The Return: Chapter Five
I was in love with a werewolf. How many people can say that? Or that they were curled like a little spoon, being held against an Adonis like body? And to be told I was his mate? If anyone else had said I belonged to Jonas, I’d have flipped out. I didn’t belong to anyone but myself. Or that’s how I’d come across. Truth is? I’d known, deep down, Jonas was the only person for me.
“Why?” Jonas rumbled in my ear.
“Why are you thinking? It’s dark out, so you should be sleeping.”
“I tried, but I keep thinking how awesome it is to have you back.”
He kissed my neck, and an electric current ran through me. “I’m happy you didn’t make me grovel too much.”
“Who said there wasn’t any in our future?”
He sunk his teeth gently into the skin between my neck and shoulder. “As long as I get to keep you, I’ll do anything you want.”
That was an opening if I ever heard it. “Could I…. I mean, could we…. If it isn’t too much trouble….”
He snickered. “You wanna see my wolf, don’t you?”
God, yes. “Please?”
“Sure, but there are things you have to remember. My wolf is an Alpha. He’s the dominant one, and when dealing with an Alpha, you need to never meet our gaze directly. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t try to run from me. I’d never intentionally hurt you, but my wolf will think it’s a game, and do his best to take you down, and he won’t be gentle about it.”
“Okay, I got it.” Jonas stood and lifted the hem of his shirt. “What are you doing?”
He gave me an exasperated look. “Ever seen a wolf wear clothes? We get naked before we shift. Remember Dan? He was naked.”
Yeah, I felt stupid. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
The truth of it was, I’d never seen Jonas totally naked. We wore shorts or swimsuits when we were together. Back then, his body had been a mirror copy of mine. Pasty skin, not a hair to speak of other than the pits. Yeah, I had a sprinkle around my cock, but not the bush like I’d seen on other guys in the showers.
The shirt went up and over Jonas’s head and was discarded onto the floor. He stood and lifted his arms, a stretch as he reached skyward.
“You know, we share a characteristic with our wolves. We hate clothes. They’re too confining. We like being able to walk around, letting it all hang out.”
I nodded, my mouth too dry to speak. Jonas grinned and unzipped his pants.
“Is this going to weird you out? I can go into the bathroom if—”
“No!” I nearly shouted. “I mean, keep going.”
He winked, the bastard. “You know we can smell arousal, right?”
“Fine, my dick is hard, does that make you happy?” I groused.
“Insanely.” He leaned down and kissed me. I swooned like a forties starlet as I got my first kiss ever. He tried to stand again, but I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on. His lips on mine were like a drug, and I couldn’t get enough of them.
When he pulled back, I whined. “Hey, my wolf wants to meet his mate,” he whispered into my ear. “Is that okay?”
I wanted to say no. I wanted to tell him to keep kissing me and never stop. Instead, I nodded. “Sure.”
He stood again, and shimmied out of his pants. I held my breath when he kicked them aside, then started on his underwear.
“Control yourself, okay?” he teased.
“No promises,” I breathed, my voice husky.
He let the Calvin Klein drawers slip down those thick legs, then toed them aside, before he turned to me and stood there, not a drop of arrogance as my gaze ran over his body.
“Am I…okay?” he asked.
“You’re remarkable,” came my strangled words.
“I know you’re used to me before puberty.”
“You’re still Jonas. My Jonas,” I reiterated. “You were beautiful when we were kids, and you’re a stunning man now.”
He gave me a soft smile. “For the record, I’m rather fond of how you turned out too. Laying with you as my little spoon was…wow. I mean…wow.”
It was remarkable how we’d slid back into the roles we had when we were younger. Like those missing years had merely been a weird dream. Neither of us were afraid to admit our feelings, because even back then we didn’t hide them. We weren’t overt, but we exchanged glances, smiles, and had no problem with affection.
“Can we get with the display here? I’m dying to meet your other half.”
“And he can’t wait to finally meet his mate.” He glared at me. “Do you remember the rules?”
I nodded, nearly breathless. I was about to see my best friend shift into an animal out of legend. Jonas got down on his hands and knees, his face tilted so he was looking at me.
“I won’t hurt you, I swear it.”
He never had, and I trusted that he wouldn’t now. In fact, I was about to prove to him how deep my trust ran. His change started slowly. Corey grunted, like it was being pulled from his depths. His arms, which already had a good amount of hair on them, sprouted more in the exact sandy blond color. His ears lengthened and perked up as his arms grew longer thinner. His eyes became slits of inky darkness against a backdrop of amber. Within thirty seconds, he stood before me, majestic as all hell.
Jonas took a tentative step toward me, probably figuring I’d run screaming from the room. It was time he learned that I trusted him with my life. I reached out and grabbed his jowls, pulling him close until our faces were scant inches apart. Then I did something I’d been warned about. I stared into his eyes. A soft rumble rose from his chest.
“Stop that,” I ordered.
He whimpered and leaned in to lick my cheek.
“You are so beautiful,” I informed him, and he gave me a wolfish grin, his tongue lolling out. “And modest. Did I mention that?”
He crowded into me, pressing me down onto the floor. He stood above me, his chest expanding with each panted breath. I put my hands on his legs and massaged up toward his torso. He preened. He hadn’t been kidding. He loved the touch.
“Can you get off me, please? I want to see something.”
He moved to the side before he cocked his head and gave me a curious glance.
“Everyone in town is a werewolf, right?”
He yipped in answer.
“So no one is going to think it’s weird if you’re outside?”
A slight shake of his head.
“Cool.” I reached down and booped his nose. “Tag, you’re it.”
Then I ran for the door, threw it open, and took off down the street. It wasn’t but a moment or two later, I could hear the pounding of feet as Jonas was in hot pursuit. I took a sharp left, and he ran by me, but then turned and headed back. He would catch me eventually. He was built for speed and endurance. I was not. But I was going to give him a good chase.
Every time he got close, I veered off in a different direction. He was snapping at my heels, but never once did I think he’d bite me. The chase didn’t last nearly as long as I’d hoped. I was already sucking in lungfuls of air, trying to get rid of a stitch in my side, and still keep away from Jonas. He could have easily taken me down, but now he was keeping pace with me.
“You’re—enjoying—this,” I gasped out.
He got closer and nudged me to the side. I tumbled down onto the grass of Mr. Henderson, who was definitely one of those ’get off my lawn’ types. I was about to suggest we move elsewhere when the door to the house opened, and Mr. Henderson, clad in a blue bathrobe, stepped out. I was waiting for the litany of words about how we were inconsiderate, had no business on his property, and the works. I was surprised when he smiled and waved.
“Jonas! It’s good to have you back, kid. That means we can finally stop looking after your pain in the ass mate.”
He winked at me, then turned and went back into the house.
“Pain in the ass?” I squeaked, still not drawing a decent breath.
Jonas shifted, a scowl on his face. “Well, it’s not like he lied, is it? You didn’t listen to a damn thing I said, did you? Don’t make eye contact. Don’t run. Two simple rules, and you ignored both of them.”
“No, I didn’t ignore them. I heard what you said, but chose to take my own path. You’ll notice you didn’t hurt me.”
“That’s not the point!” he snapped. “You are dealing with a wolf, and—”
“No. I’m dealing with Jonas. The best friend I ever had. The same guy who stood between me and everyone else, even when he wasn’t much bigger than me at the time. What makes you think I’m going to stop trusting in you just because you’re in a different body?”
“Core, you have to know, not all wolves have that kind of control. Only an Alpha possesses enough self awareness to—”
“But I wasn’t playing with all wolves, was I? No, I was playing with you.” I couldn’t help but smile. “And don’t think I didn’t notice you saying you were an aware wolf.”
You could see he was having a hard time not rolling his eyes. “Have I ever told you how annoyingly frustrating you are?”
“Dude, like I kept track of all of them.” I put a hand on his knee and squeezed. “You will always have my trust, and—wait. You know you’re outside and naked, right?”
“Like I said, if we could, everyone here would be naked all the time. Wolves don’t have the hangups about nudity that a lot of humans do. We trust our senses, and when there are no perfumed clothes in the way, things are a lot sharper.”
I stroked a hand over my hairless chin. “So then, by that line of thinking, I could go naked all the time.”
He bared his teeth. “No, you most certainly could not.”
I arched my brow. Something I perfected after seeing how awesome it was Spock could do it. “Excuse me?”
He withered under my scowl. “No one can see my mate and—”
“If I was a wolf, it wouldn’t be a problem?”
He shook his head. “No, they can never see my mate.”
“Well, that’s fucking….not sexist, but still damned rude. I’m a human being, not a marble dildo you put on the mantel when you’re done using it.”
His lip curled up. “Marble dildo?” he questioned. “Where the hell does your mind go?”
Psh, like I knew. Bitch wandered off all the time and never brought me back takeout or souvenirs. “You’re missing the point.”
A big hand wrapped around the back of my neck and pulled me close. “No, what I missed was you. And so you know, I had a fantasy of taking you in public, where anyone could see me claiming what’s mine. I wouldn’t so much care if I was there to protect you, but the thought of you showing off that amazing fucking body when I’m not there, drives me up a wall.”
I melted. No one had ever said anything so erotically outdated to me.
“We should get back,” Jonas said. “We have an appointment at four.”
We did? “We do?”
He nodded. “You have some paperwork to sign at the bank. That’s part of what took me a few days to sort out. You need to sign your name on the property documents, showing that you’re now entitled to half the resources of the pack.”
No way had he just said what I thought he did. “Excuse me?”
“As my mate, you’ll be co-leader of the pack. Everyone will defer to you, unless I say otherwise.”
His eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
“I said no.”
I stood and held out a hand. He took it with a grin, then laughed when I tried to help him up. Heavy bastard.
“Why are you saying no?” he asked, pushing himself up without any effort.
“Seriously? Are you even listening to yourself? Everyone will defer to me? What the hell does that even mean?”
He wrapped an arm around my shoulder, and goddamn it, I leaned into his touch. We started down the street back to my house.
“It means that if you tell them to do something, they need to do it.”
“So if I said they all needed to come to the shop in the morning for a cup of coffee, they’d do it?”
He nodded. “That’s what it means.”
“Thanks, but you can keep it. I want them coming there because I made good stuff, not because they’re forced to.”
“They’re not forced. They do it because they want you happy. And a happy pack prospers.”
“Then they’ll be happy with my stuff, especially if it’s their choice.”
“That’s not how this works, Core. You might not have noticed, but we’re an extremely tight knit coup. We give business to people in the town as much as possible. The only time we reach outside of the pack is if it’s something no one here makes. They’ll come to you because you make the best things, yes, but that’s not the only reason. There’s no way around it.”
It killed me to do so, but I pulled away from him. “Yeah, there is. I’m not signing any papers.”
He huffed. “Is it possible you’ve become more stubborn in the last few years?”
I whirled on him. “You don’t get it. I scratched and clawed to get my place open. I have loans out the ass.”
His cheeks pinked. “No, you don’t. Everything you’re paying in has been going to an account set up until I got back. You’ll be able to collect on that and—”
Unbidden my hands clenched into fists. “What the fuck?”
We got to my door. My blood was boiling. I threw it open and stalked inside, Jonas on my heels. He closed the door gently.
“Listen to me. You’re the Alpha Mate of the pack. It’s more than a job. You’re responsible for the wellbeing of our people. Think of it as a den mother, only you’re a man.”
It was like he wasn’t hearing me. “Am I speaking some foreign language to you?”
“Sometimes I think so,” came the snarky reply. “Why are you so upset about this?”
In truth, I wondered that myself. Most people wouldn’t have issue with money coming back in and all their debts being paid off. Unfortunately for Jonas, I wasn’t most people.
“You don’t get it at all, do you?” I went into the kitchen and poured a cup of LifeBoost coffee. I didn’t bother to offer him anything. “I worked my ass off. I went to college, got a degree, came back here and opened my shop. I thought I’d made it successful. I believed I’d made something to be proud of. Now you’re telling me that everything I did, the endless search for money to afford school, all the late nights of studying, the—”
I stared at him as he looked everywhere but at me.
“Jonas, where did the money for my scholarship come from?”
He fidgeted, like he did when we were younger. It was a tic of his that told me he had an uncomfortable truth and was afraid of my reaction.
“Look, I—we—wanted….” His voice softened.
“What did you do?” I demanded.
He blew out a breath. “No one was going to give a scholarship to a C+ student. I knew how amazingly bright you were, and that school wasn’t your place to shine. Still, you wanted it, so I went to my dad and we made it happen. That’s all.”
My life was a lie. Pretty much every fucking moment of it.
“I don’t believe you. You hid part of yourself from me our whole lives, then you got taken away—and I do understand why—only to go ahead and do stuff behind my back.”
“I couldn’t come here to talk about it!” he ranted. “My dad couldn’t very well stop by to chat, because when he got home, he’d have your scent on him, and my wolf would go nuts. It’s my job to take care of you, and if that’s a problem, then we’re going to have to deal with it, because I will never, ever apologize for taking care of my mate.”
He crowded me into the corner, then reached out and cupped my chin. He tilted my head back, so I had to look up at him.
“Is this going to be a problem?” he asked.
Who had their dreams given to them? And what kind of idiot questioned that?
“I’m not signing the papers,” I told him, doing my best to inject some forcefulness into my voice. “I’ll do what you need done, but knowing what I do, I can’t think that every aspect of my life is based on something you’ve done. I just can’t.”
“Look, now that I’m back, I have to call a pack meeting. My dad will be stepping down, and I will become the official Alpha of the tri-county area. I want you to come. See what the people think about you, about your shop. You’re going to see that it had nothing to do with me. I gave you a hand, but you made your business what it is with grit and determination. I swear to you, everything you’ve accomplished has been based solely on your talent and way with people. Okay? Say you’ll come with me.”
Did I have a choice? I was being a salty brat, and I knew it, but finding out that what you thought was your success was due to someone else stung.
“Yeah, I’ll come.”
“Good.” He tweaked my nose. “We should get ready.”
“I’ll contact the bank and ask them to postpone our appointment until I call them. Then I’ve got to send out a pack text message so everyone knows there’s a meeting tonight.”
“And they’re going to come? Just like that?”
He gave a grin. “When your Alpha barks, you obey.”
I patted his chest. “Keep dreaming, Fido.”
But I still went to change. The bastard.