This story is set after Protector Dragon, Halloween Dragon, and Wedding Dragon, and contains spoilers. It features Shaun and Mitchell from Wedding Dragon, the third book in the series.
“Those are for tonight!”
Shaun swallowed the last of the spinach and feta puff pastry he’d swiped off the tray while Mitchell had his back turned. “There’s over a dozen, not to mention all the other food you’ve made.” Or was still working on, like the apple pie dough Mitchell had been busy with. “I thought Thomas, Joel, Parker, and Cameron were the only ones coming over?”
“A dozen may not be enough.” Mitchell eyed the remaining pastries. “Maybe I should make another batch.”
“Or maybe you shouldn’t worry about running out of food when you’ve got enough to feed the six of us for a week.” Shaun opened the fridge to gesture at the various appetizers and ingredients for party snacks and closed it again. “It’ll be fine.”
“Don’t underestimate a shifter’s appetite.”
“Wouldn’t dare.” Shaun grinned at his boyfriend, then took a slice of apple from Mitchell’s cutting board. “I know all about your appetite.” He ate the slice, raising his eyebrows suggestively until Mitchell smiled.
“I just want there to be enough for everybody.”
He knew how much Mitchell enjoyed cooking, especially for his friends. “When have you ever not had enough food?” They always had leftovers after having their friends over for dinner.
“There’s a first time for everything.” Mitchell went back to cutting up the apples. “You never know. I’d hate to run out, especially tonight.”
Shaun smiled. “There’ll be other New Year’s Eves. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” He’d worked enough New Year’s Eve shifts at the bar to know that. Their usual crowd at Orion’s was friendly and easy-going, fortunately, and they’d avoided major incidents over the years. It was busy and hard work, but also fun to ring in the New Year with his colleagues and their regulars. Part of him missed not being there tonight. He wouldn’t miss cleaning up the toilets, though, or calming people who got aggressive or maudlin after a few drinks too many.
“I’d like it to be perfect,” Mitchell said, eyes on the cutting board. “I mean…”
Something warm settled in his chest when he realized what Mitchell hadn’t said. “Because it’s our first?”
“Yeah.” Mitchell gave him a soft smile. “It’s cheesy, but—”
Shaun cut him off with a quick kiss. “I like cheesy. I love cheesy. In fact…” He grabbed another spinach and feta pastry. “I adore cheesy.”
Mitchell laughed. “You can’t eat all of them.”
“Watch me.” Shaun pointedly took a bite while Mitchell shook his head.
A tentative meow made them both turn around. “I think she wants to help you eat,” Mitchell said.
“Of course she does. She likes cheese as well.” Shaun crouched and Houdini walked over to sniff at his pastry-free hand before meowing again. “But cheese is bad for you, kitty.” He gave her a quick scratch behind the ears. “Maybe when Mitchell makes the salmon wraps.”
“Or when you make the salmon wraps.”
Mitchell had him there. “All right, after I set up everything in the bedroom, so Houdini has a good place to hide tonight.”
As if on cue, a loud bang in the distance scared their kitten. Houdini’s ears swiveled as she tried to identify the threat. Another bang sent her scurrying over to the safety of Mitchell’s feet, settling between them with wide eyes. Shaun sighed, inwardly cursing whoever had set off those fireworks. Things would only get worse as it got closer to midnight, and he didn’t even want to think about what happened once the clock struck twelve.
Houdini was a very skittish cat even without fireworks. Whenever their friends came over for dinner, she lurked underneath the furniture or behind the potted plants for several minutes before she came out to sniff at people and maybe let them pet her if she was feeling bold. But more often than not, any attempt at petting led to a hasty retreat.
Shaun didn’t understand how a cat like Rumple, whose love for exploration had led to the unexpected litter, was the mother of Houdini who was, well, a scaredy cat. He’d named their kitten Houdini, fully expecting her to live up to the name by constantly trying to escape their apartment to explore. Her mom was a great little escape artist, but Houdini was more into vanishing acts, disappearing at unexpected loud noises or guests.
“She’s going to hate tonight.”
Shaun nodded. “All the more reason to make sure she’s got somewhere safe to wait it out. You watch her.” He headed over to their bedroom, knowing Mitchell only had to watch her to make sure he wouldn’t trip over her. She stuck to him like glue once something had scared her. Shaun couldn’t blame her for wanting to be close to Mitchell.
He kneeled in front of the wardrobe, checking the time. They still had a few hours before the others would get here, and that apple pie Mitchell was working on would go in the oven soon. Shaun eyed their bed. Would he be able to convince Mitchell it was important to finish their year as they meant to go on?
“Shifter appetite,” he muttered to himself as he inspected the bottom shelf. He was still getting used to Mitchell being a shifter and everything that came with it, including what being fated mates meant. He’d learned more about the non-shifter side of it from his sister, and the words ‘hyperactive libido’ had come up in conversation with Cameron and Joel after a few beers.
But he couldn’t do anything about his own hyperactive libido until he got things set up for Houdini.
They’d already cleared out the bottom shelf of the wardrobe, where Mitchell kept shoes he rarely wore. Their plan was to make sure Houdini had everything she needed in the safety of the bedroom. It was her first New Year’s Eve, and they didn’t want to risk her being too scared to go out to the balcony to use her litter box.
He put one of Houdini’s cat beds on the bottom shelf, wondering why they’d bought two cat beds when their kitten rarely used them. Emily had warned him cats never used the furniture people bought them, but Shaun had dismissed his sister’s advice. She’d been kind enough not to say ‘I told you so,’ but he knew she’d been thinking it loudly.
Apart from the cat beds, Houdini also ignored the scratching post and used the doormat instead. She used the cat tree, but mostly when there were people over and she needed a high place from which to peer suspiciously at their guests.
He added some old blankets and a few toys to keep Houdini company. She’d be able to curl up and hide under the blankets once the fireworks started in earnest, or distract herself by killing the toy mice.
He got her food and water bowls from the corner near the balcony and put those in the bedroom, but it wasn’t until he grabbed a bag of wet food that Houdini padded over to him instead of sitting on Mitchell’s feet. She meowed loudly as he went into the bedroom instead of the usual corner.
“Your food’s here for tonight,” Shaun told her, putting the food in her bowl and stroking her back as she ate. “I’d show you where we put the cat bed, but you’re just gonna ignore that, aren’t you? Yes, you are. You better not ignore the litter box’s relocation.”
Which he should take care of while she was here to notice.
By the time he finished cleaning the litter box and putting it in the bedroom, Mitchell had placed the apple pie in the oven. “Any dough left?” Shaun looked around for the mixing bowl while washing his hands.
“No, I used the last to decorate it.”
Shaun sighed in disappointment as he grabbed the towel. They’d been over this. “How are we supposed to know the pie’ll be good if we haven’t tried the dough?” He knew he should’ve grabbed some before taking care of their cat. “It’s an important part of the baking process.”
“It’s a salmonella-filled part of the baking process.” Mitchell gave him a sunny smile. “But if you want to risk it, you’re free to start on another pie.”
“You know I can’t compete with yours.”
“No one is going to object to two pies.”
“They will if one of them is mine. Look, I know my own strengths and they aren’t in the kitchen.”
Mitchell glanced at the kitchen table. “Could’ve fooled me…”
Shaun grinned, heat flaring up inside of him at the memory of the weekend he’d moved in. Mitchell had insisted on making very sure Shaun felt at home. “You’ve finished making all the appetizers, right?”
“There’s still the salmon rolls.” Mitchell frowned at the sudden change of topic. “Why?”
“And that pie’ll be in the oven for a while, right?” Shaun wrapped his arms around Mitchell, leaning against his back.
“Right.” Mitchell still sounded confused. “Why?”
Shaun pressed a kiss against his neck. “Because I know my strengths in other places around the house too.”
Mitchell was silent, then turned in Shaun’s arms. “That made very little sense, but maybe you could show me.” He kissed Shaun and tasted of pie dough.
Shaun pulled back, gasping in fake outrage. “You tried the dough!”
Mitchell glanced away, clearly embarrassed. “I hoped you wouldn’t notice…”
“Of course I noticed.” How could he not? “And? Was it delicious?”
“Yes. You were right.” Mitchell ran his hand through Shaun’s curls. “It is an important part of the baking process.”
Shaun grinned. “Told you.” He pressed closer. “But I think you owe me.”
“Any ideas on how I can make it up to you?” Mitchell kissed his cheek.
“Several.” He glanced at the oven timer. “If we hurry.” He pulled out of Mitchell’s arms and took his hand to lead him to their bedroom.
Mitchell took a moment to inspect the bottom shelf of the wardrobe. “That looks very cozy.”
“I hope she appreciates it.” Shaun pulled his sweater over his head and wasn’t surprised when he felt Mitchell tug on his shirt. “One thing at a time!”
“You said we should hurry.” Mitchell kissed him while tugging on his shirt, and Shaun couldn’t fault his logic. But it was unfair that Mitchell was still fully clothed.
Kissing and getting Mitchell’s sweater off at the same time was difficult, but at least he pulled his shirt along with it.
As usual, the sight of Mitchell’s bare chest made need pulse inside of him. Shaun pulled him in for another deep kiss, running his hands down Mitchell’s arms and loving the feeling of hard muscle pressed against him.
Shaun groaned when Mitchell’s hands slid down his back to cup his ass. His cock hardened and he couldn’t wait to feel Mitchell’s clever fingers wrapped around it.
“Bed?” Mitchell suggested.
Shaun could only nod. He was pulling on Mitchell’s belt as they moved over to the bed, where Mitchell sat down and Shaun straddled him.
“This would go faster without belts.” Mitchell kissed Shaun’s jaw.
Shaun smiled. “You’re the one who insisted we change out of our sweatpants.”
Mitchell considered that. “Good point. We can have a sweatpants day tomorrow. I don’t have any appointments or meetings yet, only some—”
Shaun kissed him before he could talk about the e-mails and phone calls waiting for him. He’d convince Mitchell to make it a ‘no pants’ day.
As they kissed, Shaun leaned forward until Mitchell got the hint and let himself fall backwards, taking Shaun with him.
A loud, panicked meow next to him made Shaun look up at a slight bump zooming underneath the bed covers towards the other side of the bed. He winced when he realized Mitchell had landed on a hiding Houdini. “Oh, no.”
Mitchell sat up, pushing at Shaun. They both turned to watch Houdini run out of the bedroom with her tail low. She meowed again, quiet and distressed, from the living room. “How didn’t we spot her earlier?”
Shaun eyed their bed. The covers had been a little rumpled even before they’d sat down, and Houdini was small enough to go undetected if you weren’t looking for her. “Because we were busy.” He got off the bed, picking up his shirt and sweater. “I still have to make those salmon rolls.” That would earn him her forgiveness. Eventually.
“I should’ve seen her.”
Shaun recognized that mixture of guilt and frustration. “She is a master of the vanishing act, and you always say I’m very distracting.”
Mitchell’s smile was suggestive as his eyes swept down Shaun’s body. “That is true.”
As usual, that look sent heat down his spine, but there was nothing he could about it now. They had a kitten to coddle. “Salmon rolls, c’mon.”
“And I need to check on the pie.”
They entered the kitchen to find Houdini sitting pointedly where her food bowl used to be. “She’s very subtle, isn’t she?” Shaun opened the fridge to get the salmon, and Houdini came over to him before he’d even opened it. She meowed once he did and kept meowing until he fed her a small piece.
Mitchell laughed when she went back to meowing for more between purrs. “The subtlest.” He scooped her up, cuddling her to his chest. Her purring became louder as she rubbed her head against his sweater, claiming yet another piece of clothing as her own. “The pie looks good. How about I do you a favor and keep Houdini occupied?”
Another bang from outside started Shaun. “And distracted.”
Mitchell made reassuring noises to the cat. “Let’s see which of your toys need destroying, shall we? Good kitty.”
Shaun smiled as he watched Mitchell play with Houdini by trailing a toy on a string for her to catch.
If this was how they’d go on in the new year, Shaun was one hundred percent on board with that.