Mooning Over a Monster

Chapter Two

The instant I step outside, the whistling stops. I focus on picking up my bag of food and still-warm café au lait. July in northern Georgia is normally stifling, but today, a breeze intertwines with the ever-present humidity. Something in my physical makeup has always allowed me to regulate my body temperature to fit the environment, so wearing sweats on the hot day doesn’t bother me.
 

Focusing on the weather is my vain attempt to think of anything other than the mythical creature lounging on my front porch. My eyes stay on the wooden planks beneath my feet as I settle beside him on the step, plenty of space between us. Then, I pretend to be fully absorbed in my first sip of coffee.
 

All a ploy to give Mahon time. Time to school his shocked features. Time to come up with an excuse to make a hasty departure.
 

But after a seemingly endless stretch, I can’t keep my eyes to myself any longer. Not when I finally have an unobstructed view of him. Not when I have his freshly mowed grass and tangy tree-sap scent teasing the slitted nostrils on my tiny bump of a nose.
 

Bracing myself, I turn my head.
 

He’s staring. That’s not new. But the delighted, wide-mouthed grin is. The shifter almost appears joyous. 
 

Did I turn into a giant bar of chocolate and not notice?
 

Finally, he snaps his mouth shut. Only to open it a moment later and set me further off-balance.


“I love blue.” Mahon points to his T-shirt, which happens to be a vibrant shade of royal blue that matches my scales. The material stretches over a beefy chest and a set of biceps I’m not sure I could wrap my fingers around even if I used both hands. “It goes great with my hair,” he continues, unclipping the helmet. When he takes the covering off, a mess of red waves spills out, the color darkened by sweat. Mahon messes the strands further with his broad palm.


Our roles have reversed because now, I’m the one speechlessly staring. Never have I had such an easy acceptance of my appearance. Even Levi, a monster himself, did a triple take when we first met.


“Don’t hold off eating on my account.” Mahon waves at the bag he drove all the way out here to deliver. “You gotta be starved.”


Still lost for words, I silently take out and unwrap my turkey and avocado sandwich, robotically biting into my lunch as my mind tries to make sense of this odd man.


When I swallow, his joyful grin returns. “Good, huh? Heath makes a mean loaf of sourdough. Tried to teach me a few times but got all grumpy, saying I was killing his starters.” The redhead shrugs. “I wasn’t trying to murder them. Sometimes, things die of natural causes, you know?” He glances my way.


With my mouth full, I just raise my brow ridges.


“Exactly! He didn’t agree. Put me on delivery duty instead. Much better job. I wish you’d order more though. Yours is my favorite house to come to. Get to fly down that last stretch of road before your drive. And no one else bothers putting on a show for me.” He waves toward my monster fucking display. “Like I said before, genius.”


His chortles have me smiling as I take another bite of my sandwich.
“Thank you,” I mumble through the food. The tone of my voice surprises me, as does my posture. When did I start talking shyly and slouching as if I’m ashamed? 


With a jerk, I straighten my spine and meet Mahon’s eyes. At least, I try to. But his focus is on my relatively flat chest.


“Did you go to Ramla?” He points, and I realize he’s not attempting to find my mosquito-bite boobs, but instead reading the logo on the sweatshirt.


Ramla University. The academic institution just south of Folk Haven, secretly serving a populace of mythics, just like our town provides a home for a good portion of mythical creatures.


I nod while swallowing. “I was their first fully online student.” Now, they’re looking into improving virtual offerings. But for me, the professors jumped through a lot of hoops. “Got a degree in marketing. That’s my job now. Digital marketing. Can do it all from home.” I wave at my house, trying to forget how my boss has been pushing for face-to-face meetings lately. If he makes them mandatory, I’ll have to quit and go on the job hunt again.


“Consider me impressed. You’re looking at a guy who barely made it to high school graduation.” The shifter offers a sheepish smile that crinkles his beard in a delightful way. “Still don’t know what I want to do with my life. Just work a bunch of odd jobs around town for now.”


Mahon describes his situation as if there were something wrong with it. But, gods, the freedom in that way of living starts up a subtle longing in my chest. I like my job. I’m great at it. But I can’t just show up someplace and ask about their Help Wanted sign. I have to do a whole digital song and dance to keep from exposing my unusual face to the world.


“Do you need any help around here?” Mahon’s question brings my focus back to our conversation. “Maybe a gardener? I can do it shirtless.” The shifter wiggles his eyebrows, crimson hairs dancing like caterpillars above a set of friendly hazel eyes. It’s almost as if he’s flirting with me.


But that can’t be right.


Still, I fight the traitorous curl of my lips as I answer, “Sorry, not in need of any half-dressed employees. Despite the setup in my yard, I promise you I am not filming pornos here.”


Mahon barks out a laugh as he reclines on his elbows. Suddenly, I’m regretting not requiring he take his shirt off. Right now, the cotton strains against his meaty body.


The opposite of mine, which is just a collection of sharp angles.
“You have a big ole cast of characters already—that’s for sure.” 


I follow his stare to the bawdy scene, swearing Mahon’s eyes run over the generous globes of Frankenstein’s monster’s ass. 


“Which one is your favorite?” 


The shifter glances back at me, and I drop my gaze to his arm, attention caught by the abundant amount of ginger hair on his pale skin.


“The Wolf Man,” I blurt out, fur on the brain. When I flick my eyes back to Mahon’s face, I find the bearded man pouting.


“You gotta be kidding me, Satine. You’re breaking my heart over here. Wolf shifters always think they’re hot shit.” He waves a dismissive hand in the air. “Bears are so much better. Trust me.”


“Well, you are the expert.” Digging my teeth into my lower lip, I keep my snicker to myself. Reaching into my to-go bag, I pull out the bear claw Mahon was kind enough to bring me. I split the pastry in half and offer him a piece.


He leans toward me, his scent increasing with the proximity. “You honor me,” he says, tone serious. 


Then, the bear shifter plucks the treat from my fingers and takes a substantial bite. I’m so focused on the flex of his jaw that I almost don’t hear the crunch of tires on my gravel drive.


But my sense of self-preservation kicks in, and I whip my head to the side in time to watch a truck amble toward my house. Without considering the move, I pull the hood of my sweatshirt up over my hairless head, leaving only my face and hands uncovered.


Even though I know of Calder, it doesn’t mean he knows of me. This casual chat with my delivery guy has shone on my day like an unexpected ray of sunlight, and I don’t want the joy marred by a selkie flinching at the sight of my differences.


Mahon levers himself up from the stairs with a groan that my mind translates into a sexual noise for some unexplained reason. Or maybe I can blame my yard art for putting my brain in the bedroom.


Shit. Calder’s going to see my monsters fucking.


I only meant for my nameless delivery guy to see it. I was going to break the setup down after he was gone. As Calder steps out of the cab of the truck, his focus goes straight to the green booty. I wonder if he’ll keep the sight to himself or if all of Folk Haven will learn about the backwoods monster’s twisted sense of humor.


At least while the selkie is distracted, I can retreat to the nonjudgmental emptiness of my house. While I gather up my trash and my coffee cup, Mahon strides across my front yard, reaching his moped in seconds and barely pausing before he squats down and heaves the entire thing over his head.


All plans to retreat are delayed, as I’m mesmerized by the strain of the shifter’s biceps against the blue cotton shirt. His crimson hair really does pair nicely with the sapphire color.


The truck sinks under the weight of the scooter, and I tear my gaze away.
 

“Satine!” My name booms through the trees and freezes my feet once again, just steps away from my door. 


With a slow turn, I watch Mahon bound toward me, wide grin parting his beard. He vaults the steps to my porch and skids to a stop in front of me, extending his hand.


Guess the guy has good manners. I set the leavings of my lunch down before straightening and accepting his handshake. At least, that’s what I think he’s offering.


Instead, Mahon tugs me into his warm body and slings a strong arm across my shoulders. My wings gather even closer to my back under my loose sweatshirt, but the bear doesn’t seem to notice as he guides me toward the new arrival.


“Calder! Come here. Have you met Satine?”


The selkie finally looks away from my yard art, his eyes finding mine. To his credit, he merely blinks a few too many times before smiling at me. He holds out his hand, which I shake in a firm grasp, all the while staying tucked in close to Mahon’s side.


As if our relationship were more intimate than having met face-to-face a short while ago.


“Nice to meet you, Satine. Hope Mahon didn’t talk your ears off.”


Suddenly, feeling comfortable enough to joke with these two mythics, I let the first response I think of come out of my mouth. “Actually, he did.” I tug down my hood, revealing my ear-less head.


Calder’s eyes widen, Mahon’s laugh roars, and I bite my lip, fighting a smile. This is the goofy rapport I have with people online but rarely in person. The interaction is heady in a way.


After a second of shock, Calder grins wide and exhales in relief.


“Wish I could stick around.” Mahon lets his arm slide away, and I try not to think about how I miss the warmth. “But Heath is already going to chew my ears off for taking so long.” The bear shifter affects a dramatic pout. “He’s going to make me mop. And it’s not fun anymore since he said I can’t use the handle as a microphone and serenade the kitchen.”


The image he describes is easy to conjure in my mind. This wild redhead could do all manner of things at this point and not surprise me.


“I’ll let you go.” With a step toward my house, I can’t help feeling like I’m returning to a cage. Maybe today is a good day to go for a swim.


“Nice to meet you.” Calder waves as he climbs into the driver’s seat. 
I return the gesture before facing Mahon.


The delivery guy stares into my eyes. I wonder if he’s searching for pupils among the purplish clouds shifting over the surface of the orbs that allow me to see. He won’t find any.


“Can I see you again?” he asks.


You want to? I barely keep the vulnerable question to myself with a reminder that I don’t care if people want to see me or not.


“Sure.”


The shifter beams, leaning forward to snatch one of my hands. He brings my palm to his mouth and presses a surprisingly intimate kiss to the webbing between my thumb and forefinger. Left speechless, I hold my hand against my chest when he releases it.


“See you soon, my blue beauty.”