Home Is Where The Heart Is

I’ve started a new sieral over at my weekly blog at Shape Shifter Seductions.  I’m posting the first three parts here.  I’m thinking about posting on both blogs for those who don’t follow me over at Seductions.

And with out further  ado here is the story:

Jackson pushed his Stetson back further on his head.  So much sand and water.  He glanced down at his bare feet.  His name brand jeans rolled up to mid-calf greeted him as his eyes continue upward.  In his left hands, he held his battered cowboy boots.
“How the friggin’ shit did I end up here?” He winced at his words along with his tone.  He knew how he got here.  It still didn’t make any sense.  Not that magick and wishes made sense.  He’d followed his heart and her.  Love did weird things.  He didn’t know how weird until he met her.
Jackson sighed as another wave swept inward, stopping near his sand covered toes.  It felt good to be out of his boots.  The sun warmed more than his neck and hands.  The heat off the sand caressed his tired worn soles and moved up his legs trying to cajole him into laying down and pulling all the warmth inside.  His heart beat almost in time to the rhythm of the waves pounding the shore with each lap of their strength.
Two blocks up the center street of town, Abebi worked.  Her small shop catered to the locals and their artisan ways.
 Easels and paints filled one part of the storefront.  Midway bins of multi-colored chalks, art pads, and crayons took up one side.  In the back corner, a child-sized table sat with different sizes of coloring books strewn upon it.  Opposite it, racks held adult paint sets and complex artistic instruction books.  Near the cash register, where he’d seen her as he’d watched her through the window, easy to do items lined the shelves.  Her hand written sign offering half hour art lessons caught his eye.
Abebi rang up the largest sale of the day.  The grade school’s summer art program began in two weeks.  They came to her for supplies every year.
 This year they wanted her to teach a weeklong course on how to follow your heart through art.  The instructor smiled when Abebi stuttered and stammered.    She sketched and dabbled in watercolors.  Nothing of fame or even local interest.  She drew, painted, and colored for her own enjoyment.  After the instructor explained why they wanted her to teach, she’d agreed.  Too many of the children didn’t understand following their passion and letting their creativity out.  Some of their parents could barely afford to pay the rent or put food on the table.   If for a few hours a day, she could help the kids ignite their heart light and find a moment of value, she’d do it.
She looked up and caught his reflection in the window.  Jackson had found her.  Not a bad thing.  How she wasn’t sure.  Two full moons prior they’d run through the pastures and woods of Talbot’s Peak backcountry hunting nothing but each other.  Their howls joined the other wolves racing through the area mate hunting.  She knew those nights of passion were just that.  Passion come and gone—or so she thought.  No he’d followed her home.  How she wasn’t sure.
Abebi’s hand caressed her flat stomach.  A tiny flutter joined by another told her what those nights summed up to.  Shape shifters knew instinctively when they caught.  Pregnancy mattered amongst the natural shifters.  Jackson’s family was one of those.  Hers no one knew.  Mutant and mutt were the kindest words whispered about her before she’d escaped the pack that pushed her out. Talbot’s Peak was but a stop on her journey to find her home.  She’d found it here amongst the sand, sea, and sun.  The local pack of sea wolves didn’t care where she originated or how.  They co-opted her in shortly after they‘d discovered each other running in the foothills.
Sea wolves loved the beach, the sand, and the sea as much as they loved running through the hills.  Many speculated on their breed and origins.  One legend stood out in their lore above all others. Two lone wolves, male and female, found each other.  Their first full moon together, they’d morphed into Native Americans counterpart. Each told their story.  As the night progressed, their howls and yaps brought others to them.  The others told their stories and why they had no pack.  By the first tinges of dawn, a new pack formed.  All agreed each had their worth, their beauty, and their purpose.  None were without a home or a hearth to call their own.
Abebi found hers with them.  Jackson might too.  She didn’t know.  She wasn’t sure if his howled love song that night was real or faked.  His presence said maybe it was real.

Magic and Love’s Ornery Kick

Abebi sighed as she looked out the door.  Jackson was nowhere to be seen.  Where had he gone?  She protectively cupped her stomach.  Was her aloofness too much?  Was he having second thoughts?  Fear mixed with bits of remorse bubbled in the acidic caldron of her belly.  Wiping a lone tear off her check, Abebi reentered her shop.  There would be time to hunt Jackson down after she closed up.  The twenty miles of Remoor Beaches housed too many pack members for Jackson’s whereabouts to remain unknown for long.
Abebi slammed the cash register drawer closed as she finished counting the last of the day’s receipts.  Another thirty minutes had passed and no one of the pack reported seeing a tall out of place cowboy wandering the town.  Wolf Scat!  The man couldn’t be hiding right under noses.   Or could he?  One call usually took care of notifying the pack watch command.  Had some link been missed?
Jackson sat on the bench closest to the street he came down until he found the beach.  He pulled his boots back on wishing he didn’t have too.  He noted the sandals most everyone wore.  He’d seen the shoe store up the street next to the department store with the window displaying the flowered shorts.  Shorts were bad enough.  Flowers too?  Oh hell no!  Sweat rolled down his back and wet another portion of his jeans waistband. Jackson fanned himself with his hat.  
 Back in Talbot’s Peak a man needed his hat when he rode the range.  Here there was no range.  Only miles of sand and water.  Ocean he heard two of the kids digging in the sand call that over-sized pond.  Okay, he knew the difference between an ocean and pond.  Problem was he couldn’t see the other side of this one like he could back home.  Except home didn’t feel right anymore.  Something called him here.  Said follow her.  So he’d wished and asked magickal help. 
 Boy magick had a kick worse than an ornery mule!  By some intercession he laid here in a place called Remoor Beaches.  Jackson dropped his hat on his head and shoved off the bench.  A beer and a burger called to him.  He recalled a bar two block up offering said lunch for a few bucks.  He’d worry about a place to stay later.  The help wanted sign he’d seen wasn’t encouraging.  Waiting tables and signing didn’t mix for him.  He howled better than he sang.  Crooning took talent he sorely lacked.
Half way up the street, he saw her.  Her determined stride caught his attention first.  The way her breasts swayed with each step almost mesmerized him.  Christ he had it bad.  He practically missed the woman jogging by him.  Her generous cleavage moved in rhythm to her pace.  A cough interrupted his sightseeing. 
“You must be new in town.”  A medium built male waved at him near the entrance to the bar.  “Come on in out of the heat.  I’ll buy you a cold beer.”  The male turned and held open the door.  Cool air filtered out and over Jackson’s face.
Jackson hesitated.  Why would a stranger be offering to buy him a beer?  “Why?” Jackson startled as the man motioned him closer.  “I’m the welcoming committee for Remoor’s Sea wolf Pack.  Name’s Remo and alpha’s my game.  Along with bar entrepreneur.”

Welcome to Agua Caliente

Jackson looked both ways before following Remo into the dark interior of the bar.  A bold lettered yellow-stenciled sign took up two-thirds of the window of the interior door, Remo held open.  It read Agua Caliente.  Jackson understood enough Spanish thanks to his great grandpappy twice removed.  That family story crept up at family dinners when Cousin Felix drank too much tequila.  Jackson shook his head and continued on inside.
Remo rounded the bar, nodding at the blond wiping down the table closest to them.  “Sandy, get a couple of burgers from the kitchen.  Mine well done and yours?”
Jackson swallowed hard.  Remo was politer than most alphas Jackson encountered.  Experience sent chills down his spine warning him to be wary.  Still this wasn’t turf he knew and a much different species than the one he left back on the peak.
“Uhmm- – -“Jackson perched on the barstool near him.
“Look dude, you look hungry enough to eat a goat raw.  Sandy would appreciate it if you didn’t hunt her down tonight during the full moon.  Besides good help is hard to find.  And eating my business partner will get you in more manure than you need right now.”  Remo finished filling the large beer glass he’d taken from under the bar.  “I don’t know about your home.  Here we treat folks with manners and hospitality”. Remo slid the glass across the bar to Jackson.
“Make mine like his.”  Jackson picked up the glass, saluted Remo with it, and drank.  Nothing unusual about the beer.  Draft with a head on it and cold just the way Jackson liked his.  “Thanks.”
Remo watched Sandy give Jackson the once over before she shook her head and walked into the kitchen clucking her tongue.  He turned. Leaning on the bar, he motioned Jackson closer.  “Dude, let me give you the rules.  Then we’ll commence with intros.”
Jackson drank more beer, then nodded.  He knew when to keep his wolf yap shut.  Being a distant second cousin of Talbot’s Peak’s head wrangler held no restrictions.  In fact, more often than not, some punk wanted to pick a fight to whoop ass to show he was wolf enough to fight the current pack alpha.  Jackson stayed away from pack politics.  He didn’t even acknowledge his family bloodlines so trouble couldn’t find him as easily.    Whatever Remo had to say, Jackson would listen to and then decide how to eat his burger and clear out of town without causing a ruckus.
“One,” Remo began.  “When a pack female gets pregnant the pack rejoices.  Two, if we know who the daddy is- – -Hi Daddy.”  Remo pointed at Jackson and waved.
“If we know who daddy is we give him the options.”  Remo’s smile reminded Jackson of the pictures of the old bobcat his great grandma tangled with during her moonshine running days.  That wry smile that didn’t quite reach the eyes and yet told you sit still before shit happened.  Jackson kept nodding and swallowing more beer.
“Slow down on the brewsky son,” Remo advised.  “Need your wits about ya before the food arrives.”
“I hear ya,” Jackson said.  “Please go on.” He pushed the glass away from him.
“Okay, third, you got choices.”  Remo laid a sheet of printed-paper on the bar.
“Choices?”  Jackson reached for the paper.  Remo snatched it away.
“Hear your options out.”
Jackson arched his eyebrows.  “Go on,” he softly growled.  He didn’t like threats.  He smelled one coming.
Remo tossed back his head, laughing, howling, and laughing again.  “Feisty!  Good!  I like variety.  You’ll make a good addition.”
“A good addition?”  Jackson planted his feet on the floor, ready to defend himself.
“Your options are:  flee, fight, stay, or join the pack.  Even a combination thereof is welcomed.”  Remo tossed the paper at Jackson.  “See I’m not a bad s.o.b.  Just an overly protective alpha who wants to live in peace with my neighbors.  Not find pieces of my family, friends, and pack all over the place.”
Jackson glanced down at the paper he trapped against the bar with his hand.  What Remo had summarized read down the sheet.  Two blank lines stood out near the bottom.
“And these are for?”  Jackson gestured at the blank lines.
“Signatures.  Yours and mine.”  Remo laid a pen on the bar.  A sharp point projected from one end.  “Your signature indicates you’ll abide by the rules.  Mine says I accept your choice and decision.”
“And if I don’t?”  Jackson stood up ready to make a break for the door if necessary.
“You’re welcome to stay but. . .”  Remo raised the pen.  “There’s an unattached attractive female carrying your youngin’.  Do you want another male claiming her and the babe?  Or are you wolf enough to do your duty?”
Jackson held out his hand.  Letting go of Abebi would cut out a huge chunk of him.  He didn’t know if he could walk away.  His heart skipped two beats every time he even considered it.  “Give me the pen.”
Remo snickered.  “Ain’t no pen boy.  It’s a prick.  We sign in blood. Our pack lives by our blood oaths regardless of our origins.”
Jackson inhaled deeply.  He held out his finger, gritted his teeth, and waited.  Sharp momentary pain pierced his index finger.  Bright red blood welled up and over the tip, on to the paper.  Remo handed him the pronged pen.  Jackson scribbled his name boldly across the first line.
“Good choice mate.”  Remo held out his hand.  Jackson pricked the finger closest to him.  Remo grabbed the pen and signed below Jackson.  “Now about that job.”
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