Note: Mistletoe and Whine is the sequel to Hounding the Beat, although it can be read without the previous book. It should be released sometime in November.
It’s Christmas but, alas, Sam has more to whine about than plastic mistletoe.
Bobby, Chantelle, and Sam’s lives have changed. Bobby is now a rural cop while Chantelle and Sam run the Hare and Hounds Pub and Restaurant. Their new situation would be idyllic if the only blight was Health and Safety insisting they cannot decorate with real mistletoe for the holidays. Truth is, Sam’s not doing so well — he’s suffering too much pain in the leg that was injured in a past accident. Although Sam knows he has the love of two beautiful shifters, he can’t help his frustration. He longs to run with them, not to feel so weak. If his pain weren’t bad enough there’s danger in the surrounding woods, something Chantelle senses, fails to understand, and dismisses when Bobby distracts her with sex.
When Sam is kidnapped, he has real cause to whine. Will he live long enough to get the kiss under the mistletoe that he longs for, even if the plant has to be made of plastic?
Read an excerpt:
The stock book wasn’t the most interesting thing to look at, but Bobby kept his gaze lowered, ignoring Sam. He didn’t need to see Sam’s furious stare or even smell the anger emanating from him; had known what his reaction would be the moment he left the crutch by the side of the bed. He also knew Sam would ignore it and make his way downstairs unaided.
The seconds ticked by until, apparently, Sam could bare the silence no longer. “Was that supposed to be some kind of joke?”
“No, and you know it.” Bobby frowned at the invoice in his hand. “Plastic mistletoe? Seriously? We can’t have the real thing?”
Health and Safety apparently didn’t approve of real mistletoe where drinks and food were served because of the poisonous factor. Health and Safety probably didn’t approve of kissing either, in which case they definitely wouldn’t endorse the image Bobby now had of Sam, naked, laying atop the bar, or what he had it in mind to do to him in that position. The vision gave him an instant hard-on so that he catalogued the idea away to try some other time.
“It probably wouldn’t last anyway, and be more expensive. We don’t need the real thing, just as I don’t need a crutch.”
“Sometimes you do.” The words came out too harsh. Bobby almost wanted to take them back. Almost. Maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe being just a little harsh would do Sam good. He heard Sam’s intake of breath but ignored it. “I thought we’d got over this.”
“You mean I’m to accept you being in charge? And you showed it with that little display last night? Just what exactly was that? What is this ‘when I say’ business, anyway?”
“Used to be you liked it.”
“Use to be you didn’t use it so much.”
Bobby blinked pen poised an inch from the page. He slowly set the implement down. “I… I hadn’t thought about it to be honest, but you may have a point.” He looked along the length of the bar. The bar and restaurant didn’t open until just before twelve for the lunchtime crowd. Staff would arrive between ten and eleven. The hour was early; for now, they were alone. A fact that also seemed to occur to Sam.
“Gone running.” Bobby smiled at the frown that flickered across Sam’s face. “Animal form. We rather… neglected her last night. She needed to work off excess energy.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t go with her. That you’re not…”
“Not what? And come over here. Sit down. Have some coffee. It’s a fresh pot. The breakfast rolls are warm.”
Coffee and Chantelle’s homemade breakfast rolls were the things guaranteed to entice Sam to take the weight off his leg. Sure enough, Sam’s nose lifted a few degrees as if he could smell the warm bread even before Bobby lifted the cover off the basket. Baked goodness and the scent of cinnamon — a hint of Christmas right there — wafted out as Sam moved near, choosing a seat next to Bobby on the public side of the bar. He reached for a roll whilst Bobby poured coffee and pushed the cup across. He let Sam nibble and take a swig before he spoke. “Just what do you think I should be doing?”
Sam took another mouthful of drink, probably allowing himself time to think. “Do you ever… I mean, in your animal form?” A faint flush swept his skin.
“Have sex?” The question both surprised and amused. He waited for Sam’s nod, although he knew he’d guessed right. “We have. Does that bother you?” While this seemed like a change of subject, Bobby let Sam take the conversation where he willed, even though he appeared to be struggling. “You can say anything, ask me anything. You know that, right?”
“Are you sure about that?” Sam sounded less convinced. “I’ve heard one should let sleeping dogs lie.”
Bobby stared at Sam until he flushed and looked down, although he was smiling. “Yes. I’m sure.”
This time, Sam blinked. “I was just… wondering…” He took a breath, his chest rising, the air whispering deep into his lungs. He cast a sideways look at Bobby. “I’m afraid to mention it, and scared not to. I’ve just… wondered sometimes, if you’re sorry that I’m not… that I can’t change too. I wonder if sometimes… Well, if you’ve ever wanted to…” He was definitely blushing. “You know, with me… when you’re…” Sam made a helpless gesture with his hands.
“Oh!” Realisation dawned along with surprise. “Why? Do you want to?”
“No!” Sam’s blush deepened, and he had to be aware of it, feeling it. No one could blush like that and not feel a wave of heat. “That is…” He shook his head. “I don’t think I could, no. I just… It feels as if maybe I’m not accepting part of what you are, if you wanted to… and I refused.”
Smiling, Bobby reached out, hooked a hand around Sam’s neck and brought his face closer so he could kiss him on the cheek. “You’re an idiot.”
Bobby laughed. “A sweet idiot. If you paid attention, you’ll notice I said Chantelle and I have had sex in our animal form. I didn’t say we do it all the time or often. Frankly, our minds are more human than animal, and we prefer sex in our human shape, although a female dog’s clit is inside her. Did you know that?”
“Well, that makes it rather more fun for Chantelle than for me, but even so, she likes to mate as a human more, the same way I do. And before you ask, or in case it’s ever crossed your mind, we’ve never done it with one of us in one form and one in the other. It holds no appeal. In animal form, we can find each other attractive. In human form, we still love and appreciate our animal halves, but we don’t find them sexually arousing. I’m not saying it’s the same for all shifters, but that’s how it is for us. Do you understand?”
“I think so. It makes sense, in a way.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“I feel a bit of a plonker for bringing it up now.”
“No need. I’m touched you thought to consider it.” He couldn’t resist teasing. “What would you have done if I’d said I’d been dying to take you doggy style — for real?” It took a great deal of effort for Bobby to keep his lips straight, not to burst out laughing. Sam took one look and then thumped him.
“Take the piss out of the human, why don’t you?”
“I’m not. Not really. And to answer you fully, yes I do wish you could shift with us sometimes, but only because I wish you could run with us. I would give you that freedom.”
The set expression returned to Sam’s face. He slipped off the seat but only made it a couple of steps along the bar before Bobby caught up to him and trapped him there. Looking pissed off but resigned, Sam only tried a couple of pushes to make Bobby move out of the way and then gave up. “I’m really sick of you being stronger than me.”
“Do you mean in general, or are you still moping about your leg? Sam, it wouldn’t hurt you to use a crutch once in a while. It wouldn’t hurt you to ask for help.” Sam turned his face every which way, but Bobby wasn’t going to let him avoid the issue that easily. He took hold of Sam’s chin and turned the other man’s face to look at him. “I know how you must feel.”
“Don’t be fucking patronising.”
Mentally counting to ten, Bobby tried again. “Fine. I don’t know. I can only imagine. For someone like me who can run with four legs, you’ll have to take my word that even if I’m only imagining a fraction of how bad it would be then I get that it’s pretty bad.” He let go of Sam’s jaw and waited. It took only a minute for Sam to reply, but not with anything Bobby expected.
“I can take the pain,” Sam blurted out. “I want to be fit and healthy. You don’t know…” He shook his head. “You just don’t know. I want to be fit and well to run by your side in human form even if I can’t shift. I want to… Oh, I don’t know. Be your equal in bed. Only that’s not it either.”
“Sam, you are. If I’m pushing the dominant thing a bit, it’s just play. I didn’t mean anything by it. Okay, maybe I did,” he admitted when Sam looked at him, “but that’s the dog in me. It has nothing to do with how I feel about you. I don’t see you as…” He stopped speaking.
“I didn’t say that.”
“You thought it.”
Bobby took a breath. “The man in me doesn’t see you as weak.”
“And the husky?”
“I’m not just my animal, Sam.”
“And I’m not just a man with a limp.”
© Sharon Maria Bidwell, all rights reserved.
Available from CHANGELING PRESS.