This month’s excerpt is from my upcoming book,
Tangling with the Triad
It’s the second book in the Omega Sanctuary Graduates series, and followed Javier, Wade, and John as they try to figure out just what their triad means to each other.
Now that Omega John is out in the world, he’s caught the dreaded virus–the disease that sparked the creation of the Omega Sanctuaries over a century ago. Luckily, John being bonded works as a sort of protection, and he recovers quickly. Once he’s well, it’s time to start actually living…
Excerpt from TANGLING WITH THE TRIAD
John Willoughby knew he had fully recovered from the virus as soon as he opened his eyes.
It didn’t hurt to breathe. He didn’t feel as if there were a thousand-pound weight on his chest. There was a chill to the room, but it wasn’t uncomfortable against his no-longer overheated skin, and his forehead was no longer drenched with sweat. He was thirsty, but not bone-achingly dehydrated. And best of all, he felt rested, in a way that he hadn’t in… gosh, too long to remember.
That was the worst part of being sick, really—feeling as though he couldn’t remember ever being well.
John sat up, listening to the sounds from the rest of the apartment. Someone was in the shower in the adjoining bathroom. Someone was in the kitchen listening to NPR’s morning programs. Cracks of light streamed in through the curtains; the rain of the last two days had finally blown away. John smelled toast and coffee and eggs, and his stomach rumbled with hunger.
John grinned. That was new, too—he hadn’t been hungry in nearly as long as he hadn’t felt well.
Definitely better, thought John, swinging his legs out of the bed and finding a pair of slippers waiting for him. They were too big, as was the robe thrown over a nearby chair, but that was fine. John put them on and padded out to the living room. He didn’t feel sprightly, exactly—by the time he reached the foyer, he was already thinking how nice it would be to sit down—but it still felt good to be up and moving again.
So that’s the virus, thought John. And I made it through to the other side.
Just a month before, it wouldn’t have been a guarantee. The virus was fatal to most post-pubescent unbonded omegas—which was why they were locked away on Omega Sanctuaries from the time they were young. For your own protection, had been the explanation for the last century—and sure enough, most of the sanctuaries were comfortable places, where unbonded omegas were given education, medical care, and roles within their boundaries.
Later, when the omegas were adults, the Sanctuaries became a sort of matchmaking organization, allowing those interested to find their mates and create the bonds that would allow them to safely rejoin society.
It worked—which was the least that could be said for the system. No unbonded omega had died of the virus in almost eighty years.
But no unbonded omega left the sanctuaries, either.
John hadn’t ever planned to be bonded. And then he’d met Javier and Wade. They made leaving his sanctuary worth every hardship. Even having the virus.
John had only just figured out where Javier kept everything in the kitchen when he’d gotten sick. The intervening week, spent largely in the bed nursing a fever, sore muscles, a wracking cough and everything that came with it, had mellowed the newness of the location. It didn’t even look that much different to how John remembered; in a way, it felt more like home than anywhere else he’d ever been.
The living room was overstuffed with furniture and books and artwork. There was a newspaper open to the sports section on the coffee table, and a mug half full of coffee on a coaster. That it all looked just as John remembered made him smile with relief. A thick layer of browning leaves covered green grass, while the river snaked past, grey and ominous. Sunlight filtered through the overcast sky—still bright, but hardly a picture-perfect blue.
John’s heart sank. It was still an amazing view, but…
Oh. I guess I missed something after all. I missed the best bit of autumn…
“John?” Wade’s worry echoed down the hall from the bedroom.
“He’s in here,” called Javier as he stepped out of the kitchen. John turned in time to see Javier smiling at him. “Good morning.”
“Hi,” breathed John. Javier was already dressed for the day in dress slacks and a tie. Undoubtedly his suit coat was somewhere waiting for him, but he still looked handsome and official in a way that made John want to sit up straighter. His dark hair was slicked down, freshly washed but not yet dry, and his shave was impeccable.
“You’re up,” said Javier. “You must feel better.”
“Yeah,” said John, listening to the sound of footsteps racing down the hall. Wade, of course—and he popped out of the hallway, his head dripping wet, wrapped in a towel. Javier would no doubt have words about the footprints. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“You didn’t,” Wade assured him. Wade’s dark skin shone, and even from across the room, John could see the bruise on his neck left from the bonding tests the week before that proved both Javier and Wade were John’s alphas. John’s bonding marks would never fade, but it surprised him that the mark on Wade’s neck was still there—because it didn’t prove a bond to John at all. Instead, a proved a connection between Wade and Javier, who shared one (which was undoubtedly covered by his shirt collar).
“The water you’re dripping on my floor says otherwise,” said Javier dryly.
“Maybe a little,” acknowledged Wade, grinning at John. “Good to see you up, though. Vertical, I mean. Pretty sure we saw you up a few times since—”
“Yes, thank you,” said Javier, a bit wearily.
John blushed and laughed. “I smelled coffee.”
“Don’t drink Javier’s coffee, it kills on contact,” Wade advised him.
“I was thinking tea and toast, honestly.”
“Of course,” said Javier, heading back into the kitchen. “Wade, go get dressed already.”
Wade rolled his eyes. “But if he’s better—”
John’s stomach rumbled, loud enough that there was no chance of pretending it didn’t.
“Food first!” Javier called over his shoulder.
Wade’s grin widened as John blushed. “Definitely sexier when you’re not starving,” he said, before ducking back down the hall. He whistled as he went, though, and John resisted the urge to follow him, but only because he could smell the toast now, too.
“Sit down before you trip,” said Javier from the counter, where he was manning the toaster. He eyed the slippers and the oversized robe before leaning in to give John a gentle kiss. “Good, no fever.”
“I haven’t had a fever since Sunday,” protested John, but he didn’t really mind the kiss.
“Forgive me for checking. You had a very persistent fever.” Javier wasn’t looking at him; he frowned at the toaster as he adjusted the dials. “How do you feel now?”
“Better. I don’t hurt anywhere, and I can breathe. My nose isn’t running. I think the cough’s gone away, too.”
“Good. Your last dose of ibuprofen was two days ago, so I think you’re in the clear. We’ll need to set up an appointment to check your antigen levels, but you should be fine for going outside if you want.”
John glanced out the windows. It was strange to think he’d been living in Boston for over a week now—even if he’d been sick for most of the time. John couldn’t help but be intensely curious what he’d find once he stepped outside again. All he could really remember was the traffic and the people and the noise… not to mention the acrid, unpleasant smell of everything changing with every step and every block. “Maybe? I’m tired just from walking in here.”
“That’s because you haven’t eaten in a while,” Javier told him, setting the toast and the tea down in front of him. “The virus is very exhausting.”
The mug of tea was wonderfully warm in his hands, and whatever Javier had done to it smelled divine. John’s stomach rumbled again. “If that wasn’t the virus, then I’m going back to the Sanctuary, because I sure as anything don’t want it again.”
Javier chuckled. “I’m sure it was the virus. And you won’t have it again; one and done, they say.”
“When did you have it?” asked John, sipping the tea. It was delicious; better than any tea he’d tried before. John almost renounced coffee on the spot.
“Oh, I was sixteen. I spent four days sleeping and not eating a thing, and then I came out of it and ate three trays of sopapillas in one sitting.” Javier smiled as he brought the plate of toast to the table. “My mother nearly strangled me, but I ended up being sick on them instead which I suppose was punishment enough.”
John grinned. “I’m glad she didn’t. What are sopapillas?”
“Fried dough, basically. A little like a donut. Mami always sprinkled cinnamon powdered sugar on hers, and I could never stop eating them.” Javier smiled at the memory as he sipped his tea. “Though I admit, three trays were excessive even for me.”
“Oh, good, stick with the tea,” said Wade, entering the kitchen. He dropped a kiss on the top of John’s head. “How are you feeling?”
“Hungry,” said John, reaching for the toast. There was a thin layer of peanut butter on it; John took a bite and savored it, closing his eyes and relishing the salty flavor. “Oh, wow. This tastes so good.”
“We’ve lost him to peanut butter,” Wade said, laughing. “Oh well, so much for romance.”
“I haven’t eaten in days,” said John through a mouth full of peanut butter.
“It probably feels that way,” said Javier with a smile as he rose from the table and carried his breakfast things to the sink. “But I’m fairly sure Wade poured soup down your throat every day, anyway.”
“Tried to, at least,” said Wade. He slammed the fridge shut and set down several armfuls of storage containers and yogurt cups down on the table. “You headed to work?”
Javier nodded. “I’ll text you about John’s omegologist appointment once I’ve made it.”
“Do I have to go today?” asked John. “I couldn’t even walk across the apartment without a break.”
“It’s not far,” Javier assured him. “And you’ll have more energy once you’ve eaten. You’ll be fine.”
John frowned through drinking his tea and almost spilled it. “You’re not coming with me?”
“Depends on when the doctor can fit you in,” Javier told him, caressing the back of his head. “I have too many meetings today that I can’t miss, unfortunately.”
“He’s very important,” said Wade dryly. “So many official functions, so little time.”
“It takes a great deal of planning to ensure an exhibition’s opening,” said Javier seriously. “And this one is very important—there will be an opening Gala, a dinner, a silent auction—”
John looked suddenly worried. “Wow. It sounds complicated.”
Wade frowned. “And you’re in charge? I thought you did acquisitions, not party-planning.”
“It’s… complicated,” said Javier, hedging a little. “Many of the items in the exhibition are being borrowed from various other museums.”
Wade shrugged. “Okay. I wouldn’t know.”
“But a party,” said John. “Um… do we have to go?”
Javier glanced at him. Something about his expression seemed very guarded. “Do you want to go?”
“I don’t know.”
“Could be fun,” suggested Wade. “Get all dressed up, swoosh in on Javier’s arm, pretend you’re gonna buy something super expensive and then say it won’t match the couch.”
Javier rolled his eyes. “Not that type of gallery, Wade. Nothing’s for sale.”
John was still frowning. “What about you, Wade? Are you on Javier’s other arm, or mine?”
“I’m at home where I can put my feet on the unmatching couch, still in my boxers,” Wade told him. “Javier doesn’t approve of my suit.”
“It’s a terrible suit,” agreed Javier.
“You love my suit, admit it.”
“Did Cora go to them?” asked John. He sounded wary.
“Most of them, yes. It’s not a requirement.” Javier smiled encouragingly. “If you don’t want to go, don’t worry about it. I’ll make your appointment for today. The sooner we can confirm your antibodies, the better.”
“Good,” said Wade. “You need confirmation of immunity before you can do certain things. Enroll in classes, buy tickets for travel—”
John wrinkled his nose. “Who said I’m going to do any of that anytime soon, though?”
“You’ll need to travel if you want to see me play in the spring,” Wade reminded him. “Not all of my games are nearby.”
John sat up, excitement curling in his chest. “You’ve heard about your contract?”
Wade shook his head. “No, not yet. My meeting with McCluskey is later today.”
John frowned. “Today? I thought it was last week?”
“I pushed it back,” explained Wade, nudging John’s leg with his foot. “Someone had to take care of you.”
John opened his mouth, ready to point out that Javier could have easily done it, but Javier spoke before he could say anything.
“What time is your meeting, Wade?”
“I’ll keep that in mind when making John’s appointment.”
“I can go alone,” said John, still glancing at Javier. “You shouldn’t have to miss another meeting because of me.”
“You could, but you shouldn’t have to,” Javier told him. “Have a good day, all right?”
John nodded, looking up just in time for Javier to give him a kiss. It wasn’t the most comfortable of kisses, not with a mouth full of toast crumbs, but Javier chuckled and dropped a second kiss on him anyway.
“What, none for me?” Wade called after him.
Javier rolled his eyes as he came back, blew a very showy kiss at Wade, who threw a napkin at him in response.
“Goodbye, Wade,” said Javier pointedly, dropping the napkin into the trash can. But John could see the smile at his lips as he left the kitchen, and it warmed him far better than the tea ever could.
The front door closed with a definitive snick a few moments later.
“Ass,” said Wade, but he sounded fond. He grinned at John as he kicked his feet up on the third chair. “So, what do you want to do with your first day of freedom?”
Copyright 2021 Penelope Peters