Hudson tossed the pillows off the bed, followed by the duvet. Not there either. He cursed under his breath as he continued to turn his bedroom upside down. This was ridiculous. Where could they be? He ransacked every drawer, looked under all the furniture, checked the bathroom, and even the cupboards. Nothing.
Hudson turned to Seb with a pout. “I can’t find the damned things anywhere.”
Seb leaned against the door frame and studied him, his expression turning from curious to amused as he folded his strong arms over his muscular chest, his shirt sleeves stretching over thick biceps, doing nothing for Hudson’s concentration. Could the man not find a shirt that fit?
“Let me guess. You can’t find your glasses?”
“This isn’t funny, Sebastian. I need to find them.” Hudson turned to keep rifling through his dresser drawers. “I can’t believe I left my contacts at work, and of course I forgot to put an order in for a spare, and I have no idea where my blasted backup pair is, and oh!” He found a case, and opened it. It was empty. “Piss.” He tossed it over his shoulder. “I bet I left them in my desk,” he grumbled. “Wonderful. I’ll be lucky if I can see who’s sitting across from me, your father’s going to ask a question, and I won’t know he’s looking at me, and he’ll think I’m ignoring him, and he’ll hate me and your family will hate me and—”
“Hey, easy there, lobito.” Seb gently took Hudson’s arm, and pulled him into his embrace. “Breathe, sweetheart. It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. It’s just dinner.”
“It’s Thanksgiving dinner. With your family. I’ve never been to a Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know what to do. I’m… not good at this sort of thing.”
Seb’s smile reached his sparkling green eyes, and Hudson couldn’t help but melt against him. Oh, but he was a handsome devil.
“Just follow our lead. Eat a week’s worth of food in one sitting, tell my mom how delicious everything is, leave the last slice of pecan pie for Ethan, serve yourself as much of the stuffing as you think you’re going to eat for the whole of the meal because when Rafe gets to it, that’s it. There’s no seconds. And, baby?”
Hudson sighed like some lovesick schoolboy. “Yes?”
“I know you’re nervous, but you don’t need to be. They already love you.”
Hudson nodded. “I just didn’t want to make a fool of myself.”
“That would never happen. You’re adorable.” Seb kissed Hudson’s brow, reached up, and then handed Hudson his glasses. “They were on your head. Again.”
Hudson let his head fall against Seb’s chest with a groan, feeling the man’s rumble of a chuckle go through him. “Good lord. I’m hopeless.”
“Like I said, you’re adorable.” Seb lifted his chin, and brushed his lips over Hudson’s, sending the most delicious shiver up his spine. “I’ll be right beside you.”
Hudson stole a quick but passionate kiss. “Well, in that case, lead the way.” It had only been a few months since they started dating, but for Hudson it felt as if they’d been together far longer. Hudson had never dated a tiger Therian, always too daunted to even approach one during his evenings out at the pub with his college friends. In school, they were the rugby and football players, and he was the science nerd. Science had certainly not been sexy back when he was in school. It had been awkward, and fumbling, and oh the incessant blushing! At times Hudson wondered if he’d ingested something that turned his face into a permanent florescent pink lightbulb.
Sebastian Hobbs was out of his league. The man’s muscles had muscles. They couldn’t even be hidden under the gray jumper he was wearing. They bulged and flexed when Seb helped Hudson up into the passenger seat of his gargantuan truck. As Seb closed the door for him and Hudson fastened his seat belt he thought about how his scooter easily fit across the backseat of the truck. He did his best not to overthink every little thing as he had a habit of doing. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t spent time with the Hobbs family. A lump formed in his throat when he thought of Julia and Thomas Hobbs. From the moment they met, they’d embraced Hudson as one of their own.
Hudson blinked, and looked up. Good heavens. They were already here? What’s more, his hand was in Seb’s and he hadn’t even realized. Seb brought his Hudson’s fingers to his lips for a kiss.
“It’ll be fine. I promise.”
Hudson nodded. He leaned in, smiling when Seb met him halfway and kissed him. He smelled divine, tasted wonderful, and Hudson was completely head over heels in love with the man. There was no denying it or trying to explain it.
A tap on Hudson’s window gave him a start, and he turned in his seat, laughing softly at the big boyish smile on Ethan’s face as he waved at Hudson. Hudson waved back. He motioned to the door, and Ethan stepped out of the way as Hudson opened the door. Ethan was there in a heartbeat, helping him down. Then he gave Hudson a big crushing hug. Hudson returned the embrace. It had taken him a few hugs to get used to the Hobbs’s affectionate nature. With the exception of Rafe, the Hobbs’s were a very huggy touchy lot. Hudson didn’t mind. It just took a little getting used to.
Seb joined them, throwing his arm around his younger sibling, and kissing the top of his head. “Hey, baby brother. How many times did mom throw you out of the kitchen?”
Ethan widened his eyes, and let out a mock gasp. He put his hand to his chest.
“Yeah, okay. Nice try,” Seb said with a chuckle. “How many?” He took Hudson’s hand in his as they headed for the front steps of the large brownstone. Ethan wrinkled his nose, and held up seven fingers. Hudson and Seb laughed.
The front door opened before they reached it, and Rafe stood at the top steps. Hudson was learning how to read Rafe Hobbs’s expressions. Unlike his brothers, the man rarely smiled, but his frowns and scowls varied by degrees. He didn’t smile when he saw Hudson, but gave him a nod and a pat on the shoulder which Hudson had come to learn was the closest thing to a smile where Rafe was concerned.
Inside, the house was aglow with warmth, music floating up from somewhere, and sports playing on the TV in the living room. Seb led Hudson into the kitchen where Julia and Thomas were in the midst of a sweet kiss. Thomas murmured something to his wife, and Julia giggled. Hudson couldn’t contain his smile. He’d never met anyone like Julia and Thomas Hobbs. After everything they’ve suffered, their love for each other radiated from them. Thomas saw Hudson and his smile tugged at Hudson’s heart. He wheeled over to Hudson and Hudson reached down to hug him tight.
“It’s so good to see you again, son.” Thomas rubbed his back before pulling away. “Thank you for coming.”
Hudson shook his head. “Thank you for having me.”
Julia walked over to him, her arms wide, and he stepped into her embrace, hugging her tight. When she pulled away she kissed his cheek.
“I’m so happy you’re here, darling.”
Hudson couldn’t trust himself to say anything. He was so overwhelmed by the love in this house. It was a far cry from the Colbourn household.
“Where’s Darla?” Seb asked, as he gave his mother’s cheek a kiss.
“She stepped out with Cal to fetch her pies.”
“Ah.” Seb nodded. He nudged Ethan with a chuckle before turning to Hudson. “Darla makes legendary pecan pies, but she and Cal always bring them over last because if not her and mom have to spend all their time trying to keep everyone from eating them.”
Ethan nodded and patted his stomach.
“All right, boys. Everyone pick up a dish and set it on the table.” She gave Ethan a pointed look. “You keep those sticky fingers off the soft rolls.”
Ethan fluttered his lashes as her and she playfully swatted at him with the tea towel hanging from her apron pocket.
“Don’t you give me those big innocent eyes. I gave birth to your little tiger Therian butt, so get going. All of you.”
Ethan laughed and hopped to it. Seb, Rafe, and Hudson quickly fell in line, each picking up a dish, marching it into the dining room where the huge table was set. Within minutes all the food was put out with no one daring to take even a nibble of anything. Julia Hobbs was the sweetest woman Hudson had ever met, but she’d also raised three tiger Therian boys, all of whom fell into line with a mere raise of her perfectly shaped brow.
Seb pulled a chair out for Hudson, and Hudson smiled brightly as he took a seat. Seb was beside him with Thomas at the head of the table to his left.
“We’re back,” Darla announced in a sing song voice as she entered the room carrying a large insulated bag, Calvin smiling brightly behind her with a similar bag. She walked by Hudson and kissed the top of his head. “I’m so glad you came, darling.”
“Thank you, Darla.” Hudson smiled brightly at her, before turning his attention to Calvin who gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“Good to see you, doc.”
“Good to see you too,” Hudson said, meaning every word. He smiled as Darla and Julia murmured to each other like school girls, giggling and teasing each other. Calvin placed the pies where his mother instructed before taking a seat at the table across Seb beside Ethan. He gave Ethan a playful punch in the shoulder, and Ethan returned the favor. Rafe just rolled his eyes, but there was amusement in them.
Once everyone was seated, Thomas beamed brightly at them. “All right, everyone settle down. It’s time to give thanks. Ethan, if you stare any harder at that pie you’re going to hurt something, son.”
Ethan laughed, and everyone joined in. Thomas held his hand out to Hudson on one side and Julia on the other. Hudson followed Julia’s lead, taking Thomas’s hand. Everyone held hands, and lowered their heads, eyes closed. Hudson had never been very religious, but he followed along as Thomas spoke. Hudson wasn’t sure what to expect. His own father hadn’t been very religious, though he dispensed with the righteousness whenever the mood struck, usually when Hudson had done something to disappoint him.
Thomas gave thanks for the food they were about to receive, saying a prayer for those in need. He gave thanks for his family, for their love, and support. He gave thanks for their friends, and for those new members of the family, and at that point squeezed Hudson’s hand. Hudson did his best to push down his emotions. Family. He listened to Thomas’s words of love and hope, and kept them close to his heart. At the end, everyone said “Amen”, including Hudson. He blinked back the tears as the table broke off into chatter and laughter, dishes being passed around. Hudson looked up and met Julia’s warm gaze. She smiled lovingly at him, and winked at him before her attention was seized by her youngest.
Seb leaned in to whisper in Hudson’s ear, his arm around Hudson’s shoulders.
“Welcome home, lobito.”
Hudson turned his head, his heart all but ready to burst. He cupped Seb’s face, and kissed him, laughing softly when the table broke out into cheers and whistles. He felt his face flush, but he couldn’t think of ever being happier than he was right now.
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!
Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.If you’d like to connect with Charlie, just drop her an email, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google Plus.