Status: Finished.

More Than Just Baser Instincts.


“Elaine, I made breakfast.”

I awoke immediately, but Lucille had already disappeared from my doorway. Pushing the less-than-pleasant thoughts from my mind was not an easy task.

“Mmm, Elaine, it’s early,” Quince mumbled against my neck, his arms tightening around my waist and securing my back to his chest. “Why is she up so early?”

“She doesn’t believe in a good night’s sleep,” I teased, and then I patted his arm so he would remove it and get out of bed.

“Are you going to tell her today?”

I froze. This was not something I was looking forward to doing.


“If you want, I can be the bad guy. She already hates my guts, for whatever reason; at least this way it will have a purpose.”

I shook my head. “No. I’m not going to lie to her; I just have to tell her that a really great offer came along and pray she understands why I can’t pass it up.”

“So…I assume this means we’re not telling her that you’re living with me?”

I gave him a stern look. “When did we decide upon that living arrangement?”

“You can’t live in an inn forever. And no one has ever moved to or from Home; good luck finding a house. It’s just easiest if we cut to the chase here—I mean, you know I’m in this for the long haul.”

“We’ll discuss this later. Right now I just want to deal with one thing, okay?” He made a sour face. “I just don’t want to hurt her… This woman raised me, and she has always been—at most—ten minutes away. This is across the country.”

“Are you coming, Elaine?” I stepped hesitantly into the hallway with Quince immediately at my heels. Lucille stared up at me as I leaned over the railing, smiling nervously down at her. “It will get cold. I’ve set a place for…your friend, too.”

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Quince called genuinely, a disarming smile on his face as he kept a respectable distance between us.

I could tell how hard it was for him to do that.

She eyed him warily, only nodding in response before she disappeared into the kitchen. We followed quickly; I didn’t want to give her any time to mull over his words and over-analyse them.

Nearly the second we were all seated, Lucille asked, “How long are you staying, then?”

I choked on my omelet.

She cast her gaze to Quince. “You.” He flinched. “She told you to be quiet; that’s obvious. You’re taking her away from me, aren’t you?”

“Of course you’re welcome to visit anytime, and she can visit whenever she so pleases.”

“That hardly answers my question.”

His forced smile fell. “Don’t make me live without her, please.”

She lifted her napkin gently to her lips, watching me as she dabbed at her mouth.

“Very well. Elaine, I suppose you’ll want to pack your things from your old room.”

I nodded, pushing myself to my feet and glancing to Quince. He immediately rose, but Lucille caught his arm.

“Stay. I want to talk with you, civilly.”

I was beyond wary of the idea, but she smiled gently to me and Quince sighed before nodding.

He murmured, “Do what you need to do; Lucille will keep me company.”

I wasted no time, knowing that every second away was a second longer that Lucille had to interrogate a perfectly innocent young man… And I hated to think what she was demanding to know!

The most important thing was the photo album Lucille had made for me when I turned 18 and moved away for college. It was pictures of my childhood with her, happy memories and the like. There was also the page dedicated to the one photograph of my mother and me. I tucked the book into my suitcase with care before sweeping my gaze over the rest of my old room.

It was exactly as I had left it, untouched by the years that had passed. The only sign of difference was Quince’s side of the bed, which had been left unmade. I quickly tucked the blanket back under the mattress and fluffed the pillows before stepping back to admire it once more.

Most of my things were still in my apartment, but Quince had already called a moving company (apparently on the day my employment was made official) and gotten them to pack it all up and ship it for me. He was certainly after brownie points.

And, damn it, it was working!

After packing away various items I found lying around (like old trinkets from friends in grade school and even an old diary from my high school days), I hurried back downstairs. I had already been absent from the kitchen for thirty minutes, which was plenty of time for Lucille to wreak her havoc.

What do you mean she doesn’t know!

I skidded to a halt, my bones freezing in place at the absolutely terrifying roar coming from the kitchen.

“Shut up!” Lucille hissed, the volume change forcing me to shuffle closer to the door to hear her. “She doesn’t know any of it, which is why I said you ought not have fawned after her! I didn’t want her with some damn beast!”

“But she is that very beast that you damn!”

I stumbled backward. What were they even saying!

“Her mother went to such lengths to keep her safe from that heritage. Do you think her father, the top male of that pride, would have let her leave with his child? The answer is no! I may not know so much about the customs there, but Christine told me enough… Surely you thought it odd that a white lion was found outside of the Northern Sector!”

Northern…Sector… There that name was again!

“But she’s my mate! She… I thought she knew! She reciprocated the rituals, behaved like any lioness would if she was being courted. We were…intimate… How is this even possible?”

What…was all this about lions? I glanced down at my hands; God help them, I was perfectly human!

“It’s something a parent tells her child, Mr. Baum,” Lucille told him much too calmly. “It was not my place to tell her. But then Christine ran back to that bastard…and she never came back.” Her voice broke. “She was afraid he would find them and force their daughter back. Who could be happy in such confinement?”

“But… How do you expect to even tell her?” There was silence. “You can’t not tell her! This is a part of who she is; it’s a part of who everyone in Home is! Her best friend is carrying her next child right now, and their first child has a hard time controlling his shifting… How can you expect her to witness that without—?”

“I said I wanted her with a human!”

“And I said I’m not giving her up for anything!”

“We’ll see what she wants, won’t we?”

I backed away from the door, shaking my head fervently. White lion? Shift? My mother…and my father? But that was impossible! And Anne, and Quince? I choked on my breath as my entire body began to tingle, my bones shifting uncomfortably. What was…?

“Elaine, don’t let go!” My eyes snapped to Quince, who was so pale. “Don’t you dare let go!”

But something knocked me onto my knees and arched my back as a scream tore through my throat. Quince’s eyes glazed over, becoming an even more haunting olive color—the color I had found placed on that “imaginary” lion that had been seated outside my window so many nights ago.

A growl rumbled throughout his chest, but I just shook my head and padded backwards, aware of the clicking of these menacing claws hidden beneath white fur. He knew I was going to run…

So I did.