Rolly, who’s known he was gay since he was a teen, has accepted a life of solitude—and a life of crime. He has no desire to relocate. Yet Yulian’s trust in his ability to do honest work builds his confidence. As life is settling well for them, Rolly learns a friend from his old pack had a crush on him, and he’s torn between returning his friend’s feelings or pursuing the budding relationship with Yulian. But that’s not their worst problem. Assassins are trying to take out both wolves, and they need to figure out who wants them dead or all the trust and happiness they’re building together won’t matter.
Length: 350 Pages
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Evil. I know I’m being evil, but I grin and wink before sprinting for the shoreline. The water is a frigid shock as I splash in to swim out a short distance. The wind from the lake is clean. The water is clear and shallow. I can see the bottom of the lake in every direction spreading out sandy and dotted with rocks. I have nothing but exuberant gratification for the pulsing life in my veins while I stand dripping in the hot sun. I glance skyward, hoping for a half-cloaked glimpse of a pale version of the moon’s face in the sky, but the sun is too bright or it just isn’t there. I sink under a wave and come up wiping the droplets of water off my face with my hands. Gunshots blast my awareness back to the shore. My heart stutters before picking up double time.
Hell. I turn back to the beach in time to see Rolly finish unloading the Savage on a naked man crawling out of the underbrush near the tree line. He’s a mess, a bloody cracked-bone and leaking-innards mess, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a good while. A battlefield mess. The stench hits me, the rotting, foul stench of serpent. It’s not the same sick sweet of human. I’m almost surprised the blood is the shocking red it is, leaking out onto the sand. The dead man’s face is… gone. The brown hair on the scalp is matted. There were nine shots in the clip, all silver shot, and Rolly fires until the gun clicks dry. A grim satisfaction fills me as I watch him finish our kill from last night, witness him prove to himself and me that he is capable, can take care of himself. He’s an avenging angel with the gun snug to his shoulder. Part of my reaction is the moon. She puts us more in touch with our wolves, and the wolf is far more concerned with protecting our little pack than the right to life of a serpent who dared to slither his way into my territory. His death is… right. He tasted my blood, and my… my Rolly spilled his. I tread water, spread my fingers, and glory in the hedonistic sensations of my body cutting through the lake. Drifting. My erection doesn’t lose strength, fueled on by the happy thought that Rolly’s protecting me. He killed for me. Killed for our pack.
An insistent swirl of want pulses in my shaft.
“Fucking fuck, Yulian.” The way he yells my name sends a spike of worry into my core, dragging me away from my animal mind and spurring me to action. I force myself out of the water. Allowing gravity to tug at my body is unpleasant, but I’m closer to Rolly and his kill and that’s not. The sand is warm and sticks to the bottom of my feet. He’s not happy. I give in to my baser instincts, pulling him close when I reach him, snugging my body tight to his. I nuzzle my face against the cloth covering his shoulder. He’s unhappy? He gasps, whether from my touch or the cold wetness from my dip I don’t know.
“Thank you.” There’s an edge of a growl in my voice. He responds to it, curving his body around mine, sagging against me. He draws me closer to himself, nose in the hair at the top of my head. If he’s uncomfortable with my arousal, he doesn’t say as much. Maybe the dead body has something to do with his distraction? His chest expands under my cheek while he drags air into his lungs over and over, deep breaths. His muscles tremble and, finally, something holding him back breaks apart, and his arms wrap around me and grip me tight. The gun digs into my lower back because he still has both hands on the barrel even though he’s got me so tight to his body I can hear his heart beating. Time slips by and he gradually steps away, separating his body from mine. His eyes search mine, a lost look on his face. The frown tugging down his lips makes the dimple on his chin deeper. It takes a good breeze full of the scent of serpent blood to calm me, bring me back into the moment and away from the desire to ride his body here on the beach.
Dear god, the moon is blanketing my mind today, making this dance much harder.
“It’s a body,” he murmurs into my ear, eyes fixed on a point over my shoulder. The blood from the serpent is starting to irritate my nose. I’d like to scrub it from existence. Maybe we can burn it? No… that will simply put the stench into the air. I might have worked up some guilt over the death, but he’d attacked Rolly. Today he may have been looking for aid, but last night he would have devoured him. Unforgivable.
“Yes,” I answer him with a shrug.
“There’s… there’s a dead body on your private beach.”
“So it seems,” I sigh. I didn’t want to do the work of hiding a body today, but he’s too large to leave as carrion.
“Well, what the fuck do we do with that?” he asks, raising his voice as he drops the gun to the sand. Quickly, I retrieve it, frowning at him. If I make him clean them a few times, maybe he won’t be so fast to leave my guns lying around. Damn it. That reminds me. I scan the beach for the jingal and frown when I see it.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have shot him?” I’m trying to make a point, but he closes off immediately, taking a step back from me. I wish I would have kept my thoughts to myself. He did what was necessary and now I will too.
“I…. Can I have my life back, please?”
“If you hadn’t shot him, we might have been able to find some information first, but if you want a reason why you shouldn’t have done it, that’s the only one I have.” I want to comfort him, but I have no words or patience for it. I consider the body. “And this is making work for us on a full moon. That sucks too.” I squat down to measure the man with my eyes. Maybe we could just wrap him up really well in some tarps and drop him in the basement of the Meadery. Deal with it tomorrow? That seems like a bad idea. “Better go get the shovels,” I mumble to myself.
“You don’t care that I killed a man, do you?”
“He’s the selfsame serpent you were terrified of. He tried to kill us. Now he’s not a worry.” I shrug. No. I don’t care a lick.
“But… he’s a man now… he doesn’t… he’s a man.”
“He’s both just like we’re both.” He stomps away from me and back, taking the gun, slinging it over his shoulder again as he glares at me.
“I don’t want to be both,” he says petulantly. In that moment I can see how much younger than me he is, but maybe that isn’t fair. How is he not more connected to himself? He is his wolf. It makes no sense.
“There’s nothing to be done for it, and there’s nothing to be done for the body. We’ll have to get rid of it,” I say as blandly as possible, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice. I’m not sure I did though when he gives me an assessing look and steps back from me another few feet.
“Bury him, I suppose. I would weight him down in the lake, but I don’t want to swim with him.”
“I’m going be sick.”
“If this makes you queasy, you should refrain from asking me about the war.”
“Ugh. Mother fuck, Yulian. You’re a stone-cold motherfucker, you know that? That’s a dead man.” He squints into the sun, grip tight on his gun.
Frowning at him, I stand as I brush sand from my hands. “Would you like for me to feel badly about it? And what? Call the cops? Call Dean and tell him we murdered one of his men? Ask if they would like to collect the body for a cheap funeral?”
“I… no… I… what the fuck? I can’t expect humanity from you?” He looks hurt, like I’ve betrayed him somehow, but I have to make the decisions that protect us both.
“Not in this.”
That shut him up, and not in a way I would have liked. He’s upset. His musk is tinged with something I don’t enjoy. It isn’t fear, but it’s close, and it’s because of me, or at least because I can’t pretend to care that this creature is dead. It doesn’t take long to trek back out to the barn, taking with me the long rifle Rolly dumped on the beach last night. He will be cleaning it, I decide as I tramp through the woods with shovels. When we’re staring down at the mess again, it seems like it might be easier to dig up the sand rather than dig a hole in the woods. If we hit water, it won’t matter too much because it will make the corpse decompose faster. I start digging beside the body so we can dump it in, my mind wandering back over all the holes I’ve helped to dig over the years. I didn’t think I’d be digging one so soon after bringing Rolly to my home.
“What are you doing?” His tense face squints around the beach as if he expects someone to come charging in to ask what we’re doing with a dead body. The wrinkle between his brows begs me to smooth it with a finger. I stop, jamming the shovel into the sand to lean against it.
“Digging a hole.” I nod to him, then continue, my shovel lifting the sand out of the growing hole and over my shoulder steadily. He doesn’t interrupt me again until the hole is well over my head.
“How are you going to get out of there?” He leans over the opening to look down at me so the only thing I can see is the dazzle of sunlight around his head like a halo.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t leave me down here.” I grin. I’m covered in sweat and sand, but the burn of the physical labor is nice. I can’t wait to take a dip in the lake. When I’ve decided the hole is deep enough, I stop and toss the shovel out. Rolly lends me an arm to help me climb up. I have a fine coating of sand on me. It’s uncomfortable, but the body needs to be at the bottom of the misshapen oblong hole I dug before I can do anything about it, so I wipe my hands on my swim trunks and consider it. With all the gore, I don’t want to touch the remains. I take the shovel to start pushing at the body, but it’s not budging or in enough pieces to shove them down one by one. I’m actually going to have to pick it up to move it. Sighing, I toss my shovel aside and bend down, grabbing a mostly intact leg. When I lift there’s a sickening sucking sound. I stop before I have a leg in my hand , dropping it to the ground.
“Will you—” I cut myself off when Rolly makes a dainty gagging noise behind his hand. Either it came from him or a mouse, but with the unnatural paleness of his face making him look like a blue-eyed ghost, it must have been him. I don’t intend to laugh, but once I start, it gets a little out of hand. He glares at me, giving me a look I don’t know I’ve ever gotten from anyone as he flips me off.
“I’m not a fucking damsel in distress, so stop it, but… I’ll do just about anything in the world if you don’t make me touch…. Why does it smell so bad?… fuck…. Please?” he says widening his eyes and pouting. Oh, he’s used this before, but it works, my gut twisting, my hard-on that had wilted with the physical labor more than happy to start firming back up, accompanied by a warm rush of awareness.
“Oh… now… that’s an offer I can consider. What will you give me?” I’m flirting over a corpse. I… let it never be said something new doesn’t happen every single day. I smile my brightest smile and relax, hands resting lightly on my hips.
“Come, now. You can’t think of a single thing you’d give me after making the offer?”
“Clean your house?”
“You’re already doing it.”
“Work for you at the Meadery?”
“You’ve already technically started there.”
“Well, what then?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” I say with another grin and throw in a wink. I drop down to my knees, put both hands on the largest intact piece of the body, the torso, dig my feet into the sand, and push. It’s not as easy as it should be because of the sand, but there isn’t far to go. Good old-f ashioned ingenuity. Why doesn’t everyone dig a hole beside the corpse? Make life easier? With a solid exertion of effort I tumble the body into the hole, but a leg stays behind. Rolly gags again when I pick it up and drop it down. There’s a wet plop at the bottom. It sounds like water is already filling in the hole. Damn it. We will probably be able to smell this for a month or more. Frowning, I use the shovel to scoop up the bloody sand and toss it down into the hole too. No sense leaving evidence lying around, plus it smells to high hell. Rolly doesn’t seem to mind the blood as much. He uses his shovel to help me scoop the rest of the stained sand into the hole and then comes the easy part, packing the dirt and sand back in where it came from. By the time we’re done, the smell has significantly lessened, and even though there is a rounded mound where the body is, it’s probably going to settle out in a few days, and it doesn’t look that out of place after we toss some dry sand onto it.
“You’re pretty good at this whole… disposing-of-a-body disaster. Have you done this before?” he asks, following me to the edge of the lake. He stares out over the clear water, brushing back bangs that are a little too long. The water seems colder after warming up my muscles, so I wade out carefully. I wish he would strip down and come in with me.
“A few times, but never here.” When the water is deep enough and I dip under the surface. There’s an anxious moment while my ears aren’t tuned to the shore, where there’s nothing but the womb-like silence of the water around me, but when I surface, there are no gunshots. No yelling. My heartbeat slows back down to somewhere near normal. I rub the water off my face so I can be ready for anything, but the beach is as peaceful as it ever is.
“I’m sorry,” Rolly says as he bends down to lift something off the sand. It’s another piece of beach glass. He holds up the small red piece, letting it catch the sunlight, a wisp of a smile on his face, before he drops it into his pocket. How does he keep finding the red ones?
“Not your fault.”
He doesn’t say anything, but wanders farther down the beach. My instincts are yelling at me to track him and comfort him, but I swim out, striking for an outcropping of rocks a quarter mile from shore. When I get there I pull myself up onto them, frightening a few indignant seagulls, who wheel away, squawking at me. Settling in, it’s easy to watch him wandering the beach. He drops the Savage onto a bone-white log, not something I’m happy with while I spy, but he’s out of shells anyway. While I sit, the gentle breeze kicks up into a wind, pulling at his clothes, tossing his hair. It’s nice to see him mostly relaxed, pausing to skip a rock here and there. After a bit he stops, waves at me, and a thumping warmth in my chest spreads out to the rest of my body while I wave back. He’s going to be a large, solid man when he’s done growing. His shoulders are taking on a heavier appearance from what he was last year. His father was a mountain among hills, so it makes sense the son might follow, but he has his mother’s slimness, so perhaps he is done filling out? It will be a pleasure to see either way. I lean back to watch some clouds, my desire firm and heavy between my legs, the moon buzzing in my head as I drop back onto the sun-warmed rock.
Ki’s hobbies include painting, cooking, eating, and exercising (because of the cooking and eating). Ki is also an established beach bum during the late spring and summer months, which tends to cut into writing time. Occasionally, breaks are taken from the writing process to go to a day job and have snuggles with the husband and kiddos.
Endlessly curious, Ki enjoys reading a variety of books in every genre imaginable, but has been devouring urban fantasy and science fiction of late.
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