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Tuesday Teaser 12/29/15: Olivia’s Mate

Wow, this is the last Tuesday of 2015! We’re getting close to the end of Olivia’s Mate. The manuscript is at 32,751 words now, and I estimate another 5,000 words to wrap it up. I had intended for it to be about 30,000 words. I guess no one will mind if it’s a little longer?  I am beginning with a bit of revisions of last weeks, and then we go to the tail end of chapter 11. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Olivia stared intently into his eyes, before looking down at her fingers twisting together. “There’s only one more thing.” She swallowed and drew a long breath. “What would happen if you decide someday that you don’t love me anymore?”

His jaw dropped. He looked at Stone and then at Colby. The younger man looked smug. Kit snapped his gaze back to Olivia. “I won’t,” he said simply. It was a vow he meant with all his heart.

Olivia shrugged, still looking down at her hands. “It could happen. People fall out of love all the time. And cats aren’t like wolves, are they? Wolves only find one mate, but cats are fickle.”

The smugness deepened on Colby’s face, and Kit was sure he knew where Olivia had gotten the idea that cats couldn’t be faithful. “The men in my pride don’t find mates very often, but when we do, we are true to her to death.”

He looked at Stone, who nodded. “Truth,” the other man said clearly.

Olivia looked almost miserable, but she persisted. “I saw what your pride is like when I was with you in those caves. All the men sleep with the women, don’t they?”

“They don’t have mates.” He wanted her to understand. “It’s not like that between mates. I have a mate. You are the only one I’ll sleep with.”

“Until you get tired of her,” Colby put in with a sneer. “Okay, fine, maybe you won’t sleep around,” he admitted with a glance at his uncle. “But that doesn’t mean you will be happy.”

“Shut up, Cole,” Olivia snapped.

The one Kit was getting tired of was Colby. “I’ve seen among humans how unhappy some of them are with their mates. Most of the time, it’s their own fault. They don’t even try to talk together to make it better. Well, they talk,” he corrected himself, “but they don’t listen.”

Olivia tilted her head, showing she was listening.

“I don’t think husbands understand what their women are feeling. Humans aren’t good at sensing those things, I guess, but seems like they don’t care. Sometimes it seems like the women aren’t saying the right things to make their men understand.” He wanted to reach across the table to take her hand, but he didn’t dare. “We won’t be like that. When you talk, I’ll listen. If I don’t understand what you mean, I’ll ask you to explain more. And you’ll listen to what I say, and if I’m not clear you can tell me I need to try again. Then we won’t fall out of love.”

Every eye in the room was directed at him. With approval? Stone cleared his throat. “It’s not always that easy, but that sounds like a good plan to keep each other happy.” He nodded at the room in general. “He has my blessing.”

“Shush!” said Olivia over Colby’s dissatisfied grunt. She smiled at Kit. “The only thing left is for my parents to meet you and give their approval.”

Remembering the cold, narrow face of her father, he swallowed. “What if they don’t like me?”

A shadow crossed her face. “I can’t marry someone they don’t approve of. But they’ll like you!” She faltered. “Once they get to know you,” she tagged on.

Behind him, he heard a woman murmur, “When we were young we would have laughed at the idea of needing our parents’ permission to marry.”

And another woman replied, “The world has changed a bit since then, Connie.”

“Where are your parents?” he asked.

“At the ranch. They’re coming for Christmas. So just a couple of days.”

Praying was unfamiliar to Kit, something that humans did. But he stared at his mate and prayed for all he was worth that her parents would give permission.

 

*     *     *

 

Tami gave the chili a good stir. She was making a triple batch to feed the ranch hands while she, her husband, and her sons were away for Christmas. Between the chili, the huge ham, and the venison sausage, the four men staying behind wouldn’t go hungry. The back door opened and shut so quietly that the only reason she knew it had opened was the swirl of icy wind that swept through the mudroom into the kitchen.

Tracker paused in the door of the kitchen. “Where did the boys go?”

“Town,” she answered, tapping the spoon on the side of the pot. “To get the train tickets to Kearney and pick up any mail. There should be a letter from Olivia by now. It’s been a few weeks since we heard from her. They should be back anytime.”

“They’re heading in. Saw ’em on the ridge,” her husband said, shaking his head to dislodge the snow clinging to his braids.

“Brr!” she said, when some of the melting snow fell on her. “That’s cold, Tracker.”

“Sorry.” He slipped an arm around her waist. “I can warm you up. Which position haven’t we tried in while?”

She melted against him like the snow on his hair. “Hmm, how about…” She reviewed the various lovemaking positions in their repertoire and suggested one.

Never a man to chatter, Tracker kissed her deeply and began maneuvering her away from the stove toward their room.

“But you said the boys are on their way in,” she protested half-heartedly.

“They know better than to bother us when our door is closed.”

His teeth grazed that one spot behind her ear that drove her crazy. “Right,” she breathed. “Oh, Tracker…”

It took them several minutes to get to their room, and just as she was about to kick the door shut, Tracker stiffened against her, head turned as if listening to something she couldn’t hear. “What is it?” she asked.

“Something’s wrong.”

He gently disengaged from her and strode out to the kitchen. She fumbled to button her shirt and hurried after him.

“Mom! Dad!” Parker yelled, as he slammed open the back door and ran in, holding an open letter in his fist. “Mom! Dad! A letter came from uncle Hawk!”

Hawk? It had to be about Olivia. Her daughter had written every week, but they hadn’t received a letter for a couple of weeks. Was she hurt? Tami looked automatically at her rifle in its niche beside the door. If anyone had harmed her…

Tracker already had the letter and was reading it with his usual lack of emotion. But she, who had been married to him for over twenty-five years, could see the tiny signs of rage on his face. When he lifted his face, his mouth was set in a long, flat line.

“You got the train tickets?” he asked tersely.

Parker patted his coat where the inner breast pocket was. “Yep.”

Tami snatched the letter from Tracker’s hand. It was a single page of Hawk’s carefully formed hand writing. She read with growing horror and confusion. “What is he saying? Who found Olivia?”

Tracker’s hands were in fists at his sides. “That damn cat. He found her and he’s courting her.”

“What? You mean the one who kidnapped her?” Tami stared at her husband and son. “And Des is allowing it?”

“Hawk says Olivia agreed to it.” Parker scowled. “The question is, what are we going to do about it?”

Tracker was back to being coolly relaxed. He didn’t smile, he didn’t frown. He simply said, in a very quiet voice, “We’re gonna kill him.”

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