Three months ago...
Crimson Moon Hideaway...
“So, you really had no idea?” Luther snorted, shaking his head. He watched Matt roll his eyes before smiling. He fought the urge to take the man’s hand, completely overcome by the feeling. It wasn’t like he’d never been attracted to a man before, but this was Nat’s partner. And he was human. And he’d just found out about all the paranormal things in this world. And he knew the man had had a wife.
The detective ran a hand through his dark hair and the sunlight caught the hints of silver in it as he smoothed his beard.
“No. I didn’t have a clue. I knew Nat’s family. Not well, but I’d worked a few leads with her dad. When she ranked up to detective, they put her with me. I mean, I knew she was fast and had a crazy sixth sense about where a perp might have gone, but no. Never in my wildest dreams did I think there was such a thing as magic and elves and all of this.” He waved a hand to encompass the Crimson Moon Hideaway resort and everything in and around it.
They made their way up the path that led to the cliffs where Luther was sure Huney would find a flower she’d like. The honeybee buzzed from her perch on Matt’s shoulder and the human smiled.
Luther cocked his head in question.
“She says if I hadn’t accidentally shot Gage thinking he was a bear, she would have told me sooner than later.”
Luther laughed. “Does she know why she can talk to you and no one else?”
Matt shook his head. “She says no.”
The men stood on the cliff and Luther let the breeze blow over his wings. It wasn’t very often he could just forget about the glamor that hid his true self. Being able to just be who he was, was freeing.
He noticed Matt watching. Matt always seemed to be watching. The Fae had chalked it up to the man being a detective. It most definitely wasn’t because he might be interested in him. Matt wasn’t the most talkative, but Luther had learned he was a widower and his life partner had been a woman... Still, that didn’t stop Lew from wondering if maybe there was something else behind the looks.
He gave a flick of his wings and Matt cocked his head.
Luther smiled. “Ask away.” It was strange. He’d met the man less than twenty-four hours before and yet he found himself drawn to the human who could talk to bees.
“Can you actually fly with those?”
The Fae laughed. “I can, yes.”
“Sorry. They just... They look like fancy dragonfly wings.”
Luther grunted. “First, I’m a sparkly elf, now I’m a fancy dragonfly. If I keep hanging around you, I’m going to end up with a complex.” He smiled to show he was joking.
Brushing some almost white bangs out of his very light blue eyes, he jumped off the cliff.
“Lew!” Matt’s relief was obvious as he rose up into view.
“Why, Matthew! Were you worried about me?” teased Luther.
The Fae laughed. “Right. Well, no one has ever accused me of being a sensitive guy.” He frowned. “Except maybe Nat and Venice.” He set back down on the ground beside Matt. “Sorry.”
Wait. Why was he apologizing?
“That was pretty impressive.”
Luther grinned. “Before you ask, no, I can’t carry any more weight than mine.”
Matt’s hazel eyes blinked and he burst out laughing. “I wasn’t going to ask. You might be taller than me, but I probably outweigh you by a good thirty pounds.”
Lew smiled. He’d definitely noticed. He wasn’t sure what the detective did to stay in shape, but the way he filled out his t-shirt... the size of those calves...
He realized they were simply staring at each other. He should talk about something. Nat. Her upcoming wedding to Gage. The resort. Anything.
Matt rescued him by clearing his throat and turning toward the flower patch. He tensed.
“There.” Luther pointed to a blue daisy.
Matt’s gaze fell on Huney and he visibly relaxed.
Lew had to turn away to hide his smile. Big, burly, Detective Matthew Cain was worried about a honeybee. There was no way he was going to admit his heart had also flopped when he hadn’t noticed her right away...
A chirp had him spinning toward the bee in question.
Matt’s head snapped to the right as a red bird flew from the trees, making a charge at Huney.
No! Luther gathered his magic, feeling it well in his chest. Snapping his arms forward, he threw a shield at Huney.
The magic engulfed her and the bird bounced off it, flying off with a surprised squawk.
“What the...” Matt gawked at the sight in front of them.
Where the bee had been hovering in the air, a woman with long light brown hair and honey-colored eyes sat on the ground. Naked.
Luther’s lungs emptied and he struggled to suck in a breath when his head started to spin. He couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t he breathe?
Matt rushed to her side, kneeling beside her.
“Huney?” He pulled his t-shirt off and helped her into it.
She opened her mouth, her voice coming out a raspy squeak. She nodded and threw her arms around his neck, shaking.
“Shhhh... It’s okay. You’re okay.”
His wide eyes met Luther’s and the Fae jerked.
“Luther. Get the fuck over here! What’s going on?”
Give him a second. Huney’s voice laced through his head.
“What’s wrong with him? Jesus. You’re the one that’s not a bee anymore.”
Luther couldn’t move. All he could do was stare at the scene before him. Long, pale legs peeking out from under the dark blue shirt, Matt’s thick arms around the tiny woman who was now in his lap. The Fae groaned.
Matt leaned back enough to tuck her hair behind her ears, his gaze taking in her face. “How are you not a bee anymore?”
Luther’s magic interrupted the spell.
Huney’s voice wrapped him in warmth and Lew’s brain picked up that bit of information. “What spell? Is that why I didn’t... why I couldn’t...” He hopped up and down a few times, shaking out his arms and wings.
Matt cocked his head. “You heard her?”
He nodded. Gods. He heard her. He felt her. He felt him...
Huney held her hand out and Luther went to her. Staying in Matt’s lap, she wrapped Lew’s arm around her. Her shaking lessened.
When I was young, I met a man. A warlock.
Luther stiffened and felt Matt do the same beside him.
It’s not a long story, really. He wanted me to be his mate. I just couldn’t. I’d always felt I had a true mate, but I hadn’t met him yet. I told him this. He cursed me.
“He cursed you?” Matt’s anger was palpable.
She nodded. I was to be a bee for eternity. I mean, I am a bee. I’m a shifter. A bee shifter.
Luther’s eyes met Matt’s over her head. Nope. He couldn’t look into those eyes right now. He focused on the top of Huney’s head.
Her face turned up to Matt’s. I couldn’t tell anyone. The spell kept me from talking to everyone. Except you. I knew the moment I saw you. At first, I stayed away because Gage had warned me you didn’t know anything about us. Then, when you shot him, I found I could actually talk to you, but the spell still kept me from telling you anything about the curse or that you were my mate.
“Christ, I almost smooshed you with my file folder.”
Luther watched as the other man’s fingers ran through her hair and waited to feel a stab of possessiveness or jealousy. Nothing. Just the need to also tug at those long locks and maybe feel what the detective’s fingers would feel like against his skin... Her long legs, Matt’s big hands...
I couldn’t talk to you at all. She turned her head towards the Fae. I felt a pull, but it was so faint... I think he cast the spell to ward against me finding a paranormal mate. He didn’t think I’d also have a human one. But your shield... I don’t think anyone else’s would have worked.
Matt shook his head, inhaling deeply. “Okay. Let me know if I’m getting this right. When you were young, some asshole cursed you to never be human again because you turned him down. Then you met me and you realized I’m... I’m your mate? Like Nat and Gage?”
“And that’s why I feel the need to walk around with a bee for company all the time. Because even though I’m human, I can somehow feel this.”
Another nod. Luther watched as he worked it through in his mind.
“And Luther, he’s also our mate.”
Luther swallowed hard. Our. He’d said our and hadn’t sounded disgusted or freaked out.
Matt’s lips twitched. “That explains that.”
The Fae frowned. “Explains what?”
“Why I wanted to be around you just as much as I wanted to be around Huney. I mean, you’re gorgeous, but this is the first time I felt like I needed to be around someone like this.”
Luther cleared his throat and Matt raised an eyebrow.
“This is a lot harder on you than it is on me, isn’t it?”
It will get worse for everyone once the curse is lifted.
It was Matt’s turn to frown. “I thought Lew broke it.”
He interrupted it. This won’t last. I can already feel my bee fighting to take over. She sighed. Being able to talk to both of you, actually touch you...
Tears streaked down her face. I’m sorry.
Luther’s heart ached for her. “What, in the Gods’ names, are you sorry for?”
Matt wiped her tears. “Holy shit. I can feel that. Please don’t feel like that.” He tightened his hold on her and Luther pressed his lips to her hair.
We finally found each other and now you’ll be stuck with a bee for the rest of our lives.
A shiver ran through her.
Luther watched Matt’s eyes widen and knew he could feel her panic just as vividly as he could.
“It will be alright.” The Fae said it for their benefit as well as his.
I... I need to do this in case it never happens again. Huney tilted her head up and sighed as Matt’s hands cupped her face, his lips claiming hers, simply knowing what she needed.
Luther watched as the other man’s tongue found hers, the kiss slow and tender. He groaned.
Huney’s next shiver broke off the kiss.
“It’s going to be okay,” whispered Matt.
Amber colored eyes met his light blue ones and Luther took a moment to memorize every spec in them.
Lew, please. Another shiver ran through her.
Luther claimed her mouth gently, fighting every mating urge he had. Now wasn’t the time. And she was right. There may never be a time when the three of them could all be together. He refused to believe the curse couldn’t be lifted, but there were so many unknown variables... If that was the case, she was going to know she was cared for and cherished. No matter what form she was in.
As a shiver caused their lips to separate, he made her a silent promise. They would find a way to break the curse.
Huney stood, barely able to stay upright with the force of the next tremor. Both men were on their feet in an instant.
I can’t keep her back anymore. The spell is too strong. She pulled the t-shirt over her head and handed it to Matt. I just... I just hope I can still talk to you after this.
Luther’s heart sank as her form shimmered and seemed to evaporate, leaving a honeybee in the woman’s place. He swallowed hard.
“Huney?” Matt’s voice cracked.
Can you hear me?
Relief flooded through him. “Loud and clear.”
Now that the spell was back in charge, the mating pull wasn’t as strong, but there was no denying it was there.
Luther let out a long breath to steady his nerves. “We need to talk to Jianna.”
Matt frowned. “The resort’s owner?”
Luther nodded. “If there’s a way to lift this curse, she’s our best bet at either knowing it, or knowing where to start looking.” He held his hand out and Huney landed on it. “We’ll figure this out.”
Matt’s large hand squeezed his shoulder and he could feel the man’s determination.
Huney’s excitement nearly bowled him over as she made her way to the detective’s shoulder.
Matt smiled. “Let’s go get some answers.”
“What do you mean you’re not packed?” Luther’s voice rose an octave over the phone.
Matt grunted. “Relax. Some of us don’t have a regular work schedule. People don’t kill each other on a regular nine to five, Monday to Friday timeframe. Don’t start. I’ve been up for damn near thirty-six hours.” He ran a hand over his face and let out an exhausted sigh.
“You’re pinching the bridge of your nose, aren’t you?”
Matt could hear the smile in his voice. He grunted. “No.” He let go of his nose.
“Are you okay?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Just tired.”
Moving into the bedroom, he found his duffle bag, threw in some shorts, a pair of swimming trunks, underwear, jeans, some t-shirts, and a hoodie. “There. I’m packed. You can relax.”
He could almost hear Luther roll his eyes.
Matt smiled. “Anyway, Nat was filling in Granger so she can help out should anything come up while I’m gone.” He raised an eyebrow. “Lew, I can hear you grinding your teeth through the phone.”
“I can’t stand that woman.”
He grinned and managed not to laugh. “While you’re adorable when you’re jealous, there’s no need to be. Gail is happily married.”
Luther grunted. “Tell that to her drunk ass at the pub two weekends ago.”
Matt pinched his nose. “Alright. I’m too tired to deal with your really weird and sudden paranoia. Christ, Luther. Have you seen yourself lately? You make straight guys stop and stare.”
He thought back to two weeks ago when the Fae had come to visit. Nearly every head in the pub had turned as the man had walked into the room. Matt didn’t blame them. That five o'clock shadow, the short, messy blond hair, those light blue eyes... not to mention the tall, lean body. With his crisp white button up and khakis, Luther didn’t really dress to entice, but he didn’t need to. Not to mention the glamor he used to hide his true self seemed to attract other humans like moths to a fucking bonfire.
He’d watched, amused, as one of the rookies had made her way to his side, hips swaying. She’d blinked, clearly shocked as he said something, pointed to Matt and made his way over to him.
“Lew, you have that whole magic mojo thing going on. I’m just plain old human me.”
What was it Nat said all the time? Fucking Fae and their fucking gorgeous everything? Yeah. That sounded about right.
The detective cracked open a beer. “If anyone should be worried and jealous, it should be me. Which I'm not.”
“Okay. Just... I’m sorry. You know I’m not actually, you know...”
“Possessive and jealous and paranoid?”
“Yeah. Those. I’m just...”
Matt could hear his teeth grinding again. “You’re just worried about this weekend,” he said softly.
“Yeah.” He blew a breath out of his nose.
“Is she there?”
“No. I was supposed to pick her up yesterday after work, but then I got stuck there.” Matt ran a hand over his face, nerves and exhaustion making him feel sick. “I’ll pick her up on the way to the airport first thing in the morning.”
“Don’t forget your cigarettes.”
Matt glanced at the plastic cigarette pack protector already on his duffle bag. It fit perfectly in his shirt pocket and kept Huney hidden and safe when they were out in public. It always got a grin out of Nat when she saw either man with it since neither of them smoked.
“Already done. Are you sure you don’t want to come here and pack for me?” He didn’t bother hiding the sarcasm in his question, though he was smiling.
Having Luther as a mate was almost the same as having Dee as a wife. For such a carefree, fun-loving guy, the Fae was quite the worrier when it came to Matt and Huney.
“Sweetheart, if I showed up at your house tonight, there would be zero packing going on.”
Matt could see the lopsided grin in his mind. He missed that grin.
If someone had told him a year ago that his partner was an Elf, her husband was a bear shifter, and that he, Detective Matthew Cain, human, would be mates with a Fae and a bee shifter stuck in bee form, he’d have laughed them out of the building. But today? Today, it was the most natural thing in the world. And he was happy. The happiest he’d been since Dee had passed away. Fucking cancer.
“As fun as that sounds, by the time you got here, I’d be on my way to meet you at the resort.”
Luther grunted. “I’m really looking forward to next week.”
Matt smiled. “Me too. Did you finish packing up your office?”
“How did your trial go today?”
“Not guilty, as it should have been.”
“I knew you’d convince them.”
“Well, I’m not going to lie. I almost forgot my closing arguments because all I could think about was getting Huney uncursed and then getting us all moved into our new place.” Luther grunted. “Never in my life did I ever think I’d leave the big city to live on an acreage outside of itty bitty Palbert City. Is it even big enough to qualify as an actual city? I keep meaning to check the population online...”
Matt chuckled. “Yes. It is.”
“Hey. Nat said you got sent to the principal’s office.” Luther sounded a mix of amused and concerned.
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah. The captain didn't appreciate my speech.”
“You gave a speech?”
“After you met me at the bar, tongues started to wag. Seriously, I couldn’t give a shit if they want to talk about me, but they started pulling Dee into the conversation.”
“Shit. I’m sorry.”
Matt grunted. “Don’t be. I walked by the water cooler and heard two rookies fucking talking about it. Something about ‘what would my dead wife think about the fact I was screwing a guy’. The bastard wasn’t even around when Dee was alive. So, I stood on my chair, got everyone’s attention, and told them that Dee had known I was attracted to both men and women, she was alright with it, yes, I was now in a relationship with a man, and if they had a problem with it, they could all go fuck themselves.”
Luther was laughing on the other end of the phone. “Tell me someone took a video. I need to see that.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “If they did, they haven’t been brave enough to show me. If they thought us being together was gossip worthy, they’re going to shit their pants the first time they see us with Huney.”
Both men sobered. If they ever saw them with Huney.
“This is going to work, right, Lew?”
No answer, but even this far apart, he could feel the Fae’s worry.
“Stop grinding your teeth, Babe.”
“Only if you stop pinching your nose.”
The magical pull he felt to Luther and Huney always hurt after not being around them for any amount of time. Two weeks away from Luther and it was almost intolerable. He knew it was worse for his mate because he was paranormal. It would get worse still once the curse on Huney was lifted. It had played a part in his decision to ask Luther move cities. That and the fact that even without the magic, he loved the man.
One more night.
He finished his beer and set the alarm on his phone. “I’m going to head to bed before I fall asleep standing up.”
“Alright. Have a good sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow. ‘Night, Sweetheart.”
He hung up, smiling. Everything would go according to plan.
Everything had to go according to plan.
Luther sat on the edge of the bed in the cabin, his leg twitching with nerves. He could hear Matt telling him to stop grinding his teeth and the thought helped him relax.
Drinking the mini bottle of rum, he stood. Not usually one to hide from a crowd, the busy lobby of the resort was too much to handle right now. He wanted a proper drink, but there was no way he was leaving the cabin they’d rented. His chest hurt so badly, he was sure it would implode at any moment. He needed to see them. He needed to touch them. Gods, he missed them. The past two weeks had been a special kind of hell.
Maybe it was because this weekend had been looming and beyond this weekend, whatever future was in store for them. Whether Huney was a bee or able to shift, one thing was certain: the three of them would be together.
He shook out his wings, pacing around the cabin.
What time was it?
He checked his watch. Soon. They’d be here soon and from that moment on he wouldn’t have to feel this pain ever again.
His phone rang and his heart warmed. “Hey.”
“Hey. I can feel how much you’re hurting. We’re almost there. Is this better?”
The instant Matt’s voice reached his ear, the pain lessened.
“Yeah. A bit. It’s never been this bad before.”
“Maybe it’s all the magic in that place.”
“Well, whatever it is, it sucks.”
“We’re about ten minutes out.”
He took a deep breath. “No problems at the airport?”
“It was all smooth sailing. We had a kid sitting beside us. How old was he?” There was a pause while Huney answered him. “Twelve. He noticed Huney sticking her head out of my pocket.” He grunted. “Yes, I know you like to look out the window. You’re just lucky it was that kid and not some bitchy adult who would have made a fuss.”
Luther chuckled. “What did the kid do?”“He asked why I had a bee in my pocket. I told him she was mine and she liked to ride in my pocket when I went places.”
“And he didn’t question it?”
“Nope. He asked me her name and what she liked to eat. I told him she liked stories. Lew, this kid spent the entire flight telling her stories.” He laughed and the Fae’s pain lessened a bit more. “When the flight attendant came by with crackers, he asked for honey to dunk his in then set up a little book fort on his table so Huney could eat hidden.”
“That’s...” Luther shook his head. “That’s pretty amazing.”
“I thought maybe he was paranormal, but it’s not really something you can just ask someone.”
Luther burst out laughing. “No. It isn’t. Did he get off with you?”
“Yeah, but I think he had another flight to get on. He’s visiting his grandparents.”
A car pulled up to the cabin.
“Please tell me that’s you. I can’t handle anyone else right now.”
The call disconnected and he sat on the couch, relief flooding through him. He heard Matt jump three steps to get onto the deck and the door opened.
Matt’s eyes took a fraction of a second to find him. It took the rest of that second to kneel in front of the Fae, his strong arms wrapping around him, careful of his wings.
Luther’s head dropped onto his mate’s shoulder with a groan. The pain started to ease and his lungs could finally fill properly.
Huney landed on his shoulder. That was too long.
He nodded. “Never again.”
Inhaling deeply, he relaxed. It was alright. Everything was going to be alright.
Sitting back, he found himself looking into worried hazel eyes.
Matt frowned. “You okay?”
Luther smiled. “I am now.” He closed his eyes as Matt held his face.
“Are you sure? I mean, it was pretty bad for me and worse for Huney, but you... That was intense.”
Matt’s lips found his, the slow and tender kiss pulling another sigh from the Fae. Everything was definitely okay.
“Babe, you look exhausted.”
He grunted. “It’s hard to sleep when it feels like you’re dying of a heart attack for a week.”
“Why didn’t you tell me how bad it was?”
“Because then you would have driven a day to come see me and you were in the middle of a case. Anyhow, it doesn’t matter. We’re here, we’re all fine, and no one feels like they’re dying anymore.” He kissed his mate again. “I promise.”
And now that he was fine, he was reminded he hadn’t eaten since the night before.
“Are you hungry?”
Matt nodded. “I could definitely use a steak and a beer.”
Luther smiled. “Good, because I’m starving.”
Huney buzzed. Me too.
Matt scoffed. “You ate a whole packet of honey on the plane.”
And now, I want another one. Take me out for supper, boys.
Luther grinned. “Yes, ma’am.”
Huney settled on the Fae’s shoulder. Matt closed the door and laced his fingers with his as they started walking to the resort.