Articles for the Month of October 2015

Teaser Thursday- Tempeh for Two

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“Tobias,” Kyle said softly. “I can hear your mind racing. Please tell me what’s going on.”

I took another breath and decided I might as well blurt it out. “I killed someone.”

Kyle gasped and tensed. For a second I was afraid he would pull away from me, but he didn’t. “Now?” he asked.

“Yeah.” I wished I’d kept my mouth shut, but it was too late now. “Someone was here. I don’t know exactly what woke me, but as soon as I was awake, I knew someone was in the house.”

“You kept me asleep.” His tone was perfectly bland, but it still sounded like an accusation.

It put me even more on the defensive. “Yeah, I did. I couldn’t risk anything happening to you. I didn’t know who was here or why, and if you’d woken up, you would have wanted to go with me.”

“Duh. I don’t want anything to happen to you, either.” He cuffed my shoulder. “Go on. I’m listening, and I promise I won’t interrupt again.”

“You didn’t interrupt this time.” I’d stopped talking because I couldn’t quite bring myself to admit what had really happened. “I went downstairs and sensed that whoever was here had gone outside. So I went out.”

I paused again. This time, Kyle didn’t speak.

“There was a wolf in the woods near the back door,” I said. “I don’t know who he was. No one I’ve met. He didn’t smell like any of the region’s packs.” I shuddered, and Kyle tightened his arm on me, still not speaking. I took a deep breath. “He smelled like sickness and death, and he had a compulsion on him I couldn’t break.”

“The Anax.” Kyle spoke the title like a curse. “He sent this wolf after you.”

“I think so. I can’t prove it.” I wouldn’t be able to prove anything. The Anax was more careful than that. “I tried to compel him to shift back to human, but I couldn’t break whatever had already been set on him. He attacked while I was still in human form, and I shifted. He wasn’t strong enough to kill me once I was wolf.”

“You wouldn’t have killed him if you could have helped it,” Kyle said. “You hate what you did. I feel it. But the only other thing you could have done was let him kill you.”

“He was sick,” I said. “I don’t know what he had. He can’t have been changed very long ago, or he would have fought off whatever the illness was. But it had gone too far, and he was dying and in pain.”

“If he’d been changed willingly, it might have killed off the disease,” Kyle said.

“Even if he hadn’t been willing, with enough time, his system probably would have fought it off,” I said. “But he was sent here almost immediately after his change. I don’t know how long he was unconscious, but it wasn’t long enough.”

“It takes time to recover from the first shift, but if the Anax was controlling him, he might have forced this guy to wake up before he was ready.” Kyle snuggled against me, and the full-body contact helped bring me down from the darkness spiraling inside me, even though he was still tense. “You did what you had to do, Tobias. No one blames you, except you.”

“I’m not blaming myself.” I was to an extent, and Kyle knew it. He wouldn’t have been able to miss the guilt.

More than myself, I blamed the Anax. I couldn’t know for certain that he’d been the one to send this wolf, but no one else would have gone to such lengths to try to kill me. And no one else had the power, as far as I knew, to lay a compulsion so strong I wouldn’t be able to break it.

Worried

On Friday, I briefly met up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of months. He had something of mine that I’d asked to get back, and he couldn’t stay to talk because he was in the middle of a time-sensitive project at work. I appreciated that he was willing to even take the time to meet me at all, though it might have been nice to have a bit of conversation with him since we haven’t talked since the last time we saw each other.

He looked different from the last time I saw him, though. It’s hard to explain. He was always a fairly happy, high-energy kind of guy, but Friday he appeared weary. Not just physically tired, but completely “I need a break and I’m never going to get one” weary. Even when he smiled at me, it was a tired smile.

Even though he and I don’t interact much anymore, he’s still my friend and still matters to me. And, partly because friends are important to me and likely partly because I have anxiety disorder, I worry about the people who matter to me. All I can do right now is hope that he’s okay, and that if he isn’t, he’ll reach out to me for support as he’s done in the past. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep him in my thoughts and hope that if things aren’t okay for him right now, they will be.

Teaser Thursday- Try the Tofu

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“Why are you being such an ass about this?” Kyle straightened up and walked over to the table. He leaned over me, but I stared at the computer monitor and pretended not to notice. “Tobias, I don’t want you there alone, okay? Last time scared the fuck out of me. I might have lost you. I’m not letting it happen again.”

“You think I want to risk you?” Now I looked up at him. My anger was too strong not to. “You think I didn’t almost lose it last time when I didn’t know how badly you were hurt and no one would frigging tell me anything?”

He took a step back and folded his arms. “You were shot. All I had to deal with was a psycho ex-alpha with a death wish. I should have killed him.”

“He’s dead now.” Saul had invaded my pack’s territory only two months earlier. He hadn’t lost his alpha powers when the rank had been stripped from him, and he could make people forget they’d seen him. He had stalked a young wolf from another pack who had been sent to me by the Anax, the ruler of all werewolves in the United States. My new wolf had killed Saul after he’d taken her from her apartment.

I was glad he’d died. He’d also turned two of my wolves against the pack, causing them to kidnap a six-year-old boy who had moved with his father into our territory. The father had been attacked and changed into one of us while trying to rescue his son. My two wolves were dead too, killed for revealing themselves to a human, and Kyle had almost faced death for the same reason. All because of Saul.

I hadn’t protected my pack well enough, and I refused to let my guard down again. That was why I wouldn’t allow Kyle to accompany me to Pennsylvania for the semi-annual regional alpha conference at the home of Zane Wolfskin, our region’s Arkhon, or regional leader. Losing my pack members hurt like hell and drove home the fact that I wasn’t really cut out to be an alpha, even though I’d run the Boston North Pack for over thirty years, since shortly before my eighteenth birthday.

Losing Kyle would have killed me.

“You’re right,” he said. “Saul’s dead. Melia’s dead. Art’s dead. Everybody’s dead, Tobias. For a change, we might be able to have a relaxing time together. Celebrate being with each other the way we didn’t get to do in September because of goddamn Saul.”

“I’m not declaring you as my mate again.” That had been one victory in September. I was the first male alpha in history, as far as anyone knew, to declare a male mate in front of the Arkhon and entire region. The other victory had been the recognition of Boston North Pack as its own entity. Until then, we’d officially been considered part of City Pack, though almost everyone had known the truth.

“I bet Justin’s bringing Tareth,” he muttered.

I shook my head. “Her doctor said she can travel, but Justin won’t allow it. He won’t risk her and the baby, especially after what happened in September.” The City Pack Alpha, who had been instated after Chal’s death, was even more protective of his human mate than I was of Kyle.

“So who—”

My phone rang, the generic ringtone mercifully cutting him off, and I grabbed it. It probably wasn’t pack business or anything important, but I needed a break from Kyle’s arguments. “Tobias Rogan.”

“Leave your mate at home.”

My heart sped up. I was already on a mild adrenaline rush from fighting with Kyle. This call amped it up. It was a threat. I didn’t need to hear any more than I had to determine that.

The question was who would threaten my mate? The voice was disguised somehow, though not by anything particularly advanced. It sounded like one of those microphones marketed to kids. But it was enough that I couldn’t even tell whether the speaker was male or female, let alone take a stab at identifying the voice.

“Who is this?” I demanded.

“Leave your mate at home,” the voice said again. “If you bring him, he won’t be going home.”

“Who the fuck is this?”

My voice cracked. The first sign I was losing it, and one I wished I’d kept a better handle on, but the voice was threatening Kyle. My mate. My life.

Feeling Restless

Writing-wise, I am feeling very restless lately. I started working on an erotica story (no romance, really, although the story features a husband fulfilling a couple of his wife’s fantasies and to me that’s romantic) a couple of weeks ago, but it stalled out because of some of the same factors that caused me to stop writing romance and erotic content in the first place. Now I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to finish it, because even though I think I’ve worked through those factors, I’ve kind of lost interest in the story.

Meanwhile, I keep getting flashes of inspiration for romances, which is cool. I haven’t had that in months. But… the flashes by themselves aren’t enough to create stories, and when I try to brainstorm something based on one of those flashes, I get stuck. Or lose interest.

I used to have a brainstorm buddy, but he isn’t in my life right now, unfortunately. I miss having someone to talk to who understands writing enough to talk with me about it, and cares enough about me and my writing career to *want* to talk about it. His brain was as twisted as mine, and between the two of us, we came up with some pretty cool things, plus he could talk me through the “what the heck am I doing, this story sucks” stages of writing and revising.

But I have to do those things for myself now, and it isn’t always easy. I do hope to bring out some new stories soon, because I miss the romance writing. I just have to get past this restlessness and make my brain cooperate.

Teaser Thursday- Hummus on Rye

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Someone knocked on the door. The same sharp rap as earlier, so I suspected it was the same person. “That’s probably them.”

“That would be my luck.” Tobias went to the door.

He barely had it open before Polly said, “Alpha, I asked your mate to have you come see me as soon as you were available. Didn’t he give you my message?”

“He did.” Tobias squared his shoulders, and I knew without even being able to see his face that he was giving her that alpha stare that always made me want to hide somewhere. She shrank back. “Didn’t it occur to you that just because I’d come back might not mean I was available?”

“I apologize if I’ve interrupted something, Alpha.” She said it so fast the words slurred together. “Did he tell you what we need to discuss?”

“He said that you’re upset about our new neighbors.” Tobias leaned against the doorway. Obviously he had as little intention of letting Polly into the apartment as I’d had. “We’ve always lived amongst humans, Polly. There is no other way. We’re in the biggest city in New England. Where would we go to be away from them?”

“They’ve never lived amongst us before,” she argued.

He tilted his head to the side. “Really? Have you forgotten how long Kyle lived here before Melia attacked him?”

“That was different.” She sounded like he’d taken some of the bluster out of her, and she was frowning. “He’s only one person. And you had an interest in him.”

“So if I was interested in Trey it would be different?” Tobias said. “Somehow, I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think your problem is humans in general. I think your problem is human children.”

“It isn’t safe for a child to be around here,” she said. “You know better than anyone what can happen to a child.”

“And that would be why the pack is under my order to allow no harm to come to this child,” Tobias said coldly. “Don’t talk about my past, Polly. You know nothing about it. As long as everyone obeys pack law, there’s no need to be afraid for the child living here.”

“They shouldn’t be here,” she said. “It’s annoying and unsafe, and they should leave.”

“I’m sure they’d be glad to know their neighbors are looking out for them.” Tobias’s sarcastic tone outdid mine. “Again, the pack is under law not to harm them or allow any harm to come to them. Bear that in mind. And no, I won’t be asking the Damones to leave. That isn’t my right. If you have a problem with them as neighbors, take it up with the landlord.”

“I’ll just go to them.”

Tobias straightened again, and compulsion surrounded us. “No, you won’t. You will not speak to Trey or Michael Damone. Do you understand me, Polly?”

“Yes, Alpha,” she said slowly.

Harriet looked at me. “Tobias did the same thing when you moved in, setting a law to protect you, but there wasn’t quite so much opposition.”

“I wonder what she has against kids,” I said.

“I don’t have anything against kids.” Of course Polly had heard us. She wasn’t standing that far away, and we hadn’t exactly made an effort to be quiet. “Just against kids being in our territory.”

“Polly, go home,” Tobias said, and again he added compulsion to his words. “You have your answer, and I have work to do before tomorrow’s hunt.”

“Thank you for listening to me, Alpha.” She spun on one heel and clomped back up the stairs to her apartment.

Tobias closed the door and sagged against it. “There has to be something behind this,” he said. “She’s never acted like this before. Right now, I’m not sure I care enough to figure it out. She’ll stay away from them. That’s the important thing.”

“Hopefully,” I said.

“Hopefully?”

“You told her not to speak to them. You didn’t tell her to stay away from them.” I’d learned that compulsions had to be phrased exactly right in order to have the wolf do what was intended. Or not do, in this case.

I Know My Mind…

Over the past week, I’ve had a rather frustrating experience. Since it’s happened more than once, I decided to blog about it.

The thing is… I’m the one who lives in my brain. I’m the one who thinks and feels the things I think and feel. I’m the only person in existence who is actually me.

So I’m not quite sure why a few people this past week have decided they can tell me I’m wrong about what I’m thinking or feeling, and they can prove it because I said X or did Y.

My actions and words are not always my thoughts and feelings. There are times when I hide how I’m feeling, or I keep my thoughts to myself. Sometimes it’s because they aren’t things I want other people to know; other times, I know my depression or anxiety is getting to me and the things going around in my brain probably aren’t accurate. I don’t want to let those things out when I know they might be a result of depression and anxiety messing with me.

Other times, I do let something out, but in a different setting from the one where the situation is. (Confusing sentence…) For example, on a forum I belong to, I have a blog where I often post about problems I’m having involving the important people in my life, using nicknames so no one knows who I’m actually talking about. I post those things *there* so I don’t talk about the problems to the people involved until I’m sure there actually is a problem, or until I figure out how to bring it up. Blogging there helps me sort out whether the problem is real or just another depression/anxiety jumble, and it also helps me find a way to bring it up to the other person if necessary.

In that blog, I say numerous times that the things I post are generally *not* shared with the people I’m blogging about. And yet someone the other day told me what one of those other people was thinking because of what I’d said. When I pointed out that they didn’t *know* the other person and so had no clue what the other person might be thinking, that I hadn’t said anything to the other person about the situation, and that in fact I hadn’t even said in the blog what this someone claimed I’d said, and I indicated where I *hadn’t* said it, they told me I was wrong. Not only was I wrong about what the other person was thinking (about something he didn’t even know about)…I was wrong about what *I* was thinking and feeling.

As you might have noticed, I’m still a bit irked about that. (That was the most recent of the incidents from the past week.) Because here’s the thing. If you’re stating an opinion and I show you that your opinion is based on something untrue, does it make sense to tell me that my *facts* are wrong because they don’t agree with your *opinion*? And what in any corner of the universe gives someone the right to tell me I’m either wrong or lying about what’s going on in my own brain?

The danger of posting anything in any online venue is that you’re going to get responses, and you might not always like what you read. I get that. But there’s a difference between expressing an opinion against what someone has said, and telling someone that *you* know better than *they* do about their own thoughts and feelings.

Unless you’re a mind reader, maybe keep your opinions confined to things the other person has actually said, and not what you think is going on in their head? Just a suggestion.

Teaser Thursday- Veggie Burgers to Go

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Tobias scowled at the floor. “I should have known better.”

“Stop it.” He’d said that far too many times. If he kept it up, I might start to believe he honestly regretted my being with him here. Which would be a short jump to assuming he regretted being with me at all.

Of course, I knew he didn’t mean that. Saul’s diatribe had hit everyone hard. My gut hadn’t stopped aching yet. Suzannah had called the guy a homophobe, and he definitely wasn’t the first of that ilk I’d encountered. I just hadn’t expected the complete, black-holish hatred.

“I’m the only alpha in North America with a male mate,” Tobias muttered. “For all I know, I’m the only one in the world. Alphas are supposed to have mates. That doesn’t mean the rest of the shifter world is ready for a homosexual alpha.”

“Will you shut up?” Actually, I was glad for his rant. He wasn’t holding everything in the way he so often did. I didn’t really want him to stop talking, despite the pain that accompanied his words. What hurt him, hurt me, and I was already hurting enough from my own reaction to Saul’s bullshit. I only told him to shut up because I was afraid if he realized I wanted him to talk, he would stop. He was like that sometimes.

“I thought they’d be ready,” he went on. “Zane accepts us. So does Chal. When the Arkhon and one of the most powerful alphas in the region are accepting, is it that unreasonable to think the others might be?”

“No.” If telling him to stop talking about it didn’t work, maybe agreeing with him would.

He stood. “I have to go. I need to meet with Zane about this. He isn’t going to let Saul get away with attacking us in the meeting. I need to make sure the consequences fit the action.”

“You need to sit back down.” He was too upset to face anyone else. The tension in his body told me he was holding onto his temper by a thin thread. I was damned if I would let him just walk away.

Besides, according to our host this was our honeymoon. We’d been too tired the night before to take advantage of our accommodations. Now I was far from tired.

And Tobias could use the distraction.

If I managed to persuade him to stay in the room long enough to distract him. He walked toward the door as if he hadn’t even heard me tell him to sit. Knowing him, he hadn’t. One-track mind, that was my Tobias.

I jumped in front of him. “I said sit.”

“I’m not a dog,” he growled. “Move out of my way, Kyle.”

“You’re not a dog,” I agreed. “You’re one hell of a pissed-off wolf, and you’re going to stay here with your mate and forget about nimrodistic jackwads who think they’re better because they fuck a pussy instead of an ass.”

That didn’t even get a smile out of him, which told me just how pissed off he really was. “Move.”

I folded my arms and braced myself. If he wanted to move me physically, he’d be able to. If he kept trying to use compulsion on me the way he just had, he’d be out of luck. His anger fueled the compulsion enough that it actually tugged at me, but I was still abundantly able to ignore him. “I don’t think so.”