Reverse Harem Romance
When Theo Met Cricket
I can't help rolling my eyes as I step out of my jeep and double check my pocket to make sure Margot's list is still there. There's only a week left of summer break, and Hawthorne has me running around doing this dumb shit. I told him he should have had Hollis do it. He loves this stupid book store. But Hawthorne had to go and pull the alpha card and demand I personally be the one to pick up the order from Aurora, the owner of this place.
Normally I wouldn't mind that much. Aurora is a fucking riot. My family’s been friends with her for years. Regular medication from human doctors don’t work on us, and she makes these all-natural remedies and shit that are safe for us to take when we get sick. But still, the fact that my uncle calls her a witch because of that is pretty fucking funny.
But an hour ago, Cas texted me letting me know about a party going on at the lake. Which means tons of hot girls in bikinis. Cas just got back together with Sara, which means even less competition for me than usual. So, the sooner I get this crap from Aurora, the sooner I can be at the lake.
I walk into Flora & Feathers, and the bell chimes overhead. As soon as I walk in, I smell something amazing. It’s usually pretty easy to block out most scents unless they’re really overpowering, but whatever this is, it’s impossible to ignore. I’m so caught up looking around, trying to figure out what it could possibly be, that I don’t notice Aurora until she greets me from behind the front counter.
"Theo, dear! So good to see you!"
I smile back. For an older chick, I guess she's pretty good-looking. "Hey, Aurora. Hawthorne tell you I was coming?"
"Yes, he did. Let me just grab Cricket to watch the register while I get the supplies you need."
Cricket? Is that a person? Before Aurora even takes a step, I hear a door open and shut from further back in the shop. Aurora smiles at me again before calling out loudly, "Cricket! Come up front for a second!"
I reach my hand into my pocket to look at my phone and check the time, wondering how much longer this will take. And then the mysterious Cricket appears, and every thought I had earlier about girls in bikinis completely flies out the window.
She only hesitates for a split second when she sees me, but then she walks up to the counter beside me, never breaking eye contact. Holy fucking shit, she might be the most gorgeous girl I've ever seen. When she's only a couple of feet away, she leans against the counter like she owns the fucking place. And that’s when I realize the amazing smell is coming from her.
"What's up, Ror?" She asks, but she's still looking at me.
I can feel the stupid grin on my face, but there's no getting rid of it. I can't help but let my eyes take in every inch of her. She's short, maybe five-three or five-four tops. Fucking adorable. She has these crazy beautiful eyes that look both brown and blue at the same time, and the sexiest smirk on her very soft-looking lips. And holy fuck her body! She's wearing barely any clothing. Just these tiny shorts and something that looks like a cross between a bra and a cropped tank top. I've never seen a girl with such incredible curves. Not even going to lie, I desperately want to grab those amazing hips and bury my face in her magnificent tits simultaneously. Her blonde hair is an absolute fucking mess, sticking up all over the place, and her body is covered in dirt and sweat. My imagination is going wild trying to picture her rolling around outside, and my wolf is going crazy. She looks and smells so fucking good, he's begging me to bend her over this counter-top right now and—
"Cricket, this is Theo. Theo, this is my niece, Cricket." Aurora interrupts me from my momentary lapse in sanity.
Cricket is still looking at me, smiling. I don't think I've ever met a girl this confident, and it throws me off for a second. Maybe if I tease her, she'll let up long enough for me to catch my breath.
"Nice to meet you, Cricket." I smirk, holding my hand out for her to shake. It is a really weird fucking name. Even weirder than my pack-brothers'.
But all she does is smirk back, dammit. And then she takes my hand. My wolf immediately trembles under my skin, and it takes almost all of my concentration to keep myself from shifting. I've never had this reaction to a girl or anyone before. I pull my hand back quickly. And thankfully, Cricket finally pulls her eyes off of me.
For a second I think I've got my cool back. This is just another girl. I’m good at talking to girls. But then Aurora speaks again.
"Theo is a werewolf from the local pack."
I go completely still. What? Did she really just say that out loud? I feel like I've been going insane since I walked in here. I had no idea she knew about us. Hawthorne never said anything. He always makes a big deal about us keeping our magic a secret to humans.
When I still don't say anything, Aurora continues. "Werewolves can't exactly go to the hospital when they get sick or injured, so Theo's uncle comes to me when they need any medicines or potions. Which reminds me, I really need to show you some decent healing spells, Cricket. We’ll start tomorrow, okay?"
I'm still processing the fact that Aurora knows about the pack, but something she just said resonates with me for half a second. I hear myself ask, "Healing spells?"
Aurora tilts her head in confusion. "Of course. Didn't your uncle tell you I'm a witch?"
I feel like a fucking idiot. He did tell me she’s a witch. He and my parents have always referred to her as a witch. I just assumed they meant she was into that new age hippie stuff, and I never thought to question them. Now I could seriously fucking kick myself. "I mean, yeah, he did. But I didn't realize he meant, like, I didn't know you could actually do magic."
Aurora beams at me, and I feel myself relax ever so slightly. I have to remind myself that Hawthorne trusts her for a reason.
"So can Cricket. Witches come into their magic fully when they turn eighteen, but she's pretty spectacular already."
I turn my eyes to Cricket again, feeling more curious with every passing second. She's looking at me with the same expression I imagine is plastered on my face. I don't know anything about witches or what magic they can do, but I suddenly want to find out.
"Do you have your uncle's list, sweetheart?" Aurora asks innocently.
I dig Margot's list out of my pocket and hand it to her. I'd actually almost forgotten why I was here in the first place. I'm starting to think Aurora and Hawthorne orchestrated this entire meeting for some reason.
"I'll be back in just a moment with these. Cricket, be a dear and watch the register?" Aurora gives her niece a conspiring smile and disappears behind a door further into the shop.
Cricket and I are left alone. I feel nervous, which is stupid. I've never been nervous in front of a girl before. I find myself chuckling awkwardly and ask, "Is she, uh, trying to set us up or something?" Fuck, I'm an idiot.
Cricket groans and closes her eyes. My wolf shivers, but I grin when I see her cheeks turning red. Yes, she's not totally immune to embarrassment!
"God, probably." Embarrassed Cricket is fucking adorable. I find myself laughing for real. She looks up at me again with a genuine smile.
I hesitate for a second before asking her my next question. But I really want to make sure Aurora wasn't just fucking around. "Are you really a witch?"
When she grins and nods, I can't hide the excitement in my voice. "Can you show me your magic?"
She raises one eyebrow. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
I burst out laughing again. This girl is really fucking funny. And gorgeous. And she's asking to see me shift? I'm about to agree, but the words dry up on my throat as Hawthorne’s alpha order washes over me. Even though Cricket already knows about werewolves, apparently I still need to ask his permission to shift in front of her. Fucking stupid.
"I, uh, I have to ask my uncle. I didn't realize your aunt, um, knew about us. I didn’t even know witches were real, to be honest." Jesus Christ, I'm fucking eloquent today.
Cricket giggles and walks over to the front door of the bookshop to glance outside. I'm about to ask what she's doing when she suddenly turns and waves her hand around in the air in front of her. It takes me another half second to realize that five books are flying off the shelves, and that she's controlling them.
I know my eyes are probably fucking huge as I watch the books float around in a circle above my head. I can feel a slight breeze in the air, and my nostrils instinctively flare. Is that her magic? I’ve never smelled anything like it. It smells wild and sort of tingly, and I have to hold my breath to keep myself from shifting out of instinct. When she magically puts the books back on the shelves, she grins at me with her eyebrows raised.
"Holy fuck, that was incredible!" I laugh in amazement.
She gives me a cute little bow, and then comes to stand beside me at the counter again. We're both grinning at each other like idiots. I've known this girl for all of five minutes, and I already know I want to spend as much time as I possibly can with her. And then I have a horrible thought. Obviously, she's not from here, or I would have seen her before. She's definitely not the kind of girl you glance over accidentally.
I tap my fingers on the countertop anxiously. "So, are you just here like visiting for the summer?" Please say no.
She shakes her head, "No, I'm actually staying with Aurora for a while. I'll be starting school here next week."
I feel my entire face light up. Thank you, universe! "What grade are you in?"
"I'll be a senior."
I tap my fingers on the counter again, but this time I'm more anxious-excited than anything else. "Me too." I smile at her, wondering how I can ask her to hang out without sounding totally desperate or...
"We should hang out!" She grins and bounces on her toes slightly.
I can't help laughing. She's so cute. "Okay. I'm going to talk to my uncle first, but I'll try to come back over here tomorrow. Are you cool with that?"
She nods and smiles, seeming totally happy and at ease as she leans against the counter. I'm already getting way ahead of myself, planning where to take her tomorrow and wondering what Hollis and Cas will think of her. I let my eyes scan over her one more time. On second thought, I think I might keep her to myself for a while. I'm really fucking glad I didn't convince Hawthorne to send Hollis in here today instead.
I look back up into Cricket's eyes and give her a teasing grin. "By the way, you've got a little dirt..." I vaguely motion toward her face.
Her eyes widen in horror and she brings a hand up to her cheek. "Oh, where?"
At first, I think she's being serious. I don't know any other girl that could walk into a room covered in dirt and flirt so effortlessly. Maybe she doesn't know. Or maybe she knows I'm just being a smartass. I grin even wider and shrug. "Well, everywhere."
She looks down at her outfit with her eyebrows knit together. Then she lifts up one of her dirt covered feet and wiggles her toes in my direction. "Hmm, would you look at that. I didn't even notice!"
She slowly lifts her eyes to meet mine, and they are dancing with mischief. She's smirking at me, and I can't help laughing like crazy. I'm still laughing when I hear a door close from inside the shop. All too soon, Aurora walks back up front and hands me a wicker basket filled with a bunch of different containers and pouches. When I go to pull my wallet out of my pocket, she tells me she's putting it on Hawthorne's tab.
I really don't want to leave yet, but I know I need to get this stuff to my aunt and uncle’s house. Plus, I seriously need to talk to Hawthorne. I look at Cricket and tell her, "I have to go now, but I'll see you tomorrow?"
She gives me a gorgeous smile. "Yep, I'll be here."
I walk out the door of Flora & Feathers, glancing back at Cricket one last time.
I'm completely distracted while I drive to my uncle's house. I'm not exactly sure how to start the conversation I need to have with him. And I can't get the image of Cricket out of my head. Her eyes, her smile, her flat, tanned stomach and tiny waist with those magnificent hips jutting out...
I'm halfway hard when my cell phone rings, jarring me from my thoughts.
I clear my throat and answer with a snarl. "What?"
"Dude, where the fuck are you?"
It's Cas. I roll my eyes. "I'm on my way to Hawthorne's house. What's up?"
"Are you still coming to the party after then?" I can hear other people in the background, and a couple of girls shouting my name.
"Shit. I forgot about the party."
Cas laughs. "Are you serious? You texted me like an hour ago asking me who was coming."
I grin at the thought of Cricket. Yeah, the party doesn’t seem nearly as fun or interesting now. "Right. Sorry, something came up. I'm not going to make it."
“Is everything okay?" Cas asks, sounding genuinely worried.
"Yeah, everything's good. I'll tell you later. Have fun for me, alright?"
I hang up the phone before he can respond, and I turn my jeep onto Hawthorne's driveway. His house sits on ten acres, so it takes a few minutes to reach his house. I make sure to grab the basket Aurora gave me as I make my way to the front door. I don't bother knocking, but I call out a hello as I step inside.
My cousin, Rylan, pops his head out of the kitchen. "Everyone's out back by the pool."
I nod my head and follow him through to the patio doors. My uncle is standing by the grill, flipping burgers and hotdogs. My aunt Margot is sitting under a pool umbrella with Rylan's mate Elsa, and my little cousin Rory is playing in the shallow end of the pool with Rylan's and Elsa's two-year-old daughter Evangeline. Everybody looks up when I walk outside, and I grin widely.
Margot jumps up and takes the basket from me with a smile. "Thank you, sweetie. How's Aurora doing?"
I shrug and rub the back of my neck nervously. "She's good, I guess."
Margot raises her eyebrows and smiles wider. "Did you meet her niece?"
Oh my god. Yeah, they totally planned this. And there's no way I can fake playing it cool in front of my family. Especially Hawthorne. I feel my cheeks heat in embarrassment as I nonchalantly quip, "Yep, I sure did."
Hawthorne walks over to where we're standing, and he stares at me with his arms crossed. Rylan smirks at me, and Margot is wearing the same stupid grin. Elsa stays sitting close to the pool where she can keep an eye on the kids, but I can tell from here that she's smirking too.
When I don't say anything else, Hawthorne asks, "And?"
This is not what I expected when I thought about talking to him about Cricket. I’m starting to feel prickly and defensive. "And what?"
Hawthorne grunts and tilts his head at me. "Is she your mate?"
Everything goes totally blank for a second. My mate? Is that why I had that reaction to her? Why my wolf was going crazy? I can’t believe I didn’t even consider that. I feel my stomach flip around in excitement at this possibility.
But then my heart drops in disappointment as I shake my head. I'd thoroughly scanned every inch of that girl's body that wasn't covered.
"She didn't have a mate mark."
Hawthorne and Margot exchange a look. Margot asks, "Do you think it's because she's a witch?"
That snaps me out of it. "Okay, what the fuck is going on? Why didn't anyone tell me witches were real? And why would you ask me about Cricket being my mate?"
Rory screeches from the pool. "Mom, Theo said a bad word!"
Rylan snickers from beside me. "Her name is Cricket?"
I give him an irritated look, which only makes him laugh louder.
"Maybe we should continue this conversation inside." Hawthorne says, placing his hand on my shoulder.
Without another word, he leads me back into the house. Margot goes to sit with Elsa, and Rylan takes over the grill. Before I know it, I'm sitting in a brown leather chair in Hawthorne's office while he sits across from me with a desk between us. I feel like a kid right now, being sent to the principal's office. Some days, I can't wait until I'm alpha of my own pack. But in moments like these, I know I still have so much to learn before I'm truly ready.
We're both quiet for a minute while Hawthorne looks me over appraisingly. He finally breaks the silence with a long sigh and asks, "First, what do you know about Aurora?"
My fingers anxiously tap against the arm of the chair I'm sitting in. "I know she owns that bookshop downtown. I know you buy medicine from her for the rest of the pack. I know you trust her. I’ve heard you and dad call her a witch, and then today, she confided that she really is a witch. And that her niece Cricket is a witch too."
Hawthorne seems to be judging my every move and reaction. He asks, "Did Aurora tell you what her affinity is?"
I must look pretty clueless because he continues, "A witch's affinity is her most inherent power. Witches can use their magic to do pretty much anything imaginable, with plenty of focus, meditation, and the use of spells. But a witch's affinity, her truest power, she can use with barely any effort at all."
This is starting to sound sort of terrifying. It shouldn’t be that hard to believe, considering everyone in my family can shift into wolves. But I’ve never considered us magical, not the way Cricket and Aurora are. But...I never felt afraid of Cricket, and her magic didn’t feel or smell dangerous to me.
“Aurora mentioned something about healing spells, and Cricket can move stuff around. Like, make it fly around in the air."
Hawthorne looks surprised. "She showed you her magic?"
I nod and admit, "She wants to see me shift."
"Did you want to shift in front of her?"
I nod again, but I don't trust myself to say anything else out loud. I don't want to admit how close I came to shifting when Cricket's hand touched mine, or how natural the impulse felt to shift when I smelled her magic.
Hawthorne stays silent for another few seconds. "Aurora's affinity is Second-Sight. That means that she frequently has glimpses of things that might happen in the future. It's rare, and a difficult affinity for a witch to have. The future is never set in stone, and witches with Second-Sight often go insane trying to change events they have no control over."
Hawthorne gives me a few seconds to let this process before he takes a deep breath. "Just over ten years ago, Aurora showed up on my doorstep. At the time, Margot was pregnant with Rory and we had no idea witches existed. Aurora started going on about Margot being in terrible danger. She had a vision of both Margot and Rory dying in childbirth. It scared the ever-living shit out of me, Theo. Margot didn't have the easiest time with any of her pregnancies, but Rory's was especially hard on her. I had no idea who Aurora was, but I threatened to kill her if she ever came near my family again."
I don't even know what to fucking say right now. My uncle stares down at his clenched fist, a haunted expression on his face. I stay silent, waiting for him to continue whenever he's ready.
"A couple of days later, Margot went into labor. We all knew something was wrong immediately. Your parents were here, trying to help. But she was screaming and there was so much blood..."
Hawthorne's voice is thick and trembling now. I've never seen my alpha show emotion this way before, and I feel my respect for him growing exponentially. I can't imagine what he felt, when he thought he might lose his mate. I vaguely remember having a sleepover with my cousins at Hollis's house when Rory was born, but I've never heard this version of the story.
"And then Aurora just barged into the house. When I saw her, I shifted and tried to attack her, but your parents restrained me. She was so calm and took complete control of the situation. She spent hours with Margot, using all sorts of herbs and spells. And then Rory was born, perfectly healthy. We ended up naming her after Aurora. She saved both of their lives."
My throat feels thick and closed up. My voice is scratchy when I say, "I had no idea."
"We decided to keep Aurora's involvement a secret between us. Your parents, Margot, and myself. We only told Rylan when Elsa was having similar complications during her pregnancy."
I nod my head, still taking this all in. "What does any of this have to do with me though? Why did you ask about Cricket being my mate?"
Hawthorne smiles, showing his teeth. "Aurora had another vision. She saw her niece with you, Hollis, and Cassian. The details were a bit hazy, but it seemed like one of you might be Cricket's mate."
I can't control my reaction quickly enough. I feel like I've been slapped, and dread is pooling in my stomach. "You think Hollis or Cas might be her mate?"
He grins and raises his eyebrows. "Maybe. Now, tell me what you really thought of Cricket."
I'm embarrassed for being so transparent with my feelings. I shrug, "I mean, I only talked to her for like ten minutes."
Hawthorne sighs and uses his alpha voice as he growls. "Theo..."
I groan. Why'd he have to go and do that? His order forces the words out of my mouth. "Alright. As soon as I saw her, I thought she was the most gorgeous fucking girl I'd ever seen. I wanted to have sex with her right there in the middle of the bookshop."
I make the mistake of looking up at Hawthorne, and he's wearing this smug ass expression. I’m sure my face is red, but his order forces me to keep talking. "When I introduced myself and shook her hand, I was about a split second away from shifting. And when she started using her magic, it wasn't directed at me, but I could still feel it and smell it. I wanted to shift really badly then."
Hawthorne looks thoughtful for a moment and then asks, "Besides being attracted to her, did you like her?"
"Yeah, she was funny. I told her I'd come and see her tomorrow."
"Hmm." Hawthorne looks like he's trying to figure something out. "It seems highly likely that she is your mate, judging by your reaction alone. But I don't know why she wouldn't have a mate mark."
Excitement bubbles up in my stomach. I've always dreaded finding my mate, imagining it to be the end of everything fun. Being stuck with only one female forever used to sound like some kind of outdated torture. Cas has always agreed with me. But now that the reality is staring me in the face, I feel kind of giddy. I quickly think back over everything Aurora and Cricket said while I was at Flora & Feathers earlier.
"Aurora did mention something about, um..." I'm having trouble remembering her exact phrasing. "Something about their magic when witches turn eighteen?"
"I'll ask Aurora about that. You can hang out with Cricket tomorrow, and you can shift in front of her. Just be careful." Hawthorne growls out a warning. "But just remember, there's still a good chance she might be mated to Cassian or Hollis. You’ll need to introduce them to her. Understand?"
I nod, even though I want to argue. Hawthorne stands up and claps me on the shoulder, ending the conversation for now.
"I think your parents are coming over in a bit. Want to stay for dinner?"
I end up staying, but I sit quietly, going over everything I learned today. Nobody mentions Aurora or Cricket to me again, but Rylan keeps smirking at me throughout the night. I flip him off whenever I can get away with it. Cas and Hollis both text me, asking if something is wrong. I don't want to tell them about Cricket yet. She'll be starting school with all of us soon. Is it really that selfish to keep her to myself for just a little while?