Dating a younger guy wasn’t anywhere in Zack’s plans, but can he ignore the instincts of his wolf?
Zack Harrington noticed David Dewitt the day the guy showed up in Harrington Hills, but their first meeting was far from perfect. A few months later, Zack still can’t forget about him, and now that the two of them belong to the same pack, their paths cross even more. The problem is, David is barely twenty-two, and Zack still remembers how stupid he was at that age.
David knows he’s young, but he’s tired of hearing about it all the time. He’s not a kid, and he hates being treated like one, even—or especially—by the hot deputy sheriff. But as they get to know each other better and the sparks between them turn hotter, David’s willing to forgive and forget.
Can they move past the age difference and their own personal hang-ups? Or will they ultimately fall into a trap of miscommunication and hiding?
General Release Date: 11th October 2016
Zack Harrington arrived at the sheriff’s station five minutes after eight, and he got off his motorcycle in a hurry. The day of the full moon was never easy, but he hadn’t ever overslept before.
And his boss hated tardiness, full moon or not.
When Zack entered the station, he noticed most of the people were already there, but luckily for him, the sheriff was nowhere to be found.
Zack’s shoulders sagged in relief. He went straight to the little kitchenette situated at the far end of the department, nodding to a few people on the way. He needed the caffeine before he’d be ready to face the day. He poured himself a full mug then added three spoonfuls of sugar.
His partner, Portia, toasted him with her own coffee as he sat down at his desk opposite hers.
“Tell me you have some chocolate stashed,” was her greeting, and Zack gave her a crooked smile.
“Hello to you, too.”
She leaned in on her elbows, hands clasped together. “Oh come o-o-n-n.”
Zack opened his top drawer and pulled out a chocolate bar. “Know my generosity,” he said, handing it over, and Portia grinned at him.
“You’re the best.”
His crooked smiled turned into a smirk. “I know I am.”
“I’ll take all the help I can find to get me through today,” Portia muttered, before putting the chocolate between them.
His partner was human, but in Harrington Hills, where a vast majority of residents were werewolves, the full moon affected everyone. Any discussion had the potential to heat up, and any irritation could transform into a blowout. The town had a really low crime rate most of the time, but the department was always busy on the full moon.
Zack’s plan for the day—just like every month—was to bury himself in piles of paperwork and not come out until it was time to go home or he had go out on a call. Overdue reports made for a great distraction, especially when he was trying to avoid thinking too much.
And there were things he didn’t want to think about, even outside of the full moon frustrations—like David Dewitt, a guy who just wouldn’t get out of Zack’s head.
It had been almost four months since Zack had gone to check on a new construction team hired for a last-minute job and seen a guy he’d been immediately drawn to. He’d wanted to cross the rest of the distance between them and run his hands all over the guy’s body, had wanted to come closer and inhale his scent, imprint it on his memory and his senses. Zack had never had a reaction like that to anyone, and it had been just his luck that the guy that caused it was much too young for him.
He’d fumbled through the introductions, then walked away as soon as he could. He’d tried to avoid David ever since.
At first he’d thought it would be easy, since the guy was from out of town and his job was a one-off. But that single job had led to another, and another, and more and more people seemed to gush over David and invite him to various pack gatherings, along with David’s older brother, Charles, who had recently moved to Harrington Hills. Now, wherever Zack went, he seemed to find David, but he was yet to exchange more than a nod or a greeting with him.
After tonight, everything might change, though, because tonight both Dewitt brothers would become members of the Harrington Pack. Zack’s wolf was elated, but the rest of him was…concerned. Sure, he was attracted to the guy, but David was barely twenty-two, while Zack was turning thirty in a few months—and he wasn’t interested in casual sex anymore.
No, that wasn’t right. Of course he was interested—in such a way that his body responded to David even from a distance, and he longed to pull him close and do many, many things to him. But a hook-up wasn’t what he was after in the long run, and there was no way for anything else to happen with a guy almost a decade younger than him.
The same guy who had just walked into the station.
Zack straightened in his seat without thinking, as the faint trace of David’s scent reached him. He turned his head and saw David approaching the front desk then talking with deputy Ortega. When Zack focused and filtered out all the other sounds, he could hear them. David’s soft, polite tone came through clearer than Ortega’s low voice, but Zack still heard enough to piece the story together.
David was gathering all the permits he needed to start working on the house he and his brother had bought, one of the houses that had burned in the big fire a year ago. It needed major reconstruction, so there was a lot of paperwork involved, apparently including something from the sheriff’s department.
Zack tried not to think of how close this particular house was to his own apartment and how it was possible that they would bump into each other on the street now. He tried to squash both dread and excitement at the mere thought.
David must have sensed that someone was staring at him, because he turned in Zack’s direction and their gazes met before Zack could look away. After a few seconds of nothing but white noise in Zack’s head, he nodded in greeting, David nodded back, and that was it. There was no excuse to look any longer, and Zack made himself return to his report, even if he was just looking at the monitor and not really seeing anything. He was focused on David, on his goodbye to deputy Ortega, on the sound of his steps, then of the door closing behind him.
“What was that?” Portia asked, just as Zack decided he could relax.
“What was what?” He tried to sound casual, but he had a feeling he didn’t fool her at all.
“Oh, please.” Portia leaned forward. “Are you hot for the guy?”
“Don’t come to me looking for new rumors, partner,” he told her, voice teasing just enough to turn it into a joke. “You won’t find them here.”
She pointed her pen at him. “We’ll see.”
Hopefully, we won’t, Zack thought, focusing on the screen. Hopefully we won’t see anything.
* * * *
The Joining Ceremony was a big deal in the werewolf culture, something akin to a wedding. Both sides pledged allegiance to the other, and they were bound together from that day forward. There were ways to leave, too, but joining was much more common in the Harrington Pack. With a same-sex couple leading the pack for over twenty years now, it was an obvious message to unbound werewolves that Harringtons didn’t abide blindly by traditional ways, and it had resulted in many new members over the years, most of them being people who’d thought they couldn’t fit anywhere before they found their home in Harrington Hills.
Zack had been a kid when Aunt Jolene had become the Alpha. They had been a stable, well-established pack, with not even a territory dispute for years before the previous Alpha pair had died. The transition had gone fairly smoothly, all things considered, and word that the new Alpha was as fair and strong as her late father had spread quickly. Over the years, the Harrington Pack’s reputation had only grown, and now even the most traditional packs in their part of the world could not dismiss them.
The pack’s big expansion meant that Zack had witnessed dozens of Joining Ceremonies. Some he remembered well, some barely at all, but he couldn’t recall any that had made him feel like this one did. His wolf had always been happy about new pack members, mostly due to the primal satisfaction of getting stronger as their numbers grew. This time he had to fight with himself not to shift too early, as the impulse to do so burned right under his skin. He let his claws slip out to relieve a little tension as he watched David and Charles in the middle of the pack circle, standing before the Alpha and the Beta of the pack. He couldn’t keep his eyes off David, even though it was Charles who recited the pledge first. When it was David’s turn, Zack had to press his claws to his palms. Get a grip, he told himself, while his wolf was ready to howl to the moon in joy and excitement.
Then, finally, it was time for everybody to shift, and Zack could let himself go. And just like always after someone joined the pack, he could feel the new bonds snapping into place inside of him. Pack. Belonging. Protection.
When he lifted his head, he saw David’s wolf—the light brown, almost white, fur darkening a bit near his paws. David held his head high, and he seemed ready for anything.
Zack wanted to stand by his side right this second.
Then the Alpha pair blocked his view for a moment, and Zack shook his head before looking down at his paws. Stop it. Stop it right now.
The final part of the joining was being scented by the pack—first by the Alpha and the Beta, then the high-ranked members of the pack, then everyone else. The brothers were standing a foot apart now as they greeted their newest pack-mates, one after the other. As a nephew of the Alpha, Zack was among the high-ranked, and before he knew it, he was greeting Charles, brushing against his side. Then he stood right in front of David.
Their eyes met, and Zack had flashes of him burrowing his nose in David’s neck, of nuzzling his head, of closing his jaw lightly over David’s throat. There was a whine lodged in Zack’s chest that he tried to swallow back, but he ended up huffing shortly. It brought him out of his haze enough to brush his shoulder against David’s and to inhale his scent. David smelled like freshly cut wooden blocks and paint that wasn’t yet dry, and Zack had to walk away quickly before he did something stupid.
After he left the circle, he hid in the shadow of the trees at the forest entrance and watched the rest of the ceremony from afar. He didn’t look away from David for the longest time.