Authors: R.E. Butler
Ah. I fucking wanted to, honey
. “I wanted to take things slow, if that’s okay? We just met last weekend.”
Actually, sweetheart, I’d like to tug those bottoms down and spread your thighs and bury myself inside you forever. Is that slow?
Mentally leashing both his wolf and his cock, he asked her a ton of mundane questions that she answered easily, turning the question gun right back on him. Oddly enough, she didn’t seem to care at all that he was a wolf. There was something particularly refreshing about that.
Eventually their stomachs growled, and since both of their suits were dry now, they walked around the lake instead.
As she told him about taking every fitness class she could over the last few years to figure out what she liked best, learning from others and being mentored, he couldn’t help but appreciate her dedication to what she was doing. She didn’t seem to be carried away about health and fitness, but she loved exercising and helping other people feel good, and she found a way to make a career of it. The only thing she didn’t seem very willing to open up about was her family. She did say her parents were dead, but that was as far as that conversation went before she carefully changed the topic. He let her without pushing it. He didn’t want her to resent his curiosity. There’d be time enough for secret sharing when she knew him better. Already, he was itching to touch her, hold her in any way he could. His gums hurt from his fangs wanting to elongate, and his fingertips ached from his claws trying to push through. By the time they settled on their towels near Jason and Cadence to watch the fireworks, his throat was so raw from growling quietly at everyone that looked at her a second too long, he thought he’d lose his voice by the end of the night.
As she leaned against him and the fireworks exploded overhead, he caught the hint of rapture on her face and wondered if it was just the general magic of the lights in the sky or if there was more to it than that. He didn’t ask, not wanting to interrupt whatever it was that made her look so sweetly entranced.
Before they headed to the bar, he took her up to Robert’s home, and they both changed into regular clothes. He donned a pair of jeans and a navy blue silk t-shirt. It wasn’t exactly his style, but there was something about the way that it offset his blue eyes that made him think she’d like it. He was right.
When she came out of the downstairs bathroom, her eyes lit up. “Wow. What a great color on you.” She carefully touched the edge of the sleeve with her fingertips. Electrifying.
“What, this old thing?’ He grinned, and she laughed. “You look great, too. But I think you could wear a potato sack and look good.”
Her cheeks pinked slightly at the compliment. It was true. Granted, she really did look great. Dark jeans, low cut black shirt, and worn cowboy boots. Those were the kind of boots that made him picture stripping her slowly and then putting those back on. Just those.
Hell the fuck yeah
He enjoyed the ride back to the bar this time. Now that they’d spent a few hours together, they had both relaxed towards each other, and she seemed to be the touchy-feely sort, casually touching him in places that shouldn’t have been erotic but suddenly were. Could a man come from a touch on the hand? He wouldn’t have thought so, but perhaps it was just a culmination of things with Shyne. Her scent, her presence, her voice. Everything about her seemed tailor-made for him alone.
When they got to the bar, he offered to buy her a drink. “I, uh, don’t drink. I mean, I do, but not when I have to drive. But I’ll take a soda, if you’d like to hang out some more?” She sounded painfully shy suddenly, as if she thought he would say no. Not gonna happen.
“A soda sounds great. I’ve been meaning to drink more of them. They’re one of the food groups, right?”
Her lush mouth split into a wide smile. “Yeah, right up there with potato chips and ice cream.”
He couldn’t have picked a better mate for himself. She was just so perfect. She fit right in with the pack, engaging Cadence in a lengthy conversation about pregnancy workouts and massage, which clearly thrilled Jason. They had all been worried after the fiasco with Callie’s wedding in May. She had been part of the pack and Cadence’s best friend since elementary school. When she left the pack to find herself, it nearly destroyed Cadence. Linus’ wife Karly had helped her come back from the edge, but she had a baby to deal with and was looking into opening up the old Lonestar restaurant in town. Cadence was kind of drifting right now and really needed a friend.
Michael looked at Shyne as she spoke passionately about fitness to Cadence who took it all in enthusiastically. This was heaven for him. Yes, it would be even more heavenly to be in bed making love to her and marking her as his forever, but this was a piece of his life that he’d been pining over for a long time. A mate. Someone to share his life with.
Cadence didn’t want to dance, but Karly did, and Michael and Linus watched their women act like old friends as they danced to the new band. For a guy that hadn’t had a ton of breaks in his life, suddenly things were looking way up.
When it drew close to one a.m., Michael walked Shyne out to her car. “If you’re too tired to drive, I have a lumpy couch,” he offered.
“I’m good. It’s not that bad of a drive anyway.”
“Do me a favor?” She opened the door of her car and tossed in the small duffel.
“Sure.” Straightening, she looked up at him.
“Would you text me or call me when you get home? So I know you’re safe?”
She looked utterly awed at the request. He wondered how old she was when her parents died, and who took care of her in their place. Maybe no one had cared about her welfare in a long time. He would change that.
“I will, Michael.”
He stared down at her as his body grew more tense by slow degrees, while his mind played ping pong with the most important question he’d ever needed to answer to-date: kiss her or not?
Her lips parted slightly, and he lost the ability to think any further, answering the question with action. Kiss her? Hell yes.
He brushed her mouth lightly with his own first to give her a chance to pull away if it was too fast, but she didn’t. Instead, she stepped closer and rose on her tiptoes to wrap her arms around his neck and pull him down. Slanting his mouth to hers, he delved his tongue inside the hot cavern of her mouth and thought his body might combust just from the sweet taste of her. Decadent like chocolate, she tasted sweet and sinful at the same time, a devil and an angel wrapped up together. Gingerly, he put his hands on her waist, and she let out a small moan when his thumbs grazed the warm skin bared between shirt and jeans.
Her arms loosened slightly, and he pressed one more kiss to her lips before releasing her. Best. Kiss. Ever.
“I’ll let you know when I get home. Thanks for today. It was a lot of fun.”
Her eyes were glittering with happiness as she sat down in her car and shut the door. He stood out in the parking lot and watched her leave until the red glow of her taillights was gone.
“Oh, hey, Michael.” Fritz interrupted his reverie over the days’ events and the amazing kiss. Fritz was carrying a guitar case towards the band's van that was parked at the back of the lot.
“Hey, Fritz. How are things?”
Fritz unlocked the back of the van and set the case down gently. Turning with a broad smile, he said, “Man, I’ve never been happier. I had no idea how freeing it was to find my truemate. And her brothers are great.”
Suddenly, Michael wasn’t feeling very jealous of the younger wolf. He’d found his own mate, and he couldn’t be happier, either. Clapping Fritz on the back, he said, “I’m happy for you.”
He returned to the bar to say goodnight to his family and friends and then headed home. As he pushed open the front door, his phone beeped with a text from Shyne:
“Home Safe. Thanks for Everything. You’re Wonderful.”
He returned a text to her before lying down for the night. “You’re wonderful, too. Good night, sweetheart. Sweet dreams.”
He was certain his own dreams would be very, very sweet, too.
Michael called Sunday morning when she was sharing chocolate chip bagels with Trav and rehashing Saturday. After a lengthy conversation, she could now add ‘great talker’ to her growing list of things she liked about him.
For the next several days, she and Michael hung out in the gym while he cooled down from his workout, talking about anything and everything. He was as easy to talk to as Trav and had the added bonus of being straight.
On Thursday, Dante called her into his office and asked her to join them on Saturday night for one of Cairo’s underground boxing matches. He boxed once or twice a month, and they were pretty big events even though they were off the books from the boxing commission and authority of any sort. When she went to her first one two months earlier, she’d had the distinct impression that a lot of the men who had boxers fighting for them were criminals of one kind or another. There was plenty of glitz and glamour, but underneath that was a taste of something dark and unpleasant.
She opened her mouth to say that she didn’t really want to go when he added, “Cairo would really appreciate it if you went, Shyne.”
Guilt settled on her. They’d been so nice to her and supportive. And it wasn’t like she had plans this weekend. Her hope that Michael was going to ask her out hadn’t happened yet.
He brightened considerably, and then he frowned. “I also need to talk to you about that wolf.”
He said wolf like the word was made of tacks and hurt his mouth.
“Oh?” She felt like she was sitting in the principal’s office suddenly.
“Yeah.” He swiveled in his desk chair slightly and gave her a long, reproving look. “It’s not really appropriate for you to be out on the floor like that with a customer. You’re not a trainer, and it looks unprofessional.”
Several smart retorts flashed through her mind, but she let them stay there. “Sorry, Dante. I didn’t mean to be unprofessional.”
“Good.” He gave her an unfriendly smile. “Wolves aren’t to be trusted, Shyne. No matter how nice he appears on the surface, the pull of the full moon will be something he can’t ignore. Wolves only do two things on the full moon: hunt and fuck. You’re not a wolf, so you can’t do either of those things with him. And they’re dangerous and unpredictable.”
She stared at him. “How are you different than him? You’re also a were.”
He looked disgusted. “First of all, hyenas aren’t tied to the full moon. We shift when we want. And, second, we don’t run in packs, just our individual clan of three. When we find our mate, she won’t be left alone while we go deal with our base urges. A wolf with a human is always going to leave the human alone and unprotected. It’s a fact.”
Had Dante really just confirmed what she had been thinking for a while now, that hyenas shared a woman? A shiver slithered through her, and not the good kind of shiver. She didn’t want to be shared by anyone. She wanted to be loved and adored by one man and one man only. And even though she’d only known him for two weeks, she wanted that one man to be Michael. She just didn’t believe what Dante said about wolves.
She stood up slowly. “I’ll keep that in mind, Dante. If there’s nothing else?”
She tried to be pleasant, and if he could tell she wasn't happy, he didn't let on. “Of course, Shyne. Have a good night.”
She pondered Dante’s words as she drove home and then rummaged in her kitchen for something to eat. What if Dante was right about some things but exaggerating others? Or what if he was dead-on about it all? Or none of it? Frustration gnawed at her. She didn’t really know Michael well enough to ask about his sex habits. They hadn’t done anything but joke around with each other and that one fantastic kiss. How do you start that conversation without sounding like an idiot?
So I heard that wolves like to fuck on the full moon. When I’m pregnant with your babies, can I at least pick out the she-wolf you pound?
She growled at herself. She couldn’t rectify the sweet man that she had grown so fond of over the last two weeks with the furry demon that Dante painted. She just didn’t think he was telling the truth. And he had good reason to lie, anyway. If he and the boys wanted her as their mutual woman, then it wouldn’t be in their best interest if she was playing tonsil hockey with a wolf.
“I’m not really sure why you don’t just ask Michael about it,” Trav said when he got home from work.
“Because I don’t know how to ask without sounding like I’m getting all possessive about him. We haven’t even had a real date yet.” She put her head on the cool counter and let out a frustrated sigh.
He patted her shoulder and said, “Tell ya what, kiddo. Let’s go down to the bar in his town and hang out for a while tonight. It would give me a good excuse to invite Trace out, and you’d be a good buffer for him.”
“Are you sure he’s gay? I don’t want to give Michael the wrong impression, if he's there.”
“I’m sure of it. He winked at me yesterday. Winked!” Trav gave her a knowing grin, as if being winked at was gay secret code for ‘I’d like to jump your bones’.