Lon Ewing snowboarded in and turned economist Corey Levigne’s life upside down, introducing him to a world he didn’t know existed. Corey’s still adjusting to a boyfriend who shifts into an otter and raids the koi pond—and now Lon says Corey’s department chair is a werewolf?
Wolves at the university, wolves in the bank—across Lon’s desk sits Professor Melvin Vadas and his hench-wolves, demanding a construction loan for the pack’s new lodge in the mountains. There’s just one little problem: the proposed building site is home to a breeding population of rare fish.
What do wolves care for stupid human rules, an otter who’d barely make a good snack, or one pesky human determined to protect the environment? Once they’re snout to snout with Corey and Lon there’s more than silverscale dace on the Endangered Species list.
Includes Tail Slide
Fresh powder snow and running water in the Colorado back country call Lon like the moon calls the wolves. Belly-sliding to a good time on the weekends makes up for a workweek at a desk, and meeting Corey adds a whole new level of fun to snowboarding.
It’s easy to slip away for time alone in the woods without raising suspicion, but how’s Lon to entertain himself when bad snow and a worse spill force them off the mountain too early?
Never give an otter a box of Cheerios.
Excerpt: Otter Chaos
Guitars, fiddles and the skirl of the pipes begged Corey’s toes to tap. The brewpub rang with a bouncy tune. Corey wouldn’t dance—he was no Michael Flatley, more of a Michael Flatfoot, but he couldn’t stay still either.
Out of mercy to the group, he’d put down the wooden “bones” he’d been thunking along as a rhythm section, and retired from the circle of musicians to a stool at the bar. His lover Lon remained in the circle, picking the tune on his guitar. Lon’s toes couldn’t stay still either.
Corey knew the signs. Lon would be on his feet in three…two…one…
The session band was one guitarist short—a five foot nine, brown-bearded dervish was up and prancing madly with his guitar. One hand on the neck, the other on the curve of the instrument’s body, Lon held the guitar like a partner while his feet bounced and tapped and scurried. He wouldn’t be invited into the cast of Riverdance, but who cared, when he was having such a good time?
Lon whirled by with his six-string partner, the facial fur of his deep brown goatee split with his grin. Corey applauded but wouldn’t get up to join him. They’d tried that once, and succeeded in kicking each others’ shins.
“He’d be quite the dancer if he knew the steps,” Hugh, the bartender and Lon and Corey’s neighbor, commented from behind.
“Does it matter?” Corey He raised his voice to carry over the music, given that he’d rather watch the dancer’s progress than turn around. He leaned back when Lon clattered by. So what if nothing happening at the end of Lon’s legs was an actual stepdance step? The whole pub followed him with their eyes, because how could they not watch someone having that good of a time?
The fiddles and the pipes hit a last note, lost in the flurry of applause. Lon bowed grandly, right, left, and then more deeply to Corey. That performance merited a blown kiss and a “Bravo!”
Maybe it should have been a toast with his beer and a Sláinte, since they were in the most Irish-like pub in Boulder, but Lon soaked up the applause in any language. Then he plopped back into his seat in the circle, ready to debate choice of the next tune with Steven.
“You have to play my favorite!” Lon urged the man with the pipes. “We’ll sing!”
“I’ll drown you all out,” Steven objected, and demonstrated with a blast of the drones.
“Okay, we’ll yell.” Lon wouldn’t be deterred.
“It’s not an Irish tune.” Steven rolled his eyes.
“You make it sound so good on the pipes.”
“He does,” Corey spoke aside to Hugh, who grinned for the praise for his lover. Everything Steven played on his pipes or his cello, or his guitar, sounded good—the man was a pro. Corey opened the windows to catch the strains of Steven practicing at home, and Lon would slip next door to pick out a reel or a jig when the sounds of the Irish wafted across the way.
“How about—” Steven objected, but Corey deflected his suggestion.
“Make Lon happy, Steven.” No other tune would do if Lon wanted this one. Not that Corey was sure which song Lon was begging for. Last week it was The Lilting Banshee, and the week before he’d insisted on The Hills of Connemara, which had everyone roaring along about the “mountain tay.” “Play it for him.”
“Oh, all right.” Steven smoothed his kilt, adjusted something on his pipes, and played a note that made Lon bounce in his seat and half the other musicians grin. He launched into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which stunned the revelers in the pub first into silence and then into gales of laughter.
Lon strummed along, and Corey helped yodel through the chorus, because hell, this doofy song did sound good on the pipes.
“Emily, you pick!” Lon awarded the next choice to a young woman with a golden voice. Corey loved to listen to whatever she sang. No one minded Lon directing them—they were as much under the spell of his delight as Corey was. Well, maybe not that much—they didn’t get to go home with him, but everyone enjoyed what Lon enjoyed, because Lon was so good at enjoying himself. Corey never imagined sitting in on a session until his lover suggested it. He was an economist, not a musician.
“How about Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair?” she suggested, but the group muttered apologies for not knowing the tune.
“You know it, Steven!” Lon offered his guitar. “Play!”
“Okay.” Steven unhitched himself from the pipes. He took the instrument and together he and the singer poured out a love song. Hugh leaned his elbows on the bar and drank in his lover’s music. Steven had to be playing as much for him as for Emily. Having a committed gay couple for neighbors was a nice addition to the social life.
Lon mouthed the words, and turned to meet Corey’s eyes. I love the ground on which he goes.
Corey’s heart hitched in his chest. Lon, sweet, quicksilver, exuberant Lon, had chosen to stay with him when he could have faded away into the woods. Yes, Corey begged him to stay, because Lon’s secret wasn’t anything Corey would ever turn him away for. I love you too, he whispered, and puckered ever so slightly into a kiss.
The golden notes faded away. Lon held himself still until the clapping died away, bursting out with “You have to teach me that, Steven. Please?”
“Sure, Lon.” Steven chuckled and handed back the guitar. “Come over. We’ll work on it.” He strapped himself back into the complicated tubing and canvas.
Two more tunes went by. Lon had to be getting dry. Corey flagged down Hugh for another glass of Coca Cola. Lon loved the bubbles.
Out of the corner of his eye, Corey spotted a familiar figure in a group of recent arrivals. He’d go say hello to his department head in a few minutes. Not that he’d introduce Melvin Vadas to Lon, who had some strong but fantastic notions about the chairman of the Economics department at the University of Colorado, but Corey wanted to be polite.
Threading his way between the tables to reach the group, Corey intended to set the glass down on the small table in their center without interrupting the flow. Maybe he didn’t really need to steady himself on Lon’s shoulder, but it was a good excuse to touch his boyfriend, get a little squeeze and a promise for later in at the same time. “Bet you need to wet your whistle.”
Lon jerked up hard enough to jostle Corey’s arm. Brown liquid slopped over the rim of the glass. At least he missed Lon’s instrument, but what—?
“No. Sorry. But no.” Lon twisted under the strap of his guitar. “We need to go. Now.”
“Wha—?” Corey all but dropped the glass. “Why?”
“Now. Please.” Lon was up and sidling toward his guitar case.
Corey followed. What else could he do? The man who’d been gleefully leading fiddles and mandolins had cased his instrument and bolted out the side door. Lon barely waited on the porch of the old house turned brewpub, dashing to the passenger side of the RAV4 before Corey was quite outside in the chill spring night.
“Go, go, go,” Lon begged. “Quick.”
“Okay.” Corey tucked his long legs under the steering wheel and peeled out of the parking lot. “Want to explain the sudden need to be elsewhere?”
Lon’s knuckles practically glowed with their whiteness—if the armrest of the passenger seat breathed, Lon would have choked the life out of it three blocks back. “I smelled wolf.”
That again. “I did see Melvin come into the pub.” Corey aimed the truck toward south Boulder, because Lon had that trembly look where his short brown hair and beard seemed to puff out bigger. Absolutely no reason to stress him, and every reason to take him home and pet him into exhausted, sweaty peace.
“Can you get a job at Harvard or Stanford or somewhere far, far away from CU?” Lon whimpered. “Or decide you don’t like me anymore?”
“No and no.” Corey gave his lover a stern look on the turn into the driveway. “I’m headed for tenure here and I love you. I don’t want to change either one of those things.” He pulled Lon across the console to plant a kiss in short, sleek hair. “Let’s go look at the koi one last time, and then last one into bed is a rotten egg.”
“Rotten egg! Ick!” But Lon was diverted enough to scamper to the back yard, not too fast to be caught.