Thanks to everyone who's favorited and reviewed and followed this story! :) You guys are awesome. Happy Valentine's Day!
P.S. I was way too lazy to edit this, so lemme know if you see any mistakes.
"So what are you and Xavier doing for Valentine's Day?"
I held the phone away from my ear and checked to make sure she hadn't hung up on me. She hadn't, so I gave a hesitant, "Um…Mom?"
She kind of laughed, but not really. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I thought you said you and Xavier aren't doing anything for Valentine's Day."
It literally hurt to crush my mother's dreams like this, but I couldn't lie. "That was what I said."
She sputtered. "W-What? What do you mean you aren't doing anything for Valentine's Day? It's the most romantic day of the year, and this year you finally have a mate to spend it with, and you're not doing anything?"
"Why in the heck not?"
I held the phone between my face and shoulder so I could pull on my jeans. I almost fell over, but Xavier caught me and righted me as he passed on his way from our bathroom to the kitchen. I made kissy faces at him in thanks as he left the room, rolling his eyes affectionately.
"Valentine's Day is dumb," I said without thinking, distracted as I looked through the closet for a relatively nice shirt. Even if Xavier and I weren't celebrating, a lot of the pack was, and it would be pretty rude if the Alpha and his mate didn't show up to the lunch party some of the women were throwing.
It took me a second, but then I realized all I could hear was static coming from the phone. That, and someone sniffling.
"Are you crying?" I asked, feeling slightly guilty. Romantic stuff was the one thing my mother, a tough-as-nails alpha female who could probably kick my mate's butt if she really wanted to, would go mushy for.
She seemed to pull herself together, because she ignored my question and said sternly, "Well how do you know you aren't doing anything? Did you guys actually make plans saying you weren't going to have any plans?"
"Yeah, we-" I paused and racked my brain, eyes widening. "No, we didn't." I'd just assumed when Xavier hadn't said anything.
She made a noise of victory. "See? How do you know he doesn't have some special dinner planned or something equally romantic?"
"But I don't want to celebrate," I protested, starting to worry. "I hate Valentine's Day. It's not even a real holiday."
My mother ignored me and I could picture her grinning manically, her voice was so dang cheerful now. "Oh, sweetheart! I bet that's it! He's planning on surprising you!"
I'd finished dressing, so I walked into the kitchen and eyed Xavier with suspicion. "Hmmm."
Mom laughed gleefully. "I'll let you go. But I expect details, missy!"
She hung up before I could say goodbye, and I lowered the phone and slipped it into my pocket, my movements slow and cautious.
Xavier gave me a weird look, pulling toast out of the toaster. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"It's Valentine's Day," I said, watching him closely.
He didn't respond.
"Well?" I said. "Are you going to answer?"
"I wasn't aware you'd asked a question."
Oh. "It's a dumb holiday, don't you think?"
I waited for a sign, like a frown or a pause or something. Anything that said he'd made plans and was now freaking out because I didn't want plans.
But no, he just went on munching on his jellied toast. He waited until he was finished chewing and swallowed. "I wouldn't say it's dumb, exactly. But I do believe that if a couple wants to be romantic, they should do so every day of the year, not just once."
What did that mean? So he didn't think Valentine's Day was special, but that also meant he could be counting today as just another day. And for him, just another day meant being romantic. So even though he was kind of against the idea of Valentine's Day, he still might have made plans because being romantic every day of the year means being romantic on Valentine's Day.
But then again, if he was against the idea of Valentine's Day, maybe he was counting today as the exception to the be-romantic-everyday-rule and he hadn't made plans.
I narrowed my eyes at him. So that's how he was going to play it. Be purposely vague so I had no clue which way he was going to go.
"Come on," he said, oblivious, cleaning up his trash and holding a hand out to me. "We're supposed to be at Jenna and Tommy's in ten minutes."
I blinked and glanced at the clock. He was right. It was already almost three.
I pushed the question of our Valentine's Day plan to the back of my mind and took his hand, frowning up at him. "Why'd you have all that toast if we're going to eat?"
"A snack to tide me over."
"You had six pieces."
He grinned. "Exactly. A snack. I didn't even finish off the loaf."
The CloudCatcher pack lived in the middle of the woods, their houses and stores set up like any other town, but built miles away from the nearest city. Only members of the pack lived on CloudCatcher territory, which had been a big shock for me, coming from a pack that had integrated years ago with the humans that lived in the city.
It took Xavier and me five minutes to drive to the house the party was being held in-we usually ran, but this time we were late-and it was in full swing by the time we got there. The women, most of them older than me, immediately stole me away, dragging me to a secluded part of the yard where the men wouldn't be able to hear us.
"What are you and Xavier doing for Valentine's Day?" one of the younger ones asked excitedly, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Oh jeez. "Nothing."
They stared at me.
I shrugged. "I think Valentine's Day is dumb."
One of the older women, Gwendolyn, nodded firmly. "Good for you. Don't let yourself get caught up in all this mumbo jumbo."
Effie, a girl a bit older than me with blue eyes and a pixie nose, scowled fiercely at her. "Don't listen to her, Glendaya. Valentine's Day is a chance for you and Xavier to do something really romantic."
"I agree," Xavier's mom said, frowning towards her son where he stood across the yard with the men. "Don't tell me my son doesn't have anything planned. I might have to go knock some sense into that boy."
On and on it went.
I tuned them out as they began arguing impassionedly. The sun shone brightly, but a crisp breeze sent a chill through me, and I rubbed my arms, unprotected by my three-quarter sleeves. Xavier, my wonderful, loving, crazy protective mate, appeared behind me and draped his leather jacket over my shoulders.
I turned and gave him a hard kiss in thanks.
That stopped the women's argument quick-fast as the older ones began cooing over Xavier and me like we were cute little puppies.
"You two are so good together," one said, sniffling.
"Aren't they cute?" another said to her blue-haired sister.
I rolled my eyes as Xavier grinned good-naturedly, his arms coming around my waist to tug my back against his chest. His arms did more to warm me than any jacket ever could, but I appreciated the bulky leather nonetheless.
We stood there talking for several minutes before Jenny, whose house we were using for the party, called out, "Food's ready!" from the table off to the side of the yard where she was setting down a plate of freshly grilled hot dogs.
"I brought some extra snacks to go with the hot dogs," Xavier's mother announced. "Xavier, why don't you come help me bring it out?"
Her expression spelled trouble, but my mate simply pressed a kiss to my hair and followed her inside the house. I watched him walk away, sighing happily.
"I hope my future mate treats me as well as Xavier treats you," Effie said as she stepped up beside me, blue eyes wistful. "He loves you so much. I think he'd love you even without the mating bond."
I smiled at her and took her hand, squeezing. "I got lucky. I think you will, too. How could your mate not love you when you're so amazing?"
She nudged my shoulder with her own, cheeks turning pink.
We congregated around the food table with the other attending pack members, filling our plates to brimming. As wolves, we ate twice the amount of food as the humans, our metabolisms working twice as quickly.
Xavier's mom came up to me and tugged me out of earshot, glancing around mischievously and then whispering, "Don't worry, Glendaya. My son has assured me he has big plans for you both tonight. He didn't tell me much, but he mentioned dinner and jewelry!"
I whipped my head around to stare across the yard at my mate. My hard-headed, steadfast mate who, if he had a plan, would follow through no matter what obstacles I set in his path.
I pushed down my disgruntlement and sighed heavily. If he wanted to take me out to dinner, he was going to take me out to dinner. Even if he had to drag me there kicking and screaming. He was just that stubborn.
Usually I loved him for it, but today it made me want to strangle him. I'd so been looking forward to going home and cuddling with Xavier on the couch, watching a movie and eating my favorite ice cream.
But no, Xavier just had to go and be romantic.
I glared at my mate, and he must have felt it, because he looked at me and frowned, cocking his head in question. I scowled.
And you know what he did? He grinned. A big, cheesy grin that said he knew I was mad and that he was getting great amusement out of it.
"I see my mother told you about my plans," he said, coming up to me and leaning down to rub his nose against mine, holding a plate with four hot dogs smothered in ketchup and mustard.
I couldn't bring myself to push him away, but I made sure he knew I was not happy. "I thought we weren't doing anything for Valentine's Day. You never said we were doing anything. I can't believe you let me think we weren't doing anything. Have you figured out yet that I don't want to do anything?"
His lips were still spread wide with humor. "Yeah, I got that. Guess you're just going to have to deal with it. It's only one night, after all."
My wolf, just as turned off by overrated romantic mush parties as her human host, growled at him, and the noise carried up my vocal cords and spilled out into the chill spring air.
Xavier laughed as he started chowing down on his food.
I spent the next few hours switching between fuming at my mate, who thought I was just so hilarious, and dreading having to get all dressed up so I could go eat in an over-priced restaurant with a bunch of strangers while forcing myself to act romantic for my mate's sake.
To say I was a total party pooper that afternoon was an understatement.
I reluctantly allowed Xavier to lead me from Jenna and Tommy's home later that evening, wishing I could stay and just lounge around on their couch. With my mate. Watching a movie and eating ice cream.
I was silent in the car even as Xavier sent me amused glances.
"You," I growled as he pulled into our driveway. "Stop that."
"You know what."
He met me at the front of the car and pulled me in for a long kiss, not pulling away until I was a pliant blob of love and desire against him.
"Do you want to hear my plans now?"
I made a dazed noise.
He took that as an affirmative, and tugged me up the front walk and through the front door. "First I have a surprise for you."
I blinked, coming back to myself. Jewelry, his mother had said. Was that his surprise?
But instead of whipping out diamonds, a few moments later we were standing in front of our bedroom. He nudged me inside. "Go. Put on something comfy. I'll be waiting in the kitchen."
I huffed, and after he left slipped on sweats and one of his t-shirts. He had said comfy. It was his own fault if he took me somewhere nice and I looked like a slob.
I met him back in the kitchen, mentally bracing myself for impact, but he didn't grab the car keys or put on his jacket. Instead, he went searching through his house-fixer tool drawer and pulled out a small plastic package. "For you," he said earnestly, handing it to me.
A Ring Pop. He'd gotten me a red, candy ring for Valentine's Day.
"This is it?" I asked warily.
He shrugged. "For jewelry, yeah."
I slumped against the counter in relief. "Thank God. It's wonderful, thank you."
"I figure finding your bracelet at Christmas was enough jewelry-giving for the next couple years. You're not really a jewelry girl anyway, and we have more important things to spend money on than something you'll shove in the back of a closet and never wear."
I blinked at him. Sometimes I forgot how well he knew me, and remembering it now gave me a warm feeling deep inside. "I love you."
He smiled. "You'll love me even more when you see what I else I have planned." He led me into the living room and there, sitting on the coffee table, was a mini-carton of rainbow sherbet ice cream. The TV was already displaying the opening menu for a new movie I'd been dying to see.
"Oh," I breathed, eyes filling with happy tears. There was no way to describe in that moment how much I loved him. "I thought that by now I'd have gotten used to how utterly amazing and wonderful you are," I said with a watery laugh, turning to look up at him. "But you keep managing to surprise me."
He wrapped me up in his arms, dark eyes meeting mine. "I'm glad. I want to keep surprising you and making you happy for the rest of our lives. I know how lucky I am, Glendaya, and I don't ever want you to think I'm taking you for granted."
I sniffed. "If you're lucky, I'm even luckier. I don't know what I did to deserve you." Feeling lighter than air, I threw my arms around his neck and pulled him down, pressing kisses all over his face. "I love you, I love you, I love you."
He laughed, and it was a laugh of such joy it made my heart swell just to hear it. He accepted my kisses readily, then returned the gesture, and with soft eyes and an Eskimo kiss, he whispered, "Happy Valentine's Day, Glendaya."