This is a conversation between Drake and Collin as they drive to a party, told from Drake’s POV. It takes place shortly after Collin arrives in Tubac to stay with Sam and Harris before the start of the ASU school year. Within the SHIFT storyline, this occurs a night or two before Leah and Ferris meet the boys at the mall.
Collin and Drake share an easy connection that keeps them very close, despite the obvious differences in their disposition. They play off of one another–Collin helps Drake lighten up, and conversely, Drake helps Collin keep a level head. They both have very pure hearts and only the best of intentions. I wrote this short scene as a writing exercise to explore their relationship as cousins; it was never intended to be a part of SHIFT (and, in fact, was written years after SHIFT was completed.) It was partially inspired by the song “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean.
Collin laughed, leaning forward to turn up the volume on the stereo as we jostled and bumped along the dirt road. He reclined comfortably in the seat and put his foot on the dashboard again.
“I’m just saying,” he continued on a vein of conversation that had been picked up, abandoned and picked up again and again over the last two days, since he’d arrived at my parent’s house for his annual before-the-start-of-the-school-year visit. “You’ve gotten soft. Is it that girl? The new Bratyon?”
“What?” I played dumb, like I had been doing since he arrived. “What are you even talking about? I’ve never been into this stuff.”
“Lies!” he exclaimed, the beer he’d chugged before we left the house raising his voice. “You are SO not the Drake I remember. ”
“You mean the Drake who was content to follow after you, no matter what asinine thing you wanted to do?”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “You’re a dick.”
“Whatever! You’ve never had a problem partying before now.”
“I’ve always been the designated driver!”
“Well… What does that have to do with anything?”
I just laughed and shook my head. I’d always been flexible, and willing to hang out because it wasn’t often that Collin was in town, but flexible and willing didn’t mean I loved to party. It just meant that I enjoyed having a friend as close as Collin around every once in a while. Though, it was true that I was even less into it than usual tonight; something about a parking-party held even less interest now. Cold desert, cars and trucks in a circle, cigarettes, cheap beer and girls held even less appeal than they once had. Which, admittedly, had never been as much as they’d always seemed to hold for Collin.
“It is the new Brayton-girl, huh?” Collin teased.
I drew my eyes from the dark desert in front of us long enough to throw a glance his way and, like he often did, he seemed to read more from that one glance than he had from all the question-dodging I’d been doing.
“Holy shit, dude,” he sat up, letting his foot fall back to the floorboard. “That bad huh?”
I shook my head, but knew I was about to give my secret away. At least part of it. “Worse.”
“Whoa. What are we talking about here?” Collin was suddenly very serious; he turned the stereo back down. “Did you knock her up?”
“What?! No!” His assumption caught me completely by surprise. “God no! Some of us can keep it in our pants, ya know.”
“Oh, dude.” He seemed genuinely relieved. He lounged in the seat again, bringing his foot back to the dash and his hands behind his head. “You looked so damned morose. I thought we were about to have, like, a serious convo, true?”
I just shook my head and kept my eyes on the road, my expression turning incredulous. Only my dear cousin would jump to such extreme conclusions.
“So?” he pressed on. “Spill it. What’s doing?”
“I haven’t slept with her,” I said first, in the spirit of setting the record straight–not because it was any of his business. “But… I’ve never felt anything like her. She’s like shifter heat times ten. It’s out of control.”
“Whoa.” To his credit, Collin gave the topic a proper degree of attention. “What do you think that’s about?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Maybe she’s just that powerful. If you meet her, you’ll have to tell me if she feels different than other shifters to you.” Though the thought of Collin experiencing Leah’s warmth with even half the intensity I did made my skin crawl.
“Now I especially want to meet her.” He chuckled.
I punched him in the ribs. “Not a chance douche bag.”
“Shit!” Col rubbed his side. “You do have it bad, cuz.”
And I did. Really, really bad. In all the right ways.