Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

*And here it is! The final episode! We get to see Keir and Eoin get their HEA. It’s every so slightly NSFW, but not really. Who has suggestions for what they want to see next? For now, enjoy!**

The thing about being bonded to a wolf was that, even though I was human, I’d developed some extra abilities. Or maybe it was just that I could feel Eoin. Either way, after six months of us being, well, us, I always knew when he was creeping around.

I was at the stove making a giant pot of beef and vegetable stew when, without giving it conscious thought, I whirled around and held up my wooden spoon—dripping and all—toward the door.

“No.”

Eoin froze, eyes going wide. Then a second later they softened, then got big. Who knew that my very large beta wolf mate would be so good at the puppy dog eyes?

“But—”

“No.” I needed to be very firm with him because he had a tendency to be able to convince me to do just about anything. Not that it was a hardship, but still. “I’m busy. Go away.”

Eoin let out a whine that was definitely more wolf than human. He stared at me for a moment longer, but then when I shook my spoon at him, sending a drop of stew gravy flying, he hung his head and slinked off around the corner. I stayed where I was for an extra minute, making sure he really had left, before turning back to my work.

Eoin was still the grumpy, stoic beta I had met that first day, but with me, he allowed some of his softer side to show. I always knew he had a big heart, just watching him with the pack. But with me, when it was just us, he let his smiles out more. He was more affectionate. He listened intently when I talked, even when I rambled, and he was an excellent sounding board. At night, when we were in bed, he took me apart and put me back together again, and then held me close as we slept. I was pretty sure he was a bigger cuddler than I was, and that was saying something. All wolves were tactile, but with me, Eoin took it to a whole new level. I loved him so much it hurt sometimes, but only in the best possible ways.

Something tickled the edge of my awareness that I couldn’t ignore. I set down my spoon this time and then spun again, expecting to see Eoin in the doorway. But he wasn’t there. It took me a second to drop my gaze and see the gorgeous dark gray wolf slinking across the floor. Eoin had his belly to the floor, his eyebrows working as he gazed up at me. I stared back and he snuck a few steps closer.

I let out a gusty sigh, though it was really more for show. He could probably tell by now that the stew was mostly done and was in the “sit on the stove and simmer” stage. The eight loaves of bread I’d made were cooling on the counter. Carbs, it turned out, were my packs’ favorite thing on the planet, so I made sure to always have more than enough. Some day I’d make them each their own loaf, and I was sure there would be no leftovers.

I decided to ignore my mate for the moment. I stirred the stew, then covered it and made sure the flame was at the right level to keep it bubbling away. Then I headed to the fridge and made sure all my veggies were cut and prepped, and that I hadn’t missed anything. I knew I hadn’t, but I was making a show of making him wait. Eoin eventually made it to me and was sitting right beside me, head cocked, when I closed the fridge door.

I couldn’t resist the urge to rub his ears. His fur was so soft and it was one of my favorite things. Eoin didn’t care, and let me pet him whenever I wanted. Some of the other wolves grumbled that they weren’t dogs, and Eoin had confessed he didn’t usually like it either. But it was me, and he always wanted my hands on him. In whatever form, in any way I wanted.

“Come on,” I said softly, giving his left ear a little tug, then heading for the back door. Andreas had installed lever handles on all the doors so that the wolves could come and go even when they didn’t have thumbs, but I darted around Eoin to be the one to open the door. He huffed and gave me an epic side-eye—even in this form he liked to be chivalrous—but preceded me onto the porch. I headed right for the porch swing that had appeared several months ago and held it steady so he could hop up. As soon as he did, I climbed on as well and then curled up into him. It was chilly out here and Eoin was an excellent source of warmth. Especially in this form.

Eoin held still until I was comfortable and then twitched his tail so it laid over me as well. I chuckled because it tickled, and then sighed.

“You just wanted snuggles. I know how you are.”

Eoin huffed, and then made a soft yowling sound. He was much more expressive in this form than his human one, and I had a theory it was because the wolf didn’t have the same thought processes and therefore didn’t constantly put on a mask and a filter.

“You could have just told me you needed affection, you know?”

Eoin went tense below me and I immediately sat up. He hopped off, sending the swing rocking, but before I could say anything, he was shifting. It didn’t take but a few seconds for him to be in his human skin, and he shivered, though I was sure it was from the shift and not from the cold. I grabbed one of the throw blankets out of the chest anyway, and by the time I sat back up, he was settling next to me again. I brought the blanket with me as I crawled into his lap, straddling his thighs, and wrapped it around us both.

“I was going to. Trying to.” His voice was soft, almost as though he didn’t want to say it out loud.

I kissed him, slow and sweet, and wrapped my arms around him. When I pulled back, I didn’t go far, and pressed our foreheads together.

“And I cut you off. I’m sorry. I’ll do better at listening.” I kissed his nose and then snuggled in, so he would squeeze me tightly how I liked. Eoin didn’t disappoint.

“And I’ll do better at not interrupting you while you’re cooking. I know how seriously you take it. How much you enjoy it.” The touched his lips to my temple, not really a kiss, and just stayed there, breathing me in.

It was moments like this that I loved the most. The laughing and talking, the scorching hot sex, the holding each other close—that was all amazing and was more than I ever thought possible. But these moments when we really listened to each other and communicated were my favorite thing in the world. I felt closer to him in this moment than when he was inside me.

“I love you.” It came out breathy, my throat a little clogged at the sheer emotion.

The tiny growl was all wolf, and Eoin buried his face against my next, speaking his words into my skin. “And I love you.”

When I came for the interview, I never imagined that not only would I grow so close to a pack of wolves, but find my mate and the love of my life. But that was exactly what happened. Eoin claimed that Fate didn’t decree wolf shifters mates, but I could help but think she had a hand in this. And I couldn’t be happier.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 4! Keir is finding his place. But what is Eoin up to? Enjoy!**

I was jittery, nerves jangling in my stomach. Darting between the stove and the counter, I chopped fruit and flipped pancakes. The scrambled eggs were done, slightly undercooked so they wouldn’t get watery as they cooled, and waiting in a chafing dish on the island. I was probably overcompensating since it was my first day on the job and all, but I couldn’t help myself.

Wolves started trickling in just as I finished the first stake of pancakes. They all made appreciative noises as I kept cooking. Making small talk wasn’t my strong suit, especially when I was focused, but I tried my best not to come off as rude as I worked. And waited. Keeping my eye out for one wolf in particular. 

Eoin came in just as I flipped a new set of pancakes off the griddle. Instead of adding them to the platter, I plated them directly and darted around the island to hand them over. His eyes went wide for a brief second, and then nodded once in thanks.

My eyes darted around, and then I liked my lips. “I’m sorry about yesterday.”

For a long few seconds, he didn’t say anything. Then he shrugged one big shoulder. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not.” I took a breath. “Can you hang out for a while? I’d like to talk to you but…” I waved my hand to indicate everything.

“Sure,” he said but I got the impression he wanted to say something different. I didn’t know him well enough to guess what, so I took him at his word and left him to his breakfast.

I kept track of who all came in. Even though I didn’t know everyone’s names yet—I’d been introduced but it was a lot of names, and they hadn’t all stuck in my brain—I could count. Wolf shifters, I knew, ate more than a human, and I’d tried to plan accordingly without making too much. Not that I was worried about leftovers. Anything that didn’t get eaten could be put away and I was sure would be eaten later.

Eventually most of the food was gone, and with it, so were the wolves. I appreciated the thanks, and the way Andreas took a few minutes to speak with me before squeezing my neck. But they all had lives and jobs they needed to do and before long, it was just me and Eoin left. 

I’d loaded the dishwasher as I worked, and everyone had added their own dishes as well. I turned on the dishwasher so it could complete its cycle, then grabbed some fruit and the two remaining pancakes before joining Eoin at the table. He was sipped coffee and trying not to watch me. I set my food down, but before I dug in, I gave all my attention to Eoin.

Having the time to think last night, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. Even though it wasn’t easy, and I had to take a breath before diving in. “I apologize for my behavior yesterday. I was nervous and out of my depth with the changes, and I misinterpreted your intent. But that doesn’t excuse my attitude and I’m sorry.”

“Okay.” And between the tone of his voice and the hint of a smile, I knew I was forgiven. Relief flooded through me. Which was weird, because I didn’t know his approval in particular meant so much to me.

“Thank you.” I hopped up and grabbed my tablet from where I’d tucked it in a safe spot on the corner of the counter. I flipped open the cover and opened the app I’d found to make meal planning and grocery shopping that much easier. “Since I’m still learning what your pack likes and needs, will you help me?”

Eoin didn’t hesitate. “Of course. Are you, uh, going to eat?”

“Yep! I can do both.” I proved it by popping a strawberry in my mouth. The flavor burst across my tongue, and I made a yummy noise. Eoin must have swallowed wrong because choked on his coffee. I tucked my bit into my cheek to ask, “You okay?”

He waved that away as he coughed. I shrugged and continued eating until he had himself under control. When Eoin was breathing normally again, I focused back on the task at hand.

“Okay, so. Tell me what I need to know.”

“What do you mean?” Eoin still sounded a little hoarse from the coughing. I eyed him to make sure he was really okay and he seemed to be so I answered his question.

“My research let me know that shifters need protein, carbs, and fat to keep your metabolism going. Or rather because your metabolism runs so high. Anyway.” I took another bite and swallowed before I tapped into the app to the meal planning section. “But what are favorite dishes? Things that you know help you all or keep your stomachs full.”

“Andreas likes steak. We all do.”

I nodded, adding that in. “Not a surprise. How about you? What’s your favorite?”

“Spaghetti.”

I grinned, because he hadn’t even hesitated. “Yeah. I make a great red sauce.”

“Looking forward to it.” Eoin sat forward so he could see the screen. I tilted it a little so that see it better.

“Here’s some of the meals I thought I could do this week.” I’d prepped somewhat beforehand, so I had quite a list. Eoin reached out to scroll through it, his eyes moving quickly.

“That all looks really good.” His voice was warm and I smiled. “You’re going to feed us like this all the time?”

I snorted out a laugh. “It’s not really that big of a deal. I promise. Okay.” I tapped the icon that would add everything needed to the grocery list. Then I went to that section of the app. “First I’m going to shop the kitchen, and then I’ll know what we need to get at the grocery store.”

“Shop the kitchen?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Anything we already have, I don’t need to buy, right? So I’ll do that and mark it off, and then we’ll have the list to shop by.” I pursed my lips as I looked through it. “I have a feeling we’re still going to have to get a lot.”

“You know, you can place an order and have it delivered. So you don’t have to do all that work.”

My first instinct was to assure him I could handle it, but I bit that back instantly. This close, I couldn’t miss the emotion in his eyes. And my brain whirled into motion, giving me a helpful replay of all my interactions with Eoin so far. That fast, I understood that despite his gruffness, what he was showing me was care. I didn’t know whyexactly—we barely knew each other—but I decided to take it at face value

“I like to see what there is and make my choices.” I grinned. “Besides, you’re gong to help me, right?”

“Absolutely.” His face lit up and my breathe caught. He was usually so stoic and kept his expression neutral. It was surprising but more than that, it made something click in my chest. I couldn’t quite put a name to it but I knew in that instant, something between us had shifted.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 3. Sorry for the skip last week. Life, you know. Anyway, here’s the next chapter in our saga. Enjoy!**

Andreas was a very persuasive man. Wolf. Alpha? Whatever. Andreas was very persuasive, which is how I found myself agreeing to move into one of the rooms in the “dorm wing” of the pack house even though I’d made it expressly clear I was fine commuting. But Andreas made excellent points the financial benefits, and since I was paying an arm and a leg in rent for my tiny one-bedroom apartment, I caved in the end.

He just seemed so sincere and earnest that I felt bad disappointing him. Ivy, my friend who’d gotten me the interview in the first place, told me that was part of the draw of an alpha, but that since Andreas was a good one, I didn’t need to worry. He would keep me safe and take care of me just like he would any member of the pack, and it was better to just give in. I wasn’t a prisoner, she reminded me, and if for some reason I needed to leave, quit, or move out, Andreas would support that. 

I trusted her, and already coming to trust Andreas, so I agreed, packed all my things, terminated my lease, and prepared to move in.

I shouldn’t have been surprised with Eoin was the one to show up at my door with a U-Haul. Or that he barely said a word as he proceeded to use his greater-than-human strength to load it. Or his Tetris-master level skills as he packed everything in. Including most of my furniture, which Andreas assured me I didn’t need but the pack would store for me in case I wanted it in the future.

It was all done so quickly my head was reeling. Eoin clapped me on the shoulder and headed out the door. I had to stop at the leasing office and turn in my keys, so I was a few minutes behind him. By the time I got to the pack house the truck was half empty. It looked like the entire pack was present, and seventeen people with supernatural strength didn’t even a break a sweat and finished the job in a matter of minutes.

I might have been standing there with my mouth open, but I couldn’t seem to move.

The sun suddenly disappeared, and it took me a second to realize Andreas was now in front of me. Our height difference was enough that he cast me in shadow, and I had to tilt my head back to look into his eyes. His warm smile settled me. He lifted a hand as though he was going to touch me, but then seemed to think better of it and let it drop a moment later.

“All right?”

I tried for a smile. “Yes, of course, sir.”

Andreas squinted at me. After a long, tense moment, he shrugged one big shoulder. “We’ll let you get settled in today and order pizza for dinner. You’re expected to eat with us.”

“No, I can—” I stopped abruptly at the look on his face. Right. Don’t question the alpha. “Okay. I appreciate that. Thank you.”

Andreas waved that off. “There’s something else. Eoin tells me it’s not appropriate to make you work every day so tell me which days you prefer off and we’ll make it work.”

“What? No.” I blinked. “No, that’s not what we agreed to. I’m fine working every day.”

The alpha was not impressed. That much was clear when he crossed his arms and stared me down. I mirrored his posture and stared right back. For several minutes, we were locked in a battle of will. Since I wasn’t one of his wolves, I lasted longer than someone else might have, but I was still the one to relent in the end.

“Okay, how about this? One day a week I’ll make breakfast and put together something you all can cook or heat for dinner, then take the rest of the day off. Another day the pack can feed themselves a cold breakfast, I’ll make sure to stock plenty of appropriate things, and I won’t start work until its time to make dinner.”

Andreas creased his brow, clearly thinking it over. He hummed out a sound and then his posture relaxed. “All right. That is acceptable for now. But you will tell me if you need more time off.” He emphasized the point by pointing a finger in my face. But his smile softened the words, and I smiled back.

“Deal.” I held out my hand and the alpha shook it. Then he clasped my shoulder.

“Come on, I’ll give you the tour and show you to your room.”

I dutifully followed along, trying not to openly marvel at just huge the house was. I hadn’t gotten more than a cursory look when I’d been here the other night. It had clearly been big to start. A sprawling ranch style that had big airy common spaces. But it had also been added on to over the years, and now boasted several wings that all seemed to have purposes. One of which had all the bedrooms that Andreas had told me about when we’d talked particulars. That wing was two stories, but I was on the first floor.

The bedroom was large enough for a separate sitting area and its own bathroom. All of the rooms, Andreas explained, had their own bathroom because that was something the alpha and the pack weren’t willing to fight over. I couldn’t blame them at all. It was certainly a nice feature. My room was well appointed, the furniture looked comfortable, and I really liked the sage and brown color scheme. I’d probably like it even better once I got all these boxes emptied and things put away.

“Eoin is across the hall, and Cal and I are on the second floor all the way at the end.” Andreas pointed in those directions then made a sweeping gesture. “But if you need anything, at all, just ask. Any one of my wolves will be more than happy to help.”

“Okay,” I agreed while internally knowing it would take a while before I was able to really be comfortable asking.

“Good. Now, you will also have a pack member who will assist when shopping.” Andreas held up a hand as I opened my mouth to protest. “It takes a lot to feed us and that means a copious amount of bags, lifting, and putting away. I do not expect you to do that all on your own, do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

He nodded. “Eoin.”

My brown creased. “What about him?”

But my question was answered before I fully got it out when the man himself walked through my door. He quirked an eyebrow, keeping his attention on his alpha and not looking at me at all.

“Help Keir in any way he needs. And coordinate with him on the shopping for this week, which you are not doing today.” The last was directed at me with a stern glace. I held up my hands in surrender. 

“Yes, alpha.” Eoin said, still not looking at me.

The alpha squeezed my shoulder and left, patting Eoin’s arm as he walked by. For a long few seconds, Eoin and I stood there in awkward silence.

“Want to tell me why you told the alpha I need days off?” Dammit. I hadn’t meant to say that at all, let alone blurt it out first thing.

Eoin just stared at me, face implacable. “You need to take care of yourself.”

I scoffed. “Don’t worry. You’ll have food on the table no matter what.”

“That’s not what I mean.” And really, it was infuriating how little the man used inflection. His tone was so neutral I had no clue as to what he was thinking.

“Yeah, sure. Okay.” I blew out a breath. “Listen, I need to take inventory of the kitchen and meal plan, so I’ll come find you tomorrow when I’m ready to hit the grocery store.”

I turned away and headed for the nearest box, ready to start unpacking. I was sure my fractious state was because everything was changing, I was unsure and unsteady, and I would feel a whole lot better once I had my things put away. I needed the time to get my thoughts in order and organizing my things would help me organize my brain.

“Alpha told me to help.” Again with the lack of tone. No indication whatsoever.

“I’m fine. I’ve got this.” I took a breath and added, “Thank you.”

Still Eoin hesitated. I could feel him hovering in the doorway, but I didn’t turn to look.

“I’m just…I’ll stick close. Uh, holler if you need me.”

It was the slight hitch in his words, that moment of uncertainty, that gave me pause. I glanced over but he was already gone. I sighed heavily, getting the distinct impression I hurt his feelings. That hadn’t been my intent. I’d apologize later. Once I got my head on straight and could mean it.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 2! Keir is out of his element. I feel like this is going to be a few parts, so I hope you’re in for a bit of a journey. Enjoy!**

Eoin was surprisingly helpful for a man who didn’t move or say much. It was on his suggestion that I set up dinner buffet style on the long island in the middle of the kitchen. He said it was created for that purpose, to keep arguments that the table to a minimum. I’d noticed that it basically split the kitchen in half, so it made sense. All cooking taking place on one side and the dining area on the other. I had the impression it had once been a more traditional dining room, but that renovations had opened up the space. But it could have been designed that way. At any rate, I had the chicken cacciatore, rice, and sauteed vegetables set up, along with plates and flatware, just in time for the pack to start trickling in.

Thanks to Eoin, that is. Because at my request he’d sent out notification of when dinner would be ready. People came from every direction they could. And the space suddenly filled with almost twenty people. Laughing, talking, loud people. Most of them introduced themselves—though I’d have no hope of remembering everyone’s names—and expressed their thanks, which was nice. I tried to keep a smile on my face as I kept an eye on the food, removing dishes as soon as they emptied and replacing them with full ones. It didn’t take long for everyone to have a very full plate and to sit at the table.

I cast an eye over the island. After consolidating some of the dishes, I left the empties in and next to the sink. I’d do the dishes as soon as they were done eating. But for now, everyone appeared to be content. Anything that was left, I made sure was out on the island so that seconds could be obtained if they wanted. Pleased with the outcome, I took the opportunity to slip around the corner and out the back door.

The night was cool and I took a deep breath before I sat on one of the Adirondack chairs. This far outside of town, there was nothing but the setting sun and nature sounds. It was peaceful, and it worked to help me decompress faster than I expected. I was still nervous, especially knowing that they were all eating and judging my skills right now. But being able to sit and breathe for a few minutes really helped to lower my cortisol levels.

“What’s wrong?”

Eoin’s deep voice made me jump, but I kept the noises inside this time. I hadn’t even heard the door, though maybe I left it open. I gripped the arms of the chair and then turned just my head—and looked way up—so I could see his face.

“You startled me.”

“What’s. Wrong.” There was barely any inflection in his voice, but just enough to let me know that he was…concerned?

I pasted on a smile. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Then whey are you sitting out here and not eating with us?”

I blinked. Blinked again. “It’s not…I don’t…” I had to take a breath and a second to get my brain working properly. He’d surprised me with that. “It’s not my place to eating with you all. I cook the meals. You eat them. That’s how it works.”

Eoin narrowed his gaze, and crossed those thick arms across his chest. “But you have to be hungry. You haven’t eaten in hours.”

I was touched by his concern, but also amused by it. I tried to be kind when I said, “Human metabolism is different than wolves. I had lunch, and I’ll be fine until I get home. I’m good.”

Eoin didn’t move and just kept giving me a glare. “It’s chilly out here.”

“Feels nice, though. It was hot in the kitchen while I was working.”

“Keir, you should come back in and—”

I held up a hand. “Please. Go enjoy your meal. I’ll be back in when y’all are done to clean up.”

Eoin stared at me for a good ten more second before he abruptly turned on his heels and, without saying a word, headed back into the house. I held on for a moment, staring at the doorway, before I sighed out a breath and relaxed again. It was nice, his concern, but unwarranted. I was here to do a job and nothing else.

I turned to the door when I heard footsteps and a second later, Eoin appeared carrying a plate, a glass, and had a blanket slung over one arm. I had the brief thought that he must have made noise so as not to startle me again, but then noticed the sheer amount of food on the plate. Before I could say anything, Eoin thrust it at me.

“You need to eat.”

I took the plate so it didn’t spill. Eoin set the glass on the arm of the chair, and then draped the blanket over my lap. Then without another word, he turned on his heel and strode away. I stared after him again, baffled.

I was missing something, but I didn’t know what. I kept trying to figure it out, wracking my brain for the piece that would make it all make sense. But then the smell of the food got to me and my stomach growled. I chuckled at myself, because I really was hungry. If Eoin hadn’t delivered a plate, I would have been fine. But now that it was right in front of me, it wouldn’t hurt to eat it. Not that I’d be able to finish all of it. I chuckled as I dug in.

I was halfway through and getting full when the footsteps were back. This time though, it wasn’t Eoin who appeared. Andreas appeared, leaning against the doorframe, with a wide smile on his face.

“You okay?”

I quickly set the plate down and all but jumped to my feet. The blanket fell, and I tried to catch it, but ended up overbalancing and nearly taking a header into the chair. But Andreas moved fast, catching me and setting me back on my feet.

“Thanks.” Gah, that was so embarrassing. Especially in front of a prospective employer. I steadied myself and then smiled. “And yes, I’m good. Did you enjoy the meal?”

Instead of answering right away, Andreas tipped his head, studying me. “Eoin was concerned you weren’t eating with us.”

“I’m the hired help, sir. That’s not my place.”

Something passed over his face, but it was gone before I could figure it out. He gestured to the seat I’d just vacated, and then took the one beside it, angling his body toward me. I sat carefully, both so I didn’t embarrass myself again and because of the surge of nerves.

“You cook like this every night?”

The question took me off guard for a second, and it was impossible to read the alpha’s expression. Instead of trying to figure out what he actually wanted me to say, I opted for the truth.

“I can, absolutely.”

Andreas’s mouth quirked up. “Not what I asked.”

Oh. Right. I cleared my throat. “I can, yes. But it probably wouldn’t if I was in charge of the meal planning. Sometimes, sure. It’s always nice to have a special meal. But it would be intermixed with simpler meals. Still hearty and filling, all the things you would need.”

Andreas sat back, studying me for a long moment. “It would be breakfast and dinner every day. You would have a card for grocery shopping and meal planning and prep would all be up to you. Because we would need you seven days a week, compensation is very generous as well as room and board. And of course, if you need a day off, all you have to do is tell me. If that sounds like something that interests you, we can talk particulars.”

I could only stare. One meal, one conversation, and he was ready to offer me the job. I though, at best, I would get offered a trial period. But the alpha was handing me the whole shebang. All I had to do was say yes. But was it the right choice?

I managed a smile. “Let’s talk particulars.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday-Saturday Edition

**New serial starts today! Sorry for the delay, life got in the way. Meet Keir, his love of cooking, and the pack of wolves that bring him into the fold. This one is going to be a least a few parts so buckle in! Enjoy!**

I’d always loved cooking. Since the first grilled cheese sandwich I managed to make without burning it at eight years old, I’d been hooked. Most of my free time had been taken up by cooking, creating meals and perfecting specialties. But until today, it was always something I did for fun, for my friends and family or myself. I’d never thought of making it my job.

I wasn’t trained. I didn’t go to cooking school. Hadn’t even taken any classes. It was all instinct and preference and by no means something I should be able to make a career out of. But when a friend of a friend was looking for a personal chef, somehow my name got brought up. And suddenly I had an interview.

With the alpha of a wolf shifter pack.

I’d almost said no. Turned it down flat when Ivy asked if she could give my name and number to Andreas. In fact, I’d started to. But she gave me the big eyes and started waxing poetic about how good it would be for me because I could quit the data entry job I hated. She’d said it would be full time work with great pay, and I could do a thing that I loved. She’d assured me shifters loved to eat, and I’d have my work cut out for me, but that I’d get a lot of satisfaction out of it.

So I caved, and let her pass my number on to some guy she knew who gave it the alpha.

Andreas was a big man, with wide shoulders and beefy arms. But he also had a kind smile, and warm eyes, and the affection he showed his mate was open and loving. Cal was much smaller than Andreas, but he showed the alpha the same kind of loving affection back. It didn’t seem fake or forced and that went a long way to easing my nerves.

I hadn’t had a lot of time to prep for the interview, because once Andreas called me, he’d asked to meet the next day. But I’d done what research I could last night. I wasn’t a shifter. Wasn’t even magical. Just a regular old human who loved cooking. I didn’t know the first thing about feeding a pack of wolves. So I’d spent a good portion of last night researching. Wolf shifters needed protein and carbs in high quantities, to account for the calorie loss they experienced with shifting to their animal form and back again. Apparently fats and sugar was also a go. The articles and blogs I’d found said that most shifters didn’t worry about what kind of fuel they put into their bodies as their metabolism ran at a much higher rate. At least that meant I didn’t have to find substitutions in the recipes I had under my belt.

So now I was sitting in a huge, state of the art kitchen with gleaming appliances at a table that easily sat twenty. The alpha said at one end, his mate right next to him, and two men standing behind. They were both nearly as big as the alpha, but one had warm brown eyes and a quirk of a smile to his lips, while the other looked much more stoic. He had his arms crossed across his chest and didn’t take his gaze off me.

I kept mine fixed on the alpha and tried not to let my nerves show.

“You come highly recommended,” the alpha said, his voice a deep timbre. He slid his hand around the back of Cal’s neck, and Cal leaned into him with a soft hum. The alpha threw a smile at his mate, and then focused back on me. “We’ve been doing the best we can but we have seventeen people to feed and most of us are…mediocre cooks at best.”

Cal laughed, a sweet sound, and snuggled into his mate’s arms. “What my dear alpha is trying to say is that it wasn’t that hard to convince him, or anyone else, that we need someone to feed us. When Jake told us that his friend Ivy knew someone, we jumped at the chance to meet you.”

My smile felt shaky, and I had to clear my throat, but my nerves settled a little further. “Thank you. I’m glad for the opportunity to meet you as well. Ivy did tell you I’m not a professional though, right? I don’t want to sell myself short, I’m very good at cooking, but I want to be honest as well.”

“She did,” Andreas said and I liked to think that his smile meant he approved. “She also made sure to sing your praises and…” He turned to Cal. “What did she say?”

It was the big man with the neutral expression who answered. His voice was so deep it almost reverberated through me. “Keir makes the best damn food she’s ever eaten and we’d be stupid not to give him a chance.”

The other three men laughed, I felt my cheeks heat, and the stoic man didn’t even crack a smile. I suddenly wished I could remember his name. I’d been too frazzled and trying to keep it from showing when we’d been introduced.

“Would you be willing to do a test meal with us, Keir?” Andreas’s voice brought my attention back to him.

“Yes, of course.”

“Great! The kitchen is fully stocked so why don’t you have a look around. See what you can come up with. We’ll eat just about anything and if you need something, I can have someone run to the store.”

I blinked at him. Then again. “R-right now?”

Andreas tilted his head. “Is that a problem?”

“No.” My denial was too fast. I took a breath. “I just wasn’t expecting it. But I don’t have any conflicts at the moment.”

“Wonderful.” Andreas stood and held a hand out to Cal. “We’ll leave you to it. Bram, with me. Eoin, you stay in case Keir needs anything.”

Eoin, apparently, was the stoic man, because he gave a single nod, stepped back, and leaned against the wall. Andreas clapped me on the shoulder as he passed by and Cal offered me a bright smile. A moment later, they were gone, and trying to ignore Eoin. I had to take a second to get my thoughts in order, and then, because the alpha had given me permission, I started poking around.

It was evident when Andreas said well stocked, he’d meant it. It took me several long minutes to inventory the refrigerator and I nearly drooled over the drawer of neatly labeled spices. When I found, and then walked into, the pantry, I actually let out a whistle. The sheer number of dry and canned goods was astounding. There was also a chest freezer in the back corner that was stocked with nothing but different kinds of meat. This place was a chef’s dream.

My brain whirled with the possibilities as I mentally reviewed everything I’d seen. I wanted a meal that would impress, feed a lot of people multiple portions—because wolves ate a lot—but that wouldn’t be too over the top and well balanced. My mind stuck on the several pounds of chicken thighs I’d seen in the fridge.

“Too bad I didn’t find capers,” I muttered to myself, scanning the canned goods again and seeing the shelf of diced tomatoes. “I could do several pans of chicken cacciatore.”

“I can get you capers.”

I squeaked out a yell, then clutched my chest as my heart tried to beat out of my chest. Eoin was suddenly looming in the doorway, still expressionless but with phone in hand.

“Good lord, you scared me.”

“Sorry.” He sounded like he meant it, even if there wasn’t much inflection to his voice. Then he held up the phone he was holding. “Capers?”

“Uh, I guess so?” I cleared my throat again, knowing my nerves were showing. “If y’all want chicken cacciatore, its better with capers.”

He nodded once, didn’t move from the doorway, then tapped on his phone. When he was done, he looked up at me. “Done. You need help carrying any of this stuff?”

Part of me wanted to say no, as though me doing it myself would prove something. But then again, Eoin’s arms were huge and he’d probably be able to carry a lot more than me in one trip.

“Sure.” I started loading him up with the canned goods I would need and Eoin held it all easily. I followed him out with a ten pound bag of rice a moment later, and watched as he set everything on the counter. I added my contribution and then went in search of pans. Without asking Eoin came into the kitchen proper and opened several cabinets, showing off what they already had.

If they liked my food and hired me, I’d see about updating some of the wares, but for now, it would do. I smiled at Eoin and I swear there was a slight quirk to his lips in response. It stood out because, up until that moment, there’d been a distinct lack of expression from him. I couldn’t even explain why that caused my heart to thump.

Pushing that out of my head, I got to work. I had people to impress and a signature dish to prepare.