This first piece was written for Molly Lolly's review site for the Dreams of the Forgotten blog tour.
Molly--I asked Lexi to talk with Tristan about what a typical day is like. She managed to track him down and share with us what she learned. Definitely worth a look! Read and enjoy!
“Hey everybody, Lexi Ander here. I’m trying to track down Tristan to see if he’ll share with us what his typical day is like.” Looking around the ranch’s yard, I tried to spot Tristan, but I kept getting sidetracked by all the huge Lycans. Tight jeans. Belt buckles. Wasn’t it a little hot out here?
“Ma’am, can I help you?”
I looked up into huge hazel eyes and obvious Latino features. I swallowed hard and he smiled as if he read my thoughts. I admit, they were naughty. Wait, I was on a mission. “Uhm, I’m looking for Tristan.”
He scowled at me. “You mean you’re looking for the Xenres.”
Yikes! “Yes, sorry, yes. I’m looking for Xenres Tristan. He’s expecting me.”
The warrior narrowed his eyes at me, and I gave him my most innocent lamb expression. He leaned forward and sniffed at me. Did I stink? All’s fair, I sniffed him, too. Oh, nice cologne.
He grunted. “Come this way.”
The warrior turned on his heel and walked toward one of the out buildings. It looked like a barn, and I wasn’t disappointed when we stepped inside. There were stalls on both the left and right of the long, wide walkway. The smell of hay was strong, and I sneezed twice. Neither of them were very lady like. Many of the horses gave me indignant looks before they ignored me.
Tristan had a mare tethered in the middle of the walkway. As he ran a brush over the glossy coat, he glanced up. I grinned and waved, laughing at his look of annoyance.
“Should I escort her off the property?”
Even as the warrior spoke, I pulled a bag of cheese puffs out of my tote, raising my eyebrows—waiting.
“You’re stooping to bribery now,” he groused, but grinned wide.
I gasped in mock shock and placed a hand over my heart. “Ouch, that hurt. That you would think such a thing—”
He snorted. “Bullshit. Give me my cheese puffs.” He waved the warrior away and I grinned in triumph. “I told you I didn’t want to give an interview.”
“It’s not an interview. You’re only supposed to give us an idea of what your day is like. Everyone’s curious. What does a Xenres do? Slay minotaurs? Chase down rogues?”
Tristan led the horse back into her stall and waved me over to bale of hay. I sat next to him and handed over the bag, which he tore open and immediately dug in. Soon orange cheese powder coated the bottom portion of his face and his fingertips. He was adorable, but I knew he hated it when someone said so. A thick band glinted on his right hand, the ring Gregori made so that outsiders couldn’t see his growing belly.
His eyes squinted at me as he chewed and swallowed. “Whatever you’re thinking, stop. Who wants to know what I do every day? It’s fucking boring.”
“There’s gotta be an upside,” I pressed.
“Sure there is, I don’t have to muck the stalls every morning.” He grinned at me when I wrinkled my nose. “Seriously, most of the day to day stuff for the ranch is overseen and handled by Randy. We still breed bulls and broncos for the rodeo, although I’ve had to build an alternate entrance where people can pick up their animals. I can’t have them come up to the ranch house anymore. There’s too much that I don’t want to explain.”
“Huh, I thought you’d give that up once, you know, you donned the mantle of king.”
Tristan shook his head. “Why should Ushna and I give up what we love just because something new comes along? This place is our home. We worked hard to learn how to run a ranch, and honestly, I love it here. I may not be able to work like I used to because I have more responsibilities, but when I need the respite, this place will always be here for me, for us.”
“Talking about your new responsibilities…”
He shrugged, his gaze moving toward the huge open door and the view of fence lines and tall grasses. “It’s harder and easier than I thought. So far, most of our time is eaten up by meetings. From how much we want to expand the ranch, to the poverty I see in some of the tribes. After I claim the Wolf Throne we need strategies for what will come next, but there are so many ways in which everything can tank. How do we plan for all of them?
“It’s funny. For the last several years, I’ve only been concerned with mine and Ushna’s wellbeing. Now I’m tasked with the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people. I worry the decisions I make will be wrong. The burden is heavy and without Ushna, and his quiet strength, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to handle everything this far without cracking a little bit. People are requesting to be a part of my tribe, and I wonder why. What is it about me or this place that draws them? Ushna says my strength, how I protect what I claim as mine is spreading by word of mouth. And it makes me wonder about the tribal alphas. Aren’t doing the same? I want my family safe. I want my people safe. Everything I do is with those two goals in mind.”
I bump his shoulder with mine.
“What? I told you it was boring. What did you think I would say? Did you really think I’d confess to how many times Ushna and I have hidden in the pantry to get a couple of minutes to ourselves? You pervert.”
Sputtering. “I said no such thing!”
“Ha! You forget I know you.” He gave me a playful shove.
“I just figured since you were the big bru-ha-ha now—”
I glared at him. “That you’d be kissing babies and making men tremble in their boots.” I gave a put upon sigh. “Now my picture of you is shattered. All you do is sit in a conference room and dream about cheese puffs.”
“And coffee. I definitely dream about coffee.”
“Tristan.” Ushna stood in the far doorway, Stetson pulled low over his eyes.
I glanced to Tristan. “Did you just whimper?”
He sneered at me. “Puppies whimper, I make delicious, sexy sounds.”
“Ugh! Who’s the pervert now?” He cackled and I pushed him towards Ushna. “Go get him Mr. Big Bad Wolf.”
He gave me a quick peck on the cheek before quickly crossing to Ushna who put a proprietary arm around him.
Well, that didn’t go as expected. I guess being a prince isn’t all about the glam and quests and battles. I think I would go stir crazy if I had to sit behind a conference room table or desk all day.
For the same blog tour, Amanda C. Stone asked for little scene where Tristan and Ushna hide away from all of their responsibilities and spend time just the two of them. This is sexy little scene is set between Songs of the Earth and Dreams of the Forgotten, before things get too crazy, but are hectic enough that Tristan devises a plan to steal away for a few hours. Definitely not safe for work. Enjoy!
I stared at the note taped to the mirror in our private bath.
Meet me in the horse barn. Don't tell anyone.
What was Tristan up to? The day had been long and the work hard, leaving me dirty and tired. All I wanted to do was curl up with Tristan. Only a couple of weeks had gone by since the ranch had been attacked and we spent any free time making sure the land was protected. By evening, Tristan and I usually fell into bed, sore and exhausted. I couldn't remember when we last spent time together, just us, without being interrupted.
Smiling slowly, I jumped into the shower and washed quickly. The more I thought about why Tristan wanted me to meet him in the horse barn, the faster I moved. After donning a pair of sweat pants—to hell with the underwear—a T-shirt, pair of old tennis shoes I could simply my feet into, and I was half way to the door before I remembered to stuff a tube of lube in my pocket.
Sneaking through the house, everyone seemed to be doing their own thing. Gregori, Neesie, and Nathan watched TV in the living room. Corey was frying something on the stove when I slipped out the door. Night had fallen and the security lights turned on, illuminating the spaces between the ranch house and the out buildings. I crossed the distance to the horse barn, waving to the warriors who crossed my path, but I didn't stop or chat. I attempted to look as if I was going about some forgotten chore. I considered it a win when no one stopped me.
When I slipped into the barn, I listened intently as I waited for my eyes to adjust to the low light. There was the scrape of hooves on the floor and soft snorts. Several equine heads turned to look at me, but the horses quickly lost interest, ducking back into the interior of their stalls. In the back, the office light shone. Half way there, my mouth began to water as I inhaled the delicious sent.
Stopping in the doorframe, I took in the scene before me. Randy's desk had been cleared, a red and white checks table cloth draped over the surface. Two little glass containers held tea lights, and Tristan was unpacking a brown paper bag. By smell alone, I knew what was in the Styrofoam containers. But the food was only second to the sight of Tristan smiling softly at me.
A wave of possessiveness washed over me at the sight of his big beautiful brown eyes ringed with the green of my own eye color. A unique stamp that no other mated pairs would ever have. The symbol was solely our own, and my wolf chuffed in smug agreement. Tristan and I, the connection we had, was like no other. A lazy smirk twisted Tristan's lips as if he know exactly what I was thinking.
He motioned to the doorway. "Close and lock the door behind you. Tonight there will be no questions from the warriors, no one checking up on us, no interruptions. Just you and me and these awesomely huge sandwiches."
I did what Tristan asked, the smell of marinated meat mixed with scent of well-oiled leather, hay dust, and an underlying odor of the chemicals and lotions Randy kept on the shelf behind the bench where he mended tack.
He'd went to my favorite whole-in-the-wall restaurant and brought home all of my favorites. He unveiled pulled-pork sandwiches with a side of spicy barbeque sauce, jalapenos, coleslaw, and baked potatoes. When he moved to sit across from me, I snagged him around the waist, and pulled him into my lap.
Here there was no one here to see us. Tristan didn't need to worry about another seeing him vulnerable. We'd had guards walk in on us, and our office antics the day Nathan and Neesie arrived became the cause of some good-natured ribbing from those oath-bound to Tristan. But the newcomers, the warriors who requested entrance to our tribe, didn't see the incidents in the same light. Some whispered and gave Tristan side glances but it only took one or two reproachful remarks to make Tristan uncomfortable. Now he hesitated to touch me or to show affection, which was absolutely ridiculous. We were Lycans, touch was essential to our health. We gave and received comfort, shared joy and sorrow through contact. Even though someone didn't claim to be emotionally hurt, those in our tribes felt the deep need, and we instantly gave comfort. No words needed. No shame… and yet, something had been said or done to cause Tristan to doubt himself. He second guessed what his instinct told him. And it pissed me off.
Tristan and I spent years barely touching because the breaking of his bond became a constant physical pain. I would paced outside his room agonized because there was nothing I could do to ease him. I held him only when he invited, but as the years passed, he invited my touch less and less, until I was sure I'd spend my life only ever as his friend. Then one glorious day, Tristan bid me to come to him, not as a friend or tribe member, but as a lover. I grasped the chance, ecstatic over the change.
I wouldn't allow the words of a few to jeopardize Tristan's growth. I'd teach him that to show affection, to touch when and how he wanted was welcomed and natural. Then I'd kick to the curb any who would gainsay me. I had waited for years for Tristan to be whole, to be happy, and I'd be damned if I'd let anyone take that away from him.
So even as he sat stiffly in my lap, I refused to release him. Here, next to me was where he belonged—as close to me as he could get. I'd remind him again and again until his doubt was replaced with confidence, and he no longer thought first before taking my hand.
We ate in silence, with me watching him. The light blush coloring his cheeks was adorable, and so were the small sounds of delight he made after he'd finally relaxed into me. I left the jalapenos slices alone because I had plans of where I wanted to put my mouth, and that kind of spice didn't mix well with romantic advances. He wiggled a little when my fingertips dipped under the waistband of his sweats and glanced over his hipbone.
He tried to conceal the slight smile behind a bite of his sandwich, but he couldn't hide from me. He never could because I saw him. I'd always been amazed at how no one else did. Tristan claimed he was plain, ordinary. Not to my eyes.
"Eat," Tristan groused, but there was no anger behind his command.
"I think I'd like to eat something else."
Tristan threw his head back and laughed, deep and long. "That's a terrible line."
"But true." I abandoned my food so I could run my other hand over Tristan's abdomen. He trembled under my fingers. "I think you should put the sandwich down and turn around."
I was a bit surprised when he did exactly as I said, turning to straddle my hips. His eyes glowed golden, no white visible, and his fingernails darkened as they lengthened. Only warriors could take a third form comprised of both man and wolf. The Lupe was terrifying to see with their blood red eyes and elongated snouts. But Tristan wasn't just any warrior. As the Alpha of alphas, he came from a long line of kings. Not only was he bigger and stronger than any Lycan alive, but he had the ability to change parts of himself. He was still learning how to control his ability and sometimes his wolf bled over into human in moments of high emotion. Some would be scared. But I wasn't. I'd never be afraid of him, no matter what form he wore. That his control slipped now screamed his need.
A low rumble sounded in the center of Tristan's chest, and if I placed my hand in the middle of his torso, his skin would vibrate under my palm. He cupped my face and I didn't flinch or pull away, but leaned into his touch, holding his eyes with mine.
Not making any sudden moves, I grasped his wrists. "Look," I bid softly. Tristan glance to where I held him then up to his own hands, and he visibly flinched, but I refused to let him go. "This is what happens when your wolf's needs are ignored. You avoid my touch when you need me."
"Don't matter," I snarled, my ire coming to the surface drawing his gaze back to me. "When it comes to how you and I interact, my opinion is the only one that matters. What would you do if someone kept me from you?"
His growl was loud, and if anyone else had been in the room with us then would've backed away and hightailed it out of there. He was my mate, the man I called husband. I'd never run from him.
"Then why should I tolerate the same?" I whispered, my gaze dropping to his lips. His wolf's teeth had dropped, the sharp tips peeking through his full lips. "You will touch me when you want, and those who have something to say about it can find another tribe to call home. This is ours. Our land. Our ranch. Our tribe. Our home. I refuse to allow anyone to make you self-conscious of how you interact with me. If you want to kiss the breath out of me in the middle of yard then you will. You are mine."
Tristan gave a low beastly rumble, the word yes hissed before he lowered his lips to mine. Always aware of his strength and his strength, Tristan gentled his touch. Even though I felt the potential for violence in him, with me he remained tender. What he craved from me was different from what he gave me. I ate at his mouth, bruising and demanding. He melted in my arms, surrendering to me with a need for my dominance that bordered on visceral. Slipping my hands down the back of his sweat pants, I grabbed the globes of his ass and squeezed before I urged him to stand.
I pushed his pants down and because Tristan, like me, had high hopes for the evening, he'd gone without underwear. His cock bounced in front of me, the tip already leaking copiously. I couldn't wait, I had to have a taste. Grasping the base, I licked along the underside collecting his precum on my tongue before a sucked the head into my mouth. My tongue swirled around the flared rim before my mouth sank down along the hard length. When my lips met my fist, Tristan whimpered above me, his fingers carded through my hair, his claws scraping against my scalp.
A shiver worked its way up my spine, and I pulled Tristan to stand closer within the V of my thighs. Releasing the base, I held onto his hips, keeping him from thrusting into my mouth. I bobbed slowly up and down his length, but I didn't want him to find release in my mouth. I need to be buried inside his heat. Tristan was agreement when I finally drew away, my lips numb and jaw throbbed with a delicious ache.
Tristan tore the shirt over his head, kicking off his ratty shoes in order to get the sweats off from around his ankles. He shuffled awkwardly towards the huge battered couch Randy kept for those afternoon naps he didn't think anyone knew he took. I undressed just as quickly and grabbed the lube from my pocket. The look Tristan shot over his shoulder as he knelt on the cushions, holding the backside of the sofa almost stopped me in my tracks. That one glance told me how much Tristan wanted me, needed me, and at the moment I felt like… I don't know. How could I say in a couple of words how it felt when I've been blessed beyond my dreams? How I stood at the precipice of everything I could want in this life, and it was all mine. I wanted to lift my head to sky and roar out my pleasure, to announce to all this glorious, powerful man belonged to me,and none living would ever have him?
"I want to see you when I take you." I thrilled at Tristan's shiver at my demand.
Popping the lid to the lube, I coated my fingers as I knelt, moving in between his knees before I set the bottle close at hand on the floor. Tristan's eyes were still bright and golden, but his teeth and claws had retracted. When I took his already kiss swollen lips, he met me with an open mouth, his tongue searching for mine. I teased him, coating his entrance with slick, and making him squirm before I began to prepare him properly. Tristan's arms clutched me about the chest, his fingers digging into the muscle below my shoulders, and I reveled in every pinch of pain as him moaned and writhed underneath me.
Tristan tore his mouth away, panting hard, the pupils of his eyes huge and dark. Before his could beg or demand, I slowly pressed my rigid length into him. His heat wrapped around me, his body holding me tightly as Tristan lifted his legs. I moved so he could grip his knees, opening his body up to me, his head thrown back, and his mouth wide as he panted. Using the arm of the couch to hold myself above Tristan with one hand, I grasped his cock in my slick hand.
The position was the best, but neither one of cared. I moved within Tristan, and he urged me in his rough voice to go faster, harder. I couldn't last, but I wanted to Tristan to come before him. I shouldn't have worried because even as I was devising a way to push him over the precipice, Tristan came. His pearly essence coated my hand and perfumed the air of the enclosed office even as he gave an abrupt shout of pleasure. His body clenched my cock and breath shuddered out of me as he dragged me along with him. After giving a low moan, I shoved deep and came, coating him on the inside, leaving behind my scent so everyone would know—he was mine.
"No. Not yet." Tristan kept me from pulling out and urged me to sprawl on top of him. The couch was only so wide, and it seemed neither of us wanted to be parted just yet, even if we wouldn't be going far from each other.
I knew that what I'd said today would need to be repeated often, and I would. Leaning up on my elbow, I stared down in to his sweaty face, his brown hair damp enough it almost looked black. His eyes were back to his normal brown encircled by the emerald green. I brushed a thumb over his swollen lips and he playfully nipped the tip.
"Promise me you'll quit worrying about what others think of us. Touch me when you want. Kiss me however you desire. If you want to take me into the pantry because you want my lips around my cock, then you'd better drag me in there. And when you come, don't you dare stifle your scream because that is mine and only mine. Every noise you make belongs to me and no one, absolutely no one, has the right to take that from me."
A slow wicked smile split Tristan's lips. "The pantry you say?"
This piece was a request from Molly Lolly for the Surrounded By Crimson blog tour...
Molly--I asked Lexi to once again brave the grounds of Ushna and Tristan’s home and get them to talk to us. She asked Ushna to tell us what romance means to him. I have to say what she found out was beautiful. Read and enjoy!
Ushna owed me a conversation about what romance meant to him, but he’d been dodging my phone calls for a couple of weeks. Taking matters into my own hands, I drove over to the ranch to have a face-to-face. Let him try to outrun me then… okay maybe he could outrun me without breaking a sweat, but I was hedging my bets that I could sweet talk him into relenting. I understood things were hectic for him. There were only a couple of weeks before the pups were born and events had been crazy. Surely this would be a topic to lighten the mood, perhaps it would give him or Tristan a reason to smile.
After the guards at the gate assured me that, no, they didn’t need to frisk me—I asked three times just to make sure, you know—I drove up to the house. No one answered the front door, probably because I didn’t knock, and I went in search of my wayward Lycan cowboy. When I stepped into the kitchen, I stared for a moment taking everything in. Ushna wore a frilly apron and was covered in flour. Actually, the whole kitchen was decorated in the white powder, as if he’d waved around a five pound bag, creating abstract art—or something.
“What are you doing?”
I didn’t mean to startle Ushna but he was so engrossed in his task he didn’t hear me enter the room. He spun around, eyes slightly wide and wild until he realized it was me.
“Lexi.” He grunted my name more than enunciated. With the way he turned back to what he was doing, ignoring me, you’d think I was a pesky little sister he couldn’t get rid of. He couldn’t sweep me aside that easily.
“Don’t ‘Lexi‘ me. You were supposed to sit down with me and talk about what romance means to you. Give those with inquiring minds some juicy tidbits.” I place my purse on the table and rolled up the sleeves of my blouse.
“I don’t see why anyone cares. There are a hundred romantic gestures and some find them dreamy whiles others do not. Most of the time, something’s considered romantic because they’ve never experienced or heard of it. Millions of people give flowers and candy on Valentine’s Day, after the first couple of times it’s not unique. What if I want to keep mine a secret? I want my gestures to remain special and for Tristan only.” Ushna cut the rolled dough at regular intervals and my mouth watered. Homemade cinnamon rolls were my absolute favorite. I would definitely be sticking around to snag one or four for myself.
“Don’t be stingy. Share and help someone out. Everybody is different. You’re a Lycan. Do y’all have something you do differently? Maybe a secret tactic to wooing a mate? Twin Flames are easy. Generalize if you want, but you gotta give us something.” I began wiping down the counters Ushna wasn’t using. How did he get flour on the top cabinets?
Ushna snorted. He almost sounded like Tristan. “Twin Flames aren’t sure things. I can’t believe you said that. They have to work at their relationship, too. It’s not always starry eyes and roses. And no, there aren’t romantic overtures practiced only by Lycans. Well, there was the time Tristan brought me a dead rabbit. I thought it was romantic. There are those who won’t agree with me.”
Carefully arranging the rolls on the cookie sheet, Ushna liberally sprinkled the top with a butter, brown sugar, and pecan mixture before popping the tray in the oven. Together, we finished wiping down the counters and some cabinets. I filled the sink with hot water and dish soap.
“You know what I find romantic?” Ushna grabbed a clean dishtowel and came to stand next to me at the sink. “When Tristan asked me if I wanted to buy this ranch with him.” I gave him an incredulous look and he grinned sheepishly. “I wanted to settle somewhere with Tristan and even though we weren’t romantically involved at the time, I loved him deeply. Tristan had seen what I wanted and endeavored to give me what I desired. Sure, he’s done things others would find romantic. Feeding me while he watched me with eyes that proclaimed I was the best thing since sliced bread. That was fucking sexy. But investing in this place with me, building a home together because he wanted to make me happy—gestures like that are what I find romantic.”
I scrubbed the bowl thinking. “So what romance means to you is something like finding what your love wants and giving it to them?”
“You’re like a dog with its favorite bone.” Ushna untied the apron and hung it inside the pantry. “Let me see if I can explain it.” He shrugged his shoulders as if he felt uncomfortable and began to dry dishes. “Romance is the little things. The things your partner doesn’t ask for. Caring for their needs. Like when Tristan knows I didn’t have time to stop and eat. He’ll track me down with a bagged lunch that he took the time to make for me. It’s something he does to take care of me. Sometimes I’ll say something in passing, like I wish I had a candy bar. A couple hours later he’ll shove one in my pocket when I know we didn’t have any on the ranch. He made a special trip into town over something frivolous, but he put a smile on my face, and earned himself a hellova kiss. It’s finding sticky a note on the bathroom mirror that simply says—Good morning, lover—when he rises before I do.”
I pulled the plug in the sink. “What do you do for him?”
His smile was both soft and wistful with an edge of mischievous. “Little things like that. Making sure his ‘secret’ stash of cherries and cheese puffs are always stocked. Giving him foot rubs even when my own hands are aching. He loves pens so I always bring back a different one when I return from town. But I happen to believe that the most romantic gestures are the ones he doesn’t know anything about.”
We finished tidying the kitchen in silence. He was obviously lost in thought as he loaded the coffeemaker and started a new pot. The cinnamon rolls made the kitchen smell heavenly. While we waited for the pot to brew I turned over his last statement. Why would he think the most romantic overture was one the recipient didn’t know of? Wasn’t the whole point to reap the rewards for doing something special?
The oven timer dinged and Ushna pulled out the cookie sheet and placed it on the cooling rack. He was pouring us a cup of coffee when Tristan appeared at the doorway, his nose lifted in the air, and he was practically drooling all over himself.
Then he whimpered, “Marjan’s baking.”
I glanced to Ushna, waiting for him to correct Tristan. But he gave me a minute shake of his head, smiling over the rim of his coffee. Tristan moved—lumbered—across the floor his hands rubbing his huge belly. Ushna lifted an arm and Tristan leaned against him smacking his lips as he eyed the tray of hot cinnamon rolls.
“How was the trip? Everything’s settled at the business?” Tristan only hummed an affirmation at Ushna’s question. I glanced away when he tilted his head for a kiss. The moment was too intimate to be spied on. My eyes watered at knowing Ushna’s romantic overture, now understanding what he’d said earlier. The most romantic gestures are the ones he doesn’t know anything about.
I agreed. That was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen.
Then I realized I had blackmail material…
Thank you for stopping by and reading!!