" Jonah, the Appletons are getting here today. You didn’t make any plans for after dinner did you?” Jonah looked up from where he’d been working on his chemistry homework to see his dad looming in his bedroom doorway.
“You told me not to,” he muttered.
“Why have you been so resistant on this, son? It’s not like you.” Bryce Spellman came over and sat on Jonah’s bed. His dad was big, way bigger than him, broad-shouldered and thick-chested. He was what a pack alpha should be. Jonah was tall too, but he was rangy and thin. Soft. He’d already been having trouble at school with some kids who thought he was too soft to be what he was—the future pack alpha. Sometimes Jonah agreed with them.
“It’s just Warren and his crew, Dad. I told you I can handle them, and I have been, but I just don’t need another pack alpha’s son to add to the mix. It’s more trouble than I have the energy to deal with.”
“Max is a beta. He’s also your age, not Warren’s.” His dad clapped a hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t trying to be rough, but Jonah flinched a little. He felt like he was always wound super tight. “Do you want me to have a chat with Derek?” his dad asked.
The last thing Jonah needed was to drag Warren Lopez’s dad in on it. Derek Lopez was a great guy, and he’d probably try to make things better, but nobody would ever let Jonah forget it if he didn’t fight his own battles.
“Please don’t, Dad. That’s not gonna help, and you know it. So, Max… he’d be mine?” Jonah got an eyebrow raise for that. “You know what I mean. He’d be in my pack?”
The bigger packs always subdivided a bit. Alpha wolves who weren’t pack leaders formed their own little subpacks, especially the teens and younger adults. His crew still had to follow Jonah’s dad, of course, but they listened to Jonah as well. Warren had his own crew, and they didn’t listen to Jonah at all. Half the time, they sneered at Bryce too. At least his troubles with Warren were isolated. Most of the younger alpha wolves didn’t give Jonah any grief. They knew he was next in line for pack alpha, and nobody wanted to anger Bryce Spellman. Warren and his crew still needed to learn that lesson.
“Yeah, Max’ll be one of yours. I think it’ll be good for you two to bond a little over the long weekend. That way, Tuesday morning, the others won’t be so resistant to a new wolf.”
Like Jonah needed something else to make his life harder. The addition of a new guy, one who ran away from his own alpha father wasn’t exactly a social plus. He’d make it work, anyway. That’s what alphas did, right?
“Just give him a chance, son. Max hasn’t had it easy, and he’s a good kid just like you.”
Jonah thought of how long Max had been being regularly beaten. His dad had told him it was since it had become clear a year or so ago that he wasn’t ever going to turn into an alpha wolf. He couldn’t imagine his father being ashamed of him like that for something he was born with. It had to be bad for them to leave their pack and move. Nobody took that step lightly.
“I will, Dad. I’ll give him a chance.”
“Good.” His dad ruffled his hair like he was still ten years old and not a few months away from seventeen. Jonah swatted at his dad’s hand and got a chuckle for his efforts. “See you at dinner. You know, it would be nice if you went over to meet him on your own before your sisters and your mom get their claws into the poor kid. I’m sure he’d appreciate seeing a boy his own age before the tidal wave of females crashes over him.”
“Yeah. Just let me get my chem homework done. I hate doing it last minute.”
His dad nodded and got up to leave. Jonah had just gotten his pencil out and found his place in the book when he felt another presence in his room. Definitely female this time…. Bethany. Of course.
“Hey, squirt. Whatcha want?” Bethany had been hovering around him a lot more since she’d started ninth grade in the fall. His friends had taken to walking her to her classes, making sure none of the freshman boys got too close. He loved them for it, but he didn’t want her getting any ideas about socializing with the juniors.
“The new boy just got here. I saw their car pull up. Are you going over there to say hi?”
Jonah didn’t have to smell her hormonal fifteen-year-old girl scent to know the word boyboyboy pulsed in her brain. It was obvious to anyone with eyeballs. Great. Another thing Jonah didn’t need.
“Not yet. I’m going to go over there alone in a little bit. He’s gonna be one of my betas. I need to get to know him. By myself,” he added with emphasis.
“Can’t I come? Mom said he’s cute.”
Jonah shuddered. “Absolutely not. He’s a junior.”
“I’m not in prep school anymore, Jonah. I’m allowed to talk to boys.”
“And I’m allowed not to like it.” He gave her his big-brother stare down. He could always use his alpha voice, but he refused. She was his sister, not just a typical beta. He’d leave any necessary disciplining to his parents. “Listen, he and his mom are supposedly coming to dinner. You can meet him then. Please don’t flirt, though. It’s embarrassing.”
“I don’t flirt.”
It was pointless to argue with her. “Okay. You don’t flirt. Just… don’t with him either. I’ll give you all the dirt when I get back from checking them out. Let me finish my homework first.”
“You’re such a nerd.”
Jonah growled softly.
“Fine. I’m leaving.”
Jonah finished his chem homework pretty quickly. Then he pulled out Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to get his assigned chapter out of the way. Jonah didn’t get what the big deal was with the book, but he figured he’d get his reading done since he also didn’t want to go over to the garden cottage to play welcoming neighbor… mostly. In a weird way he did. It was as if he were putting it off, but a part of him couldn’t think about anything else but the mystery boy on the other side of the garden. He sighed and snapped the novel shut.
Might as well get it over with.
He stood, shoved a beanie over his unruly weekend bedhead, and jogged down the stairs to the front door. There wasn’t anyone around to tell that he’d gone. His dad was shut up somewhere in his office, the twins were at a friend’s house, and if he got Bethany involved again, well, she’d just beg him to come. He wasn’t in the mood to have the same conversation with her again. So he pulled open the kitchen door, the one that led right out into the gardens, and made his way outside.
It was freezing out, probably going to snow again in a few hours. Jonah had on a sweater, but he still shivered. Should’ve grabbed a coat. He jogged around the hedge separating the roses from the formal herb garden and cut through until he was at the front door of the cottage. His mom had spent weeks over there directing paint crews, cabinet makers, and who even knew what else, trying to get the cottage ready for her friend. He knocked hesitantly.
The door opened. A pretty woman with wavy wheat-colored hair and tired eyes pulled the door open with a questioning look.
“Uh. Hi. I’m Jonah. Spellman,” he muttered. Now that he was actually there, he didn’t know what exactly he was supposed to say, either to his mom’s friend or her son. “I just came over to welcome you guys.”
Celia Appleton smiled a kind, weary smile. “Come on in, sweetheart. Max is upstairs just getting used to his new room.” She stepped aside, and Jonah walked across the threshold of the cottage he hadn’t been in since he was a kid, when he used to use it as a fort, and froze. He wanted to say he’d noticed how different it looked, how amazing of a job his mom had done updating the place, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. He was too distracted by the scent that knocked him over the moment he walked in the door. It filled the whole cottage until Jonah didn’t have room in his senses to notice anything else.
“A-are you making something? It smells amazing in here,” he said. Even to him his voice sounded odd. Detached somehow. Breathless. Dizzy. Jonah felt all those things.
“No.” Celia looked at him quizzically. “I haven’t had a chance to go to the store yet.”
Weird. It just smelled like, what was that even? Like baking cake, or Jonah’s favorite tea, a little bit like herbs, and then, when he smelled again, the pines and the forest and freedom and spring rain, sunshine and warm kisses. Whatever it was, it smelled familiar and still somehow puzzling but literally the best thing he’d ever smelled in his life. He wanted to breathe it in forever, find the source of the scent and bury his face in it. Jonah’s skin prickled and a rush of shivers went down his back.
“Um, I’ll go find Max. Say hi,” he muttered, flustered. He didn’t know what to say about the smell with Celia looking at him like that. He thought he might be going crazy.
Jonah toed off his shoes and ambled, embarrassed, toward the old wrought iron spiral staircase. It had been one of his favorite things when he was a kid. He ran his fingers over it fondly. The scent grew stronger by the stairs, stronger even when he took them two at a time to reach the second floor. He heard quiet music coming from the bedroom that was on the garden side of the house, the same folk band that Jonah had begged his mom to let him go see the summer before in Boston. She’d rolled her eyes and said, “Sure, when you’re eighteen.”
In the hall, the scent was nearly overwhelming. It had to be coming from that room. Jonah’s head swirled with it, and his heart picked up a little. He didn’t think it could be Max. He’d been around enough male wolves, alpha and beta alike to know what they smelled like. Right? He felt awkward. This guy was going to think he was a freak, all breathless and um… yeah. Every physical reaction had a scent. Including the embarrassing kind like the one sweeping through Jonah’s body and making his fingers tingle with the desire to touch. Max would be able to tell. But he’d also already be able to tell another wolf was in the house. Jonah couldn’t turn around and sprint down the stairs with Max already aware of his presence and his mom’s friend standing right there. He didn’t want to anyway. He wanted more of that smell.
Jonah walked forward and knocked lightly on the door frame. His heart raced, pound… pound… pound.
The boy on the floor who’d been sorting through a pile of ratty, old plaid button-ups looked up. His fall of cornsilk, pale blond hair covered half his face, which was small, pointy, and elfin, but stubborn and strong, like he was afraid Jonah wasn’t going to like him, and he was prepared to fight it out. He stood slowly. Max was shorter than Jonah, compact and wiry with lean-built muscle. Beta or not, Max Appleton was a little intimidating.
Until he smiled. And then every cell in Jonah’s body wanted to be closer.
“Um, hi. I’m Jonah.” He stuck out his hand and hoped it wasn’t sweating too much. Another warm hand slid into his, and Jonah’s body went all shivery just like downstairs when he smelled Max for the first time. He clenched his teeth together. It was him for sure. Max was the source of that scent. He wanted to bury his face in Max’s neck and inhale for hours.
“I’m Max, but I guess you know that.” He laughed nervously.
Jonah liked his laugh. It felt like he’d heard it a thousand times. He wanted to hear it a thousand more. He looked closer at Max’s eyes. They were wide, and his pupils were blown out, all deep and black, but the ring of color around the middle was a clear pale glassy blue. The exact same color as Jonah’s own eyes. Weird.
“Yeah. I did. Hi.”
Get. A. Grip.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m Mj O’Shea, author of erotic romance–well all sorts of romance actually, that’s just what’s been published so far!
I grew up, and still live, in sunny Washington state and while I love to visit other places, I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home.
I spent my childhood writing stories. Sometime in my early teens, the stories turned to romance. Most of those were about me, my friends, and our favorite tv stars. Hopefully, I’ve come a long way since then…
Right now, I have four books published through Republica Press (click on the link to visit their site), but I’m constantly working on new projects.
When I’m not writing, I love to play the piano and cook and paint pictures…and of course read. It’s nearly impossible to work on my own writing when I’ve gotten myself hooked into a great new book:) I like sparkly girly girl things, own at least twenty different colored headbands, and I have a little white dog with a ginger eye spot who sits with me when I write. Sometimes she comes up with ideas for me too…when she’s not napping.