Hi! I'm starting to post this as a sequel to The Mating. It starts off slow and not nearly as hot as Mating but things DO pick up after Ch 5. Work is really busy right now so plan on 2 updates a week and if things go well it will be 3! I hope you enjoy Ryne's story - Charlie



The room was silent except for the ticking of the grandfather clock that stood majestically near the doorway and the faint sounds of the old man's breathing. To look at him, one might wonder if he was alive or a wax figure; his eyes were unblinking and the rise and fall of his chest were barely perceptible. Gnarled hands rested lightly on the arms of the chair in which he sat, their occasional tightening the only real sign of the emotion he was feeling.

Pale winter sunlight, so typical of early January, was valiantly trying to brighten the large, cluttered room. Its weak rays crept past the heavy velvet curtains and cast a beam across the floor, creating a bright swatch in the otherwise gloomy interior. Small specks of dust drifted lazily on the faint air currents before settling on the laden surfaces of the tables and shelves.

Sculptures and figurines, picture frames and books, covered every flat inch of the room. Similarly, artwork filled the dark panelled walls, yet the gentleman in the chair still deemed his collection to be paltry and inadequate. Or, at least he felt that way until now. Years of searching and gathering everything related to his favourite theme had finally paid off.

The faintest movement near the corners of his mouth would let an astute observer know he was pleased. Over the fireplace mantel hung his latest acquisition. Studying it with care, his gaze traced over the subject matter, analysing and assessing. A brief nod of his head was the only acknowledgement he gave that here was what he had spent his whole life looking for.

"That will be all, Franklin." His voice was deep and strong despite his years, instantly commanding respect and obedience.

A man, dressed in formal butler gear, stepped out of the shadows that clung to the edges of the room and bowed at the waist. "Yes, Mr Greyson. If you need anything else, just ring." Silently, the servant picked up the step ladder he had used to hang the picture and left the room, quietly shutting the heavy mahogany door behind him.

As Franklin's footsteps faded into the distance, the older man stood and advanced towards the fireplace. His steps were sure, his stride long—no decrepit shuffling for him, despite his years and the aching of his joints. Clasping his hands behind his ramrod straight back, he stood in front of the framed photo.

Excitement was bubbling inside of him, though his calm countenance gave no sign. This was what he'd been searching for. Everything else in the room was now worthless; his priceless statues, the expensive glossy books, paintings by renowned artists; they all paled in comparison to this one piece.

"Proof." He whispered to himself, his eyes alight with a fire that had been missing for years. "After all this time, I finally have proof." Reaching out his hand, he traced the name scrawled in the corner of the picture matte. "Whoever you are, Ryne Taylor, you've made me a very happy man."

After those few words, he fell silent again, contemplating the subject matter of the picture. He'd acquired it two months ago and had spent the intervening time examining it, studying angles, looking for shadows, measuring length and distance, pouring over minute details with a magnifying glass. There was no refuting what he'd found. Now the amber eyes in the photo glared at him, challenging and arrogant, almost as if they knew the man's plan and were daring him to try and execute it.

Eventually the man looked away, staring at the thick carpeting below his feet. A dry chuckle rumbled in his chest. "I can't hold your gaze. You're not even here, and still you manage to be dominant." Shaking his head, he made his way back to his chair and sat down heavily. Picking up the phone, he dialled a familiar number, and then waited impatiently for someone to answer, drumming his fingers on the arm of the chair. When the call was finally answered, he wasted no time on pleasantries.

"Greyson here. I need to talk to you, Aldrich ... What about?" He gave a short bark of laughter while looking up at the picture again. "A wolf, of course."

Stump River, Ontario, Canada — 700 miles Northeast of Chicago

Ryne wiped his hands on a greasy rag and pulled down on the hood of the aging pick-up truck. He sauntered to the far side of the garage and pitched the filthy rag in the garbage. "Filter's changed, Ben. Anything else?"

Ben Miller looked up from the service desk, where he was totalling the work orders. "Nope. That's it for the day. Thanks for coming in to help."

"No problem. I can use the extra cash. That money pit I bought wants new plumbing."

Ben rubbed the back of his neck as he contemplated the man before him. Not for the first time, did he wonder why a young fellow like Ryne Taylor would choose to live in a god-forsaken place like Stump River. Not that Ben didn't like his hometown, but he was aware of its limitations. No night life except for the local bar and Wednesday night bingo at the church. A two-hour drive to the next largest community. Young people left Stump River, they didn't move here.

Mind you, George and Mary Nelson were mighty happy that Taylor was bucking the trend. He had bought their crumbling house and the large parcel of land it sat on. There hadn't even been any quibbling over the cost; he'd paid the asking price without batting an eye. The sale had provided the town with nice bit of gossip to help pass the winter, as well as allowing the elderly Nelsons to retire to Kapuskasing, a larger urban centre, in relative luxury. Ben looked around his small business and smirked. Maybe Taylor would buy his place, too, should he ever decide to retire.

Watching Ryne get cleaned up at the nearby sink, Ben couldn't help but smirk. All the local ladies positively drooled when Ryne was in town. Even his own wife wasn't immune. Ben had unwillingly eavesdropped on her conversation with a friend just last night and had almost felt a tad inadequate after listening to them go on about his black hair, blue eyes and 'devilishly sexy smile'—their words, not his, of course. When they'd started to enumerate his physical attributes— broad shoulders, long legs, lean hips and a muscular body— he'd turned the TV on real loud to drown them out.

Ben shook his head. All he saw, when he looked at Ryne, was a hard-working, confident man who knew his way around an engine. That was enough in his books. Ryne helped him out at the garage a few days each week and Ben was grateful for the assistance.

"Got any plans for the weekend?" Ryne had dried off and walked over to where Ben was working. He leaned against the counter and chugged down a bottle of water.

"The wife and daughter want me to take them shopping into Kapuskasing. We might go to the show while we're there, too."

"Sounds like fun." Ryne wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and threw the bottle into the recycling bin. "I'm going to be working on the house as usual."

"It was a big project you undertook, when you bought the place."

"I know, but I like the area, and it came with a lot of land. My friends and I like our privacy."

"To each their own." Ben shrugged and handed Ryne a check. "Here's your pay. Don't spend it all in one place."

Ryne laughed while stuffing the cheque in his pocket. "Nah. I'll spread it around. Some at the hardware store and some at the bar."

"Lucy will be happy to see you, I'm sure." Ben mocked him good-naturedly as he walked out the door. Ryne merely waved and kept on his way. Lucy worked at the local bar and was real friendly with Ryne ever since he and his friends had moved to the area a few months back.

Watching Ryne cross the street, Ben wondered about the man and the two men, Bryan and Daniel, who lived with him. They weren't related, looking nothing alike, but something bound them together. At first, there'd been rumours that they were gay, but their behaviour at the bar on Friday nights soon dispelled that rumour. The local lovelies swarmed around them and they did little to discourage the attention, especially the younger two.

Ryne was a bit more discriminating. Oh, he'd been involved with a few of the local girls, before settling on Lucy, but for the most part, he held his liquor and was usually the one dragging the other two home at closing time, provided they hadn't hooked up with some female beforehand. Ben chuckled. Business at the bar was a lot brisker since the three had moved to the community.

A few residents thought the newcomers were a bit strange, but except for the fact that they all lived together in the middle of nowhere, no one had any real complaints against them. The men were polite and didn't bother anyone. Most likely, it was as Ryne said. They'd moved here for privacy and because they liked the area. Nothing strange or mysterious about that.