help, because they did this to themselves, kicking me down. They made their bed. They can lie in it.”
“You won’t do that.” Walker kept his voice quiet, but I heard the conviction. He kissed my neck and pressed his forehead against my jaw. “You might think that, because you’re hurt. And that’s understandable. But you wouldn’t do that because you always do the right thing.”
I sat with that for a second. “You think I should do it.”
Walker hummed. “Yes, I do. You’ll regret it if you don’t. One of the things I adore about you is that you have such a strong moral compass. You have a strong ethic code, and maybe it doesn’t match up with the MBI all the time, but you never have to worry that you’re compromising yourself, your morals, or your innate goodness.”
I couldn’t help it. I had to squeeze him tightly to me and just hold him. I loved the way he snuggled in. I kissed his hair, and when he lifted his face to mine, I kissed his mouth. Long and hard and with all the feeling I had. We were both panting when we broke apart.
“I am amazed at how well you get me, even after such a short time. Thank you.”
Walker blushed slightly, but his gaze heated at the same time. “You’re mine, Delaney Willis. I will always understand you and support you. You hear me?”
“I do. And I feel the same. Walker, I wasn’t expecting any of this, but I can’t help but be grateful Fate put us on the same path.”
“Good.” Walker’s gaze glinted with fierceness before it softened. “So hold me a little longer, and tell me what you can about working a case, and then call your ex-partner and go save the day.”