Tondreau has spent the last four years helping raise Cadajen's terminally ill daughter, Linea. Though not mates, they've carved out a happy life with each other. It all comes crashing down when Linea's health takes a turn for the worst. Together, they must face the hardest decision of their lives. Will it tear them apart? And can Tondreau put aside his fears and be the Alpha Cadajen needs him to be?
Tondreau faced him, shaking his head. "You love her, and you show her that love every day, every chance you get." He frowned, his brow furrowed. "Do you know how many of us walk through life without love? How many of us would give almost anything for four years of love?"
Cadajen had expected the first half of the statement. But the second half… "You're not without love."
Tondreau's frown deepened and he shrugged. "I didn't mean me, specifically."
"But you're not. You have to know that. Linea and I both love you. You must be able to smell it on us, at least."
The Malorcian shuffled his papers, shoved them into his bag. "Should I bring home something for dinner, or did you have a plan?"
Cadajen couldn't help but sigh and shake his head. "It never fails to amaze me."
"You Alphas. You're supposed to be so strong and brave, but the simple things throw you."
"Love isn't simple," Tondreau countered.
"It's the simplest thing in the universe. It's all the mating and linking that complicates it, but that’s on us. We scramble it up. You shouldn't be afraid of love."
"I don't think we'd scramble it up."
"There are things you don't know about me."
"Nothing that would change how I feel."
Red shimmered faintly at the edges of Tondreau's irises, his Alpha instincts responding to the words.
Cadajen reached out but stopped short, frowning at the material of Tondreau's long sleeved coat. Wasn't that just so metaphorical? There was always a barrier between them, wasn't there? Not physical, like the clothing -- they'd been naked with each other hundreds of times. He knew Tondreau's body as well as he knew his own. But they'd never been bare together, had they? Well, Tondreau hadn't. There was always something. Some deep dark secret Tondreau feared to reveal and it kept him just out of Cadajen's reach.
He looked back up. The red was receding now. Cadajen wanted nothing more than to rip his glove off and press his hand to Tondreau's skin, chase that fleeting emotion, catch it to him and hold it close. Prove himself worthy to Tondreau. Without truly thinking it through, he stepped forward into Tondreau's space. They were close; close enough to feel the warmth of each other's breath, the heat of each other's bodies, and their lips… Cadajen leaned in a tiny bit closer and stopped when Tondreau tensed. He looked up then and his heart shuddered. “Am… am I wrong?”
Seconds ticked between them, the question hung in the air, and just when Cadajen was certain he’d made a mistake, Tondreau sighed softly. “You're not wrong.”
Cadajen reached for him.
Tondreau stepped back. "We can't."
"Why?" Cadajen barely recognized the voice as his own as the word forced its way out his throat. He knew he sounded like a petulant child, but he couldn't help it. His omega instincts screamed at him to make Tondreau understand, to beg if he had to. "You said I wasn't wrong."
"Daj…" Tondreau sighed again, heavy this time, and raked his fingers through his hair. "You're not…"
"Don’t you dare say I'm not worthy." Not that. Anything but that.
Tondreau's eyes widened and the red threatened again. "I'd never say that. That's not… It's me who isn't worthy. You don't understand."
"Then explain it to me," he pleaded. "We've known each other for seven years. You've helped me raise my child. We practically live together. I love you. I'm in love with you. Don't tell me you didn't know. And don't tell me you don't feel the same. Don't lie to me like that."
"I'd never lie to you." He opened his mouth to continue, but the alarm on his pager interrupted him. He glanced down at it.
Cadajen recognized the alert as the 'if you don't leave now, you're really, really going to be late' tone. They'd set it up years ago, after Tondreau had lingered too long with Linea a few mornings in a row, and the Academy had slapped his wrists for it. He laid his gloved hand on Tondreau's arm. "Go. It's all right. But we're going to finish this conversation. Promise me. You owe me an explanation."
Tondreau nodded. He stepped close quickly, pressed a chaste kiss to Cadajen's cheek, and fled, no doubt grateful for the reprieve.
Meet the Author:
Romance author, sci-fi fan club Captain, cosplayer, reigning Queen of Monkeyland, and random menace. Yep, we're talking about DC Juris. She’s a cupcake-making, football-watching, rubber-duck-collecting, drag-show loving, full-of-fabulous-with-a-capital-F kinda gal. She's also an ordained minister and an amateur photographer. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband, three dogs, and three cats. When she's not writing, you can find her in her favorite chair watching Star Trek and Supernatural repeats on Netflix, or surfing the web for porn. Er…research. Surfing the web for research. She may speak softly but she lives and loves loudly. Just ask the neighbors. ::wink::