Can pink be a manly color? One winter, I watched a TV show about extreme Christmas trees. One tree was done by lobstermen who build a huge tree out of traps every year. Once the green traps are all stacked and tied together by zip-ties, the local men then decorate the pyramid-like structure with their buoys. Each family has their own color buoy, and sure enough, one guy got stuck with pink. Needless to say, he got quite a few comments about it.
Personally, I loved the juxtaposition of this manly man and this typically girly color, so I decided to use it. In Mating Season, men find a woman they want to winter with and offer her their family ribbon. If the woman accepts, she then wears the ribbon in her hair as a sign to other men that she’s taken. This helps prevent fights during a time of year when everyone is feeling cooped up and testy already. Unfortunately for Koll, he isn’t too happy with his family color. Here he is, the biggest, strongest, gruffest man in the whole village, and his coat-of-arms, so to speak, is baby-girl pink.
But is pink just for girls? American culture tends to think of it that way, despite the occasional pink shirt or (in the seventies) pink pants on a guy. Shila, the frost-bear shifter who agrees to mate with Koll, has a very different perspective. To her, Koll’s pink ribbon looks like a lean, tasty strip of meat. Besides that, she doesn’t care about the look as much as the smell. Koll’s scent is all over his ribbon (and soon all over her), and that hot, virile male musk is a huge turn-on. He could wear a pink jumpsuit, and her only objection would be that he was wearing anything at all, obstructing her view of his naked body. Shila likes to see all of her lover—make sure he passes her inspection before she mates with him.
So maybe pink can be a masculine color after all. What do you think?
It’s mating season on the arctic planet of Jensen, time for eligible men to winter with a potential spouse. In the past, Koll’s enormous size and gruff disposition have scared off available women. When Shila literally falls into his arms, he hopes maybe this year will be different. Shila belongs to a race of shifters who are able to transform into enormous frost bears. She loves Koll’s big body and sexy growl, and she understands the benefit of having a strong protector. With two male shifters stalking her, she needs Koll to keep her safe. But can he defeat the competition?
(Previously published by Liquid Silver Books. This work has been revised and re-edited.)
It was that time of year again. The snow was already thick on the ground, and Koll’s village prepared to hole up for the brutal winter. Highlighted by the frosty glow of the moon and stars, the gently rolling land around him was bathed in bluish white from horizon to horizon. To the north, the mountains stretched skyward while the sparse trees stood like naked skeletons. It was easy to get lost in the endless haze, but Koll kept his sled hound, Greyfell, on a steady homeward course.
He also kept a careful lookout. There were many predators on the arctic planet of Jensen. The terrain was rife with giant wolverines, spear-toothed cats, and enormous frost bears that prowled the ice floes. Some said Jensen was the last true wilderness left in the universe, which was what had attracted the immigrants who’d settled on this planet generations ago. Untamed nature was both beautiful and deadly, and this time of year could be especially dangerous as food grew scarce. Winter was the season of endings. And beginnings.
Koll blew out a loud sigh and watched his breath fog and disappear in front of his face. Although he should have known better, he’d thought to make a new beginning for himself this year. This was the season when the single men of the allied villages went courting. More precisely, it was a time for those looking to settle down to hunt for a possible wife.
When a man found a female he wanted, he offered her a ribbon bearing his family color—in Koll’s case, a damn unfortunate color. If the woman accepted, she wore it in her hair as a warning to other males and moved in with him for the winter. Come spring, if the pair decided they suited, they married and used the breeding season to start their family. If they were unhappy, then they simply parted ways, free to try with someone else next year.
Koll had seen this mating dance before. Seen it but had never experienced it. No female had ever accepted his ribbon, not from any of the villages nearby. He blamed his size.
From an early age, Koll had grown fast and hadn’t stopped until he’d towered over his peers. His childhood awkwardness had been a source of amusement to the village kids, and they’d excluded him from most of their games. Puberty had only added bulk to his tall frame, turning him into a muscled giant.
He wasn’t a gentle one, though. Koll knew how to be gentle and never looked for trouble, but he was not an easy man. Having learned to control his strength, he was now a seasoned warrior. Usually he did battle with the elements and the beasts that prowled these lands, but the men on the other side of the mountains had been known to raid his village during lean times.
As a mature male, his size and strength should have been an asset, proof that he could protect and provide for a female. Instead, he frightened most women with his large body, dark looks, and gruff manner. As for those females who weren’t put off…well, men didn’t hold a monopoly on lechery. Unfortunately, the women who were attracted to his size, or at least the size of one body part in particular, never seemed interested in more than a night or two.
Koll wanted more. He wasn’t the quitting kind—stubborn, his mother would have said—which was why he hadn’t given up hope. That’s how he found himself here in the dead of night, trekking endlessly through the snow on his way back from the distant village of Idona. Year after year, he ventured farther and farther abroad in the hope of finding a wife. He’d even lined his sled basket with furs to keep her warm and comfortable for the ride back to his home. But his sled was empty of occupants because he’d failed. Again.
“None of them would have suited me anyway,” he groused, trying not to wince at the memory of his recent rejections.
His sled hound twitched an ear in response. Fully in travel mode, Greyfell focused dead ahead and kept his pace steady. Then he did something Koll knew better than to ignore. With an audible breath, Greyfell broke stride to smell the air. His head popped up, his lungs inflated, and his ears swiveled forward as he scanned the terrain.
Koll threw the brake before unsheathing the knife at his belt. He went as still as his hound, letting his gaze slide over his surroundings. The muffled crunch of snow caught his ear just before Greyfell released a soft whine.
Ready for an attack, Koll spun to face the threat and froze in shock. The source of the commotion was closer than he’d expected—close enough that he knew he’d be dead were this a hungry frost bear sneaking up on him. Fortunately, it wasn’t a beast he faced. There, limned by moonlight, stood the most breathtaking woman he’d ever seen.