Teak's Second Start
Teak Ranta, an Arctic fox shifter, moved to Spirit Valley in the hopes of starting over in life. He has a new house, a new job as a veterinarian assistant, and he’s even found his mate in his boss Olander Frost, a snow leopard. Life is looking up—until his ex-boyfriend comes looking for him.
Olander is thrilled to find out his new assistant is his mate, and what a cute little fox Teak is! At first, Teak is reluctant, thinking Olander will restrict him. Just when Olander starts to break down Teak’s barriers, an irritation in the form of possessive human Dominic Thompson shows up, wanting Teak for himself.
Danger is moving in on Itáyu Lake and its residents once again when Olander brings Teak to the lake for protection. But the human on Teak’s trail is a Hunter, and he’s not willing to back down easily.
Dr. Frost’s Animal Hospital was a modest sunshine-yellow building situated between a mint-green pet supply store and a light-blue animal salon. From the little information Teak had found online, all three businesses were owned by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Olander Frost.
Teak parked his car behind the building and walked around to the front door. He was sure the staff were supposed to enter via the back entrance, but it was his first day so he’d chosen to enter this way. The waiting room smelled like sick and scared pets. The disinfectant didn’t help any, only added to the sour air.
“Hello. How can I help you?” a pretty young blonde teen girl asked. If he judged her age accurately, Teak would put her at around seventeen.
“I’m Teak Ranta. I’m supposed to start work here today.” He gave her a charming smile. It was one he’d spent years cultivating while working customer service in retail.
“Oh, right. I’m Jessica, Dr. Frost’s niece. I work part-time.” She returned the smile and offered him a hand, which he shook. She had a surprisingly strong handshake for a girl her age. “Come on back, and I’ll get Uncle Olander.” She opened a door and shouted, “Uncle! Your new assistant is here. Try to keep this one!”
“Excuse me?” Teak paused in the doorway, unsure what she meant.
Jessica continued to smile. “No, don’t worry about. My uncle’s just a bit eccentric, so people tend to not stick around working here. He’s an amazing vet, though.”
Teak followed her into the back where a tall man was placing a puppy into a kennel. He was whispering to the young animal in a soft cooing voice, much like how a mother would talk to her kids. Teak found himself softening to his new boss with each gentle sound.
“Uncle,” Jessica snapped.
“Yes, yes. I heard you the first time you shouted for me.” Olander Frost closed the kennel door and turned to face them. He was handsome, in a studious kind of way with his disheveled black hair. There was something about him, though, something not entirely human in his gray eyes as he looked at Teak.
“Teak Ranta, I assume.”
“Oh, yes.” Teak snapped himself out of the funky daze he’d drifted into. “Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand to the other man and froze when he grasped it.
“The pleasure’s mine,” Olander purred before kissing Teak’s hand.
Instantly he snatched his hand back and gaped at the man standing cockily before him. That’s when the scent finally registered through the fog of chemicals and sick animals. The smell of an ancient forest. Teak’s heart thudded painfully against his chest as he looked into the eyes of a predatory cat.
“Oh, fuck,” Teak murmured beneath his breath.
Olander grinned as he closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around Teak. “To think my mate would be my new assistant. What an amazing match.”
Teak wasn’t sure what to make of this turn of events. This man was the leopard he’d seen in the forest last night? His boss was his mate? What on earth was going on? All he’d wanted when he’d moved to Spirit Valley was a peaceful life away from drama and men. Now it looked like he had both waiting for him at work.
The little fox’s scent was intoxicating, and Olander found himself hard pressed to pay attention during the day as they worked side by side. Every time Teak walked by him or looked his way Olander wanted to press the man against the nearest flat surface and kiss him. Too bad his mate didn’t appear to return his interest.
“Trish and Dozer are here for their three o’clock,” Jessica announced. “Dozer got into a scrap with a raccoon again.”
Sighing, Olander handed Teak a kitten and instructed him to give the little one its last vaccine and then join him in exam room two. Entering the cream-colored room he found the owner, Trish, a single woman who lived alone and had rescued Dozer for both protection and companionship, coddling the large Rottweiler. As for the patient, Dozer, he was licking her hand trying to comfort her.
This kind of scene was all too familiar. Owners, worried about their beloved pet, ended up causing so much stress within themselves the animal usually ended up comforting them.
“Doc, is he going to be okay?” Trish asked, tears in her brown eyes when she spotted him. “He isn’t going to get rabies, right?” Her usually pale cheeks were red and puffy, no doubt from crying.
“I would think not.” Olander shined a light on the scratches on Dozer’s neck and chest. “He’s up-to-date on all his shots, so he’ll be fine on that front. Did you clean these?” He indicated the cuts.
Trish worried her hands as she looked from Dozer to Olander. “Was I not supposed to?”
“No, you did a good job.” Olander needed her to relax before he could hope to treat Dozer. If he couldn’t get her to calm down he’d have to send her out to the waiting room. Olander wasn’t going to risk being bitten over an anxious owner.
A soft knock on the door drew Olander’s attention for a moment while Teak entered.
“Hello, I’m Teak, the new assistant.”
“Hi.” Trish’s eyes widened as she looked at his mate, her obvious interest reflected in them, an interest Olander fully understood. Teak was beautiful. Platinum blond hair, azure eyes, and skin as white as snow paired with soft pink lips made him look like an angel. His slim build and the confident way he carried himself made it impossible not to notice him.
“Teak, please get me some gauze and tape from the cabinet,” Olander instructed, his voice a bit harsher than he meant for it to be.
Teak said nothing as he got the supplies and helped Olander clean the rest of the wounds, just a few grains of dirt, probably from the car ride over, and then wrapped the patient up. Next, they placed a cone around Dozer’s neck to keep him from scratching at the wounds for the time being.
“Jessica will collect payment and make a follow-up appointment,” Teak said as he helped Trish with getting Dozer out of the room.
For a large dog, and one that was rescued from a fighting ring, he was certainly a docile animal. Olander liked seeing cases like his. It proved even the most damaged and abused creatures could get a second chance.
Olander had been the one that helped Trish with the adoption, a good fit in his opinion. Dozer needed to be in a single animal family, and Trish needed someone that would bond with her.
Pulling disinfectant from the cabinet, Olander sprayed the metal table and the floor before wiping it up. He only had three exam rooms, so he cleaned as he went to ensure he was always ready for the next patient.
“Care to explain what that was about?”
Olander turned around at the harsh tone in Teak’s voice and found the small man leaning against the now-closed door. “Be more specific.” Olander tossed the paper towels he’d used to wipe the room down into the trash and leaned against the metal exam table.
Teak’s pretty blue eyes blazed with irritation as he looked at Olander. “Look, I don’t care what fate says. You have no right to act like a jealous husband when I talk to someone else.”
Was he that easy to read? Yeah, okay maybe. It was just when Trish’s eyes had lit up upon seeing Teak, he couldn’t help feeling territorial. “You’re my mate. I have every right to feel jealous when some woman checks you out.”
The bright blush wasn’t what he’d been expecting. The defiant set of Teak’s jaw was, though. They made an adorable combination on his face.
“We may be fated, but we are not…I’m not looking for anything right now. I need time to settle in before I get into another relationship.”
“Another?” Olander couldn’t keep the growl out of his voice even if he tried with the mention of Teak being in a relationship with someone else.
“That’s none of your concern,” Teak rushed to say before he hurried from the room.
Olander was left stewing in the exam room. If Teak thought he was just going to sit here and let his mate walk out with that weak-ass explanation he had another thing coming.
Teak's Second Start was first released a short story in the ManLove Fantasies 2017 Winter contest. This, updated and lengthened, book expands on the plot. I do hope you enjoy it!