Chapter 6: The Honeymoon's Over Already?

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I woke up.

That was noteworthy on its own, because I'd been convinced I wasn't going to make it -- that the drain on my magic was just too much, and the mate bond wouldn't happen in time to save me.

So I luxuriated for a few minutes, just enjoying unexpectedly being alive. I ached, starting with the stinging bite on my shoulder and ending with the throbbing between my legs, but that was fine. I was alive to ache.

And as I started to adjust to consciousness a little, I realized I wasn't hurting nearly as much as I'd have thought. My magic really was connected to Ian's, now. I might be mated to Ian -- oh, fuck, I was actually mated to Ian, and now I was seriously wide awake -- but at least I was also mated to Ian's super-speed werewolf healing. I wouldn't recover as quickly as he would have, but it'd be at least twice as fast as a normal human.

I rolled over in bed and blinked. The shack of solitude was quiet, with that echoing stillness that comes with the absence of other people. I reached out a tiny bit with my magical senses, careful not to overdo it, and couldn't feel him in the house or the immediate vicinity. I stretched a little more, following the filament of energy that now connected us. It took a minute to interpret what I was feeling, but then the information began to flow into me, forming concrete impressions.

He was alive, and he was somewhere within a few miles of me, and he was in a bad mood.

Well, what the fuck else was new.

Not that I could blame him for it today, though. Or tonight, rather. What little sun there was had gone down while I drooled into Ian's pillow, and the only light in the room came from the bulb over the kitchen sink. Ian must have turned it on before he went wherever it was alpha werewolves went when they didn't want to be alone with the warlocks they'd just knotted.

Yeah, if I were him I might have run for the hills, too. Or at least taken a walk to get some space. A small, pathetic voice in the back of my mind wailed that maybe he could've stuck around long enough to make sure I was okay. I squelched it.

Fuck that. I was a grown man, and I didn't need my mate to hold my hand, or stroke my hair, or whatever.

In that spirit, I sat up, muscles creaking and joints popping -- more like an aged man than a grown one. My head spun a little, but it eased after a second. There. I was fine. Time to get a shower, and a change of clothes, and something to eat, and then -- and then, I had to figure out what the hell to do next.

***

Ian's toiletries were surprisingly high-end for a guy I'd always thought was one brow-ridge away from a Neanderthal. Not to mention, the Armitage pack was broke -- the fact that they hadn't spent the money to replace the carpeting in the pack house since the Bee Gees were topping the charts sort of underlined that. Also, Exhibit B: the one-room shanty I was currently standing in.

So maybe Ian wasn't very smart with money, but I was willing to overlook it as I lingered in the shower, scrubbing off every trace of the shaman's herbs, not to mention the sweat, semen, and general funk, and replacing it with pine-scented body wash. Then I rummaged through Ian's dresser and found a pair of drawstring sweatpants that would stay on with some magical help, and a t-shirt that looked more like a dress once I pulled it all the way down.

The refrigerator was a mix of typical bachelor -- ancient condiments, expired milk, and half a pack of Kraft singles -- and werewolf gourmet, including an intimidatingly large and bloody hunk of meat that hadn't come from any butcher. I shuddered and shut the door.

The pantry yielded a box of Pop-Tarts. I didn't bother looking for an expiration date. Those things had a half-life like frosted-cherry plutonium.

I was leaning on the kitchen counter and munching my second Pop-Tart when I felt a tug on the bond that signaled Ian was getting close. A moment later, his heavy footsteps thudded on the front porch, shaking the whole house, and then the front door shuddered open, sticking a bit in the frame.

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