A Little Aussie loving wEBSITE OF eROTIC FICTION AUTHOR tONI GRIFFIN
WREATH OF FIRE Smokey Mountain Bears 2
Michael's trying to start a new life away from his abusive father, but he's drifting and not sure what he wants. When he accidentally starts a kitchen fire, the hot new fireman who comes to the rescue is not only another bear shifter. He's Michael's mate. Michael desperately needs to get his act together and figure out what he wants if he has any hope of claiming the bear fated to be his.
Michael McKenna shook his
head. “Christmas is a time for family. I’m not family,” he tried to argue.
Packard snorted. Michael stared at her, not believing the noise that had come
out of her mouth. The woman had been Alpha, for crying out loud, he somehow
expected her to be a little more polished.
“I’m not, you can’t deny
“Michael.” Patricia sighed,
sounding so exasperated as she brandished the egg-covered pastry brush in his
direction, bits of liquid egg flinging everywhere. “You are a member of our
sleuth. This automatically makes you family whether you share our bloodline or
not. You should know this.”
The woman didn’t give him
a chance, just talked right over the top of him. “Plus, where do you think you’re
going to go? Huh? Christmas dinner is being held right here. You live here, for
Christmas with us and that’s final. Or do I need to call Christian and get his
ass over here to tell you?” The hard stare of his former Alpha and the no-nonsense
tone was enough. He knew when he was beat.
“You win,” he said.
Patricia smiled broadly
at him, then went back to egg washing the pies for dinner. “Would you be a dear
and clean up that mess for me?” she asked, pointing to the specks of spattered
egg all over the counter.
“Sure.” Michael grabbed a
washcloth from the sink and wet it before ringing it out and heading over to
clean up the mess. He looked around to make sure he’d gotten it all, and when
satisfied, he rinsed out the cloth and hung it over the faucet. “Do you need a
hand with anything else?”
“No, dear, I’m just about
Michael nodded and left
her to it.
That had been three days
His life was going
nowhere fast. His father and older brother, Jack, had betrayed the bear sleuth
by drugging and attempting to kill Christian and had been banished from the
area by their then-Alpha, Patricia. Michael couldn’t believe his luck when
Christian, the Alpha’s son and future Alpha himself, had told him he could stay
if he wished. Christian had taken over as Alpha upon his thirtieth birthday a
couple of months ago. Michael hadn’t heard from or seen his father or brother
since, and he hoped it stayed that way.
He’d hated his life up
until that point, so he gladly took Christian up on his generous offer. His
father had treated both his sons like shit, but for some reason Jack loved
their old man and followed him religiously. The only reason Michael had ever
followed the man was to avoid a beating and even then, only when he was still
healing from the last beatdown. With Michael being a shifter, it said a lot
about the abuse he’d taken that he would still be recovering from it days
His father was an abusive
drunk. Michael believed his father’s drinking heavily for so long had affected
the shifter inside him and lowered his tolerance to substances they were
usually immune to. Michael couldn’t remember the last time his father had
shifted. He wouldn’t be surprised if the bear inside his dad had died from
abuse and neglect.
Michael couldn’t even
imagine what that would be like. It would be like losing half of himself. He
shuddered at the thought. His bear was a piece of him as much as he was a piece
of his bear. They were two halves of one whole. Michael never felt freer than
when his was able to shift into his second form and run with the other members
of their sleuth.
Even still, his dad was a
large man and still a lot of power behind him. Michael wasn’t a very strong
shifter, and he’d become so accustomed to cowering from his father that the
thought of fighting back hadn’t occurred to him when he was younger. Michael
had fallen into that mindset and hadn’t changed.
Now Michael was a mere
week away from celebrating his first Christmas without his family—not that
there had been much celebrating going on when he had lived at home with his dad
and brother. Any money his father brought into the house he spent on alcohol,
and he only occasionally remembered to buy a few groceries.
Michael hadn’t remembered
what it was like to have a full stomach until he’d come to live with Patricia
and her mate George. Michael had missed so much school growing up, both with
his bruises and running the errands his father had sent him on—the man not
caring that Michael was supposed to be getting an education—that he hadn’t
managed to come close to graduating.
He barely had an
education, and he didn’t have a job, which meant no money. The clothes they had
managed to recover from his father’s house before the man had burned everything
were thin and threadbare. The Packards had been generous and purchased him some
new clothes, especially when winter had hit, but Michael hated being dependent
on others. He felt horrible. He wanted to be his own man, earning his own money
for once in his life. He had tried to help as much as he could around the house
with whatever George and Patricia might need, but there were only so many
things that needed to be done.
What Michael really
wanted was to go back to school and get his GED. Yes, he was twenty-two, but he
didn’t care; he didn’t want to waste his entire life wondering ‘what if?’ He’d
spoken to Patricia about it at length and was grateful that she was supportive
of the idea and had offered to help in any way she could. It was just one more
thing to add to the ever-growing list of what Michael owed the Packards.
But first, before that
could happen, Michael had to get through Christmas.
He still wasn’t entirely
comfortable with the idea of spending Christmas with the Packards. He truly believed
the time was supposed to be for families. However, he no longer had a family,
had barely even had one when his father and brother were around.
He had no one to call his
own, no one to look out for him, no one to love him.
Michael sighed as he lay on
the bed in the room he had been given and stared at the ceiling. He felt so
alone it wasn’t funny. The Packards were lovely people, and he appreciated
everything they’d done, but Michael wanted someone just for himself.
Michael thought about his
new Alpha, Christian, and how he was with his mate, Vincent. The pair were
still newly bonded, only being together for roughly four months. Vincent had
packed up his life in Las Vegas and moved here mere weeks after he’d met
Christian. Michael wondered what it would be like to have that kind of devotion
from someone. He doubted he’d ever find out. If his own father couldn’t give a
shit about him, what hope did he have that someone else would?
He looked at his watch
and groaned; it was only early afternoon. The days tended to move so slowly now
that he had nothing to do and nowhere to go, not that he’d really had much to
do before. Daytime television sucked, so he tended to stay well away from it. He’d
done barely anything today, but he was tired.
Michael decided to take a
nap. But he didn’t want to sleep the entire afternoon away, as he wanted to do
something nice and try to make dinner for Patricia and George before they got
home. He wasn’t the best of cooks, but it was the thought that counted.
Hopefully the Packards agreed.
Michael rolled over on
his bed and got comfortable. The crisp, clean sheets and the wonderful aroma
that went along with them surrounded Michael, and he sighed in happiness. He
couldn’t believe the difference some days. Nothing ever felt clean at his
father’s, no matter how many times he washed them.
He pulled the spare
pillow close and held it to him as he closed his eyes. Michael wondered briefly
what it would be like to share his bed with someone else, preferably a tall,
handsome, muscled someone, but that would only ever be a dream.