Saturday, March 28, 2020

Seedlings (A Psy-Changeling Short Story)

A little something from me to you. I hope this unabashedly joyous story brightens up your world a little.    


p.s. Even if you've never read anything from this series, you should be able to read this story without problems.

Seedlings
A Psy-Changeling Short Story by Nalini Singh

Tamsyn had been ready to have cubs since about five seconds after she and Nathan officially became a couple—in other words, since the day her mate got his head screwed on straight and stopped trying to protect her by keeping his distance.
The cubs? It was a healer thing. She knew enough healers to understand that the need to look after a family was an itch in their blood. Of course, since healers considered the entire pack their family, it was an itch they could scratch even if they didn’t have kids of their own.
As for Tamsyn, she’d made sure she didn’t have children. Her mate wasn’t ready. It had taken a solid couple of years for Nathan to accept that she didn’t regret mating at nineteen and never would. Not only that she had no regrets, but that she was joyously happy to be with him, her soul lighting up each morning she woke to find the muscled heat of him beside her.
Adding cubs to that would’ve strained her husband’s huge and bruised heart to breaking point. But, she was happy to say that their years together—coming up to fourteen now!—had healed the bruises, had him laughing in a way that reached the midnight blue of his eyes and creased his cheeks. Her heart squeezed each time he smiled—the man was getting more handsome with age and it wasn’t fair to her poor heart.
But she’d keep on falling into his smile, and she’d keep on kissing him, and she’d keep on tumbling into love with him over and over again. As for the cubs, she babied and mothered every single one in DarkRiver. “Ry, put that down right now,” she said firmly to the gorgeous little boy who was clutching a fat worm in his small and pudgy fingers.
All white-blond hair going dark at the roots and dirt-streaked face, he looked at her with wounded eyes that nonetheless glinted with mischief.
“Bryan!”
Grin wide, he stuffed his little fist into his mouth.
Jumping across the garden bed, she took hold of the wriggling end of the worm and managed to get the poor creature safely back into the soil. “Worms are for the garden,” she said in her most severe tone. “You’re a leopard. You hunt. You do not dig up your dinner from my seedling garden.”
“I lub oo, Tammmmmmmeeeeee.”
She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from breaking out into a grin. Ry—Bryan when he was in trouble—was too damn adorable, but he had to learn that being adorable didn’t mean he could wriggle out of trouble. “Repeat after me, I do not eat worms.”
A stubborn silence, eyebrows drawing together.
“Fine. Then you have to go inside and learn your words.” The greatest possible threat for an active cub—especially when the sun was high in the sky and the air crisp with spring.
The toddler’s lower lip began to quiver.
Tamsyn shook her head. “I won’t change my mind even if you cry.” Though she would feel sorry for his precious heart. “You know the rules. No digging out things from my vegetable patch without permission. And no eating worms.”
Thereupon ensued a small standoff, but stubborn or not, Ry was a sweet, good-natured cub at the core. Beaming at her without warning, he threw out his arms. “I no eat orm. Pomise.”
“Good boy.” Gathering him close, she snuggled his giggling warmth; he still had that toddler softness to him, his cheeks and limbs rounded, and it melted her. “Do you want to help me plant?”
An enthusiastic nod.
They both had their fingers in the rich, fertile soil when Nathan returned from his meeting with the other DarkRiver sentinels. Hunkering down next to Ry, he ruffled the boy’s hair, then reached across that curious head to kiss Tamsyn on the mouth. “I see you two have been busy.”
“I no eat orms,” Ry announced proudly. “Tammy says.”
Nate grinned, all dark hair, that heartbreaker gaze of darkest blue, and laugh creases edging out from his eyes. “That’s right. Us big, tough leopards don’t hunt worms.” He growled, the sound coming from deep within his chest as his leopard rose to the surface of his skin. “We hunt big prey.”
“Grr.” Ry’s tiny growl—complete with soil-covered hands shaped into claws beside his face—had Tammy’s ovaries going into complete meltdown. She had no idea how his mama disciplined him.


“He’s a fun little guy,” Nate said to her after Ry’s uncle Zach picked him up ten minutes later. “Maybe we should have one of our own?”
Blinking, Tamsyn sat down in the garden bed and just stared at her gorgeous, strong, loving mate. “What did you say?”
A hint of unfamiliar shyness to him, he shrugged those big shoulders. “A cub? What do you think?”
Tamsyn stared at him for another long minute before making a high-pitched squeal of joy and pouncing on him, taking him to the ground.
“Your seedlings!” he yelled, and that was when she knew that even if she hadn’t been madly in love with him already, she’d have fallen for him then and there.


She and Nathan didn’t succeed on the first attempt, but they had a whole lot of fun trying. Including racing each other in leopard form across the forest, then shifting and tangling naked on a carpet of fallen leaves. Then there was that seriously naughty quickie in her office at the pack’s HQ when they nearly got busted by another sentinel.
Nathan had laughed so hard, his face buried against her shoulder, and his arms locked around her that she’d felt the vibrations all through her body. They’d loved each other so long now; he knew her body from tip to toe, as she knew his, intimate skin privileges between them a scalding heat that burned hotter with every passing year and a warm affection that was an embrace.
And love. Infinite love.
Then one day, Nathan turned to her with an expression of startled delight on his face. Because among changelings, mates were almost always the first ones to pick up the subtle scent changeor perhaps it was something deeper, more inexplicable. But Tamsyn got a feeling in the part of her that made her a healer not long afterward. They did the test together, Tamsyn letting her mate see the result first. “So?”
Growl loud, he lifted her up by the waist to spin her around…only to stop mid-spin. “I shouldn’t do that. You’re preg—”
“You stop that right now!” Clapping her hands on his cheeks, she looked those leopard eyes full-on, her own eyes no longer human either. “Do your senior soldiers go hide in a padded room while they’re pregnant?”
A scowl. “No.”
“Did Shayla stop working while she was carrying Lucas?”
Scowl turning darker, he grumbled, “No.”
“And what about—”
Her mate kissed her, luscious and deep. “I admit defeat,” he said when they were both breathless. “Have mercy.”
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pressed her nose to his. “You sure?” Nathan’s intense protectiveness had always been the biggest problem in their relationship—it hadn’t reared its head for some time and she intended for that to continue. “Because we’re going to have a child and that child will be a leopard changeling and leopards need freedom to thrive.”
No humor in his expression, his throat moving. “I’m sure,” he promised, voice lined with grit. “If I slip up, I know you’ll help me find my way.”
Eyes hot, she spoke with her lips against his. “You’ll be a wonderful father, Nathan.” She saw how he was with the young ones in the pack, how they trusted and turned to him.
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. Our baby is so lucky you’re their dad.”
A slow smile. “A cub?”
“A cub,” she whispered.


Turned out they were both wrong. Their babies were born one after the other seven and a half months after that test. Julian and Roman. Jules and Rome. Their gorgeous cubs with their scrunched up old-man faces and good strong yells and eyes that promised to turn the same midnight blue as their daddy’s.
A shirtless Nathan, cubs held skin-to-skin against him as he sat by the window, looked at Tamsyn with a scared-astounded-proud look on his face. “Our cubs.”
“Yes.” Tears threatened at the sight of his body backlit by the sun as he cradled their boys against him; her smile was wobbly when she said, “I love you, Nathan Ryder.”
Rising with happiness written on every line of his body, he placed their cubs back against her bare skin, before getting into bed next to her, a big wall of protective warmth. She snuggled into him—her mate’s protectiveness was a large part of him and Tamsyn loved that part as she did the rest of him; she just knew that at times, he needed her to help him see clearly through the shadows of the past. When she tipped up her head, he dropped a kiss on her lips while the sun rose beyond the windows.
Because of course their twins had decided to start their journey outside her womb at four in the morning. Julian had been born at 5.59 a.m. Roman at 5.59 and 30 seconds. “Do you think they’ll be friends?” There was no guarantee, even with twins.
Chuckling, Nathan nudged his head downward.
She followed his gaze to see that Julian had his hand fisted tightly over his brother’s. “Good thing we built the double crib.”
“Yeah.” A roughness to the single word, Nathan pressed his lips to her hair. “Thank you for not giving up on me even when I messed up big.”
Leaning into his chest, against the strong beat of his incredible heart, her own huge with love, she said, “Never.”

Copyright © 2020 by Nalini Singh

Author’s Note: Nate and Tammy’s story is told in the novella Beat of Temptation, which is part of Wild Invitation (A Psy-Changeling Novella Anthology). Click on the link for excerpts. Also, please note that the novella was originally released as part of the multi-author anthology An Enchanted Season, so if you have that, you have Beat of Temptation.

Wild Invitation
US & Canada
Audiobook: Amazon, Apple Books, Audible

International

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Book Club

Friday Book Club time! What are you reading and loving in these strange times?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Catch Up

❤️How are you all doing in these strange times? Please check in from wherever you are in the world, and share how things are for you.
Last night, while I was procrastinating and catching up on news reports for the zillionth time, I wrote you a happy little short story - because we all need some happy at the moment. Give me a couple of days to edit it, then I'll share it online for you to read.
Tell me your news, and what's going on in your own corner of the world. 🌏


Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday Book Club

Time to talk books! What are you reading and loving this week?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Alpha Night Sweepstakes


US residents: My USA publisher is running a sweepstakes to win early copies of Alpha Night! Click here for more info. The sweepstakes ends on March 29th at 11:59pm (ET). Good luck!!

International folks: An international giveaway is coming soon...🐺

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Love Hard - Print Edition


Print copies of Love Hard are now available from: Amazon, AmazonCa, AmazonUK, Barnes & Noble, and via Indie Bound!! More links to follow.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday Book Club

The Friday Book Club is now open. What are you reading and loving this week?