“Why are you still cold?” he asked, striding over and pulling her close to his body.
“Something is wrong with the heat in my car. I am saving up to get it fixed,” she answered through chattering teeth. Marcus felt his bear rumble in his chest. Eloise looked up at him in surprise and he blushed.
“Sorry, my bear wasn’t happy to hear you are cold. Let’s get you inside, what floor are you on?”
“Third,” she replied, pointing up a set of rickety wooden steps. There was no way he was ever letting her come back here. This place was awful, he could see the neglect of the landlord and wondered why no one had complained about the conditions before.
“Lead the way.” He motioned her on. If the steps gave way under his weight, he didn’t want her to be behind him. It also gave him a chance to watch her hips sway back and forth under her stylish coat. Looking around as he walked up the stairs, he noticed the peeling paint, siding in serious need of power washing and weather-beaten wooden steps. Stopping behind her, she reached into her bag and pulled out her keys. She had a flower shaped doormat with the word WELCOME across it. Her door had peeling paint like all the others.
“Here is my humble abode,” she said, pushing the door open, she let him walk in first before doing up all the locks. He took in the fresh paint on her walls, a warm peach color. Her furniture was most definitely second hand, but freshened up with pillows. She had a quilted lap blanket hanging off the back of her chocolate brown sofa. He took off his coat and placed it on the hook by the door, she did the same setting her scarf, hat and gloves on a table by the door. He watched her then lock the deadbolt and the two chains, before she turned to walk into her kitchen. He admired the light blue flared blouse that fit her bust perfectly, she wore it over jeans that hugged her curves making them stand out. He admitted to himself, he wanted to know what she felt like naked underneath him, her clothes hinting at the luscious body underneath.
“Do you want something to drink?” she asked from her small kitchen, he almost walked over to join her, but realized the two of them wouldn’t fit.
“Coffee?” he asked, she nodded and set to work making a pot of coffee. He smiled; he had a new coffee maker that used pods he hadn’t seen a large coffee making in years.
“I’m sorry it isn’t anything fancy,” she said, handing him a World’s Greatest Teacher mug. He noticed she held a similar looking mug.
“It smells wonderful, thank you. Tell me about being a teacher,” he prompted, noting her grading spread out across her coffee table.
“What do you want to know?” she asked, she was leaning against her kitchen counter and he settled at her table.
“I won’t bite,” he promised with a slow smile, he patted a hand on the chair next to him. She smiled back and walked over taking the seat.
“How long do you spend grading?” he asked, his eyes drifting to the piles.
“Depends on what I assign for the week, homework we check in class. Projects, tests, word study I grade on the weekends. I spend Saturday and Sunday grading and taking care of my neglected apartment. During the week, I stay until a six every night planning for the following week. Sometimes I stay late for school functions, such as back to school night, international night, literacy night and any fundraisers we host.” He was shocked with the amount of time she spent outside of school hours working.
“Do you get to do anything fun?” he asked and then realized he sounded rather rude.
“Yes, I love going to cooking classes and learning new things. Sometimes I watch YouTube videos. I go out with Josie; I just hosted a baby shower for her with all the women she worked with. She was a teacher at my school before getting married to Rhett. She taught second grade, I teach fourth grade. What about you?” She sipped her coffee and sighed, he could tell she was tired.
“Me what?” he asked, he wasn’t sure what she was asking, his hobbies or job.
“Hobbies, what do you like to do?” Her eyes danced with laughter and he smiled.
“I like to hike through the woods, I read a lot mostly fiction, I’m a fan of traveling. I saw so many amazing places while in the Marines, but I would like to visit them again not serving our country,” he replied, taking a sip of his coffee. It was delicious, the perfect dark roast to drink on a cold December day.
“How long did you serve?” she asked.
“Fourteen years, I joined when I was eighteen fresh out of high school. Last year I started my protection agency and thanks to the connections I have outside of the military, I have been able to build a very successful business. Have you always lived in White Valley?” he asked, he wanted to know everything he could about her.
“No, I grew up in Kill Turn Falls in Washington state with my mom. What about you?”
“I’m from Texas. I lived in a shifter only town called Little Creek. My parents and two of my brothers are still there. I have another brother living in Maine and one in Colorado.”
“Four brothers, where are you in the mix?”
“I’m the middle, the two who moved away are my older brothers, the oldest Travis is in Maine with his wife Rita and their two cubs Vincent and Bobby. My next older brother Clyde lives in Colorado with his wife Dana and their three cubs Gregory, Jill and Kelly. My younger brothers are twins Matt is married to Quinn and has one cub Hannah. Rob isn’t married but has a son Adam,” he shared and her eyes went round.
“Wow, your family reunions must be so much fun,” she remarked wistfully.
“What about you, you said you lived with your mom, what about your dad?” he asked, then watched as her face fell.
“If you don’t want to talk about it, don’t feel like you have to,” he backpedaled, sensing he must have hit a nerve.
“No, it's fine. I was an oops. My parents were a drunken one-night stand. They tried dating, but it just didn’t work. My dad did his part until I turned eighteen. Then he told me I was no longer welcome in his home. He had a family, all boys and didn’t want me around anymore. I spent most of my time living with my mom anyway, I only went to his house on my breaks. So technically I have three half-brothers, the oldest is twenty. I don’t really count them as family since they tossed me out. My mom is all the family I really have,” she shared, he could feel how much it hurt for her dad to toss her away as if she meant nothing to him.
“I am sorry you went through that. To a shifter, family is everything. You take care of your own and make sure everyone is safe,” he explained. His cup was empty, and he noticed so was hers, he stood and took them into the kitchen. Seeing there was no dishwasher, he went about washing them.
“You don’t need to…” she trailed off when he shook his head.
“I want to help,” he replied, and she gave him a relieved look. More than anything after what she said about her dad, he wanted to take her home with him and spoil her rotten. It couldn’t have been easy for her mom to raise her on her own, but Eloise was an amazing woman. She was so strong and the more time he spent in her company the more he wanted to kiss her.
“Thank you,” she said, coming to stand next to him and dry the mugs.
“My pleasure,” he replied, looking down at her. She looked up and paused. Her eyes narrowed, and he thought he saw a flash of desire pass through her eyes. Taking a chance, he bent his head and pressed his lips to hers ever so gently. He pulled back dissatisfied by just a small taste. She leaned forward, and he took it as permission to kiss her again. Wrapping his arms around her he pulled her against his chest, her soft curves felt amazing against his body. He kissed her again, this time harder, her lips were soft and sweet. A hint of coffee lingered on them, he ran his tongue along the opening of her mouth and was rewarded with a small moan, her opening up to let him in. He swept in and conquered. She tasted of coffee and something more feminine, he was addicted and couldn’t get enough. His bear practically purred his delight, her arms were hesitant at first, gripping his forearms. As he pushed his tongue against hers, her hands slid up his arms and around his neck. Letting his hands wander, he slipped them between her shirt and jeans. She felt soft and perfect in his arms.