Excerpt: The Case of the Wandering Wolves

“Stay the fuck away from me! From me and my daughter!”

Latrans’s face stung from the slap York had just delivered, but other parts of him hurt so much more. He had never considered what it really felt like to have a broken heart. The stories he’d read said that his chest would hurt and his eyes might tear, but the agony of crushed hopes and dreams had him wanting to writhe on the ground until it stopped. He couldn’t take a full breath, which luckily helped him keep his eyes dry as he struggled for air.

York wiped the back of one hand across his mouth as if he couldn’t wait to find a better way to remove the taste of Latrans on his lips. Their kiss had lasted mere moments, a fraction of a second, considering how long Latrans had actually wanted to hold York in his arms. It had started with the press of lips against lips, York’s dry and chapped, yet sending warm shivers down Latrans’s spine. Then Latrans had broken down and given in to the howling need inside of him. The mating bond had demanded more occur between them, and Latrans had acquiesced by brushing his tongue along the crease between York’s lips.

He’d promptly been smacked in the face as York jumped away. York stood on the far side of the room, breathing hard and looking utterly and totally panicked. His eyes were wide, darting as if he were trying to figure out the fastest way to get as far away from Latrans as possible.

It hurt to know his mate preferred to run, but at the same time, Latrans thought he understood.

The idea of having a mate was one the supernatural community understood instinctively. There was something about the way York smelled, which at the moment was a mix of diaper wipes and baby formula; the sour stench of stress, fear, and exhaustion; and a strange mix of earth, rain, and human that was exclusively York’s. It was also about the awkward tilt to York’s smile when he looked at baby Samantha or the tears in his eyes at the funeral of his girlfriend, the mother of his child, only days prior. It was something intrinsic to any creature in the supernatural world, and when Latrans had first met him, he’d known immediately that York was his, and he was York’s. Finding a way to explain that to a human who did not have the advantage of the magic to guide him was almost impossible. True love at first sniff wasn’t exactly something York or any other human had the capacity to understand.

It was also true that York had spent his entire life trying to be straight, which was yet another issue Latrans had tried to overcome. York’s extremely religious parents had made certain he would only be interested in women, but Latrans had seen the looks York had inadvertently given some of the good looking men they had passed while investigating. Latrans knew York was bisexual, but he didn’t know if York was able or willing to admit that fact to himself.

Latrans had tried to connect anyway, telling York about his feelings and wants and about the need to be with him that drove Latrans. When York hadn’t believed him, Latrans had then awkwardly parsed it down to: “I want to love you, and I know you’ll love me in return. Just give it time.” When that hadn’t worked either, desperation quickly set in. Latrans knew he had to say anything, do anything, to convince York to stay with him. He didn’t think he could live without his mate at his side. The magic would constantly tug at him, demanding he claim his mate.

It was supposed to be a beautiful thing between two people. The bond didn’t just indicate true love, it told of compatibility in the rest of their lives as well. Perhaps it was because Latrans couldn’t find the right words to clearly describe that beauty in a way York could understand, but York had backed away as quickly as possible.

Latrans had finally demanded: “I’ll figure out why there were drugs in your girlfriend’s car when she wrapped it around a telephone pole, and you give me one night together. Just you and me.” York had agreed, but only because he had no other option. Latrans had thought that a night together would show York what his words couldn’t convey, but after their one, clearly disastrous kiss, he knew he had gotten it wrong yet again. The idea of another man wanting to sleep with him shouldn’t have been so foreign, yet, looking at York, Latrans had to curse himself for being an idiot.

A boy stood across the room, shivering and trying to hide the fact that he was masking his fear with anger. York was only nineteen years old, a college sophomore, and a few months ago, his biggest worry had been finals. Now he’d been kicked out of college for inability to pay tuition and disowned by his ultra-religious parents for refusing to marry his pregnant girlfriend. He had no money, no prospects, and—worst of all—a newborn to care for on his own.

Latrans had sauntered onto the scene, smelled his mate, and his only thought about York had been how to explain the mating bond. It had been all about Latrans’s needs with zero consideration for York’s wants, adding yet another layer of difficulties onto York’s already strained shoulders.

It was no wonder York was running away. Latrans knew he had to let York go. It wasn’t fair to add the supernatural concept of magic informing Latrans that they were utterly perfect for each other on top of everything else York had to deal with.

The mating bond had spoken, though. Even though York wasn’t ready just yet, he would like Latrans eventually. The magic wouldn’t have told Latrans that they were meant for each other if York didn’t have the capacity to reciprocate. That was the beauty of the bond: It was never wrong.

York was human, Latrans had to remind himself yet again; he needed the time and space to get to know Latrans as a person and a potential partner. He had to learn to love Latrans without the mating bond spurring him on, and with the baby crying in the next room a stark reminder, Latrans knew York simply couldn’t afford to be with him in any capacity at the moment.

“I’ll go let the police know my findings,” Latrans finally said. He backed away from York slowly, heading towards the door. “Just, if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask me.”

Latrans left the small apartment he knew York could no longer afford on a single salary. Every step away from York felt like something sharp was breaking through his ribs so it could get a fist around his heart. As Latrans caught the bus, he fought back the tears that had been threatening to fall since that first slap.

The mating bond was never wrong. Latrans had to remember that fact.

It was possible that York would continue saying no, and Latrans would have to find some way to live with that, but he desperately needed that faint hope. Without it, he would probably be unable to suppress the need to be with his mate and might end up stalking York, which would only disturb York’s human sensibilities even more.

Latrans’s emotions were still tangled and the pain of separation tugging at him was only making things worse, but by the time he got off the bus at the stop nearest the police station, it was a manageable pain, and he hoped he could live with it until he saw York again.

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