Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller
As the holidays approach, Luis and Charlie are looking forward to spending time together. But after Charlie’s mother commits suicide, a whole host of problems arise to threaten Charlie and Luis’s marriage. Can the healing promise of Christmas save them?
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Copyright ©2019 Emily Carrington
“All I want for Solstice is my two front fangs… so I can bite you on the ass.”
Luis was singing under his breath but some of the other trackers probably heard him. Ethan would; he was a werewolf. Wind Child might; he was an elemental and who knew what kind of powers he did or didn’t have? Garrett didn’t have sharp ears, although his eyes were keen as a hawk’s so maybe he saw Luis’s mouth moving and could read his lips. As for Pierce, he probably missed everything, human that he was.
Except it was Pierce who said, “Whatever you’re muttering over there, Delgado, keep it to yourself, would you?”
“If you can’t tell what it is, why does it bother you?”
“Because everyone else is snickering and I hate being left out of the joke.”
“I’ll share,” Pierce’s tracker partner, Garrett, said. “Although it’s nothing to write home about, just kindergarten humor.” And he repeated Luis’s song, his voice rich and melodious.
Under the cover of Garrett’s singing, Ethan muttered, “I thought you’d be singing ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’.”
“Only if I actually knew my Life Dancer was going to be home. ‘Home in my dreams’ is not my idea of a happy ending to all this waiting.” His beloved, Charlie, alpha above all alphas, had been gone more often than he was home lately. “Putting out fires,” was how Charlie put it.
In addition to playing negotiator/firefighter, Charlie had been seeking… well, permission wasn’t the right word. Neither was approval. He wanted to practice shifting from human to wolf. Being a half werewolf, he’d been under the impression, as all the wolves in North America were, that only full-blooded werewolves could change to four-legged guise. And then the research came down: half wolves weren’t subject to the call of the moon, required to change when that heavenly orb was full, but they could still change at will.
The alphas below Charlie, although they had no true say over what he did or didn’t do, had kicked up a mighty stink about their leader risking his life. Because while the change was possible, no one knew exactly how dangerous it would be.
Luis was confident that Charlie would be okay. Wasn’t shifting only dangerous for pups who weren’t strong enough because of their age or constitution?
His cell phone buzzed. Luis tended to keep it in the top drawer of his desk because the buzzing seemed loud to his psychic vampire ears. Now he drew it out and glanced at the screen casually, most of his attention still on Ethan, who was looking at him sympathetically.
Tilthos Charles: Be there in ten minutes. Meet you upstairs.
Luis almost dropped the phone.
“What is it?” asked Pierce, the nosy bastard.
Luis saw by Ethan’s face that he didn’t need to ask; Luis’s tracker partner was sharp, particularly when it came to reading those closest to him.
Luis got up, set his cell on the desk, and headed for the door.
“Trouble?” Pierce asked, getting to his feet.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Garrett said. “Let him go.”
Luis started for the stairs at a brisk walk. One did not run in SearchLight headquarters, even if said headquarters was small and considered a “backwater” by the rest of the organization.
He grinned. His Life Dancer was here, in this building, or very nearly.
Luis strode out of the stairwell and into the antechamber of the director’s office. He smiled at the secretary, the mother of one of the Tilthos Pack’s members. He addressed her in Spanish, his native language and hers. “Good morning,” he said in his mother tongue. “How are you this morning?”
She smiled. She’d been treating him like a son since moving to the United States to be closer to her daughter. “Good morning, Luis, my son. Do you need to see Agent Shalling?”
“Nope. Tilthos Charles is back.” He was careful to call his Charlie “Tilthos Charles” whenever he spoke of him, and his cell phone said his mate’s title and full name. Nicknames were verboten among the werewolves. The only reason Charlie was “Charlie” to Luis was because he’d been cursed with the nickname when he was young as a sign of disrespect, and he’d claimed it as a name of power. He was Charlie to himself and always would be. And he was Charlie to his nearest and dearest, at least the wolves who could get over themselves and their sense of propriety enough to recognize that calling him Charlie wasn’t a slur. At least not in their alpha’s mind.
“He’s not here yet,” Luis was told.
He nodded. “I know. I just wanted to be waiting when he finally arrives.”
The door to the director’s office opened and Agent Andrea Shalling stepped out. As always when she saw Luis, she looked as if she’d been sucking on a lemon. “What is the purpose of all this noise?”
Luis, cognizant of his role as Charlie’s mate and yet his lesser status as a tracker rather than a member of the leadership, asked, “Will you speak with me privately, Agent Shalling?”
She sighed. “All right.” She walked back into the director’s, into Charlie’s, office.
Luis followed. When the door was closed, he approached her and, keeping his voice low, said, “Calling another language ‘noise’ is disrespectful.”
She flushed. “I wasn’t calling Spanish noise, but your loud voice is, Agent Delgado.”
Luis could have cheerfully decked her. Instead, he announced, “Tilthos Charles will be here momentarily.”
Her eyes widened for the briefest instant. Then she said, her voice casual, “I wonder why he didn’t text or call me.”
Luis hid a smirk.
There was the muffled sound of tapping, like hard-soled shoes on tile and conversation outside the door, and then the knob turned.
Charlie, looking both tired and exultant, walked in. In his left hand was a briefcase. In his right was his white cane. He smiled at Andrea and walked to Luis. In front of God and everybody, he kissed Luis.
And kissed him.
And kissed him.
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