“Don’t look at me that way, cat.” Darlene Dupree scowled back at the black cat sitting on her porch, blocking her way to the stairs. She pointed the cigarette she held between two fingers at the animal. “I’ve got some praying to do, and if you think your skinny, furry ass is going to get in my way, you haven’t met my broom yet.”
The cat blinked at her, stood, stretched, and padded over to the side. With a swish of its tail, it leaped up on the porch railing.
Darlene looked out into the dark of the night. Multitudes of stars filled the sky along with the full moon. A perfect night to ask Jesus for a miracle. She shuffled down the steps and, with a final inhale of nicotine, dropped the butt on the ground and crushed it with the toe of her fuzzy pink slipper with Princess
embroidered on the top.
She switched on her flashlight. The cat jumped down and followed Darlene, weaving in and out of her legs as she made her way across the gravel drive and toward the swamp. No matter how hard the cat tried, it couldn’t kill her. Darlene was too tough an old bird to be taken down by a mere cat.
“Get away from me, cat. Go find someone else to feed you.” She kicked at it, but the feline stepped just out of range of her unenthusiastic attempt. If she ever figured out who had sent this animal to ruin her quiet life two years ago, she’d have their hide.
She reached the line of cypress trees and stopped. A narrow path between two trees led into the darkness of the swamp. The cat sat, licked a paw, and watched her.
“I’ll be back in a while. Don’t be here when I do.” She huffed at the cat, turned on her flashlight, and then headed down the path to her special spot next to the bayou.
In a few minutes, she emerged from the trees and into the small, hard-packed dirt opening. The moonlight bounced off the dark waters of the swamp. A fallen tree trunk lay across the far end, next to the bayou.
Darlene waddled over to it and knelt, placing the flashlight so it shone on the log. Along the top of the trunk stood a line of tall glass candles. Most of their contents had melted down, each with a different multicolored picture of Jesus, Mary, or the Holy Family painted on them.
But those weren’t what Darlene reached for. No. Something much better. More powerful. She leaned over, one hand on the trunk, and dug around, scraping dirt and leaves away with the other, until her fingers hit wood.
With a soft “Aha,” she lifted it out and placed it against the tree, leaning it so she could see it in the beam of her flashlight. With the corner of her apron, she wiped the dirt off the rough circular shape of the wood, formerly part of the huge old oak tree standing near St. Jerome Catholic Church’s parking lot. In the growth rings of the three-inch slice, the image of Jesus looked back at her.
Last summer, when she discovered the image, she’d caused a little…upset. Right in the middle of St. Jerome’s annual fundraiser event, the Rugarou Festival. The only solution had been to save it, hide it from all the so-called pilgrims. It wasn’t her fault if she put it where only she could find it.
She sniffed. After all, only she truly believed in the power it held. Who better to guard it, and so what if she used it every now and then? And she hadn’t really lied to the good Father when she said she’d destroyed it. Not really.
She gazed at the image. She could live with a little white lie.
Darlene sat back on her heels, made the sign of the cross, put her hands together, closed her eyes, and began her prayers.
“Dearest Jesus. It’s me, Darlene Dupree. I need to ask you a big favor. It’s not for me. It’s for my boy, Scott. Remember I told you about him and his”—Darlene searched for the right word—“partner, Ted. Well, Scott’s always wanted kids. I’m not so sure about Ted, but he loves Scott, and if Scott wants kids, then Ted does too. I’m pretty sure.”
Jesus stared back at her without answering.
“So, I know they’re not your usual couple, seeing as they’re both men.” She cleared her throat. “But Scott’s been a good Cath-o-lic
all his life, and this gay
thing, well, it just happened last year. That’s my fault, Jesus, but I blame you for some of it. I made a prayer to bring Scott a mate, and I forgot to say a woman. You
sent him Ted.” She shrugged. “Well, you know the rest, and far be it from me to question your ways. Now, I just want my boy to be happy.” Darlene clasped her hands tighter. “And I’ll confess, I’d love to have some grandkids. But Scott and Ted, they need this. Scott
She opened one eye and squinted at the image of Jesus. She wasn’t sure Jesus believed her about this being for Scott and not just for her. But she only had her son’s best interest at heart. And with this new pope, well, times were changing.
“Please, if you can, bring Scott and Ted some kids. Babies, kids, even a teenager, Scott won’t mind. He’s got a lot of love in his heart, and he’ll be a great dad. And Ted, he’ll be a great”—she searched for the right thing to say—“dad too. Kids need at least one parent, and I know there’s kids out there who really need a home and won’t care if they get two dads.”
Darlene sighed. She crossed herself. “Please, Jesus. You know I only ask for things for other people, not for myself. Do this, for my boy. In your name, amen.” She scooted forward on her knees, lifted the section of tree, and replaced it on the other side of the trunk where it would be hidden. After scraping the dirt and leaves back, she brushed off her hands. Using the fallen trunk for support, she pushed to her feet. She bent over and scooped up the flashlight.
Her work for the night was done. Last time, it had taken her about three full moons—three months—praying to Mary for it to work, and all she’d had was a candle, a gris-gris bag of Scott’s hair and toenail clippings, and a dead cat she’d found on the road. She hoped it’d take less time with tree-ring Jesus. It should, since he was the son of God. Mary had only been God’s wife. Sort of. She was definitely Jesus’s mother.
Darlene turned and made her way back down the path toward her little house on the bayou. The cat sat at the end, its tail wrapped around its legs, waiting for her.
“Damn it! Why are you still here?” She pulled out a cigarette and lighter from the pocket of her housedress and lit up. Taking a deep drag, she glared at the pesky animal.
It licked a paw, showing its indifference toward her. Which only pissed Darlene off even more. She exhaled a stream of gray smoke.
“Don’t think you’re coming inside tonight. I don’t care if it’s hot as hell out here. It’s south Louisiana. Get used to it.” She spit to the side for emphasis.
The cat stood, padded over to her, and rubbed against her legs.
With an exasperated “Merde
,” Darlene headed to her house, the cat following.
* * * *
Scott dreamed of being a wolf.
He ran in the swamp, down familiar paths, the warm breeze ruffling his fur, and the scent of a rabbit in his nostrils. He leaped over fallen logs and splashed through swamp water, his paws sinking into the soft mud of the bayou, until he came to edge of the deep water.
He slid to a stop. Waiting.
A young pup bounded over the trunk, slid, scampered down the path, headed straight for the water.
Scott’s wolf looked back, tongue lolling, as it watched.
The pup yelped when it saw the water, and braked, all four legs straight out, butt dragging along the ground.
At the last moment before it fell into the murky, muddy bayou, the big wolf leaped in front of the pup. The little one crashed into him, bounced off his strong legs, and landed on its back.
The wolf grinned, baring its teeth.
The pup whimpered, its tail between its legs, showing submission.
The wolf leaned down and licked the pup’s face, then bit its ear.
With a squeal, the pup rolled over and tugged loose. Then it nuzzled the wolf’s legs.
The wolf trotted back down the path, away from the bayou, sure his pup followed.
Scott sighed and rolled over. Contentment filled him. He reached for the source of his happiness, the man lying next to him, snoring softly.
Ted. His mate.
For at least the thousandth time, Scott’s heart filled with warmth and amazement for the man and for how he’d changed Scott’s life. For the better. Of course, that wasn’t what Scott had thought when he’d first laid eyes on Ted. He’d been confused, frightened by the strength of his desire for Ted.
Because Scott was straight.
But he was also a werewolf, and if there was one thing he’d learned, it was that the wolf wants what the wolf wants.
And his wolf wanted Ted.
Before he’d seen Ted, Scott hadn’t found a mate, not that he’d been looking. As a newly elected sheriff and their pack’s alpha, the last thing he’d wanted was a complication. And Ted was the definition of complication.
Now, almost a year later, he couldn’t imagine his life without Ted.
Ted loved him.
It still amazed Scott. Ted was gorgeous. And openly gay. At first he’d refused to get involved with Scott, but their lust for each other wore down both of their wills and walls.
Scott shared his home with Ted. He’d claimed Ted as his mate in front of the pack and had fought to the death for his mate and to keep his position as alpha.
Life couldn’t be better.
Ted groaned and rolled over to face Scott. He opened his eyes and stared into Scott’s eyes.
“Morning, wolf.” Ted reached for Scott, and without thinking, Scott reached back, snugging Ted under his arm. Ted rested his head on Scott’s shoulder.
“Morning, mate.” Scott inhaled the scent he loved like no other, filling him with lust and desire. Ted turned him on like no one, even a woman, had ever done. Fact was, he couldn’t keep his hands off the man.
Scott ran his hand over Ted’s shoulder and down to his hip. They both slept naked, so there were no clothes to impede their movements or their erections.
Scott’s cock had risen with the first touch of his hand on Ted’s skin, and he knew Ted’s dick would be hard and ready too. They were both healthy males in their early thirties; erections came easy to them.
Ted craned his neck and licked a warm, wet path up Scott’s neck and gave him a quick nip on his earlobe.
Scott slapped Ted’s ass, and Ted moaned. “Fuck me.” He pushed his hips forward, and his cock brushed along Scott’s belly, trailing a warm line of precum.
“Roll over.” Scott’s voice deepened with want for his mate.
Ted got on his belly, wiggling until he got comfortable. “Like this?” His voice purred, setting off Scott’s arousal.
Scott ran his hand over Ted’s back, down his spine, following it with his tongue until he reached that glorious, round ass. He bit it, leaving a faint set of teeth marks. Leaning back, he marveled at how it turned him on to mark his mate.
Ted humped the bed. “Come on, wolf. I need you now. Unless you want me to fuck you.” He leaned up and looked back at Scott.
Scott snorted. “Later.”
“You always say that.” Ted laughed, shook his head, and put his face against his folded arms. He spread his legs wider in a blatant invitation.
Scott didn’t need much more goading; his cock ached to find its home deep inside Ted. And though he’d never admit it, the thought of Ted fucking him sort of turned him on. He’d even dreamed of it, waking up hard and wanting in the middle of the night. He’d stare at Ted, on the edge of asking his lover to take him, until he thought of Ted’s cock in his ass and then—hol-y shit! That scared the hell out of him.
Fucking, sucking, and stroking Ted was enough for him, and it seemed to be enough for Ted. But Scott knew Ted hadn’t always been what he called the “bottom.” He’d mostly been the “top.”
Until he’d fallen for Scott and become the permanent bottom. Lately, Scott’s guilt about not bottoming for Ted had been growing. That and a few other things.
It had been almost a year ago when for the first and only time Scott told Ted he loved him. He’d never repeated those words.
For the longest time, Scott had told himself it was the wolf’s lust, not love. But as the months passed and they had grown together as friends and as a couple, Scott recognized the deep feeling in his chest for what it really was—love.
And it terrified him, because all along, he’d put this thing between them, this lust and desire and his inability to keep his hands off Ted, as part of the wolf inside him, one mate to another.
To Scott, love had nothing to do with the wolf and everything to do with Scott the man. He loved another man. Loved
loved him. Deeply. Passionately.
Ted had become more than his mate; he’d become Scott’s world.
So what the hell was keeping him from saying it now?
Scott stroked his cock, pushing a drop of precum out, and he wiped it over the head of his cock. “Merde, baby. Get ready for me. Let me watch.”
Ted chuckled. “Got the lube right here.” He opened the top, squirted some onto his fingers, and reached back to push the gob of slick into and around his hole.
Nothing as hot as Ted with his fingers in his ass. Ted moaned as he stroked in and out.
“Hey, I’m supposed to be fucking you.” Scott knocked Ted’s fingers away.
“Then get on with it.” Ted growled.
With an answering growl, Scott guided his cock to Ted’s back door and pressed in. Ted pushed back, groaning.
“Fuck me, wolf!” Ted commanded. Scott thrust forward, sinking deep inside Ted in one fluid, hot, tight motion.