Skylar was silent all through dinner, his mind spinning on everything that had happened that day. His first time talking to a human that wasn’t one of the Coldbrooks had resulted in him having a date. He still wasn’t sure how it had all happened. Like, really, Josh was a human—a human. He wasn’t even really supposed to be talking to them. Humans were just so different, not to mention extremely complicated.
Josh was also really gay. A fact that was probably going to bite him on the ass.
Skylar’s backside gave a throb as he remembered how Josh had pulled him by his tail. Fuck. He ducked his head and pushed more of his food around on his plate. He probably shouldn’t have done that. Probably shouldn’t have let him kiss him. Really shouldn’t have kissed him back. It was just leading the weirdo on, really. Probably shouldn’t have agreed to go out with him either…
Come on, the guy liked fucking sparkling ponies. Sure, Skylar might happen to shift into one but it didn’t mean Josh wasn’t totally weird for liking him. Really weird.
The guy could kiss though…
Skylar jolted, his hand coming up to block the roll of bread that was sailing towards his face. Carter flashed him a wicked grin from his side of the table. Blinking back to reality, he realized that Carter’s dad, Allen, had already left at some point, the room empty except for the two of them.
Oh, this was bad. Was he seriously losing time over this weird Josh guy? Crap.
“So, are you going?”
“What?” Skylar focused back on Carter, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “How do you even know about that?”
Carter shrugged cryptically, his smirk only growing. “Josh is a nice guy. He never gets into trouble, always stands up for his friends. He might not look it, but he’s got three little sisters, and he’s always taking care of them with their mother working all the time. He’s a cool guy, Stormcloud.”
His glare turning assessing, Skylar finally nodded. “He wants me to meet some of his friends. He said… said if I told them I was a shifter, they wouldn’t freak or anything,” he added, his unspoken question hanging between them.
“Then they won’t,” Carter assured him. “Josh wouldn’t hang with guys that discriminate. He’s honorable.”
More confused, Skylar shot back, “If you know so much about him, why aren’t you friends?”
Carter gave a weak smile. “Dude, I spend my days hanging out with a fucking magical sparkling horse shifter. I get enough shit from the other sorcerer kids as it is. Humans are going to think I’m a total loser.”
Huffing, Skylar went back to not eating. It was difficult to figure Carter out. He was a powerful sorcerer, respected enough that he had started to accompany his father to Skylar’s realm to help find stallion shifters that were open to talking to humans. But Carter didn’t act like any sorcerer he’d ever heard of. Sorcerers were usually arrogant punks, or far above worldly problems depending on the individual. Carter was, well, really weird.
He was pretty sure the guy was indifferent to most things. Even though he liked to tease the fuck out of him—something Skylar had started to wonder might be some weird repressed flirting thing. He really knew nothing about humans and their mating habits. At least, he had thought he knew nothing. Josh had kind of clued him into the reality that if Carter was flirting with him, he was doing a totally shit job. The sorcerer was a hard read on the best of days and not knowing much about humans had only made him an interesting puzzle to figure out. Well, when he wasn’t ready to beat him bloody.
“He’s not bad,” Skylar offered, meeting Carter’s eye. “Don’t get me wrong, Josh is totally weird as fuck, but he’s not bad. It’s okay to make some friends even if they’re just human.”
Grinning wide, Carter stood, his hands braced on the table as he leaned forward. “Yeah, well prove it, Stormcloud. Go make yourself some friends and show me what it’s all about.”
Skylar rolled his eyes but couldn’t stop his grin. “You’re such a douche. Seriously.”
“Whatever, man. I’m not the one that was letting some guy suck on my horn.”
His face heated up uncomfortably and Skylar glared. “It’s not like that.”
“It’s totally like that. He’s crushing on you hardcore.”
“He’s a guy,” Skylar stressed. “Guy.”
Carter was completely unfazed. “Yeah, a gay guy and a nice one at that, so don’t fuck around with his heart. I’m pretty sure he fell for you the second you moved here.”
“Oh.” Stilling, Skylar thought back to the first day he had attended Carter’s school. He had been really nervous that day. But Josh had come right up to him. He had introduced himself and had even complimented him on his nail polish. “Oh.”
Done pretending he could eat while his stomach was swirling so much, Skylar stood, swaying as he stared down at the tabletop. He wasn’t really sure what he was going to say to Josh. He had wanted to have a chance to get to know some humans but never had it occurred to him that one might like him romantically. It complicated things. A lot. If he were smart, he’d call the whole thing off now before Josh got the wrong idea.
It would be the wrong idea. He really couldn’t be with a human. It just wasn’t possible. Especially with a guy.
“So, you going to need a lift or is he picking you up?”
“Uh, he’s driving me.” Licking suddenly dry lips, Skylar glanced at the clock on the wall. “Like, in fifteen minutes.” He caught Carter grinning at him, this time with a knowing look in his eyes that was determined to piss him off. “What?”
“You’re not going like that.”
Skylar glanced down at his clothes, his brow furrowed in confusion. “I’m not?”
Carter shook his head. “Not for a date.”
“It’s just to meet his friends.”
“It’s a fucking date, idiot. You totally have to change.”
Rolling his eyes, Skylar huffed as Carter dragged him to his room. “You humans are so stupid. You make everything so complicated.”
Carter looked at him curiously from where he was rummaging through his closet. Most of the clothes had been purchased by either Carter or Allen. Carter, for whatever reason, seemed to take glee in dressing him up in human garb. “Oh, and just what does a shifter do for a date?”
“We don’t date,” Skylar said matter of factly, catching a shirt when it was thrown to him. “But if we’re interested in someone, we take clothes off. Who cares what you’re wearing when it all comes off minutes later?”
Carter snorted and turned back to the closet. “I’ll keep that in mind. All pony shifters are total sluts.”
Biting nervously on his lower lip, Skylar glanced from the shirt in his hand to the human he considered a friend. There was a lot Carter didn’t know about the horse shifters, a lot he wasn’t sure if he was comfortable fully disclosing with him. “Actually, just the stallions. The girls only get horny once a year when they go into heat. It’s freaking hell.”
Carter paused from what he was doing. “What, even in human form?” He stopped himself and turned to meet Skylar’s hesitant gaze. “Right, I forgot. Your girls are always in horse form. You know, there’s a reason you need to learn to get along with humans. Otherwise, your village could be taken over or some shit.”
Skylar sighed at the tangent. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved to avoid the conversation or annoyed that Carter had once again missed the fucking point. “I’m not worried. Getting along with humans or not, my village has enough magic to hide us away for a thousand years easy.”
Carter threw a pair of jeans on the bed while nodding to himself. “So… What exactly do you stallions do when you’re all human and the girls aren’t?”
His stomach tightened uncomfortably when the topic of conversation abruptly ended right back to what he had yet to decide if he wanted to disclose. Skylar tried to shrug nonchalantly. “There aren’t that many guys. Like, a handful to each village if we’re lucky.”
“Still. I mean, if your mares have mating cycles and you stallions are always horny.” Carter turned back to him with arms folded. A wicked grin was plastered on his face as his gaze fixed on Skylar’s currently smooth forehead. “Do you guys, like, help polish each other’s horns?”
His cheeks flushing, Skylar grabbed for the jeans to hide his fluster. “It’s not something we talk about.”
“But you do, right?” Carter pressed. “It’s a year long fucking sparkling gay orgy until your girls go into heat?”
Gnawing on his sore bottom lip, Skylar nodded once. “It’s not a gay thing. It’s not,” he insisted when Carter snorted in disbelief. “It’s just to, uh, help relieve tensions—Don’t fucking tell people.” He turned away abruptly. “They think we’re weird enough as it is.”
Carter exhaled heavily. He studied Skylar with something new shining in his eyes. “Fuck, I thought I was teasing you again. My dad won’t tell me shit about that kind of stuff. I should probably warn you that meeting Josh’s friends doesn’t mean it’s going to turn into a, um, pile of sex.”
Skylar fought back a grin and failed. “No shit. You humans are more repressed than our fucking mares. It’s gay this and gay that and everyone wants sex but rarely anyone is having any—and when they are, it’s with themselves. Complicated,” he stated.
“And since Josh likes you, he might not like the idea of you, um, sleeping with other people while you’re dating,” Carter added after a pause.
Skylar nodded, his eyes downcast. That was the big problem. Horse shifters didn’t grow attached to anyone the way humans did. Relationships were fluid, selfless. And Josh, well, he was the kind of guy that would fall for another guy and want to stay with him forever. Like some sort of life mate.
It was impossible.
Sighing, Skylar kicked off his sneakers and slipped out of his current jeans. “Josh is alright. I mean, he has a nice smile. And I really think he likes my sparkles even if they’re girly as fuck. Even my own get annoyed when we get too sparkly. He really is kind of weird.”
Josh would be an interesting friend. That’s all. That’s all it could be and he really shouldn’t think anything more of it. So what if he was horny? He was always horny. Just because Josh was the first human that had actually caught his eye didn’t mean anything.
Zipping his fresh pair of jeans up, Skylar looked at the other shirt Carter was trying to hand him. “You layer them,” Carter explained. When Skylar raised his brows skeptically, he added cheekily, “Hey, you can’t make it too easy for him. Guys like a chase. Well, human guys do.”
“It’s a fucking rainbow. You’re dressing me in a blue and purple rainbow,” Skylar said with a growl.
“Josh will like it. He’ll love it, for real.”
Glaring at him warningly, Skylar took the shirt. “Stop looking at me like that.”
Carter’s annoying grin only grew. “Like what?”
“Like I’m going to suck your dick if you stand here long enough.”
Carter didn’t laugh. He gave a tug to the shirt Skylar was holding and pulled him closer. “Would you? You’ve been here a month after living a lifestyle of orgies, right? You must be feeling really desperate.”
Skylar slowly looked Carter up and down, allowing himself to notice his broad shoulder, handsome face, and shining blond hair trimmed short. The guy was hot, and if he had been a shifter, it wouldn’t have even been a question. “I’m not that desperate, jackass. You should have been nicer to me and stopped making those stupid ass pony toys.”
“Damn it.” Carter huffed good-naturedly and stepped away. “Guess I’m stuck with my hand.” He watched Skylar shrug into the second shirt. “Bet Josh is going to be happy.”
Combing his hair in place with his fingers, Skylar paused as he stared blankly at the bed. “Don’t assume. We have these strict rules about not messing around with humans.”
“What, like you’re not allowed at all?”
Skylar pushed his sleeves up agitatedly. “It’s not in writing or anything—no one actually says it. But we do think it’s kind of, like, unfair to be with humans.”
“Why?” Carter none to subtly looked down at his crotch. “Just how big are you?”
Blushing, Skylar shoved his hands into his pockets with a scowl. “Not that, idiot. Humans are non-magical. Ignorant. And that sexual freedom thing? That tends to freak them the fuck out. Most humans can’t handle that kind of stuff and—”
“Wait, so what, he needs to pass a test?” Carter broke in. “Like, trial by orgy? Do you have to bring him home and have all the stallions fuck your boyfriend before you’re allowed to date?”
“Fucker—why the fuck do I talk to you again?” Skylar exclaimed. “You’re such an asshole.” Scowling, he turned towards the mirror and busied himself making sure all the glitter was free from his hair. That Carter was partially right only made it more embarrassing. There was no way he could date a human that wasn’t open to his herd lifestyle.
“Hey, I don’t think he’d mind.” Carter leaned against the wall, his smug grin back in place. “You shifters are all super hot, even with the glitter.”
Skylar glared at him through the mirror. “We don’t leave our village, like, ever. This training thing with your dad is new and a big freaking deal, which is why after a year of Allen searching, I’m the only dumbass that was willing to try this thing. If I fell for some human, he or she would have to live with me in my village. He’d be isolated, the only one of his kind, lonely and different. And he might start getting stupid ideas, like I’m not supposed to do the same shit I did before I met him. Like breed the mares once a year,” he stressed.
Nodding silently, Carter’s smile slowly faded and the joking twinkle left his eye.
“The future of my entire village depends on me not being selfish and falling in love and leaving them,” Skylar muttered. He fixed on his reflection, afraid he was going to see something worse in Carter’s eyes if he kept looking. Like pity. Humans didn’t know shit. Sure, things were routine back home, boring, but at least he had a purpose. He protected his herd and made sure they continued on. It was important. So what if his life was forfeit when he had an entire village that needed him? He wasn’t the first stallion to be disregarded for the greater good.
“Can we just let this drop?” He turned to Carter. “Dating humans is just too complicated.”
“Sorry,” Carter said quietly. “That sounds like shit.”
“It is. It’s part of why I haven’t really been trying to make friends.” Skylar crossed his arms over his chest. “This place is cool and all, but it’s temporary. There’s no point getting caught up in stupid romance shit.”
He had thought that would be the end of it, but then again, Carter was very good at annoying the hell out of him. “Then why Josh?”
Skylar gave him a long side glance, then shrugged and returned to studying his shoes. “He’s interesting.”
“You like him!”
“Fuck off,” Skylar snapped.
Carter grinned winningly. “You totally like him. Pull that stick out of your ass, Stormcloud. It’s not the end of the fucking world if you have some fun while you’re here. Go make some damn friends and stop acting like everything is life and death.”
Skylar rolled his eyes and huffed. He would try to make some friends but nothing more. “Still not sucking your dick, dumbass.”
Josh’s friends weren’t anything like Skylar had feared. They were on the level of nerd reaching towards gamers and anime spazes, but they were good-natured enough and none of them said shit about his rainbow of hair and clothes. They were hanging out at Riley’s—Skylar was learning that humans had a lot of things to do that wasn’t actually considered doing much at all. Just hanging. Riley apparently was very good at this occupation and had a basement full of games and space for doing a lot of nothing.
It was his first time outside without either Carter or Allen, and Skylar really hadn’t known what to expect. He was still surprised by an entire world designed to accommodate his human form. Door handles, beds, chairs—they were things most humans took for granted. Many things he didn’t have at all back home. And now this. Video games.
If there had ever been anything made more specifically for hands than a game controller, Skylar didn’t know it.
Josh was currently trying to teach him how to play a racing game much to the combined cheering of his friends every time Skylar’s character fell of the edge of the track.
“Shit, you suck at this.” Josh quickly pointed left but it was too late.
“I know—Damn it!” Staring wide-eyed as his car crashed into a cliff face and promptly exploded, Skylar broke into a wide grin. “Wow. Did you see all those flames?”
Josh snickered. “Yeah, it has great graphics… But maybe you shouldn’t try to drive too soon in real life.” He leaned down from where he was hovering behind on the couch to whisper in his ear. “I don’t think your hooves could handle it.”
Biting his lip, Skylar blushed as he glanced back, taking in Josh’s bright blue eyes and dark, messy hair for a frozen moment. Fine, maybe he did like Josh. He was sweet, funny, and whenever they touched, it felt like a spark of magic.
His mouth felt particularly dry. Skylar held his hand up, the controller loose in his grasp. “Did anyone else want to play?”
“Hey, don’t worry about it, man. It just takes some practice.” Riley was quick to snag the controller and sit down next to him, corn chips scattering when the couch sank from the extra weight. “Besides, it’s not like it’s easy to focus with Josh all over you.” He flashed them a knowing look. Glancing back where Josh was still leaning over the couch, Skylar found him blushing this time. He couldn’t help but grin at the sight.
Okay, maybe he liked him a lot. Damn it.
“Wyatt has this really cool v-device thing if you want to try,” Dylan prompted from his seat on the floor. Dylan, the smallest out of all the guys there, had been giving Skylar quiet side glances the entire night and seemed very interested in the iridescent nail polish he was wearing. Skylar was doing his best to ignore it seeing as he had yet to meet any human males with nail polish. Where he was from, painting hooves was an everyday kind of thing. Painting fingernails passed the boredom okay when in human form but not quite as well as driving cars off of cliffs.
“It’s not actually virtual reality,” Josh explained. “But it is really cool.”
Wyatt, who had previously been fighting for the spot to race Riley, immediately dropped the controller and pulled out a device from his back pocket. “Oh, it’s a fucking trip. Like, it might make you really dizzy, actually. But they have five different full immersion worlds already and they started making it so people can create their own towns and upload it to one huge world—Oh, and the soundtracks! Dude, you have never heard music like this.”
While Skylar nodded politely at the very enthusiastic Wyatt who was determined to explain everything about the game that seemed to consist of just walking around looking at things, a phone buzzed behind him. Moments later, Josh stepped away, standing in the downstairs doorway with his cell to his ear, his expression growing darker as the minutes ticked by.
“Yeah, but can’t Marla…?”
Skylar strained to hear what Josh was saying but Wyatt suddenly pushed a viewscreen in front of his face, his gaze consumed with an overly bright, hyper-realistic view of what he could only assume was the ocean. A very purple ocean with green sky.
“Okay, so you can adjust the colors here—I mean, you can really make it look alien if you want, you know?”
Blinking rapidly, Skylar raised his hands and gently pushed so the screen wasn’t the only thing he could see. “Sorry, it’s just a lot. It’s so bright.”
“Huh? Oh.” Wyatt pulled the device back and began fiddling with the contrast controls. “I really like how you can make things look more real than real, you know? Like crazy colors. Like your hair,” he added offhandedly. “Beyond real.”
Surprised, Skylar patted down his hair, carefully checking to make sure his ears and horn weren’t showing again. “What, you don’t have hair color like I do here?”
“Dude, I don’t know how long it took to dye it, but no one around here has hair like yours.” Wyatt paused from what he was doing, studying Skylar carefully over the rim of his narrow glasses. “You do dye your hair, don’t you?”
Realizing his mistake, Skylar jumped up from his spot on the couch. “Yeah, I dye it. Duh. Like, that would just be crazy otherwise.” Stupid—what a fucking stupid slip to make. He could feel Dylan watching him again, and now he had to wonder if he had put something together.
This had been a bad idea. He had already slipped once that day and that had been with Carter feet away. Now he didn’t even have Carter there to save him if things went bad. Sure, Josh had handled things well, but he was, well, really weird.
Ducking his head so that no one would be able to see the lie written all over his face, Skylar sought an escape, only to run right into Josh’s chest.
“Careful.” Hands wrapped securely around his biceps and Skylar exhaled roughly as the world tilted for a moment. “Alright?”
Not sure what he was anymore, Skylar just nodded silently. He was hot all over and having Josh so close reminded him all too well of just how nice he kissed. How just having him stand close to him had gotten him hard, and when he had touched him, pressed against him, he had felt like he was going to lose his mind.
Horny. He was just horny. It didn’t have to mean anything. Skylar glanced up, finding Josh’s deep blue eyes studying him, concern clear in his gaze. The urge to kiss away that worried look hit him hard and he had to look away.
Damn it. He liked the guy. He had assumed he just wouldn’t ever be into a human—they were just so different, so difficult. But fuck this day; he was totally into Josh.
“Sorry about this, Sky. My mom called.” Josh indicated his phone with a sigh. “She has to stay late for work and the lady that lives in the apartment below who sometimes babysits can’t tonight. I’ve got to get back and make sure my sisters don’t get into trouble.”
“What… you’re leaving?” It took him a moment. Thinking was decidedly difficult with Josh standing so close.
“I have to. Jenny’s fifteen and she’ll probably be fine, but Carrie is only seven and her and Jackie will destroy the house if given a chance. Whoever said girls are well-behaved never had sisters.” As if realizing for the first time that he was still holding him steady, Josh dropped his hands. “Uh, I can drive you to Carter’s, if you want. I mean, did you want to stay and hang for longer? We could call Carter and see if he’ll pick you up if you do and…” Josh sighed again, clearly disappointed with how the night was going.
“Can I, uh, go with you?” Skylar asked, his face immediately heating up once the question was out. “I mean, I know you’ll probably be busy with your sisters and all—”
“No, busy is not the word,” Josh said quickly as he grabbed Skylar’s hand. “Just, I dunno, would you be bored? I don’t have much for video games and stuff. But, you know, I’d really like to, well, spend more time with you. I could drop you off at Carter’s after my mom gets home.”
Josh’s cheeks had gained a new flush and a sparkle lit his eyes. Skylar was having a hard time looking away. The prospect of spending more time with Josh, alone, thrummed through his entire body like a hot flame. “Yeah, that, uh, sounds good. Really good.”
Someone snickered, the noise breaking into an overly loud cough. Glancing around, Skylar realized they had at some point become the center of the room’s attention. “Um…”
“Ignore them,” Josh said. “Guys, we’re going to head out.”
“Have fun studying anatomy,” Riley called cheerfully, the others erupting into laughter.
“Go fuck yourselves.” Beaming, Josh gripped Skylar’s hand and pulled him towards the door.
“It was nice to meet you, Sky,” Dylan called, sounding like he meant it.
Pausing, Skylar turned and gave a flustered wave before disappearing through the door to the warm night air outside. “What did they mean by—oh.” His question was cut off by Josh’s kiss. His back hit the closed door and he sighed as arms wrapped around him and pulled him into a dizzying tangle of lips and heat.
“I really do have to make sure my sisters are okay,” Josh whispered breathlessly when he finally pulled away. “But I’ve been dying to do that since I saw you again.” His gaze moved down Skylar’s form, taking in his colorful shirts and tight jeans that betrayed just how turned on he was. “You look really good, Sky.”
Dazed, Skylar met his hungry gaze. His tongue flitted out to wet his lips. “You do too.” He did; Josh had changed into fresh clothes and smelled amazing. It was really hard to remember why he wasn’t supposed to get close to humans when his gaze burned over him the way it did.
Leaning down, Josh kissed him again, their lips brushing when he whispered. “We should probably go. Before we get distracted.”
Skylar nodded dumbly. It was difficult to focus on anything but the heat from their combined bodies. He was so hard it hurt. Before Josh could pull away, Skylar grabbed his ass and ground forward, his erection rubbing along his length.
He knew he shouldn’t but he had to know. He had to know if Josh actually wanted him the same. That was where it always went to hell with humans. The few that stumbled into the villages just didn’t understand them, couldn’t communicate even though they were speaking the same language. This though—how could you not understand this?
“Sky.” Breathing his name out, Josh rocked his hips against his. Skylar’s head tipped back a moment, his eyes fluttering shut as pleasure shot through him. Josh was so hard, and could feel that he was hard. This was when a stallion would make a move. If he wanted it just as much, they’d help each other get off. But as hard as Josh was, as strained as he was breathing, he was only softly kissing his jaw and Skylar had no idea how to respond. If Josh wanted him, they’d already be in each other’s pants. That was just normal.
Unfortunately, Josh was human and his normal wasn’t remotely the same.
“Come on. Before it gets too late.” Josh pulled away reluctantly and brushed his hair from his eyes. Skylar watched him from where he was resting on the door, beyond bewildered at what to do next. Was he supposed to make a move? What if he was reading it wrong and Josh got extra human and freaked out?
Damn it, why were humans so difficult about sex?
Skylar followed slowly to the car. Silently he wondered if maybe once they were hidden from view, Josh would stop being so shy. Except once in the car, Josh, who was trying to calm himself, seemed more interested in the mp3 player and what kind of music Skylar liked. He spent the entire drive asking him questions about himself when it would have been a perfectly good time to touch, or pull to the side of the road and fuck the crazy heat out of them.
It was maddening, as was the sudden kiss Josh surprised him with once they pulled into the parking lot of his apartment.
“Josh—fuck.” His eyes closing, Skylar opened to his driving tongue, his hands scrabbling to find purchase as Josh leaned across the seat and pushed him back against the door. Lips crushed his, wet heat stealing all sensible thought from his mind, and quickly his breath.
“Sorry… sorry, I shouldn’t…” Josh kissed heatedly down Skylar’s neck, nipping his flesh lightly. “You’re driving me crazy.”
Sky fought to find his breath enough to explain if anyone was going crazy, it was him. Josh’s lips sealed over his again, tongue stroking his in intoxicating touches. Pulling blindly at his shirt, Skylar sought out the bare skin beneath, only to have Josh slip away before he could get under the hem.
“Sorry, we should… yeah.”
Confused, Skylar forced his eyes open at the sound of the car door shutting.
Groaning into the empty car, Skylar silently counted to himself as he tried to get his body under control.
Would humans find it rude to demand to fuck on the first date? Did he care if he was rude if he could just get some relief?
Wait, hadn’t he told himself that he was going to make friends and not give in to his stupid dick?
This was a bad idea. Fighting with Carter was way less annoying than the sexual frustration of just being in the same room as Josh. Licking his lips, Skylar slowly got from the car, his eyes glued on the disheveled human who was waiting for him. His cheeks were flushed, lips swollen, and given the bulge in his jeans, at least Josh was just as frustrated as he was.
Was this normal for him? Some cruel tease of a mating ritual? Was this what humans did when they wanted sex? Not have it?
A month in their world and Skylar was certain humans were about the stupidest creatures he’d ever met.