After today, my posts here will no longer automatically post to twitter. Twitter has become increasingly difficult to work with for many apps.
I will try very hard to remember to go over and post a link to posts there. But if you’re following along on the serial stories, you may want to make sure you’re subscribed to the blog so that you get posts in your inbox! Or, as Duncan so helpfully pointed out and I totally forgot about, you can subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking the link in the side bar or here.
**Here we are with episode 5! Keir is starting to figure some things out…things I’m sure you already have. 😉 Enjoy!**
Two weeks in, and I was really enjoying being part of a pack. Which apparently was only a surprise to me. It made sense when I stopped and thought about it. The rest of the pack were wolves who had grown up in exactly this kind of environment, so of course they were comfortable with it. And of course they expected others to be too.
At any rate, everyone in the pack did their best to make me feel welcome and included. It was working. I’d thought I would feel like an outsider, the hired help, the cook and the kitchen cleaner who, despite living in the house, wouldn’t be that involved. But each member of the pack took time out of their day just to chat with me. And slowly and surely, I was learning about them.
Cal liked to linger with a coffee after dinner, chatting about nothing but somehow slowly pulling my entire life story out of me. Gwenna was hysterical and usually had everybody in stitches, and Patrick could eat more than everyone else, especially when it came to pasta. Jorge was meticulous about picking up after himself and everyone else, and Leandra was obsessed with nature documentaries. I could go on about all the little things I was learning, but each tidbit of information I gleaned made me feel more part of the group.
And then there was Eoin.
I hadn’t quite figured out his deal yet. I knew he was, along with Callum, a beta. Second in command of the pack, there to both enforce the alpha’s will and intercede on pack members’ behalf. He took his role very seriously, and the reflected in his manner and expression. While I got the occasional smile or laugh out of him, he mostly wore a neutral expression, giving nothing away.
But he was always around. Like always. Unless I was hidden away in my room—which sometimes I needed just to take a break from the overstimulation of so many people—he wasn’t far from me. At first, I thought he was keeping an eye on me because I was new and he didn’t know if I could be trusted. But after the first few days, I realized he was just there because he cared enough to make sure I was all right. It was nice, if a little strange, and I found myself relying on him more and more.
Of course, that also meant he was occupying my thoughts. It began as trying to figure him out, and then became more. There was no denying he was a beautiful man. I was a sucker for shoulders, and Eoin’s were wide and strong. With his dark hair and eyes, and the natural muscle of a shifter, he was definitely a treat for the eyes. But more than that, I saw the tender way he interacted with the other pack members. A smile wasn’t necessary when he intently listened, offered calm and sage advice, and was always ready with a soothing touch or squeeze. If I wanted some of that directed at me, well, it was just because I was witnessing it. Not because I was touch starved. And certainly not because I was jealous.
The man took up much more of my brain than I should let him. Especially while I was cooking. Twice, I’d almost burned something because I’d been daydreaming. And once I did drop a pan that I’d been about to put on the stove. Thankfully, nothing had been in it yet, but if I’d already added the mound of chopped onions, it would have been a disaster.
Fortunately, for once, Eoin seemed to be occupied elsewhere so I could cook without catching sight of him. That, more than anything else, would get my brain working, thinking about him instead of my task. Even still, I was having trouble shoving him out of my mind while chopping vegetables for a veggie tray. The wolves needed a more balanced diet, and I was determined to get some greenery into them.
A particularly stubborn radish, a very sharp knife, and my wandering thoughts were my downfall. before I even realized it happened, the knife slipped and sliced my finger. I couldn’t hold in the hiss of pain, but immediately wrapped my other hand around the cut and hurried to the sink.
Eoin was suddenly beside me, worry marring his brow.
“What happened?” His voice was gruff, almost angry, but by now I knew better than to think it was directed at me.
“I’m fine,” I assured him, letting go of my hand long enough to turn on the water so I could wash the cut. “I just need a bandage.”
“You’re bleeding.” And weirdly, he sounded almost offended by that, as though it was some how an affront to his sensibilities. I couldn’t help but laugh, just a little.
“Which is why I need a bandage. It’s not deep. Barely a nick. I just need to clean if off, put on a band aid, and I’ll be good as new.”
“Come sit down, I’ll get the first aid kit, and call for Jorge, because he’s a nurse and—”
“Hey.” I touched his chest with the hand that wasn’t currently under the water. There was worry in his deep brown eyes, and I needed to fix that immediately. Eoin took a shuddering breath at my touch and his gaze met mine. “I promise. I’m totally fine. It’s an occupational hazard and it’s not a big deal. Okay?”
“You’re hurt.” It was a whine and it sounded more animal than human. I slid my hand up his chest to his neck, and even though it was a reach, I managed to wrap my fingers around his nape and squeeze. It was instinct, or perhaps it was learned from watching the pack, but it helped Eoin settle.
Andreas ran into the room, gaze scanning for threat, and Cal was right behind him. I took a breath but didn’t move from where I was, knowing that for some reason, Eoin needed the contact.
“What’s going on?” Andreas’s deep bass rumble was soothing for reasons I didn’t understand.
“Keir’s hurt,” Eoin whispered, and there was still that edge of worry in his voice.
“I’m fine,” I repeated, keeping my voice low and soft. I held up my hand. “See? It’s already stopped bleeding. Eoin is worrying for nothing.”
For a long moment, Andreas didn’t say anything. Then he approached us slowly and placed his hand over mine on the back of Eoin’s neck. His squeeze was a lot stronger than mine, but it helped calm Eoin further. Those big shoulders dropped and he shuffled a few steps closer to me.
When he spoke, it was directly to Eoin. “It’s time you told him.”
Eoin shot panicked eyes to his alpha, but then the mask he usually wore fell back into place. He simply breathed for a second or two, then gave a single nod.
But that did nothing to relieve my confusion. “Tell me what?”
**Episode 4! Keir is finding his place. But what is Eoin up to? Enjoy!**
I was jittery, nerves jangling in my stomach. Darting between the stove and the counter, I chopped fruit and flipped pancakes. The scrambled eggs were done, slightly undercooked so they wouldn’t get watery as they cooled, and waiting in a chafing dish on the island. I was probably overcompensating since it was my first day on the job and all, but I couldn’t help myself.
Wolves started trickling in just as I finished the first stake of pancakes. They all made appreciative noises as I kept cooking. Making small talk wasn’t my strong suit, especially when I was focused, but I tried my best not to come off as rude as I worked. And waited. Keeping my eye out for one wolf in particular.
Eoin came in just as I flipped a new set of pancakes off the griddle. Instead of adding them to the platter, I plated them directly and darted around the island to hand them over. His eyes went wide for a brief second, and then nodded once in thanks.
My eyes darted around, and then I liked my lips. “I’m sorry about yesterday.”
For a long few seconds, he didn’t say anything. Then he shrugged one big shoulder. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not.” I took a breath. “Can you hang out for a while? I’d like to talk to you but…” I waved my hand to indicate everything.
“Sure,” he said but I got the impression he wanted to say something different. I didn’t know him well enough to guess what, so I took him at his word and left him to his breakfast.
I kept track of who all came in. Even though I didn’t know everyone’s names yet—I’d been introduced but it was a lot of names, and they hadn’t all stuck in my brain—I could count. Wolf shifters, I knew, ate more than a human, and I’d tried to plan accordingly without making too much. Not that I was worried about leftovers. Anything that didn’t get eaten could be put away and I was sure would be eaten later.
Eventually most of the food was gone, and with it, so were the wolves. I appreciated the thanks, and the way Andreas took a few minutes to speak with me before squeezing my neck. But they all had lives and jobs they needed to do and before long, it was just me and Eoin left.
I’d loaded the dishwasher as I worked, and everyone had added their own dishes as well. I turned on the dishwasher so it could complete its cycle, then grabbed some fruit and the two remaining pancakes before joining Eoin at the table. He was sipped coffee and trying not to watch me. I set my food down, but before I dug in, I gave all my attention to Eoin.
Having the time to think last night, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. Even though it wasn’t easy, and I had to take a breath before diving in. “I apologize for my behavior yesterday. I was nervous and out of my depth with the changes, and I misinterpreted your intent. But that doesn’t excuse my attitude and I’m sorry.”
“Okay.” And between the tone of his voice and the hint of a smile, I knew I was forgiven. Relief flooded through me. Which was weird, because I didn’t know his approval in particular meant so much to me.
“Thank you.” I hopped up and grabbed my tablet from where I’d tucked it in a safe spot on the corner of the counter. I flipped open the cover and opened the app I’d found to make meal planning and grocery shopping that much easier. “Since I’m still learning what your pack likes and needs, will you help me?”
Eoin didn’t hesitate. “Of course. Are you, uh, going to eat?”
“Yep! I can do both.” I proved it by popping a strawberry in my mouth. The flavor burst across my tongue, and I made a yummy noise. Eoin must have swallowed wrong because choked on his coffee. I tucked my bit into my cheek to ask, “You okay?”
He waved that away as he coughed. I shrugged and continued eating until he had himself under control. When Eoin was breathing normally again, I focused back on the task at hand.
“Okay, so. Tell me what I need to know.”
“What do you mean?” Eoin still sounded a little hoarse from the coughing. I eyed him to make sure he was really okay and he seemed to be so I answered his question.
“My research let me know that shifters need protein, carbs, and fat to keep your metabolism going. Or rather because your metabolism runs so high. Anyway.” I took another bite and swallowed before I tapped into the app to the meal planning section. “But what are favorite dishes? Things that you know help you all or keep your stomachs full.”
“Andreas likes steak. We all do.”
I nodded, adding that in. “Not a surprise. How about you? What’s your favorite?”
I grinned, because he hadn’t even hesitated. “Yeah. I make a great red sauce.”
“Looking forward to it.” Eoin sat forward so he could see the screen. I tilted it a little so that see it better.
“Here’s some of the meals I thought I could do this week.” I’d prepped somewhat beforehand, so I had quite a list. Eoin reached out to scroll through it, his eyes moving quickly.
“That all looks really good.” His voice was warm and I smiled. “You’re going to feed us like this all the time?”
I snorted out a laugh. “It’s not really that big of a deal. I promise. Okay.” I tapped the icon that would add everything needed to the grocery list. Then I went to that section of the app. “First I’m going to shop the kitchen, and then I’ll know what we need to get at the grocery store.”
“Shop the kitchen?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Anything we already have, I don’t need to buy, right? So I’ll do that and mark it off, and then we’ll have the list to shop by.” I pursed my lips as I looked through it. “I have a feeling we’re still going to have to get a lot.”
“You know, you can place an order and have it delivered. So you don’t have to do all that work.”
My first instinct was to assure him I could handle it, but I bit that back instantly. This close, I couldn’t miss the emotion in his eyes. And my brain whirled into motion, giving me a helpful replay of all my interactions with Eoin so far. That fast, I understood that despite his gruffness, what he was showing me was care. I didn’t know whyexactly—we barely knew each other—but I decided to take it at face value
“I like to see what there is and make my choices.” I grinned. “Besides, you’re gong to help me, right?”
“Absolutely.” His face lit up and my breathe caught. He was usually so stoic and kept his expression neutral. It was surprising but more than that, it made something click in my chest. I couldn’t quite put a name to it but I knew in that instant, something between us had shifted.
**Episode 3. Sorry for the skip last week. Life, you know. Anyway, here’s the next chapter in our saga. Enjoy!**
Andreas was a very persuasive man. Wolf. Alpha? Whatever. Andreas was very persuasive, which is how I found myself agreeing to move into one of the rooms in the “dorm wing” of the pack house even though I’d made it expressly clear I was fine commuting. But Andreas made excellent points the financial benefits, and since I was paying an arm and a leg in rent for my tiny one-bedroom apartment, I caved in the end.
He just seemed so sincere and earnest that I felt bad disappointing him. Ivy, my friend who’d gotten me the interview in the first place, told me that was part of the draw of an alpha, but that since Andreas was a good one, I didn’t need to worry. He would keep me safe and take care of me just like he would any member of the pack, and it was better to just give in. I wasn’t a prisoner, she reminded me, and if for some reason I needed to leave, quit, or move out, Andreas would support that.
I trusted her, and already coming to trust Andreas, so I agreed, packed all my things, terminated my lease, and prepared to move in.
I shouldn’t have been surprised with Eoin was the one to show up at my door with a U-Haul. Or that he barely said a word as he proceeded to use his greater-than-human strength to load it. Or his Tetris-master level skills as he packed everything in. Including most of my furniture, which Andreas assured me I didn’t need but the pack would store for me in case I wanted it in the future.
It was all done so quickly my head was reeling. Eoin clapped me on the shoulder and headed out the door. I had to stop at the leasing office and turn in my keys, so I was a few minutes behind him. By the time I got to the pack house the truck was half empty. It looked like the entire pack was present, and seventeen people with supernatural strength didn’t even a break a sweat and finished the job in a matter of minutes.
I might have been standing there with my mouth open, but I couldn’t seem to move.
The sun suddenly disappeared, and it took me a second to realize Andreas was now in front of me. Our height difference was enough that he cast me in shadow, and I had to tilt my head back to look into his eyes. His warm smile settled me. He lifted a hand as though he was going to touch me, but then seemed to think better of it and let it drop a moment later.
I tried for a smile. “Yes, of course, sir.”
Andreas squinted at me. After a long, tense moment, he shrugged one big shoulder. “We’ll let you get settled in today and order pizza for dinner. You’re expected to eat with us.”
“No, I can—” I stopped abruptly at the look on his face. Right. Don’t question the alpha. “Okay. I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Andreas waved that off. “There’s something else. Eoin tells me it’s not appropriate to make you work every day so tell me which days you prefer off and we’ll make it work.”
“What? No.” I blinked. “No, that’s not what we agreed to. I’m fine working every day.”
The alpha was not impressed. That much was clear when he crossed his arms and stared me down. I mirrored his posture and stared right back. For several minutes, we were locked in a battle of will. Since I wasn’t one of his wolves, I lasted longer than someone else might have, but I was still the one to relent in the end.
“Okay, how about this? One day a week I’ll make breakfast and put together something you all can cook or heat for dinner, then take the rest of the day off. Another day the pack can feed themselves a cold breakfast, I’ll make sure to stock plenty of appropriate things, and I won’t start work until its time to make dinner.”
Andreas creased his brow, clearly thinking it over. He hummed out a sound and then his posture relaxed. “All right. That is acceptable for now. But you will tell me if you need more time off.” He emphasized the point by pointing a finger in my face. But his smile softened the words, and I smiled back.
“Deal.” I held out my hand and the alpha shook it. Then he clasped my shoulder.
“Come on, I’ll give you the tour and show you to your room.”
I dutifully followed along, trying not to openly marvel at just huge the house was. I hadn’t gotten more than a cursory look when I’d been here the other night. It had clearly been big to start. A sprawling ranch style that had big airy common spaces. But it had also been added on to over the years, and now boasted several wings that all seemed to have purposes. One of which had all the bedrooms that Andreas had told me about when we’d talked particulars. That wing was two stories, but I was on the first floor.
The bedroom was large enough for a separate sitting area and its own bathroom. All of the rooms, Andreas explained, had their own bathroom because that was something the alpha and the pack weren’t willing to fight over. I couldn’t blame them at all. It was certainly a nice feature. My room was well appointed, the furniture looked comfortable, and I really liked the sage and brown color scheme. I’d probably like it even better once I got all these boxes emptied and things put away.
“Eoin is across the hall, and Cal and I are on the second floor all the way at the end.” Andreas pointed in those directions then made a sweeping gesture. “But if you need anything, at all, just ask. Any one of my wolves will be more than happy to help.”
“Okay,” I agreed while internally knowing it would take a while before I was able to really be comfortable asking.
“Good. Now, you will also have a pack member who will assist when shopping.” Andreas held up a hand as I opened my mouth to protest. “It takes a lot to feed us and that means a copious amount of bags, lifting, and putting away. I do not expect you to do that all on your own, do you understand?”
He nodded. “Eoin.”
My brown creased. “What about him?”
But my question was answered before I fully got it out when the man himself walked through my door. He quirked an eyebrow, keeping his attention on his alpha and not looking at me at all.
“Help Keir in any way he needs. And coordinate with him on the shopping for this week, which you are not doing today.” The last was directed at me with a stern glace. I held up my hands in surrender.
“Yes, alpha.” Eoin said, still not looking at me.
The alpha squeezed my shoulder and left, patting Eoin’s arm as he walked by. For a long few seconds, Eoin and I stood there in awkward silence.
“Want to tell me why you told the alpha I need days off?” Dammit. I hadn’t meant to say that at all, let alone blurt it out first thing.
Eoin just stared at me, face implacable. “You need to take care of yourself.”
I scoffed. “Don’t worry. You’ll have food on the table no matter what.”
“That’s not what I mean.” And really, it was infuriating how little the man used inflection. His tone was so neutral I had no clue as to what he was thinking.
“Yeah, sure. Okay.” I blew out a breath. “Listen, I need to take inventory of the kitchen and meal plan, so I’ll come find you tomorrow when I’m ready to hit the grocery store.”
I turned away and headed for the nearest box, ready to start unpacking. I was sure my fractious state was because everything was changing, I was unsure and unsteady, and I would feel a whole lot better once I had my things put away. I needed the time to get my thoughts in order and organizing my things would help me organize my brain.
“Alpha told me to help.” Again with the lack of tone. No indication whatsoever.
“I’m fine. I’ve got this.” I took a breath and added, “Thank you.”
Still Eoin hesitated. I could feel him hovering in the doorway, but I didn’t turn to look.
“I’m just…I’ll stick close. Uh, holler if you need me.”
It was the slight hitch in his words, that moment of uncertainty, that gave me pause. I glanced over but he was already gone. I sighed heavily, getting the distinct impression I hurt his feelings. That hadn’t been my intent. I’d apologize later. Once I got my head on straight and could mean it.