Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 3 for Rowan and Luca. At least one more part after this but maybe more. We shall see. Check the tags to catch up if you need to. Enjoy!**

Nothing beat running in fur. There was a lot of things I loved to do in my human shape, but sprinting through the woods, wind ruffling my fur, four feet pounding against the ground as the scents and sounds really came alive was the best feeling ever. In my shifted form, my animal instincts ruled, though my very human brain still added input. It had taken years to find the balance and be comfortable with it.

Luca led the way and I dutifully followed. Not only because he was the more dominant wolf, but because I simply wanted to. We raced through trees and underbrush, sides heaving as we ran. Hitting the far edge of our territory, we looped back around, slowing some, until we reached the creek. Human me would never drink from the water, but wolf me thought it was crisp and cool, soothing my parched throat. When I was finished, I lay down on the edge of the bank. Luca pushed closer, his muzzle bumping mine. Then he lifted his head sharply, paused, then took off.

I got to my feet, listening, trying to figure out why he’d run. But before I could parse it out, he returned, a dead hare hanging limply in his jaws. Human me would be repulsed, but wolf me eyed the kill with hunger. But I sat and waited. Luca was more dominant than me, he got to eat first. And if he chose to eat it all—there wasn’t much to a hare—then I’d have to hunt my own food.

Luca approached slowly but deliberately, and laid the hare at my feet. He backed up two paces, then sat quietly and watched me. I tilted my head and whined. This was his kill, not mine. I couldn’t eat it. Luca huffed, and then let out a soft yowl. When I still didn’t move, he came closer and nudged the hare. Then he licked my muzzle and stepped back again.

It took a few more seconds for my human mind to figure it out. He was feeding me. He wanted me to eat his offering. There was a significance there, I knew, but I couldn’t quite remember why. Luca laid down, gaze fixed on me, crossing his front paws. Waiting.

I ate. Bite after bite, with him watching me all the while, until half the hare was gone. Then I brought it to him, making sure he had food too. Instead of going after the food, he cleaned my muzzle. Only when he was satisfied, did he eat the rest of the hair until there wasn’t much left to the carcass. When he was finished, I returned the favor and cleaned him. His tail thumped the ground and he let out a happy little whine.

I was inordinately pleased he was happy.

He stood, then rubbed his body along mine. Both sides and under my neck. Until I smelled like him as much as myself. Luca stuck his nose in my fur, snuffled for a moment, then let out a small bark. I didn’t dare move. But he gave me a gentle nip that got me on my feet and when he took off back the way we came, I ran after him.

Luca took a more direct route back to the pack house, so we were there in no time. He stopped by his pile of clothes but I continued on, back through the still open door and onto the porch. I shifted back to human, something that always felt like a loss. Some people preferred one shape over the other, and while I didn’t really, being in fur was more of a comfort than being in skin. Once the shift was complete, I dressed quickly and was just tugging my shirt into place when he came back in.

He gave me a soft smile. “Feel better?”

I nodded. “Luca—”

“Let me get you some more water and food.” He strode toward the house door. “You need it after your shift.”

“Luca.” My voice held a note of desperation. Confusion too, if I was honest. But it did the trick, because he stopped. He didn’t turn, but he paused at least. I took a breath. “You fed me.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s kind of a big deal.” I padded closer, my feet still bare, and even though he tensed, he still didn’t move. Didn’t walk away, but didn’t turn around either. “It’s important.”

“You needed it.” His voice was so soft.

I reached out, moving at a snail’s pace, and touched his shoulder. He jerked, a tiny movement, but didn’t pull away or shrug me off. I stepped closer so I could see his profile and put my other hand on his arm. Luca’s eyes slid closed, and he looked as though he was doing everything in his power not to move.

“Talk to me?” It was a request, because I wasn’t in any position to demand. Not only because of our places in the pack, but because I was still confused. Because of the pack I’d been born into, because of how I—along with so many others—had been treated and raised, there were nuances I didn’t understand. But back in skin, with the animal part of me receded to the background, I was able to think clearer. And I knew this meant something monumental. He was taking care of me. He fed me.

Luca looked at me then. Actually turned his head and met my gaze. And I didn’t understand everything I saw there, but I got the longing. The affection. I sucked in a breath, and Luca shuttered his expression, but when he tried to pull away, I held on tighter. He froze, then gusted out a sigh.

“You needed to heal first, before I could say anything.” His voice was still that soft, barely audible tone, but I had no trouble hearing him.

“Oh.” It was all I could get out.

Luca cut his gaze away. “If you don’t want…if you aren’t ready….” He snapped his gaze back to mine, eyes blazing. “I would never force you.”

I smiled then, because that, at least, I was sure of. “I know that. But as for the rest?” I shrugged one shoulder, trying for winsome but not sure if I succeeded. “I don’t know what I want. I don’t know you well enough yet.”

For a long, tense moment, Luca didn’t say anything. Didn’t move. I wasn’t even sure he was breathing. But then he inhaled sharply and reached out. Slowly and telegraphing his every movement, so I could pull away if I wanted. I didn’t. and when his finger made contact with my cheek, I leaned into the touch.

Luca’s voice was a deep rumble when he spoke. “Let’s change that, hm?”

“Let’s.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Here’s the second episode for Rowan and Luca. Better late than never. And there’s more to come. Hope you enjoy!**

Luca held me tight as he led me to the back porch. It was enclosed, but as soon as he sat me on the rattan couch, he opened the windows, muttered something about fresh air, and turned around and walked out. I stared after him for a long moment, confused. He’d been so intent on taking care of me and then just left? Well, it was fine. Being by myself would work too.

But before I could even really complete the thought, he was back. He had a bottle of water in one hand and a clearly wet cloth in the other. Gingerly, he sat beside me, handed over the water, then lifted the cloth and ever so gently wiped the sweat from my face. I was too stunned to speak, let alone react, so I just allowed him to, staring at him with wide eyes.

He gave me a gentle smile and my breath caught, because I’d never seen that expression on his face. The smile became a tiny smirk, and he gestured to the bottle.

“You should drink.”

My motions were automatic, no thought involved, as I cracked open the top and took a few swallows. The cool water soothed my throat, and I realized how thirsty I was. I tipped the bottle more, ready to down the whole thing, when Luca closed his big hand over mine.

“Take it easy. You don’t want to get sick.” Luca’s voice was low, and the timber sent a shiver through me. I managed to check it.

I cleared my throat. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

Luca quirked an eyebrow. “You want me to be mean?”

I almost laughed, because I liked his playful tone and the banter was helping me to feel more settled. Usually I liked to be by myself after a panic attack, but having Luca here was helping.

“No, of course not. But just…” I blew out a breath and fiddled with the label on the water bottle, not able to look Luca right in the eye. “I’ve been here for three years, right? And we’ve never had a real conversation.”

Luca tipped his head, studying me. “Yeah, I guess so. I mean, we’ve talked.”

“In passing, sure.” I twisted the cap off, then back on. Did it again. After the third time, Luca covered both my hands with one of his. Then he ducked his head to catch my eye. “I’m okay.”

A nod. “You will be. It didn’t last as long as the last one.”

I startled at that, pulled away and Luca let me. I scooted back into the corner of the couch, staring, and Luca’s expression went blank. For a long few minutes, we both just breathed. Then I found my voice.

“I wasn’t aware that, uh, you paid, um, that close attention to me.”

With a small, quiet sigh, Luca closed his eyes. A moment later, he opened them then slid off the couch and onto one knee. He did his best to appear small, but it was absolutely impossible. He was just a big guy, broad and tall, and even crouched down, it didn’t dimmish that. But I appreciated the effort. 

“Does that make you uncomfortable?”

I let the question hang there for a moment while I contemplated that. My first reaction was to immediately deny it, to soothe and placate. But that was my old conditioning, and I’d learned better now.

“Uh, maybe a little. I mean, we’re a pack. We all look out for each other.”

The sound that escaped Luca’s throat sounded a little pained. I didn’t now what caused it, how my statement hurt him, and I was trying to decide how to ask, or even if I should, when Luca spoke instead, his voice so soft I might not have heard it if I hadn’t had enhanced hearing. 

“That’s not why.”

“What?”

Luca shook his head. “Do you want to talk to me about what happened? What triggered you?”

My stomach knotted. I really didn’t. It was stupid, to begin with. There was no reason for it. It had just been a motion, caught out of the corner of my eye, and it sent me into a spiral. I knew I was safe and protected in Tom’s pack. I should be fine. But as my therapist reminded me, trauma response was not logical.

Luca took my silence as an answer, and he didn’t force me to talk. Instead he laid a hand on my knee and squeezed gently.  “Will shifting help? I know it always helps me feel more settled.”

The change of subject was abrupt, and for just a split second, I almost asked him to explain. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, so I went with it instead.

“Uh, yeah. Yeah, it would be good to but in fur for a while.”

Luca stood so quickly it startled a gasp out of me, but Luca ignored that. He shot me a grin and it transformed his whole face. He always had an intimidating air about him, but with that huge smile, I could see something else. Something softer he didn’t usually let us see. 

“You shift. I’ll leave the door open. I’ll meet you out there in fur and we’ll go for a run.”

“Luca—” but he was gone, out the door and jumping the three steps to the back lawn. I lifted up enough to watch him as he began to strip—it was always easier to shift while naked—and his back was an expanse of smooth skin and rippling muscle. I dropped back down quickly, needing to take a second to collect myself.

Luca had turned my perception of him on it’s head. And I wasn’t sure if it was because I was still shaken or for some other reason, and I didn’t have the mental capacity to figure it out right now. And I hadn’t been lying when I said shifting helped. Being able to run in fur, to let the animal side of me have control and let the human thoughts recede went a long way to helping me feel whole.

So I stripped off my clothes, dropped to all fours, and let the shift overtake me. a few seconds of pain, then my pain receptors turned off, and it was nothing more than the tug and pull of muscle and bone, tendons and sinew, as I changed shape.

Once it was done, I shook my fur to settle it into place, lifted my nose to catch Luca’s scent, and bounded out the door after him. Everything else could wait.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

 

**Welcome to another Flash Fic Friday! Today we start a new story, and it’s going to have a least a few parts. So follow along as Rowan finds his HEA. Enjoy!**

The thing about a well-functioning wolf shifter pack was that the alpha was in charge, but didn’t abuse that power. The alpha takes care of the wolves in their protection, supports them, and lifts them up. They don’t lord their power and control over their packmembers. 

I knew first hand how being in a pack with a controlling, power-hungry alpha could be.

But that was my past, and now I’d found a good pack. One where the alpha and alpha-mate did everything they could to take care of us. Made sure we were safe and healthy and had what we needed. And took care of us when we were in trouble.

“Rowan, you need to breathe.” Tom’s voice was deep and held that note of alpha power I couldn’t ignore even if I wanted to. And since he didn’t, because I trusted him, I took a breath.

It hurt. But when I sucked in air, I realized how fuzzy my head was getting from the lack of oxygen. Tom’s touch on my neck centered me, and when I breathed again, his scent soothed me even further. Fur and forest and citrus and cotton. The breath after that was a lot easier, and the more I focused on moving air through my lungs and my alpha in front of me, the better it got.

Panic eventually receded enough that I could focus on things outside of myself. Half the pack was crowded close, but still giving me room. Tom’s mate, Josiah, was crouched closer still, and I realized his hand was on my shoulder.

“That was a bad one, huh?” Tom’s voice rumbled, gentle and soothing. I nodded, and fought the blush that wanted to crawl up my neck. I was too old to turn red with embarrassment, and I knew, logically, that a panic attack was nothing to be embarrassed about. But I was. 

It had been years since I left my old pack. Years since I’d been at the mercy of an abusive alpha and his cronies. Years of time and work and therapy. Years of being safe and cared for in Tom’s pack. I should be over these attacks, over the trauma response when a small thing triggered me. 

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, still not really having a voice. 

“None of that now.” Tom smiled and then ran his hand and wrist over the side of my neck, marking me with his scent. Reminding me I was his. I needed it right now, and I let out a grateful sigh. Tom’s smile grew. “You’re okay.”

It wasn’t a question, but I answered anyway. “Yes, alpha.”

Tom clucked his tongue, but it was playful, and we all knew he didn’t stand on ceremony. Titles were unnecessary with him. With all of us. We were a pack, and though Tom took care of us all, he didn’t see himself as better than the rest of us. 

I’d done good finding him when I finally escaped my past. 

The pack broke up, now that they knew I was okay, and the murmur of voices built as they rejoined their conversations. The insidious part of my brain tried to tell me they were all talking about me, judging me. I did my best to silence that voice. 

Tom stood, then held out his hands and pulled me up. I was shaky, but steady enough, so he stepped back. He didn’t take his eyes off me, even as Josiah stepped forward and marked me as well. When Josiah offered a hug, I leaned into the alpha-mate’s hold easily. He let me hold on until I was ready to let go. 

When I stood on my own, I felt more centered. Though I was covered in a clammy sweat and I desperately wanted some time on my own to clean up and just…decompress. Tom lifted his head, gaze searching, and then he motioned to Tenley. She nodded and turned in our direction, but before she could get far, Luca intercepted her and beelined right for us.

I sucked in a breath. Luca was big, broad shouldered and tall. He exuded confidence, and if he wanted to be, he could have run his own pack. He was decisive, blunt, and a little abrasive. The commanding air that surrounding him was a little intimidating. I didn’t know him well, but I trusted him because Tom did, even though he made me nervous.

“I’ve got him, Tom,” Luca said, his voice that deep rasp it always was. His gaze was fixed on me and he stepped right into my personal space. I fidgeted, and glanced at Tom. The alpha looked at us both, studying us for a long moment, and then he stepped back with a nod. 

Luca put his arm around my waist, tucking me into his side. Without conscious thought, I leaned into him. My blood hummed and something settled in my chest. I’d never felt anything like this, and I couldn’t even begin to explain it. I barely knew this man. We’d never really had a true conversation in the years I’d been here. The pack was large, and we ran in different smaller circles. But in his arms, tucked against his heat, I felt safe.

Luca leaned down, and his lips brushed my ear. “I’ve got you, Rowan. You’re just fine.”

I shivered. I had the inexplicable urge to curl into him even more. I knew that I could have just cuddled into him and he wouldn’t have hesitated to pick me up and carry me. For a split second, I had the almost irresistible urge to test it.

I didn’t though. 

I leaned my head on his shoulder and let him guide me out of the room, trusting him to take care of me. I didn’t understand it. It didn’t make sense. But I couldn’t spare the brain power to figure it out right now. Later. I would think about it later.

I stumbled, but Luca kept me steady. His big hand soothed up and down my back, then he pulled me in closer. I let out a breath. It was going to be okay.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Okay, y’all. This is it. The real final episode for Gareth and Owen. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Who do you think we should see next? Aeron’s story, or Lane’s? In the meantime, here’s the conclusion. Enjoy!**

Aeron was in the hospital for two weeks. The first three days of that, he was still unconscious. His magic and life had been drained nearly completely, and it took a lot of medical and magical support to get him back to stable. Remy came around faster, but he was in rough shape too. Fortunately, the hospital had a wing geared toward magic users, so there was a veterinarian on staff as well.

I couldn’t bring myself to leave Aeron’s side. Owen, the ever faithful mate and familiar, stayed right there with me. Because of our familial connection, I was granted permission to not only remain at Aeron’s side, but to boost him with magic as well. I was glad to be doing somethingsince he looked one breath away from death.

But he came around, and even though he slept more than not for the next two days, he was on the mend. After that, it took another week before he was able to be released. Aeron wasn’t talking much, and we spent a lot of time sitting in silence. Every once in a while, he’d reach out and hold onto my hand without saying a word. I let him hang on as long as he needed.

I knew he was feeling better when he started arguing with me.

“I just want to go home, G. To my own bed, with my own stuff.”

I tried not to let my frustration show, but I knew it leaked into my voice. “You still need care and if you stay with Owen and me, we can make sure you’re getting everything you need.”

Aeron smirked. “You just wanna keep me safe.”

“Can you blame me?” I huffed.

“Nope.” He smiled, then reached out. I latched onto his hand. “It was scary AF. But she’s behind bars, she can’t get out, and I’m not worried about retaliation. Agent Willis said she’s under magical lock down.”

I sighed, because he wasn’t wrong. Lane had let us know as much as he could, and he’d been there to take Aeron’s statement once my brother had been up to talking. But we hadn’t seen much of the Special Agent since, which to be honest, worried me a little. Lane had intimated he was in trouble for his actions, and that thought didn’t sit well with me.

“We’ll reset the wards when you take me home. Make them even stronger. And if the pack is still willing to give me bodyguards, I’m not going to say no.”

Owen was quick to chime in. “Of course. I’ve already got packmembers asking about when you’ll be well enough to go home, and ready to set up a rotation.”

Aeron cleared his throat and I didn’t imagine the blush. “Uh, how’s Marco?”

Owen smiled softly. “He’s fine. Pissed off she got the drop on him but recovered well. It was just a sleeping spell.”

“Good.” He blew out a breath. “I should have asked earlier. I’m sorry.”

I didn’t tell him he had already asked that. It had been one of the first coherent questions out of his mouth. But that was for another time. When he was fully healed and I could find out what that blush had been all about. “Don’t worry about it. Are you sure we can’t convince you to stay with us?”

Aeron nodded and squeezed my hand. “Really. I’ll do better in my own space. I promise to check in often, okay?” He tapped his temple to let me know what he meant. “And I won’t be alone.”

I sighed again, making it gusty so Aeron would smile. I was rewarded for my efforts. He let go of me when the nurse appeared with the wheelchair to take him out. I followed along behind and kept the rest of my protests to myself.

***

I flopped onto the couch once we got home. Owen joined me a second later and I immediately snuggled into his arms. I let out a breath and pushed even closer. Owen didn’t say a word, just held me tightly. The deep compression went along way to relaxing me, easing the tension. 

“He’s gonna be okay, love.”

I nodded. I knew Aeron would recover. We’d laid down a new threshold ward, and his magic had been fairly strong. Not where it usually was, but getting there. I’d pulled hard on my bond with Owen, and he handled it like a champ. But I’d wanted the strongest possible magic keeping my brother safe. 

“He even promised he’d see the counselor to help,” Owen added. He adjusted our positions so I was half in his lap and I gave me him my weight. Owen hummed happily and kissed my head. He loved it when we were tangled up like this, being the tactile wolf shifter that he was. Before Owen, I would have said that I could take or leave cuddling. But now I knew just how amazing it was.

I saw a lot of things clearer now that I had Owen.

Tears threatened, but I choked them back and kissed under his jaw. “Thank you.”

Owen hummed again, rubbing my back. “You’re welcome. For what?”

“Everything. All of it. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.” I swallowed hard. “I’m so lucky you came to me when I called.”

“I love you too.” Owen kissed me, long and slow and deep, and I felt every ounce of his love and affection in that kiss. When he finally pulled back, it was just far enough so he could speak. “You could have handled it on your own, but I’m glad you didn’t have to. I’m grateful I was here to help and protect. And now you’re out of that situation, you know? You don’t have to worry about the people who brought you into this world. Or a judgmental Council. And you can just love me.”

The last was said with a eyebrow waggle, and I chuckled and kissed him, fast and hard. “I do love you.”

“I know.” He settled me back against him, then pulled the afghan from the back of the couch and tucked it around me.

The quiet descended around us, until it was nothing but our heartbeats and our soft breaths. I never imagined my life would turn out this way, but I didn’t regret it for a second. I was so glad I had Owen, as a mate and familiar, and glad that the worst was behind us now. I was content to just snuggle with Owen for the rest of my life.

I was pretty sure he felt the same.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Oh here we go. Now that I’m feeling marginally better, things are heating up with Gareth and Owen. The end is nigh. Enjoy**

For a minute, the fear and panic overrode everything and I couldn’t focus on what they were saying. It was as though white noise obscured my hearing, just a buzz of sound that blocked anything else out. But Owen’s loud and inventive cursing pulled me back to the present and I sucked in a breath as I made myself focus in time to catch the important questions.

“How in the fuck did she get past our pack?”

“Best guess is sleeping spell. Your packmember is unharmed, but comatose for the moment.” Lane’s voice was high and he was speaking fast. “Her scent is all over the apartment though, and our agents are working with your alpha to track where she took Aeron.”

Tracking. Oh. I could do better than wolves. At least where my brother was concerned. I jumped up and jammed my feet into my sneakers, not even caring that the back of one stayed stuck under my heel, and rushed to the door. Owen caught me, Lane stepped in front of me, and I fought them both.

“I can track him.” My voice was desperate and I didn’t even try to hide it. “I can do it, better than anyone else. I have to find him.”

Owen reeled me in, holding me tight, even as I tried to get free. He grabbed my chin, and made me look at him. “Because of your mind-meld thing.”

I nodded even though it wasn’t a question. And that wasn’t exactly what Aeron and I had but I wasn’t going to stop to explain. Not now. I had to get to my brother. Owen nodded.

“That’s great and we can use that, but Gareth, you can’t—”

Owen’s eyes flashed amber and the growl that rose up from his chest stopped Lane’s words short.

“Get. Out. Of. Our. Way.”

Oscar hissed from his perch on Lane’s shoulder, and Lane’s eyes hardened. “I’m going with you. And you will do as I say. Do you understand?”

“You bet,” I agreed quickly, not meaning it at all. While the rational part of my brain understood that the MBI was not only in charge of this case but trained for situations like this, my heart didn’t care. My brother was in trouble and at the hands of the woman who birthed us. Who’d proven she was a vile creature who didn’t care about her children. There was no telling what she would do.

Owen dropped to his knees and shifted, faster than I’d ever seen him do it before. It only took seconds and then he was a wolf, shaking himself out of his pants and underwear. I took a moment to help him out of the shirt, but then I was running, my familiar and mate at my side. Lane grabbed my arm and steered me toward his SUV and I was quick to hop in, making sure Owen’s tail was out of the way before I slammed the door shut.

“Go!”

Lane, for his part, started the engine and pulled out onto the street. “Where’m I going?”

I had to take a moment to center myself, which was hard with the worry coursing through my veins. But Aeron was right there, just like he always was, at the edge of my awareness when I looked for him. He wasn’t conscious but I could feel him.

It was hard to split my focus between that and my connection to my brother. My words came out stilted as I tried to speak. “East…not far…miles…east.”

I heard Lane speaking, but it wasn’t to me, so I tuned it out and concentrated. Aeron was in rough shape, that much I could tell. And whatever that bitch was doing to him hurt. Even though Aeron wasn’t aware, exactly—I couldn’t tell if he just passed out or if she’d done something to him—it still hurt. Deep down, in his soul. I gritted my teeth against the pain. If I only felt a residual amount, I couldn’t imagine the agony he was in.

“She’s hurting…him…go faster.” I panted with the effort, and Owen pressed against me. I slid my fingers into his fur, holding on tight, and pulled on our bond, using it to gather more magic and strength.

It took trial and error, a few wrong turns, and my increasing panic didn’t help. With ever minute that passed, I felt Aeron slipping further away, even as I could tell we were getting closer to his physical location. Then suddenly, it was as though he was right in front of me and I screamed for Lane to stop. He slammed on his breaks, and if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt, I would have gone through the front windshield.

It was a rundown looking apartment building on the far side of town, which I only knew because Aeron had looked at a place nearby before the pack put their foot down and helped him get into a better place closer to pack territory. But he was in that building somewhere, I knew it.

Lane threw the car into park, jumped out, and right before he slammed the door shut, he yelled, “Stay in the car!”

Fuck that.

Owen and I were out of the vehicle seconds later, and Lane was yelling at us, but we both ignored him. The security door to the vestibule wasn’t locked and I raced through, my hand still buried in Owen’s fur. He was leading the way now, nose lifted, and I let my connection with Aeron go. Owen could find him by scent now, and I could focus my magic in other ways.

Up the stairs, Lane on our heels, past the second floor and to the third. Owen paused at the door, I tried to control my breathing, and then Owen moved forward. We crept down the hall, past several apartments. The air stank of rotting food and mildew, the carpet stained with gods knew what. My heart was pounding in my chest.

Owen stopped in front of a door halfway down, then leaned hard against me. I drew power through him, focused it, and blasted the door off the hinges.

It only took a second to parse out what I was seeing. My brother, lying prone on the ground, Remy lifeless on his chest. Black magic wove around him, sucking his magic and lifeforce into the woman who had once been my mother.

I screamed, wordless and filled with rage. My magic burst out of me, not really focused, and the power of it knocked Bianca off her feet. The magic connecting her to Aeron didn’t break though, and that needed to happen. Lane was shouting behind me, at me or at her, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t care.

I slammed a shield spell forward, cutting her off from Aeron, and the concussive force of it made plaster crack and the floor creak. Bianca spun up another spell, this time aimed at me, and Owen darted forward, attacking with fangs and claws. She went down under him and I scrambled forward, needing to protect both my mate and my brother. Another shield around Owen kept Bianca’s magic from hitting him, but it reverberated against my magic in a painful way. I gasped, air sucked from my lungs, and dropped to my knees.

I yanked hard on the bond, needing the grounding it provided, and Owen hunched low with the strength of it, still snarling at Bianca but safe in my shield. This wasn’t my strong suit, and I hadn’t been trained in it, so it was all I could do to keep us all safe while Bianca rallied her magic and tried to attack again.

I wasn’t alone, though. Lane was there, and his magic added to mine, bumping up against it pleasantly until it streaked past in a binding ward. It wouldn’t hold her for long. I knew her strength when she wasn’t charged up, and she’d been draining Aeron.

But seconds later the room was flooded with more MBI agents and the combination of magic and shifters was enough. Bianca finally went down under the combined force and within minutes she was unconscious and so tightly magically bound, she had no hope of escaping.

Breathing hard, I let my magic go and finally turned my attention to my brother and his familiar. My hands shook as I touched them, panic screaming in my gut, but then a relieved sob escaped. They were both alive and breathing, though in rough shape. Drained near death, but alive. I pulled on my bond again and Owen leaned heavily against me, but I had to shore up Aeron and Remy. I couldn’t do much because I wasn’t a healer. But I could help.

Lane came over a minute later. He touched my shoulder and fed me some power for a few moments, then crouched down. “Let EMS have them. Come on, Gareth. Back off.”

I did, slowly, and trying to fight tears. Owen pushed up under my chin and I gave him my full weight. Once I’d pulled back my magic, EMS swooped in with IVs and vitals and magic of their own. I sat down hard and buried my face into Owen’s fur.

Lane leaned in close. “You’re in trouble.” But he said it with affection that let me know that while I was going to have to answer for what I’d done, I wasn’t actually in trouble. “Get up when you can. We’ll get statements and then get you to the hospital.”

I nodded slowly, sucked in a breath that also got me a mouthful of fur, and tried to get myself back together. I was crashing hard, exhaustion creeping in now that the fear was past. Aeron was loaded onto a stretcher and wheeled out the door, Remy receiving care right along with him.

I struggled to my feet. It was going to be a long day.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Here we go! Another episode with Gareth and Owen. I have no idea when this will end. Enjoy!**

I paced, unable to sit. To settle. Owen’s gaze tracked me from the couch but he wisely kept his mouth shut. He, at least, got to go outside. Shifted into his fur and went for runs. I, on the other hand, hadn’t been allowed out of the house in days. Weeks? I wasn’t sure how long it was at this point.

Intellectually, I got it. Bianca was free and Owen, the pack, my brother, even Lane….they all believe it was possible she would come after me. I was worried about that myself, but not overly. I was more worried about Aeron, and I was glad he had pack members staying with him as well. 

“Come cuddle with me.” Owen’s voice was low, cajoling, and even though I adored my mate and what he was trying to do. But I was too cranky. And a little paranoid.

“I need to check the wards,” I muttered, crossing back to the window and placing my hand against the jam. This house had really good anchor points, and I reached deep for the magic, pushing more into the wards I’d built with Aeron’s help. We’d done the same at his place. The magic flared up, bright for a second, then settled back down.

Before I could move to the next point, Owen was behind me, wrapping his arm around my waist and tugging me back against his chest. He kissed the back of my neck. When he spoke, he kept his lips against my skin. “You’ve check and rechecked. They’re the strongest than can be.”

“Have we heard from Lane?” I asked, not relaxing.

Owen, for his part, didn’t even sound frustrated when he answered, despite the fact that I’d asked that at least ten time just today. “Not since yesterday.”

“But they’re sure of where she is?”

“Yes, love. Lane said he’d let us know.”

“But he’s not supposed to.” I sighed and tried to let the tension go. “He’s going out on a limb and skirting the rules by keeping us in the loop.”

Owen made an affirmative noise and squeezed me tighter. After a long moment, I blew out a breath and let him take my weight. He held me up easily, and didn’t try to make me move or say anything else. We stood there for a long time, and I couldn’t resist drawing on our magic just to give the wards another boost. Owen sucked in a breath, and then let out a small chuckle when I was done.

“I like Lane.” Owen said, conversationally. I was a little surprised he didn’t comment on my obsessive need to check the wards.

As a reward for his incredibly patient behavior, I pulled away enough to grab his hand and tug him to the couch. Then I pushed him down, let him get comfortable, then flopped down on his lap. I didn’t quite fit but neither of us cared. He liked me close, and I liked it too. It had been awkward at first but we’d found a way to make it work.

I fiddled with his shirt, rubbing the fabric between my fingers. “I like Lane too. He’s good people. We should invite him over.”

Owen kissed my head. “When everything dies down we’ll see where it stands, yeah?”

“Yeah.” I sighed, closed my eyes, and thunked my head down on his shoulder. “Do you regret it?”

Owen went completely still. Then asked, very carefully, “Regret what?”

“Us. Being my familiar. Me calling you.” I exhaled hard. “It’s been crazy since the second we met, and you certainly didn’t sign up for a judgmental High Mage and a murderous, black magic wielding family.”

“Not for a second.” The conviction in his tone made me relax. It’d be a would lie if I said I hadn’t been nervous about his answer. And when he took hold of my chin and made me look at him, I saw it there in his face. “I love you. And I believe fate put us together for a reason.”

I kissed him, hard and thoroughly, because what else can I do. When we broke for air, I smiled. “I love you, too.”

“Yeah, I know.” He waggled his eyebrows, then kissed my cheek. “We’ll get through this, love.”

I nodded, tucking in close again. “Do you really think she’ll come after me?”

“I don’t know.” His voice was soft, contemplative. “I think Lane thinks it’s a possibility and he’s closer—”

Owen went still, then bodily lifted me and dropped me on the couch. “Stay there.”

I didn’t even have a chance to respond before Owen was at the door, and he pulled it open without hesitation. My heart leapt into my throat, taking in the taunt line of his shoulders, and the claws that tipped his fingers.

I was shocked when Owen ushered Lane in through the door, and opened my mouth to ask what was going on, but Lane’s wide eyes and ghost white face stopped me in my tracks. I stood fast, and Lane’s eyes shot to me.

Lane swallowed hard before he croaked, “She’s got Aeron.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

*And we’re back. The Gareth and Owen saga continues. Enjoy!*

I’d been increasingly clingy, but Owen didn’t seem to care. In fact, I was pretty sure he was enjoying the heck out of the fact that I wanted to be in his space one hundred percent of the time. He was always kissing my head or cheek or neck, and always wrapped me up in his arms when I pushed in close. We spent a good portion of time cuddled on the couch. Soon I’d have to find a job, and Owen would have to go back to work for his family’s construction business but for now, the pack was taking care of us.

If my parents hadn’t been arrested for black magic, and the past few weeks hadn’t been taken up by continual interviews with the MBI, we’d probably be expected to contribute sooner. But we had things going on, and though I felt guilty, I was glad I didn’t have to think about anything else at the moment. Owen insisted I didn’t have to feel guilt.

“This is what pack does, babe,” he said more than once and always with a fond smile.

I was working on it.

In the meantime, I was happy to curl up with Owen, under a warm afghan, and just soak in time with him. I was practically in his lap, half reading a book, with him watching TV, when a knock at the door had us both looking up. Owen wrinkled his nose, but didn’t say anything as he eased me to the side and stood.

“Who is it?” I asked quietly.

Owen pulled a face. “Willis.”

I groaned, not wanting to do this again. It had been so many conversations, day in and day out, and I was just so freaking tired of it. I sat up and put my book aside, but didn’t move off the couch. I wasn’t going to be hospitable. I just didn’t have the spoons.

“Agent Willis!” Owen said as he threw open the door, false cheer in his voice. “To what do we owe the pleasure? You just can’t get enough of us, huh? You miss us?”

Willis grimaced. “May I come in?”

Owen crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, I don’t know—”

“Let him in, sweetheart,” I said with a sigh. Owen could do this all day, and I just didn’t have the strength. Let the agent in so we could get this over with.

The way the couch was angled, I couldn’t see Owen’s face well, but his body language was that of a predator, and he pointed at Willis. “Behave. And if you upset my mate, I’m kicking you out.”

I let out a half-hearted laugh. “Owen.”

“It’s fine. Thank you.” Willis stepped in and to the side, so Owen could shut the door behind him. Oscar wound around Willis’s feet, and Willis scooped the cat up and perched him on his shoulder. He waited for Owen to lead the way, then followed Owen into the living room. 

“No partner today?” I asked, curious. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mathers, since she always acted like we were inconveniencing her,  but they always showed up together.

Willis shook his head. “No. I, uh, shouldn’t be here actually.”

Owen’s face went stony. “What does that mean?”

Willis sighed heavily and sat in the recliner when I gestured to it. Oscar immediately settled into his lap. Willis immediately put his hands on the cat, rubbing Oscar’s ears gently. Oscar squinted and started up a purr I could hear from across the room. 

“Agent Willis?” My voice was tentative.

“I’m not here in my official capacity. Lane is good.” I nodded and Lane smiled. “Look, I’m not supposed to be here, and you’re going to hear this in an official capacity soon. You’ll be asked to come down to headquarters, I’m sure. But I thought you should hear it from me.”

Owen didn’t hesitate to put his arm around me. I was sure he felt the anxiety coming off me in waves. Just the resigned tone of his voice, the careful way he chose his words, had me on edge. I opened my mouth to ask, again, what was going on, but Lane spoke before I could.

“Your mother has struck a plea deal and won’t be going to trial. In exchange for testifying against your father, she’s getting a reduced sentence.”

My gut clenched. “How reduced?”

Lane’s face contorted. “Time served and three years’ probation.”

“What?” Owen and I said at the same time, but Owen’s was a shout and mine was a whisper. Fear clenched in my gut.

“How is that possible?” I managed to ask.

“She had compelling evidence and the Tribunal Prosecutor felt her testimony was more important than prosecuting her.”

Owen growled, low and deep in his chest, causing Oscar to hiss and jump up onto Lane’s shoulder. Owen didn’t care. “What in the fucking hell could be good enough for that?”

“I can’t say.” Lane’s voice was calm, and he held up a hand when Owen made an indignant noise. “I really can’t. I shouldn’t even been telling you at all, but I didn’t want you to be blindsided. I want you to be able to put protections in place.”

I stared at Lane. He’d been kind from the first moment he’d shown up, and he’d done his best to make it as painless as possible. Even though it had, in fact, been pretty painful. He’s reined in his partner when she had gotten too aggressive, and gave me as much time as I needed to answer questions. He’d come here, against protocol or whatever, to break the news that Bianca would be release into the world despite her crimes.

“Hey, Lane? You hungry?”

Owen’s jerked his gaze to me at the same time Lane’s head sprung up. They both stared and all I could do was smile. Pushing to my feet, I held out a hand to Owen who took it immediately.

“Gareth.” Owen pulled me close, then tilted my chin up to look me in the eye. “There is a distinct possibility she’d come after you. Or Aeron.”

I glanced at Lane. “Is she out yet?”

Lane shook his head. “But it shouldn’t be too long. A day or two at most.”

“Okay then, let’s eat. We appreciate you coming to tell us, and we’ll be able to prepare.” I patted Owen’s chest. “I’m gonna call Aeron, okay? We’ll figure it out. After we eat.”

I pulled out of Owen’s embrace and headed out to the kitchen. Nerves roiled in my gut and just the thought of Bianca being free, and wanting retribution on either me or Aeron, was scary. But I had to try not to worry about it. There were things we could do to protect ourselves and we would. Plus, we had the pack now.

“Is he okay?” Lane’s voice drifted in from the other room. 

Owen responded a second later. “No, but he will be.”

Yes I would.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Okay! Next episode. Gareth and Owen back for another week. Enjoy!*

Even though Owen took care of me—and very well, I might add—after I dozed for a couple of hours, I woke restless. I tried really hard to settle, to go back to sleep. Owen was breathing softly, deep and even, beside me. Okay, really he was half on me. Seriously, sometimes I really did wonder if he was an octopus shifter.

But I couldn’t find peace, even in my mate’s arms, so I slowly crept my way out of bed, then, as quietly as possible, padded into the living room. The throw blanket I loved was tossed over the back of the couch, and I didn’t hesitate to wrap up in it, settling into the corner of the couch.

I wanted to see my brother. Aeron had finished with his agents later than I had, and we’d spoken briefly on the phone. But it had been late, and I’d been half asleep already so we’d promised to get together tomorrow. Except I was worried about him. Aeron hadn’t had a great relationship with the parents, but it had been better than mine. If I was having a hard time wrapping my head around things, I couldn’t imagine how hard this was for him.

Owen appeared on silent feet, but I was used to him now so I didn’t startle the way I had in the beginning. Had it really only been a couple of months? It felt like so much longer. But in a good way. I tried for a smile, though it felt tremulous, and Owen’s eyes softened. He crossed the room and sat beside me, opening his arms, and giving me the choice on whether or not I wanted to cuddle. The whole time, he didn’t say a word, but I didn’t need him to. With a soft sigh, I changed positions so I was leaning into his embrace. Owen kissed the top of my head.

After a long while, he finally spoke, his lips near my ear and his voice soft. “Why don’t you call him?”

He tapped my temple with gentle fingers so he would know exactly what he meant. I had to laugh then, though it was a weak, short sound. The fact that he knew what was weighing on me at that moment was comforting in a way I couldn’t describe. And that he didn’t think it was weird that I could sort of, kind of communicate with Aeron telepathically was reassuring.

“I’m trying not to,” I whispered, and then shrugged one shoulder knowing full well what his next question would be. “He’s had a long day too. Probably even mor emotionally draining. He needs his rest. And he has Remy.”

Owen hummed, pressing his lips to my skin, but didn’t comment. I appreciated his restraint. If I were to guess, he was more concerned about my well being than that of my brother. Which wasn’t to say he didn’t care about Aeron, just that I was his top priority. Which was really nice.

It was probably only about thirty minutes longer before he lifted his head, gaze zeroing in on the door. My entire body went tense, readying for action. Who was it now? I couldn’t handle anything else. Not tonight. But when Owen didn’t move, and his body remained tension free, I started to relax. He wasn’t worried, so I didn’t need to be either.

I opened my mouth to ask what was going on, but then there was a small burst of magic and the lock clicked open. I sat up fast, because there was only one person who could get through the wards without setting them off. I was off the couch and running before the door fully swung open, and hugging my brother a second later.

“You okay?” I murmured, squeezing him as tightly as I could. Remy moved in so he could nuzzle against where mine and Aeron’s heads met. I gave the cockatoo a quick scritch.

Aeron’s exhale was long and gusty, but he pulled back and gave me a smile that was almost real. “Hell of a day, huh?”

I nodded, pulling him inside before locking the door and resetting the wards. Aeron just kind of stood there, and the haggard appearance told me all I needed to know.

“Can’t sleep?”

He shrugged, and Remy bounced with the motion. “You can’t either.”

We sat down, with me resuming my place on the couch with Owen. Aeron stretched out in the big chair and a half situated on the side. Remy moved down to perch on his chest and put his head under Aeron’s chin. The silence stretched between us.

“Fuck,” Aeron said, low but full of feeling.

“Yeah. I don’t know how we didn’t see it.” I sighed and pushed in closer to Owen. “To be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t try to recruit you. They would have loved someone with your kind of power.”

When Aeron didn’t speak immediately, I sat up, staring at him. He wouldn’t look at me. I glanced at Owen, whose gaze was fixed on Aeron, and then back at my brother.

“I didn’t know what they were doing, but…” He sounded hurt and regretful. “I did, inadverntly, help them. Years ago.”

“What happened?” My heart was in my throat.

Aeron sighed. “I powered them up a couple of times. I didn’t know why they needed it. And I was stupid enough to trust them.”

“You aren’t stupid,” I ground out. “Of course you trusted them. Why wouldn’t you?”

“I should have known something was up. Because they were drained and they needed more and I—” He let out a frustrated growl.

Silence again for a few seconds before Owen tentatively asked, “What does that mean?”

“Magic is a finite but renewable source, right?” I jumped in to explain so my brother wouldn’t have to. Owen nodded and I continued. “So if a witch expends their power, instead of using the slower, more natural ways to power back up, they can get a boost from another witch channeling power into them.”

“Every time, I was in the next room. I had no idea what was going on, and I believed them when they said it was something I’d understand when I was older.” Aeron sounded bitter. “I just channeled power in their direction. Who the hell knows what they were doing in there!?”

“That’s not your fault,” I repeated calmly. I’d say it as many times as he needed to hear it. “You couldn’t have known.”

Aeron waved that away. “By the time I was ‘old enough’ I was already supporting you. Backing you up. Our relationship was strained. Me and them I mean. They had to know I wasn’t going to be down for whatever the fuck—” Another growl, though a very human one. Remy hopped up closer so he could press his beak against Aeron’s cheek.

“Aeron—”

“I have to meet with Agents again tomorrow.”

So we were changing the subject. All right then. I’d roll with it. “Me too.” I shot Owen a loving looking. “My mate was fiercely protective.”

Owen gave a playful growl, going with it. “Damn skippy. And right now, your mate thinks we all need some hot chocolate. Maybe with some Bailey’s?” Owen waggled his eyebrows which got a laugh out of me, and a genuine smile from Aeron.

“Sure. Thank you.”

Owen nodded, kissed my cheek and stood up. He held out an arm. “Hey Remy, wanna come with? We can have some familiar bonding time.”

Remy squawked, head butted Aeron, then flew the few feet to perch on Owen’s arm. Owen started talking to the bird as he carried him into the kitchen. I smiled after them, until they rounded the corner and turned my attention to my brother.

“You okay?” I asked again, this time with a little force behind it.

“No. But I will be. Eventually.”

Yeah, he would. I would too. I’d make sure of it.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**More Gareth and Owen. At this point, it’s its own novella but I can’t stop. At this point, I’ll just keep going until it’s good and done. Check the past posts to catch up if you need to. Enjoy!**

I heard all the words that the MBI agents were saying, but I was having trouble processing them. Because it didn’t make sense. Witches and mages in general were just…not that evil. To learn that my parents had been actively practicing such insidious magic was unfathomable. Purposefully stripping people of life force and magic to use it for their own gain, raising the dead for goddess knew what, storing and amassing power

“Gareth, babe, look at me.”

Owen’s voice broke through the haze, and I blinked slowly before turning my gaze to him. It wasn’t until that second that I realized I’d disassociated, staring without seeing, totally checking out. His touch to my cheek was nice, but I didn’t like the concern in his eyes.

“I’m fine.”

He snorted out  a mirthless sound but the corners of his lips quirked up. “Liar.” His voice was soft and affectionate.

I touched my forehead to his for just a moment, took a deep breath, then turned my attention back to the agents. Willis gave me a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Are you okay to continue?” 

I nodded, even though I wasn’t really. But I needed to be. Owen must have been reading my scent or my body language, because h moved even closer so he could wrap his arm around me and tuck me against his side. I went willingly. So fast, this connection to him. But I didn’t care. I was grateful for it all the time, but especially now.

“As I was saying, the Lacuna location was found to harbor quite a few artifacts and sacrificial altars. When was the last time you were there?”

I thought back, trying to remember. In my youth, the vacation house on the lake had been a frequent journey. I’d loved it there. But the older I got, the less we went. Then after I failed to call a familiar after my first attempt, the invites had stopped completely.

“Five or so years ago now.” I pursed my lips, still trying to think. “Yes, it had to be that summer. The summer before…” I stopped, unable to continue. “Yes, five years ago.”

Mathers made a note in the pad she had set before her. The next question was hers. “Why so long?”

“My parents no longer wanted me there.” My tone was bitter, and I tried to let that go. I’d made peace with their separation from me long ago. Or at least I thought I had. Mostly. But sometimes it still snuck up on me. Parents were supposed to love you no matter what, and mine certainly hadn’t. realization dawned, and I let out a small gasp. “Oh.”

“You thought of something.” Willis’s deep voice didn’t hold a question.

“So much makes sense now,” I murmured, still working it out.

“What?” Mathers urged, her voice sharp.

“Give him a minute,” Owen snapped back.

I soothed my familiar with a hand on his thigh. “It’s just…I’m putting the pieces together now. I thought they didn’t want to have anything to do with me because of my magic but…” I had to think another minute. But then the picture became clear and I sat straighter. Not losing contact with Owen, but no longer leaning on him.

“Take your time,” Willis said, tone easy as he shot his partner a look.

“They,” I began, unwilling to use the word parents anymore. I cleared my throat. “They started cutting me out when my magic took longer to mature than was normal. I thought that was the reason. I speculate now it was because I wouldn’t be any help to them.”

Mathers nodded. “That’s probably accurate.”

“But then why was your mother an awful bitch to you after I came into the picture?” Owen’s brows were drawn together. “Just having me in your life increases your power. Stabilizes it. We’re still working things out, but you’ll be at least as powerful as Aeron. And he has a butt load of power.”

I had to smile at Owen’s choice of terms. “True. Probably even more so. But it’s just like the council. Bianca was scared of what me having that power would do to her, them…” I waved a hand. “What they were doing.”

Owen frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“I think what Mr. Evans is saying,” Willis cut in. “Is that once he reached his full potential, amplified by having a shifter familiar, he’d see the taint in their souls from the magic they perform.”

I pointed at Willis. “That.”

Owen squinted. “You can do that?”

I shrugged. “I’ll be able to. Aeron can, but he has to do it purposefully. Most witches with his power level can. Once our bond is completely stable, and my power increases, I’ll have to purposefully turn it off.”

“That tracks with our investigation,” Willis confirmed. “We have a few more questions.”

I bit back the groan that wanted to escape. We’d been at this for hours, and I’d lost count how often one of them had said that exact phrase. I knew it was important. I knew talking to them and telling them everything I knew would help build their case, and while I was still conflicted about everything, I very much wanted to see justice done. And done correctly. Bianca and Lawson Evans were not the people I thought they were, maybe hadn’t ever been. I wanted to do my part.

But I was so done.

“You can come back tomorrow.” Owen’s voice was firm and did not invite argument.

Mathers’s eyebrows shot to her hair line, then her mouth set and I knew were in for an argument anyway. Before she could speak, Owen shot her a glare and talked over whatever she would say.

“We aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be here, in this house, when you show up in the morning. After nine, please, as it would be rude to come earlier. Gareth will answer your questions then.”

Mathers’s scowl was epic, but Willis nodded. “Sounds fair. We’ll be back in the morning.”

“Can I see my brother? Is that allowed?” I blurted out. 

Willis glanced at Mathers, and she sighed heavily, standing and removing her phone from her pocket. “Let me make a call.” She left the room.

Willis transferred Oscar to his shoulders, then leaned forward. “We appreciate your cooperation, Mr. Evans. I know this isn’t easy.”

That was the understatement of the century. But I just nodded. What else could I do? I couldn’t believe anyone would be so malevolent as to perform the kind of magic Bianca and Lawson did. I mean, I knew it happened, of course. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the reason for it. It was heinous and evil. And to think the people who brought me and my brother into this world were capable of it was still hard to accept.

They’d never been great people, but that they would go this far? It did not compute. Still. Even after hearing the facts and evidence I’d been provided. Which I knew wasn’t even all of it.

Mathers returned and nodded at Willis. He stood, and the smile he offered was a little more genuine. “We’ll leave you now. You’re, of course, allowed to speak with your brother once he’s done with his interview. We’ll see you in the morning.”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even move. Owen jumped to his feet and showed the agents out, and even in my state of shock, I was aware of the lock clicking shut and the flair of magic as Owen reset the threshold wards. I’d given him that ability the moment we moved in, carving the sigil into the doorframe that would respond to his touch and intent.

He was back a second later and didn’t hesitate to take me into his arms. I clung, needing his warmth and strength more than ever. He held me tightly, murmuring in my ear. It took me a moment to recognize the words.

“What can I do? What do you need?”

“Take me to bed.” My tone was a little frantic, and Owen pulled back far enough to look at me. “Hold me and fuck me and love on me. That’s what I need.”

Owen scooped me up, and I wrapped my legs around his waist. In this moment, shifter strength was definitely to my advantage. I wasn’t sure I could get my legs to work.

“I need you to ground me,” I said into the skin of his neck.

“Always.”

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.”