Cover Art by Bryan Keller
Omega Jory’s in love with his best friend, Alpha Darius, and Darius has no idea. Darius’s in love with Jory, and Jory has no idea. But when Jory asks Darius to father his baby, everything’s about to explode. Jory’s body burns with the need to conceive. He’s so hot to be bred he’s insatiable, demanding everything Darius can give — and more. And the more Darius gives, the more Darius wants.
But it’s not all fun and games. Jory’s body wants all the sex it can take, but it isn’t cooperating with conception. And the fluctuating hormones are making Jory a little crazy. Darius’s got to figure out how to save the day and to tell his best friend he wants to be more than friends, for keeps.
What do you do with a drunken sailor? Take him home, build a nest, and get him pregnant… if you can.
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Copyright ©2020 Willa Okati
What did you do with a drunken sailor?
Why, anything you wanted, that’s what. You could tie him up tight with a crimson ribbon, dip him in a pool of melted butter, run him through a room of screaming fire alarms, and when he got done with all that, then you could tuck him in bed with an Alpha’s lover. And every last bit of it sounded fine when sung at the top of three dozen-odd throats at Happy Hour on a Friday evening in MacInnes’s pub.
Better still when Darius could raise his mostly empty glass and swing it in time with the song. Best of all when tucked into a booth with his best friend beside him, warm as toast and smelling faintly of Omega and largely of burnt-sugar whiskey.
As weeknights went, this was a good one.
The last lines of the chorus were still echoing off the ceiling when someone who fancied himself a soloist stood on top of a table and started belting out a boozy version of “Danny Boy.” He got a few catcalls and the occasional coaster tossed at him, but he had a decent deep tenor and most of the rowdies settled down to listen. Darius included.
Still laughing, still warm, he slid back into the booth he shared with Jory and kicked his legs forward to tangle their feet together. Best friends — closer than blood since they’d met in another bar on weekend passes five years back — they’d always been in each other’s space ever since. Didn’t bother them any that Darius was an Alpha and Jory an Omega. Darius was Navy and Jory part of the Peace Corps, sure, but the military kept everyone on hormone suppressants to cut down on hanky-panky in the ranks, so what did it matter?
“Another round?” Darius asked when their impromptu soloist paused to drown his own thirst.
Redheaded and usually fair as cream, Jory’s cheeks were cherry pink tonight from the two whiskies and a pint of Guinness he’d already downed, but he gave Darius a blazing grin and raised his empty glass. “You’re on. And I mean it, you’re on. Last round was mine.”
Was it? Darius shrugged, not bothered either way. They always took turns. He halfway stood to wave at their waiter — a friendly Beta who could pull pints fast as lightning strikes — then thumped back down in a comfortable slouch. Jory, still grinning, made him laugh. Made him content. Being around him made something inside Darius feel… satisfied. Good.
“So,” he said, after tipping back his empty glass in search of just a few more drops. “You were saying, about the kids, before that racket started up?” Jory had gone into teaching kindergarten after getting out of the Reserves, and taken to it like a duck to water.
“That they’re adorable. Today I had to teach one of them not to lick the drinking fountain because that wasn’t how it worked. Also? ‘Racket’ my hindquarters, you love it.” Jory’s smile shone smile softer, warmer, teasing. “As if you weren’t singing along.”
Darius bent his head, only a little sheepish and only for half a second. He came up with a glint in his eye and clinked his glass against Jory’s. “Shut up.”
Jory clinked back. He knew this game. “You shut up.”
“Kiss my ass.”
Jory laughed. “Bend over!”
Their pert, pretty little Beta waiter — what was his name, Adam? — rolled his eyes as he swung by their table with two full glasses. “Drown yourself in these, would you?” He softened his words with a gentle love tap on the back of Darius’s dark head and a rustle through Jory’s auburn tangle. “Drink up, boys, order some more, and leave a good tip. I’ve got bills to pay!”
“Good thing I have a steady job,” Darius remarked as Adam sped away. He’d left the Navy a year after Jory mustered out and would have settled where his best friend did regardless, but he thanked his lucky stars Jory had picked Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Made finding work on the water easy, and Darius had settled into a good hands-on position at the lake. Solid work that left him aching with sore muscles every day, but satisfied down to the bottom of his soul. “Or I wouldn’t be able to afford taking my best friend out for booze-ups at fancy joints like this.”
Jory wrinkled his nose. “Speaking of kids, how are the new hires you were talking about?”
“Eh, there’s a few bright stars,” Darius said with a shrug. “Some better than others. Time will tell. But they do already know how to use the water fountains. Probably.”
“They’re not as cute as a baker’s dozen of toddlers, though.”
Darius waggled one hand to and fro. “They probably think so, especially when they’re out looking to score some tail, but nope.”
Jory nodded in satisfaction, making him a pleasure to look at. Darius had always liked his friend’s face, not exactly handsome but friendly and open but with fine, well-shaped bones. Very dissimilar to himself, with his tall leanness, his longer features and darker complexion. His general attitude was sharper-edged, more serious. But whenever Darius got too stuck in his head, Jory pried him out, and whenever Jory’s warm heart got a little too bruised, Darius was there to pick him up and settle him down.
What he’d do without Jory in his life, Darius didn’t know. And he didn’t want to know.
Darius downed his drink and wiped the Guinness foam away with a sigh of satisfaction. “So did the kid wrap his head around how water fountains worked, in the end?”
Darius cocked his head. “I said…”
But Jory’s attention had drifted. He did that sometimes — wandered off in thought and lost himself in daydreams. Darius didn’t worry about it, as he always came back, but every now and again it was interesting to try and track what’d caught Jory’s fancy. He let his gaze go slightly out of focus, turned toward Jory’s line of sight, and…
Ah. There it was. Courting couples. Of which there were plenty, no matter where you went, but especially in MacInnes’s when the beer was flowing and the whiskey bit back. Darius followed Jory’s regard, jumping from pair to pair.
First an Omega couple — interesting, you didn’t see that too often — in their, hmm, mid sixties? Yes, and comfortable with each other in a way that said they’d been an odd couple for decades. Nice. From there, a couple of Betas who were plainly just friends, but with a few saucy benefits like the hands tucked in each others’ back pockets. A thirtyish Omega buying a jar of spicy brined pickles for a laughing Alpha who rode him piggyback and kissed his ear, and a widower Darius knew who always drank one Long Island iced tea with a picture of his mate on the table with him.
Humanity, in all its infinite variety.
And then, something Darius knew Jory would zero in on as special. An Alpha with an Omega on his arm, the two of them so in love it almost rang from the rooftop and echoed in everyone’s ears. Total hearts in their eyes, and eyes only for each other. Young, maybe on the uphill climb to twenty-five, but the Alpha had a toddler on one hip and the Omega’s stomach was proudly curved, maybe six months gone with a second cub. He rested one hand on the swell, an unconscious gesture but one that spoke of pleasure and pride. His Alpha glanced down and wrapped his free arm around the Omega’s shoulders, giving him a cuddle.
Darius shook his head, but with a lopsided smile. The whole effect was so sweet it’d give a man diabetes, but he wouldn’t complain too much about it. He glanced at Jory to see that Jory had noticed him in turn. “Busted?”
“Nosy,” Jory said, giving his shin a gentle nudge under the table.
“Look who’s talking.”
“But that’s all right,” Jory continued, undaunted. “You can buy the next round. Again.”
Darius snorted. “Anyone ever tell you you’re not a cheap date?”
“Every now and again.” Jory checked his watch. “Actually, make it a cup of coffee instead. It’s getting late, and I need to sober up.”
“Why? We’ve walked home three sheets to the wind before.”
“I have my reasons,” Jory said without further explanation, leaving Darius to wonder what he meant by that. It seemed to be something that made him a little nervous. He pushed his glass back and forth in the circle of condensation it’d left on the table, but didn’t drop any handy clues. “Did you see the couple with one in arms and one on the way?”
Darius nodded. Of course he had. Ah. Two plus two came together. “Is that the water fountain kid?”
Jory’s smile blossomed, warm and pleased. “It is. He’s adorable, huh? He wants to name his baby brother Mr. Ed.”
A swallow of beer almost went down the wrong way. Darius coughed. “He wants to what, now? How does he know Mr. Ed? I don’t even remember where I heard of Mr. Ed.”
“No telling.” Jory laughed too. “His parents are just hoping he’ll come around to plain old ‘Corey’ when he’s born.”
He fell quiet again, but Darius could tell he was still watching the couple. Darius had to admit they made entertaining viewing. The baby must have been awake, inside. The Omega patted his belly, trying to soothe him, and the Alpha tracked his movements with one palm, fascination written across his face. Little judo master, Darius thought the Alpha said at one point. He winced in imagined empathy, and — the strangest thing — a flicker of jealousy.
Jealousy? Darius frowned down at the remnants of his Guinness. He’d been a bachelor since he presented as Alpha, and hadn’t really minded. When he needed company or he went into rut he knew where to find what he needed. Aside from that, it didn’t seem so important. He had Jory, and they kept each other busy. Besides, Jory had decided to stay on military-grade suppressants when he went civilian to keep himself level and lower the risk of getting pregnant by accident, so it’d never been an issue. But now, Darius wondered.
No. He knew. He’d seen that look on Omega faces before, and it surprised him to see it on Jory’s, but then again it wasn’t a shock. It looked… natural. Nice. Darius tapped the back of Jory’s hand with one finger. “I see. You’ve been thinking about it.”
Jory, still captivated by the scene, raised his shoulder a fraction of an inch. “On and off.” He shook his head and focused, looking back at Darius. “No, that’s a lie of omission. I have been thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I want that, and I can’t stop wanting it.”
“Enough that I stopped taking my suppressants,” Jory said, simple and clear. He settled his hands around his glass. “Three days ago. You know suppressants. They start working fast, and they stop just as fast. Should be gone by the weekend.”
Darius blinked. Jory really meant business, then. The thought fascinated him in a way that surprised Darius. The mental image of Jory as round and curved and full as that Omega gave him a jolt like electricity applied deep down inside, something that sparked too much heat to ignore.
He stamped that down carefully, tightly, and securely. Darius had never been immune to Jory’s charms. He’d had dreams, fantasies. Wishes. Desires. But he’d refused to let himself take one single step past plain and simple friendship. Nothing that’d start them down the road to a messy breakup. He’d seen it happen before — too many times — when friends hooked up. Hell, he’d encouraged Jory to date other people. He’d been glad that Jory was living with Alpha Whateverhisnamewas when he moved into town so the question of sharing an apartment couldn’t come up.
Darius realized he was staring. To cover his reaction, he cleared his throat and hurried on. “Fertile. No kidding. Who’re you going to get to be the father?”
“That’s the thing,” Jory said, his gaze fixed calmly on Darius. “I was hoping it would be you.”
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Willa Okati is made of many things: imagination, coffee, stray cat hairs, daydreams, more coffee, kitchen experimentation, a passion for winter weather, a little more coffee, and a lifelong love of storytelling. She is definitely one of the quiet ones you have to watch out for.