Kailu learns two things in less than a second. One is that more than just elves live in the northern forest. The other is that elves and bears shifters can be mates. Who knew? He didn’t, until he literally ran into his big bear shifter mate when he and his two brothers were simply hunting for a Yule tree. With their vastly different cultures, Kailu finds out that his mating isn’t exactly a Christmas miracle.
Kailu stumbled forward and let out a small grunt when one of his brothers shoved him from behind. Thankfully, he was next to a tree and was able to catch himself on it, or he would have fallen in the snow. The air was so cold it made the exposed parts of his face ache. His nose and cheeks were probably red, and he could see his breath as it fanned out around his face. He didn’t want to fall in the snow and get any colder.
He let go of the cart he was pulling and narrowed his eyes as his brothers ran past him, laughing like lunatics, Lethon, his middle brother, chasing Savel, his youngest brother, through the forest with a big glob of snow on the palm of his hand.
“Animals,” he yelled after them. Actually, they were acting like children. It was hard to believe they were fully-grown elves sometimes—although there was something about the act of looking for a Yule tree that brought the kid out in them, Kailu included.
“Yes, but what kind of animal?” Lethon yelled back even as he reached a hand out, throwing the snow at Savel. He almost hit Savel on the back of his coat, which would have covered their youngest brother with snow.
Savel cackled with glee and reached down, swiping up snow even as he kept running.
“You’re both jackasses.”
Lethon held up his middle finger at Kailu, which was a very human gesture. Living in the Upperworld meant they had adapted some human ways, even if they did live so deep in the forest that they encountered very few people.
They might see the occasional rabbit or bird, but that was about it. Kailu knew other more predatory animals lived in the forest as well, but he never really saw them. The predators were able to blend in, becoming one with the surroundings more than any other creature. It seemed animals had their own form or magic just as elves did.
Kailu’s people were more like humans. Some people in the village even farmed the land. While television wasn’t an option way out in the middle of the forest, Kailu’s family had a radio and so many books they had added on a room to their house to accommodate them all. Plus, Kailu’s father was a human, so Kailu was able to blend into the human world as long as he covered up his pointy ears.
Savel threw snow at Lethon and managed to hit him in the center of his chest. Kailu smiled at their shenanigans.
Suddenly stopping and setting the cart down once again, he gathered snow in his hand, packing the bitter cold stuff as tightly as he could make it. The snow was the light fluffy kind not good for packing a snowball, but he tried his best. When he was somewhat satisfied with his work, he took off as fast as he could in the direction his brothers had run.
Catching up with them quickly, he shoved the ball of snow in Lethon’s face. His brother sputtered and spit, wiping a hand down his face. Kailu laughed so hard he had to stop running, bending over at the waist with his hands on his knees.
Savel walked over to him and leaned against him, laughing right along with him. “This is why father stopped coming with us,” Savel said through his bout of laughter.
For some reason, Savel’s words made him laugh even harder.
When Lethon ran a hand down his face for the second time, practically squeezing the snow-turned-to-water off his skin, he narrowed his eyes at them. Kailu and Savel looked at each other, their eyes widening. “Oh, shit,” they said simultaneously.
Kailu was the fastest runner out of all three brothers. He wouldn’t have a problem out running them both. He looked back over his shoulder, watching as Lethon took Savel down, shoving his face in the snow.
“That’s what you get,” Lethon said as he laughed.
Kailu was just turning around when he ran into a very thick tree. The impact knocked the breath out of him, and he would have fallen if not for the arms that came around his body, hugging him to the tree.
And then a hard voice growled, “What are you doing on my property?”