Authors: Susan Laine
Hearing the door close with a creak, Kris turned to Rafe, who stood by the door with anguish written all over his gorgeous face. It was a strange awakening for Kris to recognize that Rafe’s most distinguishing feature was his natural beauty. No scars or broken bones marred his perfect looks. At the moment, though, all that was revealed as nothing more than a skin-deep illusion as his haunted hazel eyes were surrounded by dark circles, his mouth was set in a thin, trembling white line, and his slumped stance made his emotions obvious. This man was the poster boy of misery, and Kris could barely swallow past the lump in his throat.
“Rafe, I—I’m sorry….” Kris closed the distance between them and looked up into the hazel eyes that had dimmed painfully. “I know you would never intentionally hurt me, or—”
“I smelled your fear….”
The desperate agony in Rafe’s voice ached in Kris’s heart. “It was just an instinctive reaction, not indicative of who I really am with you. Yeah, sure, there are plenty things I’m afraid of—but you are not one of them.” Pausing, Kris gave a small tentative smile. “Iz can drive anyone crazy, believe me. What he said…. I told you he can be overprotective—to the edge of insanity, it would appear. Whatever dangers are out there, Rafe, I do believe you would keep me safe.”
After lifting his hand to caress Kris’s cheek, Rafe abruptly yanked it back, shaking his head, frustrated and saddened. “I don’t understand why this is so hard. It shouldn’t be this hard, should it? I mean, all I want to do is to love you. Why must I have the answers to the mysteries of the universe to be allowed to do that? Why must I be forced to predict the future to have a chance to be with you? All I want is to love you, my mate, and give you—”
Plunging straight into the heart of the unknown, Kris stood up on his toes, wound his arms around Rafe’s neck, and kissed him hard on the lips. For the length of a rapid heartbeat, Rafe stiffened in surprise at the sudden move, but then he opened the seam of his lips, thrust his tongue in deep, and moaned into Kris’s mouth. As Kris tightened his hold on Rafe to steady himself against the taller, bigger man, Rafe wrapped his arms around Kris’s waist and pulled him flush against his muscular body. Kris was much shorter than Rafe, who effortlessly lifted Kris off the ground into his arms and, with his hands on Kris’s ass cheeks, encouraged him to surround him with his legs, which Kris did without reluctance.
There was nothing about Rafe’s heartfelt embrace Kris regretted indulging in. In fact, amid the volcanic heat that poured through his veins like liquid fire, he had a sudden epiphany, as if lightning struck through the heady haze surrounding his sex-filled brain. He was fully aware of what he was going to do. Murmuring into Rafe’s mouth that tasted like coffee and maple syrup, Kris huffed, “Oh, I’ve waited for this, wondered and dreamed of this….” And it was all true.
“Me too, honey,” Rafe mumbled back between greedy kisses, nibbling on Kris’s lower lip and swiping his tongue across the plump fullness of it, clearly relishing every feel, taste, and love bite. “So long….”
was the word that described the intensity of Rafe’s kiss, and
was the term that depicted the openness of Kris’s response. Together as one in their shared desire, their tastes blended, their tongues twisted, their teeth nibbled, and their mouths ravished each other to the point of consuming each other. It was a starving kiss, as though both men were born to gorge and were alive to lap every last inch and drop.
Kris raked his hands through Rafe’s auburn hair, delving into the coarse thicket to hold on tight, as Rafe turned and pressed Kris against the closed door so hard Kris let out a harsh gasp, and they slammed their bodies against one another so tight and firm there was no shying away from the fact both men’s cocks were like erect stone pillars grinding against each other.
“Need you so bad…,” Rafe groaned into Kris’s mouth, and Kris moaned with pleasure so profound that he was glad he was already being held in powerful arms, since his knees could not have withstood this latest attack on all of his already overstimulated nerve endings.
“Oh, Rafe…,” he muttered, doubting the strength of his voice as his breath was stolen by his mate’s passionate kisses, and he didn’t mind one damn bit. As much as he had feared how intense their first intimate moment would be, Kris was overcome with a passion he’d never experienced—but wasn’t about to relinquish it out of fear. The pull was too strong to resist.
While Rafe still held Kris by his ass with his left hand, he moved his right hand up to caress the small of his back that began to heat up and sweat profusely at the mere soft brush through the fabric of his shirt. “You taste so good, honey,” Rafe murmured appreciatively as he inched his lips to Kris’s jawline and down to his throat, suckling at the insanely throbbing vein there until Kris shivered all over, from his prickling scalp to his curling toes.
Burning with smoldering need, Kris gasped out hoarsely, “Need you naked.”
Unable to imagine that Rafe’s kindling fire could possibly burn any hotter, all of a sudden Rafe groaned against his mate’s skin, and what he was doing with his mouth on Kris’s neck bordered on excruciating delight. Yet Kris wouldn’t have stopped his mate’s suction if his life depended on it. And when he felt Rafe’s right hand slide underneath his shirt to stroke the sensitive skin at the small of his back, just above his crease, Kris knew exactly where he longed to remain until the end of his days: in Rafe’s arms.
A hesitant but loud knock came from the door, right next to Kris’s ear, causing him to jump, startled, and then freeze into a statue. But when he heard Rafe’s deep timbre chuckling against his throat, Kris realized they weren’t in trouble.
“Son, your mother is waiting to meet your mate,” said Daniel King from the other side of the door, and even without special hearing, Kris could hear the amusement in his gravelly tone, and Kris blushed deep red. That just made Rafe laugh harder.
their still slightly disheveled appearance, Kris and Rafe arrived promptly at the dining room, where everyone was already waiting for them. Privately Rafe had to admit he took some guilty pleasure in watching his lovely mate squirm a little in the presence of a large number of their pack members, the large oak dining table fit for forty people filled to capacity. Kris’s eyes widened at the table packed to the brim with dishes of all varieties—grilled steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, green vegetables, and blueberry pie with whipped cream. Rafe enjoyed Kris’s excitement. Dinner was an important, special time of the day for everyone at the ranch because in the morning they didn’t have time to socialize, and lunch typically consisted of a picnic-type luncheon amid daily chores.
Silently overlooking the meeting of his ma and his mate for the first time, Rafe let the moment sink into his permanent memory—just in case this was all he was going to share with his youthful mate. Where his pa—Daniel King—was levelheaded with a cool demeanor, his ma—Rebecca King—was vivacious, earthy, and emotionally robust. The personalities of Rafe’s parents complemented each other perfectly, as they had forged the strength of their relationship in the span of near four centuries together as lycans. Rebecca had a tendency to overshadow most people who came into contact with her, and Kris was no exception to the rule. Overall, however, Ma was clearly taken with Kris since they had scholarly interests in common, Rebecca King having a master’s in environmental studies. Pretty soon they were chatting like long-lost friends, and Rafe beamed.
Rafe, in the place of honor to the right of his pa, who sat at the end of the table, sat across from Kris, who kept glancing furtively his way from under his lashes with a shy smile on his full lips. Rafe returned the gesture with a salacious grin of his own, feeling better about all this than ever before. Yes, maybe their relationship wasn’t doomed to begin with after all, he pondered with glee, reminiscing on the sweet taste of his mate’s lips.
Near the high windows and French doors leading to the patio outside the dining room was the smaller kids’ table, also packed with laughing, playing children. Rafe observed Kris looking over his shoulder at them a couple of times before he leaned over the table a bit to whisper politely, “Are they wolves too?”
Chuckling, Rafe shook his head. “No, not yet. Wolf traits emerge during puberty along with all the other physical and hormonal changes. The only wolf feature lycan children have is regeneration. They can’t get sick, and if they’re injured, they’ll heal quickly enough.”
Kris nodded, glancing over to the children with a simple kind of unabashed curiosity that Rafe didn’t want to quench even a bit but would rather encourage to full bloom. Kris’s natural inquisitiveness was a charming quality that Rafe intended to relish, savor, and nurture. Every moment they’d spend together would a learning curve—for both of them in equal measure.
Looking Rafe squarely in the eyes, Kris bit his lower lip and flushed a bit. “I—I wanted to thank you, Rafe, for healing my mom with your blood. It was very kind of you. And if you knew anything about my mother’s inability to stay put for longer than ten seconds, you’d understand how grateful we
are at not having to suffer through her recuperation period.” The meaningful look Kris gave him made Rafe stifle a clamorous burst of laughter, considering Claire Ellis sat only a few chairs away. Instead of answering with words, he gave his mate a wicked wink—which earned him a brisk kick in the shin under the table. It was all good fun, and smiling broadly, Rafe felt as though they were the only two in the room. Neither could certainly take his eyes away from the other long enough to notice other people around them.
“It was my honor,” he replied to the compliment, gently inspecting his mate’s beautiful visage as it again broke into a grateful smile. Rafe realized he was finally getting a glimpse of the man he’d spoken with over the phone, the true self-confident Kris, now that he was getting more comfortable, relaxed, and at ease—free to express himself without anxieties dampening his buoyant enthusiasm.
Taking a bite from his peppered grilled steak, Kris grinned insinuatingly. “I guess you’re not vegetarians, then?”
Rafe winked back. “Nope. Strictly carnivores dwell in this cave.”
Nodding with an amused smile, Kris proceeded to ask Rafe, “So, where were you when the Great Unveiling happened?” This was a commonplace question because everyone in the world knew exactly where they’d been on that fateful day and hour, just like 9/11, and Rafe nodded in acknowledgement of the mutually timed, though not shared in detail, experience.
“Over at the stables,” he answered, bopping his chin back to indicate the direction. “I felt it, the electric tingling crawling all over my skin.”
“The sound, that thundering whoosh that made all my hairs on my body stand up? Yeah, I remember that too.” Kris confirmed his own recollection. “I was only twelve, but I still remember it. Did you see the rippling wave?”
“Of the Veil lifting? No, only felt it since I wasn’t outside. You saw it then?” Rafe had heard from a multitude of sources how they’d observed the rainbow-colored electric wave move across the sphere of the entire world, like a ring ripple when a stone was cast at the center of a still pond. Ground Zero, though calculated down to the millimeter, was even after nine years a point of political and religious contestation—and guarded by an international joint military force. Yeah, as though the Unveiling could happen
. Rafe smirked sardonically.
“Yeah,” Kris admitted keenly, his startlingly blue eyes lit up. “It was pink, and sort of purple too. For a flash, it blanketed the sky, but then it moved away, and the sky was blue again. I thought I’d imagined it—until we all saw the news on TV that night. Is it true that all those belonging to the Unseen world
it? I only saw and heard it, just like Iz, my parents, and all my friends.”
“Yes, it’s true,” Rafe said, staring far into the distance, remembering all too well the shudder that had nearly knocked him out cold—and scared all the horses out of their minds when a heavily armed Minotaur hunting party had appeared in their sights in the blink of an eye.
“Why do you think it happened?” Kris asked quietly, frowning in confusion and frustration, and Rafe couldn’t exactly blame him for feeling so—even though it did hurt a lot, like a stabbing pain deep into his ribs, aimed squarely at his vulnerable heart. “I mean the world could not have been less ready for the revelation.” Rafe realized Kris hadn’t referred to the two of them but to the state of the world at large, and the ache in his heart lifted—just like the Veil separating the Unseen world and the Common Earth, as those of the Unseen world called it.
It had been a struggle for people from both sides to come to terms with the fact that once the Veil had lifted, two separate worlds merged into one. Significant changes took place all over. Like the magical sprite grove that had appeared in the middle of York, England—and two villages standing there had vanished into thin air, leaving only confused people behind in a newborn wilderness. Or the mountain dragon’s lair—with the whole mountain in tow—eradicating four city blocks on Staten Island, New York. Where before the Unveiling there had been human settlements, now rose supernatural sites of magical power and vice versa. Where there had been highways, now dangerous and untamed wilderness had taken hold.
This melding of two worlds kept reshaping the Earth, even after almost a decade. Rafe and his kindred—those who were half human—already had always one foot in both worlds, and to them the transition had not been as overwhelming as it had been for others.
“I don’t rightly know why the Unveiling happened, honey. But time and space, nature and the universe don’t move according to humans’ timetables. This is the reality now, and we all have to adapt to it and not let it interfere with us living our lives. Time waits for no man, as they say.”
Smiling kindly, Kris gave Rafe butterflies in his stomach. To his astonishment, he figured out that that had never actually happened to him before. This was certainly a day for first times—for all those around. “Have you always been a cowboy?”