With a smile nearly large enough to crack her face, the cooking show host turned the temperature dial on the oven. "While you're preparing your ingredients, make sure you preheat the oven to 350 degrees."
Ciaran scribbled down the directions the overly cheerful woman gave, watching carefully as she demonstrated. Thanksgiving was two weeks away, and he wanted to ensure the meal he prepared was perfect. He had cooked many different meals since he came to the human realm, but this one would be special. It was his first real holiday, and Drew's first one without his family. Although Ciaran was accustomed to being alone and not observing holidays, Drew had no doubt celebrated many occasions with his family and friends.
Just because Drew's family had disowned him did not mean he could not have some sort of celebration. Ciaran knew how important the pack was to werewolves. Drew tried to act as if he did not care that he no longer had a pack, but Ciaran sensed he cared more than he let on. Sometimes, when Drew returned from running in wolf form, he seemed pensive and sad. Other times, he started to make a remark about his childhood and cut himself off, as if he did not want to think about his past at all. Ciaran, alone, could not make up for an entire lost pack, but he could do his best to make the holiday special.
He finished writing the woman's instructions for making the perfect turkey and stuffing and set his notebook aside. Curling up on one end of the sofa, he considered how much his life had changed. Nearly two months had passed since Ciaran had been summoned to Earth from Faerie and been rescued from his summoners by a werewolf.
In a few short weeks, Ciaran had lost the only life he had known, created a new one, and fallen in love. As an outcast half-demon, he'd never believed anyone would care for him. Andrew Moore knew of his past and loved him anyway. For that reason alone, Ciaran would have adored Drew. Everything else Drew had done, and continued to do for him, showed him each day how much his lover cared for him.
Being loved was a wonderful thing, he had learned, but loving was even more wonderful. His love for Drew made him want to be stronger, and better. He wanted to take care of Drew the way Drew took care of him. He was not quite sure how to do that yet, but he was learning.
A knock at the door interrupted his musings. Ciaran jumped. Then he did exactly as Drew had taught him. Instead of opening it, he peered out the window next to the door. A man dressed in a brown uniform stood on the front step, holding a clipboard and a large envelope. The man appeared bored and impatient. Ciaran recognized the uniform from television commercials for a delivery company.
He touched his hair to ensure it covered the points of his ears. Reassured that he looked normal, he opened the door. "May I help you?"
The deliveryman looked at his clipboard. "I hope so. I have a package here for an Andrew Moore. You him?"
Ciaran paused for a moment to determine the last, fractured question's meaning before he replied. "No, Drew is working. Would you permit me to accept the package for him?"
For some reason, the man laughed at his words. "I don't need a signature, so I guess I can let you do that." He handed Ciaran the parcel. "You aren't from around here, are you?"
"My home is a world away from here." Before the man could say anything else, Ciaran tucked the package under his arm and offered a false smile. "Thank you. Have a nice day." He shut the door.
Alone in the living room once more, Ciaran frowned. The deliveryman had appeared amused. Ciaran often encountered such reactions from humans. At first it had confused him, but now he thought he understood the reason--his speech. His efforts to blend in would not succeed unless he learned to speak the way humans did.
He would never have a normal human appearance, with his pointed ears and strange eyes, but those things could be explained away. If he spoke like a human they would see what they expected to see, and be more likely to believe explanations for the odd things about him. The thought of blending in, of being normal and accepted, was wonderful after his years of being hidden away and barely tolerated by his grandfather.
Determined, he took the envelope and strode back to Drew's office. Although he would not normally interrupt during the day, he decided the package and his new plan gave him a good enough reason. He paused in the doorway a moment to gather his thoughts. Drew continued to tap at his keyboard, despite knowing Ciaran was there. With his werewolf senses, Drew had undoubtedly heard him approach. He cleared his throat. "I have decided to change my manner of speaking."
Drew shut down the computer program he had been working on and turned his office chair to face Ciaran. Disheveled brown hair, streaked with blond, stood up a bit, as if he'd scrubbed his hands over it, and his face wore the unfocused look he got when he was working and was interrupted. He frowned and tilted his head in a very canine expression of puzzlement. His green eyes sought Ciaran's gaze. "What?"
Ciaran struggled to explain. "I have noticed that humans do not speak the way I do. You speak differently as well. It is important that I blend in, and if I wish to blend in, I must speak the way you do."
Drew stood and joined Ciaran in the doorway, his broad shouldered frame filling much of the narrow space. Ciaran canted his head back to peer up at Drew, whose expression was more concerned than confused now. He stroked a fingertip along Ciaran's cheek. "I like the way you talk. It's cute."
Ciaran raked a hand through his hair, unsure whether to be flattered or annoyed. "I fail to see what is 'cute' about my speech."
Drew bent to press a soft kiss to Ciaran's lips. As always, even the briefest touch of Drew's mouth to his made his heart beat faster. When Drew straightened, they were both smiling. "It's cute because it's you, and I love everything about you. But if you really want to change the way you talk, you know I'll help you."
What little was left of Ciaran's annoyance melted away. It was hard to be upset when Drew smiled at him. "Thank you. And perhaps I will continue to speak this way sometimes, for you."
"I think I'd like that." Drew glanced toward his computer and back to Ciaran. "I'm at a good stopping point. What do you say we go practice your speech right now?"
"I do not wish to interrupt your work," Ciaran began.
Drew hastened to reassure him. "You're not interrupting. I need a break anyway." He stepped closer to Ciaran. "Are you up for taking a little break with me?"
Puzzled, Ciaran considered Drew's question. The words meant something more than their surface meanings. He could discern that from Drew's tone. Drew's hot stare and teasing smile gave him further clues. Perhaps his lover was making some sort of innuendo? He nodded.
With a quiet laugh, Drew nuzzled his neck. "Bedroom?"
The implications of the question were clear, even to Ciaran. They would not just be practicing his speech. A rush of heat swept over him, and he nodded again.
Drew took Ciaran's hand, lacing their fingers together. Even after weeks of touches and lovemaking, Ciaran felt a thrill every time Drew touched him. Cradling Drew's larger hand in his own, he followed him to the bedroom, anticipation rising.
The moment they stepped over the threshold of the bedroom, Drew pulled him in for a hard kiss. He melted against Drew's strong body, teasing Drew's tongue with his own. The deep, rumbling growl that greeted his action made him shiver with arousal.
Drew pushed him backward, walking him toward the bed. Ciaran dropped the envelope he still carried on the nightstand and allowed Drew to maneuver him until the backs of his knees hit the edge of the mattress. He fell backward onto the bed.
Still standing, Drew gazed down at him. "Lesson number one: Use contractions."
They were truly going to practice his speech? Why had Drew kissed him, then? Confused and a little irritated, Ciaran tried to sit up.
Drew stopped him with one hand. "Nope. You're not going anywhere. This lesson isn't over yet."
Forestalling any further complaints, Drew dropped onto the bed next to Ciaran and kissed him again. At the same time, he pushed a hand up under Ciaran's T-shirt. His fingertips found a nipple and brushed over it. The tiny bud beaded, the sensation radiating through Ciaran's body. Ciaran arched, seeking more contact, but Drew pulled his hand away.
Ciaran whimpered against Drew's lips in disappointment. "Do not stop."
The other man must have understood his mumbled plea, because he said, "Don't stop. Use the contraction."
"Don't stop. Please."
"Good." As a reward, Drew brushed over Ciaran's nipple again, and then pinched it lightly. "Take off your shirt."
Ciaran whipped the garment over his head and tossed it across the room. Drew laughed. "Wow. I can see you're in a hurry, so on to lesson two: use informal words." He leaned back on the bed. "What do you want?"
Were his desires not obvious from the way he had removed his shirt? Ciaran cocked his head. "I wish for you to touch me." He leaned toward Drew.
A raised eyebrow told him he had not said the correct words. "Have you ever heard anyone say 'wish' like that, unless they're wishing on a star or something?"
He considered. "No."
That earned him a grin. "Okay, then. What do you think a human would say?"
He bit his lip and tried to remember the last time he had heard a human express desire for something. "I want you to touch me?"
Despite his tentative tone, Drew looked pleased. "Very good. I think that deserves a reward."
Ciaran fell back onto the bed again as Drew kissed his mouth, and then his neck and shoulder. Each brief contact left heat in its wake. "That is--"
Contractions. Lesson one. "That's good. Don't stop."
Drew paused to yank off his own shirt before returning to what he had been doing. His lips mapped out a meandering path over Ciaran's body. He lingered over the nipples, biting at the tiny brown buds and then soothing the sting away with his rough, wet tongue.
Ciaran writhed under Drew's ministrations. He had never known how pleasurable a small amount of pain could be until Drew had shown him. The experience was made even better by the knowledge that Drew would never really hurt him. Everything Drew did was designed to make Ciaran feel good.
The mouth on his chest was suddenly gone. He heard a low chuckle.
He frowned at the loss. He had endured enough teasing for one day. His cock throbbed, demanding satisfaction. "Remove...no, take off your pants."
"I think I'm creating a monster." His expression amused, Drew unfastened his jeans and shoved them off.