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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Higher Education - 3. Higher 3

The sound of the old Jeepster Commando pulling into the driveway caused the four men in the backyard to turn towards the garage. Ethan Tucker and his mate, Aiden Jacobs, hopped out of their classic 1968 four-wheel-drive that once belonged to Aiden’s grandfather. Ethan, a construction worker and adopted brother to Casey, held the hand of his sheriff’s deputy mate. Trevor stood as the pair approached and bared his neck ever so slightly to the men who were not only the alpha-designates for Parker Valley Pack but also the alphas for Pit River Pack in California. Like Casey, Aiden had been one of Trevor’s best friends since they were barely crawling. He could not contain his grin as he was enveloped in a powerful hug by both men.

Aiden pulled back, staring at the face he had not seen in months. “So fuckin’ good to have you home. Even if it isn’t for long.”

“I’ve missed you too. Both of you.” A grinning Trevor ran a hand over Aiden’s cheek. “I like the matching scruff.”

“Before Aidan turned me, I didn’t have to worry about shaving often. Now I get a full beard in a week. Working construction, it just seems to go with the job.” Ethan bumped fists with his friend. “I definitely got the best end of the deal. And I don’t care how many years pass, I still can’t get used to the feeling of a non-existent tail wagging when I’m happy.” The group dissolved into laughter when Ethan pushed the back of his shorts down a little and allowed only his tail to form. It did wag joyfully at having his friend home.

 

“So what’s the decision? You need me in California immediately?”

“I’d like you out there as soon as possible. The finance team’s doing a great job as far as I can tell. They’ve been finding some of the money the McKinneys’ siphoned off.” The family of the former Pit River beta had embezzled massive amounts of funds from the pack before their treachery was discovered. That was in addition to a video of the apparent murder of their alpha surfacing. The McKinney family became the prey for an angry pack out for blood. “Alpha Stockdale recommended the company.” Aiden spoke with true respect for his alpha at the Parker Valley Pack. “But I don’t know them, so my wolf won’t let me fully trust they’re not going to rip the Pit River off even more than it’s already been.” Aiden dropped into his favorite patio chair and pulled his mate onto his lap. “You can have a couple days here before you leave.”

“Sorry it’s not a longer and more relaxing summer vacation, Trev. We really do need you.” Ethan tried to stand again before growling and giving up. “One of you can start the barbecue since he’s in cuddle mode. So, is there anything else you want to do while you’re out west? You might be able to work in some actual vacation time.”

“Now that you mention it, there is one place I’d like to go, but we can discuss it after dinner. And I don’t mind working over the summer. An internship like this will look good on my resume down the road. Just wait until I give you guys my bill.”

“Make sure you submit it to accounting, and we’ll eventually get to it.” Aiden winked.

Casey looked at his phone. “We’ve got about two hours before the rest of the guys are gonna start showing up. Think there’s around thirty who want to go on the run tonight.”

******

Trevor navigated his way through the terminal at Los Angeles International airport, appraising the premises, and everyone running around. As he passed a cluster of passengers waiting for the luggage carousel to start moving, he was happy he had opted for only a carry-on bag, having shipped the rest of his clothes directly to Burney. Exiting the building, he looked around aimlessly.

“Can always tell when it’s someone’s first time here.”

A quick scenting of the air, even with masses of people close by, indicated the lithe, young airline employee was a feline. “That obvious? I’m trying to figure out how to get to the rental car place. San Francisco’s much easier with their air train.”

The young man pointed to their right. “Just over there at the purple sign that says Car Rental Shuttle. Wait for the one that’s for the company you’re using.”

“Thanks.” Trevor smiled brightly.

“Always happy to lend a hand, or any other body part, to a hot stud like you. And it never hurts to suck up to a wolf with your connections.” The flirting was over the top. “Don’t worry, I can tell you play for the other team. Plus, I read that bio on you not long ago in the media. But a boy can dream. Hope you don’t mind, but you’ll be playing the feature role in my fantasies when I get home.”

Trevor chuckled. “What with all my best friends being gay, it doesn’t faze me at all. In fact, I view it as a compliment. Besides, I’d be in your fantasies regardless if I minded or not, so I may as well enjoy it and hope it’s really good for you.” Trevor moved close to the cat, took the man’s hand, and guided it to his crotch. He grinned while maneuvering it down his leg so the feline could feel the size. “If you’re gonna be thinking about me, you should at least have a baseline reference for your imagination to build on.” Even with his smirk, to anyone else, it looked like a friendly hug.

“Oh fuck. And I bet you’re still a grower.”

Seeing the shuttle for the company he was using arrive, Trevor offered one last smile. “There’s my ride. Sorry to run off so quickly. Thank you immensely for your help. If you send a message to my pack, I’ll make sure your pride knows how grateful I am.” With that, he dashed off.

******

“Two and a half hours just to drive ninety miles? You’d think you lived a couple hundred miles from the airport.”

“Stop your bitching, and welcome to California. Yeah, it’s longer than in light traffic, but you actually made decent time. You could’ve taken the train. The scenery from the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is nice, though the schedule kinda sucks.”

“Good to see you too.”

“Of course it is. I know you missed me. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.” The shorter wolf offered a fist bump. Trevor had met Brandon Holstrom earlier in the year while fighting the devastating bushfires that ravaged large areas of Australia from late 2019 into early 2020. At first, the firefighter disliked the group from the Parker Valley Pack, but eventually came to respect and even built a friendship with them. “I honestly didn’t think I’d be seeing any of you guys again. Let alone in only three months.”

“We’re hard to get rid of.”

“Yeah, so’s a rash.” Brandon winked.

“You’re still an ass. Anyways, we all like you. I know Cody, Ethan, and Casey have kept in contact.” Trevor took a moment to appreciate the park-like atmosphere around him. Trees offered shade from the late spring heat as a soft, cool breeze blew in from the ocean. Paddocks had a few equines wandering around, and rows of barns lined the perimeter on three sides. If it were not for houses on the hill above them, it would have felt like they were in the country.

“Darius and Aiden have too, but not as much as the others. Oh, and you got that partially right, I’m an ass man. It’s important to include that last word.” Brandon looked amused as his friend shook his head. “You can leave your car there for now. Grab your bag, though, and anything valuable. My house’s at the far end of the property.”

“It’s scary how easily you fit in with the rest of our group. I try to keep up by text, Facebook, or Insta, but grad school keeps me so busy I let some things slide.” Trevor glanced around again and nodded. “This is great. The guys are gonna be jealous. Is there somewhere else I should have parked?”

“You’re okay, but we’ll move it over to my place later. We can compare being busy when you stop being a professional student and get a real job.” Brandon shoulder-bumped his visitor and led the way past the barns. “I was surprised when you called and asked about coming out. Happy about it, but still surprised.”

“I’ve missed that sharp wit of yours. I’m gonna be working at Pit River for about three months, and since I was coming to Cali, I wanted to swing by and see you.”

“Don’t think I’m not appreciative because I am. Outside my pack, and people I know on base or through dancing, you guys and the mutts have become good friends. I should clarify, you’re some of the good friends in the wolf community.” He stopped as a horse stuck its head out the stall door. “Hey there, boy. Did you hear me talkin’?” Brandon stroked from the forehead to the nose as the large animal nuzzled him.

“Beautiful horse. May I?” He raised his hand but did not move it towards the beast.

“This is Rocky. He’ll let you pet him as long as I’m here. The brat would probably bite otherwise. I got him when a boarder refused to pay for medical expenses because the horse had bonded with me. The people came by to check on him maybe once a month, so no wonder he didn’t recognize them. Austin’s is in the next stall. C’mere, Spirit. Say hi to my friend.” A chestnut head poked out the door and whinnied.

“Hey there, Rocky. Hi, Spirit.” He rubbed their faces. “Ethan and Aiden would love it here. The place where they board their horse is incredible. Hope you get to see it someday. The facility’s owners are a bear and tiger.”

“A lot of animals don’t like being around shifters, but horses for some reason don’t seem to care.” Right on cue, Rocky lowered his head and pressed it against Brandon’s chest. “If you’ve ridden, I might see if Spirit will let you ride him so I can get them out together. If you haven’t, he’s not for a first-timer.” He kissed the muzzle of both animals before continuing towards his house. “I’m still surprised you came ‘cause you’re gonna be working about seven hundred miles north of here. A little out of the way just to see me.”

“I’ve never been on a horse, so probably best I don’t try this weekend. I figured I’d spend a long weekend here and relax. Maybe hit a few clubs. The beach could be fun if that works out. And spending time around you when there isn’t a wall of flames bearing down on us would be a nice way to chill before I get to work. Besides, I’ve got a flight Monday afternoon between LAX and Redding, so it won’t be like I have to drive all that way.”

“This is it. Welcome to Casa de Holstrom.” A couple of surfboards were in racks on the front porch. Above it were three flags on poles mounted to the house: The Stars and Stripes, one for the Marine Corps, and one with a red border, white field, and a blue star in the middle. He led his guest inside and pointed to the spare bedroom. “You’re room’s in there. It’s not much, but it’s home and comes with the job.”

“Don’t sell it short. You’re what, five or ten minutes from the beach? And you’ve got incredible weather nearly year round? I think it’s great.” Trevor admired the space. “What’s that third flag with the single star? I’m not familiar with that one.”

“It signifies someone on active duty lives here. I fly it anytime my mate’s away. Those date back to World War I. It’s called a Blue Star Flag. Any family who flies one hopes it’s never replaced by a Gold Star Flag.” Brandon turned towards the window to see the three banners ruffling in the breeze. “I’ve gotten used to locals considering me a step above trailer trash for living here.” His laugh was hearty and showed he was joking. “But I’ve got a mate who doesn’t mind at all if I get trashy. In fact, he’s all for getting down and dirty with me, so I guess it works out.” Brandon waggled his eyebrows.

“You forget. I’ve seen you dance in a club. Nothing trashy about you.” He picked up a framed picture from a bookshelf. “You and Austin look incredible in this.”

“Thanks. That was at the last Marine Corps Ball we were able to go to. He complains the dress blues are uncomfortable, but he looks so damned hot in them.” Brandon opened the refrigerator and pulled out two beers, holding one up in askance. “If you go to the same club as me, you’ll see me dancing again tomorrow night. The boss gave me time off here, but I couldn’t get out of my stripper set on such short notice.”

“No worries. I’m happy in a gay bar, and I can flirt with the best of them. Women or men.” He regaled his host with the tale of his airport encounter, eliciting howls from them both.

Once Trevor dropped his bag in the room, they stepped out the back door onto a deck overlooking houses below. “That one right below us is a vacation rental. Had a group of about four guys last weekend—all exhibitionists. Cool for me, but I know you’d prefer the bachelorette parties that rent it. No longer surprised at how often I get a show.” Brandon turned towards Trevor, looking up at the much taller wolf. “Dude, I’m really glad you came.” He tapped his bottle to Trevor’s and took a long pull. “If you want to go for a run tonight, we can. I’m sure you need it after the flight.”

“Guessing you’re getting along better with your wolf?”

“Yeah. Kind of sad it took something like flying halfway around the world to find myself. Austin’s looking forward to seeing the change in me.”

A knock on the gate behind them caused both men to turn. “Alpha, come in. This is my friend, Trevor Carlson.”

“Don’t get up. I just wanted to stop by and welcome you to our territory. Save you a trip to the office later. Tom Hampton, at your service.”

Trevor did stand and dipped his head in deference. “It’s an honor to meet you, Alpha Hampton.”

“The pleasure’s mine.” The man chuckled. “At least I think it is. You did help one of my best wolves come out of his shell. Brandon, this arrived at the office today. It’s the other reason I decided to come over now. Another Liston Winery box from Australia. Be forewarned, The Lady Jessica was sniffing around it and practically salivating.”

“We all enjoyed working with Brandon in Oz, Alpha.”

“Did this little shit tell you what he did after he got home?” Tom’s merriment was evident.

Trevor looked between the alpha and his friend, seeing the smirk on both faces as Brandon moved his hand to try and cover his mouth. “Apparently not.”

“Do you want a beer, Alpha? And please, have a seat.”

“Sure. Why do you think I keep restocking your supply? I need someplace I can relax and enjoy one.”

“Be back in a second.” Brandon quickly returned with three fresh bottles.

“Cheers.” The alpha raised his before taking a sip. “Oh, that tastes good. My mate, Jessica, doesn’t like the taste of beer, she therefore believes it shouldn’t be allowed in the house. It doesn’t matter I like it, can’t get drunk, and it doesn’t give me a beer belly. Pretty much says a glass of wine is better for us. By the way, she’s dying to try what that winery in Australia has already sent you. Knows you’re saving it for Austin’s return, but each new box makes her less patient. I may be the alpha, but she knows what she can do to control me. Her favorite quote from who knows where is, ‘If you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.’ She certainly has an iron grip on mine.”

Brandon cracked up. “I’m staying out of that like I always do. It keeps me on her good side.”

“Smart man. So anyways, Trevor, your buddy here comes back from Australia, and everyone in the pack can sense something different about him. We’ve always given him his space and not pushed him to go wolf unless he wanted to. Which is like never, unless it’s just him and his mate. First, he surprises us by asking to go for a run with a small group, and we could tell he was having fun for a change.”

“We enjoyed our runs with him while down under.” Trevor nodded at his friend. “His human body’s about the same size as one of my best friends, but it’s kinda cool seeing his wolf is also smaller. A bit of diversity adds to the mix.” His eyes shifted back to Brandon. “Had your fur grown back fully by then?” The firefighter had been severely burned on his final day working the fire, losing all his hair on both his human and wolf bodies.

“It was still a little short.”

“Yes you were and still are.” Tom interrupted. “But I love you anyways.”

Brandon glared daggers at his alpha. “Don’t make me accidentally slip and say the wrong thing in front of your mate.” He refocused on his friend. “I looked better than I did in Sydney. I still wish I could go to the same size Ethan does in fur.”

“Anyways, after the run, he pulled me aside and asked to speak to me privately, so we found a spot well away from the rest. That was a surprise of its own because I could tell his human and beast were acting together. Brandon looks up at me, and I can see he’s smiling, shock number two. Probably the first time I got to see that on his wolf aside from when Austin’s beside him. Trevor, you need to come back when his mate gets home, really sweet guy. So, I’m wondering what’s up, and he says, ‘guess what I can do?’”

Trevor kept glancing between the two men, Brandon tried not to laugh, and the alpha grinned from ear to ear.

“As I’m waiting for him to tell me whatever it is he’s going to, he shifts, and I have a hybrid standing in front of me. Someone who never accepted his animal, who didn’t even want to shift unless he absolutely had to, just stands on his hind legs and does a fuckin’ alpha shift like it’s the most natural thing in the world.”

“Wait. You didn’t even tell him you were an alpha before doing the shift?” Trevor looked and sounded shocked.

Brandon shrugged while staring at the alpha. “Well… At least I bared my neck to you as soon as I did it. Last thing I wanted was for you to think I was challenging you or trying to kill you.”

“Being the proud papa I already was to him, I did my alpha shift and gave him one hell of a furry hug.” Tom had a devious grin. “I learned quick he doesn’t like to be picked up even in that body.”

Trevor lost it. “That’s almost as good as you calling Ethan and Aiden the Kardashians.”

“You did what?” An astonished Tom looked between the two young men. “You compared the two most powerful alphas known to exist to that dumpster fire of a family?”

“It sort of slipped out when they showed up. And it was in reference to everyone in their entourage, including this guy.” Brandon nodded at Trevor as he kicked his feet up onto the table in front of him. “Now, before any more stories about me get told, and since everything was forgiven, I might as well mention Ethan and I got into a fur fight.”

“Wait… You got in a fight with him?” Tom’s shocked expression grew. “Did ya at least win? Sorry, thinking like a proud papa again.” He did not sound sorry at all. “That was very bad of you to fight another wolf. Particularly that one.” A grinning Tom shook his finger.

“I didn’t plan it. After some of my crew got hurt from that hail storm I told you about, I sort of lost control and shifted, twice. Mid fight I went hybrid. I technically won, but only because Ethan yielded. I thought about taking what was mine based on the packs I’d met before coming here. Ethan didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I had to explain the rule of the loser having to submit and get mounted, and Aiden confirmed it. Ethan was a little too eager, and I figured that’s why he gave up. Aiden was too, but tried to act like he was insulted by the idea. Not that it would have been a bad thing to top them.”

“I’m so glad that stupid rule isn’t on the books here.” Tom frowned. “You really need to finish writing that book about your time there. Now I’m curious what else you’ve held back.” Tom focused on Trevor as he hiked his thumb at Brandon. “The guy announces he’s actually an alpha, and all of a sudden, he doesn’t tell me everything like he used to. The son I always wanted and got by adoption when we found him, winds up treating me like any other kid does their parents.”

“Hey, three out of three daughters moved away when they mated. And even though I know they call you once a week, I remained home when I mated and talk to you daily. Jessica does say I’ve got the best taste in men among your kids, and she’s, of course, right. And being the devoted son I am, I make sure you always have a place to store your beer. Which leads to us talking about a lot of stuff while we drink, Dad. So I tell you plenty, just not when I kinda get in trouble or fight other alphas.”

“You guys are a riot.”

“Nah… We’re innocent and leave the riot stuff to the humans.” The alpha stood, upended his bottle, and stepped towards the gate. “I’ve got a ton of stories about our friend here, and now that I know he’s got buddies outside the pack, I get to tell them.” He rubbed his hands together with an evil smirk. “I’ve intruded enough on your reunion. Trevor, it’s great to have you here, and I hope to see more of you. Consider San Luis Rey Pack your home away from home. You and your cohorts are always welcome. Gentlemen, enjoy your evening. And thank you for the beer.” With that, Tom disappeared around the side of the house.

“He’s a cool guy.” Trevor cocked his head as he regarded his friend. “You’re writing a book? About your time in Oz?”

“Yeah. It’s kind of a therapy thing for me. I do poems sometimes when I’m out on a fire. Wrote a few while I was down there, trying to get support for the Australian Red Cross. I figured maybe someone would want to know what it’s like being a fireman. The alpha said the Lycan Council likes the idea of people like me writing more shifter stories. They apparently paint us positively in the eyes of humans, even if they think it’s all fiction. I’ve been talking to an author named WolfM about it.”

“Marketing at its best. Do you have a title for it yet?”

“Still working on that, but thinking about calling it Embers.”

“Can’t wait to read it and see how you portray me. The stunningly handsome hero?”

“Who are you again?” Both men devolved into laughter.

The Liston Winery is the intellectual property of Carlos Hazday from his CJ series and is used with his gracious permission. If you haven't read them yet, you really should.
Copyright © 2023 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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