Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Heart for Trade: Week 10

Hey everyone. I wanted to say thank you for all the wonderful comments on the post from last night. You guys are amazing, wonderful, and truly supportive of what I do. For that, I cannot thank you enough. It's true, writing really is a form of therapy for me, and I put a lot of emotion behind my words. I'm glad to know you feel every letter, even if they aren't grammatically sound sometimes. ;)
I'm going to be diving back into my Cade project this week, and I felt it was better to go ahead and post this now. I'm sure none of you have any complaints about that. Just remember this is going up in place of my usual Sunday post. I have no idea how much time I'll have to post something, but I'll try, even if it isn't a story. Videos, music, short blurbs on life. We'll see. But again, thank you all so much. You have no idea how much I treasure each and every one of you. Love you all.


Fully aware of the ramifications of his next move, Benny took some time to study Jarum. In the heated passion of their kiss, the quick journey to the bedroom, and the overwhelming sense of urgency they had both given over to, it only seemed right to think things through. Jarum was offering him something that he couldn’t take back. It seemed slightly ridiculous to even ponder whether or not to have sex, but Benny couldn’t help but feel it was all too fast—that Jarum wasn’t emotionally ready for this.

Then again, silently studying Jarum’s naked body, it was a struggle to take into account the innocence that the man held. Long legs bent at the knee, opened in invitation made him crawl closer. His hands caressed over a boyish sprinkling of dark, curly hair that grew sparse as Benny neared the thighs. Jarum wasn’t particularly muscular, but he had a compact, lean body that hinted to his life topside. He was a hard worker. That much was apparent as what muscle he did have showed with every small move he made under Benny’s hands.

His hips were a little bony, carving hallows down to his groin with the most beautiful line of muscle. The hair that trailed under Benny’s fingers grew thicker as he neared the groin. Jarum’s breathing grew sharper. A scar around four inches long made Benny frown. Angled above Jarum’s dark patch of hair, an angry white line made Benny looked up.

“How did you get this?”

Jarum closed his eyes, gathering himself before he could speak. His lashes fluttered open again, and he looked at Benny. “Ryan and I were jumped on our way back from a village trade a few years ago. We’d had an amazing crop that year, and sold the last of it right before dark.  Ryan wanted to spend the night, said he had a feeling, but I didn’t listen to him. I wanted to show Bart what I haggled for. I was…”

“Proud?” Benny smiled, one side of his mouth turning up.

Jarum groaned as Benny settled his weight between his open legs. “Yes. I got more than we’d originally talked about. It was a great deal. Ryan was happy about it too, and he finally went along with the idea of leaving.” Jarum took Benny’s intimate gesture seriously, winding his fingers within coppery red locks, combing through them slowly. “We were almost home. Maybe another twenty minutes when they came out of the trees. They had to have seen us earlier in the morning. It was like they were waiting for us.”

Benny left a small kiss on Jarum’s chest. “How many?”

“Three, could have been more, but they didn’t come out. This wasn’t the first we’d been jumped, but these guys were different. Usually it’s just a pack of kids, hungry and angry, you know? But these guys were men. They were taking our trade and that was that. I would’ve let them have it too, but then the leader of their group started eyeing Ryan. He said some stuff that didn’t sit well and pulled out a knife, demanding that Ry … I don’t want to go there.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.”

But Jarum continued. “I don’t know how I did it, or even remember most of it, but the next I thing I knew I was holding a board from the cart with nails sticking out of it. There was blood everywhere, and two of the men weren’t getting up. I knew I’d been stabbed, here.” Jarum pointed to the scar. “But it didn’t hurt at the time. All I knew was that the third man was trying to crawl away. Ryan was holding the guy’s knife, crying. He’s not a fighter. I mean, he will if he has to, but I’ve always been the one to take care of us. I couldn’t let him finish the third man off. So I did. We dragged their bodies into the trees and we never talked about it again.”

“Until now?”

“Yes,” Jarum whispered. “I’m not a murderer, Benny.”

“No. You were defending yourself and your friend. If you had left the last man alive, it was only a matter of time before he attacked someone else. You did the right thing.” Benny lifted up and kissed Jarum’s worry away. “I know you feel you have to prove yourself, be the man for Ryan, but you’re safe now, Jarum. You don’t have to fight anymore. You don’t have to fight me.”

Jarum frowned. “You were the one fighting me.”

Benny sighed, laying his forehead on Jarum’s chest. “I’m sorry. That came out wrong. What I meant was we don’t have to fight anymore. You and I are … well, we’re pretty similar. We’re each trying to defend our turf, so to speak, while not looking weak in the process. But I owe you an apology, Jarum. You did nothing wrong, and I lost my temper because I was trying to hide from you how I felt, and who I was.

“But I don’t want to hide from you anymore. I’m not saying I’m ready to go all out, but I’m saying we can give it a try. You don’t have to do this for me, to prove that you’re a real man. I only want you to give yourself to me because you want me,” he whispered in Jarum’s ear. “Because I’m the only person you can picture being inside of you. Because you can give over that part of yourself and not feel weak about it, only empowered because what you’re doing is special. Do you understand?”

Jarum nuzzled his face in Benny’s neck. He took the man’s hand and guided it between their bodies, wrapping it around his fully erect cock. “Do you?” He husked.

Breathing heavily against Jarum’s skin, Benny squeezed gently with his fist around the base of Jarum’s cock. The narrow base gave way to a thicker center, textured by what felt like pulsing veins against his palm. Drifting up, the shape narrowed again, a more tapered head that was slick with arousal greeted his thumb.

“Fuck,” Jarum hissed, lifting his hips, and throwing his head back.

“Relax,” Benny whispered. “Slow. We’re taking things slow.”


“You’re not ready yet.” Benny pressed a kiss to Jarum’s exposed neck. “I’m not ready yet.”

Flashing his eyes to Benny, Jarum gasped. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. I did, and I have to make up for it.” Benny’s hand began to move faster. “When we’re both ready, both completely okay with this, then it’s time.”

“Benny,” Jarum pleaded, digging his toes into the bed.

“But that doesn’t mean I can’t give you pleasure. I owe you that much.”

“I don’t want you to owe me!” Jarum was flipped onto his knees, ass out, desperate for something he didn’t have a name for. “I just want … I don’t know!”

Benny ran a hand down the clean line of Jarum’s back. “When we have a name to call it, I’ll give it to you. Until then, just know I do care.”

“Benny, please. Please, God.” Jarum reached down to take hold of his cock while Benny reached off to the side of the bed. “What … what are you doing?”

“When I was just out of training, I started meeting with one of the older instructors in private.” Benny took out a small glass bottle filled with clear liquid. He held it as if it were the most precious thing in the world as he screwed the cap off and let droplets slide over his fingers. “He taught me how to fight in ways we never learned in basic. He taught me how to hunt, to survive topside if I needed to. And … he taught me a lot of things about my sexuality.”

The liquid touched Jarum’s backside and he shivered. Benny’s long fingers worked the wet concoction between Jarum’s cheeks, rubbing over his entrance. Back arched, Jarum mewled into the pillows before Benny continued. “He wasn’t open about his love for men, but he confided in me because we we’re pretty close. Like me, he was attracted to the strength of a man’s body, skinny or muscular, there was just something about a man that drew us both in. The aggression, the territorial persona, even the way they carried themselves aroused us more than a woman.”

His thumb pressed deep circles into the skin between Jarum’s balls and his entrance, causing the man below to moan deep in his throat. “He taught me things about a man’s body that I had no idea existed. Before I ever experienced him inside of me, he showed the wonders of self-pleasure—pleasure beyond stroking yourself every night, even beyond the pleasure of sex.”

“Benny, what is … fuck!” Jarum curled his arms underneath his head and gasped as a finger prodded against him. The pressure was a little painful, but it felt good as Benny’s thumb kept him distracted, rubbing him below.

“Jarum, take a deep breath, and relax your body.” Benny pulled his fingertip out to stroke Jarum’s cock a little. “That’s it,” he coached as the other man sank into the bed. “Feel good?”

“Yes,” Jarum groaned.

Leaning forward, Benny massaged Jarum’s back with a firm grip, kneading deep into the muscle until the body underneath him was still. Oil still on his fingers, the skin glowed against the light—Jarum’s body ready for more. “Do you want me to stop?”

Managing a slow shake of his head, Jarum closed his eyes again. “Lift up a little for me.” Benny pulled his hips up, leaving his upper body relaxed.

Another round of stroking, another dose of fingers pressing into that pleasurable target under his entrance, and Jarum was moaning through his barely open lips. “Higher,” he whispered, letting Benny hit just the right spot. His body jerked with the shocking sensation.

“Shh,” Benny hushed him back into place, letting go of the slick cock in his palm.

Again, he moistened his finger, and pushed inside of Jarum. It was tight, but not as tight as before. The small bit of rubbing had done the trick, relinquishing what doubts Jarum previously had. Swallowed up slowly, his finger moved against the slick flesh of his innocent charge. His fingertip moved up until he found the rounded tissue he was looking for.

Jarum’s mouth opened against the pillow, a moan so loud erupted from his throat it scared him. His body shook under Benny’s touch. Deep inside of him, those fingers prodded at an unknown treasure that had been unlocked, causing his legs to quake uncontrollably. Causing his body to light up like a bonfire. He was enraptured. He was opening himself to a whole new side. He was slowly becoming addicted to Benjamin Gardent.

Benny again found Jarum’s cock. Against his pale hand, the shade of the head was an angry red—swollen and thick, ready to reap the rewards of his touches. “Is that too hard?” Benny looked over to see Jarum’s eyes glazed, his mouth hanging open.

“More,” Jarum rasped.

The finger inside him rubbed slowly over the spot again and he shut his eyes tight, a little scared of the way Benny looked at him, like he was … beautiful. A complete contradiction to what he always wanted, to be needed and cared for, he was still terrified of actually having someone feel that way about him. People left all the time. It wasn’t good to be attached. This could be a one-time thing. Yet, somehow he knew Benny wasn’t like that.

“Look at me, Jarum. Show me how that feels.” He pushed another finger in next to the other. Dark eyes flashed open. The tight ring of muscle around his fingers fought against him. “Relax. It’s okay. Does it hurt too much?”

There was indeed a burning sensation that was hard not to notice, but it wasn’t the worst kind of pain Jarum had ever been through. Not by a long shot. As he relinquished the hold he had on Benny’s fingers, the sting ebbed, making it easier to continue the pleasure. He found himself pushing back, only to meet Benny’s open hand.

“I know. I know what you want, but let me do this for you. You just tell me when something bothers you, and I’ll keep going. Okay?”

Jarum nodded, unable to form a single word. His cock felt ready to explode. There was this strange pressure low in his body, different from any other time he had touched himself. That’s when he felt the slow release through his shaft. An ache in his balls relieved into Benny’s hand.

“That’s good, Jarum,” Benny praised. A milky-white pearl squeezed from the cock in his hand. “It’s okay. Let it happen.”

He kept rubbing the tissue inside of Jarum, feeling a small squeeze every time a dime sized drop of fluid warmed over his fingers. He knew what it was like, to be drained of every drop, to feel the relief of years of pent up need spent in the course of minutes. It was sensual, intimate, and far more expressive than the act of sex between two people. It took trust, and letting go of the control you had worked so hard to build. Jarum was giving into him. They were starting something here, something beautiful, and memorable between them. This wasn’t a quick go in the woods. This was real, and the proof of Jarum’s submission was in his hand.

He had been gentle with his motions for a while now. Testing Jarum, Benny was careful, but pushed harder against the raised tissue until Jarum rose onto his hands and knees. “Jarum?”

“Don’t stop.” His legs shook. His fingers gripped the covers.

The semen in Benny’s hand kept coming slowly, ropes of white dripping over his fingers as he tugged the man’s cock back, pulling harder.

“Fuck. Oh fuck. I’m gonna … I’m gonna,” his words rose in pitch, every syllable hard to get out. Benny increased the pressure, swirling deep circles inside of him, stroking his cock furiously until he exploded. Thick jets of semen hit Benny in the chest. Warm, musky, and almost as erotic as coming himself, Benny milked Jarum’s cock as if it were his own. He too was hard, but this wasn’t about him. This was all about Jarum, and he didn’t stop until every last drop had been leaked onto his body.

Jarum collapsed on the bed, soft, sticky hands smoothing over his body to quiet his shaking limbs. After a few minutes, his breathing eased. His eyes grew heavy. He felt Benny disappear from the bed, but he couldn’t move to protest his absence. Soon enough, the man appeared, bathing his skin with a warm cloth. The gentle rush of fabric over his body lulled him to another state of peace. He was completely satisfied, drained in a good way. He wanted to give in to the sleep reaching for him behind his eyes, but there was one last thing he needed.

Benny stripped down to his underwear, and grabbed a blanket from the chair nearby. Crawling up onto the bed next to Jarum seemed the most natural thing in the world. The other man snuggled up to his chest, draping an arm around his waist, sealing their bodies against one another while the blanket covered them both. Tilting his head, Jarum pushed with his toes, using up his last ounce of strength to press his lips to Benny’s.

To say thank you seemed childish. To say I love you was too much. Neither of them knew what to say. So instead, they shared a soft kiss to end the moment. As the clock blinked one fifteen, lunch out of the question, both men closed their eyes, tangled in each other’s arms.



Raw: We are who we are

Dan and I were sitting here tonight reminiscing about our past. We were sharing a few laughs and a few tears when a song came on the radio by Mr. Timberlake. It was eerie and gave us the goosebumps as it had everything to do with the subject we were talking about. It was as if he knew.     That sparked this post. I'm sorry if it's crazy. I'm sorry if it's not a story. But it's real and honest and something we both thought we should share.

~Love Dan and Night xx


Dan and I have been best friends ever since the seventh grade. No, there wasn't some dramatic scenario that thrust us into a friendship. There was no bully that I saved him from, linking us for life in some historic event in his journey to gaydom. He was friends with my twin brother first, right after we moved to Michigan from the south. The three of us were really tight, bonding over our obsession with Justin Timberlake and riding our bikes downtown to get slushees and read comic books. It was simple.

Eventually, we grew up, as all people must, and my brother started to shine his lifestyle light a little brighter than Dan was ready for. My brother went through his 'fabulous' period starting junior year of high school. At least that's what our classmates called it. I think he was just sick and tired of being someone he wasn't, previously trying to take the spotlight off himself. But his boiling point came and he went all out. We're talking the iced highlights, contacts, tanning, tight pink shirts and jeans that girls were envious that he could fit into. Besides Dan, he was one of only four people who were out in our high school of a little over two thousand. For a small town, our school was pretty big. Gotta love school of choice.

Anyway, as my brother started hanging with an older crowd, kids from the nearby university, Dan and I were left on our own. I'll be the first to admit we weren't exactly popular. Sure we had friends, a close knit circle that we trusted and people that we labeled 'friends' in different groups, but for the most part there were only six of us on a regular basis. It wasn't a large enough army against our peers.

Until graduation, I saw first hand the amount of torture Dan and my brother went through. My brother? He was above it all at the time. School was just a place he had to be to appease my parents. He didn't care about the name calling, the teasing in the locker room, or the 'accidental' shoves in the hallway. He didn't care about the labels placed on him that would emasculate the pants off of any other man. Like I said, he was in another state of mind, above it all and patiently waiting for the freedom that graduation would bring. He was going to a school far away. He wanted out. He saw the way, and he took it.

Dan was a different story, a far cry from the security that my brother had. He did everything he could to keep the others from mocking him. He worked out. He was strong and tall, not what most would define as, whatever let's go there, a twink. He got straight A's. He did sports even though most of the guys didn't want him there, but he did it. For a sense of normalcy or just to prove to himself that he could? Both.

Unlike my brother, even though he loved my parents fiercely, Dan was always a mama's boy. I don't mean to say he would let his mother coddle him, do his laundry, and live their until he was thirty-five. No. I mean he had such a deeply rooted relationship with his family that he couldn't bear to be so far away from them. He even admits that I played a strong role in his decision to stay around home for school too. Flattered. *laughs* What can I say? We stuck together through it all and found that we needed each other to move onto the next step, college.

When I got to school, an hour away from home, I wasn't surprised by the diversity like Dan was. My childhood was spent in a metropolis compared to the small town that we had graduated from. Cultures from all around the world, different races, ages, the drugs, the parties, dorm life--all of it came as one big shock to my gay counterpart. We were in a co-ed dorm. Neither of us liked our roommates. Mine was, if I'm being honest, an alcoholic whore who happened to be a legacy at one of the sororities. And Dan's roommate barely left his bed other than to smoke weed. How this guy made it past the first year was beyond either of us.

That first year was truly a memorable experience. A few kids from high school going to the same university, that we had never really hung out with, reached out to us, and we became pretty close. Throw in a band of wild hipsters and our group was pretty crazy. When we weren't drinking, smoking, and trying to cram for school, I worked at a salon as a hair stylist. Thankfully having completed my program the summer before school started. It was new. It was terrifying, but it was awesome.

Enter the gay scene. Our first year of school was only about the basic requirements. Our sophomore year delved right into our majors, identifying us with a certain crowd. As an engineering student, Dan's school crew was made up of straight guys that he did nothing more than get lunch with. Mine was another world entirely. I was a design major. Fashion and textile studies. Now that was a crazy bunch. A lot of people make the stereotype that gay men are magnetized to fashion. Their assessment would be correct.

Out of the group of fifty or so that were in my class, at least forty percent were loud, out, and proud. The girls flocked over them. They flocked over each other. Their was drama. Someone slept with someone else and the whole class would be in chaos. If ever someone wanted to make a good reality show, they would only have to film our class. It was nuts.

I started hanging out with a few of the boys. It started as work for school--sewing together, sketching, the usual. But then the topic of home came up and I told them about me and my roommate having moved here together. Their shocked faces were priceless. A gay man on campus that they didn't know about? Spill, they coaxed. And so it began.

I mentioned before that Dan isn't the kind of person to put it all out there. He's fabulous behind the scenes, but in public he's pretty low key. He always jokes that you wouldn't know to look at him. Because people get it in their head that something effeminate on a man automatically makes them gay. The first night that I introduced him to the boys at a house party, they were under the same impression. Disbelieving that he could possibly be gay, they referred to him as 'straight bait' all night. This did not go over well.

Dan believed that he was doing something wrong. That he wasn't wearing the right thing or didn't know enough about pop culture and the latest fashion trends to attract a guy. I made it very clear to him that his insecurities weren't in the right place. The real problem at hand was did he want any of these guys at all? They were a bunch of lushes. They were nice enough, but too superficial and crude. Sex? Okay. But did he want to start off on that foot? In the community he had dipped his toe into, labels were everything.

It's sad, but it's the truth. One night of experimentation in a new group of gay men could lead to catastrophe. I told him he shouldn't have to change himself to fit in. This wasn't high school and these weren't the only gays in the village, so to speak. Dan was and always will be a romantic. This wasn't his scene for leads to his first relationship with another man, but they were fun to hang out with. They all wanted to test his waters, though. When he got uncomfortable with it all, we decided to leave. I will never forget the first time they raised a brow at him and said, "fine, go be with your fag hag." Giggling down another shot.

This was the first of many times that someone put the idea into Dan's head that he would never get a boyfriend if I was around. Did this hurt me? Yes, it did. But I wasn't about to defend my relationship with Dan just to appease a bunch of pre-queens. We knew we were like siblings, and that our relationship was ours to access, not theirs. Dan was still insecure, searching for that boy that made his heart flip. Unfortunately, love doesn't come in a pretty package for everyone. But it still didn't hurt to have standards. Not everyone does. It's sad.

I started dating this guy the end of my sophomore year. For the sake of privacy, we're going to call him Frank. Frank was the epitome of college boy heart throb. He had that rough look to him. He was quiet around others, always making you think that he had something smart to say, but he kept to himself to appear mysterious. Or least that was my opinion. He was really smart. He was a people watcher like myself and could read you like a book with a single glance. It was part of his job, though. Which was my favorite thing about him. Music.

As a DJ for several clubs around the area, he was in with the music scene. From small garage bands to bigger artists around the country, Frank had connections. Every time one of my favorite artists came around, he had tickets ready. Our love for music was unnatural to most people. Most nights we would just curl up in bed, smoke a little, and turn up the stereo or mix something on his little deck that he kept near the bed. His rhythm was astounding, in more areas than just music. ;)

Frank was the Saturday night DJ for the only legit gay bar in the area. He had no problem being the only straight boy in a packed house and laughed off the invitations and flirty comebacks with ease. His open attitude towards love and sexuality sparked a friendship between him and Dan. I can assure you it was completely platonic. lol. I had cut back my hours at the salon because Frank had put the seed in my mind that I would make an excellent bartender. I knew everyone there. I was loud and could take the pressure and I was the only girl he had ever met that liked vodka on ice without all the frills. I was perfect for the job and the owner agreed. Enter my job as the bartender.

After completing a ridiculous course in 'mixology', I got pretty good behind the bar. I was a chatter box and the crowd took me in with open arms. Sometimes it got a little too fabulous for my tastes, but at the end of the night, I made them smile and that was all that mattered. Besides declining multiple hook up invitations, cleaning up dust from the bathroom counters, and semen off the walls at the end of the night, it was a fun job.

But while I was stepping into a new routine with Frank, my job, and my major, Dan was heading down a different path. Slowly, he sunk into this depression that led to hanging out with the prima-donnas of the gay community. Young, tan, liked to wear neon to attract the hungry bears. They threw wild parties with themes like black light, bring your whore, Greek, and numerous other categories that are not worth listing. A lot of my fashion friends were in the same group and I knew they pulled Dan into the fold to try to revive his inner twink. They told me as much. They were pretty blunt about it actually.

There were nights when he would text me to come get him and I would end up staying, sucked in by people I hadn't seen for a while or his excuse of 'just stay a little while longer'. Those nights would end where I woke up in Frank's bed having no idea how I got there and Dan passed out on his bathroom floor. It was getting to the point where I didn't recognize him anymore. I didn't recognize myself either--having let us both get this far without saying anything.

I didn't like it and I knew something had to change, but I could only fix my side of the equation. Dan was an adult and I chalked it up to him spreading his wings and having a little fun until the night that I couldn't take it anymore. I had a fight with Frank after a startling event and his true colors exploded before my eyes like a drug-induced rave. The other bartender, we'll call her Sarah, had stated her feelings for me after closing. It came out of left field for me. We had been comrades in the liquor war behind the bar for over a year--joking around, occasionally hanging out, and chatting about our lives. She'd never before made a pass at me. She'd never given me a look to represent any feelings other than friendship.

I wasn't blind, okay. I knew she was a lesbian, and not once did that bother me. She was a cool chick that liked to party, and I won't deny that she was gorgeous to boot. I had just never felt that vibe from her before and I had never openly given her reason to think I was interested. I gently explained to her that while I thought she was an amazing person, I didn't see her that way. Though, I was flattered, I just couldn't. It wasn't fair to try to make her feel better with a hug or offer her sweet nothings that were meaningless. She wanted more and I know from an unrequited experience that for that person to keep going only makes it worse.

Heartbroken, Sarah got up and left, a complete sobbing mess that I couldn't make feel any better. I lost a good friend that night. I also lost my boyfriend over it. Sarah and Frank were best friends. She was the one that got him the gig at the bar before he made his career into something bigger. She was the one that had pushed the owner to hire me. I was in between a rock and a hard place. While I could understand his unease with the situation, I wasn't prepared for what came next.

He was actually upset that I didn't, and I quote, "give her a try". How did I not know until I had experienced her first hand? He'd heard about an encounter or two I'd had the year before and knew I wasn't as lacking in the subject as I claimed to be. Yes. Okay. I'd tried it a few times, but it wasn't because they were girls. It was because I was genuinely attracted to their personality. It sounds so cliche, but it's the truth. If you have that way about you, it pulls me in--a smile that I can't resist because you're genuinely happy, something that makes me laugh and keeps me thinking about it for hours. That's sexy to me. There was something there, in the moment or whatever you want to call it, those nights happened. But it wasn't enough to make me switch sides for the sake of technicality. Sorry ladies, I like dick way too much.

When I couldn't deny his claims, he rolled his eyes at me, and told me that I had probably scarred her for life. I was the first person that she had ever told she loved and I'd shut her down without a care. It wasn't even like that. Not by a long shot, but Frank was so messed up about it that it was obvious he had feelings for her. After many years of thinking about it, I feel like I was the connection between them for that period in their life. She loved him, but didn't want him like that. He wanted her, but couldn't have her because she loved me, or women in general. So he loved me too. Bizarre and entirely out there, but it makes sense. I was their balance and by denying Sarah, I broke them up somehow.

Even though he took up for her and most woman would be like 'what the fuck', I was heartbroken. Out of all the guys I have dated up until now, Frank was perfect for me in every which way. He got me and I loved him, I think. Whatever I felt for him, it was strong because when he walked out of that bar and left me there, I went out to my car and cried so hard I had to call a cab. I couldn't drive. I couldn't think. I could barely breathe. On my way home, I called Dan. I needed someone to sit with. He was best friend. It all made sense.

But when he picked up, it was so loud on the other end that he couldn't hear me. He hung up and didn't even answer his texts. So, even more distraught, I went home and thankfully my roommate was home. We weren't all that close, but the mother comes out of everyone when someone gets dumped. In my case, it was worse than being dumped. I didn't even know what to call the event it was so bad. Wrapped in blankets, we watched mind numbing television as she let me cry myself to sleep on her shoulder. To this day, I still talk to my old roommate Marcy. (Hey girl!)

I didn't hear from Dan for an entire week after that night. I knew it was finals week. I knew that he worked. I knew a lot of things, but I had no idea why he wouldn't talk to me. The one time I needed him and not the other way around, he wasn't there. Enter his new posse. I finished my exams early and tried to text him. I was about to make a trip to his apartment when I ran into a mutual friend of ours. He was acting strange, clipped words, hawk eye thing going on. When I asked him what was up his ass, he informed me that I needed to stop relying on Dan and to let him live his life.

Jaw dropped somewhere on the floor, I told him to fuck off, and that he didn't know green from red when it came to my personal relationship with Dan. Again, I was called a fag hag and left there on the sidewalk fuming mad. Never in my life will I love Dan more than a friend. Never in my life will I be his glittery accessory to parade around the club. Never in my life will I tell him what to do, who to sleep with, or judge his choice of men. He is my friend, my very good friend, that if he was a girl, no one would say a damn thing about it. But Dan happened to be gay, so of course I didn't fit in the picture according to his friends.

Still upset over Frank, pissed about Dan, stressed over finals, and having quit the bar the day earlier, I went in search of my friend. This had to end. This wasn't him. If this was who he was choosing to be from now on, I wanted to hear it from his own mouth before I wrote him out of my life. I would not be known as some 'breeder chick' that followed around their, yes, 'gay husband'. Why would you want a gay husband if you weren't gay? How is that healthy or productive for anyone? It's not. It's stupid and it's derogatory to me. These boys were a bunch of confused, attention grabbing, sex fueled, ken dolls that had been let loose from their small towns to paint the town with their media induced ideals of how a gay man should be.

If that's your thing, go for it. But not all gay men are that way, and Dan for sure wasn't. So I went to his apartment, if nothing more than to see he was okay. He answered the door looking like a wreck, stepping outside and shutting the door behind him. The conversation went something like this:

"What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to tell you that Frank dumped me. Sarah told me she loved me in a romantic sense. And apparently I'm a cramping your style, but that's hearsay, or is it?"

"Frank dumped you?" He reached for me and I backed away.

"Is it true, Dan?"

"Not really."

"Not really?

"I have a guy over right now."

"Of course you do."

"So what? I can't have a guy over?"

"I want you to have a guy over, Dan. I have no problem with that at all. My problem is that you're using it as an excuse to avoid telling me how you feel. But I get it now. Just do me a favor and get yourself tested once in a while. If that's (name excluded) car, which I'm pretty sure it is, he had Chlamydia a while back. People tell you anything at the bar."

"Seriously?" He looked back at the door.


"Fuck. I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"You didn't pick up the phone." I shrugged.

We stood there for a few minutes before I had to go. I was leaving for the weekend. My older brother and my twin were coming home for my great grandmother's birthday. It was going to be a big deal. He ended our awkward reunion by giving me a hug and telling me I was still his best friend, that things weren't going to change between us. I was still on guard about it all. It was a hard  place to be. Wanting to talk about my problems and his, but there was this distance that had grown in the span of seven days that I didn't know how to close without feeding his new posse's gossip. I was, for lack of a better term, stuck.

That weekend was the hardest three days of my life. I had just talked to my twin a few days ago. He sounded good on the phone and was excited to see me. Even though he was on the west coast now, we still stayed in touch. I knew he left out a lot of things because he didn't want me to know he was unhappy there, but I had no idea how bad it was.

Walking into a house that is supposed to be full of happy homecomings and warm hugs from your family, only to find your mother on her knees sobbing in your father's arms is not something I would wish on anyone. She looked at me and turned away as my older brother ushered me outside.  I knew. I'd had the feeling all day that something was going to happen. He hadn't boarded his flight.  he hadn't called to say he was late or anything. One of his roommates had found him that morning. My brother had killed himself with an overdose of painkillers. It was intentional. There weren't any pills left in a prescription filled only two days prior. There was no note. There was nothing.

I went upstairs to his room and shut the door for the next three days. I had no explanation for why he would do this other than what his friends had relayed. I had no twin anymore. I couldn't fathom this. It wasn't real. He was the confident one. He was the happy one. It didn't make sense. I couldn't even move to call Dan. Again, I was stuck. My whole world had dropped out from under me in a matter of days.

I'm going to fast forward a little bit, because I can't handle writing about what the next week was like. If you've been there, you know, and if you don't, there's no sense in tearing your heart out. Dan was by my side in a matter of hours after my brother called him. My family thought it best if we had time to ourselves before we involved him and his family. Not like Dan's mom ever took no for an answer. She was right there to help my mother and to this day, I am forever grateful for having her in our lives. She is wonderful woman that I can't possibly put into words.

There were services, the funeral, and people that had wronged my brother in the past showing up to ask for forgiveness. It was emotional and hard and a lot of other things. His friends even made the trip from Cali to attend the service. They were the ones that suggested we catch a flight back to pack up his things however we wished. My mother couldn't do it. My father couldn't leave my mother. So Dan bought tickets for us both, and my older brother and his new wife bought their own. The four us made the trip to California to the house my brother had shared with three other guys.

After many phone calls, we discovered my brother had been seeing a therapist. There were journals  that the therapist suggested he use as an outlet. Three of them in his closet that I read over the next week. Yep. This is where the journals came from in Cade. I picked them apart until I couldn't read anymore. There really were pages that were tear stained. Differences in handwriting when you could tell he was suffering or angry. There were so many things that I wished I had known about my brother, things he should have told me. But even as a twin, he had always been so independent.

He had an outlook on life that had once been bright. After reading the journals, I saw the truth. It was all a cover-up for how small he felt, how ugly and unwanted. His colorful exterior was to hide the heartache on the inside. To make my parents think he was happy with his life as a gay man, to make them proud. They would have loved him regardless. We all would have. He just couldn't survive without us. California wasn't his home. My brother wasn't so different from Dan after all.

I think about him every day. I wonder what he would look like now. I wonder if he could have been happy if we had known and done something. I sometimes feel like it's my fault. That I should have known. But everyone says that's bullshit. But I still think it. His death changed everything for my family. For me. For Dan. We stopped partying with those people who brought us down. We started looking at everything in a different light. Could that person use a friend? Why are they sad? Is there something I could do for them?

I had always stood up for Dan and my brother. But there were a lot of people out there that deserved another person on their side too. People that are just trying to fit into life but are persecuted for loving who they love. People that enjoy sex just as much as straight people do. People that want to have children like straight people do. People that want to grow old with the one they love, have a house together, and just live, but are not allowed because the love of their life is the same sex as them.

My brother was no different. Dan is no different. Now that we're older and more secure in our lives, we look back on our history with a smile. We all make mistakes. We all have a phase where lust overpowers all. We all do stupid shit, but all of it is different to society when you're gay. I will never understand the other side's opinion on the matter. I will never judge someone on who they love, what their religion is, or the color of their skin. All I want is to help those around me find balance in their lives, to share the same ground that I walk on, and be equal. Is that really so hard? Yes. Because everyone is different.

Even some of my friends call me a 'fag hag' or a 'fruit fly' or whatever, but I'm not. They're my friends and my family. I'm not some hag. I am not an accessory. I am a person that has been through a lot of shit and come out seeing the brighter side. I give my gay friends support. I give them my love because everyone deserves that in my book. They are the reason that I write gay romance. They are the reason that I write happily ever afters. My brother is the reason I rarely ever write about homophobia. Because it tears me up inside to write it and I want to offer an escape to anyone who needs one. A place where the societal divide doesn't exist and love conquers all.

Some people may think this is all bullshit, and I'm just another female writer with a hard-on for two guys going at it. But that's the real bullshit. I write for a cause. I write for him and all the others out there who never got their happy ending. Call me a fag hag, but I call myself a writer. Dan laughs and calls me a warrior, and that's all I really care about. Love you all.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Heart for Trade: Week 9


Benny stomped around his room, angry at himself, at Jarum, and at the universe in general. He’d tried so hard to keep his emotions in check. Hell, for a minute there, he thought he could get away with his feelings for Jarum, but his attitude was starting to give him away. To himself or to the rest of the base, he wasn’t sure, but he knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. Ever since he laid eyes on Jarum back at Whispering Creek, it had been a struggle not to run away. No one knew his sexual preference. No one knew what he dreamed about at night. Seeing Jarum again put him over the edge. Case in point, he acted like an asshole to hide his feelings.

He didn’t want to give Samuel any ideas for one. Sam was his best friend, like a brother, and the only openly gay man at the base. Benny thought that if Sam knew, he would get it in his head that they were meant to be or something. He could never love Samuel like that, no matter how close they were. Sam just wasn’t the person that did it for him. Jarum was.

After throwing his clothes into the laundry bin, Benny slumped into a chair by the wall. Memories of that day at the pond rushed his mind like a stampede of wild horses. He covered his eyes and hung his head with shame. He should have never done it. He should have just kept to himself in the tree line and never approached Jarum. He should have never led the man away from the water and into the trees. He should have never whispered things like that to another man. He should have never tasted Jarum on his knees or allowed a stranger to take him in such an intimate way.

He should have been the one behind Jarum, but he knew, he just knew it was the other man’s first time. His compassion wouldn’t allow Jarum to hurt, to go through that first painful experience. So he’d given up a part of himself just to feel another man against him. Desperation had taken hold of his body and given him Jarum in a neat little package, and now, he regretted it. Not the coupling, but the consequences from it. Now he would have to face Jarum every day and know that the snarky brunette hated him. This was all his fault. He deserved this guilt and shame. He had no right to be angry with the other man. Jarum was right for once. He should just fuck off.



Jarum had been through a lot of grief in his life. His parents dying at such an early age, victims of a late night robbery on their way back to the village. They left him alone in the world, without a sense of direction or a means to cope. As he got older, he used his anger to cover the part of heart that was missing. He couldn’t allow anyone to think he was weak or sensitive. Yet, here he was, tears streaming down his face and running down the halls of a military base with a breaking heart.

All this time, Benny had lied to him. The man that he was supposed to trust had covered up their coupling because he was obviously ashamed. It was clear to Jarum that he wasn’t wanted, but his heart wanted to know why! He was cracking under the pressure of this new world. He was losing his edge rapidly, giving it up to his deeply embedded insecurities, because yet another person had abandoned him. He knew that wasn’t really the case, but it felt the same. Benny didn’t want him. The ugly, dirty kid who could barely read—who would want that anyway?

Still, his boots thudded over the concrete floor, down the hall where he remembered Benny had said he and Samuel roomed. He needed to tell Benny what he thought of him. He needed to let go of this fire in his chest that burned so badly it was painful. He needed to hear it from Benny’s lips. Why! Why would he do this? What was he hiding? What had he done wrong?

A group of men were gathered in the hallway as he reached the last wing. A few signs for a medi-something and storage units made him frown. This wasn’t right. Where was he?

“Hey, kid,” one of the men called. “You okay?”

“Looking … for … Benny,” he wheezed, catching his breath as he bent over.

Another man cocked his head in thought. “You’re Jarum, right? Sam’s boy is blonde, I think.”

“Yes. Wait,” he sucked in another gulp of air, “he’s not Sam’s boy.”

The group chuckled before the first man looked at him again. “Okay, kid, whatever you say. If you’re looking for Gardent, his rooms are in the C wing. This is E. Go down that hall and hit the exit door. Keep going across the platform and you’ll see entrances for C and D. Or do you need one of us to take you?”

Jarum looked up from his bent over position, a look of hatred in his eyes. “I’m not a child. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“You look upset. I mean, you’re, uh, crying. I didn’t mean anything by it.” The man stepped forward with concern. “If you’ll just let me help—”

The speakers crackled overhead and everyone glanced up. “I’ve got it from here, Williams,” Avery startled them all. “Jarum, proceed to the left and hit the exit door.”

“Avery?” Jarum scratched his head.

“The one and only,” she chirped. “Excuse us ladies.”

“Come on, Avery!” One man threw his hands up. “Really?”

“Party’s over. Get going, Jarum,” she commanded.

Dragging his feet for a second, Jarum looked over his shoulder at the men behind him. He hated the concern on their faces, the pity they felt for him. Turning back around, he picked up his pace and ran for the exit door. Hitting the bar on the exit door, he opened it onto a platform with stairs going up and down.  The speakers crackled, echoing in the hallway.

“The door marked C,” she spoke softly.

“Got it.” He raced across the metal flooring, his steps sounding louder than they were. Another white hallway appeared. Another long stretch of doors stared back at him.

“Last one on the right,” she instructed. “If you need me, you know where to find me. Lunch is at one. You can find the time at the end of every hallway. You good?”

“Uh, yeah. Thanks,” he said to the ceiling. “Are you going to watch … uh…”

“No,” she laughed. “I have better things to do than watch Benny in his natural habitat. Watch yourself, kid.” The speakers crackled then she was gone.

Shaking his head, Jarum journeyed down the hall until he stopped in front of the last door on the right. Benjamin Gardent was printed on a small plaque to the left. Jarum swallowed, wiping his eyes. He shook out his hands, took a deep breath, and banged on the door. He was not a baby. He could do this. He could look Benny in the eye and give him a piece of his mind. But as the door opened and Benny stood there shirtless with a pair of pants low on his hips, Jarum couldn’t think.

Benny opened his mouth then closed it. He fought his eyes to keep from looking surprised. He fought his heart from leaping out of his chest. Maybe he hadn’t noticed before, but looking at Jarum now, Benny saw how much older the man looked all cleaned up. A fresh set of clothes, shiny, brown hair that he could smell from feet away, and a baby soft jaw that had been shaven recently—Jarum looked good and Benny was in trouble.

“It was you,” Jarum blurted.

Benny’s heart kicked into overdrive. “What?”

“It was you back in Surik. I…” Jarum leaned in, conscious of the listening speakers above. “I fucked you.”             

Benny peeked out of the doorway and looked to his right. Satisfied that no one but the cameras were watching, he yanked Jarum inside and closed the door with a smack. “Don’t you come here and start shit with me. This is my home and those people out there will talk. Don’t run your mouth when you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Jarum pulled his arm out of Benny’s hand. He attempted a growl and got in Benny’s face. “Is that all you care about, Benny? You’re worried that they’ll know you’re gay? You aren’t the least bit concerned that you lied to me, made me feel like shit this whole time to cover your fucking secret!”

“Keep your voice down!” Benny pushed Jarum away. He began to pace the small sitting room. “So what if it was me? What do you want, Jarum? Is this the part where you tell me it was more than sex and go blab your undying love to the entire base? Are you trying to ruin my life?” And immediately he regretted his words. His shock and fear put him in someone else’s body. This wasn’t him. What had he done?

Face fallen, Jarum knew he was losing his anger. The emotional chaos working through his body threatened his tear ducts. “Ruin your life? Are you serious, Benny? You and Sam took me from my home, brought me here, and you don’t even care. All you’ve done since we’ve been here is made me feel like shit. I’m a person. You may not see that because I’m some poor boy from the topside, but every time you talk to me, you make me feel like nothing. I gave you my first time. Yes, I was desperate, but I’ll never forget that. The fear of knowing what I was doing could give me a disease, knowing you could rob me or kill me when we were done. I let all of that go because it was so nice to be that close to another person and know that they wanted me, even it was for only a few minutes.  And again, you soiled that for me. You’re poison, Benny, not my savior.”

Whirling around, Benny showed his face, wet with tears and eyes wavering. “I never said I didn’t want you. I’m just not ready for … whatever this is.”

“Right, because you’re a mind reader on top of your other charming qualities.” Jarum backed away. “This was stupid. I knew what you would say. I should never have come here. I don’t know why I did. I don’t want anything to do with you. I just want to go home.”

He turned and wiggled the door handle, embarrassed and irritated as it wouldn’t open. He couldn’t turn around and give Benny the satisfaction of his tears. The other man was only crying to save his ass, to make it seem like he cared. Jarum banged on the door with his palm, simultaneously pulling on the handle that wouldn’t work. He stopped as a body molded to his back, hands smoothing over his arms, and down to his hands to pull them away from the door.

“Stop,” Benny whispered. “Just stop.”

“Don’t touch me,” Jarum warned, but his threat was barely audible.

“We were never supposed to go to the pond in Surik. Samuel had forbid us from going near there, but I couldn’t stop myself. Every week I went to the trade market, trying to find Samuel a suitable match. I looked for ads with his preference. I kept my ears open and my eyes peeled for over a year, Jarum. But every week, I saw you instead.

“I didn’t know about Ryan at the time. I only watched you. Helping the others around you, selling their stuff with that crazy mouth of yours, and getting them the best price out of the goodness of your heart. Giving the last of your chocolate to the little ones, taking your shirt off when it got too hot in the summer, working those muscles to load up the carts. Pulling your hair back away from your face so I could see those dark brown eyes, petting the horses with a smile when you thought no one was looking, closing your eyes when you were eating because it tasted that good. I saw it all, Jarum.

“When you went to the pond, I followed you if only to see a glimpse of what was underneath, but we both know it was more than that. I saw you standing there all alone after that woman left. You were so disappointed, so needy like myself, and so, I made my move. You call me poison, but do you know why I let you take me?”

“No,” Jarum choked. He couldn’t think. His head was spinning.

“Because I knew without a doubt it was your first time. It was in the way you touched me, the hesitant kissing, the desperate way your fingers clung to me. After I’d watched you for so long, I felt a connection with you, Jarum. Albeit one sided, but I didn’t want to hurt you. It … it hurts the first couple of times. I couldn’t do that to you. I didn’t want you think that sex, if you chose to be with another man, would always be that way. Encounters topside are far and few between, if it was going to be your only chance, I wanted it to be good and with me.

“The reason I don’t want anyone to know, is not because I don’t want you. It’s because I didn’t want Samuel to think I was holding out on him. There you were, this gorgeous, healthy man that willingly touched me in the woods. You could have been Sam’s, Jarum, not mine. I couldn’t let that happen,” he rasped. “Or worse, Sam would have got the idea in his head that the only two gay men on the base should get together. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I wasn’t willing to lose my friend because of sex and I’m still not willing to lose you either.”

Jarum’s need made his stomach flip flop. Benny’s hands on his arms, slowly moving to his chest made him shake. Lips on his neck caused his head to tilt and his eyes to close. Roughly hugged into Benny’s chest, Jarum’s hand reached up, cupping the back of the soldier’s head. Fiery locks filtered through his fingers—so thick, yet soft. He wanted to melt.

The lips on his neck grew hungry, opening wider to allow the heat of Benny’s tongue to sweep over his skin. Jarum couldn’t stand being in the dark anymore. He wanted to know what Benny’s mouth tasted like again. He wanted to see those hazel eyes thick with lust instead of cloaked under a hood. He wanted to soak it all in.

Shifting quickly in Benny’s arms, Jarum stared into the eyes he sought after. Full of want, not desperation, Jarum found what he was looking for in Benny. Their hands grabbed at one another. Boots shuffling awkwardly around, their bodies connected. Jarum tilted his head and Benny accepted the invitation. Their mouths sealed together in a greedy kiss. Their arms locked around each other. This was how it was supposed to be, Jarum thought. This is what he’d been missing the first time. Benny didn’t just want him, he needed him.

The fear between them dissipated. Man to man, they fed from each other’s mouths while moving slowly to the bedroom. Jarum had no idea what was about to happen, but all he knew was that he never wanted to let go of the man against him. As his back hit Benny’s bed and the red head gasped for air, hazel eyes stared down at Jarum as if he were the answer to the universe. The moment was short lived as Benny switched from staring to touching.

Hands roaming down Jarum’s body, his mouth sought out Benny’s again. One hand cupped his growing erection through his jeans. His eyes lit up. His mouth opened with a startling gasp before settling into a smile. Better than any apology in the world, Benny lifted his shirt, and kissed his exposed chest. A small nip drew Jarum’s eyes open. Hazel eyes looked back—hungry and narrowed.

On the precipice on a major turn in events, Jarum gently cupped Benny’s face. “I’m not scared of you, Benny. I can take it,” he managed.

“Take what?” Benny sat back on his heels, thrown by the statement.

After a moment of silence, Jarum took his jacket off and pulled his shirt over his head. His boots clunked to the floor when he kicked them off and his fingers trembled as he went for his jeans button. Determined and stubborn, Jarum wrenched his pants off unceremoniously. They hit the floor, the sound sealing the deal as Benny stared wide-eyed at his naked body.

“I can take it,” he repeated, spreading his legs, and lying back onto the bed.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Turkey Travesty: Part Two

Ahhhhhhh..... That was me finally sitting down after a week full of craziness. Holidays are always the most stressful time for me, for anyone really, but in a salon ... dear God. Today my boss referred to me as a magician, which was pretty accurate seeing as how I packed twenty clients on my book in six hours. *molds myself into the couch in exhaustion*

All week people, all freaking week! Add on top that three dinners in one day for Thanksgiving, a trip to the retirement home to visit boyfriend's great gran, and an entire night of chauferring around our Black Friday crew, followed by work for ten hour shifts through Sunday and I'm ready to shut my eyes and sleep for seven days straight.

So, this apology is completely unnecessary, because I know you all understand, but I feel obligated to give it anyway. I'm sorry for the delay. lol ;) Heart for Trade is on for tomorrow. Here is your Turkey Travesty wrap up. Lots of love to you all.




“Alright, settle down,” Shepard commanded to the shifters gathered.

Fourteen of his best men and women huffed to their seats so he could continue. Alex remained standing next to him, searching out his boyfriend Luca. The two of them were finally getting together after what seemed like an eternity of exhausting angst. Shepard was happy for Alex, but the looks the two were sharing at the moment weren’t conducive to the meeting. He needed his head beta on his A-game right now, not in the clouds imagining Luca naked. It reminded him of his own mate, which wasn’t good for business either. With a gentle elbow to Alex’s side, Samuel raised a brow. The sandy haired beta cleared his throat and straightened his back. His eyes drifted away from his new boyfriend to settle on the others.

The alpha crossed his arms. “The situation involving me and Paul has left its mark on my mate, and this pack. I’ll admit the handling of the breakup was flawed and I wouldn’t be a good alpha if I wasn’t honest about it. That said, I think it’s time I dealt with Paul properly. He’s a negative influence in the spirit of the pack and he has made it very clear that he intends to break apart my relationship with Hugh.”

The betas and omegas growled back at him. They were furious that someone would try to upset their alpha and his mate. It just wasn’t done. It was a challenge to his authority, and with Paul already having numerous marks against him, this was the last straw. No one dared to hurt their leader, and especially not Hugh. The man made Shepard happy, and happy was good for the pack.

“Alpha, has he challenged your mate?” An omega stood to his left.

“Not yet, but if he does, his livelihood is questionable. No one will stand in my way and no one will stand by his side. Is that clear?” Samuel looked around the room. All heads nodded. “Good. I intend to give him a notice of eviction tomorrow. He’ll have one week, maybe less if he gives me trouble, to put his things in storage and clear out of pack lands. I want everyone ready in case he decides to put up a fight. With my parents coming … things are bound to get heated. He’ll try and use them to his advantage like he used to.”

“Why not call them and cancel their visit?” A beta asked.

“They’re already on a plane to the states. It’s too late for that, but I intend to make this visit educational for them. Yes, they’re my family, but no one interferes with my mated bond,” he growled. “I am the alpha here.” The growls and snarls agreed with him.

“We’ll cover the house for the next twenty-four hours. Hugh is our top priority. His safety is everything and if Paul makes his move, we take him down. Understood?” Alex lifted his chin as a sign of dominance. His eyes bled gold and heads lowered in answer. “Omegas, you’ll be in charge of clearing out Paul’s house. I’ve arranged a moving truck and we’ve secured a spot for Paul at our sister-pack in Oakridge. The alpha there is expecting us. His number has been sent to your phones.”

“We’re really kicking him out, aren’t we?” Luca looked to Shepard.

The alpha narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, you got a problem with that, Luca?”

Luca grinned. “I was just wondering why the hell we haven’t done it sooner.”

“It took me a little while to realize how badly he fucked up, but now it’s time. No one challenges my authority or harms my mate, physically or emotionally.” Shepard’s nostrils flared. “Who’s ready to take out the trash?”

Every shifter pushed to their feet. They were with him completely. Now it was time to go home to his mate and get some much needed peace with Hugh before all hell broke loose.

“Meeting adjourned. Alex will message you instructions. Be ready first thing in the morning.” Shepard grabbed his coat with relief and walked out into the night. He could feel his mate in his head. He still had groveling to do. With a lick of his fangs, he walked down the street. He was more than happy to satisfy Hugh.




The next morning, the coffee pot beeped. The eggs were burning. Laundry was scattered on the kitchen floor—the bin dumped over from the counter with Shepard’s hand. He gripped the cabinet handles above him, clenching his ass as he came in Hugh’s mouth. Ever since he’d come home last night, they couldn’t seem to get enough of each other. In their sleep, awake, half-awake—they could not stop touching. This was the way it was supposed to have been all along, but now it seemed the bond they’d forged was truly cemented. Hugh was letting him in. They trusted each other. It was so hot! Shepard sank to the kitchen floor.

He shared a greedy kiss with Hugh on their knees. The smell of the eggs, almost charred in the pan, made him pause. Hugh laughed, hopped up, and grabbed the pan.

“I don’t need Louisa on my ass about the smoke alarm,” he said, scraping dark brown crust into the garbage disposal. “She already yelled at us last night.”

“She should be happy that we’re happy.” Shepard pulled up his sweat pants and snaked his arms around Hugh’s waist.

“She’s an eighteen year old girl, Shep. She doesn’t want to hear her brother going at it all night.” Hugh turned around. “We have to be respectful of her too.”

“I didn’t hear that come out of your mouth last night.” The alpha waggled his brows. “In fact, I believe the words ‘harder and more’ were all you could manage.”

“Now that I’m clear headed, I’m telling you we need to—” The phone rang on the counter and Hugh went back to the dishes. It was the phone for pack business. He knew Shepard had plans for today and he’d become accustomed to small interruptions and it had taken some time, but now he was okay with his mate’s role.

Kissing Hugh’s cheek, Shep grabbed the phone. “Yeah?”

“Kathryn and Edgar just pulled into Paul’s driveway,” Alex growled.

“What?” Shepard motioned Hugh over, putting the phone on speaker.

“I said your parents are at Paul’s house. He must have called them on their way over here. They have to be plotting or something.”

Hugh nodded his head, kissed Shepard quickly and darted off. Now that they were here, he had work to do and so did Shepard. Passing the guest room with an evil smile, he went to their room to get changed. His side of the closet now had two different sections—his normal attire and his new, funky clothing that he promised he would pay Shep back for. Of course, his mate wouldn’t hear of it and requested more sexy underwear. Typical horn-ball, he rolled his eyes.

Biting his lip, Hugh got dressed in something a little spicier than usual. He wanted to leave a great impression with his in-laws, make their eyes pop out of their heads. His new threads on, he gave himself a once over in the mirror. Looking good, Hugh, he laughed. Doing a spin with glee, he saw Louisa in the doorway and stopped quickly. A younger pack male stood behind her. Enter the fiancé, Hugh smirked.

She yawned. “Are sure about this, Hugh? They’re going to flip a shit when they see him.” She hitched a thumb at the stud behind her. The male grinned, nodding his head before she elbowed him without a glance his way. “See what I mean?”

“Hey, the alpha gave me a job to do and I can’t go against his orders. Now can I?” The teen ran a hand over her shoulder.

“Yeah, well, if you put your hands where they don’t belong, my brother will rip them off.” She smiled, pinching his arm. “How about you let me lead, rent-a-boyfriend?”

“Whatever you say, Lou.” His eyes wide, he rubbed his arm. “And I’m not some call boy.”

Hugh watched the two. God this was going to be so much fun! Shep’s parents were going to die. “You two better get a move on.” He felt Shepard’s warning in his head. “The rents are heading over.”

“Aye, aye, captain.” Louisa did a salute, dragging lover-boy behind her.

Hugh took a deep breath and counted to three. The doorbell rang. He put on a smile. “Coming!”




Edgar and Kathryn Hanes stood together on the porch. Their mouths dropped in shock. Edgar was shorter than Hugh had expected, only a few inches taller than his wife, who was maybe 5’7” altogether. His stern face and dark brown eyes held no mercy, though. Like his wife, whose scowl could scare the pants off a beta, he was pissed.

You’re Shepard’s mate?” She clutched her purse to her chest and eyed him up and down—taking in the deep v neck sweater that showed off his chest and the tight leather pants tucked into his motorcycle boots. A hand ran through the side of her colored curls with disgust on her face.

“Yes.” He smiled sweetly. “I’m Hugh Northam and—”

“Where’s my son?” Edgar cut him off, pushing past Hugh into the foyer.

“He’s running a few errands, I’m afraid. He’ll be back shortly.” Hugh clasped his hands behind his back, offering Kathryn another award winning smile.

“Not soon enough,” she commented dryly. Her heeled boots clicked over the hardwood as she surveyed the house with an upturned nose.

“You must be anxious to see him. What has it been, two years since you made a visit? That’s an awfully long time.” Hugh walked into the living room.

Edgar whirled around. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh nothing, just that I understand your need to see him, I guess.”

“Paul said he was here this morning. What could he possibly be doing? Shepard knew we were coming today.” Kathryn moved a few pillows around until she was satisfied enough to sit down on the couch that cost more than Hugh’s old apartment in its entirety.

Count to ten, Hugh told himself. Just count to ten and you won’t want to rip Paul’s throat out. “We were out of a few things. He wanted to make sure we were fully stocked.”

“With liquor I hope,” Edgar huffed and seated himself next to Kathryn.

“Plenty of that to go around.” Hugh cocked his head, showing off another pristine smile. Yep. He thought. A drink sounded really good about now.

Where the hell are you? He relayed to his mate.

It’s too early to start drinking. Chill out a minute. Be right there.

Soon! They’re already making me sick.

A chuckle filled his head. I’m heading up the driveway. Just breathe.

“Where are your things? We can start to move them into your room,” Hugh offered.

The couple looked at each other. “In the car.” Edgar tossed him keys like some bellhop. “Don’t drag the dry cleaning bag. I hate wrinkles.”

“I’ll make sure not to drag your bags.” Unless you’re inside of them, Hugh narrowed his eyes.

Staring right back, Kathryn’s lip curled into a smile. “Was there something else, Hugh?”

“Nope.” He dangled the keys. “That should do it. Oh, and Louisa, come in here and say hi!”

“She’s still in bed,” Kathryn spat. “That girl is so lazy. I can’t wait until we introduce her to the Mancha pack. Maybe they can teach her some structure. Paulo is a fine alpha. They’ll make a beautiful couple.”

“All in good time, dear.” Edgar patted his wife’s arm.

Hugh passed Louisa in the hall as she emerged from her room looking completely mussed with the faux boyfriend behind her—guaranteeing a memorable entrance.

“Louisa Kathryn Hanes!” Edgar roared to his feet as Hugh flung open the front door. “What is the name of all that is holy are you doing! Who is this? Why … you smell like … dear God!”

Shepard grinned back at Hugh, holding a bag in each hand. “I bring gifts of baked goods.”

“And I bring gifts of raw, in-your-face drama.” He leaned forward for a kiss. “Glad to have you back.”

“We’re in love and we’re getting married!” Louisa screamed behind them. “I’m eighteen now. You can’t tell me what to do!”

“That was fast,” Shepard whispered, following Hugh down the hall.

“Yeah, well, she’s an actress, Shep, a very good actress.” Hugh took a bag and looked inside. “Who wants scones?” The room of shifters turned eyes on him as he held up the bag with a smile.

“We’ve got blueberry, mom.” Shepard put an arm around Hugh. “You’re favorite.”

Kathryn Hanes screamed through her teeth and marched out the back door.




“Is this a joke?” Edgar looked between the two makeshift cots in the spare room. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“Sorry about that. There was only a twin in here and we decided to get rid of it and use this as my office. I didn’t even think about where to put you for your visit.” Hugh sighed. “But I made sure to give you both plenty of blankets.”

Kathryn crouched down, fingering an old comforter with hearts on it—compliments of Louisa. “Cots? For the parents of your mate, you give us cots? Am I correct?”

“They’re comfy, I promise.” Hugh leaned in the doorway, thinking of the rocks he’d put in the cushionsu underneath last night. Sweet dreams, mommy dearest, he mused.

“I see what you’re doing here, Hugh.” Edgar shoved a finger into his chest. “But it’s not going to work. You and I both know you’re not good enough for my son and I will spend this visit showing you as much. We’ll take your little cots and in exchange, we’ll get our son a real shifter—someone who knows a thing or two about hospitality.”

Eyes turning gold, Hugh gently pushed the finger away. “I know plenty about hospitality. Rule number one, when a guest has overstayed their welcome, you politely get them the fuck out of your house. I’ll have lunch ready in an hour. Enjoy!” He turned and shut the door.

“Where did you put the twin bed?” Shepard joined him in the hallway, pleased with his mate.

“It’s in the garage. I had Louisa’s new fiancé take it down this morning.” Hugh kept walking. “I needed room for … my office.”

They both cracked up laughing. “You’re better at this than I thought,” Shepard wheezed.

“Why thank you. Thank you very much.” Hugh put on a pot of soup. “Hungry?”

“Always.” Shepard licked his fangs.



After lunch, Shepard along with Hugh, headed over to Paul’s place. The in-laws were taking a nap after a mind-numbing screaming match with Louisa and a debate over why Hugh would choose to work instead of running the household for his mate. Both conversations had Hugh ready to pull his hair out, but he kept it in check. They had a plan. The others were nearby watching. He could feel them everywhere. This was really going to happen. He suddenly worried whether or not this plan was going to go well. Nothing about plans usually happened like they were supposed to.

Knocking on the door was terrifying. What happened next was up in the air. He wanted to hide behind his mate, but he had to show he wasn’t afraid. He was a man, a strong, educated man that would fight for what was his. Fuck Paul and his childish game of tug of war. Shepard was his man.

The door opened. Paul rolled his eyes. “Can I help you?”

Shepard shoved a packet into Paul’s chest. “This is your notice of eviction. You have until Friday to clear the premises and a week to take care of any unfinished business. A moving truck will be provided for you today and the omegas will be helping you. You are to report to the Oakridge pack alpha by phone before five or you will find yourself free game to any pack that challenges for you. Are we clear?”

“The fuck we are.” Paul pushed Shepard back. “This is my home. I have rights to it and not even you can evict me.” He threw the packet into the lawn. “This is all because of some crappy human that you turned into your lapdog. Some alpha you are, letting him run your life when you know you still want me. I saw how you looked at me whenever I talked to him. You were jealous!”

“My mate is not a lapdog.” Shepard shoved Paul back. “I’m happy you cheated on me, because if you didn’t, I would have never met him!”

“You are such a liar!” Paul stepped forward, getting in his face. “I may have fucked up, but don’t tell me you don’t still want this—me, inside of you, taking away your control as alpha.” He grabbed Shepard’s face and kissed him.

Hugh’s wolf took over. Speaking of control, all of his was given over to the animal inside as he rushed Paul to the porch floor, and dug his fangs into the man’s skin. Thrown off by Paul, Hugh’s rage only increased. He rushed the larger man again, screaming his rage. His arms locked around Paul’s waist and they flew over the banister.

“Hugh!” Shepard hopped the porch railing as the betas came charging into the yard.

“He is mine!” Hugh roared and smashed Paul’s face into the grass.

Paul flipped them over until he straddled Hugh. A shimmer filled the air. Two wolves, one a deep chocolate and the other a light brown, clashed against each other. Fangs cut into skin. Claws swiped at the other. The wolves rolled around until Shepard felt it safe enough to intervene and not hurt Hugh. He bit deep into Paul’s leg, dragging him away from his mate.

A golden shimmer flared over both males until two naked men appeared in the yard. The alpha’s hand closed over Paul’s throat, holding him there until his face turned red. Hugh lay on his side, gasping for air and clutching his arm to his chest. A deep gash lined his forearm. Bite marks oozed crimson over his side as he watched his mate kill Paul slowly. He could feel the tension in the pack. Every one of them didn’t mean for this to happen. They didn’t want to watch Paul die, but he deserved it at this point. Hugh had to shut his eyes. He couldn’t move any more. It hurt too much, both physically and emotionally.

Alex pulled Shepard back with the help of Luca and another beta. “No!” The alpha roared. “He is mine!”

His head beta hugged him so tight, he could barely breathe. Shepard’s mind whirled with death, his mate’s pain, and his own rage. He wanted to kill Paul as the bastard crawled to the feet of his parents. The people that had come outside not to stand by his side, but to comfort Paul! His eyes burned bright with the need to rip his ex’s face off.

“You signed over rights to him, Shepard!” Alex fought against his alpha. “If we kill him, Oakridge has the right to kill you. I checked this morning.”

“Bullshit! He bled my mate. He dies!” Shepard lunged, but was tackled by several of his best men. Half his face pushed into the ground, he watched Paul helped to his feet by his parents and growled.

“Think of Hugh,” someone wheezed in his ear. “He’s hurt. He needs you.”

“I want Paul gone!” Shepard shouted.

Alex looked over to where Paul was secured in the arms of Kathryn. “Bring the moving truck now. I want the house cleared out immediately. He is gone tonight!”

The omegas scurried around the pile of shifters, but were stopped by Edgar. “This house belongs to me. You have no right to enter my property.”

“Let him up boys,” Alex called to the pile. Slowly, the shifters let their alpha stand. Alex smiled because he knew what was coming next. It was about time.

“Take Hugh inside. Now!” Shepard barked. Stay with me baby. I’ll be right there. I swear it.

Hugh could only groan. Being pulled into Alex’s arms when his wounds were starting to heal, hurt like hell. He wanted to reach for his mate. He wanted it to be Shepard’s arms around him, but Hugh knew what was about to happen was more important. He knew Shepard loved him and that he wasn’t being tossed aside. For once, Hugh had to let things go and trust in his mate. This was serious pack business. This was the only way they would be able to live in peace. His mate needed to stand up for them, seeing as he was the only one who could speak at the moment.

“You don’t talk to me about ownership of anything! I am the alpha here, not you. I own this land and you own the house. Unless you plan on picking up that house and moving it elsewhere, shut your damn mouth!” Shepard looked down on his father with narrowed eyes. “Do you understand me, Edgar?”

“Don’t you talk to your father that way,” Kathryn shouted.

Shepard grinned, turning to his mother—Paul wrapped in her arms. “And you. You can either zip your mouth or get the fuck off my property and never come back! I love that man,” he pointed to Hugh being carted off, “and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. If you wish to reconcile our relationship, mom, and be part of my life, start acting like my family and not his! If you can’t do that, get out!”

Kathryn put a hand to her chest, stunned to the spot. She looked to her husband, who had his head hung down in submission. Edgar had never been strong enough to stand as a beta, much less an alpha. His temper and his need to rise above the others with money and influence stemmed from his lack of strength and everyone knew it now. It had been their choice to come here.

They’d been under the impression that with the leash they kept Shepard on, panting for their affection, he would drop the turned human and commit to Paul. But now as Kathryn and Edgar backed away from their son, they knew what they had done was wrong. They’d pushed their children away, left Shepard to raise their own daughter while they ran away to party it up, escape, and denied themselves a beautiful family because they felt threatened.

“You can have the house,” Edgar managed.

Shepard leaned down. “What was that?”

“I said you can have the house, alpha.” Edgar stood straighter, but couldn’t look his son in the eye.

Stepping back, Shepard studied his father with clenched fists. The man seemed to have reached the conclusion his son was superior to him—that no amount of money made a man, only love and what you did with it. Shepard was a true alpha. He was strong. He loved every one of his pack members and he had finally found a mate that made him think—someone who could balance out his overaggressive tendencies.

“Why?” The alpha took a step into his father’s space.

Edgar sighed. “Because … because, never mind.” He looked at his wife. “Kathryn, let the boy go. He’s got business to deal with that we aren’t a part of.”

“But, Edgar!”

“Not this time, Kathryn.” The older werewolf pulled his wife to him, leaving Paul all by himself.

“You both told me you would—” Paul was cut off. He scowled at Shepard, who was in his face within seconds.

“They’ve made their choice, the right choice, Paul. I’m there son, not you. You are officially claimed by the Oakridge pack. You have no claim to this house or this property. You have no family here. You have no friends here. You have laid your hands on my mate and therefore you give me reason to challenge you to the death with the permission of your new alpha. Do you really want to die, Paul? Because I assure you, one phone call is all it will take, and your blood is mine.”

Paul sought help within the crowd. Just one person in his favor was all he needed to make a case against Shepard. But no one would look at him. One by one they turned their backs. This was no longer his home and his wolf cried out in pain. He had done this to them. He had driven them away from his own home, people he used to call friends and family. Now he and his wolf were being pushed into a pack they didn’t know, all because of him. Ever the bastard though, Paul wouldn’t admit his wrongs.

“Fuck you. I’ll get my stuff, but this isn’t over, Shepard Hanes.” Paul pointed a finger at the alpha.

“Yeah, Paul, it is. If I ever see you on my land after today, you’re done. You can consider yourself suicidal. Got it?”

“Right, I’m sure.” Paul rolled his eyes. “Fuck you guys too,” he sneered at Kathryn and Edgar as he marched up the lawn.

“Paul!” Kathryn yelled, but her husband pulled her tightly to him. “Let me go.”

“No. You let him go. He’s not ours, Kathryn.”

“He’s…” she sobbed, rubbing her eyes.

“Everything you ever wanted?” Shepard offered. He shook his head. “Guess that answers that.”

“She never said that,” Edgar pleaded.

“She didn’t have to, dad.” Shepard walked to his own lawn, stopping just short of the drive. He turned around. “You can get your stuff and go, or stay for dinner tomorrow. Either way, I don’t care. I have to take of my mate now.”

“Son,” Edgar tried, but left hanging, he watched his only son walk into the house without another word.





Hugh’s eyes drifted open. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep and as he came to, he wished he had never woken up. With Shepard curled around his back, thick covers pulled over them both, and the rhythmic breathing of his mate in his ear, Hugh just wanted to stay like this forever. Stretching out, he felt Shepard shift behind him.

Hugh shivered as the covers were pulled back. His arm was grasped gently by his mate. A thumb ran along the marks from Paul’s claws. The wound was nothing more than a barely visible trio of pale pink lines now. The same hand ran down his side, inspecting the skin just as carefully. There wasn’t any pain left. Now, only Shepard’s warm hands over his body remained.

“I’m okay, Shep,” he whispered.

“I’m not. He could have killed you, Hugh. What were you thinking?”

Hugh rolled over. “I wasn’t. Paul kissed you and I snapped. If he had kissed me, what would you have done?”

“I guess I would have ripped his head off,” Shepard snarled while he settled Hugh onto his chest.

“And you almost did.” Hugh smiled.

“Sometimes I wish I didn’t care. I should have killed him, Hugh, for touching you.” Shepard lifted his mate’s chin. “But I couldn’t do it.”

“Despite the fact that I hate Paul, I’m glad you care.” Hugh scooted up for a kiss. “If you would have killed him, it would have scared them all. I know that sounds dumb, because I don’t know much about pack life, but I saw them watching you. I felt them. They couldn’t go against you, but they didn’t want Paul dead. He used to be their friend, part of this family, and even though he fucked up, it wouldn’t have been right. Yes.” Hugh held up a hand before Shepard could speak. “I know you had the right, but like I said, I’m glad you care.”

“I thought you didn’t care much for pack life. I think you said they were nothing, but a bunch of gossiping—” His words were cut off with another kiss.

Hugh licked Shep’s lips. “The way they came together for us, to see you happy, maybe I don’t hate it after all.”

“There is still the issue of my parents, Hugh. As much as I hate the way they treat us, they’re still my family. They’re pack too.”

Hugh traced Shep’s jawline with his finger. “My grandmother calls me her little pansy, wears socks with sandals, and throws rocks at the neighbor kids from her porch. I still love her. I think I can deal with the in-laws.”

Shepard turned his face away and laughed. “Speaking of rocks, I think they found you’re little welcome gift.”

“Uh-oh. We should probably pull out the couch bed, huh?” Hugh bit his lip playfully.

“Yeah, we should probably do that.”

Hugh winked before he remembered something important. “But, hey, what happened to Paul?”  

A smug smile graced Shepard’s lips. “The Oakridge alpha called a little while ago to say that Paul was just getting settled.”

“Poor Oakridge, I almost feel bad for them.” Hugh rose onto his knees, straddling his naked mate. “But not really.”

Shepard growled, running his hands up Hugh’s chest. “Me either. Now what do you say we spend we use this free time to get a little exercise?”

“Free time?” Hugh barked a laugh. “In-laws, sister and faux fiancé, other room, ring a bell, Shep?”

“Out to dinner,” the alpha mumbled.

“Unexpected.” Hugh cocked his head.

“Do you care?”

“Mmm, not really.” Hugh smiled and bent down to take his mate’s mouth.




“Are those marshmallows?” Kathryn looked over Hugh’s sweet potatoes.

“Yep.” He popped one into his mouth and held the bag out to her. “Want one?”

“Uh, no.”  She took a step back. “Did you at least stuff the turkey?” She raised a brow.

“No. I turned it inside out and rolled it in graham crackers.” He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I stuffed the turkey, Kathryn.”

She clicked her nails on the counter. “There’s no need to be so rude, Hugh.”

“Ditto, Kathryn.”

“How my son ever got mixed up with you is beyond me.” She shook her head.

On his way to the oven, Hugh leaned into her. “He pissed on me. Take it up with Shepard.” He winked.

Her mouth fell open. “My God!”

Hugh, Shepard warned as he rounded the counter. He cocked a brow, sending his mate a private message. Don’t start with her. You said you’d play nice.

I know, but come on, Shep! Who doesn’t like marshmallows? Hugh put the sweet potatoes in the oven.

My mother.

Turning, Hugh put a hand on his hip. Ugh. Fine, but don’t expect me to like this.

I wouldn’t dream of it. Now come here, you smell like food.

It’s past your breakfast time.

“Am I interrupting something?” Kathryn’s lips pressed tightly together.

The men looked at each other and laughed. “No,” they chorused.

Kiss. Shepard leaned in to his mate to get his prize. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother turn away. She’s still standing there. It’s a start.

Whatever you say. Hugh tugged his mate closer while Kathryn looked away, slipping his tongue in Shepard’s mouth.

Marshmallow? Shepard licked his lips.

You’re mother’s favorite.

You little shit. Shepard nudged Hugh in the direction of the beeping timer on the stove. I’ll be outside with dad, unless you need help in here?

“For the thousandth time, I don’t want you in here,” Hugh said out loud before he realized he was looking at Kathryn.

“Actually, this is the first time you’ve said as much. But believe me, I get the message.” She left the kitchen without a word.

“Shit,” he whispered. “Uh, Kathryn, I wasn’t … talking to you?”

Shepard groaned. “Well, this visit couldn’t get any better,” he teased.

“Oh, yeah right. By the time she calms down, I’ll be ready to drop the turkey or pour red wine on her or something.”

“Happy thoughts.” Shepard pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll be back in a little while. Take it easy in here, okay?”

Waving a spatula, Hugh faked a smile. “I’ll try.”

“God, you’re cute in the kitchen.”

“I am not cute! Shepard Hanes, you take that back.” Hugh whacked the spatula into his open palm as his mate made for the back door. He looked down to see sweet potato all over his hand. “Fuck. I swear to God, this day could not get any worse,” he muttered to himself.






“Will you look at this, Edgar?” Kathryn plopped down in her chair at the table. “Shepard’s wife can cook!” She giggled, wiggling her empty wine glass in her hand.

He is my mate, mother.” Shepard wanted to hide under the table. He knew Hugh had heard that one.

“Mate, wife, whatever.” She slapped the table as if her reply was the best joke she had ever told. “Even has himself an apron, Edgar.”

Her husband shot her a look—one dominant wolf behind his eyes. “Kathryn!”

“Oh, hush, you big baby.” She waved him off. “Marshmallows.” Her laugher made Hugh stab a roll with a butter knife.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t shove a filet mignon up the turkey’s ass and baste it in champagne on such short notice,” he let the sweet potatoes slam on the table, “but I see you’re enjoying the wine.” He shook the empty bottle to prove his point.

Deep breathe. His mate coached, but Hugh was finished with this woman. Edgar was trying to make some peace—taking his daughter to dinner last night, making nice with her fake fiancé, and even bringing home some wine for the big meal today, but Kathryn? Oh, was she a hot mess. Hugh was about ready to stick her head in the oven.

Louisa helped him bring the salad and other sides to the table. The silence thick in the air, he wanted to scream, but he held himself together. Louisa looked ready to bolt. Shepard was looking from here to there as if he was ready to step into the middle of a warzone. The new kid plastered himself to his chair, watching Kathryn intently. And Edgar just shook his head as if this were nothing new.

“Let’s hope he didn’t poison us, Edgar.” Kathryn hiccupped and patted his hand.

“Oh. For heaven’s sake, Kathryn, will you shut your mouth?” Her mate stood.

Louisa’s eyes went wide. “Dad?”

He waved her off, pointing to his mate. “Hugh has made a perfectly good meal for us. We are guests here, and you are making a fool of yourself. It’s time you stopped making their lives a living hell because your own life isn’t what you truly wanted. If Shepard loves Hugh, then shut up and be happy for your son. I won’t try to please you any longer by keeping quiet. I love my son and my daughter and I’m through making them think otherwise while you continue your agenda.”

“Whoa.” Louisa put a basket of rolls on the table.

“Uh huh,” Hugh whispered.

“Enough!” Kathryn managed to get to her feet. Her eyes narrowed. Her wolf making an appearance as her pupils turned gold. “Not another word,” she growled.

“What’s wrong, Kathryn? You don’t want your son to find out that I’m not your true mate, and that you settled, just like you were trying to make him do?”

“Mom?” Shepard’s face fell. “What is he talking about?”

“Nothing, he’s trying to show his ass is all.” She dug her claws into the back of her chair. “Isn’t that right, Edgar?”

“No, it’s not, Kathryn.” Edgar turned to his son. “I have loved your mother ever since I laid eyes on her. She may not have been my true mate, but she was still my world. We got married, did everything proper, I had a job and the right parents. Then you were born. A few weeks after we took you home, we went to the store and there he was, her true mate, shopping around with nothing else on his mind except groceries.

Your mother tried to hide it, but once he noticed her … I don’t want to talk about the in between, but I had to fight him for her and she has blamed me ever since. Like Hugh, I was the damn underdog, even though I was the father of her children and her husband. Because I didn’t just give her up, she has made everyone in her life miserable, including you. She won’t ever admit it, but she doesn’t think it’s fair that you get to be with your mate. She wants you to settle because that’s what she had to do. I still love her and I committed to her for life, but I won’t stand by anymore and watch her drown you in her depression.”

Kathryn slid into her seat, completely mortified. Her wolf shamed at her mate’s words. “I—”

“How could you do this to me?” Shepard balled his hands. “I am your son!” He rose and Hugh lost the oven mitts to comfort his mate.

“I’m sorry,” she breathed.

“Get out!” He roared. “Get the fuck out of my house and don’t ever come back here again.” His fist slamming on the table shook every glass to the floor.

No.” Hugh whirled his mate around. “No,” he repeated to Shepard.

“What?” Shepard’s eyes filled with tears. “How can you say that?”

“Because she has every right to feel the way she does.” Hugh’s fingers bit into his mate’s arms. “How would you feel if you married Paul and then met me by chance? You would be torn up, Shep. What I feel for you, even after that first day, I couldn’t imagine it ever going away. I know she loves your dad. Look at her for crying out loud. She hasn’t left his side because she knows he’s her mate. Maybe not her true mate, but they love each other. They have two beautiful children and he takes care of her. You can’t step away from that, but you can’t fight how you feel.

What she did was wrong, yes, and you deserve an apology, but that’s your mom, Shep. Don’t throw that away, no matter how she feels about me. Just don’t do it. It’s Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have now, what you fought for, and all the people that got you here. She’s one of those people, Shepard. Without her, I would have never met you.”

Shepard looked over to his mother, who was sobbing in her chair. He watched his father crouch down in front of her and reach out. Kathryn slumped into his arms and cried into his neck. He could feel their bond, weaker than ever, but still there. He didn’t know what she was going through, or had been for his entire life, but he could feel her pain, her regret, and her guilt.

“Uh, should I go home now?” Louisa’s imposter fiancé raised his hand. “You didn’t exactly pay me for this part, bro. I was only supposed to play the boyfriend and now I’m getting married because of some dude in Europe that wants Lou? This is getting weird and a little too primetime for me.”

“Pay you?” Kathryn targeted the young male. Her head slowly turned to Shep. A nervous, tear filled, laugh greeted her. “Oh, no you didn’t!”

Louisa elbowed the teen male. “Now would be a good time to run.”

The teen bolted from his chair and slammed the front door in a flash. All hell broke loose as Louisa tried to fight her mother off. Hugh ended up on the floor with Edgar and Shepard. The turkey tumbled to the floor—stuffing splattering the hardwood. Wine, tossed salad, and marshmallow pieces painted the furniture as the brawl continued. Thanksgiving in the Hanes household was nothing short of exciting.




“We’ll call you when we get home.” Edgar stuck out a hand. “If that’s alright with you.”

Shepard nodded, accepting his father’s hand. “That sounds good to me.” In an uncharacteristic move, and because he knew he had to, he pulled his father in for a hug. After last night, all the drama coming to a close, he felt a little closer to his parents. He didn’t want to give them up, even if they were crazy.

His father held on for longer than Shep had expected before he pulled away, acting like it was no big deal. “Uh, alright then, I think that’s everything.”

“It was nice meeting you, Edgar.” Hugh flicked his fingers up in a polite wave. He wasn’t about to push his luck with a hug, or getting too close as Kathryn was still lingering near the back of the car watching. After that dog pile yesterday, it was a good thing any of them were still speaking. Then again, he’d noticed that the Hanes clan wasn’t exactly conventional. Maybe a dog pile was therapy to them.

“You too, Hugh.” Edgar surprised him by looping and arm around him with a squeeze. It wasn’t a hug, but it was just as good. “Thanks for putting up with us,” he whispered.

Hugh only nodded, smiling from ear to ear. One in-law down, one to go, he thought. Yeah. Right. As Louisa hugged her father goodbye, Kathryn slowly made her way up the drive. Shepard put an arm around Hugh, trying his best to look indifferent, but the way his mother looked made his heart ache. Under her eyes, puffy red circles lingered from a long night of crying. Her hair, normally curled into a perfect bob, was a mess. She looked smaller, weaker, and ashamed.

“I’m sorry,” she uttered softly. “That’s all I’ve got, Shepard.”

Hugh elbowed his mate after a long silence. The alpha groaned and stepped forward. “I know you are, but I’m having a hard time here, with all of it.”

“What do I have to do to make this better?” Her eyes pleaded with him. “Shepard, please.”

“Let me live my life how I want to, and be happy for me, mom. Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted, but I did for once, and I love him.”

“Don’t you ever tell me I didn’t want your father, Shepard. I love that man with all my heart, just like you love Hugh. He is the father of my children and the best mate a woman could ever ask for. My wolf came to that conclusion a long time ago, but it still hurts sometimes to know another is out there. But I promise you, Shepard, that other man means nothing to us and he never will. It will only ever be your father for me.

I’m sorry been so incorrigible. I’m sorry I let my past get the best of me. It was selfish of me to try and keep you from your happy ending because I let go of what I thought was mine. But you know what, Shepard? This is my happy ending and I’m sorry I made you think otherwise, and he’s not so bad,” Kathryn cut her eyes to Hugh for a second, “at least he has a job.”

Shepard rolled his eyes. “Has a job? That’s all you give my mate credit for?”

“I’ll take it,” Hugh piped up. “At least I think that was a compliment.”

Eyeing his mate, Shepard raised a brow. “You’re more than your job, Hugh.”

“Duh,” Hugh laughed. “I make a mean breakfast too.”

Shepard growled. Their code word always got him riled up and Hugh knew it. He sighed, turning to his mother. “So, does this mean you’re cool with us now?”

Kathryn groaned. “Yes.”

A smile lit up the alpha from the inside. He grabbed his mother and hugged her tight. “That’s all I wanted, mom.”

She inhaled her son’s scent, rubbing his cheek as her wolf greeted their young. She missed her baby. She missed everything about him. But it was time she let go and let him be happy. This was his life, not hers. “Love you, Shep.”

“I love you too, mom, even when you’re being a bitch.”

“Shepard Hanes!” She leaned back and slapped his arm.

“Kathryn, we’ll miss our flight if we don’t get a move on.” Edgar gave his daughter one last hug before opening the door to the car.

“Well, we’ll call you later.” She shook her head, stepping out of Shepard’s embrace. “And, Hugh?”


“If you hurt my baby, I’ll skin you alive.” She smiled sweetly.

Hugh took his place under Shepard’s arm. “No skinning necessary. I’ll take good care of him and I’ll take that as a fond farewell.”

“You better,” she threatened, giving Louisa a hug. “And you, no more fake fiancés. Got it?”

“Yes, mom” Louisa rolled her eyes. “Bye.”

With one last kiss to her daughter’s head, and a wave to the small family gathered, Louisa got in the car and let her husband drive them away.

Hugh let out a deep sigh of relief when the coast was clear. “Thank God!”

“You think that was drama?” Louisa laughed. “You should have seen the time she poured a bowl of punch on Mrs. Iverson for calling her a snob. Now that was drama.”

“Got to give her points for execution.” Hugh snorted.

Shepard elbowed his mate playfully. “Shut up.”

“Good luck with that. My mouth has a mind of his own.” He winked.

The rev of an engine distracted them from any further conversation. Louisa bit her lip as she eyed the black truck pulling into the driveway. She turned doe eyes on Hugh and Shepard.

“Is that … your fake fiancé?” Shepard crossed his arms, the alpha in him coming out.

“His name is Justin, and yes.” She shrugged. “He kind of grew on me.”

“It’s been two days!” Hugh scoffed. “How could he grow on you? Oh no, no, no. He cannot grow anything anywhere on you! You are a lady and not of the night variety!”

She blushed and backed away. “Uh, I’ll see you guys later.”

“Oh, no you don’t!” Shepard moved towards the truck, but his little sister was already half way inside before the vehicle shifted into reverse. “Louisa!”

Another smaller vehicle paused to let them pass, Alex buzzing down his window with a smug grin at Hugh and Shep. Luca gave a little wave before they took off after the truck with no regard for speed. Relief flooded him as Hugh pressed into his back. Best. Beta. Ever.

“I think someone’s in trouble,” Hugh taunted, letting Shepard turn around in his arms.

Shepard narrowed his eyes. “Why do you say that? Have you been naughty, Hugh?”

“Possibly, I mean, I’m sure there’s something bad I’ve done.”

“Do you know what happens to naughty wolves, Hugh?” Shepard took a step closer as his mate backed up.


“They get punished by their alpha.” Shepard growled.

"I don't think you're talking about your sister anymore. At least I hope not." With a hand to his mouth and eyes wide with humor, Hugh turned. “You have to catch me first!”

“Get back here!” Shepard laughed, running after his mate.

He shimmered as he reached the woods, another outfit ruined, but for a good cause. Two wolves chased each other through the trees, until the bigger one finally caught his little mate, and rolled them through the dirt. A howl sounded and every pack member stopped what they were doing to smile. Their alpha was finally at peace with his mate. Well, as peaceful as he could be living in a subdivision full of werewolves. With them around, there was always drama.


The End