The following afternoon Eloise found herself sitting at a bar with Marcus and two larger than life bear shifters. The two were regaling her with a story from when they were in high school and had dared Marcus to jump off of the roof of his house.
“And so just as his mom walks out of the house, Marcus jumps and lands hard on his ass!” Nick was laughing so hard as he told the story tears were gathering in the corners of his eyes.
“How mad was she?” Eloise asked, her hand on Marcus’ thigh, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“She was shocked at first, but then once Marcus stood up she started to yell. Called him an immature little boy and his older brothers hadn’t given her so much trouble,” Jay answered, Eloise laughed, she could see Beth losing her cool.
“I think I might have the same reaction if my child jumped off our roof,” she added, her thoughts strayed to the idea of a little boy with her hair and his eyes.
“What about the time he took the four-wheeler mudding and ended up being chased by the local tiger alpha?” Nick shared, Eloise looked up at him in shock.
“How old were you?” she asked, Marcus rubbed a hand down his face and groaned.
“I was fifteen, just hitting my growth spurt, he thought I wvvas a full grown bear on his territory. What he didn’t know what his son Fikir was the reason my four-wheeler had trouble. Fikir liked to mess with the farms around his, he would syphon off gas from our vehicles. I had caught him and was chasing him back to his farm,” Marcus explained, Eloise shook her head over the folly of boys.
“Has he grown up at least?” she asked.
“Yes, he is the alpha of his pride and currently an accountant,” Jay replied. She enjoyed talking with Marcus’ friends. Jay was a large man with dark chocolate skin, broad shoulders and almost black eyes. He kept his hair cut close to his head. Nick was equally as large with light brown hair and blue eyes, he reminded her a lot of Rhett with his no nonsense demeanor.
“When do you need to be back at your mom’s? I know how strict Beth is with her family being on time for dinner,” Jay commented, he was sipping on a beer bottle.
“Dinner is at six, we are going caroling at eight and we will open presents in the morning. I know Mom has hidden all wrapped presents so the boys cannot get in them early. Last year Vincent and Bobby opened their presents at midnight,” Marcus replied, Eloise smiled up at him. She was excited to have a night with him, she hadn’t had time to get out to find him a present, so Beth was picking her up all the things to put together a movie night basket. Eloise had sent her with her credit card right before they left for lunch.
“I’ll pick up everything on your list and get you the wrapping materials. I think this is such a sweet gift, Marcus and Trip loved watching old movies together,” Beth gushed, pulling her in for a tight hug.
“I hope he likes it, we haven’t been together for long, but I want him to have a gift,” she explained, Beth smiled and hugged her once more before heading out to the store.
“Ellie, what do you normally do for Christmas?” Nick asked, she turned her attention away from her mate and looked at the large bear shifter.
“I sometimes fly out to see my mom in Washington, other times I skype with her because tickets are super expensive,” she replied. The past three years she hadn’t been able to see her mom because of budget issues.
“When was the last time you saw her in person?” Marcus asked.
“Three years, my car has taken up a large amount of my savings account. We send gifts back and forth and make sure we skype regularly. She has her boyfriend, Joe and he is super sweet. I think he plans on proposing to her soon,” she answered, she truly liked Joe, he was everything her mother deserved in a man. He had a steady job, thought she was amazing, and helped support her.
“Do you miss her?” Jay asked.
“Yes, I wish I could see her more often,” she sighed, putting on a fake smile she sipped her glass of wine. They had met with his friends at the local bar, her meal was decent and the wine is delicious.
“We can fly out and see her whenever you want,” Marcus offered, she gave him a sweet smile and patted his hand.
“Maybe we could go for spring break?” she suggested, he nodded readily and leaned over to kiss her gently. A warm tingle spread through her body and settled in her womb.
“I want a mate,” Jay complained and Eloise laughed.
“You should contact Josie Austin, she hosts Mate Me events in Virginia. That is where Marcus and I met. My friend Roxie also met her mate at the very first event, he happens to be Josie’s brother-in-law.”
“Would she be willing to come to Texas?” Jay asked, with a bright smile on his face.
“Probably not, she is pretty content in Virginia and expecting her first child,” Eloise replied with a laugh.
“Darn.” Jay snapped his fingers and gave a fake sad face. Eloise laughed louder, Jay was hilarious.
“Stop hitting on my mate,” Marcus grumbled and Eloise turned to give him a kiss.
“I am yours forever and always.” She kissed him again, this time he captured her face in his hands and slipped his tongue in for a quick taste.
“Yuck, keep it behind closed doors,” Nick groaned, he had placed a hand over his and Jay’s eyes. Eloise shook her head and smiled up at Marcus, he was looking at her like he wanted to devour her right there.
“Tonight,” she whispered, his hand clenched her thigh gently.
“Promise?” She nodded and was rewarded with a deep rumble passing through his chest.
“You two are perfect,” Nick commented, he looked down at his phone and sighed.
“Duty calls, we need to go back out and patrol the town. We will call you if we see anything,” Nick explained.
“It was nice meeting you.” Eloise slipped off the stool she had been sitting on and gave him and Jay a hug. Both men returned the hug quickly, gave Marcus a quick handshake and slap on the back, leaving cash on the table to pay for their lunches.
“I like your friends, they take their jobs seriously, but know how to laugh,” she told him, he rewarded her with a quick fiery kiss. She melted against his body, clinging to his shirt letting the sensations course through her.
“I love you, thank you for being the one for me. I had lost hope after the debacle with Wendy of ever meeting my mate. I spent fourteen years in the military focusing on keeping this country safe and this past year has been building my business. Thank you for being mine,” he whispered, and pressed his forehead against hers.
“I should be the one thanking you, you’ve taken on my stalker, you love me for who I am and before we knew we were mates were offering to protect me. I love you Marcus,” she replied and captured his lips in a mind melting kiss. Her hands cupped his face, her fingers rubbing against his three-day beard. She loved this man and hoped very soon they could get married and start a family.
“Marcus?” A high pitched female voice called, Eloise could feel him groan against her lips and let go, turning to face the newcomer. Eloise took her in, she was tall for a woman, with shapely hips, dyed platinum blond hair and clear blue eyes. Behind her stood five children, if Eloise had to guess ranging from the ages of twelve to four.
“Wendy,” Marcus greeted her and Eloise’s eyes went wide, this was the woman who broke his heart at eighteen.