George Owens is comfortable with his life just the way it is. A wolf- and fox-shifter, George leads a reclusive lifestyle with his energetic and diva-ish mate Billy, a fox- and squirrel-shifter.
George has no desire to take over leadership of the pack, despite his father’s wishes. Edward Owens is feeling his age and wants to make sure the pack is in good hands should he not be able to win his next challenge. However, George is adamant that he wants no part of it.
But events rock George from his complacency, and he realizes he has to take a stand and fight for what he cares about. If he remains in the past and cannot change in order to do what he must, he risks losing everything he loves.
AFTER PUSHING his snout through the snow-covered entrance of the den, George sniffed. He sucked in deep gulps of crisp air, enjoying the slight burn deep in his lungs. He had no desire to be anywhere but there, in Alaska.
Contentment engulfed every pore of his being, and for the past few days, he’d not wasted one thought on his father, Edward, or his pack. Or the fact that Edward and his pack wanted him to take over the pack and become its leader.
Sometimes, George wished his pack would work like most others—the strongest wolf takes the pack. Just his luck that the Owens pack set great value on passing the leadership from father to heir, preferably to a male heir. Of course, that didn’t mean another wolf couldn’t become their leader, but that wasn’t the way their pack liked things to be done.
George shook his head, sneezed, and then climbed out of the den in his fox-form, scanning the area for any sign of danger. He couldn’t detect anything remotely dangerous and circled around to the entrance, leaving footprints in the snow. Small heaps of snow crumpled inside, and right on cue, he heard a plaintive hiss.
Watch what you’re doing! Billy called, using their telepathic connection.
George walked back, stuck his head through the hole that marked the entrance to their den, and looked for his mate. Billy was busy pawing at his left flank, trying to get rid of some stray snowflakes that had dared to fall upon him. George took a moment to drink in the sight of his graceful mate. Billy’s brilliant-red fur stood out against the dark background of their den, and his pristine white belly gleamed.
George’s own coat had a more brownish hue to it, and even though he had the characteristic black socks and ear-tips, neither his belly nor the tip of his tail was white-furred. Instead, these parts were covered in a light-gray fur.
In George’s eyes, Billy was the most beautiful fox-shifter he’d ever met.
Billy huffed when it became clear he couldn’t reach the snow. Instead, he shook himself vigorously, eliciting a yip from George. Billy gazed up at him with his head cocked to one side.
Oh, dear. You’re wearing your gooey look. When did you get to be so overly sentimental anyway? You weren’t like that when we first met.
George skidded back into the den and rubbed his head against Billy’s. A lot has changed since we first met, don’t you think?
Yeah, there’s that.
Are you complaining? George asked.
Billy’s tail stood up high in the air; only the white tip swished from one side to the other, always a sign of excitement.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind spending some time somewhere else. Like… let’s say inside, perhaps.
You are inside, George replied.
He pushed himself up on his hind paws and used his momentum to shove Billy on the ground, underneath him. Even for a fox, Billy was small—something Billy didn’t like George to comment on.
Billy pressed both hind paws against George’s belly while he angled with his forepaws for George’s neck. George nudged his face aside before gently licking from Billy’s snout to his chest, grooming him.
See? That’s what I mean! I know you’re all for the big wilderness and all that but… can’t we go home and have sex on a bed? You remember what’s it’s like, right? A real bed, I mean?
Images flashed up in front of George’s inner eye, images of Billy in his human-form—a small, lithe man with finely toned muscles everywhere and the most beautiful green-blue eyes. Oh, and he also had the thickest, albeit softest, auburn hair George had ever felt.
Hello-ho! You’re doing it again! Billy singsonged.
George nipped sharply at Billy’s left ear. I’m old. I’m allowed to be sentimental.
Billy snorted. You’re forty-three. That’s not old.
You’re twenty-eight. I’m from the Stone Age in comparison to you. I even have the gray hair to prove it.
Dork, Billy said with a great deal of affection in his voice. Come on, George, please. I want to eat a warm meal. I want to sleep in a comfortable bed with you curled around me. I want you to make love to me in our bed, not on a hard and frozen ground.
We padded our den. You’re not lying on frozen ground, George retorted, then made the mistake of gazing into Billy’s eyes. He sighed and surrendered. All right, we’ll go home.
Oh, splendid! Billy crooned. After flipping onto his side, he bounced to his feet. He was already climbing out of their den when he called Last one home has to cook!
Hey! George shouted.
He received no answer. After crawling out of the den himself, he searched for Billy’s paw prints in the snow and gave chase.
Billy wouldn’t take the shortest way home; he never did. No, Billy would take the way that promised the least likely chance to sink chest-deep into the snow. George loved jumping from one snow hole to the next and getting thoroughly wet. Billy enjoyed games in the snow as well—just not for too long.
He took a shortcut through part of the forest, then climbed upon a small hill that overlooked their house. It wasn’t a big one—kitchen, bathroom, living room, and one bedroom—but it was all they needed. Their house was the last on the road, far away from the next one. At times, it felt as if they were the only living beings for miles around, an aspect of their life that had caused some friction between them during the last months.
It hadn’t been an issue earlier, but with winter coming and lasting a long time, this had changed. The snow had started early in October and kept going since then. Whenever the topic of the weather was brought up in conversation, Billy used the opportunity to declare how he was sick and tired of winter and couldn’t wait for spring to come.
George didn’t mind wintertime as it meant Edward and the pack wouldn’t venture out often, and that reduced the chance of them meeting by accident. The phone calls, however, were a completely different matter.
There had been a time—long time ago—when he’d moved out of his parents’ house, dreaming of finding a place far away from the pack and the pressure everyone laid on him. Instead, he’d accepted his father’s gift of a small house, a cottage really, on the pack’s territory. Nowadays, George didn’t mind so much as it meant Billy could commute to Uniontown without much trouble.
Also, at that time, it had been so much easier to give in to his father than to keep arguing. Another positive side effect was that he could stay close to his mother and old friends. Despite the damn leadership business, George liked the people in his pack. That probably happened when you lived in a small, close-knit community.
Not wanting to dwell on upsetting arguments or the everlasting discussion with Edward, George focused on the outer look of their home. The snow around it glittered in the afternoon sun, creating a fascinating play of light and shadow. It was the poster image of an isolated cottage in a winter wonderland. Only thing missing was smoke curling into the air from the chimney and a horse-drawn sleigh standing in front of their house.
After a while, Billy appeared next to him, panting. Another gooey moment?
No, I was wondering how we’re going to get inside. There are several inches of snow blocking our front door.
Crap! Billy swept his gaze over their home. Don’t tell me we have to shovel snow naked! Again! I told you we—
Ah! George cut in.
We stored clothes outside in a box next to the firewood, remember?
Great. First we’ll have to shift and then climb into frozen clothes. After that, we have to shovel for an hour, and only then will we be able to get inside our cold home, Billy huffed.
Or we could use our paws to dig out the doorway.
You know exactly how I feel about that, Billy replied, disapproval evident in his voice.
It’s one thing or the other. George nudged Billy’s snout with his own. Oh, come on, baby, not the diva act, okay?
Just for that, you’re going to pay!
Billy pushed George’s face away and stepped aside. For a moment, George watched him nose the ground and paw at the snowflakes sticking to his snout. George sighed inwardly before turning his gaze back to their house, gauging how long it would take them to clear a path until they could open the front door.
Paytime! Billy squalled.
George jerked his head around, but before he could do anything, Billy had already tackled him to the ground. He oomphed but played along, relieved Billy obviously wasn’t too put out by the prospect of snow shoveling.
They tussled in the snow, enjoying their time together. When Billy’s playful bites became too much for George, he shook him off easily.
It’s not fair that you always win! Billy complained.
But I’m the big bad red fox!
Uh, big bad red fox? You got something wrong there. Isn’t it the big bad wolf?
George growled in response and shifted into his other animal form—a large, dark-gray wolf. It always amused him to see Billy’s reaction—a surprised yelp and a jump backward.
This time Billy’s yelp turned into a helpless gasp. George blinked several times, trying to clear his vision. For whatever reason, shifting from one animal to another played havoc with his eyesight. When he finally had a clear view again, he stared ahead, trying to understand what was happening.
Billy scrabbled for purchase on the frozen ground, his eyes wide in fear. Nothing he did stopped him from sliding down the slope of the hill faster and faster. George gasped when Billy gave up the fight against gravity, curled himself into a tight ball, and shot down the steep hillside.
It’s ADORABLE and sweet but most of all, I loved the characters and found the situations they were forced to endure intriguing.
Read the full review at
It’s a perfect example of yin and yang and, oh the feels within these pages... it’s all here with 216 pages of sheer delightful perfection.
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