[The Bellann Summer ManLove Collection: Erotic Alternative Paranormal Romance, M/M, shape-shifter, HEA]
Bellann Summer is a Siren-exclusive author.
“Do you doubt that we are mates, Charlie?”
Charlie pinched the knife hard between his fingers. Before he could answer Owen’s question a man’s voice challenged everyone to make someone’s day. Charlie reached into his other pocket and pulled out his phone.
“Did Owen find you?” Dante demanded.
Charlie glanced across the table and answered his cousin, “Yes.”
“Tell me you grew a brain, covered yourself in butter, and slid all over him until he mated with you.”
Charlie choked and started coughing. Once he could breathe again, he decided to give Dante a little of his own medicine.
“No, I set off a grenade and blew him to pieces.”
Owen’s eyebrows climbed to his hairline.
Charlie held the phone away from his ear while Dante proceeded to have a fit. A ringing started on Owen’s side of the table.
While half listening to Dante’s bitching, Charlie watched Owen activate his phone and listen. From his side of the table Charlie heard the urgent demand in the voice but not the actual words.
“Yes,” Owen said. “I’m fine.”
After a moment. “No. I have all my body parts.”
“Are you listening to me?” Dante screeched in Charlie’s ear.
“Dante,” Charlie interrupted another tirade. “We’re waiting for our food to arrive and plan to have a nice breakfast.”
“Fuck the breakfast,” Dante countered. “Nail him once and for all. Fuck each other’s brains out until all the shit keeping you apart is gone. Then sleep. Sleep for days and days and epic days.”
“How long has it been since you’ve slept?” Charlie could tell by Dante’s slurring words that the man was at the end of his rope. He wondered if Dante’s mate, Sasha, had any clothes left or had his cousin burned them in revenge for knocking him up with twins.
“How long since the babies were born?” Sarcasm screeched from Dante question.
“Quit worrying about me.” Love for his edgy cousin made Charlie smile. “Get some sleep, you’ll feel better.”
“Are you coming home to the mansion?” The vulnerability in Dante’s words showed how much, under all that snark, the man cared.
Charlie hesitated. Even if he went back to Apple Ville, he knew Owen lived in a gorgeous log house in the woods.
“You’ll be the first one I hug when I get back.”
“Huh,” Dante sputtered. “I don’t hug, it might mess up my hair.”
“Go to sleep,” Charlie ordered. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
After Charlie put the phone back into his pocket, he looked up to find humor sparkling in Owen’s brown eyes.
“Should I be worried?”
Charlie chuckled. “I’d keep an eye out when you get back. He does have a penchant for extracting revenge on those who hurt his loved ones.”
Owen’s gaze dulled. “Have I hurt you?”
“No one enjoys being rejected.” Charlie studied his empty soda glass and again wished the waitress would bring their food.
Sometimes silent pleas happen. Charlie sat back and let the lady set a plate, piled high with waffles covered in strawberries and whip cream, in front of him.
Charlie posed his fork above the plate, ready to dig in, when a large hand took ahold of his wrist. He followed that strong tan arm up to Owen’s solemn face.
After all these weeks, Charlie didn’t want to hear any excuses. “Save it. You made your feelings clear. You didn’t want a mate or what I could have given you.”
“You’re wrong. I wanted and want you with everything in my being. I admit I was too much of a chickenshit to take a chance. Those days are over. Now explain what you meant by saying, what you could have given me.”
Charlie’s anticipation of the melt in your mouth delicious food turned into wrinkling his nose at a glop of wet sawdust. He didn’t want to talk about the loss of what made him special.
“Look.” Charlie jerked his arm loose. “I’m going to say this once and then I want to eat my breakfast. I’m hungry.” Charlie set his fork down and put his hands on his lap. Yeah, one hand slid into his pocket and grabbed onto his knife for courage. “When my cousins and I found that scroll, I was ecstatic that the birthmark on my leg meant I had a great love out in the world. Even though the scroll warned that this love was with a bear shifter and he would want to kill me, I figured my fighting skills and great assortment of weapons would help him see reason. Who knew it wouldn’t be something physical I was up against.”
“Your birthmark has never been an issue with me,” Owen stated.
“Ah, but it is.” Charlie squeezed the knife until the edges dug deep into his fingers. “The mark that meant I had a true one and could give him children is gone. My virginity is gone. Dr. Glen Stone raped me and cut out my moon birthmark. I have no more gifts. Worse, you never wanted them or me.”
Owen’s gaze narrowed. “From now on you’d better wear ear protection when you’re shooting off those guns of yours, Charlie. I already told you I wanted you. Be warned. From now on, I’ll be plastered closer to you than a wet blanket. You’re stuck with me for the rest of our lives.”
Charlie slumped back in his seat. His role in the family had been the protector and not a big thinker. All this emotional stuff of the last months sucked. He’d rather be shooting beer cans off a fence rail or blowing an old stump to smithereens.
“The gift of being a true one is gone. The attraction between us may still be there, but we may not be mates anymore.” He couldn’t state the facts any plainer.
Owen shook his head. “Charlie, the mark is just a way to identify. Not seeing a physical symbol doesn’t mean it’s gone. Erasing a word from a piece of paper doesn’t make that word disappear forever. It still exists.”
“Honey, you aren’t ready.” Owen buttoned his pants back up. “We can try this again at a different time.”
Red traveled up Charlie’s neck and spread over his face. The man jumped from the bed. Charlie might be on the thinner side but his shoulders were wide enough to form a sexy triangle down to his slim waist. Owen wanted to enjoy all that naked skin and the sweet package between his legs. The open pocket knife in Charlie’s hand stopped those ideas.
“Fuck you, Owen,” Charlie ordered. “Get out of here. You’ll never reject me again.”
Owen remained still, not wanting to incite more of Charlie’s anger. He wouldn’t back down, but damn, even small knives could hurt like hell for a moment or two before his shifter mojo healed his wounds.
“I’m trying to be a compassionate mate and give you the time you need to come to terms with what Doctor Stone did to you,” Owen explained. “Put the knife away, Charlie.”
“You’re lucky I haven’t taken out my grenade and blown you to bits.”
They were at an impasse. In trying to do the right thing, Owen had alienated his mate again.
Impulse had Owen shoving down his pants until they lay at his feet. He straightened to his full height of six-five and rested his hands on his hips.
“Does this look as if I’m rejecting you, my mate?”
Charlie’s gaze took in Owen’s hard cock. Owen winced when his flesh bobbed under his mate’s scrutiny. Need dripped from the end.
Charlie stepped away, hit the corner of the bed with the back of one knee, and toppled to the floor. Owen rushed forward and knelt. He ran his hands over the protesting man’s arms, body, and legs.
“Tell me you haven’t cut yourself with that damn knife.”
Owen would wrap the man in cotton if he had his way. Injuries to Charlie were not happening ever again.
Charlie tried to push Owen’s hands away. Yeah, that was another thing that wasn’t happening.
Owen lifted Charlie into his arms. He stood and cradled the smaller man while gazing into his eyes. Charlie’s lips parted. The world faded away until only the two of them existed.
“There’s no turning back now.” Owen pulled Charlie closer and placed a soft kiss on his lips.
In all the times that Owen had been around Charlie, he hadn’t noticed any particular scent other than the faint sweetness that all marked Johnston’s seemed to have. Once they became pregnant, each exploded with a unique smell.
Owen kissed Charlie again and relished the subtle scent of vanilla wafting up all around them. He kept his lips pressed against the sweet man while turning and laying Charlie down on the bed’s mattress. Owen followed, making sure to keep some space separating their bodies. He couldn’t help that his needy dick lay on Charlie’s belly. The heat from Charlie’s skin seeped into Owen’s sensitive cockhead. The urge to spread his scent vibrated through his being.
“Tell me if it becomes too much,” Owen whispered against Charlie’s soft lips. “Fear doesn’t belong between us.”
Charlie’s hands cupped Owen’s cheeks. Owen lifted his head and looked into Charlie’s flushed face.
“This feels different.” Charlie’s restless fingers sifted through Owen’s scruff. “Is it possible for my body to call out to yours?”
“I can hear you in my soul.”
Owen lowered his head, rubbed his cheek against the side of Charlie’s throat, and trailed his scent up over one smooth cheek. He switched cheeks and went down the other side until he reached his mate’s collarbone. Owen spent a lot of time enjoying the process of making Charlie his until the man’s face, throat, and chest were pink from his whiskers.
“How are you doing, honey?” Owen would stop if he had to, somehow.
Charlie’s breath came out in pants. “I can’t describe what’s happening.” Owen couldn’t resist tonguing one of Charlie’s ribs. “Oh…keep going.”
Owen admired the firm muscles and light hair covering Charlie’s arms and legs as he continued the claiming. His bear’s purring rumbles echoed his enjoyment of Charlie’s maleness.
The special place under Charlie’s belly button took Owen’s breath away. With each stroke of his cheek, awareness of what could be shook Owen to the core. Once his scent covered the area he forced himself to move on.
Owen wasn’t sure the response he would get when touching Charlie’s prick and thought to make quick work of that area before finishing with Charlie’s back. That idea changed when his cheek connected with the velvety smooth skin of Charlie’s dick. The flesh pulsated and grew harder.
Charlie’s hands clamped down in Owen’s hair and held his head still. “Owen!”
“Too much, honey?”
Owen reached up and encircled Charlie’s wrists. “You’re going to have to let go.”
“I might jump out of my skin and end up clinging to the ceiling.” Sweat dotted Charlie’s face.
A chuckle escaped and Owen shook his head to release Charlie’s fingers. “I’ll make sure you stay in this sweet skin of yours.”