VolykIlya1

In this excerpt from “Ilya and the Wolf,” Ilya explains Christmas to Volyk, an oboroten’ — a wolf shapeshifter. (If you’d like to read Ilya and Volyk’s origin story, you have until January 1 to pick up a copy from Dreamspinner; “Wolf, Becoming,” the novella that tells Where They Came From and What Happened After, comes out on February 24, and the short story will be pulled on January 1 to make way for it. Check it out at http://ow.ly/WjKUP — Dreamspinner’s even having a 25 percent off sale right now!)

A very Merry Christmas to everyone — from me, the Fae, the Gille Dubh, the daragin (those most unusual Christmas trees!) and the oboroten’. May you all enjoy great blessings during this wonderful season, and may 2016 be the year of joy we’ve been waiting for.

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A kiss brushed the back of Ilya’s neck, as gentle as Volyk’s bite had been brutal. Volyk’s arm was around him from behind, tanned, muscular, limned with soft, dark hair. Ilya stroked the silky hair with his fingertips, content just to be held. Loved.

“Now will you tell me about Christmas, and its gifts?” Volyk nibbled lightly at Ilya’s ear, and Ilya thought he felt the lips of his mate—his mate!—curve in a smile. “You spoke of it while I was carrying you here. You sang of it.”

“I did?” What to tell? Certainly nothing of his father’s vapid parties. Nothing of the church that had long ago rejected him and would never accept Volyk. “Christmas is… a celebration.” He would give his mate the Christmas he himself had always loved. “We believe that our God took human form, as an infant, and lived among us. To love us, and by his living and dying as one of us to save us from our own death.”

Volyk’s breath caught hard. “Your god was a shape-shifter?” There was something strange, strained about Volyk’s voice, and Ilya twisted to look at him. “He must have loved you very much to do what he did.”

“Why do you say that?”

Volyk looked as if he wished he’d kept silent. “If he was truly oboroten’, he put his own life at risk when he saved yours. That is our way, one of the laws of our life.”

Everything was still, so still Ilya could hear the pounding of his own heart. And Volyk’s. “You risked your life, when you saved mine?”

Volyk nodded, glancing down, then up to meet Ilya’s gaze squarely. “If you had refused me, I would have died.”

“You—”

“I would have done so willingly.” Warm lips brushed Ilya’s forehead. “I would have nothing without you.”

“You should have told me, you great pridurok—”

Volyk’s deep chuckle rumbled. “I will never take your choices from you again. You can call me an idiot all you like; you will not change my mind.”

Ilya rested his hand on Volyk’s cheek, gazing into his fiery amber eyes. “Idiot. My idiot.” Feeling greatly daring, he leaned in to capture his mate’s lips in a kiss. “My beloved idiot. For the rest of our lives.”

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