Life at the Jarvela farm hobbles on when the new year rolls in. Losing his wife and co-alpha in the storm of the decade emotionally paralyzed Sean, though he tries to cope and attempts to pick up the pieces with their children. Rider, another alpha, could give him the love and comfort he needs, but Sean is too depressed to recognize the possibility of having a male partner, and he goes into mental tailspin.
To safeguard his own heart, Rider makes the hard decision to leave for a while, and Sean turns his energy and sadness into working on the neighboring Metsala farm with the other members of their farm family. But Sean isn’t really getting better, and that won’t change until he can let his wolf out again. If he doesn’t, he might lose his sanity too.
Rider worked most of the morning and day, so Sean carried firewood inside from the shed and started the cleaning. It wasn’t until Zoya was gone when he really understood how much his wife had done on a daily basis. He’d always laughed at the same jokes everyone did -- how if a woman wasn’t at home for a day, the house looked like a warzone and the husband was frazzled beyond belief. It was funny. He knew Zoya did a hell of a lot around the house to keep it and the children tidy, food on the table, and the kids homeschooled.
When he was trying to reach under the kids’ bed with the vacuum cleaner, he wondered how she’d done it all.
“Need help?” Rider asked from the doorway.
“Nah, I’m okay.” Sean was kneeling on the floor, reaching into the back corner.
“You sure about that?”
Something about Rider’s tone made Sean look at him over his shoulder. Rider was staring at his ass. Pointedly. With an expression of raw need on his face.
“I .... Uh ....” Sean swallowed.
Rider tilted his head and raised a brow at him, challenging him to say something.
Just as Sean opened his mouth -- to say what, he didn’t know -- the front door of the house opened and a babbling horde of kids poured in.
“Later.” Rider’s tone was firm, like a caress, and then he was gone to greet the kids.
Sean could hear him enthusiastically asking the little ones what they’d bought as Jude -- and probably Anton too -- carried the groceries inside.
It was almost funny how aflutter that one look turned everything. Through the rest of the day, while taking care of the kids, listening to them chatter, cooking dinner, making sure the kids were bathed before bedtime, everything, Sean felt nervous.
By the time they got to bed that night, there was no question where Rider would sleep, or if the door would be not only closed but locked as well. Maybe it was a miracle, but Sean managed to leave his brain out of the equation, and his memories of Zoya didn’t interfere once.
Sean felt jittery when he stepped out of the bathroom. He’d realized he couldn’t brush his teeth any longer. It was time to man up, be the alpha he was. Alphas were brave, they were leaders, but in this, Sean was a follower.
Rider lounged on the bed, wearing only his black briefs. Sean swallowed hard and went to the fireplace in the corner. He touched the side of it to feel if it was warm enough.
“I’ll keep you warm.” Rider’s tone was suggestive enough to make Sean’s cock listen very carefully.
They hadn’t had sex yet. At least not full-on penetrative sex, since .... There had been a few fumbling hand jobs and a couple of times Rider had cornered Sean when he’d gone to have a shower. The blowjobs were nice, but he hadn’t been able to reciprocate.
“I won’t bite.” Rider was beginning to look a bit amused at Sean’s obvious attempts to buy time.
“What if I ask you to?”