Surrender the Chase
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Yeah, this won't get complicated.
For wolf shifter Dmitri Sernov, life bites.
His late-night hunts leave him winded, the twelfth rewrite of his novel is crap, and his last good lay was five drafts ago. He's staring down forty with a creative well as empty as his bed.
The last thing he needs is a beautiful, intimidating, obnoxious pup bent on exposing Dmitri's underbelly...
...and everything else that's gone soft.
Thierry Marrou has burned every bridge from Montréal to Juneau.
Once a prospect for Canada's Olympic hockey team, he's just been kicked off a piddling local squad in Nowhere, Alaska.
But one whiff of the silver wolf on the opposing bench was enough to confirm that the dreams drawing Thierry across a continent have a very real source.
Now all he has to do is convince Dmitri Sernov to be his alpha. Très simple, non?
SURRENDER THE CHASE is the 2nd standalone novel in the GRIZZLY RIM m/m shifter series.
Lace up for pheromone-charged hockey, dirty French lessons, a grumpy hero who thinks he's past his prime, and a pushy young hothead determined to prove him wrong.
Tropes: age gap (39/27), grumpy vs playful, fated mates, forced proximity
Content Notes: This story depicts sports violence (hockey), and unreliable parents.
GRIZZLY RIM Series
The men of Grizzly Rim are a lot of things. Always human isn't one of them.
Originally published in 2015 as a novella, this novel edition of SURRENDER THE CHASE was extensively revised and expanded for republication in 2019.
Release date: October 7, 2019
Print pages: 226
Content advisory: sports violence (hockey), unreliable parents
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Surrender the Chase
The moon was almost full again, and Dmitri’s skin itched with it.
Snowy January scrub drifted past as they rode the eleven miles to the game. The smells of the school bus surrounded him—the guys, their pregame adrenaline, the old vinyl seats, the oily odor of the linoleum down the aisle. Even the glass panes in the windows had a scent, like gypsum. Dmitri took a deep breath, noted every scent, then sank back into the seat and tried to figure out what the hell to do about his book.
It was shit. He was halfway through the twelfth draft—Christ, even thinking that was depressing—and to be honest, he wasn’t even halfway. Utter crap. Every word he put down on the page was worse than the last, more trite, more predictable, until this past week he hadn’t been able to stomach going further. He’d stared at it that day, and again the next, typed a grand total of seventeen words and deleted them all. Then he’d begun to erase more, backward and backward, until his finger got tired and he’d closed the file with a disgusted grunt. He’d have been there all night if he had backspaced over everything, but he was too much of a fucking coward to select all and hit delete.
Tonight’s game should help. It would serve as a distraction, at least. Let him blow off some steam. Pretend he had friends, even if they knew almost nothing about him. Sometimes he felt bad about that. He used them, after all, used their voices, their expressions and body language, used their lives, all in the service of his stories. All he ever gave back was his smart mouth, and sometimes his dick if someone was up for it. Not that he himself had been up for it for a good —
Ugh, he’d rather not think about how long it’d been. Not that any of them knew that, either. He managed to maintain the familiar facade—Dmitri on the prowl—when the fact was that he usually slunk back to his cabin alone, made some hot tea, and settled in to read Jane Eyre for the millionth time.
The locker room had the same fuggy atmosphere they always did—stale sweat, mop disinfectant, and the smell of old wood from the homemade lockers and benches. Dmitri dropped his duffel by an empty locker and started to strip. Well, he turned to face the locker and then started to strip. No one needed to see the pudge he’d developed while he failed to write his book but succeeded in making babka. His mother’s recipe, and her mother’s before her, was a comfort. Way too good a comfort, and his belly had become as soft as the dough.
Gear bags landed on his right. Warren Casey, owner of Grizzly Rim’s hardware store and lumber yard, and his brother Elliott, who ran the connected construction business.
“D,” Elliott said. “How’s the book?”
They only asked to be polite, the kind of bullshit thing you say in a locker room because putting on hockey gear takes several minutes, and it might be awkward otherwise. “It’s coming.”
“Lucky book,” Warren said and elbowed him.
Dmitri tried for a dirty chuckle, but it sounded pretty lame. “Yeah.”
Another bag appeared on his left. Mac, looking as grumpy as usual. He always changed in whatever counted as the corner of the locker room. The grizzly shifter was shy under his gruff exterior. He was also the only person in town who had ever read Dmitri’s stuff. He claimed to have liked it and asked him now and then when the next book would be out, but he’d stopped asking lately. That was probably just as well.
Dmitri needed this game.
They left the locker room and tromped down a short, flickering hall to the heavy plastic strips that served as a doorway into the arena. Passing through that curtain usually did the trick for him. No matter what he was chewing on in the locker room, as soon as he stepped through those strips, his world became ice and game. He tried not to think about the obvious birth metaphor. He’d had enough metaphor to last three lifetimes. Fuck metaphor.
But it was different this time. The air curtain didn’t bring that change in focus, not on hockey or the feel of his stick in his glove or the smell of Zamboni exhaust. Something was off in the arena.
Or, not off, exactly.
Up. Amped way up.
They filed to their bench and sat. Dmitri looked at the stands, but the folks who sat there were no different from usual. Same winter gear, same red cheeks and noses, same good-natured shouting. But damned if it didn’t feel like there was an electrical current running through the place.
He looked down the bench, knowing the other shifters would sense it if it really was something and not just his own brain finally sparking out. And they did. Mac was squinting through his thick black glasses as he looked around the cavernous space, his grizzly-shifter nose flared. John Tillman was on high alert, too, shoulders rigid, sharp eyes scanning. Dmitri tried to ignore how that posture gave his crank a good, hard turn.
Once upon an earlier, better draft, he’d talked Tillman into a weekend that had incinerated anything Dmitri had experienced since. But John was sloppy in love with Maddox now, and well he should be. They looked like a Marlborough ad, if Marlborough ads had ever featured two guys macking on each other. And he and Dmitri hadn’t really had much to talk about outside the bedroom. Still, when the eagle shifter met his eye, Dmitri got the same jolt he often got. It took him a moment to realize John had said something.
At his frown, John repeated it, low but plenty loud for Dmitri to hear him behind four sets of padded shoulders. “You feel it?”
“What the hell?”
The game started with no further answers. Gliding onto the ice helped take his mind off everything, and once the puck was in play, so was he, finally.
He played his usual position—right wing—thankful he’d continued to be useful in that position as he’d gotten older. He wasn’t the oldest guy on the team—that was Dub Niven, also their de facto coach. But damn if he didn’t feel more decrepit at thirty-nine than Dub seemed at sixty-something. Still, he managed some good passes, and the first few minutes passed with only a vague sense that something hadn’t happened yet. They hadn’t scored, so maybe that was it.
He was still thinking that when a cement truck hit his left shoulder and sent him sprawling.
Scrambling to his blades, he looked around, as though assessing the location of the puck while trying to tell who’d hit him. That guy, the tall one skating away. Dmitri rolled his head, testing his shoulder. He’d have to stay more aware.
It happened again right before the end of the first. He had just passed the puck to Warren when a shape barreled on from his left again and checked him. He slammed into the Plexiglas wall of the rink, the impact sending a painful twinge up from his elbow. And then a scent wafted into his nostrils that nearly took him out. It was musky, way beyond sweat or heaving breath. Sharp and woody, almost sweet, and undeniably canine. He twisted hard to see its source.
The guy hovered a few feet away, dark eyes wide. His nose flared, exactly as if he were scenting Dmitri. Breath puffed from his lips—full ones that curled into a pleased half-snarl—and then the buzzer sounded, and the guy turned and glided to the opposing bench.
Dmitri pushed off the wall and just tried to not lose his balance.
He sat out the first half of the second period, so that Elliott could get some minutes. While he watched, he became aware of a building of that same tension as before. Once, he saw John look up from his position on the rink, up and around, seeking the source, but by then Dmitri had an edgy feeling he knew what was causing it.
When Dub put him back in, he skated out on deep breaths. He could do this. He’d been skating since he was two and smacking pucks since four. You didn’t grow up around this much snow and not play, especially when your father coached.
His dad’s voice—the one telling him to get his head out of his ass—distracted him. It’d been a long time since he’d heard that voice. A long time since he’d let it in. He much preferred his mother’s voice, soft around the edges with an accent born in Ukraine. While she had lived it had often been accompanied by pierogi, the savory potato and onion kind he loved—
A hit from his right knocked his teeth together. Instead of flying free this time, though, he fell to the ice tangled with another player. His helmet hit with a hollow thud, and they slid. Even in the short time before they stopped, the heat of the other man’s body came through his gear to push against Dmitri’s skin. He struggled to untangle himself, but the other guy had a leg wrapped around Dmitri’s own. He stopped twisting and looked at him.
Glittering eyes stared back at him, framed by long lashes. Dark stubble covered the guy’s jaw. His tongue skimmed his teeth, flicking an incisor, and he grinned.
“I found you,” he said.
And then the guy was up and gone.
Dmitri rose on shaking legs. I found you? That was creepy enough. Add in that he was pretty sure the guy was a shifter, and increasingly certain he was a wolf…
He shivered, and it had nothing to do with the chilly air in the arena.
But hell if he was going to get hit again. He skated hard, harder than usual these days, keeping his head up, his attention spread around. He fell back on the old instinct, the one that let him follow the path of the puck while he watched the players move around it. It was like a dance almost, or one of those mobiles that hung from several different strings. Like planets, except any universe that moved like this would never last. Too unpredictable. Too much contact.
By the end of the second period, they were tied, two-two. The third started with no substitutions, and Dmitri began to feel his power, really feel it. He was skating like he had when he was eighteen and a hotshot at his high school—clean arcs, stops on dimes, sharp reverses. Once in a while he caught that scent, the sweet woody one, and he’d spare two seconds to watch the stranger. If Dmitri was feeling smooth, that guy was stunning, as if his blades weren’t even touching the ice. He moved like a fucking ballerina.
A really aggressive ballerina.
And when the guy turned toward him again, Dmitri was ready. He saw him coming, smelled him coming, but more than anything, felt a wave of purpose rolling toward him in advance of the guy’s body, and he might have stood there a little longer than he normally would—might have baited the guy, just a bit.
So he was a wolf, so what? Dmitri was too, and an older one. Let this kid come at him. Let him exhaust himself. If there was anything a man learned as he got older, it was how to do things more efficiently. How to save time. How to conserve energy.
And how to really get under a pup’s hide.
Just as the guy was about to slam him again, Dmitri pushed off a toe and feinted, leaving his point dug into the ice in the guy’s path. The player went down hard, with a grunt Dmitri could hear over the racket of everything else. He got to his feet quicker than Dmitri had planned on, though, and he had to put on some speed to avoid getting blasted apart.
He turned at the shout, at John’s voice, but missed the pass. Elliott saved it before the other team could get it. Dmitri moved in a wide arc away from Angry Pup. For several minutes, he managed to stay in the game. With about a minute to go, he caught the puck in a scoop that might actually have made his father proud. He didn’t have a clean shot, though, so he passed it off to John. Tillman nabbed it, saw his shot, and scored. The Grizzly Rim stands erupted, or what counted as an eruption, as they numbered only about thirty people. Dmitri enjoyed the moment for about four seconds before he found himself mashed against the wall again.
The guy had him pinned. He was strong and jacked up on something, and the longer he held Dmitri there, the more Dmitri began to feel high on the same thing. Adrenaline? Pheromones?
Then, he felt an unmistakable thrust at his hip pads.
Lust. It surged through him, so sudden and hot he forgot he was surrounded by ice. Oh, hell yeah, he hadn’t felt this—really felt it—in a long time. That scent curled into his nose, and he gasped with the rightness of it. The stranger had his glove pressed to the Plexi next to Dmitri’s helmet, his stick caught underneath. Hockey gloves were big to start with, but this guy’s hands—
In a jerky movement, and with a howl that sounded like pure frustration, the glove curled and the stick came back, quick and hard, striking Dmitri’s cheekbone before he could turn his head. The shock of the hit crumpled his knees. They knocked the ice with a jolt that rang his skull a second time. Then, shouting, a lot of it, as a scuffle broke out behind him. He gave up on dignity and huddled against the wall, protecting his neck with his gloves.
After a few seconds, the noise moved away, and he felt himself being pulled up. When he stood, Mac took his hands back but frowned at Dmitri’s face. “You’d better grab some bench, D. Or just go to the locker room.”
Across the rink, the pup was being herded off the ice by the refs. He was shouting and then, incredibly, laughing. Just before he reached the gate, he turned, and his gaze locked on Dmitri’s. He winked.
Fuck if Dmitri’s cock didn’t go painfully hard.
Then the guy was gone, stomping toward the locker rooms.
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