As always with these books, mind the sexi-times and blue language.
I trust in your own discretion to skip the bits that offend, or you know, not bother to read it at all. It’s OK, you don’t have to tell me about either decision. I trust you to take care of yourself in this matter. Honest.
NYT bestseller Gail Carriger, writing as G. L. Carriger, relays what happens when a werewolf walks into a bar and falls in love with a man who has no smell.
“What do you mean you didn’t sleep with him? You’ve been chasing his tail for six months. You got cold pussy at the last minute?” Isaac stared in awe at his friend.
“Isaac! Don’t be crass.”
“Babycakes, I’m always crass and you love me for it.”
Clara giggled and bumped against him. “I totally do.” Her eyes were big and worshipful on his face. It was only a little creepy.
Clara was human, so she didn’t understand why she liked Isaac so much. Isaac had learned not to mind. It wasn’t him, it was what he was and he couldn’t do anything about it, so he might as well enjoy the results.
“You going to tell me why you turned him down after weeks of flirting?” Isaac adored contrary women. He didn’t want his cock near them, of course, but he loved to talk about their sex lives. Mysterious alien creatures that they were.
Clara rolled her eyes and looked cagey. “Well…”
Isaac perked up. That meant there was something seriously wrong with the dude. All this time trying to get him into bed and what? “Ooo, lemme guess. He kisses like a dead fish? He’s kinky in a bad way? Smells wrong?”
Okay, maybe not that last one. Humans didn’t seem to care as much about smell as Isaac did.
Clara laughed. “Sugar, you have no idea. He’s got this—” She stopped in her tracks (and mid-explanation) and stood frozen on the busy sidewalk. Her big blue eyes were wide and staring at the club. They were across the street from Saucebox, the sacred space where Isaac and Clara practiced their nightly ritual of group counseling, liquid courage, and interpretive dance. Otherwise known as bartending.
Clara and Isaac were two of San Francisco’s best and most popular bartenders.
It’s not arrogance if it’s the truth.
Clara was clearly distracted by something very shiny. “Oh, my heavens, would you look at the new bouncer?”
Isaac laughed. “You going to put a hand to your head and faint?”
“Land’s sake!” Clara always stepped up to play her part if given the right cue. “Stop looking at me, honey-child. Look at him. Does he bat for my team or yours? Oh, please say he’s straight.”
Isaac squinted across the street. “Can’t tell at this distance.”
Clara gave him an incredulous look. “You’re joking. You could stand on the top of the Empire State Building and ID every gay man in New York City.”
Isaac grinned at her. “I’d sure try.”
“With your spit.”
“Can you think of a better gay litmus test?”
They wove their way through the mostly stopped traffic. Stopped not for the bouncer, but because it was San Francisco. Such ruthless jaywalking made Isaac feel like he belonged in the city.
“Holy shit.” Isaac finally got a good look at the bouncer of questionable sexual orientation. “We are in so much trouble.”
“I know, right?”
Isaac had been against the idea from the start. Having a mingle-with-shifters event at Saucebox might prove profitable, but it was asking for trouble. Especially for him. Adding a bouncer who looking like that into the mix? Insanity.
“That’s what our boss thought would work to tame shifters? Is he crazy?” Isaac shook his head. “He’ll put most of them into heat.”
Clara glanced at him wide-eyed. “Oh, you think that’s how it works? Do you, human-boy?”
“No, but the way some of them behave around specimens like that…” Isaac let himself trail off suggestively.
“Or specimens like you?”
“It’ll be ten times worse around that mountain demigod come down from Olympus to bean us with his laurels.” Isaac tried to collect his scattered thoughts. It was going to be one hell of a long shift.
Their usual guy, Oscar, was also on the door. Oscar was a big friendly black dude, darker than Isaac but still apt to engage in those weird bonding things that humans did around race and gender. Isaac had learned, if not to appreciate it, at least to participate. Oscar wasn’t gay, but apparently, within the confines of co-worker status, that wasn’t as big a deal as it might have been under other social situations. They were both dudes. They were both black. They were both in San Francisco working for the same club. Thus, bonding.
Humans were weird. That would be like shifters bonding over fur color.
However, Isaac was making an effort to understand the species in general. After all, he’d chosen to live amongst them and until recently his skin color seemed to work not in his favor. As such, he considered learning to interface with Oscar as helping him with his transition.
Now, if only the new bouncer would just glance up at him, and…
Oh, just look at those eyes. Big, brown, and wicked.
Isaac’s inner wolf, who hadn’t paid attention to anything in a long time, picked up his metaphorical head in interest.
Isaac mentally slapped him. Down, boy!
Clara nudged him. “Ain’t that the most delicious hunk of brisket?” She always rediscovered her Southern roots when there was a super hot guy around.
Isaac swallowed on a suddenly dry throat. Delicious didn’t even begin to cover it. His wolf licked his chops.
Isaac knew, given what he was, that he should probably not have a thing for really big dudes. But that’s the problem with life, you can never control the thing that puberty gives you. Isaac had friends at the club who’d come into their maturity in the ‘80s and almost all of them had a thing for spandex. (For which there is no excuse. Except, of course, coming of age in the ‘80s.) Isaac, for whatever reason, had a thing for massive guys. Perhaps it was because he was a pretty big guy himself. Perhaps it was a latent revenge fantasy of wanting to take advantage of the very type of man that once made his life miserable.
The new bouncer was really fucking big. He was six and a half feet at least – all of that muscle. He had brown hair to go with the brown eyes, but with smooth, milky skin, like he didn’t see the sun often. If at all.
Isaac stopped paying attention to where he was putting his feet, and in one of his more graceless maneuvers, tripped over the uneven pavement and pitched forward right at the two bouncers guarding the door.
Huge strong hands caught him, and his world was all about a pair of thick-lashed chocolate eyes.
“Alright there?” Deep, mild voice, calm, and not easily riled by anything.
Isaac stared at the big man now holding him up and wanted to wreck him in the best possible way.
Those pretty eyes crinkled at the corners. “I hate it when the sidewalk jumps right up at me like that.” East Coast accent?
Those amazing hands steadied him back to his traitorous feet.
Isaac found his voice. “Bipedal motion has always been a problem for me.”
Big rough fingers cupped his jaw. “Yeah?” A thumb pad traced the bone under his cheek. “Ever considered trying out a quadruped?”
Isaac loosely registered Clara’s disappointed sigh behind him. Part envy, part resignation, part romantic drivel.
Well, there it is. He definitely plays for my team.
At which juncture, Isaac finally remembered to breathe. On his inhalation he smelled the man, started coughing, and freaked the fuck out.
Saucebox’s new bouncer smelled amazing – like warm brandy and lemon and nutmeg and freshly killed rabbit laid out at his feet for a courting gift which meant…
His wolf, the idiot, was doing some kind of happy tail-chasing thing, which made his pulse flutter and his human self feel slightly woozy.
Isaac jerked away, still coughing, while simultaneously trying not to gag.
Clara slapped his back. “Oh sugar, you’re such a spaz.”
Isaac’s eyes watered. He carefully did not look at the new demigod-mountain-werewolf-dream-creature. Instead he caught Oscar staring at him like he’d grown a third arm.
“Oscar,” he said, on a wheeze.
Oscar grinned. “Isaac.”
Clara pushed forward and stuck her hand out at the new guy.
“Hi there, sugar, I’m Clara. This klutz here is Isaac. We’re your bartenders for this evening.”
The chocolate eyes finally left Isaac’s face. “Hello Clara, I’m Tank.” He was almost pretty in profile, if pretty was welded of steel and could crack long bones with his teeth.
Oscar explained what they already knew. He was like that. “Tank’s on board tonight to help with the boss’s little shifter experiment.”
Which totally made sense – hire a werewolf to deal with shifters. They basically specialize in group activities and busting chops. Except, of course, that there weren’t supposed to be any werewolves in the Bay Area. That was one of the reasons Isaac had moved to the place.
Tank was either a loner, which was dangerous, or part of a pack, which was really dangerous.
Involuntarily, Isaac jerked away from the man. He had to hope it wasn’t pack. His wolf whined and Isaac clamped down on the muscles in his human throat to stop it from leaking out.
Clara shook her head at Isaac, mouthed What on Earth is wrong with you? and then grabbed his hand and dragged him inside.
Isaac wanted to keep right on walking out the back door, into the alley, home to his shitty apartment where he would gather up his stuff and move on to a new city. One that really didn’t have any werewolves.
Instead, he allowed her to lead him through to the far side of the club. He waited until they were well out of earshot. Which he knew with werewolves was further away than humans expected – all the way inside, behind the bar.
“So, what’s a werewolf doing in the Bay Area?”
Clara gave him a funny look.
Oh shit, that was out of the blue. She wouldn’t have known Tank’s species. She couldn’t smell the wolf in him. Plus, Isaac never really asked about the shifter community. He was nice to them, and they adored him, but he tried hard not to be curious.
Isaac shrugged. “I figured that’s what he most likely is.”
“Did you?” Clara was a good friend so she let him dig his own grave.
“You know, all big and hot and growly. Plus, the quadruped quip. Aren’t werewolves supposed to be like the fuzzy best?”
“Well, he certainly fits then. But gay? I’ve never heard of a gay werewolf. Have you?”
Isaac blinked. Well, yes, intimately. Me.
He avoided the question. “There’s never been a werewolf in Saucebox before. Not since I was hired on.” I would know.
Clara shrugged. “Wouldn’t be surprised if that means there weren’t any around ’til now. Then again, seems every shifter and his cousin comes in here eventually, always asking for you.” She paused her organizing of the mixers, gave him a head tilt of query. “Why is that?”
Isaac shrugged. “I’m a likable dude?”
It was one of the reasons their boss had decided on a mingle-with-the-shifters special for this evening. Since Xavier hired Isaac a couple months ago, more and more of the local shifters had started frequenting his club. At first it was just a barghest or two. Dogs always managed to track Isaac right away – proverbial tails wagging. Then the kitsune found him, because foxes turn up like bad pennies. They brought along drama, excitement, and junk food. Turns out those plastic-packaged powdered doughnuts at gas stations that Isaac thought no one ever ate… kitsune love them. They thought everyone else loved them too. Xavier put in a vending machine. Once the kitsune found Isaac and the doughnuts, well then everyone else came in to talk to him.
They didn’t know why.
They never knew why.
They couldn’t smell what he was, because Isaac had no scent. The ultimate protection. Isaac smelled human, because he lived with humans. On purpose. Or he smelled like the bar. Or he smelled like the city. But he never smelled like wolf. And didn’t have his own signature scent like all other shifters.
For a shifter to figure out what he really was? Well, that would take frequent exposure to werewolves. Like the one guarding the door right now, massive and gorgeous and giving him the occasional puzzled glance across the wide empty expanse of the still-closed club.
Run. Run run runrunrunrun. That was Isaac the human freaking out, not the wolf. The wolf lolled a tongue at him.
Isaac didn’t run, he started the nightly ritual of setting up his bar and resolved to ask the next kitsune he saw why the hell there was a werewolf in his city. Well, another werewolf, besides him.
In the meantime, he went back to quizzing Clara about her failed sex life.
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