The countdown to Book 4 continues this week with another snippet from B&B 4: A Sanguine Solution.
B&B 3.5 Remainders, an f/f novella set during The Symbiotic Law is also now available through amazon!
Once upon a time, Ethan Ellison had been a simple man, doing a simple job for the Seattle Police Department, living an uncomplicated life. He had fucked whomever he wanted to fuck. Had drunk. Had danced. Had solved simple crimes involving petty people smart enough to abuse magic but dumb enough not to do it very well.
It was easy to see how that all fell apart; to track the moments he went awry. It began that morning Police Captain Jordan Augustas called him into her office to meet his temporary partner: Patrick Clanahan, werewolf, Major Crimes, kind of a dick but ultimately a decent sort of guy.
That moment stood out, but recently, Ethan had begun to wonder if the fault in his stars stretched further back in his personal history. Had he been cursed from the start being born of a loveless witch and a power-hungry mage? Was it too simple to blame the course of one’s life on their parents?
A part of Ethan missed the simpler days he’d lived before he’d ever been tangled up in all of Patrick Clanahan’s werewolf mate bullshit.
Now, he lay in a bed next to the other man, pressing his body to the very edge of the mattress so that there was maximum space between them, and fighting for sleep. And when he did find that ephemeral dreamland, it seemed determined to be as unpleasant as possible.
Five nights out of seven since returning to Seattle, Ethan woke up drenched in sweat, gasping for air, and swearing in the same breath that he couldn’t remember what the dream had been about.
He suspected that Pat knew he was lying, but dark circles had been growing under the wolf’s own eyes, and he never said anything about the lies.
Ethan woke himself up again with hitching breaths. He’d sweated through the arms and chest of his T-shirt. Next to him, Pat groaned and rolled over so that they were facing one another.
“You okay?” the wolf mumbled, eyes flickering against the pull of sleep.
“Go back to sleep,” Ethan said, pushing himself back.
The wolf reached for him, thick shoulder muscles bunching up under the sliver of silvery moonlight that lit the bedroom.
Ethan pressed the wolf’s hand down against the bed and repeated, “I’m fine. Go back to sleep.”
It wasn’t fair him waking Pat up like this every night when the wolf still had to go into the station in the morning. Was especially cruel on mornings like the previous day when he got a call from Dispatch hours before his alarm was set to go off.
For once, the images in Ethan’s mind were foggy and easier to push aside as he slipped out of the bed and hid himself in the downstairs half bath. It was tiny and cramped, a little dusty because Pat never used it, but if he was very quiet, sometimes Pat would do what he was told and go back to sleep without coming out to investigate further.
He sat on the closed toilet and waited for his heart to calm down. This took a while, but in the meantime the townhouse remained quiet, no sign of Pat following him downstairs.
Ethan sighed and sat back. He could see the upper half of his face in the vanity mirror, just pieces of it illuminated by a streetlight outside, the rest of it fell into dark shadows that appeared almost skeletal.
“You’re not looking so hot, man.”
Ethan’s spine straightened with a snap, his wide eyes sweeping the dark for the voice. He stood up and slipped—
His eyes snapped open, meeting Pat’s wide, scared expression. Ethan had two fists wrapped up in the wolf’s sleep shirt, knuckles digging hard into Pat’s sternum, and he couldn’t tell if he’d been trying to drag the wolf closer or shove him away. His heart beat so fast it ached under his breastbone, and his breath shuddered in and out of his lungs in short little bursts that were a hair away from a full on panic attack.
He gasped, mouth open wide, trying to suck in enough air to fight off the black spots fringing the edges of his vision.
Above him Pat’s eyes were so wide. The wolf had one hand wrapped around Ethan’s wrists and the other arm around his shoulders, trying to tug him closer against his locked elbows.
It was instinct to flatted his hands against Pat’s chest and shove at him. It shouldn’t have been so easy to move Patrick Clanahan, and not just because he was a healthy young werewolf, but because he was a solidly built man, easily twenty pounds of muscle heavier than Ethan. But a little zing of electricity shot through Ethan’s fingers and jolted Pat away from him.
The wolf shouted as he fell over the opposite side of the bed with a crash.
“Fuck,” Ethan said, pressing one hand against his hammering chest. He looked around the bedroom, searching for that voice, but—but that had been the dream. Hadn’t it?
He scrambled across the bed and met Pat as he hauled himself up off the floor, a startled look on his face.
“I’m so sorry!”
The wolf shook his head.
Ethan reached out one shaking hand, not quite making contact.
“Are you okay?”
“Nothing’s broke. Are you okay?”
He shook his head. “It was just a—”
“Don’t say it was just a dream.”
“It was,” he said with a scowl, confident that those wolf eyes would be able to see it clearly even in the low light.
“That’s wasn’t ‘just’ anything.”
Ethan sat up straight and crossed his arms, both in defiance and to hide the shakiness in his muscles.
“What else do you want me to say?”
Pat threw up his hands and made a frustrated noise. “Anything. I wish you would say literally anything. Anything you want to say. I’m here. I’m listening. You can talk to me about anything.” The wolf glanced down. He pressed his hands against the edge of the bed, gripping the mused duvet.
“I know I’m not always the best at—at talking about things.”
“I know,” Pat repeated. “But I want to be here for you. I’m trying to be. But I don’t know—”
“You know half the problem is you just don’t fucking listen to me?” Ethan snapped, embracing the rush of anger simmering inside his chest. It had burned away the edges of his panic.
“What? I just said I was—”
“You’re proving my point right now.”
The wolf’s mouth snapped closed with a click. He stood in one smooth motion and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. The light under the door flicked on, and Ethan listened to the water running.
He slipped out of the bed and stripped out of his ruined clothes. They weren’t exactly the same size, but Pat had been over-eager to get Ethan into his clothes before. Now he stole sweatpants and a well-washed tank top from the wolf’s drawers and pulled them on, savoring the feel of soft cotton against his skin. The sense memory of water on his face clung to the edges of his mind.
Ethan shook his head. Dreams were tricky things. He could still feel the water, but the sound of the voice, the exact timbre, was already fading.
By the time Pat emerged from the bathroom, Ethan had wrapped himself up under the duvet, back turned towards the middle of the bed. The wolf climbed in on the other side and they there in silence and deep breathing.
“You want me to listen, but you don’t want to talk,” the wolf said softly.
Ethan’s face split into a painful smile that he was glad the wolf couldn’t see. He didn’t reply, and after another minute of silence Pat huffed and turned over onto his side, facing away from him.
He couldn’t fall asleep again even though his eyes felt hot and gritty. Eventually, Pat’s breathing evened out enough that Ethan could tell he’d dropped into a light doze. Both of their phone alarms went off too soon, rousing the wolf to get dressed.
It was still dark outside, darker even still thanks to the drizzling rain that had been a constant feature since they flew in from Toronto.
Ethan debated with himself whether to stay in bed and pretend to sleep, but while the shower was running, he forced himself to get up and go downstairs. He made toast and coffee before Pat came stumbling down, unknotted tie wrapped around his neck.
Ethan watched a bead of water make its covetous track down between the wolf’s collarbones. He shouldn’t feel envy for a drop of water. According to Pat that—all of that muscle and bone and frustrating obstinance—was his and only his, but there was nothing in Ethan that could make him reach out and take it. He buried his nose in his coffee cup and grunted a wordless goodbye as Pat left for work.