It wasn’t raining.
Sol stared blankly out through the window, ignoring the puffy, white clouds scattered in the bright blue sky. The sky should have been heavy with clouds, the kind of flat grey that said I’m here for days, so turn up your collar and grab a raincoat. The window in front of him should have been streaked with rivulets of rainwater, but the glass was clear and the view unobstructed. Birds should have been huddled on branches in sullen silence, taking what little shelter they could find from fat raindrops rolling off leaves on upper branches, instead of flying about cheerfully and singing as though mocking his misery.
It wasn’t raining, but it should have been.
The memory of a pair of bright green eyes flashed in his mind’s eye and Sol flinched. The eyes widened as they looked up at him through strands of hair the colour of bright shiny new conkers. So surprised to see me. Well, he wasn’t the only one. Only I think I got the biggest surprise. I’m such a fool. Vampire. He had to be a bloody vampire. At least, I know his name at last.
Sol heaved a sigh, shoving his hands farther into his pockets and doing his best not to shiver. Work had finished early that day and now he had nothing to do but think. He glanced at his watch. His brothers shouldn’t be home for a couple of hours yet, and it was far too early to begin supper.
Two of Sol’s brothers were mated. He was happy for Noah, he really was, yet every time he thought about Noah and Astley he got this hot, burning envy in his guts, attempting to drive him to scream or throw things. He felt the same way about Isaac and his new mates, Ari and Keiron. He tried not to think about it too deeply, or about him. If he got into it now, then his brothers would know when they got home—they would be able to smell the sorrow and the turmoil on him. He swore under his breath, continuing to stare out of the window. Dammit! I’m thinking about him again.
The face in his mind changed, growing thinner, harder, and bitter. That was how he had last seen his mate, so different now from the first time. That wasn’t the only change, though, nor the worst. That would be the wheelchair his mate should never have been in. Vampires shouldn’t be able to be hurt so badly they could not recover. If whatever had happened hadn’t killed him, then he should have been able to recover completely. But his mate was stuck in a wheelchair, and the why tormented him.
Sol realised one of his hands was clenched in a tight fist by his side, and the fingers of the other hand crept to the point where his neck met shoulder again and rubbed the spot where the scars should be. The flash of hatred for Michaelson was entirely justified. Bastard even took them from me. The twin, pinprick scars that should sit behind his shoulder were long gone. Michaelson had been very interested in the scars when they had been pointed out by one of his guards. Sol shuddered, refusing to think about how the guard had noticed them. I’m out, I’m free, he reminded himself, but they’re gone. He concentrated on keeping his breathing even, letting the smell of home and the trees and earth outside wash over him. The scars had literally been ripped from him, cut from his body with the strip of skin that had been peeled away. It had hurt, and so had a lot of what had been done to him there, but that pain was one that stuck with him. He was a shifter, and he had healed, of course, but the smooth and perfect skin that grew back afterward had bothered him more than anything Michaelson and his men had done to him. They had taken away the only reminder he had of his mate, after capturing him and his brothers had prevented him returning to Freddie in the first place. But now Freddie was here and so different. Nothing was as it should be. Back then, they had gotten so carried away with realising what they were to each other. They were fucking before they’d even exchanged names. Then his new mate had bitten him, and his instincts had taken over before he even consciously realised the man was a vamp. He must have righted his clothes somehow because the next thing he remembered after being bitten was slowing down from the run which must have taken him several miles away and his dick hadn’t been flapping in the breeze. He hadn’t been arrested for indecent exposure either, so that was something.
The way Sol cleaned him was worshipful. He lathered up a sponge and stroked it over Freddie’s body and limbs. He went slowly and carefully, eyes watching closely as he held an arm or a leg and circled the foamy sponge across the skin. Freddie couldn’t tear his gaze away from his mate’s face as he crouched in front of him, soaping up Freddie’s legs one by one. The one place Sol stayed clear of was the one Freddie most wanted him to touch. Though he thought he would explode like a damn rocket if Sol touched his cock.
His cock was so damn hard, and Freddie nearly cried at being able to feel it again. It curved up from his groin, pointing at his mate and begging to be touched. From midway up the slender shaft, the skin flushed the kind of red only a redhead’s can. Sol didn’t go near it, though.
Instead, Sol carefully released Freddie’s hair from the tie holding it. He unhooked the secondary showerhead and tipped Freddie’s head back to thoroughly soak the long, red strands. His hands were tender and sure as he washed and rinsed the heavy mass.
“You done this before?” Freddie asked, eyes closed.
“Helped with my brothers a time or two when they were young. No one else.”
When Freddie’s hair was clean, Sol rinsed off the rest of Freddie’s body, hung the shower head back up, and hurried through his own shower routine. Freddie turned on the seat so he could get a better look. Suds slid over slick skin and hard muscle so close he could touch and he ached with holding himself back.
Why am I holding myself back? Sol might have been wary right after what happened, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem being close to me now, so why should I?
Still, he felt incredibly daring reaching out a hand toward Sol as the man bent his head forward and scrubbed the shampoo away under the stream of water.
Sol shuddered and then stilled as the tips of Freddie’s fingers slid over his hip. He quickly washed the rest of the shampoo away before moving his head out of the spray. Sol wiped his face as clean of water as he could and opened his eyes, turning to blink down at Freddie with wet eyelashes and a hungry expression. His hair was partially slicked down with water, but some tufts stuck out at odd angles. It was strangely appealing in a way that had nothing to do with the sex Freddie’s body ached for.
“Do you want this, Freddie? Because I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop this time.” His voice rasped in a way that shot straight to Freddie’s cock.
Freddie looked up at Sol, hand settling firmly on his upper thigh. “I want this. I want you.”
Sol bent and pulled Freddie to his feet again, tucking him close with one arm and awkwardly uncapping the shower gel to squeeze some out onto Freddie’s lower back. He was very thorough in helping Freddie get the rest of his body clean.
Sol’s fingers slipped and slid over and into him until he was squeaky clean inside and out and Freddie was a gooey puddle of lust, whimpering and needing with his forehead resting on Sol’s chest. Sol turned him, and Freddie leaned back against his mate while Sol’s strong hand soaped his cock and balls.
“I think I’m clean,” Freddie said after several attempts at clearing his throat.
Sol hummed in his ear. “Oh, I’m sure you are.” He continued to stroke Freddie’s aching shaft with slick fingers. The soap was long gone, but the water provided enough lubrication. “Do you want me to stop?”
“Nnngg… no. But… I… gods... Sol.” Nerves Freddie hadn’t felt in years were flaring back to life, losing him in sensation and making actual words difficult to form.
A loud rumble burst from Sol’s chest—not quite a growl, not a purr, but somewhere between the two. He ground his rigid cock against Freddie’s arse as his arm tightened across Freddie’s chest. Freddie felt the pinpricks of Sol’s claws as they extended and dug into his upper arm. He could smell Sol’s need, and the combined scent of their arousal filled the shower, obliterating the running water’s attempt to wash it away.
Freddie wasn’t sure Sol’s feet touched the ground, never mind his own, when Sol carried him through to the bedroom. They were both soaking wet as they landed on the navy covers with a small bounce, tangled up in each other’s arms. Sol mashed his mouth down on Freddie’s in a kiss that was more staking a claim than gentle exploration. Then his mouth softened, and his tongue dipped in and out in mimicry of what Freddie hoped Sol would soon be doing to his arse.
Freddie might not have been confident in his ability to walk yet, but he eagerly wrapped his knees around Sol’s hips as they rutted together.
“Sol, I… not going… to last.”
“Fuck, yes. Do it. Come for me,” Sol panted between kisses. He nibbled Freddie’s bottom lip, then bit his chin, tongue and teeth rasping on the barely-there stubble.
Sol buried his face in Freddie’s neck and sucked up blood to the skin in a love-bite which would be healed before they were even finished. Freddie wished he could make them last longer, wanting to wear the marks of Sol’s possession, but he would have to be satisfied with being saturated with the lion’s scent.
Hips aching, he thrust up against Sol.