Rampant, part 2 is coming out this week, along with Summer Lessons and Freckles is out and doing just fine.
Quickening is under edit, and The Virgin Manny is all up on the website-- whew. I've been telling you that I wrote 260,000 words in 2015 that were on a long publishing release schedule... well, guess what's all coming out next year!
Anyway-- it's time for the finale of Scorched Haven, like I promised.
Now, eventually, I'm going to gather all this together and convert it to .pdf and put it on my website as a freebie--and hopefully pay someone to help me edit it, because I am fully aware that it does not showcase the best of my typing skills. (That is apparently what happens when you wait until midnight to write 3K installments of a serial--color me not shocked.)
But ticks and flaws and all, here is the last part of it--I hope you've enjoyed falling in love with Zeb and Colton as much as I have :-)
If you haven't yet read the other 12 installments, well, here are the links!
Alrighty then... okay... let's see, let's see...
Where were we?
They were home.
* * *
Zeb looked up from dumping his duffel bag on the chest of drawers in the corner.
"I have a roommate," he said with a little shrug. "Nice guy--were-kitty. They don't bond as mates and he likes poly. Not my thing, so we weren't likely to bond together."
Colton frowned and looked around the room--which was, all things considered, pretty nice. Wooden king-sized bed featuring a sort of fractal rainbow design on the quilt, with hangings on the walls to match. The wood paneling in evidence in all of the hill was here, a light-colored wood, that made much of the sun coming in from the window over the headboard.
"It's a nice room," Zeb said defensively. His bare feet squished happily in the plush area rug. Yeah, it was nice. Better than his student flat had been, even before he'd sold all his possessions for drugs.
"Well yeah, it's nice!" Colton half-laughed. "But it doesn't make any sense. You do realize we shouldn't have a window to jack from here, right?"
"It's... well, nobody talks about that here. It's sort of elven magic, but real subtle like. The elves like sunlight and the vampires need half the hill to be underground."
He had to smile at Colton's enthusiasm. The kid sort of took to this life like he was born to it. It had taken Zeb three years to accustom himself to the casual magic that permeated every breath he took.
"Yeah. So don't ask me how we have a window--but the only rooms that don't have windows are the rooms that wouldn't see sunlight if half the mountain sheared off. Green's doing his best to feed everybody's soul, you know?"
Colton nodded, and tucked a piece of hair behind his ear. "So, uh..."
"I'll shower," Zeb said promptly. They'd both thrown up on that horrible ride. "And nap. Green will probably call a banquet tomorrow to explain shit. In the meantime..." Zeb bit his lip. This was so embarrassing. "Green will probably come get you. Don't, uh, feel bad for anything that happens. I mean, even if we were going to bond, or already bonded, it would happen. It's... it's how Green gets to know people. It will make you feel good, trust me. There's no shame involved at all."
That scowl was lethal. "I'm not just going to cheat on you because we're not--"
Zeb grabbed his hand, shivering with reaction just from the contact. He took a step into Colton's space and breathed in, feeling that smell surrounding him again. They'd been inside each other, again and again and again. In his entire life, Zeb had never committed to anything--not even Green's Hill, with the fervor he'd committed to this young man.
"It's not cheating," he said softly, nosing the hollow of Colton's neck. Colton shuddered and tilted his head back. "It's answering to your ultimate pack alpha. There might not even be sex involved--and even if you come, it won't feel like sex. It'll be... important." Zeb took a step back, fighting the erection that had become an almost permanent thing since he'd awakened that morning, replete and exhausted, in Colton's arms. "I'm going to shower first," he said, feeling grubby and road worn. "And brush my teeth. Uh, if you want food, go into the kitchen and--oh!"
Tiny glowing lights had ably to be washed--and then, bless everybody, a platter of what looked like tri-tip, complete with biscuits and gravy and steamed veggies, appeared.
With two forks.
"I guess there's snacks," Zeb said, smiling faintly. The meat smelled great--but he wasn't a new werewolf. He could wait. "I'll be out in a few. Save some if you can."
If he couldn't, Zeb knew where to go.
He set the shower to parboil and coated the sponge in body wash. The last three days--Ritchie's death, his own wounding, then Colton, all of the world, all of his heart and body about Colton--lay heavy on his skin. Maybe he could wash some of it off, right? Maybe he could scrub and scrub and let the days run down the drain in a swirl of dirt. Maybe if he rinsed off the scent of Colton's come on his skin, he could erase the way his heart ached at the thought of Colton moving into his own room, discovering the other creatures there at the hill.
He'd been so fine, so noble, going down on one knee before their leader. Learning the ins and outs of this world from Zeb's hurried, half-distracted explanations.
Zebulon, third spear carrier on the left, was not a mate for that fine young man.
The his chest hurt, and his throat, and his eyes burned. He stayed under the water until that went away, and he was worn from letting it out.
When he got back out, Lady Cory was sitting on the bed, looking exhausted but interested, as she spoke to Colton, who was sitting across from her on a room chair.
"So he crashed through a guard rail!" she said, her voice holding the thrill of someone asking about a fight at school. "That's sick." She looked up at Zeb, who stood with a towel around his waist, feeling stupid. "He's telling me about your mad-ass driving skills--I'm totally impressed!"
Zeb flushed, feeling unworthy. "It's amazing what you can do with the right motivation," he mumbled.
"Right?" She grinned at both of them. "Did you see Bracken fly? I mean, not his favorite, right? He wobbles--but dudes, you should have seen us at the thing, with the place? When we sprang the new werewolf and the half-elf. It was pretty amazing."
"The thing with the place?" Zeb asked, winking at her over his shoulder. He was rooting around the drawers to see if he could find some sweats or something.
"Well, you missed a lot while you were gone." She grew quiet then. "We're sorry about Ritchie--I know you guys weren't close, but it's hard to lose someone. And he was your friend."
Zeb paused, boxers and pajama bottoms that had just magically appeared in his drawers in hand. "Thank you," he said, moved. "I... I liked him, you know?"
"Well, five hours in a car will do that," she said back seriously, and he could have kissed her just for understanding. Then she turned back to Colton. "Now, Green usually likes to talk to all the new recruits--but he's sort of got his hands busy tonight. Do you think you can wait until tomorrow?"
Colton nodded unhappily. "Do I have to sleep with him?" he asked baldly, and Zeb wanted to bang his head against the dresser.
She regarded him with the sober attention of a judge. "Not have to--and it's not really 'sleeping' or 'sex'." A wicked grin appeared. "I mean, yeah, sometimes it is. But sometimes it's just talking, in private, to someone who won't judge you for the thing in your heart that you fear the most. So don't worry about it. If it's sex, it's sex. If it's not it's still time with Green-- and that's important." She grimaced. "You are really lucky, you know? I mean, Zeb might not have told you, but usually bites don't work like that--especially not when you're so close to death. You must have been really damned strong--but more than that."
"More?" Zeb asked, surprised.
"Oh yes." She nodded and wrapped her arms around her knees. She was wearing stretchy shorts and a ginormous white T -shirt over them--Zeb had seen her dress for a formal audience and look stunning, but here, in their temporary room, she looked very domestic. A plain young woman with freckles and thick curly hair and a bold nose.
Her power was almost more terrifying like this.
"See," she said, talking to both of them earnestly. "What you have to understand is that it doesn't always work--not the were-creature bite, not the vampire bite. I mean, it works mostly here because Adrian chose a lot of you, and if he didn't, his people did. And he just sort of knew, right? Who would fit in? Who would welcome the transition? But some of our people--like Jack? Teague's mate? He's such a stubborn asshole, Teague almost couldn't keep him alive long enough to meet with Green, so he could accept the change in his life. And Charlie-- Charlie was dying of cancer. He got the bite, but he was so weak Whim had to invoke the power of the Goddess to change him." She half-smiled. "It was pretty awesome, actually--I mean, that's what everybody says. They wouldn't let me go."
That last thing was spoken so wistfully, Zeb had no choice but to accept that there were some parts of being Queen that he wouldn't want a damned thing to do with.
"So why do you think it worked with me?" Colton asked her--but respectfully, as though he understood how much she would have loved to have been involved in everybody's life.
"Oh! Because Zeb was already half in love with you," she said, and Zeb sucked in a breath.
"We'd only just met," he said, not having anywhere good to look. Colton was staring at him, hunger in his eyes. The bedspread and wall hangings were damned bright. And Lady Cory looked so surprised.
"You didn't know?" she asked. "Neither of you?"
Colton was glaring at him now--Zeb could feel it. "He keeps trying to tell me that I'll get here and it'll be some sort of porn-ucopia and I won't want him anymore."
Cory snorted--an unladylike sound. "Bullshit. Zeb, look at me!"
He did, and her eyes were incredibly, sincerely, velvet green/brown.
"Are you paying attention?"
"Good. Because you couldn't have saved his life if you hadn't cared for him. And if by some miracle he'd lived, he would have ripped you to shreds after his first change--especially because it didn't happen supervised, or during a moon. Even the way he changed was Goddess-given. Zeb, you must have fallen in love with him at first sight. Because your heart--the power of your heart alone--is the only reason he's here."
Zeb couldn't look at her anymore, but the only place he could look was into Colton's wet, limpid eyes. "Your voice," he said weakly, exposed--literally, naked. "I was hiding under that porch, and I wished... everything for you. I was rooting for you to get laid until I realized he was a douchebag, and then... I just wanted more."
"I'm nothing special," he said quietly. "I'm a small-town guy with a narrow mind. But you saved me from all that. Why won't you let me save you?"
Zeb blinked. "From what?" But he felt it--the yawning void of nothing that he had been. The quiet despair of being the third spear carrier on the left.
"From being invisible to yourself," Colton said, standing.
Lady Cory popped off the bed and padded out, shutting the door quietly behind her, and Colton approached and stroked the side of his face with gentle fingertips.
"I'm going to shower," he said softly. "I'm gong to take about a minute and a half. Eat the leftovers--you're going to need your strength."
Zeb just gaped at him, and Colton turned toward the bathroom. He paused at the doorway--"Don't bother putting on your pajamas," he warned.
Zeb let them fall into the drawer, and headed for the tray which sat on the end table. He pulled back the covers and sat down thoughtfully, towel still wrapped around his waist, and managed a couple of bites of meat before Colton came back into the room--damp and smelling like body wash--and naked.
Zeb dropped the fork with a clatter. "Uh--"
"Are you ready for this?" Colton asked. He stood in front of Zeb, so Zeb was eye level with his crotch, and he managed a sarcastic eyebrow-lift as looked up at Colton's face.
"Very funny," Colton told him, dropping to a crouch. He leaned forward and kissed him, a kiss devoid of desperation and fear for their lives--but still very much full of the passion that had driven them for the past days.
Zeb opened for him, holding nothing back. Why should he? His queen and leader had already laid his secrets bare. Colton knew--had known from the very beginning, that Zeb was his for the taking.
Colton pressed him back into the bed, kissing relentlessly, hands moving over Zeb's body with sure possession.
Zeb was his--all his. They'd done this dance, and Zeb had conceded. The only difference was that Colton knew any objection he'd made had been pretense and bullshit anyway and now they both knew it.
Colton covered Zeb's body with his own, their skin soft and silky together, as Colton sucked on his neck and jaw hard enough to leave love bites. Zeb bucked at the zing of pain, and Colton bit his neck harder.
"No more hiding," he growled into Zeb's ear. "Whose are you?"
"Yours," Zeb breathed willingly.
"Who wants you?"
"Who loves me?"
Three remarkable days. Three days that changed his life more profoundly than the bite that pulled him into this world, this amazing world that he would never leave.
"I love you too," Colton growled. He shoved two fingers into Zeb's mouth and Zeb sucked. Colton pulled them out and Zeb gasped, "Lube in the drawer."
Colton paused to grin, the grin making him boyish and young. "Lube would be good," he said, lowering his hand to tease Zeb's entrance anyway. Zeb flailed for the drawer as Colton penetrated one finger and rubbed, the harsh friction making him crazy stupid needy.
"Here," he gasped as Colton penetrated with the other finger. "He---eeerrrr..."
Ah! the mix of pain and pleasure--almost... almost... then Colton fumbled with the lube bottle, and the sudden cooling of slick on Zeb's sphincter was an arousal in itself.
Colton laughed softly and kept stretching him, fingers scissoring as Zeb spread his thighs in abandon.
He would give himself to the boy--this man--again and again and again. And he wouldn't feel used, or used up, he would feel rebuilt and reborn, every time Colton took him.
Colton poised his erection at the slicked, stretched entrance of Zeb's body, and Zeb moaned.
"I belong here," Colton told him, thrusting in.
He did--he belonged in Zeb's body just as surely as they both belonged in Green's Hill.
"Yes..." Zeb breathed again, and as Colton began his stroke, rocking back and forth. "Yes--Goddess, Colton, all of me. Take all of me!"
"I thought you'd never ask."
Colton's flurry of thrusts left Zeb breathless and pleading, aching for climax, cock throbbing for release.
Forever and ever again and again.
Colton's hand on him, gripping him into orgasm was almost anti-climactic next to the revelation that Zeb was already bonded. This man's every touch was magic on his skin, on his soul. He was the most important thing in Colton's life, and Colton wanted it that way.
Colton wanted him.
Zebulon's deep throated groan of come resonated through his entire body. Colton must have felt it, because he gave his own cry of climax, and fell into Zeb's arms, rutting still, even as Zeb wrapped his arms and legs around Colton's body.
"You love me," Colton panted, as though Zeb's soul hadn't been bared for him just moments ago.
"I love you," he confessed.
"I love you back," Colton told him, an almost shy smile pulling at his mo uth.
Colton kissed him then, with such incredible sweetness he wanted to cry.
And then he wanted to do it again.
Colton was a new werewolf after all.
* * *
Cory sat in the common room, knitting, and Green huffed in, looking miffed.
"Are they still at it?" she asked, amused.
"It's been hours!" he complained good-naturedly. "Usually new recruits are, you know, sort of anxious to meet me, right?"
Cory laughed softly, and Green regarded her, knowing his expression was fond and not caring.
"Are we feeling slighted, oh fearless leader?" she asked, voice all sweetness and sarcasm.
He rolled his eyes. "I have things to do this morning, you know. I was sort of hoping to make sure the poor kid isn't going to hate it here."
"Well, judging by the great schmoopy eye-fucking they were giving each other last night when I went in to visit, I think he's going to be okay."
Green rolled his eyes. "I still have to--"
"I know." She set her knitting down and stood, rubbing her hands up and down his arms. Her touch sent a wave of yearning right to the pit of his groin. Yes, he spent much of his day serving his people--but Cory, always Cory, was so much different than that. "I'll tell you what. You let them have round four or five or twelve or whatever, and you and me..."
She raised her eyebrows and smiled prettily.
He reached under her bottom and pulled her up until she was straddling his waist. "We make hay while we have a quiet house, right?"
"Every chance we get."
Enemies were out there and allies were uncertain. Their children were, even now, growing in her body, making her every breath more of a burden.
But love and lovemaking were the fire in their blood that reminded them that they were alive, and that even the worst that could happen was not a tragedy if love had been made and had when the Goddess gave them means.
Her mouth opened for his, and he carried her, kissing and moaning, hands roaming his chest and back, into his room.
He closed the door behind him and made sure it was locked for good measure. Lovemaking was sacred in Green's house, and he was going to make love to his beloved.
It was his most heartfelt prayer for the safety of all he watched over.