Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Okay, so it turns out I accidentally lied about Gareth and Owen’s story being over. Sorry about that. Hope you can forgive me. Check out the blog for the other chapters. Enjoy!**

Owen’s family were open, warm, and supportive the moment we set foot in their territory. It was honestly pretty overwhelming. I knew that there were families like that out in the world, but having never experienced it myself, it was jarring. And since Aeron had stayed behind to deal with my house—since I had to be gone within a time frame and he didn’t—I had to deal with it on my own.

I had Owen of course, but he didn’t know anything different than a physically affectionate and caring family. But we settled in fine, and by the time Aeron joined us a few weeks later, I was coming to accept it. It was cramped in Owen’s parents house though, with all of us and Remy, and both Aeron and I were ready for space.

The little house Owen found was smaller than my previous one, but infinitely more charming. It had a whole cabin in the woods vibe without any creep or horror factor. Wood burning fireplaces in every room except the bathroom, a small workroom I could use to work on my witchcraft, and butted up to a national forest so Owen could shift and run whenever he wanted. Best of all, it wasn’t far from pack territory, and Owen was still able to visit with them at the drop of a hat.

Aeron’s apartment was even smaller, but he and Remy were happy. I was too. I set about making the cottage a new home, and as I found places for all our things—Aeron had come in a U-Haul with both his and my things, and Owen had more pack members with pickup trucks than I could count. We’d been moved in within the span of a day. All in all, I didn’t regret a single thing.

But Owen was still on edge, never leaving me for longer than a few minutes unless someone he trusted was visiting. He was convinced that the whole ordeal with my family and my former coven wasn’t over, no matter how much I tried to assure him it was. I figured it would take time before he was settled.

Not that I minded the constant attention. It usually resulted in hugs, cuddles, and much more. Owen couldn’t keep his hands off me, which suited me fine, because I was the same.

We were having a quiet night in for a change, no visits or pack gatherings, and Aeron was off doing his own thing. The fire was crackling behind the grate, I had a cup of hibiscus tea—which Owen jokingly said looked like blood—and we were snuggled together under a handknitted throw Owen’s grandmother had made for us. I couldn’t stop running my fingers over the rich texture and soft yarn. It was gorgeous.

Owen gave me a kiss on the head and got up to go to the bathroom. I stretched out to soak up the warmth he left behind, and hoped he’d get ideas when he got back. But before I could really settle, I heard a car pull up the gravel drive. I stood and stretched, ready to receive whoever decided to show up now. I was halfway to the door in response to the knock when Owen came barreling into the room.

“Back up. I’ll get it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure it’s not—”

“Please.” His voice was soft and I nodded. “I don’t recognize the scent.”

A moment later, he pulled open the door, keeping it and himself between me and whoever was on the other side.

“Gareth Evans?” The deep voice was unfamiliar.

Owen narrowed his eyes. “Who’s asking?”

“Agent Delaney Willis. This is my partner Agent Fiona Mathers. We’re with the MBI.”

My breath caught. Magical Bureau of Investigation? That was serious. They only got involved in the most egregious of cases. They were almost a legend within the preternatural community. The boogeyman. Heard of, stories told, but never seen.

Except they were here. Asking for me. And I couldn’t imagine why? Panic tripped through my veins, and Owen growled, ready to defend me and keep me safe. But it wasn’t like we could turn MBI agents away. If they had tracked me down here, they could track me anywhere.

“Let them in, honey,” I whispered. I’d tried for a stronger tone, but it hadn’t worked. I was nervous. Okay, I was more than nervous. But I had to keep it together or my familiar and mate would start a riot.

Owen did as I asked, but he wasn’t happy about it. Agent Willis was tall, broad, and clearly a magic user. His aura was so strong anyone would have recognized it. That was if the orange tabby at his feet hadn’t given it away. Agent Mathers was just as tall, but willowy, and almost certainly a shifter.

“Is it all right if my familiar, Oscar, enters as well?”

I appreciated that he asked, but he had to know I wouldn’t disagree. I nodded, putting a hand on Owen’s shoulder and gently guiding him back so the Agents could enter. Owen stepped back, almost knocking me over, but he was determined to keep his body between me and them. I almost wanted to protest, but I didn’t want to raise Owen’s hackles more than they were. And to be quite honest, I wanted to stay safe.

“Thank you.” The agents entered, and turned toward the dining area where we had a small table with a few chairs. Once we were all seated, Agent Willis offered me a smile. It changed his whole face, and made him seem far more approachable.

“May I introduce Oscar to your familiar?”

I couldn’t contain the smirk as I pointed to Owen. It took the agents a couple of seconds to catch on, but when they did, Mathers’s eyes went to her hairline and Willis coughed. Owen preened and I couldn’t help the affectionate smile that graced my lips.

“That’s…unexpected.” Willis did his best to hide his surprise, but wasn’t entirely successful.

“What can we do for you?” Owen’s tone bordered on rude, and I slid my hand onto his thigh to try and soothe him. I was worried too, but there was no point in antagonizing them.

This time, Mathers spoke up. “Mr. Evans, we’re here to speak with you about Bianca and Lawson Evans.”

This time, it was my eyebrows that shot up. I knew the surprise was evident on my face. “My parents? What about them?”

Willis and Mathers exchanged a look. Mathers said, “What can you tell us about them?”

“Uh.” An uncomfortable feeling swirled in my gut, though whether it was because I couldn’t tell them anything or because I didn’t know what was going on, I wasn’t sure. “Not much. I’ll be frank, Agents, my parents haven’t had much to do with me for the past several years. You’d be better off speaking with my brother.”

“Agents are currently speaking with Aeron Evans as well,” Willis confirmed.

And that was the point that Owen’s patience broke. “I don’t mean to be rude, except I really want to know what the hellfire is going on?”

The agents ignored his outburst, but did answer his question. “Mr. Evans, your parents are currently being detained by the MBI for investigation pertaining to their use of black magic.”

I heard the words. But they didn’t make sense. My parents were assholes, but had always prided themselves on being upstanding magical citizens. “I’m sorry, what?”

Mathers narrowed her eyes. “Are you saying you had no idea your parents were involved in blood magic and necromancy?”

I just stared, my mouth open, not being able to process the words.

Beside me, Owen snorted. “Shit, babe, your parents are even worse than I thought.”

I shook my head. “I…I don’t understand.”

Willis sat back in his chair, and his cat jumped up into his lap. “Mr. Evans, we have a lot to discuss.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**This picks up exactly where the last episode left off. And we finally have a conclusion. If you’ve missed any of the other episodes, make sure you check them out first. Enjoy!**

Chaos erupted. Where a moment before Owen stood beside me, there was now a wolf in a t-shirt and kicking out of jeans. A translucent shield, faintly blue, erupted between us and the rest of the council, and I knew it was Aeron’s doing. I was peripherally aware of shouting, subconsciously registered my mother’s voice, but the words didn’t register. Mage globes flared around the room.

But I was strangely calm.

Before walking into this room, I’d been nervous and worried. But now that the High Mage had made her proclamation and the tension was so high it was about to snap, I felt nothing but peace. When I thought back on this later, I would probably realize I was going into shock. If I survived, that was.

“Carla, sit down.”

The whip-crack of a voice cut through everything and an uneasy silence settled in. The High Mage whipped her head sideways, staring at a wizened old man with cotton candy wisps of hair gracing his very wrinkled scalp. Out of everyone on the council, he was the only one sitting calmly like the room hadn’t exploded around him. His gnarled fingers, knobbly with arthritis, were folded before him, and his sharp gray eyes were focused on the High Mage.

“Elder Elwyn,” she began, her voice barely restrained rage. But he held up one of those hands, and her mouth snapped shut. I wasn’t entirely sure it was of her own volition.

“As you recall, the vote must be unanimous. This is by our own tightly held rules.” Elwyn’s voice was soft and slightly shaky, but he seemed wholly unconcerned. “And while there were twelve votes in favor of your ludicrous declaration, I have yet to vote.”

He tilted his head in my direction, and it might have been the reflection off Aeron’s shield, but I could swear he winked at me. some of the feeling came back into my limbs, and it was only then that I realized I’d gone numb. With increasing increments, I came back to myself. Owen’s snarls reached my ears, though it was low, and I glanced down to see the his protective stance. I curled my fingers in his scruff, and he pushed closer to me, but still kept himself between me and everyone else.

“Gareth Evans, state your case,” Elwyn said in that same tone.

A thousand thoughts ran through my head and I couldn’t sort through them. But in the end, it didn’t matter. I knew I was either walking out of here with my mate, or I wasn’t, and there was nothing I could say to defend myself. Because I didn’t need a defense.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say.” My voice didn’t shake and I was strangely proud of that. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t deserve the charges the High Mage—” And if there was venom in the words I couldn’t be blamed, “—has leveled against me. I have tried to call a familiar for years, and it finally happened. Because the magic needed to wait until my familiar and mate was of age to join me. I’m not sure what the problem is.”

“The problem,” Elder Elwyn said, as though we were having a normal conversation. “Is that it takes agency from another being.”

I cocked my head. “But doesn’t the familiar bond do that no matter what? All familiars are sentient creatures, even if they aren’t humans. At least in my case, I can have a conversation with mine in the same language and we can discuss everything. If anything, my bond is more equal than any of yours.”

A murmured went up through the crowd, and I vaguely heard some grumbling agreement. The High Mage, however, would have killed me with nothing but her gaze if she could. I would have been incinerated judging by the fire in her eyes.

“The inherent power in your bond—”

“Oh.” Sudden clarity had me interrupting the High Mage, something I would have never done. Her fingers twitched, her mage glob flaring, and her ferret twittered angrily at me for the intrusion. But I didn’t care. “Oh, I get it now.”

Owen shifted. It only took two blinks, and he was suddenly a man. His shirt barely covered his ass, and though he kept his back to me, I was sure his parts were hanging out for the world to see. I grumbled at that—no one should see him but me—but Owen didn’t seem to care. 

“Gareth?”

I put my hand on his lower back. “They’re scared I’ll try to take their power or some such nonsense.”

His head tilted and he shot me a quick, confused glance over his shoulder. “But you don’t care about that shit.”

I didn’t bother to remind him to watch his language in this hall. At this point, I didn’t care either. “No, I don’t. I don’t care about their politics at all.” I hummed as I thought. “You have several family members who are bonded to witches. Let’s move there. We don’t need this.”

Owen nodded. “I’m down with that. If you’re sure. We’ll discuss it.”

“What about me?” Aeron asked from my right.

“You can come too,” both Owen and I said at the same time.

Aeron’s grin was blinding. “Well, all right then.”

“Mr. Evans.” Elwyn’s voice cut through our conversation, and the three of us turned to give the old man our attention.

“Yes, sir?”

“Am I to understand you’re willing to leave the area?”

I nodded. “Sure. I don’t need…this.” I waved my hand to encompass all that was happening.

He studied me for a long moment. “Well, then this is moot isn’t it?”

The High Mage’s nostrils flared and I was pretty sure she was about to combust. Instead, she breathed deeply and drew down her magic. I could still see it sparking at her fingertips, but she was no longer on the verge of annihilating me.

“The exile stand. You have 48 hours to remove yourself from the district. Should you remain, or return, your magic will be stripped and your bond broken. You will be imprisioned.”

I opened my mouth to argue, or point out the idiocy and hypocrisy of it, but then realized I didn’t want to. Nothing was keeping me here. I loved my house, sure, but I could love another one. My family didn’t care about me, except for my brother, and I had no close friends. All I needed was my mate and my brother to be happy. I could make a new life somewhere else if I had them. My mate, of course, I knew wouldn’t leave my side. So I glanced at Aeron.

“You’re coming, right?”

“Of course.” He nodded, just once, and his expression was determined.

“Great.” I turned my back on the council, knowing that Aeron and Owen would keep us safe as we left. It took no time to get outside and only when we were back at the SUV did I start to shake. Owen pulled me close and then got us both into the backseat where he could hold me.

I blew out a stuttering breath and tried for a laugh. “Well. That was anticlimactic.”

Owen growled as he nuzzled my neck. “Only in that I expected a fight. You were amazing. So calm and collected.”

“Shock,” I muttered, burrowing closer. I needed his warmth. Owen had no problem obliging me, practically pulling me into his lap. If we weren’t in a moving car, I would have climbed him like a tree. But as it was, I was happy to just be wrapped up in his arms. This fast, and he was already my rock. I’d be scared about that except for our bond.

Aeron turned on the engine and put the car in drive. It wasn’t until we were at least a few miles away before he let out a chuckle.

“What?” I finally lifted my head but pressed into Owen when he placed a kiss on my head. I loved that he couldn’t stop touching me.

“Guess we’re starting a new adventure, huh?” He took the opportunity of a red light to turn around and give me an eyebrow waggle. Remy, who’d been silent up till now, let out a happy squawk and bobbed his head.

I couldn’t help the grin that bloomed my lips. I turned to see an answering smile gracing Owen’s. I kissed him, slow and sweet, but filled with the promise of what was to come.

“Yeah,” I said, a foreign but welcome contentment suffusing me. “Yeah. We are.”

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Here is part five! We are clearly not done yet. Tell me what you think of Gareth and Owen’s continuing saga. Check out the blog for the previous parts. Enjoy!**

The summons came in the middle of the night by way of witch globe. I wasn’t surprised. I mean, I was startled because I was warm and cozy, sound asleep and wrapped around my mate. Or rather, he was wrapped around me. Since solidifying our bond, Owen hadn’t moved more than two feet away for me. And the way he clung in bed made me think he was an octopus shifter instead of a red wolf.

Not that I minded in the slightest. 

But the appearance of the witch globe in my—our—bedroom was shocking but not surprising. The witching hour was called that for a reason, as many who were magically inclined were at the height of their power. It woke me from a dead sleep, the pulse of magic thrumming through me and pulling on mine. I gasped as my eyes popped open, but Owen’s arms just tightened and he pushed his face against the back of my neck.

“Ignore it,” he mumbled into my skin.

“We can’t,” I whispered.

Owen growled, then grumbled, then kissed my nape in a way that made me shiver. “We could.”

“It’ll just get worse, until it’s physically painful and I have no choice but to comply. Get up, please. We need to go.”

The growl Owen let out was deep from his chest, and I didn’t need to look to know his fangs were out and his eyes had changed. I couldn’t dwell on that though, because if I did, I’d be tempted to drag him back down and…

Yeah. There was just something about him, all cranky and possessive, that just did it for me. It didn’t feel smothering or dangerous in any way. Instead it was clear he was being protective without wanting to own me. I was his but he didn’t control me. Not that I would mind a little control.

No. Couldn’t go there right now.

Owen inhaled deeply, shoving his nose right against where my shoulder joined my neck. “Gareth, you can’t expect me go anywhere with you smelling like that.”

I flipped over and Owen allowed, pulling me in the moment we were chest to chest. I kissed him quickly, even if it was full of heat, and pulled away when Owen wanted to take it further. We really didn’t have time for that.

“Get up and get dressed.” I nudged his nose with mine. 

Owen complied, at least with the getting out of bed part. “Call your brother.”

“Already on it.” Aeron and I had a link through our magic, something that had found us when we were young. Right before he really hit his power growth spurt, we’d been working a rudimentary tracking spell and something happened. We’d never really told anyone about it, because we’d never heard of anything like it. Aeron still researched it on and off, trying to find the reason why. I didn’t really care about the why right now, because it allowed me to send thoughts to him, even though he lived on the other side of town. I felt him wake, felt the acknowledgement, and his urgency. Aeron masked it after a second, trying to be reassuring, but I knew he was just as worried about this as I was.

Owen was dressed, shoes on, by the time I came back to myself. He was waiting patiently close by, and I knew by his stance he was on alert. Warmth suffused my stomach, just knowing he was watching out for me. it had been a long time since I’d had anyone to put me first. My brother had my back, and that was great, but I wasn’t his sole priority. I couldn’t be and I didn’t want to be.

Maybe it was our growing bond. Maybe it was his protectiveness. Maybe it was just who he was. But whatever it was, I felt as though I could take on the world and survive. Or the Witches Council, as the case may be.

I dressed in record time, and though I was nervous, I was scared. Not like I’d been a few days ago. I trusted Owen and Aeron. I trusted myself. If the worst came to worst, we’d be able to get out of there. Even if it meant leaving this place I’d called my own and hiding from the council for the rest of our lives.

“Hey.” Owen nuzzles his face against my jaw. “Stop it. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I don’t like the defeatist scent coming off you. We can handle this.”

I was so sure about that, but I tried for a smile anyway. Another kiss, quick and easy in a way that was becoming familiar very quickly, and then we were out the door. Aeron was just pulling up to the curb, having rushed over, and we climbed into his SUV. 

The closer we got to council headquarters, the more nervous I got. To the point that Owen reached out and laid a hand on the back of my neck. I tried to settle. I really did. But I couldn’t stop worrying. We were walking in to a situation where we would be faced with thirteen very powerful people who were used to being obeyed and getting their way. I had power, more now that Owen and I had bonded. Aeron’s power even exceeded my own. But those people inside that building? Half of them were ruthless, set in their ways, and older than dirt. The other half liked the control they had, even if there were, perhaps, more persuadable.

The witch globe had followed us, and stopped beside the car when Aeron parked. I got out, and Owen was instantly at my side. Which was a good thing because the surge of magic from the globe nearly made my knees buckle. Owen was right there to hold me up, though, and he growled uselessly at the magical globe.

“Ready?” Aeron’s voice was soft, tense, but firm.

“No.”

Aeron gave me half a grin that didn’t last. Owen nosed my temple in an affectionate gesture. I gripped his hand so tightly that if he hadn’t been a shifter, I might have broken bones. He didn’t seem to mind. As one, we entered the council hall and were met by the whole council, seated and glowering in full regalia. My parents and other members of my extended family were sitting in the observation area at the far end of the room. I ignored them completely.

“Gareth Evans, you have presented yourself to be judged for your misuse and abuse of magic.” The High Mage intoned, her voice a clarion bell. “Prepare for your magic to be stripped, your bond broken, and your exile.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**I know it’s a lot later than normal, but I can’t be blamed. Ninetendo updated Animal Crossing New Horizons and dropped a DLC and I can’t help it if that’s where all my attention has been. But better late than never. Here’s part 4 of Gareth and Owen’s story! Check out the blog for the past parts if you need to catch up. And we’re not done yet. Enjoy!**

“That’s a very bad idea.”

Aeron scoffed at my statement, waving the hand that wasn’t petting Remy. “Don’t be a baby. Pull up your grown up pants.”

Beside me, Owen growled, the sound not quite animal in his human chest. If I hadn’t know he was a werewolf, that sound would have clinched it. And just that quick, I slid my hand around the back of his neck and squeezed to soothe him. He leaned into me, though he never took his gaze off Aeron. When he spoke, his words were slightly distorted, as though his fangs were starting to shift.

“Watch. Your. Words.”

Aeron dismissed that as well, not intimidated in the least by my werewolf almost-mate. It had been two days, and we were getting to know each other. I’d quickly learned how much touch meant to him, and how it calmed him. To be fair, it worked wonders for me as well. As long as it was Owen doing the touching. 

Not that there had been that kind of touching yet. But I knew when we got there, that would be just as effective. Probably more so.

A nudge to my side had me startling back to the present. Owen’s smirk was weirdly sweet. “Focus, dear.”

I fought not to blush. “I’m focused. On the fact that I don’t want to die. And confronting the Witches Council will produce that result.”

The growl again, this time deep from Owen’s chest, and the way his eyes flashed, I knew the wolf was at the surface. He hauled me close, and I let him. Not only did I have no desire to fight him, but I knew that if I did, it wouldn’t go well for me. He was ten times stronger than I was, even with my magic.

“You will not die. I won’t allow it.” Owen’s voice was deep and broken.

“You won’t.” Aeron’s tone was earnest “It’s the best bet. We go in there as a united front. At least part of the council will respect you just for showing up. By their own laws, they have to let you plead your case. And with both of us bonded now, our powers combined would be enough to at least get us out of there if things go south.”

I shook my head, panic climbing in my chest. “They could put down a witch trap, or strength their wards, or station enforcers at the doors or—”

Owen pressed his forehead to my temple, cupping the opposite cheek with his hand. Instantly I relaxed. Not completely, but just having him right there helped me to calm. We breathed together, and I took in the scent of him. Usually, smell wasn’t as big a thing for me, and maybe it was part of the bonding process, but scent mattered right now to me more than it ever had. He smelled like my body wash, and my detergent, but underneath that, something earthy. Like the forest.

I pressed a kiss to his wrist, because it was right there, and he sucked in a deep breath. It caught in his chest, stuttering it out on the exhale. I breathed it in, suddenly needing him to give me the air. It was as though a switch flipped, and my entire being was tuned entirely into him. 

“Oh.” It was a gasp and a word, and Owen pressed against me.

Distantly, I heard Aeron clear his throat. We ignored him. He muttered something about leaving, but we ignored that too. It didn’t matter. Nothing did. Not my impending doom, or my brother, or even the outside world. Suddenly theonly thing that was important was Owen.

“Give me consent now, or tell me to stop, because things are—”

“Yes,” I murmured. Then stronger. “Yes, please.”

Owen kissed me, hard and fast, owning my mouth. Lips, teeth, tongue. Devouring heat and sensuality. He owned me in that kiss, and I let him have control, giving everything he asked for and moaning with it. I was only partially aware of pushing closer, of him pulling me into his lap, of his tight grip on my hips that was sure to leave bruises I would relish later.

I whimpered when he pulled his mouth away, and when he tucked my face against his neck, I panted wetly, just trying to breathe. Owen’s arms were a vice around me, squeezing almost painfully tight, but I needed it.

“I won’t let anything happen to you. Or our bond.”

“Me too.” I laughed, a little hysterically, even as I tried to rock closer. “I mean, I won’t let anything happen to either of us.”

A few beats of silence, then Owen said, “Is he right?”

I lifted my face to look deep into his eyes. “My brother? About confronting the council?” Owen nodded and I shrugged, continuing, “Probably. He’s had more dealings with them. And our parents.”

Owen cupped my face. “You trust him?”

“Completely.”

His gaze searched mine and then he nodded once. “Then I will too. But tomorrow.”

I quirked an eyebrow. “Why tomorrow?”

“Because tonight,” he said, voice low and full of heat. “I have a mate to bond with.” Then he hesitated, a hitch in his breath, and said, “If he’ll have me.”

The human part of my brain urged caution. Said it was way too fast. Said we needed to slow down and talk things out and take our time.

But the rest of me just wanted him. Wanted everything he was offering. Wanted him as a person and as a familiar. As a mate. My life had turned upside down in the past few days, but it didn’t matter. Because fate had given me Owen to walk through it with me. We’d have to deal with the council. And we’d have to figure out how to use our power and how to be mates. But that was a future worry. At least tomorrow. Tonight, it didn’t matter.

I smiled, slow and sweet. “He’ll have you.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**I swear I just set out to write a one shot. But y’all aren’t mad it’s a whole-ass thing now, are you? Here’s part three of Gareth and Owen. Part four will be up next week. I don’t have any idea how long it will go. Enjoy!**

Owen padded barefoot into the room, freshly showered with damp hair, and wearing my clothes. He was bigger than me—taller and broader—so they didn’t quite fit. The sweatpants were definitely too short, riding up his ankles. But I certainly didn’t mind the tight fit of the T-shirt across his chest and straining at his biceps. It made for a great picture. And I had a weird flutter of pleasure at seeing him dressed in my clothes.

Which was strange, because that hadn’t ever been something that particularly appealed to me before. But right now, looking at him, it absolutely appealed in every way possible.

Owen smirked, as if he knew where my thoughts had gone. And then it occurred to me that he probably did, considering he’d be able to discern a lot from my scent. Hormones and pheromones were absolutely a thing, even if human noses weren’t sensitive enough to detect them. Other shifters I’d known had said horniness and attraction was one of the easiest scents to pick up and recognize. Was Owen picking up on that from me now?

I cleared my throat, not letting my mind wander down that path. Yes, he was a beautiful man, but he was so much younger than I was. And my familiar. That gave me a certain amount of control over him, and the power imbalance inherent in that made anything sexual between us unconscionable.

Though he had used the term mate.

But maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Even if I had never heard a shifter use it for anything except their partner. I had only known a few shifters in my life, and none of them were werewolves. Witches were a rather insular community—which was a shame and something I was trying to change—so I hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to mingle with other supernatural beings. Maybe it was different for wolves? Maybe Owen and his family used the term to describe their relationship with their bonded witch?

It was something we needed to talk about.

“Where’d your mind just go?” Owen’s voice was soft, inquisitive and gentle. But I shook my head. We’d get to that in a minute.

“I, uh, made food. Not sure what you liked or what you wanted, but I figured protein and carbs.” I lifted my shoulder in an awkward half-shrug. “Couldn’t go wrong with that.”

Owen glanced at the table, but then focused back on me, a smiling playing on his lips. “It looks and smells great. I love meatball subs.”

“I mean, it was frozen and I just heated it up, but it should be all right and replenish calories. I can do better tomorrow for sure. Breakfast can be a whole affair. I’m good at breakfast. Anything you want. But I didn’t want you to go to sleep hungry, and I just figured—”

“Gareth, breathe.” Owen smiled softly and stepped closer. The moment he put his hand on my neck, I let out an explosive breath that made him chuckle quietly. “That’s better. There’s no need to be nervous. We’ll find our footing.”

I laughed but it sounded strained. “How are you so damn calm about this whole thing?”

Owen squeezed my neck and stepped around me to take a seat at the table. He pulled the plate closer to him. “I’ve known this was a possibility my whole life, and had an inkling of it a year ago. I’ve had time to adjust to the idea. I know it’s new for you. But don’t worry. We’ll get there.”

And that gave me the opening I needed. “About what you said in the car…”

He glance up, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. And when I didn’t continue, he asked playfully, “Which part?”

I rolled my eyes, because we both knew which part. But he was going to make me say it. “The mates part. Because I’ve only heard it used in one way with shifters but you can’t possibly mean—”

“I mean exactly that.”

I gaped like a fish, which made him chuckle. But instead of elaborating, he waggled his eyebrows and took a big bite of food. I had to laugh as well, some of the tension leaving me. He wasn’t worried or concerned, clearly, and I needed relax some as well.

He cocked his head as he chewed, and when he swallowed his bite, and asked, “Is that a problem?”

“No!” The hint of insecurity in his voice had me answering fast and too loud. I took a breath. “I mean, no. Of course not. I’m just…surprised. It’s unexpected.”

“Don’t worry, Gareth. I’m not going to jump your bones and mate with you tonight. We’ll get there. But it’s always been an equal exchange of—” His head snapped up, and he dropped his sandwich to his plate with a splat, some of the sauce leaking out the side. “Someone’s here.”

I waved a hand in dismissal. “It’s probably just Aeron.”

“It’s not. Though…” He inhaled deeply, stood and walked toward the door, then breathed in again. “Definitely someone familial, and there’s a bird. Not the cockatoo.”

My entire body went tense. “Can you tell if it’s an African Grey or a duck?”

Another quick intake of breath. “It’s not waterfowl.”

“Crap.”

Owen was at my side in a second, his speed on display. He touched me again, and I felt our bond surge. Aeron had described the bond to me too many times to count, so I knew that as it solidified over the coming weeks, we’d both feel things more strongly until it settled.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s my mother,” I said with a tired sigh. I patted his hand where it rested on my shoulder, then stood and crossed to the door. I barely acknowledged her as I opened it to admit her and her parrot, Jolene, perched on her shoulder.

“Mother, please let me introduce you to my familiar, Owen.” I made a sweeping gesture toward him, where he stood in a ready stance, his muscles coiled tightly. “Owen, this is my mother, Bianca.”

Mother ignored Owen entirely, which wasn’t a surprise but got my hackles up. She stared at me, her blue gaze piercing, and her nose turned up.

“Gareth, what is the meaning of this?” Her voice was ice cold. I wasn’t surprised by her anger or her outrage. She’d thought I was an abomination since the first time I’d failed to call a familiar. I opened my mouth to respond, but she didn’t give me the chance. “This is unacceptable. Your behavior is reprehensible. You will come with me now to the council headquarters and I will strip you of this bond—”

She gasped as Owen grabbed my arm and pulled me behind him. He took up a fighting stance, his fingernails lengthening into claws. Jolene gave a squawk as Mother brought up a shield. And just that fast, there was a stand off in my entryway.

Owen growled, long and low. I touched his back. He ignored me.

“You will not take him from me.” The distortion in Owen’s words was from more than just the rumble of his voice. It sounded like he had a mouth full of fangs.

Mother’s magic sparked, her eyes flaring with power. I had to de escalate this quickly. I wrapped an arm around Owen’s middle, and he backed up, forcing me farther away from my mother. I was more than happy to go.

“Owen.” I kept my voice soft, speaking in his hair. “My mother holds a seat on the council. She represents our coven and has considerable power—”

“I don’t give a bloody fuck if she’s the supreme ruler of the universe.” Owen was talking to me, but his gaze never left my mother. “She can get the fuck out of this house.”

The threshold ward flared and pulsed, and my mother gasped as it pushed her right out the front door. In seconds, she was on the porch, staring in, rage shining through her eyes. And I knew I should be worried about that, and I knew I would be when I could process it, but right that moment, I was stuck on the fact that the threshold ward had responded to Owen’s command. If I’d had any doubt about our growing bond—which I hadn’t—that right there would have sealed it.

“The council will come for you,” she spat out, and Jolene hurled her own bigoted insult my way. Mother rubbed Jolene’s chest feathers. “I will see to it you are stripped of your bond, of your power, and cast out.”

With that, Bianca turned on her heel and marched away. She threw a spell behind her, but it hit the wards and dissipated. I wasn’t worried about whatever she’d tried. Areon had helped me set the wards and they were the strongest anyone had seen. Our powers combined could protect a military forward operating base.

Owen breathed heavily, not letting go of his defensive pose, until the car pulled away with a squeal. Then he made an effort to shift the parts that had…shifted. Gods, I needed to learn the correct phrasing and terms. Otherwise, I’d sound like an idiot. The thought caused a slightly hysterical sounding laugh to escape my throat.

Owen whipped around and hauled me into his arms. He held me tightly and pushed his face against my neck. I hugged him back, needing the grounding. For a couple of moments, we just breathed. Then he pulled back just far enough to see my face.

“You okay?”

I nodded.

Owen blew out a breath and didn’t let me go. “How worried do we need to be right now?”

“On a scale of one to ten? About seventeen.” That near-hysterical laugh burst out of me again.

Lost in thought, Owen pulled me in again. He hummed, kissed the side of my head, then let me go. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.” He glanced at me to make sure I was paying attention, then continued. “You’re gonna call your brother, because he’s on your side right?”

“Right,” I agreed, calming just a little.

“Good.” Then he waggled his brows. “And I’m gonna eat my sandwich.”

Another laugh escaped me, but this time, it sounded far more normal. Owen’s shoulders relaxed, and his endearing grin bloomed on his lips. He draped an arm around my waist and led me back into the kitchen.

“Hey, I have my priorities.”

I nodded, still chuckling a little. My adrenaline was crashing and I started to shake. Owen sat me in a chair, then took the one next to me, sliding as close as possible before he reached once again for his sandwich. He did need to eat, and not just because he was hungry. He had to replace calories if he was to be at full strength.

I sighed and slumped against him, liking the pleased sound he made. “Tonight has not turned out at all like I thought it would.”

Owen went still. “Do you regret it?”

I heard the hesitancy and insecurity in his tone. I turned my head to give him a grin. “Not even a little bit.”

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

***By request, here’s part two. Check out last week for the first part. Enjoy!**

Sitting next to a naked man on the tailgate of my SUV was not how I planned to spend the evening. Okay, so Owen was no longer naked, since he’d wrapped the plaid blanket I always kept back there around himself.

Owen. A werewolf. A red wolf sometimes, and sometimes a man. And my familiar.

I already felt the bond growing between us, since that first glimpse of it when I’d called for my familiar and he finally appeared. It had thrown everyone into a tizzy. Aeron, with Remy, of course, were still here, though he stood some feet away and kept shooting us looks. The High Mage was having a conniption and communing with the rest of the Witches Council high coven. The other witches and their new familiars had been dismissed. I was trying not to freak out, and failing. Having this kind of bond with a human was unthinkable. Okay, technically he wasn’t human, he was a were, but still. Human sometimes.

The only one not freaking out in any way was Owen. He was swinging his feet and looking for all the world like no big thing was happening.

“Hey Gareth,” Owen finally said, his voice soft and a little tentative. We’d exchanged names before being banished to my SUV while the High Mage did her thing. “You wouldn’t happen to have any water, would you? Or a snack?”

Before I could answer, Aeron spoke up. “I have some stuff. I’ll be right back.”

I didn’t have food, but I did have several bottles of water, because I always had them in the car. Sometimes working magic made me thirsty. I retrieved one and handed it over. No doubt Aeron would bring back some as well, but I didn’t want Owen to have to wait when I could provide him with at least that. I nodded at his soft thanks.

“I’m sorry I’m not better prepared. I know you need to replenish calories after a shift but, well, I really didn’t expect this.”

Owen gave me that lopsided grin again. That quickly, and I already found that little quirk endearing as all get out.

“I gathered.” He drank some water, wiped off his chin, then turned to look at me fully. “But it’s the kind of thing that happens to some wolves in my family.”

I couldn’t help the gasp or the wide eyes. “Really?”

Owen cocked his head, looking like a puppy. “Really. I have several extended family members bonded to witches. Is it…not common here?”

I shook my head, and would have commented on that, but seriously, he looked like a confused puppy and I just had to know. Carefully, as tactfully as I could, I asked, “Owen, exactly how old are you?”

He laughed, the sound free, and his eyes twinkled with merriment. “Twenty-one. Almost twenty-two. I know I look younger.” He chortled again, and shook his head. Then his expression turned more serious. “I thought I felt something last year, and I definitely had the drive to shift and head this way. But I wasn’t of age yet, so…” He shrugged.

So young, but as he said, definitely of age. But then his words sunk in and my heart started to pound. I couldn’t quite catch my breath.

Owen’s gentle touch to my arm soothed me more quickly than anything ever had before. I breathed deeply and Owen started petting. I had the fleeting thought that I should tell him to stop. But I didn’t want to.

“You okay?” His voice was such a sweet sound, light and airy, but still with some depth of tone. “What just happened?”

“I’ve been, uh…” I cleared my throat. “I’ve been trying to call a familiar for several years now, but no animal came. This was my last chance. If it didn’t work this time, the Witches Council was going to strip me of my magic. Everyone thought I was broken.”

Aeron cleared his throat, shot me a meaningful look, and handed Owen a little packet of nuts, cheese and pretzels.

“Everyone but my brother,” I amended. And then, because of the squawk, added, “And Remy, of course.”

“Better.” Aeron shot Owen a smile. “Sorry it’s not much, but that should tide you over until you can get out of here and Gareth can feed you.”

“Thanks.” Owen offered up a grin, and then turned to me. “And obviously you weren’t broken. You couldn’t get your familiar until I was old enough to join you.”

“Which is highly unusual and circumspect.” The High Mage was a stately woman with formidable power, and we hadn’t heard her walk over. At least Aeron and I hadn’t, judging by the way we both jolted. Owen must have though, because he started eating his snack and gave her his full attention. Though his eyes had lost the warmth of a moment ago. The High Mage couldn’t care less.

“I’m not sure what you’re implying by that—”

“I’m not implying anything,” she interrupted. “I’m stating fully. Bonding to a human is forbidden, even someone who is only partially human, as it impinges on their agency. If this bond even, in fact, does exist.”

The outrage I felt wasn’t all mine. “Excuse me?”

“You will both present yourselves before the Witches Council for a thorough mental and magical evaluation. Until such time, Gareth and Owen, you will have no contact with each other and—”

“No.” 

Owen’s voice was firm, though polite, even though his eyes blazed with anger.

The high mage narrowed her eyes. “You don’t have a choice.”

“That’s the beautiful thing about agency, your high mageness.” The derision that dripped off Owen’s tone was impressive. “I can do whatever I want. And I will not have you, or anyone else, judge my bond with my witch. We’ve only just met, and it will take time for it to fully solidify. I will not let anyone muck around with that.”

The High Mage opened her mouth, but she never got the chance to speak. Owen beat her to it. “Gareth, get up, please. Let’s go. I need to eat, and probably find some clothes. And get your address so my family knows where to send my things.”

I hastened to do what he said, ignoring the High Mage and her ferret familiar who’d deigned to poke his head out of her robes and stare scornfully at us. He chittered to her, but she didn’t react. I had half a worry that she would cast a spell to keep us there, even though magic used in such a way would go against the Acadia Accords.

Besides, Aeron had my back. Like always.

I slammed the lift gate closed, and by the time I made it to the drivers seat, Owen was already settled in the passenger side. As soon as I shut the door, Owen breathed a sigh of relief and put his hands on me. It was just a soft touch to the neck, and then he leaned in to scent me there, before relaxing back against the seat.

“I’m sorry about that.” He shook his head. “Kinda. But you should know, wolves are possessive. I’m possessive. And you’re mine. They can’t take you from me.”

I nodded. “I don’t want that either. But they are powerful, and you’ve just opened a can of worms.”

Owen waved that off and gave me that lopsided grin I was coming to adore. “And we’ll face it when it comes. Until then, I need food and clothes, and time with my mate.”

I nodded again and put the SUV in gear. A moment later, I saw headlights behind me, which I recognized as Aeron’s car.

It was only three miles later, and five miles from home, when I finally realized what Owen had said.

Mate?

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

*It’s been a bit but here we go. Another flash for you! What do you think? Should there be a part 2? Enjoy!*

“You got this, Gareth. No stress.”

I nodded, thankful for the support, even if I didn’t believe my brother in the slightest. At least, if the ravenous horde of butterflies beating under my ribs was any indication. This was a big deal. A huge deal. And my last chance.

I was the oldest person in the summoning circle, and I’d had four failed attempts already. Most witches were able to summon their animal familiar by the time they turned twenty-one. My brother, Aeron, who was arguably more powerful than I was, had accidentally summoned his cockatoo at sixteen. I was thirty. I hadn’t reached my full power until I was twenty-five, which was also later than normal.

I was definitely a disappointment. My entire family was made up of witches, on both sides, and all had managed to summon a familiar to steady their powers by the time they reached their early twenties. Most of the animal familiars were birds too. The only person who hadn’t written me off was Aeron, convinced there was a reason for the delay. Most of my extended family barely talked to me, and my parents only did because, well, they were my parents.

But Aeron, and his cockatoo Remy, were by my side. Both in the everyday and here, tonight, the night of the Harvest Moon, they stood outside the circle to support me. waiting for the moment when they high mage began the ceremony and the witches gathered worked the spell that would hopefully bring them an animal familiar.

Going through the ceremony a time or two without calling a familiar wasn’t so unusual. Only witches who have reached the right threshold power were even allowed to attempt the ritual. But I was the anomaly. No one in written or oral history had done it as many times as I had and still failed.

The Witches Council had ruled that this was my last chance. I thought that was unfair, but there was nothing I could do about it. The decision was final. And if I didn’t manage it this time, my innate power would be taken from me. For my own safety and that of others. Without a familiar, with the level of magic I had, and no familiar to anchor me, I would end up going mad. And possibly hurt others.

It had happened before. 

So this was it. My final chance. And as I stared at the clear sky, the stars and moon shining down and lighting the clearing and the summoning circle, panic and fear began to build. When Remy flew over and landed on my shoulder, rubbing his beak on my cheek, I knew it had to be bleeding into my aura. Aeron was Remy’s favorite thing in the world, and even though the bird enjoyed me a great deal, he never left my brother’s shoulder when Aeron was around.

I tried to calm down. I was unsuccessful.

The High Mage stepped into the center of the circle and raised her hands to the sky, calling to Gaia, as hush fell over the crowd. Remy preened my hair for a second, then flew off. Aeron squeezed the back of my neck and then nudged me forward, as he stepped farther back.

The High Mage completed her rite, and now it was the gathered witches turn. I waited, doing my best to keep the panic under control, trying to focus as witch after witch stepped to the center, completed their rite, and familiars came flocking to their witch. Mostly cats and dogs, a few birds, even a squirrel or two. One by one, every witch successfully completed the spell and welcomed their familiar.

And then it was my turn.

The silence grew oppressive, but I did my best to ignore it. I tried to focus on the fact that whatever happened, happened, and it was out of my control. I stepped to the middle at the High Mage’s beckoning, and closed my eyes. Three deep breaths, focusing on the exhale and letting my worry and panic go with each exhale. I knew I had the power, the ability. The only thing left up to question was if it would work this time.

Centered now, I opened my eyes and lifted them to the sky. Another slow, deep even breath, and I was ready. I made sure my voice was clear and strong as I said, “Dewch ataf, o ffrind. I fod yn gefnogaeth ac yn angor I mi. Tyngaf i’r dduwies y byddaf yn eich anrhydeddu am bopeth yr ydych.”

For a fraught second, nothing happened. And then I felt it, faint at first but growing. A tether, the beginning of a bond, a glowing thread that connected to my soul to something else. Someone else. 

Out of the dark, between the trees, a canine trotted forward. It had a wide head with a broad muzzle, tall pointed ears, and long slender legs with large feet. The coat was a startling red with white and grey patches underneath the chin and on the belly. 

A red wolf. Beautiful and breathtaking. The closer it—he—got the tighter in my soul. I had to control my breathing because I feared I would hyperventilate. It worked! Finally, after all this time, it had finally worked. And the wolf was majestic and amazing. I already could feel it.

The wolf stopped a foot or so away, and I couldn’t help falling to my knees and reaching out. The wolf froze, staring at me with piercing amber eyes. He sat on his haunches, stared for a moment longer, and then, with a sigh, began to shift.

It took less than a moment, though it felt longer because I couldn’t draw a breath. But then a man knelt before me. His hair was the same sort of red of his fur, his eyes now brown. He was slender but leanly muscled, also echoing his wolf form. He looked to be in his early twenties, probably, but the lopsided grin made me wonder if he was younger.

“Well,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Didn’t expect that. So, you’re my witch, huh?”

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**This one is inspired by a song, shared with me on Twitter from DuncanDaHusky. Running With The Wolves by Aurora from the movie Wolfwalkers. It’s a beautiful song, and this is what popped into my head when I heard it. You can check it out here ! Enjoy**

Panic ran through my veins, but I did everything I could to keep it at bay. I knew they could hear my pounding heart, smell the fear and sweat, see my shaking limbs. But I tried to keep it contained.

This wasn’t my old pack. There was no abuse and terror here. There was only kindness and affection. Caretaking and joy. This was what a pack was supposed to be. A community. Lifting each other up and looking out for everyone’s needs. Not what I’d spent my childhood in, where fear, pain, and ridicule ruled my every day. Ruled everyone’s lives except those at the very top.

“Breathe, sweetheart.”

Conall’s voice broke though the haze that was threatening to descend, and I sucked in a harsh breath simply because he’d told me to. I startled when he touched me, but didn’t pull away, and he knew enough by now that if he moved slowly and carefully, I relaxed into his touch within seconds. It took a few longer than normal, because my anxiety was high, but within a half a minute, I was curling into his arms.

He immediately hugged me tightly. And I didn’t even panic at the fact that he was holding me as a lover. In my old pack, two men together would have been killed. But not here. Here the alpha cared for each wolf as they were, as the goddess made them. 

I was still getting used to it, even all these months later.

“Tory,” the alpha said, stepping up to us. When he reached for me, I went and Conall only growled a little. Conall still didn’t like anyone touching me—our mating was too new—but he wouldn’t disobey his alpha. And he knew that sometimes, I needed the alpha’s comfort as well. 

Alpha Roan touched my throat, my head, and then squeezed the back of my neck. I relaxed into the hold, finally able to breathe easily. Having my mate and my alpha, both the best of men, right there helped me.

I’d come a long way from the scared, hurt, and bloody shifter I’d been when Conall found me. It had taken months of work with the pack therapist, and talking to my mate to get to where I was. I’d known, even while I was living it, that the way my old pack was run wasn’t right. But there hadn’t been anything I could do. Until Conall found me, got me out, and then, with the help of his alpha, brought down the wrath of the council on that pack. Those who could be rehabilitated and healed were sent to other packs. Those who couldn’t, or who reveled in the abuse, were put to death.

It helped, to know that they couldn’t hurt me or anyone else, ever again.

But in all the time I’d been with Conall and his pack, falling in love with the sweet man who had been so patient to work around my triggers and help me heal, I’d never shifted and run with the pack as a whole. With my mate, yes. For the alpha, I had. But I hadn’t been ready to run with all the wolves.

I was now. Or I thought I was. Until it came down to it. The moon was full, and though it called to us, it didn’t make us shift like in the contemporary tales. But we all felt her call and wanted to run under her light. There was a part of me that wanted to run with the wolves who’d shown me nothing but kindness and patience.

“I can make you, if that’s what you want.” Alpha Roan’s voice held no censure, no judgement. He was just stating a fact, giving me a choice. And for a split second, I considered it. It would be terrifying when it was happening—and would bring up very bad memories—but once it was done, I’d be free to run.

Conall’s snarl stopped that thought in it’s tracks, and the gentle push from the alpha had me wrapping my arms around my mate again. Conall immediately relaxed, though just before I tucked my head against his chest, I saw the side-eye he gave the alpha. Alpha just laughed.

And that, right there, seemed to release something inside me. What was holding me back, that fear and worry, dissipated. If the alpha could laugh at the slight disrespect my mate gave him, it was all going to be fine. I’d seen it countless times, Alpha Roan never taking anything to seriously, joking, laughing, and teasing his pack in a happy, joyful way. There was no discipline for the smallest infraction, imagined or real. I’d known it. But the reminder was exactly what I needed to see.

I sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I did it again. After a third time, I was ready. I stepped back and smiled.

“I’m ready. Let’s do this.”

Conall studied me for a long second, then glanced at the alpha. Alpha Roan was staring at me too. But it didn’t take them long to suss out I meant what I said. I was ready.

Alpha shifted in a second, his big gray wolf shaking out his fur to settle it. He lifted his head and howled. The wolves who’d already run out responded and I shivered as their howls ululated through the night.

My skin itched to join them. My heart pounded. But all in good ways. I needed to be with them. I was safe with them. With my mate and the good-hearted alpha and the pack who cared for me simply because of who I was to Conall and then, later, because I was me. 

I tore off my clothes, as fast as I could, then dropped to all fours, letting the shift overtake me. skin rippled, muscles bunched and reformed, bones snapped and changed shape. It took seconds, longer than someone as powerful as the alpha, but still not long. And then the scents and sounds and sights became shaper and monochrome. The night came alive in a way my human sense, even though they were enhanced, couldn’t appreciate.

I yipped. Conall shifted when I had, and he was next to me, his wolf bigger than mine. He licked my muzzle, rubbed his face against mine, and I stood still and let him because he needed to make sure I was okay.

I was better than okay.

In the distance, the alpha howled again and this time I lifted my face to the sky and responded. Beside me, Conall’s deep howl joined the chorus. And then we were off, four feet pounding on the hard earth, the scents of crushed grass and pine and leaves wafted up with each sprinting step.

All around me, the other wolves ran with me. Some close, some farther away, but I could feel them. Hear them. I wasn’t alone. And with my mate right beside me, I had no fears to run with them.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Another flash for you! This one comes from the Admiral and a prompt. Enjoy!*

I knew the instant I set foot in my home that something was wrong. Off. Amiss. I stilled, waiting, but nothing immediately pinged. So instead, I sent a burst of magic through my wards, testing and feeling. The magic rebounded back, just as it should letting me know all was as it should be.

Except it wasn’t. 

I moved slowly, hanging up my keys on the designated hook by the door and toeing off my flip flops. The refrigerator kicked on and the low hum filtered through the space. I scanned the room but nothing was out of the ordinary. Nothing stood out. Except I knew it wasn’t business as usually. Something was going on.

And then I saw it, out of the corner of my eye. Just the hint of movement and I reacted fast, snapping out with a hand and throwing a witch trap. I was fast and had pinpoint accuracy, so my quarry was caught easily. It took a fair amount of magic to keep them contained, pull them toward me and see who or what it was.

“Dammit Jarret!” 

There was no mistaking the mouse, with his shock of white over his forehead and his exceptionally long tale. Suspended in the witch trap, the faint blue of the energy swirling, the mouse was caught. There would be no escaping. But his panicked cries made me feel bad even though he wasn’t being hurt in any way.

“All right,” I said, exasperated. “I’m going to put you down and let go of the magic. You will not run. Do you understand me?”

The squeaking got louder for a few seconds, and then died down. The mouse twitched, and his sides heaved for breath. I kept an eye on him as I lowered the trap to the ground and slowly pulled back the magic, letting him free. I was ready for him to scurry off, but true to my command, he stayed put.

“What are you doing?”

The mouse shimmered and twisted, and then began to shift. It only took a few seconds before a full grown, and very naked, adult male stood in front of me. I grabbed the throw from the back of the nearby couch and tossed it to him. Jarrett gave me a half grin as he draped it over himself like a toga.

“I’m a mouse shifter, Cyrus. It only makes sense that I’m sometimes in my mouse shape.”

I was not fooled by the flippant answer. “That doesn’t explain why you were in my house in your mouse shape, in the middle of the day, when I was not here.” I squinted at him, putting the pieces together. Mad it had taken longer than normal, but I chalked that up to having been startled and unsettled when I’d gotten home. I pointed an accusatory finger at him. “You were snooping!”

Jarret gasped and placed a hand over his chest. He made his eyes as wide as possible, and even stuck out his bottom lip. “I would never.”

“Oh you so would. You shifted so you could squeeze in without setting off the wards, and you were snooping. I can’t believe you.” I threw up my hands and stomped off toward the kitchen.

“Cy! I just need to know.”

“No, you don’t. You’re just being nosy so you can ruin your surprise.” I sighed, trying to rein in my temper. And my disappointment. I worked so hard to actually surprise him, to make this good for him, and he was trying to ruin it. It’s not as though surprises gave him anxiety. If that were the case, I’d never have done it this way. But he actually loved them. It just killed him to know that I was keeping something from him. Even when it was a good thing.

“I’m sorry.” Jarret’s voice was a lot closer than I anticipated, but I managed to keep from jumping. Probably because he’d spoken so softly. “I’m sorry, Cy. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

I turned and looked at him, really looked, to see how he truly felt. If he was just saying the words without meaning…but no. It was clear he was contrite. The emotion was all over his face. I let out a breath and tried to let all my negative emotion go with it.

“It’s only two more days until your birthday. Can you please wait that long? For me?”

“Of course, baby. Of course. I’m sorry for being a jerk. It’s eating at me, but I know it’ll be a good surprise.” He took a step closer. “You always make it good.”

I ignored the innuendo. “You’re forgiven. This time.”

“I love you.” He leaned forward and kissed me. I couldn’t help but kiss him back. Never could. Not from the first moment I met him.

“I love you too,” I said back, my mouth against his. 

Suddenly he pulled back and his lips stretched in a wide grin. Then that grin morphed into a very wicked and mischievous grin. “You know, thought. You should probably do something to distract me.”

I shook my head, trying to keep the laugh in and failing. Jarret waggled his eyebrows at me, and I snatched his blanket-toga from him then smacked his ass. Jarret let out a peal of laughter and took off toward the stairs. I was right behind him.

He might be a pain who did his best to ruin surprises, but he was mine.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Here’s a standalone flash for you. Enjoy!**

Fresh linen. Artificial, but not sickly or overwhelming. Citrus, but softer, not quite as tart. Bergamot? Probably. And something else, something woodsy. Sandalwood? No, not right. Cedar? Yes, that was it.

It smelled amazing. Enticing. Pulling me forward. I wanted to shift, to search it out. I needed to find it. Find them. My focus narrowed down to just that. The scent. I needed to find out who.

It was crowded, because apparently at the lunch rush at a café was the time for me to find someone who smelled so good that every cell in my body reacted. My wolf howled in my mind, demanding I track down whomever smelled so enticing.

It took me a few minutes to sort out the other scents, the bread and coffee and hundreds of other foods and people. And also to figure out how to not look like a creep or a jerk while discreetly scenting it out. But I was driven to do it, to search, and after what seemed like forever—but was probably only five minutes—I finally located it. Sitting there at the table, a sandwich in front of him.

Him.

Huh. That was unexpected. I’d never dated a man. But the person in front of me was clearly male. And Owning it. Clearly comfortable in his skin, and casually beautiful. Dark hair, dark eyes, and a chiseled jaw.

And then he looked up. Confusion crossed his features. Probably because I was staring at him like an idiot. After a long moment, he grinned. Looked right at me and smiled widely.

In that moment, the rest of the world ceased to exist. Like literally disappeared. It was only him and me. Our gazes locked. My heart pounded, blood rushing through my veins, butterflies in my stomach. Everything zeroed in on this man, my wolf scratching at my brain, whining and ready to roll over and show our belly.

He stood up, with such grace my mouth went dry. He took a step forward. I stumbled in his direction. And finally I was close enough to catch his scent under the linen and citrus and cedar, I caught the scent of shifter.

Everything in me relaxed. I breathed out. He stepped closer. Touched my neck. My breath stuttered in my lungs. His smile turned soft. My smile was tremulous, but there.

“Hi,” he said. 

“Hello.”

The world started spinning again.