A werewolf raising two kids on his own…
A grumpy nymph who moves in next door…
and a bond that might just save them both.
Eric loves his new house. Specifically, as a nymph, he loves the garden. And while he doesn’t love the two curious and talkative kids next door at first, he’s not so much of an unsociable hermit that he won’t answer their questions. As for their father, well, Eric won’t deny that he finds him incredibly attractive, and finding out that he’s single only makes him more irresistible. But Eric’s a nymph; sex is always on his mind. He’s perfectly capable of ignoring his impulses.
Single dad Leon is taken with his new neighbor at first glance. He’s beautiful, ridiculously competent, and he smells fantastic which, for a werewolf, means a lot to Leon. The fact that he’s good with Leon’s kids, even when it’s clear he doesn’t know how to react to their affection, is what tips the balance from “curious” to “altogether too interested.” He can’t deny the pull he feels toward Eric, but he’s willing to take things slow.
When hunters threaten Leon’s family, Eric steps in to help, and the aftermath of adrenaline leads him straight to Leon’s bed. But while it makes Leon realize just how important Eric really is… Eric is convinced Leon could never want something more. Before either of them can deal with their own feelings, the hunters return; more dangerous, more determined, and this time Eric is a target too.
Can Leon save his family? Can Eric allow himself to become a part of it?
Eric loved his new house.
A small bungalow with a finished basement and an open floor plan, it was perfect from its pretty blue paint job to its giant front and back yard. The former had gotten Eric interested, when he’d started his search for a house, and the latter had sealed the deal. He was a nymph. He needed a garden in his life. And, like most nymphs, his garden was his pride and joy. He would happily spend every waking moment he could with his fingers in the dirt, planting, weeding, and cultivating.
He was only a week moved in, and, granted, belongings still needed to be unpacked, but that was easy to do when it wasn’t light outside, when it wasn’t nearing the start of full summer. It was the garden that took precedence right now, and he was enjoying himself immensely.
His house was perfect.
Except for the neighbors.
Alright, that wasn’t entirely fair. There wasn’t anything wrong with them. The elderly couple on the left were perfectly fine, and he’d exchanged polite nods with them the few times they’d crossed paths.
The neighbors on the right… had children. Eric had no issue with children, provided they left him alone.
These children did not leave him alone. They had introduced themselves the night Eric had moved in and he had been fending off their talkative -and inquisitive- personalities for the last five days. One or both of them always seemed to be outside no matter the time, and for some reason it looked as though he was the current object of interest.
“Can you let Moana go in your pool?” Aria asked. One chubby fist was holding up the worse-for-wear doll while the other had its fingers curled around the chain link fence separating their yards.
Eric glanced at her before he went back to putting his beans in the ground. “It’s a pond, not a pool. No dolls allowed.”
“But Moana is the princess of the ocean,” Aria said stubbornly. “So she likes water.”
“My pond is a pond, not an ocean, and it’s no place for dolls.”
“Griffin says that ponds are like oceans but the water isn’t salty, so you can drink it.”
“Your brother is not to come anywhere near my pond either,” Eric replied, already picturing the enthusiastic six-year-old hellbent on destruction via swizzle straw. “No dolls or people allowed. It’s a pond. For fish.”
“You’re a people,” Aria pointed out.
“I don’t swim in or drink my pond water.” And why was he having this conversation? He wanted to garden in peace. He only had so much daylight to work with. Talking nonsense with a four-year-old was not on his to-do list. But he also wasn’t about to ignore a child. “Why don’t you go play with your doll?”
“Moana and I can come help you plant your plants!” She beamed at him.
Eric leveled her with a look. “My plants are my plants. You have your own.”
“Ours aren’t as pretty as yours.”
That was true enough. Eric’s garden was still in the beginning stages, but he’d been working nearly nonstop since he’d moved in to create a proper ecosystem, and the house had already come with a good base design, pond included. Another reason why he’d picked it. Aria’s backyard was a fairly nondescript “grass yard with a tree.” It was also strewn with balls, trucks, dolls, and bubble wands. “Tell your parents that you want some prettier plants, then.”
Though that was the other thing. He barely saw parents. Hadn’t, actually, seen them in plural. Aria and Griffin were in and out of the backyard all the time. Often bothering him. A parental unit? There was a man who Eric was fairly positive was their father. Eric had seen just enough to know that he was stupidly attractive. Every so often he saw him poke his head out of the house and call the kids in. But that was it. Eric certainly didn’t know his name, and it wasn’t as if he was about to ask.
“If I ask Daddy for plants, will you help me put them in?”
Well good, they did at least have a dad. “I’m sure your father would be happy to do that. You don’t need me.”
She stuck out her lip and opened her mouth again when she was interrupted by, “Aria! Bath time.”
“Oh,” she said with a sigh. “I have to take a bath now. I didn’t get dirty today but Daddy makes me take a bath anyway.”
“I very much doubt that you didn’t get dirty today.”
Aria wrinkled her nose. “I don’t like baths. They make things smell funny.”
“That would be the scent of soap. Being clean.” Eric nodded in the direction of her house. “Go take your bath.”
“Okay. Good night, Mr. Eric. I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you!”
She turned and raced to her house’s back door, sliding open the screen and leaving it wide open behind her. A moment later she came back into view to shut it, waving hard at Eric before she disappeared from sight again.
Eric sighed and shook his head. Aria was a whirlwind. He turned back to his plants. It was a race against the sunset to get all he wanted done per day, and he also couldn’t use any magic boosts while a curious child was around. Eric wasn’t in the business of making his nymph-hood known. There were altogether too many horror stories and cover-ups surrounding the supernatural. Maybe he ought to think about looking into more solid, less see-through fences, for all that it would make him look like an antisocial hermit.
He finished getting his beans in the ground and stood, lifting his arms over his head for a good stretch. He’d deserve his own bath and bedtime tonight he thought, happily surveying the little sprouts he’d gotten planted around his beanpoles.
Eric quickly glanced around and then flicked a finger at the sprouts. Not a lot of energy, but just enough to get them perking up a bit, a little more vibrant green, settling into their roots. There.
Satisfied, he bent to pick up his gardening tools and turned, taking a startled step back when he saw Aria’s father standing in the yard next to his, watching him. Eric hadn’t even heard him come outside. It was the most Eric had seen of him so far, and he used the opportunity to really look at him, take in how tall and broad he actually was, his short brown hair, his strong jawline.
The dark brown eyes that were intensely focused on him.
The man nodded at him. “Evening.”
“Evening,” Eric said, trying not to sound wary.
The man walked forward, toward the fence. Toward Eric. He was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt, and his biceps bulged underneath the sleeves. It was intimidating, especially coupled with how Eric was pulled to him. With Eric’s nymph nature, he tended to zero in when he found someone attractive. But he’d also spent much of his adult life reining those instincts in, wanting more for himself. So he fought the urge to take another step back, and waited.
The man held out a hand across the fence. “I’m Leon. Figured it was about time I met you. My kids can’t shut up about you.”
Eric stepped forward to shake, pushing down his eagerness at getting to touch. “Eric. Should I worry about what they’re saying?”
Leon grinned, and the change in expression was astonishing. Eric flushed, and he accidentally squeezed Leon’s hand a touch too long before he made himself let go. Leon didn’t seem to notice, at least. “Don’t think so. Unless you mind that they think you’re a witch.”
They have no idea. “Am I a good witch?”
Leon chuckled, a deep, throaty sound. “Griffin officially wants to be you when he grows up now, so I’m thinking yeah.”
Eric blinked, bewildered. “He what?” He’d done absolutely nothing to warrant that.
Leon shrugged, a ripple of muscle, still looking amused. “I didn’t even know he liked plants and stuff this much, but he’s been talking about wanting to garden like you pretty much since you moved in and started being active outside.”
“Oh. Well.” Eric cleared his throat. “Aria mentioned wanting prettier plants too. I run a nursery. Greenscape. It’s not that far. If you wanted to humor them.”
“Thanks. I might take you up on that offer.” Leon paused just long enough for it to be noticeable and then he said, “I try to do my best to work with their interests. It’s not always easy, since it’s just me.”
“Oh,” Eric said, taken aback. That was… very specific information to drop.
But it did make him feel better about the fact that Leon was altogether too handsome for Eric’s well-being.
“Well, not just me,” Leon amended. “Their grandparents are a huge help too.”
“That’s, um, good.” Eric wasn’t sure what to say. “I’m sure they can be a handful. So help is probably…good.”
Leon snorted. “A handful is one way of putting it. Speaking of, though, I should probably get back inside. They were both in bed at last check, but that doesn’t always mean much. It was good to finally meet you.”
Eric smiled. “Likewise.”
Leon smiled back and then turned, heading back into the house. Eric tore his eyes away from watching him go and walked over to his own back door.