The countdown to Book 4 continues this week with another snippet from B&B 4: A Sanguine Solution. Go Here to read the first part.
B&B 3.5 Remainders, an f/f novella set during The Symbiotic Law is also now available through amazon!
He was relieved when the email came through, informing him that his request for time off had been granted effective immediately.
Ethan closed Pat’s laptop and got up from his desk—it was spare, like the rest of the werewolf’s townhouse, neat and tidy in a way that suggested the room wasn’t used very often, rather than that it was frequently picked up.
The townhouse was quiet. Pat’s cousins, who lived next door, were gone for the rest of the month on a snowboarding trip over winter break. Ethan relished the peace, soaked it up until it weighed down his bones. He slid onto the couch and stretched out on his stomach, cheek pressed into the rough cushion. He breathed slowly, pushing all the air out of his lungs and holding his breath until they ached before he broke and inhaled again. A weight that he could sink under.
From his position, Ethan could see the edge of his book—it wasn’t even his book, it belonged to a dead man, inherited through something like attrition—poking out from between the cushions of one of the matching campaign chairs. He’d read it cover to cover by now, there wasn’t much else to do since he had yet to find a secret stash of paperbacks, DVDs or even porn. Pat Clanahan, it turned out, wasn’t much of a reader.
If Ethan had learned anything in the past couple of weeks, it was that the wolf spent what little spare time he wasn’t at the station, working out in his dining room-turned-gym.
He frowned and rubbed his cheek against the cushion. Fuck he was bored. He’d passed through the stages of mindless sleep and marathon insomnia and come out the other side to—to this. To a state where he wasn’t particularly tired but wasn’t exactly motivated to do any work either. Not that he had any work to do, not now.
It was the right decision, handing in his request for time off. He knew deep down that it had been the smart move. Even though he’d just taken three months off to spend them running around the world, it had hardly counted as a vacation, and now…
Now, Ethan couldn’t see anything except his si—her—her shocked face as it disappeared under the roiling sea, whipped down and away out of sight, playing out in a loop whether he was awake or asleep.
He was distracted and there was nothing worse than a distracted cop. A distracted cop missed things, missed clues, missed suspects, missed the shaky knife until it was already stuck between their ribs by the hapless junkie. And that was if they were lucky and their distraction only got themselves killed. He couldn’t bear to think about being the cause of someone hurting Pat again. The guy had been through enough on Ethan’s behalf, not least of all because Ethan was an emotionally crippled jackass.
So, instead he lay on Pat’s sofa, soaking up the feel of gravity weighing him down until he felt like a lead weight pressing a groove in the werewolf’s sofa. This was how he’d leave his mark.
Without him being conscious of it, the sun moved across the room, marking the inevitable march of time until it slapped him in the face.
Ethan flinched back, squinting, aware all of a sudden that the day had slipped away from him and it was early afternoon. The deadbolt turned on the front door and before he could think of moving, making himself look less pathetic, more presentable, Pat swung the door open, halting on the threshold with his keys in one hand and his eyes frozen on Ethan.
“Hey,” the wolf greeted him.
“Hey,” Ethan murmured, sitting up in a series of twitches and jerks. He scrubbed a hand at the lethargy clinging to his eyes. “How’s—you’re early.”
Pat’s mouth turned down at the corners, his face drawn with a tired look. “I got called in early.”
“Did something happen?”
Ethan watched indecision move across his partner’s face. He could see the moment Pat decided not to answer honestly, and Ethan chose to look away first, as though he could lessen that twinge of disappointment he felt if he manufactured the pocket of space between them. Pat didn’t trust him enough to talk about whatever it was with him. Not the whole truth at least.
But why should he? Ethan looked down at his threadbare T-shirt and sweatpants. He’d tendered his own leave of absence that morning. Of course Pat couldn’t trust him with the details from an open case.
“No, never mind.” Ethan held up his hand to forestall any shifty replies. “Forget I asked.”
Pat sighed and kicked his shoes off, dropped his wrinkled jacket over the back of a chair and took a seat on the living room table so that they were on a better eye level. “Why didn’t you tell me what you were planning to do?”
“I wish you— Fuck it. The Captain said she approved your request. Just so you know.”
“Yeah, I got the email.”
Ethan glanced up at his partner through his bangs—he needed a haircut again. He was lazy enough to just let it grow out but Ethan couldn’t stand the way he looked with long hair. It did something strange to the angles of his face, made them look gangly and overlarge until he didn’t look like himself anymore. On a good day, he could hardly stand to look in the mirror at all—he was afraid what would happen if he looked and saw someone else. Someone…
“Ethan?” Pat said quietly, leaning towards him. He hesitated a second before resting his palm on Ethan’s knee, warm and solid, grounding in a way that settled the unhappy flutter working it’s way up his throat, threatening to choke him.
Ethan swallowed and said, “I know I didn’t ask if—I mean, is it okay if I, you know, stay here?” And then he tensed, searching Pat’s face for any sign of discomfort at the idea but there wasn’t any. If anything, the wolf’s shoulders eased an inch at his question, which Ethan watched from the corner of his eye, curious.
“You must know…” Pat sat up, looking around anywhere but at his eyes. “Of course you can stay here.”
Ethan nodded slowly.
“What about your place?”
“What about it?”
“You’re still paying rent on it, aren’t you?”
“The lease isn’t up for a couple of months.” His lips twitched but not into a smile. “Besides, where else would I store all my shit?”
Pat shifted his weight on the table and for a second it looked like he was going to reach out. Ethan braced himself for a touch against his bare skin, only breathing again in relief when it didn’t come.
“You could store it here,” the wolf said.
“Don’t ask me to move in.”
It wasn’t fair the way Pat’s face crumpled up around the edges. It was too much, not just this twisted thing between them that he hadn’t had any say in—this wolf thing—but also the expectations that Pat kept putting onto it. Sometimes when he lay still for too long and thought about the look in the wolf’s eyes, Ethan felt as though the pressure would grind him into a fine powder.
Just another complication that he wasn’t equipped to deal with just then. And it made him a little angry the way Pat kept flirting with the edge of that anvil, pressing down no matter how hard Ethan tried to ease out from under it.
“Don’t,” he said.