Author: L.C. Davis
Cover Artist: Wolf Conan
Release Date: October 11
Genre/s: M/M Romance, hurt/comfort MPREG with a HEA
Length: approx. 37k words
It is a standalone story, but is the first in the Great Plains Shifters series (the same universe as The Mountain Shifters).
Falling for his deceased twin brother’s mate was never part of Dustin’s plan.
This midwestern Alpha might be a little rough around the edges, but he lives by a few simple principles and honor is chief among them.
Nonetheless, when tragedy strikes the Meadowlands Pack, Dustin feels he has no choice but to bring his twin’s mate home to take care of him. The only problem is, Caleb isn’t anything like Dustin expected of the city omega who stole his brother’s heart and divided their family.
What starts out as trying to do the right thing soon becomes a blurry series of complicated decisions that lead Dustin further away from the path he’s always followed—and further into the arms of the one omega he was never supposed to want.
Caleb has been through the worst a mated omega could fear. He’s lost his mate and their unborn child, and now he finds himself at the mercy of an Alpha who has every reason to hate him.
Despite being twins, Dustin and Caleb’s former mate, Alec, are nothing alike. Caleb wants nothing more than to please his new Alpha and secure his position in the pack, but Dustin seems to take everything he says the wrong way.
As forbidden tensions mount between Alpha and omega, Caleb begins to fear that Dustin will start taking his developing interest the right way.
When Dustin finally made it home, he got two steps through the door before he caught the scent of something heavenly. He followed it to the kitchen to find Caleb cooking dinner alone. Usually when Dustin came home, Caleb and Ariel were talking while they folded laundry or in the kitchen cooking together. The omegas his pack had taken in were now inseparable friends, as he’d hoped.
On the one hand, Dustin was relieved that Caleb finally had company. On the other, he sorely missed being alone with the omega, as bad of an idea as it was to indulge. When Caleb turned around and noticed him, he realized he needed to do something besides gawk like a complete weirdo.
“Hi,” Caleb said softly.
“Hi.” Dustin cleared his throat. “Making dinner? Whatever it is smells great.”
“It’ll be ready soon,” Caleb said sheepishly. Dustin noticed for the first time that the table was set for two. “Your mom went out with friends and Zander took Ariel to a doctor’s appointment, so it’s just us. I hope that’s okay.”
Of course it was okay. It was better than okay, but Dustin wasn’t about to risk saying that out loud. “Sure,” he said, taking the heavy serving dish out of Caleb’s hands to place it on the table. “Can I help?”
“I’m all set, but thanks. I just need to get the bread out of the oven,” he said, pulling on his oven mitts.
Dustin didn’t look away quite soon enough when the omega bent over to pull the freshly baked bread out of the oven. He pulled out Caleb’s chair before sitting down and taking a sip of his wine. He wasn’t usually much of a drinker, aside from a beer or two when he was out with friends, but this was a special occasion.
“So,” he began, “how’s Ariel settling in?”
“As well as she can, all things considered. She misses her mate and the city, but she really likes the pack,” Caleb replied. “And it’s nice to have company.”
“Sorry I haven’t been around much,” said Dustin, feeling even guiltier. It wasn’t Caleb’s fault the Alpha was a terrible person and couldn’t keep his thoughts from drifting when he was around his own deceased brother’s mate.
“You’re an Alpha. I assume being busy is part of the job description,” Caleb said with a smile that made Dustin’s heart beat like a hummingbird’s wings.
“Yeah,” he said with a stiff laugh. At this rate, if he couldn’t overcome his obsession with Caleb, maybe his awkwardness would at least turn the omega off of him forever. “That’s true.”
“So, have you heard anything from Futurus?”
“A rep called today, actually. I told them they can take it up with Ariel’s lawyer,” he muttered, taking a bite of the steak dinner Caleb had prepared. It was incredible, but that was no surprise. Everything the omega did was perfect.
“She has one?” Caleb asked, blinking.
“Well, no. But I’m hoping by the time Elan comes back, I can convince him to take her case before Futurus calls my bluff.”
Caleb shook his head. “You’re really something, you know that?”
“You disapprove of my methods?” Dustin teased.
“Not at all. It’s just impressive, that’s all. How you’re willing to go to bat for someone you barely even know. Then there’s everything you’ve done for me.”
“I haven’t really done anything. I’m the one who’s benefitted from you being around here.”
“That’s sweet of you to say,” Caleb murmured. His cheeks flushed, and the sight made Dustin want things he had no business even thinking about. Namely, he wanted to give the omega even more reason to blush.
“I’m not just saying it. It’s true. Ever since you came here, the house feels different. Lighter.” He took another bite and swallowed without chewing, just to give himself an excuse to think before he said too much. “I’m glad you’re here, is what I’m trying to say.”
For a moment, Caleb fell silent. Dustin looked up and found the omega watching him. He told himself he was reading into things, that the look he found in Caleb’s eyes just couldn’t be what his heart wanted to believe it was. Wanting the same need, the same desire he felt to be there in Caleb’s gaze was so incredibly wrong, and yet…
Before either of them could say a word, Dustin realized what was happening. It was the subtle chemical shift he’d only ever felt a few times in his life, before he’d gained the control required to shut it off. It was like a switch in his mind had flipped. The typical response of an Alpha to an omega in heat.
Of course, Dustin had known it was coming. Caleb was no longer mated, or at least, not in any way nature felt compelled to recognize. When an unmated Alpha and omega were sharing such close quarters, it was inevitable. It was the main reason Dustin had been so careful about keeping his distance, but the fact that it had happened so soon was proof he didn’t want to want that Caleb at least somewhat returned his feelings.
“I…” The omega’s breath caught in his throat. He stood from the table suddenly, his hands trembling. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know this would happen so soon —“
Dustin only realized when the omega’s panicked apology cut off abruptly that he’d taken Caleb’s hand in a poorly thought out attempt to comfort him. “You don’t have anything to apologize for,” he said, pulling his hand back to his side. “I’ll go.”
“No. Don’t be silly, it’s your house.”
“Are you sure?” he asked warily. The idea of staying in the same house, knowing Caleb was in heat and having to constantly remind his wolf that there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to ease it seemed intolerable, but less so than the idea of leaving the omega alone. He knew his pack was safe, and if he’d had an inkling that there was a single Alpha within its borders who wasn’t safe to leave around an omega in heat, they would have been out on their ass a long time ago, but his possessive instincts had already kicked in full force.
“I’m sure,” said Caleb, his gaze lowering slowly. Dustin followed it to where the omega’s hand had come to rest on his chest, his touch so hot it felt like a hole was about to burn through his shirt. Heat was more than just figurative.
The omega seemed to realize what he was doing at the same moment and jerked his hand back. “I—I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. Please.” Dustin’s voice came out husky as he tried to keep his gaze in check. God, the omega was beautiful. He always was, but it was impossible for Dustin to look away from him now. “Is there anything I can do?”
The way Caleb’s eyes widened made him realize how that must have sounded. There was plenty he wanted to do, but he’d never disrespect Caleb by offering it.
“That’s really not what I meant,” he said apologetically. “I just want you to be comfortable, so if there’s anything I can get you…”
Caleb shook his head slowly. His face was flushed, but it was hard to tell if that was from the embarrassment or the heat. Maybe both. “That’s sweet, but…” He trailed off and his Adam’s apple bobbed. “Would you stay? I just don’t want to be alone.”
Dustin had never wanted to accept an offer that badly, but his last shred of decency held him back. “I want to. I just don’t know if that’s the best idea.”
“No,” Caleb agreed, biting his lip as he looked away. His neck was exposed for the first time and Dustin felt the knife twist in deeper when he realized Alec’s mark had faded completely. “No, it probably isn’t.”
“Maybe we could just…watch something,” Dustin offered, grasping desperately for any idea that would allow him to stay and comfort Caleb without screwing everything up.
“That sounds good,” Caleb said eagerly.
Dustin wound up sitting on the other side of the sofa while Caleb surfed the channels. The Alpha found himself hoping that he wouldn’t pick anything romantic, but on some level, he knew that it wouldn’t matter. They could be watching a monster truck derby and he still would have found the omega as irresistible as he always did.
For a few minutes, the tactic of distraction seemed to be working. Then Dustin noticed Caleb tugging at the sleeves of his sweater. The omega finally pulled it over his head, even though the living room was far from too warm. Dustin couldn’t take his eyes off Caleb’s neck. His skin was so smooth, so deliciously flushed with need. No matter how he tried, Dustin just couldn’t erase the image of his teeth sinking into that bare flesh…
As if to save Dustin from himself, Caleb’s hand came up to rub his own shoulder. He shifted uncomfortably, like his back hurt, and in spite of himself, Dustin offered, “You want me to give you a massage?”
Caleb looked up under those dark lashes of his. Dustin was sure he’d crossed the line. Hell, he wouldn’t have blamed Caleb for slapping him. Instead, the omega nodded.
Dustin hadn’t been prepared for Caleb to take him up on his offer, even though he’d made it in all sincerity. He moved a bit closer, and the moment his hands made contact with Caleb’s skin, he knew he’d bitten off more than he could chew. He tried desperately to focus on the nonsensical plot of the movie, but the more he touched Caleb and the more he felt the omega’s tight muscles relax under his attention, the harder it was to think at all.
After all, some things didn’t require a whole lot of brain power. Instinct was more than enough. It was reining in those instincts that posed the real challenge.
The soft moan that passed Caleb’s lips was the thing that caved Dustin in all at once. The omega arched his back and leaned into Dustin’s touch, their pheromones mingling together in perfect harmony, as if their bodies had already decided how the night was going to go.
“That feels so good,” Caleb breathed.
“Good,” Dustin growled. He hoped Caleb would assume he was just hoarse and not angry, but knowing the Alpha’s voice was just rough with desire was probably even worse. “You’re tense.”
Caleb froze and looked over his shoulder. His eyes were dark and heavy with lust, and if there was any doubt in Dustin’s mind that the attraction he felt was a two-way street, it was gone now. Caleb turned slowly, and before Dustin could fully process what he was doing, the omega had slipped his arms around Dustin’s neck. His fingertips grazed Dustin's skin, raising goosebumps all over his flesh.
“I know this is wrong,” Caleb said, his voice soft and husky but full of guilt. He wouldn’t meet Dustin’s eyes, which was just as well. The Alpha knew once he did, all bets were off. He wouldn’t be able to keep the truth inside any longer. “But I — I’m just so tired of feeling alone,” he whispered, tears slipping down his cheeks.
“You’re not alone,” Dustin assured him, stroking Caleb’s cheek. “I know I haven’t been there for you the way I should have. I’m just so afraid of making a mistake. Of giving in to the way I feel about you, and leading us into something we’ll both regret.”
“How do you feel?” Caleb asked, finally meeting his eyes. His gaze was searching, needful.
Dustin swallowed hard. “I think you know by this point. I’m pretty bad at hiding it, but God knows I’ve tried.”
Caleb gave him a small, rueful smile. “Maybe I’ve just been afraid to see it. Afraid that you’ll realize I feel the same way.”
“You don’t,” Dustin said, coming to himself for a split second. He hoped it was enough. “You’re in heat.”
Caleb laughed. It was a soft, regretful sound. “I wish I could blame it on that. Maybe then I could sleep at night without feeling like such a horrible person.”
“You’re not a horrible person.” Dustin’s thumb swept across Caleb’s lips. They were so soft. How had he gone this long without kissing them? Without touching him…? “You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.”
The omega’s lips found his. This was it. This was the point of no return. If he crossed that line, if he returned the kiss, it was all over. He could no longer lay even a technical claim to goodness if he tasted the forbidden fruit and took more off the vine, but he had never felt quite as weak—or as strong—as he did with the omega in his arms.
In the end, the satin sin of Caleb’s lips brushing against his own was just too much. Dustin took the omega into his arms and his tongue slipped in past Caleb’s parted lips, taking the reins of control the way he’d always wanted. In all his wildest dreams—and Caleb had been the subject of plenty—he had never imagined giving in to temptation could taste so sweet.
About the Author
L.C. Davis is an M/M romance author with a passion for representation. Series include The Mountain Shifters, Great Plains Shifters, Kingdom of Night and Queer Magick.
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