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Teaser Thursday- Shiny Objects

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They walked back to her car and got in. Niko slid the passenger seat backward and reclined the back of the seat, and Elena moved her seat back slightly.

Niko pushed his hood off his head and rested against the seat back, eyes closed. “Comfortable,” he murmured.

“So you’re going to take a nap?” Elena teased.

“Not with you sitting here. That would defeat the purpose.” He opened his eyes and stared into hers. “What is the purpose? Why did you agree to meet me tonight?”

“I wanted to see you,” she said softly. “Our kiss Friday. I didn’t feel wrong about it then, and I don’t now. The only ‘wrong’ thing about it was that it made me dishonest to Corin and what I have with him.”

“Until you told him about it.” He took her hand and turned it palm up, then slipped his own hand over it. “That made it honest.”

“Right.” She relaxed under his touch.

“So there wasn’t anything wrong about it.” With his other hand, he brushed her face. ”You told me he said he didn’t have a problem with it.”

“He did.” She took a shuddering breath. “You’re making it really hard to have a conversation.”

“I am?” He raised an eyebrow. “Funny, I know human touch is powerful. I didn’t realize it had the power to take away speech.”

“You know what I mean.” She turned to face him. “You asked why I came here tonight. Why did you?”

“I wanted to see you.” With one finger, he traced her lips. “You told me your man would have no problem if you and I got something going. Or maybe I should say resumed what we used to have. You wouldn’t have told me if the idea didn’t appeal to you. I’d like to see just how much appeal it has.”

“So this is an experiment?” she muttered. “See how far you can persuade me to go?”

“See how far you’re willing to go.” He leaned closer to her, his face now mere inches from hers. In less than a second, he would be able to kiss her if he wanted. If she allowed it. He had to give her the choice, but having her so near, knowing she would no longer hide behind her fear of cheating on her man, made holding back even more difficult than before. “You have permission to explore what you want. Will you take the chance, or are you going to keep trying to play it safe?”

“It isn’t possible to play it safe with you.” She ran her hand up his arm. “This should be peaceful, like at your apartment. It isn’t. Far from it.”

“Possibilities.” Niko kissed her forehead. “Whatever happens here tonight won’t change my opinion of you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“It might change mine,” she said softly.

“You’re here. I’m here.” He rested his hand on her thigh, and she shivered again. “Relax,” he whispered. “If you can’t make up your mind, let me make it up for you. For once, stop trying so hard to be in control, and see what happens if you let go.”

He watched her, seeing in her expression her struggle to decide what to do. What happened next might change everything between them. From their previous relationship, they’d formed a friendship, but Niko couldn’t leave it at that any longer. His feelings for her were too strong to accept mere friendship.

He didn’t know if even mere friendship would survive between them if either of them developed any doubts. Or if Elena’s man changed his mind.

But he couldn’t predict the future. All he knew was here and now, sitting in Elena’s car with her, hearing the rain as it hit the car, watching Elena’s uncertainty give way to determination.

“Okay,” she said softly.

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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Sheila nibbled at the bits of lobster in her sandwich and willed back her tears as lightning flashed outside the window beside her. She had left her hometown as soon as she had graduated university, twelve years earlier, and she hadn’t looked back since. She didn’t need to think about it now, and she definitely didn’t need to think about Jack, no matter how difficult it was to put him out of her mind.

After moving to the city, she’d gotten help to deal with the emotional scars Jack had left. She hadn’t been able to do anything about the physical ones.

It was in the past now, and she wanted to focus on her present. She wasn’t even sure why she had brought it up to Erich. Part of her was surprised he hadn’t walked away. Most guys didn’t want to deal with a woman who’d been damaged the way she had.

Most guys didn’t even earn enough of her trust to hear about her life before Portland, but Erich’s calm demeanor encouraged her to trust him.

“These lobster rolls are excellent,” Erich said.

“Yeah.” Sheila glanced at him. No judgment, no discomfort. He took a bite of his sandwich and smiled as he chewed.

He might be a guy worth knowing better. Maybe having around more.

She dismissed the thought immediately. Neither of them wanted a relationship, and she hoped to move to Boston soon. If she repeated that to herself enough times, it might get through. She couldn’t have Erich around her more than a friend would be. There was no point in even thinking about it.

She wouldn’t have wanted him to be with her constantly anyway. She didn’t have time or patience for it.

“I want to say something to make you smile,” Erich said. “I’m not having much luck thinking of anything.”

“It isn’t your job to entertain me.” She ate another fry. It tasted like cardboard around the lump that had risen through her throat.

“Something hit a nerve.” He held out his hand. Although Sheila wanted the physical contact, she didn’t take it. It would only have given her comfort, which would have been a bad thing when she was so close to losing her cool and bursting into tears.

Erich hesitated a moment before resting his hand on the table. “I don’t know if it was something I said or something you said. Either way, it happened while we were talking, and I want to help.”

“I don’t want to spill my sordid past.” She twisted her mouth in something that felt close enough to a smile and took a sip of her soda. “No issue. Memories are crap sometimes, but the good thing is they’re in the past. I want to think about now.”

“Well, right now there’s a hell of a thunderstorm going on outside.” A crash of thunder punctuated his words. “You’re not looking at the lightning. It’s pretty spectacular.”

Sheila turned to the window just as a bolt of forked lightning shot from the clouds to the surface of the water. It was beautiful and exciting, and she couldn’t help smiling. “God, I love that! I wish I was out there.”

“You might get struck,” Erich pointed out.

“Stop being reasonable.” She stuck out her tongue at him, and he laughed. So did she. Something about thunderstorms—the power, the electricity in the air, and the beauty of the lightning had always lifted her mood. Now she was able to dismiss the tears and memories. They couldn’t stand up to the crashing thunder and waves.

She wanted to be outside. It was pouring hard enough that the water looked like sheets running down the window, and judging from how closely thunder followed on the heels of each lightning bolt, the storm was close to overhead. It didn’t matter. She needed to be outside.

Teaser Thursday- Tempeh for Two

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“Kyle, stop wallowing,” I snapped.

Glen and Kendra stared at me. I sounded harsh as hell, and they probably thought I was being a complete asshole. I didn’t disagree, but it was the only thing that Kyle might actually hear.

“You saved my fucking life.” I leaned across the island and tried to look Kyle in the eye. The tension returned to his body. Anger, this time.

Knock this off, I said, choosing this time to speak through the mate bond so I wouldn’t piss off Kendra and Glen. I know it’s hard. You hate what you had to do. That’s good. It means you don’t do it lightly. But you had to. This wasn’t a time you could have made a different choice. No matter what you did, someone would have died in that room.

Fuck you, he said.

Later. It’ll get some of your aggression out.

He looked up, startled, and barked out something that might have been a laugh. Kendra did a double take. Glen again didn’t react other than to say, “Laughing isn’t a bad thing.”

“Private joke.” Kyle sat up a little straighter and finished his water. “Kendra, can I have more, please?”

“Sure.” Looking confused, she took the glass to the fridge’s water dispenser.

“I can’t promise I won’t wallow again,” Kyle said.

“I know.” I rested my hand on the island, and he took it. “We’ll get through it. But remember why you did this. Not why the wolf did. Why Kyle Slidell, the human side, took someone’s life to save his own. And mine.”

He nodded. “I had no choice.”

“That’s right.” I squeezed his hand. “I love you, Kyle. I would say I forgive you, but you didn’t do anything you need forgiveness for. Do you understand?”

“I love you too.” He let out a long breath. “I should lie down. I didn’t think I’d be able to, but now I feel like I’m going to fall over. I don’t want to be all the way upstairs, though.”

“We’ll set you up in one of the guest rooms down here if you want.” I glanced at Kendra, who nodded.

“Yeah, that would be good.” Kyle broke off a piece of the muffin and swallowed it without chewing. “I need to stay down here. This isn’t over. You think it is. You think you’ve taken care of him and come up with a plausible story for what happened. It’ll work for the human world. Not for ours. There are consequences.”

He spoke the way he did whenever random information came to him. As if he were reciting something he’d known forever while having no idea where it came from.

I hated hearing him speak that way, because it meant he was right. Somehow, someone would know what he’d done to Andrew, and they wouldn’t let it rest. And it made perfect sense. Whoever had been controlling Andrew would have felt the bond break. And whatever that wolf knew, the Anax knew.

“Go rest for now,” I said. “We’ll worry about what happens next when it happens. I won’t leave you if I can help it. I won’t let them hurt you.”

He gave me a faint smile. “You’re always saving my ass. The same way you did when I took off after Mikey that time. I don’t think you can get me out of this one, Tobias. Zane didn’t want to punish me for shifting in front of humans, so it didn’t take much for him to decide to let me live. The A—this guy wants us both dead, and he’s going to take the opportunity.”

“Shut up and go rest.” I spoke more roughly than I intended this time. I refused to accept the possibility of my mate dying for what he’d done. If he’d killed Andrew in cold blood, I would have taken Kyle’s life myself, but he hadn’t.

The Anax wouldn’t see it that way. He would find some reason to believe, and make others believe, Kyle had killed for the sake of killing. Kyle was right. The Anax wanted me dead, and the easiest way to do that would be to murder Kyle.

Teaser Thursday- Changing Planes

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“Coming out?” Colin raised his eyebrows. “Are you gay or bi?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m a person-sexual.” Oliver had no other name for it. “I’ve been really into guys, and I was really into Sophia before things crumbled.”

“Okay.” Colin didn’t look any less confused. “So you aren’t going to tell your would-have-been in-laws that you sometimes like men?”

“Yeah.” When Colin put it that way, even Oliver was confused. “And I definitely don’t plan on telling them I like you.”

Colin grinned. “Okay. Well, now that you’re single, maybe we can see where that goes. Except you’re not staying in Sacramento, are you?”

“Not past the weekend.” Oliver sighed. Colin at least seemed interested in the possibility of getting something going, but it wasn’t enough to keep Oliver from going back to Boston. They weren’t together yet, and even if they had been, two days of knowing each other wasn’t enough to warrant him going through with his move. Especially when it would be so much easier to return to Massachusetts. “How do you feel about long distance?”

“I’m a flight attendant. Every relationship I’ve had has been long distance.” Colin hesitated. “We aren’t really talking relationship right now, are we? You just broke off your engagement. I can tell you’re relieved about it, and to me it sounds like you and she weren’t really much more than friends in the first place. That doesn’t mean you should just jump right into something with someone you barely know. I like you too, and I’m attracted to you. I won’t deny it. But I think you’re kind of on the rushing-things side right now.”

“Yeah.” The barista called his order, and he went to the counter to get it, both disappointed and relieved. Colin was right. Oliver was so thrilled to be out of the tangle with Sophia he was ready to plunge into a relationship—or at least a bed—with someone he’d just met. He had a feeling he and Colin would turn out to be pretty compatible, but he didn’t want to push his luck.

He returned to the table and decided to just say what was on his mind. “Okay. I’m attracted to you too. If you said right now that you wanted me to go back to your hotel room, I would, and damn sure wouldn’t say no to anything you suggested.”

“That’s because you need to get laid.” Colin lowered his voice and gave Oliver a wicked grin. “We’ll see. Friends hook up sometimes.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Seriously, I won’t be your rebound, okay? Let’s get to know each other. If it ends in bed, so be it. If it ends in more, it’s all good. I have no problem with long-distance friendships.”

“Sounds good to me.” Oliver drank some of his coffee and tried not to seem too happy. He and Colin would be friends. At the moment, that would have to be enough.

They chatted over coffee about their jobs and interests and parted after a while so Oliver could go back to the condo and make the calls necessary for his return to Boston. He didn’t actually want to leave Colin. He could have made the calls just as easily from Colin’s hotel room. But it was better to leave. He was free to lust after whomever he wanted, and right then he wanted Colin, but he didn’t want Colin to think he was only rebounding.

Teaser Thursday- Stepping Stone Not Doormat

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“It is what it is.” Navon didn’t know whether to sit or stay on his feet. The one thing he could be certain of was that Solara wouldn’t allow him to stay much longer. The guy hadn’t wanted him there in the first place. “Charlie?”

“Solara,” the other man snapped.

At least there’s some emotion there now. “Sorry,” Navon said. “Solara.”

“I go by Solara Flare. My stage name and the name I prefer. And female pronouns.” Solara sighed. “Not that it matters, because once you walk out this door, you won’t be seeing me again.”

“Why female pronouns?” Navon asked the question before he could stop himself. It wasn’t any of his business how Solara chose to refer to him—herself. He didn’t need to know the reasons because Solara was probably right. They wouldn’t see each other again.

That hurt like hell. Navon didn’t know what he’d expected from this visit, but he’d hoped his former lover would at least be happy to see him. He’d believed that maybe after so long apart, Charlie would want to spend a little time with Navon before Navon returned to Los Angeles. Obviously he’d underestimated the impact of the past on Solara.

To Navon’s surprise, Solara answered. “I’ve always asked for female pronouns when I’m in drag. I use my drag name as a daily thing, so I carried the pronoun thing over as well. And it’s another layer of protection. A female named Solara didn’t seem as likely to be on certain people’s radar.”

Mason’s radar. Navon had no doubt that was what Solara meant. Mason had always been pissed off if anyone referred to Charlie by his drag name or used female pronouns or even terms like “girl” or “bitch.” The jackass had been adamant that the “woman shit” remain only onstage or during other appearances and not cross into Charlie’s regular life at all.

Navon had to wonder if Solara had chosen deliberately to go against that order, not only to hide from Mason but because she knew it would have infuriated him if he’d ever found out.

“If you’re going to give me what you brought, better do it now,” Solara said. “Nice to see you, nice to fuck you. Now get out. Please.”

The raw pain in that single word pushed Navon into action. He knelt beside his backpack. “I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

“It is what it is,” Solara said with a slight note of sarcasm. “Just like I always say. You asked why I never told anyone? I tried. That last time in the hospital. They laughed at me. Said he was so much smaller that I should have been able to ‘take him’ in a fight. A gay man hammers the shit out of another gay man, and no one cares. Especially if the one doing the hammering is smaller. I knew that. I wouldn’t have said a damn thing if they hadn’t recognized the injuries as an assault and told me to report who did it.”

Navon pressed his lips together and focused on opening the backpack. It was bad enough he’d wanted to kill Mason when he’d found out about the beating. Now he had a whole list of others to hate. Everyone who had let Solara down.

Himself included.

Teaser Thursday- Last Chance Tattoo

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Dorsey still hadn’t gotten Rad’s number, and he wanted to kick himself for it. The last time he’d heard anything from Rad was Friday when they’d gone their separate ways after lunch. Now, on Sunday afternoon, Dorsey was faced with a day off and no one to spend it with.

It was no different from all the other days off he’d had, but at the same time, everything was different. He had a friend now. Or something more. Whatever he and Rad were to each other, the one thing Dorsey knew for certain was he hoped for more time with Rad.

And he hadn’t asked for Rad’s number, which meant he had no way to invite Rad to get together. The tattoo shop wasn’t open on Sundays, so if Rad went there to find Dorsey, he would be disappointed.

Then again, Dorsey was only assuming Rad wanted to see him again. They had parted on Friday with an agreement to continue seeing each other, whatever that meant. Unfortunately, with no way to contact each other aside from Rad going to the shop, chances didn’t look good.

By midmorning, Dorsey’s thoughts had spiraled into a dark mass of things he didn’t want to deal with. Part of him still felt as if he’d been disloyal to Chester by messing around with Rad. Part of him wanted to go further with Rad. He’d even gone to one of the department stores outside the city limits the day before to stock up on condoms and lube so next time Rad visited, they would be prepared.

If that ever happened.

He couldn’t stand any more time alone in his apartment, so he dressed in the same clothes he’d worn the day before—the only clothes he had that were clean enough to wear until he went to the Laundromat—and headed to the coffee shop.

As he walked, it occurred to him that Kelly knew exactly how to get in touch with Rad. After all, he’d put his contact information on the application. If Dorsey could figure out how to ask for it without sounding like a creep, he might be able to talk to Rad. That alone made the walk through a light, cold drizzle worth it.

At that time on a Sunday morning, the coffee shop wasn’t very busy, since most people were at church or sleeping in. Dorsey went straight to the counter, where Kelly was arranging a tray of muffins.

She smiled at him. “Long time no see.”

“Sure.” He hesitated. “The usual coffee, please.”

“Why do I have the feeling that isn’t what you were going to say?” She set two more muffins on the tray and slid it into the display case, then turned to get Dorsey’s coffee.

Dorsey looked out the window. Because of the weather, few people were out and about. April wasn’t being particularly springlike so far.

He wondered what Rad was doing. Going to church with his grandmother, possibly, though Rad didn’t strike Dorsey as the church-going type. More likely either job hunting or spending the day out of the rain.

“Here you go.” Kelly set a cup on the counter. “On the house this morning because you look like you need it.”

“Thanks.” Again Dorsey hesitated. “You have Rad’s number, right?”

“Yeah. I kind of have to if I’m going to hire him.” She looked confused. “You don’t have his number?”

“No. You’re going to hire him?” That would be great news for Rad. And for Dorsey, since he would be able to see Rad simply by going around the corner.

Wow, you really have gone too long without a friend. And without sex. Get over it.

“I am, but don’t tell him.” Kelly grinned. “I’d pretty much already decided to, even before I interviewed him. But half the town knows I used to date his brother, so I can’t let it seem like I’m playing favorites.”

“Yeah. I understand.” Dorsey wondered whether Kelly knew what her brother had done to Rad and decided it would be better not to ask. It wasn’t his place to talk about it.

He drank some of his coffee and glanced out the window again. Rad was walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, heading toward the lake.

Without thinking, Dorsey hurried out of the shop. Rad had already passed. Behind him, Kelly called a question, but he didn’t pay attention. He crossed the fortunately empty street. “Rad!”

Rad jumped and whirled around, then relaxed. “Hey.”

Dorsey closed the few yards between them. The drizzle was turning into full-on rain, but he didn’t care. If Rad could stand it, so could he. “Hey. How’s it going?”

Rad shrugged. “Been better, been worse. I was going down to the lighthouse, except I’m not sure walking out there is a good idea in the rain.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” The lighthouse stood at the end of a half-mile or so causeway accessible only by foot. In three years, Dorsey had never taken the walk. The lighthouse was nice to look at from the shore. He saw no reason to go all the way out to it.

“Probably not.” Rad sighed. “When I was a kid, I used to go out there all the time. Even in the summer, it was a quiet place. I could think. Not to mention get away from my brothers and everyone. Even though I wasn’t far away, I could pretend I was alone in the middle of the lake. I liked it.”

Dorsey’s heart went out to the guy. From everything Rad had told him, his childhood had been pretty damn lonely. No one should have to be alone, especially with family around, but it sounded as if Rad truly had been.

That was one of the things Dorsey wanted to make better. Both of them had been alone too long.

Teaser Thursday- I Should Tell You

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Upstairs, he discovered to his relief that he’d been right about his roommate. The place was completely dark and silent, exactly as Hunter liked it. He turned on the dim light over the kitchen stove, then proceeded to the living room at the other end of the apartment where he only had to open the curtains to let in enough light to see—thanks to Logan Airport, across a narrow strip of harbor on the other side of the train tracks.

As he watched, a plane took off. The noise had seemed ridiculous when Hunter first moved in, but within a few weeks he’d become accustomed to the planes and trains. The building had double-paned windows paid for by the agency that ran the airport, and though they did little to block the noise, they at least dulled it.

And Hunter enjoyed watching the planes, especially at night. The lights that rose into the sky reminded him of possibilities. Right now, he was stuck living in this dump with the son of the building’s owners, who expected life to be handed to him and who spent most of his money partying. Right now, Hunter worked at an office with a tyrant boss, doing menial paperwork that almost put him to sleep. But his life would change someday. Someday he would take his money and buy a ticket on one of those planes. It wouldn’t even matter where he ended up. He could go anywhere.

The possibility was the only thing keeping him sober some days. Things would change. He would make it happen.

He heard a sound behind him and tensed. It was the smallest noise. He barely noticed it over the roar of the plane’s engine, but it was there. His heart pounded. He was in his home, and the only other person who could be there was Jack, unless the guy had brought someone in to spend the night. He was safe.

Reminding himself of that did little to take down the fear.

“Don’t sneak up on me.” His voice came out as a croak, and he cleared his throat. “I mean it, Jack. Remember what happened last time.”

“Not sneaking. Fucking thirsty.”

Hunter let out a long breath and sagged against the frame of the glass door that led onto their tiny balcony. Of course it was only Jack. No one else could have entered the apartment. Even if someone had, it was unlikely they would try anything on Hunter. They might rob the place blind, but they wouldn’t be able to touch him. If they tried, he would fight them off. He’d taken three years of Krav Maga before he’d stopped because one of his classmates had become a little too interested in physical contact.

“You okay?” Jack’s slightly slurred voice sounded closer. He must have come through the kitchen instead of just getting a drink and going back to his room. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No problem. I’m a bit on edge tonight. I’ll be going to bed in a few.” Hunter wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep, but he had to at least make the attempt.

“Sorry,” Jack said. “Just got up for a drink. See you.” He shuffled back to the kitchen, and water ran a moment later.

Hunter stayed where he was, staring out at the runway lights and the harbor on both sides of the airport, though he could barely see it.

Teaser Thursday- With Every Touch

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Erich couldn’t shake the feeling that Sheila shouldn’t have left. He should have kept her with him. She belonged with him.

It was a completely stupid idea that he tried to ignore completely. They were friends. She had opened up to him in the restaurant, and doing so had hurt her. He wished he’d tried to persuade her to tell him more, while at the same time knowing it would have been the worst thing he could do.

He didn’t watch out the window as she went to her car and backed out of his driveway. He wouldn’t do something like that. It would have been creepy and stalkerish.

It would have meant he had stronger feelings for her than he had any right to have.

After the sound of her car’s engine faded, he locked the door. With her towel, he mopped up the puddle where she’d stood. He should have invited her into the house instead of making her stand by the door.

I did invite her in. I said she could go into the bathroom to change out of her dress, I think. And I told her she could shower here.

A flash of lightning brightened the room for a second, and Erich turned off the light. He didn’t need to leave it on. He knew his house, and he would probably just go to bed. Sleep would be the easiest way to shut off his brain.

Someone had hurt Sheila in the past. Badly, judging from how she had acted when she’d hinted about it. She’d been close to tears. Her ex had controlled and stalked her, and had probably done worse.

If it hadn’t been so far in the past, Erich would have wanted to kill the guy. She had trusted Erich enough to share her past. He doubted she did so with just anyone. He wasn’t sure how he had earned her trust, but he was honored by it.

He wished he had asked her to stay longer. Their fucking on the beach in the rain had been hotter than anything he’d ever done, but that wasn’t the only thing Erich wanted from Sheila. He had promised her they would only be friends. He wasn’t ready for a relationship. Neither was she.

But after their quiet conversation in the restaurant and the rough, fast fuck outside, and taking care of her at home, he knew there was no way in hell he would be able to keep his feelings for her purely at a level of friendship. He was starting to fall for her. He might never let her know, but he couldn’t prevent himself from feeling it.

“Just what I need,” he muttered. “Another woman who’s going to move on the second she has the chance.”

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.

Teaser Thursday- Try the Tofu

TrytheTofu_200 (2)

“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.