Tuesday Teaser 12/8/15: Olivia’s Mate
At last we’re back to Kit and Olivia! The revised version of Sleeping With the Wolf is out at most online retailers, and it’s free at all of them except Amazon, where it’s $0.99. Amazon doesn’t allow a book to be free at first. After it’s been price matched it will be free. When that happens I’ll make a blog post about it with buy links.
But now, back to Olivia. It’s been so long since we read Olivia’s Mate that I’m beginning with the previous chapter so you can refresh your memory. If you don’t need refreshing, you can skip right down to Chapter 11. Enjoy!
Olivia checked the small round table one more time to be sure the tablecloth hung evenly. The usual beige tablecloth had been replaced with one of bright, Christmas red. She was surprised that uncle Des was allowing her and Kit to sit alone for their lunch date. Well, not really alone since there were a dozen other people already eating lunch in the restaurant. But at least they would be at the same table, and unlike last night, the table was small, so they could have at least the illusion of privacy. She stepped back and jumped when she bumped into somebody. Something prickly poked her shoulder.
“Hey.” Victoria’s voice was a growl. “Look what you did.”
Olivia brushed at her shoulder and admired the small arrangement of pine boughs and cinnamon sticks tied with cheerful red ribbon. One of the pine twigs was broken. “Sorry.”
Victoria carefully pulled the broken piece free and set the arrangements in the center of the small table. She stepped back, head tilted to the side to check the placement, and made a minute adjustment. “There. Festive, don’t you think?”
“It’s nice,” Olivia agreed. She glanced around the restaurant, noting that all the tables had cloths of red or green, but not centerpieces. “Did you make enough for all the tables to have an arrangement?”
Her cousin shot teasing look over her shoulder. “Nope. Just the one , for our special guest.” She put extra emphasis on the word ‘special’. “We want everything to be perfect for him, don’t we?”
Yes, she did. She glanced around the restaurant, noting Hawk was the only man of the Pack in the dining room, although she was sure some of her younger cousins were around, ready to bus tables and wash dishes. She was sure they would all be keeping an eye on this little table.
Victoria’s gaze shifted toward the entry and a slow smile curved her lips. “He is such a pretty boy.”
Olivia whirled around and saw Kit walking behind Mrs. O’Connor, the hostess. His face was pretty, but his wide shoulders and whipcord physique were all man. Mrs. O’Connor waved toward her and turned back to the hostess desk up front.
Victoria murmured, “Have fun.” Then she disappeared into the kitchen.
Olivia started forward to welcome Kit. She was relieved to see he was casually dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. She had debated what to wear today. This was their first date, and last night he had dressed so nicely. She didn’t want to be under dressed. After wrestling with it, she had settled for wearing her usual jeans and a sweater.
“Good morning!” he said eagerly. The tip of his nose was red. He might be cold from the December air, but his smile was warm.
“Hi.” She waved at the table. “We’re sitting here.”
Kit stepped forward and eased a chair out, looking at her expectantly. It took her a minute, but she realized he was waiting to seat her. The heat of a blush surged into her cheeks. She gathered her composure and stepped in front of the chair. As she sat, he scooted the chair forward. It was as smooth and graceful as if they had done it a dozen times. When she looked up, she saw Aunt Renee in the kitchen door, nodding approval.
Kit sat across from her. The table was so small that with the centerpiece there would barely be room for their plates. It was strangely intimate. He leaned forward slightly to speak in a low voice.
“I dreamt of you last night,” he told her.
In anyone else that might have sounded flirtatious, but Kit was matter-of-fact.
“Yeah. It was a good dream. We were old and gray, with grandchildren—”
He broke off when Marissa came to their table and set a cup in front of each of them and poured hot, fragrant coffee into the cups. Marissa was Red Wing’s mate, a comfortably plump woman with smile lines on her pretty face.
“Good morning,” she said cheerfully. “How would you like your steaks done?”
Olivia stared. “Steak? I thought today’s lunch was Boston Baked Beans with a slice of ham, or a hamburger and fries.”
“For everyone else, that’s right.”
Kit patted his front pocket with a wrinkle between his brows. “Steak costs more, doesn’t it? I’m not sure I can afford steak.”
Marissa waved that away. “It’s on the house. Renee likes you, young man.”
Olivia’s mouth dropped open. “She does?”
“Yep, and she doesn’t like many people enough to offer them a free steak. So how would you like it done?”
“Medium rare for me,” Olivia said and looked at Kit.
He still had that wrinkle between his brows. “But a man is supposed to buy his date’s meal,” he protested.
Marissa gave him a warm smile. “If you try to pay for this, Renee will be unhappy. You don’t want to make Renee unhappy. If Renee is unhappy, her mate is unhappy, and her sons are unhappy. An unhappy Hawk is not a good thing. Believe me.”
Kit smiled, the line smoothing from his face. “Okay. I’d like my steak rare, please.”
Marissa went to the kitchen and returned immediately with a basket of dinner rolls and a small bowl of butter. “There you go. Your steaks will be out before long.”
Kit buttered a roll and handed it to Olivia before buttering one for himself. “So, Renee is mean?”
“Oh, no. She’s just a really good cook, and she expects people to appreciate her cooking.” Olivia took a bite of the roll and almost moaned. Fresh out of the oven, with butter melting over the edges, the roll was just a preview of the excellent lunch to come. “Aunt Renee is a wonderful person, but she isn’t the warm, fuzzy type. But if she likes you, then Uncle Hawk will like you. He’s the pack Beta, so his opinion carries a lot of weight.”
“That’s good then.” Kit leaned over the table. “But the most important thing to me is whether you like me.”
That stupid blush was back, but she gazed at him steadily. “That’s what we’re going to find out, right? That’s why we’re courting.”
He nodded with a slow smile. “Yeah. Do you like living here? You used to live on a ranch out west.”
“I like it well enough. My family lives on the ranch, but we travel a couple of times a year to visit other family. This isn’t a new place for me.”
“But you’ve been here a long time, right? Not just a visit. Is it because of me?”
Olivia forced a bite of bread down, and picked up her coffee to drink. She wouldn’t lie to him. “My mom and dad thought it would be good for me to be away from the ranch for a while.”
“They thought I would try to take you again.”
He stared out the window on the far side of the room, showing her his perfect profile set in melancholy lines. “I wouldn’t have. I watched you and your family walk away from me on that mountain and I realized then that I had done wrong by stealing you. That’s when I decided to go to Justin and have him and his mate teach me how to behave.”
He had seated her like a perfect gentleman. He kept his elbows off the table and ate his dinner roll in small, controlled bites. Which was more than most of the men in the Pack did. “You learned a lot.”
He flashed a smile at her. “Before I went to them I searched for you. Not to take you, but just to see you from a distance. I found your home, but I figured out you weren’t there. I heard your brothers talking about you, though. That’s how I learned you were in Kearney. I’m glad you are still here.”
She had missed the ranch, and being with her family, bitterly, but now she was glad she was here. “Did you like being with Justin? Was it hard to be away from your family?”
“Sometimes it was hard.” He looked down at the roll he crumbled. “I can’t go back to the pride. Tricia and Maria forbade it.”
The roll she’s so enjoyed turned to lead in her stomach. “You’ve been banished?”
He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Justin and his mate said I was always welcome. If you accept me, we will need to discuss where we will live.”
The kitchen door swung open and Marissa appeared carrying a tray. She set down plates loaded with steaks and baked potatoes and long green beans. “Here you go,” she said cheerfully. “Need more bread? Butter?”
Olivia inhaled the scent of perfectly seasoned and grilled beef. “I’m good. This is terrific. Please tell Renee thank you.”
Kit nodded enthusiastically and Marissa laughed. “Save room for dessert. We have apple pie and cinnamon vanilla ice cream.”
After she left, Kit spoke in a low voice. “Ice cream is good, but I know what I’d like for dessert.”
Something in the way he stared at her made her blush. “Kit,” she began, darting a look around the restaurant to be sure no one had heard. Oh, crap, there at a table near the front of the restaurant were Colby and his little brother Little Feather— No, he was Howling Wolf now. Both of them seemed absorbed by their food, but knowing how sharp wolf hearing was, and seeing Colby’s brows pulled low, Olivia guessed they had heard.
Kit held up a hand. “Sorry. I wasn’t supposed to say that. That wasn’t what a civilized man should say.”
Although the tables in the restaurant were filling with diners, no one seemed to be paying any attention to them. Even Colby and Howling Wolf were doing a good job of pretending not to hear. Olivia went back to cutting her steak into small pieces. Maybe it wasn’t civilized, but his obvious hunger for her sparked an answering hunger in her. She only hoped none of the pack could smell her desire. That could get Kit into serious trouble. She concentrated on her meal in an effort to cool down, but she snuck quick peeks at him. He was cutting his steak and eating with perfect table manners. Every move he made with his fork and knife was elegant. It made her aware that she wasn’t eating as neatly as he. She was almost embarrassed.
Kit caught her eye during one of her peeks and gave her a slow, hot smile before eating another bite of steak. That smile didn’t help her cool down. They ate in silence. She was surprised it wasn’t uncomfortable. Kit was like most of the men in the Clan. When he was eating, he paid attention to his food and didn’t bother with small talk. That was fine. She liked looking at him. When they had finished, he balanced his knife and fork on the edge of his empty plate.
“It’s warmer today,” he said. “Would you like to go for a walk?”
Through the window she could see it was clear, with the sun bright in a vividly blue sky. “I’ll need to get my coat and hat.”
“I’ll go talk to your uncle while you get them. He’ll probably want to know where we’ll go.”
“He’ll probably send a chaperone,” she said on a sigh.
He reached across the table as if to touch her hand, but drew back. “That’s okay. I’m doing this right. You go get your coat. I’ll go talk to your uncle.”
When she came back downstairs, Kit sat on one of the benches in the area Aunt Connie had set aside for those who were waiting for a table to open up. Standing opposite him, arms folded over their chests, were Colby and Howling Wolf. She smiled at her cousins to prevent her lips taking on a sour curve.
“You’re going to escort us?” she said a little too brightly.
Colby nodded brusquely, but Howling Wolf smiled sweetly. He was still young, only twenty, and he was much less aggressive than most of his kin. Instead of inky black hair, he had brown hair that he wore in a ponytail that fell to mid back. “Uncle Hawk said to stay back so you and your cat can have some privacy.”
“Thank you,” said Kit gravely.
They stepped out into the bright winter day and Olivia’s foot slipped on a patch of ice. Kit neatly caught her before she fell. He lifted his voice slightly. “I’m going to tuck her hand in my arm,” he said. “So she won’t fall.”
“Okay,” said Howling Wolf cheerfully. Olivia thought Colby growled, but he didn’t speak.
With her hand tucked in the crook of Kit’s elbow, Olivia walked at a sedate pace to the gate in the fence around the Plane Women’s House. Red Wing gave them a steely stare, nodded at Colby, and opened the gate for them. Colby and his brother allowed them to put some distance between them, but Olivia was sure it would be obvious to anyone that her cousins weren’t strolling for their health. They were there as bodyguards. Whatever. They were half a block behind, so she and Kit could talk quietly.
“Thank you for walking with me,” he said, pressing his bare hand over her gloved one. “Are you cold?”
“No. There’s no wind. You were right, it’s a nice day. What do you want to talk about?”
“Us. Our future. I want you to be my mate. What do you need to make that happen?”
Direct. He wasn’t fooling around. She liked that he came right to the point. “Um… Well, there are things I need to know.”
“Like what? Ask me anything.”
She walked in silence for a minute, watching the sidewalk. “Okay. If I do accept you, how would you support me and any children we have?”
He nodded. “That’s a good question. Justin and Teresa taught me a lot of things besides good manners. I’m good with numbers, so I could be an accountant. I’m better with horses. I could be a cowboy. There’s still a lot of land unclaimed. We could start our own ranch.”
She shot a sideways glance at him. He didn’t look like an accountant. Maybe a cowboy. “The land might be free, but a start up will be a lot of work. We’d need cows and at least one breeding bull. And horses. A ranch could take years to become profitable. Do you have money to buy cattle and horses?”
He guided them around a patch of ice on the sidewalk. “No. Maybe I could work somewhere for a while and make enough money to buy what we need.”
Maybe. But how long would it take to get enough money? “I know there’s some land not far from my parents’ ranch. They might give us a few cows and loan us a bull.”
He slowed his steps to look down into her eyes. “Would you like to live close to your parents?”
He was so handsome. And so earnest. And so sweet. “Yes,” she whispered. “I would.”
His eyes glowed turquoise in the cold winter sun. He stopped walking and put his hand, warm in spite of the cold winter air, on her cheek. “If you want to live close to your parents, then we will.”
She was drowning in his eyes. So beautiful. “Thank you.”
His head bent, and his lips touched hers. She knew she shouldn’t, but she opened her mouth under his, inviting him in. His arms went round her, pulling her close.
Through a haze, she heard Colby’s snarl, and a heavy weight leapt onto Kit and tore them apart. She stumbled back while Kit crashed to the icy sidewalk.
“Colby!” she shouted at the gray wolf standing on Kit’s chest, snapping his teeth at Kit’s throat.
Kit was holding him off with a forearm against his throat, and his face took on the subtle lines of his cat. She stared when claws sprouted at his fingertips. She jumped a few inches when Howling Wolf spoke beside her.
“He’s different from us,” her younger cousin said thoughtfully.
She spared him a glance and saw him folding Colby’s discarded clothes into a neat pile in his arms. “I mean for us, the wolf comes out all at one time. But look at his hands. They are paws, like a cat’s, even though the rest of him is human.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, trying to sound casual. Casual was difficult when her cousin and the man who was courting her were doing their best to kill each other. No, she realized, Colby might be trying to kill or at least hurt Kit, but Kit was clearly trying to not damage Colby. She swallowed and forced her voice to steady tones. “The cats aren’t like us. You have a wolf, but you aren’t a wolf. I think the cat and the man are one person.”
“Huh, that’s interesting.” Howling Wolf stepped closer to her, watching Kit flip Colby onto his back to expose his belly. No matter how Colby strained against Kit’s hold he couldn’t break free. “I think your cat is going to win this one.”
He was right. Kit held his clawed hand poised over Colby’s throat. “I don’t want to hurt you,” Kit said, with a thread of his cat rasping in his voice. “You are kin to my mate. Yield.”
The wolf’s slips peeled back in a snarl that was answer enough. He squirmed frantically but couldn’t budge the cat in mostly human shape. Kit stared intently down into Colby’s eyes.
“Yield,” he said, his tone almost a caress.
Howling Wolf grunted. “Cole is too Alpha to give up so easily.”
The wolf made only a half-hearted effort to escape, and gave a little whine.
“Yield,” Kit said, still staring into Colby’s eyes.
Olivia felt her jaw drop when Colby tilted his head back to expose his throat. Beside her, Howling Wolf gave another grunt, this one tinged with disbelief. Howling Wolf was right: Colby was too much an Alpha wolf to submit so tamely. He was stubborn and infuriatingly sure he was always right, and he’d shown an implacable prejudice against Kit. Was this some sort of trick?
But when Kit stood up, Colby twisted to his four feet, shook the snow from his fur and shifted back to human. Without a word, he took his clothes from his brother and dressed. For the first time Olivia noticed they’d drawn an audience. Several spectators, female and male, watched Colby’s strong naked body with appreciation.
Kit came back to her and took her hand to place it in the crook of his arm. “I should take you back to your house,” he said, smiling down at her as if nothing had happened.
“Okay.” She walked with him in silence for several minutes, her two cousins almost a block behind them. “How did you do that? I never expected Colby to submit to you. He’s the sort to gnaw off his own paw rather than submit. It was almost like you hypnotized him.”
Kit was silent for a long moment. “I guess it’s like that. I’ve always been able to do it. It’s … I guess it’s sort of like magic.”
Icy fingers of unease slid down her back. “Magic? I don’t believe in magic.”
He laid his free hand over hers on his arm. “No? But your fathers and brothers turn into wolves. That’s not magic?”
“No! That’s just the way they are.” Actually, she did believe in magic. It came from the Lakota side of her heritage. “What did you do to Colby?”
His hair slid over his shoulders when he shrugged. “Just made him agree with me. That way he wouldn’t be hurt and you wouldn’t be mad at me.”
“You can’t do that! It’s wrong.” She almost jerked her hand free. Instead she swallowed. The house was only a block away. She hurried her steps. “How did you do that?”
“I just looked at him and thought it.” His brow wrinkled as he thought about it. “I just think of what I want someone to do, and sort of push it at them until it goes in and they do it.”
Cold that had nothing to do with the air temperature swept over her. “Did you ever do it to me?”
He looked away, toward the gate in the fence that was only yards away, and swallowed. She watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down. “Just once,” he confessed in a whisper. “When I carried you back to my lair. I told you to sleep.”
Yes! She remembered how odd it was that in spite of her fear she had fallen asleep. She ripped her hand free of his hold, fear and suspicion swirling inside. “Never do that to me again!”
He took a hesitant step toward her but stopped when she retreated. “I won’t. I promise.”
She continued to back up until she was at the gate. Red Wing shifted narrowed eyes from her to Kit, and then to Colby and Howling Wolf who came up to the gate with expressionless faces. She managed a smile at her uncle. “We’re back,” she said cheerfully, and unnecessarily. “Let me in, please. I need to get into the kitchen to help with dishes.”
Kit took a quick step forward. “When can I see you again, Olivia?”
The pleading on his face softened the wild emotions churning inside her. Her immediate refusal died. “Tomorrow night at 8:30. Unless Uncle Hawk says no. Come here tomorrow night.”
The relief on his face almost made her smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The following evening while Olivia was drying the last of the restaurant dishes, the back door opened with a bang, sending a burst of icy air swirling through the warm kitchen. Looking over her shoulder, Olivia saw Colby come in. He wore the same angry expression that he had since yesterday when he figured out Kit had used magic to make him surrender. She scowled until she saw Uncle Stone follow him in and close the door gently. She quickly dried her hands on a towel and rushed over to give Stone a hug.
“Uncle Stone!” she said, pressing her face into his shoulder. The flannel shirt he wore in deference to winter was cold against her cheek. “When did you get here? Where’s Aunt Sara?”
He gave her a loud kiss on the cheek and held her away to look at her. She looked back, not seeing any changes from the last time she’d seen him two years ago. His long black hair hadn’t a single gray thread and his handsome face was still unlined and boyish in spite of his forty years of life.
“Sara is at the den,” he said easily, releasing her shoulders. “With the kids.” He cast a look over her shoulder, probably at Colby, before focusing on her again. “I hear you have a new beau.”
“Yes.” Olivia glanced at the clock. Eight o’clock. Kit would be here in half an hour. She had thirty minutes to decide whether or not to allow him to continue to court her. Relief loosened her shoulders. Kit couldn’t lie to Uncle Stone. “Will you talk to him?”
“That’s why I’m here.” The faintest edge of grimness entered his voice. “Do you have doubts about him?”
“No.” Except he had the power to make people to do what they normally wouldn’t. “Yes.” But he was sweet and had promised to never do that to her. “No.” But her male relatives detested him. “Maybe.”
The door to the restaurant opened. Aunt Connie came in. “I thought I heard voices back here.” She glanced from the three of them by the back door to the sinks where the last two large saucepans were sitting in the drying rack. “Where’s Victoria and Kendra? They are on kitchen duty tonight too.”
“They’re done, Aunt Connie. I only have those two pans to dry and put away, and then sweep and mop the floor.”
Aunt Connie’s silvered blonde hair glinted as she nodded. “Okay. Your young man will be here soon. Better hurry up.”
Olivia gave Uncle Stone one more beseeching look.
He smiled. “Go on. I’ll be here to meet your young man.”
“Fine,” said Connie. “Come into the family room. Des, Hawk, and Red Wing are waiting to talk to you. I’ll get you some coffee. Colby, you give Olivia a hand finishing up in here.”
After the door closed behind Connie and Stone, she and Colby stared at each other in unspoken challenge. He, with his Alpha nature, was better at it. After a minute, she took her fists from her hips to throw them up in the air. “What?” she demanded.
“You can’t seriously be considering accepting that cat. “Why not?”
Colby closed the space between them. “Because he thinks nothing of using mind control to force things to go his way.”
To hide her inner wince, she whirled around to grab the pans on the drying rack. They clanged when she shoved them into the cabinet. “Do you want to sweep or mop?”
“You have nothing to say about the mind control?” From the grim satisfaction in his voice, Olivia assumed he thought he’d won the argument. “I’ll mop,” he said.
He dipped out a bucket of the still warm dishwashing water, retrieved the mop from the closet, and followed behind her where she swept. He hadn’t won the argument. Olivia used the long broom carefully so she wouldn’t kick up dust and thought about Kit’s talent. It scared her. Maybe this was how regular human people felt about the wolf warriors? It was strange, and could be dangerous. But her family didn’t attack for no reason. So wasn’t it likely Kit wouldn’t use his ability for no reason?
She would ask him tonight. And with Uncle Stone there, she would know if Kit was telling the truth or not.