Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Let’s see what Nico and Sean are up to in episode 3! (and thanks to a wonderful, kind tweet from Duncandahusky, I realized I have two Sean’s up on here. They aren’t the same! I just apparently like the name😊) Enjoy!**

Nico was quiet. Far, far too quiet. In a way that I had never seen from him since the moment we moved in. What was worse, he still couldn’t look at me. Even though we were eating, I still usually had his focus. But now it was a glance and gone again. And though, in the past, his intense concentration when we were together could be unsettling on occasion, now I missed it. And I really didn’t like they way it made me feel, telegraphing just how uncomfortable he was.

“Why are you so upset?” I made sure my tone was soft and non-accusatory.

“I don’t…I mean, I’m not sure…” He blew out a breath and pushed his plate away. He was mostly done with his food, so I wasn’t worried about him not having enough calories. If he was hungry again later, I’d make sure he ate. But right now it was obvious we needed to clear the air between us. I turned my chair to face him more fully and waited for him to get his thoughts together.

After several minutes of silence, which weren’t exactly comfortable, I could tell he had no idea what to say. It was up to me to get things moving. Things had gone a little sideways, and my normally self-assured, take charge wolf was at a loss. I needed to help.

“What do you know about human dating?”

Nico shrugged one shoulder, a quick motion. “Nothing.

“Okay.” I tapped my fingers on the table, then realizing I was fidgeting, reached out to him. Nico took my hand so fast I didn’t even register his movement. I smiled. “Usually, when a person is interested in someone, they make those intentions known by flirting. Suggestive comments maybe. Or sultry looks. Asking them out. Sometimes its subtle, sometimes it’s more blatant. Those would be the kinds of things that I would have been looking for.”

“Wolves don’t…I mean, I guess we do. Sort of.” Nico had to take a breath, but he finally was able to look me in the eye. And now that I knew to look for it, I don’t know how I missed it before. The warmth and affection in his gaze was clear. “But most of the time, with us, it’s another wolf. Scents inform so much for us that it’s easy to tell if there’s attraction. And when we meet someone who could be mate, we know right away.”

“Scents don’t lie,” I murmured, remembering back to the beginning. I scooted a little closer. “So you caught my scent and knew I was mate.”

“You smell like home.” His voice was so soft, I almost missed it. would have if I hadn’t been sitting so close to him. I was utterly charmed by his words, pleased down to my toes that I could be that for him.. But I filed that away for the moment because there was more to discuss.

“So all this time, all the things we’ve been doing together, the way you are with me, it’s because you knew I was your mate?”

Nico cocked his head to the side, all confused puppy. I loved it when he did that. He was so adorable and it always made me grin. But I tried not to let that sneak out right now because under no circumstance did I want him to think I was laughing at him. Instead, I knew I had to explain.

“See, I thought we were just friends. Roommates that got along really well in each other’s space.”

Nico’s scowl was quick and surprising. “So you just cuddle with all your friends? You let them touch you whenever they want? And hug them all the time?”

“I thought that was a wolf thing!” How was I supposed to know any differently? He’d always been tactile, and I chalked it up to him being a wolf shifter.

“It’s a you and me thing!” He sounded so indignant.

“Why are we yelling?”

Nico opened his mouth and then shut it again. After a second, he shook his head. “Okay, fine. I don’t understand humans all that well. And your rituals and customs or whatever. So I’m just gonna say it. I hate it when you’re not here. I worry about you all the time and I want you where I can touch you whenever I want. It soothes me to have you close and to snuggle into you and I hate when you go to bed and I have to sleep alone. So let’s just stop that, and just be together and I can cuddle you and love you and just take care of you.”


“I know that for humans—what?”

I stood, walked the three steps to his chair, and touched the back of his neck. Nico immediately went still. When I nudged his knee he instantly spread them to make room for me and then wrapped his arms around my waist.

“Okay.” I repeated, stroking the short hairs on the back of his head. “That all sounds really good to me. Thank you for telling me what you want. I want it too. I’m gonna need more conversation, and you’re going to have to talk to me if I do something you don’t understand. But absolutely yes.”

Nico let out a long, slow breath and then gave a sharp tug so that I lost my balance. But he caught me and helped me settle on his lap. I wasn’t worried about being too heavy. He was a wolf shifter and far stronger than the average human. He could hold me with no problem. His warm brown eyes studied mine, and then a huge smile lit his face.

“Can we get distracted now?”

Instead of answering, I kissed him.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Okay episode 2! To say Sean was surprised by Nico’s slip of the tongue… Let’s see what happens next. Enjoy!**


The fact that he refused to look at me was concerning. Ever since the day we met, he always gave me his full attention—including eye contact—when I was speaking. But right now, he was doing everything he could to avoid me short of walking out of the room. When he finally opened his eyes, he kept his gaze fixed on the far wall. And when I moved so I was in his line of sight, he dodged. It was so unlike him I started to get worried.

I took a breath. “I don’t understand what’s going on. I need you to talk to me please.”

It took Nico a few minutes, but I was nothing if not patient. I tried not to let my anxiety get the better of me, because it would just set Nico off. But then I realized that maybe that was exactly what needed to happen. If he knew how much this was freaking me out, and he held to his usual pattern, he would do anything he could to soothe me. So I stopped trying to regulate my breathing and letting a calmer head prevail. The instant I gave myself the permission to freak out, I could almost feel my blood pressure rise.

Nico jerked his head up and then narrowed his eyes while taking a deep breath. A second later he was at my side, reaching for me. He stopped short of actually touching me, probably unsure of whether I would allow it now that he’d dropped his revelation. But I wanted snuggles, so I leaned in, and he quickly wrapped his arms around me.

I let out a shaky breath and gave him more of my weight. “So. Um.” I cleared my throat. “Mate?”

Nico didn’t reply in words. I didn’t know if it was because his wolf was still close to the surface, or if he just didn’t want to talk. But he let out a grumbly sort of growl that sounded like agreement to me. After a year of living together, I liked to think I knew his sounds as well as he knew my scents.

I kept my voice soft as I asked, “Were you going to tell me?”

“No. Yes. Maybe?” Nico shoved his nose against my skin, where my neck met my shoulder, and breathed deeply. That seemed to calm him some and he snuggled me tighter against him. “Probably. Eventually.”

That was a lot of words but I would have to trust that he was being honest. He’d never given me an indication that he would lie, so it was easy to do. Keeping this from me was a pretty big thing though, and if we had any hope of a future, we would have to sort this out between us before we could move on.

“And you haven’t told me yet because…” I lifted his head with a gentle grip on his hair so I could look into his warm brown eyes. Nico looked scared. I made sure there was no judgement him my tone as I added, “We’ve been living together for a year, you know?”

Nico huffed out a breath. “But you’re human.”

Oh. Oh goddess. Of course. My heart sank as I understood. I started to pull away.

“And you don’t want a human—”

“No!” His voice rang out, echoing in the kitchen. He could be really loud when he wanted to and I couldn’t help the flinch. Nico immediately shushed me, soothed me, not letting me go but no longer hanging on for dear life. “No, that’s not it at all. But you don’t feel the pull the way I do. You don’t know down to your marrow that I’m the right one for you. Not like a wolf. So I wanted to give you time.”

“Okay. But time for what?”

“To fall in love with me first.” The way he said it, so matter-of-fact, clued me in that he thought that was obvious.

I sighed, but it was more in exasperation than anything else. When the little crease between his brows appeared, I couldn’t help the chuckle.

“But Nico, dear, sweetie…you haven’t given me any indication that you were interested in me.”

The confusion only seemed to grow, his expression pinching further. “Uh, yes. I have.”

I thought back over our usual interactions. About the way he was constantly in my personal space and how he was always interested in my day to day life, the goings on, my mood and my emotions. About how intently he listened when I spoke and how helped me problem solve and vent when I needed to. About how he bought things he knew would make me happy. Could that be it? Did he think he was conveying his interest in me when I’d been looking for something else entirely?

“Okay. We clearly need to talk.”

The whine that escaped Nico was so distressed my heart dropped into my stomach. “What’s wrong?”

“When humans say that, it’s bad.”

It wasn’t funny, because he was clearly genuinely upset. But the absolutely pitiful way he whined that almost made me laugh. Instead, I pulled him in and did the cuddling for a change. He resisted, but only for a split second, before he let out a long breath that reminded me of a dog settling down.

“No, it’s not bad. Not this time. I just think we’ve had unintentional miscommunication. Because my human brain expects certain things, and clearly wolf shifter’s do things differently. Or maybe just you. And we just need to sit down and communicate clearly about things because Nico?” I stroked the back of his neck, and he turned his head just enough to peer at me with one eye. “I honestly had no idea that you wanted anything more than friendship, and I’ve been shoving my own thoughts and feelings way down deep.”

“Really?” he asked in a small voice.

“Really really.” I took a chance and kissed he cheek, and the satisfied rumble that rolled out of him made me grin. “But first, I need to feed you, because you need to replenish those calories.”

“Okay,” he said happily, snuggling in again. Which, to be honest, was a little awkward standing in the kitchen with him having a good six inches on me. And also he was still naked.

“And pants. You need to put on pants.” I gave him a little shake when he harrumphed. “Yes, put on the pants. I know you’d rather just prance around naked but there will be no distractions until after we communicate.

“But then we can get distracted.” It was a declaration and Nico didn’t even give me a chance to respond as he loped off to go get dressed.

I watched him go, and then when he disappeared into his room, I allowed myself to simply breathe for a moment. Today had taken a turn I’d never expected. I’d honestly thought that Nico was nothing more than a good friend and excellent roommate, and I’d been so conscious not to do anything to jeopardize that. Now everything had shifted and I needed to get my head on straight.

Because I’d always wanted Nico. Deep down where I hadn’t let myself acknowledge it. Now things were different. Good different. At least I hoped so.

I heard Nico’s door open and I shook myself out of my thoughts. First, feed the wolf. Then we would talk. After that? Well we’d see.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Finally a flash for you. It’s only been a month. I’ve been…the muse, when she appears, has had only very specific things to say. But I think she’s shown up for today, and we’ll see where this goes… Enjoy!**

It took me a surprisingly short amount of time to get used to living with a wolf shifter. I’d thought it would have been taken a lot, be a big transition, take time. I was purely human after all, not a magical cell in my entire body. And before I answered the ad looking for a roommate and moved in with Nico, I’d had very little contact with the paranormal world. Sure I knew, logically, that they were everywhere and probably dealt with them on a daily basis and never realized it. But in my personal life, everybody was human.

Nico changed all that, and now I was more entrenched in that community more than I ever thought possible. But living with him had been a dream. We got along great, we respected each other’s space and needs, and had very few problems. Nico’s house was big enough for the both of us and though he insisted he needed the help with the mortgage, which was why he’d gone looking for a roommate in the first place, I was pretty certain he just liked having another person around. He was ultimately a pack animal. Having someone else in his space made him feel connected or whatever.

We’d never actually discussed it. Not once in the year since I’d moved in. At first it had seemed to personal, especially when we didn’t know each other that well. But after a while, it didn’t even matter. I got a cheap place to live and a roommate who respected me, and he got what he needed as well. The only thing I’d ever asked him was why he’d so readily invited me to move in, after just a few minutes of meeting.

Nico had simply tapped his nose, given me a wink, and said, “Scents don’t lie.”

Which was how I learned just how sensitive a shifter’s sense of smell was, and how everyone gave off scents that clued shifters in to emotions and feelings. Apparently, the better a shifter knew someone, the better they could figure them out. All by smelling them. I’d gotten used to Nico sussing out my moods just with a big inhale. And the nosy way he’d press until he got me to talk.

Which was why I was desperately trying to calm down and get on an even keel before the Nico got back from his run and a big, gray wolf walked through the back door to smell me and start asking questions.

It turned out, I didn’t have as much time as I thought.

Nico had installed lever handles on all the doors so his big paws could get him in and out. When the back door bounced open, I squeaked and jumped up, all but racing over to the fridge to pull out ingredients. Maybe I could cover up my scent with garlic and onions?

“How about burgers?” I said, speaking far too quickly. I took a breath and pasted on a smile. “Big juicy ones with all the stuff you like? Won’t take but a few minutes to get them going.”

Wolf Nico huffed a breath and stalked forward. I wasn’t scared anymore, and that was a shame, because fear would have definitely drowned out whatever else he could pick up.

“No on the burgers? Beef stroganoff instead? I know how much you like that. We have the—Nico!”

Having a cold wolf nose pressed to the small of your back would startle anyone. He’s gotten his muzzle under the hem of  my t-shirt and was sniffing furiously, his breath wafting across my skin. It made me shiver. Nico ignored me and my attempts to push him away, snuffling and sniffing all over me. I finally managed to side step him and put some distance between us.

I ignored the fact that I’d only been able to do it because he allowed it.

Nico shifted back into his human skin, easy as anything, right there on the kitchen floor. Naked and panting, he took a second and shook himself, then stood. I’d long ago gotten over my human hangups about nudity, so it didn’t even phase me. Though I had to keep my eyes on his, because there was no doubt Nico was one hell of a beautiful man. That I would love to get my hands on sometime. Though I always did my best to keep those thoughts in check because I didn’t want to ruin what we had by getting any sort of romance involved. In this case, though, maybe I could use it to my advantage. Maybe arousal would cover up the other scents.

“Sean?” Nico’s voice was rough from the shift. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I assured him quickly. Too quickly, probably. I cleared my throat.

“Oh, so you’re lying to me now. Is that the thing we’re doing now?”

I scowled, because the droll tone was uncalled for.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m okay. I promise.”

Nico stalked toward me, even measured steps eating up the floor between us, until he was right in my space. He wrapped a hand around the back of my neck, then slid his thumb forward enough to get it under the edge of my jaw. He used that to tilt my head up so his gaze met mine.

“What. Happened.” He bit out the words, all growly wolf and I probably shouldn’t find that hot. Probably shouldn’t be touched that he was so ready to defend and protect me. He was my roommate and nothing more.

But I couldn’t lie to him and he knew I was upset. Hurt, but not physically. Stressed and sad. He could smell it all and I should haven’t started cooking before he even came home, something pungent like that curry he liked or maybe 40 clove garlic chicken or—

Nico gave me a little shake, just enough to get me out of my head, and stared at me with his implacable brown eyes.

I sighed heavily, a gust of breath that came from my toes. “Cathy.”

That’s it. Just one name. And I didn’t need to say anything more. He knew about my impossible coworker who made my life so much harder. Of the way she tried to undermine and micromanage. Of how she gatekept knowledge and blew up when I made an honest mistake but if she did the same it was no big deal. Of how it made my work day stressful and made me anxious, since I was always walking on eggshells.

Nico growled, low and menacing. “I’ll kill her.”

I chuckled at that, though it was weak. “You can’t. You wouldn’t look good in orange.”

He squinted at me and pulled me even closer. I barely stifled the gasp. I loved it when he cuddled me.

“Quit that fucking job.”

I laughed again, this time a little more real. “I need a job, Nico. I have to be able to, you know, afford to live.”

“I’ll take care of you.”

Goddess, if only. I patted his chest and tried to pull away. I didn’t get far. So I smiled up at him. “That’s sweet. And I appreciate the thought. But I can handle it. It’s just frustrating. It’s not like I can actually live off you but it’s a lovely thought.”

“Of course you can. I can take care of you. You’re my mate.”

Nico went still.

I stared at him.

He stared back.

Neither of us spoke. Barely even breathed. Nico shut his eyes.


Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Let’s see what Ryder and Bryce are up to. Considering how things started for them last week, they probably deserve it. Enjoy!**

The best part about being a wolf shifter was running in fur. Not that I knew what it was like to be truly human. I always had the heightened senses, the extra strength, the sense of community and pack. But when I left my human shape behind, embracing the wolf part of me, and ran on four legs, there was not a better feeling in the world.

Until today.

Because running in fur, with my mate at my side? That was the best thing I’d ever experienced. I didn’t think it would be any different than running with my pack. I hadn’t expected the sense of connection I’d feel with Bryce right beside me. He was bigger than I was, more muscular and faster, because he was an alpha. But he didn’t use it to intimidate or coerce, to bully or push. No, Bryce was all caretaker and protector. He ran slightly ahead of me to make sure the path was safe. He caught a rabbit, and while he took the first few bites, he nudge the majority of it, with the choicest parts, toward me. He watched my back while I drank from the creek.

I was more care for by this man I barely knew and had only been mated to for a day, than I had my entire life.

When Bryce steered me toward the house, I went willingly enough. We’d gone farther than I’d thought, and though it was harder to tell time in my wolf shape, I knew it took us a while to get back. I didn’t really think of it as home yet. I wasn’t sure when that would change. I hoped it was sooner rather than later. But I had to believe that once our scents were thoroughly intermingled, that my things were just as prevalent as his things, once we used that great big bed of his for something other than sleeping…

I shook that thought off because we’d made it back and Bryce shifted the moment we hit the deck. We’d been too exhausted last night to do anything other than fall into bed, barely even having the energy to change out of the wedding clothes and into sleepwear. I hadn’t even had problems sleeping, which was usually a problem for me when I wasn’t in my own bed. And in the light of day, with an exhilarating and head clearing run behind me, I didn’t know if that had been because I’d been so tired, or because I knew, already and without a doubt, I was safe with Bryce.

Maybe both.

But now I was admiring his body as he shifted into his skin and it was glorious. He was a stunning man, all hard lines and tight muscles and broad shoulders. Physically, he was exactly my type. I didn’t want to rush into the physical side of our relationship, and I was more than happy to take things slowly. It felt right and I was glad that Bryce was seemingly on board. That was something we would have to talk about, I supposed. Probably something we should have discussed in those few conversations before the actual wedding.

“You okay?” Bryce’s voice was a deeper rumble than normal, his vocal cords still adjusting to human shape. I tilted my head in question, and liked that Bryce chuckled. “You’re staring at me instead of shifting back.”

Oh. Right. I was supposed to shift too, because we needed to eat and replenish calories. And talk. Not necessarily about where my thoughts had been going earlier but just in general. Otherwise, we’d never get to know each other.

“Want me to go inside? Give you privacy?” Bryce said softly.

I immediately started shifting. That was silly. We’d changed to wolf together, and there was no reason to hide the reverse. It took me a little longer than it had him, but within a minute, I was crouched on the boards, panting as the last of the tingles faded away. When I looked up, Bryce’s gaze was fixed on me, pupils dilated.

That was nice to see. But not something I was ready to act on at the moment.

“Food?” I croaked, my voice not yet ready to work.

Bryce shook himself and then smiled. “Yeah. Of course. Let me just…I’ll go make food.”

I opened my mouth but before I could say anything, he was in the house. I shook my head, a little amused and a lot surprised. Usually, alphas didn’t cook. Even if they were good at it or liked it. It was the responsibility of lower pack members to prepare meals. Bryce was proving to be an atypical alpha in multiple ways.

By the time I got inside and pulled on a pair of sweats, Bryce had done the same and was at the stove. Ingredients were lined up on the counter, and he turned when I walked into the kitchen to give me a half smile.

“I wasn’t sure what you wanted, or what you like, so I have hamburgers here, but I can do steak too. And fries, but if you prefer I can do mashed potatoes or roasted—”


“I can do other sides too,” he continued as thought I hadn’t interrupted. “Whatever you like. Just tell me. I can order something if—”

“Alpha.” I made my voice firm and I stepped into his space as I said it. All that combined was enough to make him stop and actually look at me. I touched his chest, feeling how fast his heart was beating, and smiled. “Relax. Burgers and fries are great. Can I have two please?”

“Yeah.” His voice dropped and he licked his lips. He cleared his throat. “Whatever you want.”

I stretched up on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Thank you. I appreciate that.” I patted his chest as I lowered back onto my heels.

“I just want you to be happy,” he said softly. “I don’t ever want you to think you made a mistake by agreeing to mate me.”

He was absolutely proving that I didn’t need to worry about that at all. As long as he kept doing exactly what he was, listening to me and taking care of me, I couldn’t imagine that would change. As long as he let me do the same in return.

“I am happy and I don’t regret it,” I assured him, knowing we’d have to talk more about it. But that was for later, as we settled into our new relationship. “But I want you to be happy too. And not regret it either.”

His grin was blinding. “Trust me. I am and I don’t.”

I returned the smile. “Then we’re going to be just fine.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Finally! A flash for you. What do you think, wanna see more of these guys next time? Enjoy!**

“Are you sure about this?”

I met my best friend’s eyes in the full-length mirror where, a moment before, I was on my third attempt to tie the bowtie, despite having practiced for the past week. It could have done with the nerves currently swirling in my gut and making my hands shake. I gave her a small smile.


Saoirse bit her lip, her brown eyes wide in her pale face. “But are you sure sure?”

I turned then, to face her full on, and took the jacket from her hands before she could crush the collar with her tight grip. She let it go without a fight and took several steps closer to me. Her hands trembled a little as she reached out and straightened out the tie.

“It’s not like I have a choice,” I said softly.

She squeezed her eyes closed for a moment, then took a shaky breath and opened them again. “We could run away.”

I chuckled and shook my head. “And what would your husband and child say about that?”

Saoirse wrinkled her nose. “Don’t be silly. They’re coming, too.”

I laughed then, a real laugh, and it broke the tension in the room. I cupped Saoirse’s cheek in my hand and then tilted her gaze up to mine. “I’m going to be fine. Really.”

“But you don’t even know him.”

“I know enough.” And that was true. Perhaps I’d only been promised to the Alpha of the West pack a month ago, and maybe we only had had a handful of conversations, but it was clear we’d get along fine. It wasn’t the marriage I’d dreamed about when I was young, but it wasn’t a bad match. And though I didn’t know Bryce Young well, I could tell he was a good man at his heart. I didn’t bother to say it out loud because she and I had that conversation before. Multiple times.

“I just worry.” Saoirse finished with my tie and then smoothed her hands down my shirt before taking one step back. She took the tuxedo jacket from me and then motioned for me to turn so she could help me slip it on. She brushed her hands along the shoulders, tugged on the hem, and then walked around me to fix the front. “You look very handsome, Ryder.”

“Thanks.” My voice came out a little scratchy and I cleared my throat. “It’s going to be fine. Bryce will be a good mate. He’s a good man. His pack is kind. And it’s not far. We’ll still see each other.”

“We better.” Saoirse tipped her head back and breathed hard through her nose to keep the tears at bay. “Let’s go get you married.”

I nodded but my feet seemed rooted to the floor. “Give me two minutes.”

She opened her mouth, but then closed it and nodded. “I’ll wait outside.”

I watched her go and only when the door was closed did I let out a harsh breath. I was a mid-pack wolf with no real prospects. Becoming an alpha mate would be a definitely step up. Not that that was the primary motivation for me to agreeing to the mating. My alpha had arranged the set up to forge an alliance between our packs. Bryce had made multiple visits to our pack, met with everyone, before he asked me, directly, if I’d be willing to accept his hand.

To be fair, arranged matings were archaic, but there were parts of wolf shifter culture that hadn’t yet gone away. The most sure fire way to align packs and create alliances was to intermingle members by mating. Like all wolves, Bryce was pansexual. But the fact that he’d chosen to mate with a cis male was rare. I couldn’t give him biological children, and most alpha’s wanted to that. We hadn’t discussed it, mostly because we hadn’t had a lot of time to talk, but I was sure that he’d use a surrogate if he was the type to want biological children.

A soft knock on the door interrupted my thought spiral. I wasn’t sure how I’d fallen down that path and it took me a second to get my mouth to work.


“Ryder, darlin,” Bryce’s voice rumbled right through the wood and into my chest, despite the five feet separating me from the door. “Can I come in?”


The door creaked open and Bryce stuck his head in, smiling at me, before he slid in and shut the door behind him. He was tall, wide shouldered, and fit, which wasn’t a surprise given his status in the pack. He was handsome too, at least by my estimation, which definitely helped. I found him attractive, and knew that wasn’t going to be a problem between us. I really liked his smile, and the way it lit up his face. The way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he really meant it.

But most of all, I liked the sincerity in his voice when he talked about taking care of his pack. I liked that he was determined to see to the needs of his wolve above all else, and that when he told me of his plans, he asked what I thought and really listened to my answers. I liked that he wanted to include me in things and not just dictate how things would go.

“I wanted to check on you. You all right?”

Once again, my mind had wandered off. I smiled and I didn’t even need to force it. When Bryce stepped in close and slowly reached out, telegraphing his actions, I let him take my hand. The warmth strength there was somehow reassuring.

“Yes.” I squeezed his hand. “You look amazing.”

He didn’t preen, as most alphas I knew would, but his gaze brightened. “It’s you who looks amazing. You’re so beautiful. I noticed it right away. It drew me to you.”

“Oh,” I said, on an exhale. Really? How did I not know that?

Bryce’s grin turned a little wry. “Did I not tell you that?”

“Not in words.” My voice was soft, and I unconsciously stepped closer to him, until there was barely an inch between us. “It’s good to hear.”

“Well.” Bryce grinned, and cupped my cheek. “I’ll make sure to tell you more often then. You should know, without a doubt. But it’s not just your looks though. You know that right? Talking with you is a treat. I think, together, we’re going to have a great life.”

My heart cracked, but not in a bad way. More like it was expanding, making room for this man standing in front of me. It might not an ideal situation, or the one that I dreamed of, but everything seemed to be lining up just as it was supposed to.

I lifted his hand and kissed the back of it.

“I think so, too. Let’s go get married.”

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate. Here’s a little story for you. Enjoy!**

When you were raised like I was you ended up one of two ways. Either you got sucked into the chaos and continued to make bad decisions or you got yourself out and created your own stability. I’d done the latter. It had taken a lot of work, a lot of help, a lot of years, and ultimately going completely no contact before I’d managed it. But I was long separated from the boy I’d been.

A side effect of that, though, was my need for routine. For traditions of my own making. And when those things were challenged, it sent my world into a tailspin. It didn’t matter that logically I knew everything would be okay. That it would all work out and it didn’t matter if I didn’t have the right thing. I could make do and survive and it would all be fine. Anxiety didn’t care about logic. Panic disorder didn’t either.

After years of hard work and therapy, I’d very carefully cultivated my life. The people in it were my family, even if we weren’t related by blood. There wasn’t a lot of them, though the circle was growing as they found significant others and some of them started families. They all loved me just as much as I loved them, and they knew that I needed certain things to be a certain way in order to feel safe and happy.

The holidays were my thing. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, I was the one in charge. The rest of the year, I was fine to sit back and enjoy my friends. Let them do what they wanted. But the end of the year was mine. Those six weeks were my time to plan and celebrate. I didn’t have any sort of holiday growing up, and now I did everything possible to make it as picture perfect as possible.

Thanksgiving had been a smashing success, just as it always was, all my friends crammed into my tiny home, laughing and eating. I always planned my meal for noon so that those who had other families to visit had the time to do so. Everyone had been able to make it this year, so my heart had been filled. And it had set the tone for the season. The day after, I’d spent hours transforming my house into something that would make a Hallmark Christmas Movie proud.

My Christmas celebration was always on the Eve, a sort of open house party that lasted from five in the evening till the wee hours. Some of my friends had other obligations, but they stopped in for a bit at least to make merry. I’d been meticulously planning and preparing, because that one day brought me more joy alone then the rest of the year combined.

I’d been out doing some last minute grocery shopping. I needed to get the pies made tonight and get started on the cookies. Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, there would be more baking, and a pot of mulled cider on the stove, and all sorts of hor d’oeuvres made, so that people could snack and drink and enjoy themselves before we opened the White Elephant gifts, which were always nice and never a joke because I couldn’t handle embarrassment.

I put away the groceries, leaving out the cinnamon, flour, and Crisco and hand just pulled my apron over my head when my phone rang. Glad I wasn’t elbow deep in dough yet, I smiled as I answered my friend Jeremy’s call.

“Hey. What’s up?” I put it on speaker so I could get started and still talk to him. “If you’re calling to make sure I’m making the—”

“Anna’s in the hospital,” he interrupted and the bottom dropped out of my world. He was quick to continue. “She’s okay, but its her appendix, and she’s already out of surgery and doing fine but they aren’t going to release her till the morning and we won’t make it tomorrow.”

For a split second, I was disappointed that they wouldn’t be here, but it was so much more important that Anna was okay. “Of course, Jer. I’m so glad Anna’s okay. But she needs to rest and you need to take care of your wife.”

Jeremy blew out a breath. “Yes. Thank you. But I know how important—”

It was my turn to cut him off. “It is, but Anna is more important. I’ll make sure to pack up goodies, especially some of the apple pie for you, and someone will run them by your house tomorrow night. So you don’t miss out on the festivities and can just rest and relax and Anna can get better.”

“You’re the best.” Jer had sounded shaken when he first started talking but was better now, more calm. He took a deep breath.

“Don’t worry about a thing. And if you need anything else, you let me know okay? Give Anna a squeeze for me.”

“Will do. On both accounts. Talk to you later.”

The line went dead and I had to take a minute and just breathe. I was so glad that Anna was fine, but they’d never missed one of my parties. Not since I’d known them, having worked with Jeremy ten years ago and finding a kindred spirit. Even after we both moved on to different careers, we’d stayed in touch. So missing them tomorrow had put me off kilter, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Anna would make a full recovery and it would all be fine.

I had barely got my head back in the game when I heard an ominous creaking sound. I carefully set the mixer on the counter, then turned to look, trying to find where it was coming from. Another creak had me rounding the counter and heading into the living room. Everything looked fine. Just as I turned to head back, a loud snap and then I screamed as a limb from the oak in my backyard crashed through my bay window and toppled my Christmas tree.

My heart pounding, my breathing fast, I took in the damage. The obliterated window, the snow swirling inside, and the beautiful tree I’d spent two hours decorating lying in shambles on the hardwood. My vision went dark at the edges, and I couldn’t move air through my lungs. Somewhere in my hindbrain screamed panic attack but knowing what was happening didn’t help. I couldn’t breathe. Christmas was ruined. First Anna getting sick and now this and everything I had worked so hard…

The front door banged open but I couldn’t even move, paralyzed and panicking.

“Are you hurt?” I dimly recognized Bray’s voice. My next door neighbor, who usually had my complete attention whenever I saw him, had burst through. Normally, I hung on his every word. But now I couldn’t tear my eyes from the damage, and couldn’t move air through my lungs.

“Max!” Bray’s shout sounded panic, and then his big hands grabbed me and turned me. “Are. You. Hurt?”

I managed a shake of my head. “N-n-no. I was far enough…my house…Christmas…”

“Breathe, baby.” He pulled me in, squeezing me hard, so tight I almost couldn’t expand my chest to do was he instructed. But the deep tissue pressure was exactly what I needed to start regulating myself. “That’s it. Nice breaths. You’re okay. I got you.”

It took a while and then I was shivering. I didn’t know if it was from shock or from the cold air billowing in, but at least I was breathing. And though the panic was still hovering under the surface, it was no longer taking over.

“I heard it come down and when I looked, I saw what happened. But you’re okay, and we’re going to fix this. I’m not going to let your Christmas party get ruined. I know how important it is.” Bray’s voice was deep and soothing, and he smelled woodsy and clean, and his body was big and strong, surrounding me, keeping me safe.

“I can’t…I don’t…” I made myself take another breath, hold it, then let it out slowly. “Sometimes I…”

“I know. I know you better than you think I do. But we’ll fix this. You’re going to let me clean this up while you go back to baking, and get plywood up on the window, and I’ll get your tree put to rights. It’s going to be okay. You hear me?”

“Yeah. Thank you for coming to my rescue.”

“Always.” Bray gave me another squeeze and then slowly pulled back, making sure I was okay to stand on my own before he let me go completely. “I’m going to run back over to my place and get the plywood and my tools.”


“Then I’ll clean up the tree, get it standing again, and we can assess the damage and figure out what needs to be replaced.”

“Okay.” It was weird that I appreciated how much he was repeating himself. It reassured me that we had a plan.

“Do we have a plan?”

I managed a smile at that, considering it was exactly what I just thought. “Yes.”


Bray gave me one more assessing look, then sprinted out the door. He was back five minutes later, plywood and drill in hand, and it was only then that I realized something.

“Uh. Bray? You called me baby.”

He went still for a split second, but then continued on. “I did, yes.”

“There a reason for that?” Because we were friendly, and always talked when we saw each other. Even flirted a bit. But I was under the impression, from the few women I’d seen walking out of his house in the early hours, that he was straight. So I’d always thought it was harmless fun, even though I’d have jumped his bones in a second if he’d given me any real indication.

“There is, yes.”

Huh. Not what I expected. I’d thought he’d say it just slipped out in a the heat of the moment or something. Or say it was an accident. But that was not the case.

“And that reason is?”

“I need to fix your window and get your decorations put back together.” He took a breath. “But after that, maybe I can help you bake and we can talk about how I’m bisexual though I’ve never been with a man, and I have an adorable neighbor who makes my heart speed and my stomach flutter and really loves Christmas.”

I smiled then. “Yeah, we can do that.”

Bray grunted and got to work, and I left him to it so I could make pie crust. I was no longer on the verge of panic, because Bray was here to fix it and keep me from flying off into the ether. Maybe Christmas wasn’t ruined after all.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Here it is! Episode 9 and the conclusion for Rowan and Luca. It’s been a ride, and went places I didn’t expect, but now they’re settled. Or at least getting there! We’ll start a new one soon, but in the meantime, enjoy!**

I closed the door behind Agent Willis and let out a sigh, leaning against the cool wood for a moment. It didn’t take a whole second before Luca was behind me, gathering me into his arms and holding me tightly. I turned in his arms and rested my head in the crook of his neck. It was as though the spot had been made for me since my forehead fit there perfectly.

Luca rubbed my back but didn’t say a word, just held me and let me breathe. It was what I needed. The interview had lasted hours, Agent Willis had done his best to be kind and gentle with his questions. His partner hadn’t shown up with him, and I’d let him record everything. Before he turned on the device, he implied his partner wasn’t as compassionate as he was. Or maybe empathetic was a better word. Either way, I appreciated that he took care to ask me what he needed to but had been kind about it.

“You okay?” Luca’s voice rumbled through his chest, and it comforted me even more. I snuggled in closer, though it wasn’t really possible, and then squeaked when he picked me up. It startled a laugh out of me and I clung on while he walked the few yards to the couch and sat, settling me half across his lap. 

“Eh. I don’t know.” I took a few moments to really take stock of my emotions, then pursed my lips. “Is it weird that I feel kind of, I dunno, relieved?”

“No.” The firmness in his tone made me smile. “It’s not weird at all. You’ve been in fight or flight for most of your life. It has to be a relief to know your abusers can no longer hurt you. Or anyone else, for that matter.”

I squinted one eye at him. “You’ve been talking to Tenley, haven’t you?”

He shrugged one shoulder, not the least bit ashamed. Not that he should be. Our pack counselor was as wise as she was fair, and had a way being blunt without being harsh. Without her, I wouldn’t have made the progress I had.

“She’s going to not so gently insist I see her regularly again for a while.” I sighed, but I wasn’t upset. Right this moment, I was okay. But I was sure that wouldn’t last. I licked my lips. “I might, uh, have a little bit of a setback. So just, you know, you need to be—”

Luca stopped me with a quick kiss. “Sidestep, not setback. Healing isn’t a linear process. See her as much as you need to.”

I smiled then. He was so supportive, and I appreciated it so much. But then a thought struck, and I sat up straighter, grabbing his biceps.

“Luca, you have to…I mean…” I stopped and took a breath. “Yes, this brought up a lot for me. And it’s going to be rough for a bit.” I paused again, squinting as I thought. “Though probably not as bad as before, since I’ve come along way. But what I’m trying to say is that if you need some time for yourself, or a break or—”

“We aren’t breaking up!” It wasn’t a roar, exactly, and time was even that much would have made me flinched. But it was Luca, and I trusted him, so I didn’t.

“No, no,” I soothed. I loosened my hold and started petting. “That’s not what I mean. But your mental health is as important as mine, and even though I’m a little broken—”

“You aren’t broken!”

I continued like he hadn’t interrupted. “Doesn’t mean that I take priority. Remember? So if you need some time for yourself, I want you to take it, okay?”

He made some grumbling noises but didn’t say anything as he gathered me in close again. He stuck his nose against my neck, rubbing and scenting me. I just smiled and held on, let him do his thing, because I knew there was a comfort in that for him. When he was done, he adjusted our positions until he was lying down and I was lying on top of him.

For a few minutes, we just stayed like that, breathing in sync and listening to the ambient noises. Luca hand creeped in my hair and started rubbing my scalp. It was so soothing that I almost nodded off. I knew that was part of the stress of the day, the high emotions crashing down, but the rest was all him and the contentment I felt in his presence. A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have expected that. Wouldn’t have believed it even. But the time spent with Luca had changed it all.

“Rowan?” his voice was barely above a whisper. 

“Hm?” I stretched a little, then snuggled into a more comfortable position.

“I love you,” he murmured, tone sure. “Just want you to know.”

“Mmm. That’s good.” 


“Mhmm.” I kissed his collar bone. “Because I love you. And it would suck if it was just me.”

Too quick to track, Luca flipped us over, so I was on bottom, and he was crouched over me, staring into my eyes. I smiled and reached for him, putting my hands on his face just so I could touch him. When he bent to kiss me, it was sweet and loving, with just a hint of the passion he’d shown me before. I was ready to take it there, but he pulled back before I could. I wasn’t worried. I knew we’d get there soon enough.

Then he settled his body weight on me, and the deep pressure relaxed me even further. It was like my own personal weighted blanket, but with the exact right amount of pressure, and I sighed happily.

This was just the start of us, and it wasn’t always going to be easy. But I knew it would be good and exactly what we both needed.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 8 for Rowan and Luca. It’s been a journey, and I’ve missed a week here and there, but here you go. There’s one more episode after this. Enjoy!**

It wasn’t exactly surprising that Luca’s Jeep was in my driveway. Over the past few months, he’d been here more often than not. He claimed he liked my house better than his, but I just thought he liked to spend time with me and knew I was more comfortable in my own space. He didn’t seem to care where we were though, so I didn’t worry about it. It had taken time, but we were pretty good at communicating, and I trusted him to tell me if that change.

That being said, I wasn’t sure why his Jeep was in my driveway now. I’d been out running errands, but Luca was working today. Or at least I thought he had been. If his grumbles this morning as he forced himself out of my bed were anything to go by, then he and his crew had a lot of work to do on the house they were renovating, and I hadn’t expected him to be back until early evening.

The timing of his return was suspicious.

It could be that they’d actually finished early. Or run into a problem that stopped their work for the day until it got resolved. Hell, it could be that he just decided to cut out early to spend some time with me. Except he’d never done that before because Luca was too dedicated to his work. So it probably wasn’t that, no matter how much I wanted it to be.

Even though the logical part of my brain tried to tell me that it was most likely one of the former reasons—since odds were it wasn’t the latter—my rising anxiety immediately jumped to worse case scenario. Panic burbled in my gut, making my stomach ache in that way it did. I had to swallow hard just to keep myself breathing normally.

I had groceries in the car, but I was too anxious to bring them all in, so I just grabbed the cold bag that contained the refrigerated and frozen items from the seat beside me and rushed into the house. The front door was open, but the screen door had a tendency to stick, so I fought with it for a second before I managed to yank it open.

“Luca!” I dropped the bag and headed toward the living room

“In here.”

“What’re you do—” I sucked in a breath as I rounded the corner and saw not only Luca sitting in his favorite recliner but my alpha perched on the edge of the couch. Both men held themselves stiffly, concern etched into ever line of their body. My heart went wild, adrenaline bursting through my veins. “What’s happened?”

Luca tried for a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He held out a hand. “Come here. It’s okay, baby.”

My legs shook but I managed to make it across the room and take his hand. When he tugged me right down onto his lap, I went, even though I didn’t really fit. I wasn’t worried about being too heavy for him. It took a little finagling before we were comfortable.

“What’s going on?” I asked and my voice shook but I didn’t care. Luca’s arms tightened almost to the point of pain, but the deep pressure helped to settled me. I had a feeling, just from the look on Tom’s fac, that I was going to be needing a lot of that.

“I hope I didn’t overstep by calling Luca and asking him to be here. But I felt you’d want the support.” Tom’s voice was gentle. “I received a visit from the MBI. A Special Agent Willis. He came to speak to me about your former pack.”

For a second, I couldn’t breathe, but then Luca nuzzled my neck and held me even tighter, and air moved through my lungs again. I nodded, a jerk of my head, and Tom let out a breath.

“He would like to speak with you, but he allowed me to talk to you first. Not that he had a choice. I’m your alpha.” The possessive and protective growl in his tone helped me relax even further. I tried for a smile.

“What happened?” I’d asked it before, and I appreciated Tom’s attempt to ease me into things, but it was making my anxiety worse. Luca lifted his head, and I felt more than heard the growl, but Tom put him in his place with a look.

“He and his partner were investigating your old pack due to a death—”

I let out a mirthless snort. Tom quirked an eyebrow. I gave as much as a shrug as I was able due to Luca’s tight hold.

“Death is nothing new in that pack.” My voice wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be, but it was no longer shaking, and I called that a win.

“Perhaps.” Tom let out a sigh and clenched his hands together. “The death was a daughter of another pack, though. She was kidnapped and tortured before being beaten to death and left in a field. She was found two days later, and an investigation was immediately launched. It didn’t take long to find the culprits. Or to have them remanded to custody.”

None of that surprised me, exactly, even though it was horrible. I always knew my former alpha and his cronies were capable of such things. I just didn’t think they’d be so stupid as to do it to someone who wasn’t pack. If it was a wolf under the alpha’s control, he could almost always explain away the damage. But a wolf belonging to a different pack? That was another matter entirely.

“Who?” I had to clear my throat. “Uh, did they tell you who was arrested?”

“The alpha, two betas, and several other pack members.” Tom’s voice was low. He looked me straight in the eye. “Including your mother.”

I sucked in a breath as emotions warred within me. Most of me was fiercely glad they’d been arrested. Since the MBI was involved, chances were good that they’d not only be held accountable but that they’d get the harsh punishment they deserved. But there was also a part of me that was sad the woman who gave birth to me had been involved in it.


I gripped Luca’s hands tightly where they were crossed over my chest but didn’t take my gaze off Tom. “Good.”

Tom studied me for a long moment, and then some of the tension left his body. “You don’t seem surprised.”

It wasn’t a question. I answered it anyway. “I’m not. Or rather, I can’t believe that they took the violence to an outside pack like that. But that they were capable of it? That’s not a shock.”

“Even your mom?” Luca’s voice was soft and his breath tickled the skin of my neck. I shivered but shook it off.

“The woman who birthed me was indifferent at best and cruel at worst. She allowed this to happen to me and others without doing anything to stop it. She didn’t even try. And it’s not because she was controlled like the rest of us.” I breathed deeply, using my coping techniques. I consciously let some of the tension go. I wasn’t in that place anymore, hadn’t been for years, and I was safe and secure now. Especially with Luca’s arms around me. “You said the agent wanted to talk to me?”

Tom took a moment to make sure I was actually okay. Then he nodded. “He’s willing to wait until you’re ready. He understands the trauma you’ve experienced.”

“Can, um, can Luca be there with me when I talk to him?” I gulped. “Or you?”

“He can just try and stop me,” Luca growled and then bit my neck. Not hard, it was just a nip. Just letting me feel him so I knew he was there. As if I could miss it. I turned my head to nuzzle his cheek.

“Are you up to speaking with him?”

I nodded, squeezed my eyes shut, and took a breath. “Yeah, okay.”

“All right.” Tom stood. He walked right over and cupped the back of my neck, rubbing his fingers and leaving his scent. “I’ll let him know.”

“He’s still around?”

Tom nodded. “He is. I’ll give you some time then send him over.”

With another squeeze to my neck, he left. Luca didn’t even wait until the door shut behind Tom before he turned me around and cuddled me in close. For a long moment, he didn’t say anything.

“Tighter,” I whispered and Luca squeezed so hard I could barely breathe. It was perfect.

“You okay?” He murmured into my ear.

“No.” I made it a point never to lie to him and I wasn’t going to start now. “But as long as you stay with me, I will be. Eventually.”

“Not going anywhere.” Luca’s voice was quiet but full of conviction.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 7 is finally here. Sorry for the delay. Sometimes the boys just don’t want to talk to me, or other things get in the way. But our wolves are back and they have one more episode after this. Enjoy!**

I was out watering the garden when I heard him. I kept my gaze focused on my task, but I dialed up my hearing, tracking his movements. Luca wasn’t trying to be quiet, and I smiled even though I didn’t turn in his direction. He was so good about letting me know exactly where he was at all times, so he never snuck up on me. And that took effort, because as wolves, we were naturally stealthy.

He came up alongside me, and I still didn’t turn, but I knew he could smell how happy and content I was. I wanted to see what he would do.

“Hey.” Luca’s voice was soft and low. He stepped closer, then behind me, and wrapped his arms around me, hugging me. I tilted my head, exposing my neck, and I shivered when he bents and kissed my skin. “Whatcha doing?”

I snorted a laugh and lifted the nozzle of the hose high, because I thought it was pretty obvious what I was doing. Luca playfully nipped my skin, a reprimand for my cheek that he wasn’t serious about. His amusement came through clearly in his scent.

“I meant when you were done.” Another nip to my neck, this one lower down, right at the juncture of my shoulder. A frisson of arousal shot through me, and I let out a little gasp that made Luca chuckle wickedly. I dropped the hose and turned in his arms, wrapping my own around his neck and pushing against him. 

Luca rumbled out his approval, pulling me even closer, so our bodies fit together perfectly. He pushed my hair back with one hand, then settled that same hand on the back of my neck. The arousal was still simmering, but it was pushed back but the happy hum of contentment at just being held. At being looked at like I was important and special. And as much as I wanted to jump his bones—especially because we hadn’t gotten that far yet—I was just as happy to stand there and let him hug me.

“I can be done,” I murmured, pushing up on my toes so I could reach his jaw. I kissed him there, lingering a little, and then settled back down and tucked myself tighter against him. He pushed his face against my hair at my temple, scenting me. 

“Wanna shift and run with me?” He grinned, then waggled his eyebrows, making me laugh. He kissed the smile off my face. He pulled away gently, adding a few quick pecks, and then lifted a brow as he stared down at me.

I was breathless when I answered. “Yes, please.”

He released me so fast I almost stumbled, but he was there to steady me. then he started stripping, dropping his clothes where he stood. I rushed to catch up, but stopped in the process of unbuttoning my jeans when he whipped off his boxers, whirled them in a circle and tossed them away. I didn’t know whether to laugh or moan, and in the end, the sound I made was a mixture of both.

Luca took a step toward me. I couldn’t tear my gaze from his body, all sleek muscle, toned and cut, and golden skin. He was simply breathtaking, and my libido reminded me that it did, in fact, exist. And was very healthy. I licked my lips, Luca’s expression turned heated, and he stalked closer a few more steps before freezing. I jerked my gaze to his, but he just smirked, shook his head, and dropped to one knee to let the shift overtake him.

Ah well. He was probably right. If he came closer, we’d never get to run in our fur, and we both needed it. Besides, I loved running with Luca. He made it fun and joyful, while also making me feel wholly safe and protected. I quickly got rid of the rest of my clothes, a little less carelessly than Luca had, then shifted. It took me longer than him, and by the time I was shaking my fur to settle it, he was sitting next to me. I approached, head lowered, and he licked my muzzle then rubbed against my face and neck, leaving his scent all over me.

I loved it.

He yipped and took off, and I raced after him. Wherever he went, I followed. Any time he stopped to scent the air or investigate an interesting smell, I did the same. He lead, and I was only to happy to follow.

Eventually we made it to a clearing on the far side of pack territory. I wasn’t tired, exactly, but we’d come a long way and I was pleasantly fatigued. I sat on my haunches and panted as Luca inspected the the entire space. Then he found a shady spot under a maple, laid down and yowled out a sound that I clearly understood.

Come here.

I obeyed, eager and happy, and pushed against him. Luca didn’t move, but he did give me the side-eye. I huffed out a wolf-version of a laugh, and he grumbled, so I pushed against him, tucked myself into the curve of his body, and laid down as well.

There was no denying his contented sigh. I echoed the sound.

Behind me, Luca adjusted until he could get one paw over my shoulders. I pushed in tighter. Only when we finally settled did a realize that we were cuddling there on the ground. Wolf cuddling. I’d never done it before. Not like this. I’d settled into a wolf pile before, of course. Wolves were tactile in any form. But this, with Luca, was something else entirely. It was intimate and comfortable, and meant more to me than I even could words to.

I breathed out, Luca set his bit head on top of mine, and cuddled together, content and happy, I fell asleep.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 6! Rowan and Luca are back again! Things are moving in the right direction for these two, but we’re not done with the heavy emotion yet. Make sure you click on the tags if you need to catch up. Enjoy!**

Dinner had been good, filled with nice conversation and comfortable silences. I liked that neither of us felt we had to fill silences, and that we were able to just sit in each other’s company. Ireally liked the way Luca looked at me. Like I was something precious. Now that I new what to watch for, it was plain as day. The soft affection in Luca’s expression, in his eyes, warmed my insides. Made me feel good. Special.

After Luca paid the bill—he’d insisted, but I hadn’t fought too hard—we decided to take the long route back to my house in order to further enjoy the weather. I didn’t hesitate to slip my hand into his, and I loved that his big, warm, calloused palm felt so good against mine. 

The sun was creeping below the horizon, washing the sky in dusky purples and pinks and warm gold. With that came a chill in the air, and I absolutely used the opportunity to snuggle closer and steal his warmth. Shifters in general ran hot, and I wasn’t exactly cold myself, but Luca was emitting heat like a furnace and I loved that.

Luca let out a contented growl and wrapped his arm around me. I stumbled, but he held me up, and it only took two steps for us to fall into sync again. I couldn’t stop the happy little hum, and didn’t even try. I wanted him to know just how much I was enjoying this.

“Rowan, let me ask you something.” Luca blew out a breath. “And you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to or you’re not ready, okay?”

I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. I had a feeling I knew where this was going, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk about it. But Luca had a right to know, because this thing between us wasn’t casual and if my baggage was going to be too heavy for him, then I needed to know now. I didn’t think that would happen, but you never knew.

“Okay.” My tentative tone couldn’t be helped. 

“Okay.” It took him a second to continue on, and he held me a little tighter before he spoke. “I know your previous pack was…not good. But will you tell me what happened? Just as much as you’re comfortable.”

I snorted out a small laugh. Not good was an understatement. And he’d put the qualifier on there. He was such a sweetheart, and for just a second, I had a pang in my heart that I hadn’t realized that before. I mean, I hadn’t been ready for anything before, but I still felt like we’d wasted time. 

I didn’t say anything for a long moment, trying to sort out how I was feeling. I caught sight of the park ahead and I gave him a gentle nudge in that direction. It had some pretty paths to walk along, but really, I was aiming for the bench next to the willow. It was one of my favorite places in the world, so peaceful and calming, and I needed that right now.

Once we were settled, I snuggled back in. Luca let out that happy grumble again, and I threw one leg over his knee just so I could get closer. Luca seemed perfectly happy with that, placing his warm hand on my thigh.

“So, I was born into that pack, you know that right?” I peeked up at him and saw his nod, so I fixed my gaze on the middle distance so I could tell this story. I couldn’t get the words out if I was looking at him. “The alpha was a tyrant, to put it bluntly. He was mean and abusive. He ruled by force, physical I mean, and he didn’t hesitate to beat us whenever he wanted. For any infraction, real or perceived.”

This time, Luca’s growl was decidedly not happy, and even though I still couldn’t look him in the eye, I patted his chest to try and soothe him. He tugged me in even tighter, and it was as though he was using his very body to protect me.

“I learned early on to make myself small, to be as unobtrusive and unseen as possible. It didn’t always work, and we never knew what would set him off. I never knew.” I had to work to not get lost in the memories, to not let the emotions overwhelm me and pull me back. Taking a few seconds to just breathe helped. The way Luca’s scent filled my nostrils helped even more. Deciding that was enough information for now, I settled my forehead against his neck. “But I got out. I ran when the opportunity presented itself, and ended up finding a bear shifter that helped. She contacted Tom and…”

Luca slid a hand up into my hair, rubbing my scalp at the back of my head. It was so soothing I had no trouble breathing, and I made a mental note if I needed to talk about this in the future, that snuggled up and half in Luca’s lap was the best way to do it. He kept me calm and grounded.

“Anyway, lots of therapy and the support of a good alpha, and I’m okay now.” I huffed out a breath and made myself look up, so I could see his eyes. “I’m still a work in progress. PTSD and trauma response don’t just go away. But I’m better.”

Luca moved slowly, telegraphing his motion, but I wasn’t scared of him and didn’t pull away. He cupped my cheek with his other hand. His thumb made soothing circles against my skin.

“Thank you for sharing that with me.” His voice was a low rumble that made me want to crawl into his chest and live there. “I know it wasn’t easy. And I promise you right now, I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

I smiled. “I know. You’re actions have shown that.” I leaned forward, bringing our lips closer. My body was warm, and not just because of the heat he was putting off. The more I got to know him, the more I wanted him. I licked my lips and watched his expression turn wicked.

“Kiss?” His breath was a hot wash against my skin.

“Please.” It was almost a whimper.

Luca kept control, keeping the kiss sweet and easy. Gentle, but deep, making sure I felt all of it. He tasted like steak and beer and him, and I wanted to roll around in it. It was everything a first kiss should be, and set my soul on fire.

We pulled apart just as the sun set completely, disappearing completely. I was breathing hard, more from the emotions than the kiss itself. Luca didn’t say a word, just tucked me back against him. And we sat there cuddled up as the world went dark and the stars came out.