Leaving that tall drink of water behind in Belize hadn’t been easy, but I knew he wasn’t ready for a mate just yet. I’d scented him, sure I had. I’d known the first night we’d rescued him from that lonely parking lot in Vegas that he was mine. I’d just hidden it well. Foxy wiles and Irish charm go along way when it comes to misdirection.
I knew damn well that Peter knew. Clark probably did, too, or would once he got some sleep after giving birth to the power trio of super babies, as we all jokingly referred to them. I sighed and tilted back another shot of whiskey. It wasn’t doing much to cure what was ailing me, but it would do for now.
“You know, the same plane that brought you here can do a return flight, right? It’s only been a fortnight and you’ve been sloshed every night.” I smirked up at my new pal, Cody, as he slid onto the stool next to me.
“Time’s not right, boyo. When it is, the distance problem will be solved.” I grumbled, grabbing the bottle for a refill.
“Well, at least be a pal and set a fella’ up, eh? Watching you drink your sorrows away isn’t nearly as enjoyable as helping you reach the bottom of that bottle.” I knew what he was doing and appreciated the friendship. He was right. I’d been wallowing long enough about leaving my mate on another continent simply because I’d been at loose ends and needed to get back to my life.
“Aye. And will leave me feeling less like boiled shite in the morning.” I pointed to glassware on the other side of the bar. “Get yerself a glass, Cody. The whiskey runs free but I ain’t moving.”
Cody stretched easily to get himself a glass and slammed it down on the bar with a grin. I filled both to the brim and toasted him before tossing it back.
“Sean Michael Quinn. Stop acting the maggot and tell yer mam what’s goin’ here.”
I dropped my head to the bar with a groan. Of all the times for me mam to show up. I groaned when I felt her hand smack the back of my head.
“Ow!” I sat up and turned to look at my mother. Not even five feet tall, her personality made her seem twice her size. Her ample bosom and full caboose didn’t hurt with projecting her authority. I looked at her still bright, red hair and unlined face, the gift of being a legacy descendant who was blessed with a double life span.
“Sit yerself up and talk to me. Hasn’t our Danny been around tellin’ us all how you’ve been in yer cups for weeks after that disappearin’ act you took?” Her voice softened. “What’s going on, lad?”
Gesturing to Cody, I said “Mam, meet Cody. He’s from another founding family; I met him on my recent travels. Cody, this my mother, Colleen Quinn.”
Cody extended a hand, along with a charming a smile. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Quinn.”
When mam held out her hand, Cody did a neat twist and brought it to his lips for a kiss. Mam flushed happily and waved a hand at him. “Oh, get on with ya, and that charm.” She sniffed the air. “Yer not a wolf, but close enough... what are ya, lad?”
“Mam, don’t be grillin’ my buddy. He’s a coyote. Now stop gawking and tell me what that idiot cousin of mine has been on about.”
My mother fixed her eyes on me and gave a swift nod. “He says yer been mutterin’ about meetin’ yer true mate. Is this the truth?”
I shrugged. “It’s a bit of a story, but yeah.”
Mam slammed her purse down and poured herself a quick shot into my empty glass. After she’d tossed it down, the glass got pushed back as she fixed her piercing green eyes on me. “I’ve all the time in the world, lad. Start talkin’.”
“You’ll be remembering the story of Hector’s boy, and how he was brought to life at birth with a little something extra to him? And the other baby, from the family that helped saved him?”
Mam nodded, the story of Clark and Kent’s healing at birth was lore in my family. “Well, the two of them are true mates. When they claimed each other as mated, and Clark got preggers, the creation of their triplets broke some ancient treaty between the Gods and the Fae. The one brokered by our shaman ancestors, if you’ll recall? The bear goddess herself visited them in a vision and sent them on a quest to fix things. Before it’s done, all of us from the founding families will be doin’ our part. It took all of our ancestors to open the portal, it’s gonna take descendants from each line to close it again. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.”
Mam walked around the counter and grabbed her glass and a second bottle of whiskey. “Come on, boyo. Let’s move to a table. Yer mam’s too old and too short ta be climbin’ on them stools. This here’s a drinking story, ain’t it?”
Cody snorted out a laugh and gathered our things as we moved to a table as directed. We all had another shot before I told my mother all the things that had gone down on Clark and Kent’s mission to save the halfling. Mam listened carefully, her eye’s lighting up when I told her about the secret glen on the Isle of Man where Miss Effie and her guardians waited for each of us to come find out our clues when the time was right.
“And how will ya know this, lad?” Mam asked after I finished my tale. “And I’m guessin’ this halfling ya rescued is yer true mate?”
“Aye. But it wasn’t time yet, and the lad’s got healin’ ta do, mam. He’s been through a lot.” I poured another round, slamming my shot at the thought of my Heath, who was so far away.
“And why can’t yer boy be doin’ his healin’ here in the arms of yer lovin’ family? He’s ta be one of us, isn’t it? He should be here gettin’ ta know us and lettin’ us help him through his pain. ’Tis what family does, lad.”
“He doesn’t believe himself to be a shifter, or even really get what that means, mam. I didn’t tell him that he’s my mate, because how would he be understandin’ the meanin’ of that when he thinks he’s human? Now, Clark saw his eyes glow orange and his fingers form talons in a vision, so we know he’s nothin’ that we know about, but he’s definitely a descendant.”
“Well, lad. I’ve got but one answer for ya.” I groaned, not really wanting to hear what she was about to say. “Ya need to get yer arse on a plane and bring him home. We can soothe him and show him the shifter ways just as well as our jaguar friends. And if I’m bein’ honest? Our little foxes might be a sight less frightening for the lad than the jaguars and bears that he knows.”
“Your mother’s right, mate. Listen to her on this, and let’s get Heath over here where he belongs.” Cody made my mam’s day when he dropped Heath’s name. The arse hadn’t realized that I’d been purposely leaving his name out of things. Now that mam had a name to focus on, she’d be relentless.
“Ooh, Heath. What a lovely name. Now let me just go make myself a cuppa, and we’ll see what the leaves have to say.” Mam was up and off into the kitchen that was tucked behind the main bar.
Cody held his hands up with chagrin. “Bollocks, mate. I’m sorry about that. I realized I’d bungled that when I saw your face cloud over. Chin up, let’s just do what we need to do now. It’s time to get your mate here, your lovely mam’s not wrong about that one.”
I groaned and lowered my head to the table. I really wasn’t foxed enough yet to deal with me mam and her tea leaves.
* * *
“Hey, Sean. How are you, buddy? We’ve missed you.” I blinked and looked over to see Clark and Kent sitting across from me on the patio of their dad’s casa in Belize. I looked around, totally gobsmacked.
“What the hell? Did me mam drug me and put me on a plane? And where’s that bastard coyote? He had to be in on this one, too.”
I looked around but before I could stand, Heath appeared in the chair next to me. The minute I saw him appear out of thin air, I knew something wasn’t right. He sat there though, completely unfazed and self-possessed.
“What the hell?” I looked at Heath, then back over to Kent and his mate. “Is this one of your dream walkin’ visions then? Am I passed out back in Ireland?”
Clark grinned. “Yeah, this is one of Kent’s dream constructs. You and Heath are both asleep, but we needed to speak to you both at once. So here we are.”
“I don’t understand,” Heath said hesitantly. “Why didn’t you just come talk to me at the casa? This is rather, um, odd. Don’t you think?”
Kent shrugged. “It’s my legacy gift, Heath The same legacies that my Papa has been teaching you about, this is my gift. I can cast dreams to anyone I want to if we need to talk. My mate is a seer, Sean here is a prophet, and you, Heath? You’ve proven to be an aura reader. Which brings us to why we’re here”
I looked over at Clark. “Ya had another vision, huh? Was the goddess herself there again?”
“No, actually. I had a vision earlier today of you and Heath sitting inside the cottage, visiting with Effie and Maon. The calendar on the wall by their door was circled with a date in two weeks’ time, on Thursday.” Clark looked uncomfortable, as though he were withholding another thought.
“Spit it out, Clark.” Heath’s soft voice surprised me when he spoke so candidly. For a man who considered himself human, he was rolling right along with this whole psychic dreamscape. “I can tell by your expression that you’re holding information back. What is it?”
Clark grinned. “You’re getting to know me too well, Heath. Okay,” he bit his lip and looked back and forth between us. “I know you still don’t believe that you’re a shifter of some kind, or that you come from a powerful founding family. And I’ve seen you roll your eyes about the whole fated mates thing, especially when our dads tried to tell you what it meant when you smelled Sean and felt that spark when you two touched. But, Heath? Make no mistake. You two are fated mates, which is probably why it was so easy for Kent to get you both into our dreamscape. By the time you two meet with Effie, you’ll already be mated.”
I stole a glance at Heath, uncertain how he’d respond to that. To my surprise, he was gazing steadily at me, as though assessing whether Clark’s words were true. He didn’t blush or look grossed out, to my relief. At length, he gave a curt nod.
“Okay. Shall I join you in Ireland, or would you like to come here?” He spoke logically, as though setting up an appointment rather than planning our future.
Clark laughed lightly. “Although I’m sure Sean wouldn’t mind coming here, Kent and I were thinking that we would take you there. If that’s okay?”
He nodded, his eyes still on me. “That’s fine. I will see you soon then, Sean.” Heath turned back to Clark. “How do I exit, and return to my own sleep?”
Kent spoke up then. “Just touch your mate, the shock should send you both back.”
Heath held his hand out as if to shake on things, but I shook my head quickly. “Wait a sec.” I turned back to Kent. “Do you know when you plan to arrive, or shall we plan this the old-fashioned way and text when we’re all awake tomorrow?”
Kent chuckled. “I can have my plane on stand-by, we just need to arrange to have the babies cared for while we’re gone. One of us will text you tomorrow and we’ll set it up.”
I nodded and turned back to Heath. Before he realized my intentions, I darted in for a kiss. As soon as our lips touched, I found myself waking up in the tavern with a crick in my neck where I’d passed out at the table from drinking. I smiled to myself, sober as a church mouse after that crazy dream experience.
I knew it wasn’t a dream, though. I could still smell Heath’s intoxicating smell of sun-kissed orange blended with the sweet licorice-like scent of anise. The scent was particular to my mate. My Heath. I touched my lips with my fingertips, still able to feel the ghosting touch of his soft lips. Eff me, I was entirely screwed.
I looked over to my left, smiling at the sight of Mam, hunched over the table snoring like a chainsaw. Cody was flopped back in his chair beside her. I had no idea how much we’d imbibed, but I knew one thing. Mam was gonna be kicking me arse in the morning when she woke up and found herself passed out in the family bar.
That’s okay. Once I gave her the news about my mate coming to join us, and us being mated within a fortnight? All would be forgiven.